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When I was living in Brussels, the seat of the European Commission (akin to the central government of Europe), I got to know some of the prostitutes there. Belgium is close to the Netherlands, and prostitution, though technically illegal, is practiced in the open. I learned that the best hookers work early in the morning, at around 7am or earlier, because that’s when the politicians can see them. The guys leave for work early, stop in the red light district, then head in to serve in various capacities of government officialdom.

Every hooker, every astrologer, and every therapist has at least one thing in common: Doing these particular jobs, you meet people in all capacities of life, at all levels of worldly power and economic status, from the destitute to those sitting on millions or billions. You learn quickly that people all have the same basic needs, the same fears, and the same basic problems.

So it should not really surprise us that Eliot Spitzer, the former crusading state attorney general and now former governor of New York, should want or need to consult a prostitute, or that he allegedly did so regularly. Must we act like he strangled a puppy for fun, or dined on human flesh?

Well, perhaps on forbidden fruit. There are few people in Western society more verboten than prostitutes; nobody, except maybe a convicted murderer, would you be less inclined to bring home to your parents and introduce by their proper profession.

Everyone loves a good sex scandal. Heck, I have even come back to work during a supposed week off to write about one.

Most people who take umbrage with the governor’s alleged choices claim do so on the basis of hypocrisy. As one sworn to uphold the law, he should not break it; it would seem that he did both. (He spent much of 2004 busting prostitution businesses in New York City.) However, as attorney general, he was obliged to enforce the law; as a human being, he needs to have sex. He was in a double bind; this is often the case where people are expected to prosecute on the basis of subjective morality. We might ask where the real problem resides.

It is difficult to discern who exactly is the victim in a crime involving someone paying thousands of dollars for an hour of sex. This was not sex tourism or human slavery; it was ordinary high-end prostitution. If human trafficking or child prostitution is really the issue behind the issue, what were the feds doing going after call girls and their customers?

In a word, the answer is politics. On March 12, Truthout republished a February 14 op-ed that Governor Spitzer had written for the Washington Post. Interestingly—based mainly on the astrology, which we’ll come to in a moment—Spitzer went after the Bush family on the issue of banking and the mortgage/credit crisis. In that article, he wrote, “Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers.”

He continued, “In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC [Office of the Comptroller of Currency, obscure federal bank regulators] invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government’s actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.”

Many people in high positions go to prostitutes. It is rare that we ever hear about it. Though you might, in an instance of political payback.

I read this week that this bust was considered so sensitive, federal agents had to go directly to the United States attorney general for approval. This would be the esteemed office so recently held by Alberto Gonzalez, the place where it’s generally accepted that waterboarding is not torture. Hypocrisy exists on many levels. Over the weekend of March 8 through 9, George Bush vetoed a law that would have banned the use of waterboarding by the CIA. Wednesday, the governor of New York announced his resignation because he was caught having sex. Or rather, sex with a prostitute. Society has a long tradition of projecting its shadow onto sex in general and prostitution in particular.

Speaking of...

  • Eric Francis Coppolino discusses the politics of human necessities.


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