Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spitzer Redux

Selections from ICE-mail on Spitzer:

Michael Fiorillo writes:
Now that the tsunami-like tide of revulsion and moralizing has ebbed somewhat, I have to say a few of things about this week's events.

The distaste many people have felt about Eliot Spitzer's behavior should not cloud their thinking about what has actually happened. A progressive elected official- at least by the debased standards that exist today - was destroyed for reasons having far less to do with his moral failings than with whom his enemies are. And federal law enforcement, financial institutions and the New York Times were complicit in it. This week's events suggest that powerful forces are aligned to see that those who have looted the country and enriched themselves over the demise of its actual, productive, wealth-producing patrimony will not be brought to account for the trillions of dollars they have stolen and the wealth they have destroyed.

Spitzer had many faults. As a teacher, I mistrusted him for his support of charter schools. He came off as arrogant and self-righteous. His using the state police to go after Joe Bruno was wrong and only served to make that old-school political crook seem sympathetic. And the way he satisfied his appetites, its affect on his family, is creepy and painful to watch.

Nevertheless, he signed the executive order giving city day care providers the right to union representation - a good thing Randi has accomplished, by the way -, fought for the humane position of allowing undocumented residents to obtain driver's licenses, was a strong supporter of women's reproductive rights. Most importantly, and the fundamental reason for his downfall and destruction, he was an aggressive opponent of "the malefactors of wealth." He successfully went after Wall Street in the aftermath of the last stock market and tech mania of the late 1990's. That he did it not to bring about the communal garden society we hope for, but to save those greedy sons of bitches from themselves, well, OK. But working people and the possibility of a more humane and democratic economy benefited from what he did.

The malfeasance behind the current financial crisis, and suffering that is sure to follow from it, will dwarf anything seen since the 1930's. That, and the war in Iraq, is the true degeneracy we should be talking about. My fear is that what happened to Spitzer is a taste of what's in store for any elected official who might raise a few questions. Every politician who might feel the dangerous temptation to act in defense of the public interest must now wonder whether their every banking and credit card transaction is being fed directly to law enforcement, to be later later leaked to the Times.

Will David Patterson, Andrew Cuomo and others take the hint?

Michael Fiorillo
Chapter Leader, Newcomers HS, Long Island City

George Schmidt replies

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Now about that New York Times part.

For the past decade, we've been watching here while otherwise intelligent people think that clippings from the Times equals some kind of "research." As we've noted over and over, without the Times, Paul Vallas would still be a small town hack in Springfield Illinois. Thanks to the Times, he went from "school
reform" in Chicago to Philadelphia to New Orleans. Ditto charter schools.

We need our own media.

Yesterday would have been nice.

Today is too late.

By Monday, when Wall Street gets hit with the next wave of this tsunami (if Bear is down, can Merrill be far behind?) we'd better be able to get some facts fast from other than the most official ruling class sources.

This is going to be ugly, uglier, and ugliest.

Elliot Spitzer was in every way a fool. When I was growing up in Jersey (Elizabeth, Linden, Newark) "down the shore" included three beers people. (In those days, they were called things we no longer share on e-mail). Three beers and you were in bed.

And New York's millionaire governor paid $4,000 for that?

Lot of growing up to do, we have.

Lot of learning to do the hard way, we will.

Yoda said.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

Woodlassnyc adds:
I guess I have to disagree somewhat. You say: " My fear is that what happened to Spitzer is a taste of what's in store for any elected official who might raise a few questions."

True, but some people in government (alas, not enough of them these days) don't do things like structure money transactions and visit sex workers.

Whereas I agree with you and George that negative forces went after Spitzer and that they seem to be a part of a much larger syndicate of corrupt people, Spitzer did do harm รข€" to his family, his constituents, and his office. It looks like he broke some laws as well. We do not need these people to run our government and put others in jail. We have to elect the ones that are fundamentally moral, as well as being crime free. Is that too radical? If it is, we may as well give up.
Woodlass followed up with this:
The most recent Greg Palast mailing connected some dots for me along the lines of what Mike was saying, including some stuff I didn't know, so here's a few paragraphs from it:
Then, on Wednesday of this week, the unthinkable happened. Carlyle Capital went bankrupt. Who? That's Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush, the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and presidents than you can count.

The Fed had to act. Bernanke opened the vault and dumped $200 billion on the poor little suffering bankers. They got the public treasure . .. Not one family was saved – but not one banker was left behind.

Every mortgage sharking operation shot up in value. Mozilo's Countrywide stock rose 17% in one day. The Citi sheiks saw their company's stock rise $10 billion in an afternoon.

And that very same day the bail-out was decided – what a coinkydink! – the man called, `The Sheriff of Wall Street' was cuffed. Spitzer was silenced.

Do I believe the banks called Justice and said, "Take him down today!" Naw, that's not how the system works. But the big players knew that unless Spitzer was taken out, he would create enough ruckus to spoil the party. Headlines in the financial press – one was "Wall Street Declares War on Spitzer" - made clear to Bush's enforcers at Justice who their number one target should be. And it wasn't Bin Laden.
The entire piece is worth reading or listening too - it's a podcast.

The link is here:

I would say this about "any elected official who might raise a few questions–" Keep it in your pants or just shut up.

Michael followed with this:
My intention was not to condone or minimize what Spitzer did, but to suggest some of the possible intentions among those who brought him down, and the wider purposes it served.

What I should have also mentioned was the poiltical hypocrisy of Spitzer's situation versus, for example, Louisiana Rep. Vitter, who admitted to patronizing prostitutes and remains in Congress.

Fair treatment under the law?

As for politicians keeping it in the pants, Norm, that seems unlikely: their narcissism, their overlapping libido and will-to-power seems to make it almost impossible
Michael Fiorillo

My response:
Michael is right about politicians keeping it in their pants. I should have said they should try to use their brains when they are potential targets.

I compare it to teachers who decide to become active politically. no, I'm not talkign about keeping it in their pants, but about making sure all their i's are dotted and their t's crossed when it comes to not leaving themselves open to anything obvious in terms of latesess, absence, getting work in on time, etc. Though we know things can and will be trumped up, don't give them more ammo.

I quetion whether Palast is making Spitzer out to be much more of a crusader than he really is.
Was Spitzer was truly out to fight Wall St or just use his fight to make some political hay? He did things selectively and went after people for what often seemed like personal pique.
His games and dishonesty with campaign finances, many lies, etc. raised a red flag a long time ago.

I'll add to this as more comes in and post a link on the sidebar.

Ed Notes take on the Spitzer saga the day after is here.

1 comment:

Under Assault said...

That's the thing about Palast. No one ever challenges him (except to keep him from publishing his stuff in this country, that is). I read the guy as greedily as I do Dowd, Hightower, and Rich, but he always presents so much material, it's hard to know how he has the resources and the sheer reach to get into all of it.

(And guys, my intention was never to discourage any man from keeping it in his pants at the appropriate time . . .)