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03/11/2008

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CTRs (Currency Transaction Reports) and SARs (Suspicious Activity Reports) have been around for years, and for a reason; they catch criminals. Criminals have to do something with all the cash they obtain illegally, and the best way to catch them is to watch for the cash; much the same way that Al Capone was convicted for tax evasion. When they start depositing large sums of cash and wiring it all over the place, that ought to send up a red flag to someone.

I've been in banking for about ten years, and in that time I've watched probably a dozen drug dealers get busted along with a couple of bootleggers (gotta love living in a dry county), along with a couple of people embezzling money from their various employers. If it weren't for the fact that banks are required to fill out reports detailing their suspicious activities, most of these people would probably either not have been caught at all, or they definitely would not have been convicted.

Elliott Spitzer knew all of this, as I'm sure he used every one of these tools previously to break up those prostitution rings. Dem or Republican, I appreciate the irony when someone falls into the very traps they've set for someone else.

I do, however, feel very sorry for his wife and children. No one should be forced to go through what they are going to have to endure because of his mistakes.

It was particularly odious to have his wife as a prop while he read his statement. I don't think he consulted her on which providers and services to choose when he visited DC, he should have been able to stand up by himself and say that he fucked up, royally. Also, as a millionaire in his own right, one would think he could afford his pleasures without cooking the books. "Honey, I had a bottle of '70 Petrus at the Inn at Little Washington, it was just okay" Cha-ching $23,000!

Here's another one for the "blatant right-wing bias in the news" files, Tom:

I heard about the Spitzer imbroglio on NPR--several times, in fact--but they never once mentioned his party affiliation. I had to look it up.

Sounds like it's time to play Don Surber's "Name That Party": see how long it takes for a reporter to name the political affiliation of a politician in a scandal. Strangely enough, Republicans are nearly always so identified within the first three paragraphs, but Democrats often don't have their party affiliation mentioned until the end of an article--if at all.

Oh, those right-wing ideologues and their pernicious control of the news media!

Not surprisingly, I take exception to your assertion about Spitzer's immoral acts: "a consensual act [i.e., sex] between adults that has no effect whatsoever on society at large."

What utter nonsense! If that were true, then we would have no paternity suits or child support orders. We would not engage in sex ed or AIDS awareness. We wouldn't even have marriage, which is a very public announcement of the most personal--and consensual--of all relationships.

Also, this libertarian approach is an amoral one. We share a common moral world with our fellow citizens. As social beings, our morality affects how we see ourselves and each other. Since our morality is essentially Christian morality, our laws and behavior should reflect that morality. (Note to church/state separatists: it only goes one way. The state is barred from interfering in religious matters, but there is no injunction against religion and religious beliefs in the public sphere.)

Approaching it from a legalistic view, elected officials swear to uphold the law. Since it's clear that Spitzer has been using prostitutes for at least a decade, his "private" behavior is in violation of his several oaths of office.

Unless, of course, you maintain that our anti-prostitution laws are "unjust" and that therefore using thousand-dollar-an-hour hookers is an act of civil disobedience.

By the way, Tom, I was wondering: if prostitution is a victimless crime (as you seem to put it), then the wife and children of a prostitute-user should be unaffected by his philandering--right?

Experience shows us that infidelity, whether with prostitutes or not, often leads to divorce. Divorce has numerous repercussions, especially on the children of such a broken relationship. Are you really so sure that prostitution has no effect on society at large?

Reason enough, Squid, to outlaw all but the most noble behavior. Get rid of saturated fat because it's not just the person who eats it who suffers, its the poor widows and orphans! Secondhand smoke! Failure to take your vitamins! Illegalize them all!

It's not the job of government to decide whether consensual relationships between adults are healthy or unhealthy. There is an argument to be made that some relationships are so unhealthy -- pedophilic relationships, for example -- that society has a compelling interest in setting up the legal apparatus to put a stop to them. I would argue that the relationship between a millionaire and his $4,000 an hour hooker does not meet the unhealthiness threshold.

Nice reductio ad absurdum, Tom. Completely missing the point, too. What happened? You're normally much sharper than this.

Prostitution has nothing to do with whether or not the relationship is "healthy." There is a moral component to adultery and prostitution that is absent in eating saturated fat, etc. I know you can see this; I just wonder why you find it so hard to accept that we can and should make moral judgments, both as individuals and as a society. Is there really something radical or unacceptable in saying that while prostitution will always be with us, it is not a good thing? It should not be condoned, much less sanctioned, or worse yet, legalized.

And yes, there are moral absolutes. In Western culture, we get them from the Bible. I can't see why on earth I have to even bring this up.

I agree that prostitution isn't a good thing. I agree that some legislation of morality is inevitable, because people form their political opinions based on their own moral framework.

But the Bible is lousy justification for law because people can't agree on what the bible means. In order to have religious freedom, we have to allow people their own interpretation of the Bible -- or whatever holy book they choose to recognize.

The purpose of law in a free country should always be the protection of liberty. Law should bring the sort of order that enables freedom. Inevitably, this requires some restriction of freedom. Your freedom to drive safely, for example, necessitates a restriction on my freedom to speed through stop signs. The benefit of that is a protection of people's lives which makes travel safe. That helps all of us to live freer lives.

The benefits of anti-prostitution laws are considerably more nebulous. They are, in fact, almost entirely of the "moral uplift" variety.

In the case of consenting adults, I think society doesn't have a compelling interest in regulating the situations in which sex is acceptable. Sex is, arguably, our most personal domain. It the area where government least belongs.

It's no coincidence that the people most dedicated to outlawing prostitution are also the people most dedicated to outlawing other activities that involve sex. They're the advocates against birth control, the believers in government censorship.

You accept that it's government's responsibility to regulate people's sex lives. I don't. You accept that government should set all kinds of restrictions on people that I don't accept. Ultimately, your definition of freedom is more "freedom from," while my definition is more "freedom to." It's really that simple.

Tom, you mischaracterize my position again.

I do not accept that it's the government's responsibility to regulate people's sex lives. I've never had that thought, and I disagree with it. However, I do believe that one of the responsibilities of government is providing a legal framework for society at large, and that the ideas underlying that framework must come, not ex nihilio, but from our culture, which includes our shared religious background, which is Christianity. Of course there are different interpretations (Martin Luther could tell you a thing or two on that point), but the most basic values are not up for negotiation. In fact, C.S. Lewis pointed out in The Abolition of Man that certain moral values are universal, found in all religious traditions.

As I've pointed out before, society does, in fact, have a compelling interest in certain interpersonal relationships. That interest is expressed in our laws about marriage, divorce, adoption, child support, prostitution, pederasty, homosexuality, and the like, as well as in our policies regarding sex education, awareness of AIDS and other STDs, contraception, and abortion.

Consider also the moral cesspool that is the inevitable result of the normalization of prostitution. Girls dress like prostitutes; young women see prostitution as a viable career option. Men get the message that prostitution is OK, making it easier for them to betray their wives and girlfriends. Some people will move on to "open" marriages (great way to strengthen your relationship with your wife and kids, idn it?).

All of this is a direct result of the Worst Generation's mantra, "if it feels good, do it," as well as a manifestation of pop-culture promoted narcissism in the moral void that is modern society.

Ultimately, morality is not a question of individual choice. It is a societal choice, and fortunately, the laws still say that prostitution is illegal (except Nevada, of course--but neither gambling nor whoring have particularly beneficial effects on people and society, do they?)

Here's a question for you, Tom: how would you feel about your female relatives--mother, sister, wife, daughter--becoming prostitutes? I can't imagine that you like the idea. Why on earth would you want to make it easier for another man's daughter to become a prostitute by removing moral and legal censure?

Also, some goods are greater than liberty. Pure liberty would be anarchy; I'm sure neither one of us wants that. Social order is a good thing; it is established through various restrictions on an individual's wants in order to obtain what society needs. A man's want to use a prostitute does not make it a societal need. On the other hand, traditional sexual morality is certainly a societal need, as it helps maintain families and social stability.

Also, I disagree completely with your assertion that "we have to allow people their own interpretation of the Bible." Narrowly construed, yes, but not in the post-modern deconstructionist mode of "something can mean anything you want it to." That way lies madness and destruction, which is why leftists advocate such an approach. The Bible expresses certain values that are recognized regardless of one's particular brand of Christianity; they are non-negotiable. (Whence one of the problems with modern liberal Christianity; people (mis)construe the Bible to fit their liberal ideology.)

Oh, and one more thought: what the government allows, it may some day require.

In (no-longer-)Great Britain, adoption agencies were allowed to let homosexual pairings adopt. Then, due to a totalitarian anti-discrimination law, all adoption agencies were required to adopt to homosexuals--even the Catholic agencies, which maintain their moral opposition to homosexuality.

Similarly, in the US, hospitals were allowed to provide abortions. Now, all hospitals, including Catholic ones that have a moral opposition to abortion, are required to provide abortions.

Tom, you are implicitly arguing in favor of legalizing prostitution. It's already happened in parts of Europe. How much longer until a woman goes to her unemployment office, only to be told that she can't receive benefits because there are jobs available in the local brothel? Do we want to open the door to the government requiring women to become prostitutes?

And don't think it can't happen. In WWII, the Japanese government enslaved thousands of (primarily Korean) women as sex slaves for the troops, and euphemistically called them "comfort women." They had to service dozens of men, every day.

Frankly, Tom, I'm more afraid of the totalitarianism of the left--your "freedom to"--than I am of the restrictionism of the right--your "freedom from."

BTW, here's a link to an excellent post arguing against legalizing prostitution.

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