Thursday, December 22, 2005

Eliot Spitzer Is An Evil Fucking Douchebag

New York's evil Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is in the news again, this time for threatening John C. Whitehead, who recounts in today's OpinionJournal:

After reading my op-ed piece, Mr. Spitzer tried to phone me. I was traveling in Texas but he reached me early in the afternoon. After asking me one or two questions about where I got my facts, he came right to the point. I was so shocked that I wrote it all down right away so I would be sure to remember it exactly as he said it. This is what he said:

"Mr. Whitehead, it's now a war between us and you've fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter."

Spitzer's bullying tactics and abuse of power have garnered a lot of attention nationally, and are chronicled most notably by Tom Kirkendall. Many of the fine columnists on LewRockwell.com have also done good work exposing this jackass, including Michael S. Rozeff, J.H. Huebert, Paul Craig Roberts (here and here), and most passionately, William L. Anderson (here, here, here, and especially here), to whom Spitzer is known appropriately as "Mr. Evil."

But it's not enough to point out that Spitzer is an evil fucking douchebag -- the man is legitimately dangerous. In his hands the law is not an instrument of justice but a weapon to be wielded against politically convenient victims. The many lives ruined by Spitzer's recklessly aggressive posturing are mere collateral damage to him; necessary sacrifices to his political ambitions. The man is a bully, demagogue, and opportunist. Make no mistake -- Spitzer intends to use his AG position as a springboard, first to the governorship of New York, and then on to the White House. The thought of this megalomaniac wielding supreme executive power sends chills down my spine.

8 comments:

Larry said...

Jay-
While you may lament Spitzer's tactics, he has done some good. For instance:

In the wake of several American corporate scandals that began with the collapse of Enron in 2001 - In these scandals, several corporations, as well as the brokerage houses that sold their stock, were accused of having inflated stock values by unethical means throughout the 1990s. When inquiries into the allegations by the SEC and the Congress failed to gain traction, Spitzer's office used its subpoena power to obtain corporate documents, building cases against the firms both in courtrooms and in public opinion.

In the Global Settlement of 2002 - Spitzer sued several investment banks for inflating stock prices, using affiliated brokerage firms to give biased investment advice and "spin" initial public offerings of stock by offering them to CEO's and other influential members of the business community. In 2002, a settlement of these lawsuits was negotiated by Spitzer, federal regulatory bodies, stock exchanges, and the investment banks and brokerage houses in question. The result was $1.4 billion in compensation and fines paid by the brokerages and investment banks ; new rules and enforcement bodies created to govern stock analysts and IPO's ; and the insulation of brokerage firms from pressures by investment banks.

In Late Trading & Market Timing Investigations in 2003 - Investigations by the office of Eliot Spitzer beginning in 2003 uncovered mutual fund brokers allowing select clients privileges deprived to ordinary customers. Spitzer targeted two practices in particular: "late trading" which allows hedge fund investors to file trades at the previous day's price after the market close, something ordinary customers cannot do; and "market timing" which allows privileged investors to buy and sell shares in funds more frequently than allowed under the fund's rules. The implications of these practices are that the brokerages and a small number of investors profit at the expense of other fund shareholders. In essence, by placing winning trades the privileged investors diluted the profit pool available to all fund shareholders while they sidestepped their share of the pool's losses. Their trading also increased administrative fees borne by ordinary customers and caused fund managers to increase the cash they held to meet liquidity needs. Through a number of prosecutions and lawsuits, Spitzer forced those involved to resign and face jail time, while securing more than one billion dollars in fines and remuneration for investors as well as forcing reforms to eliminate the practice.

In the Music Royalty Settlement in 2004 - Through an investigation of music industry practices, Spitzer's office uncovered $50 million in royalties owed to musicians whose record labels had failed to keep in contact with them. Spitzer reminded label executives that under New York State's Abandoned Property Law, those royalties not being sent to their rightful owners would have to be surrendered to the state. Under a settlement, the labels were required to take measures to contact artists owed royalties.

And my favorite -
In 2002, Spitzer's office issued subpoenas to 24 non-profit crisis pregnancy centers that sought to dissuade women from having abortions. Anti-abortion groups criticized Spitzer, charging that he was harassing the centers on behalf of a political ally, NARAL Pro-Choice America. Spitzer's office argued that the centers used deceptive advertising and practiced medicine without licenses. The centers often use graphic videotapes and photographs to dissuade women from having abortions, and have been accused of deceiving women who come to them for advice.

Furthermore, how much can you take Whitehead's claim at face value? Who's asking for the investigation? The NY State Republican party. Who's Maurice Whitehead? A friend of insurance magnate Maurice Greenberg, whom Spitzer is investigating for misleading investors of American International Group Inc. through improper accounting. Furthermore, Whitehead has refused to respond to requests for interviews. Why? If he was really intimidated and this call really happened, why not talk about it yourself instead of letting the GOP, who obviously want to take Spitzer down before the 2006 gubernatorial election. I wouldn't be surprised if more friends of Greenberg's come out with similar questionable stories.

Just my 2 cents. And yes, I can cut and paste very well!

Happy Chrismahankwanzakah!

J Ballot said...

Lar,

See, here's my problem with a utilitarian point of view: I present the "bad" side, you present his "good," and then we tally up the debits and credits in his ledger in order to decide if his tactics are "worth" it. Do the results of Spitzer's bullying and abuse of power justify them? I just can't agree.

Check out this rather impartial article from Slate. A chilling quote therein:

"But Spitzer functions as a one-stop prosecutorial and regulatory shop. He can indict an executive on securities fraud, seek civil disgorgements, and levy antitrust charges at a company—all in the same investigation and at his own discretion. Punishment, remedy, and structural change."

How comfortable would you be with a Republican wielding this kind of power? Oh, right. Just a few quick replies:

1. As far as the Global Settlement and Late Trading deals go: the question is begged, IMHO. You'd first have to establish that the government's panoply of regulations on financial matters are legitimate, which of course I would dispute. If you believe in the morality of those laws, then Spitzer's behavior can be defended if not lauded. But since I view those regulations as morally and legally suspect, I conclude that Spitzer wields them like a weapon rather than an instrument of justice (as noted in my post).

2. Regarding the veracity of Whitehead's claim, meh. They're all politically motivated. Which is why I'm interested in issues and mortified by politics. It is telling that after all of Spitzer's bluster about Hank Greenberg, the best he could do was some vague claim of impropriety from 1967, before quietly dropping the investigation. Nice job, dragging a guy's name through the muck without having an iota of evidence to pin it on. The relevant point is that Spitzer has cultivated a public persona such that we shouldn't put it past him to threaten someone. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Given Spitzer's track record, do you doubt that the call to Whitehead was possible (even probable)?

3. The interesting thing is, if you check some of the links on my post, you'll get the exact same stories but from very different perspectives. One's position on Spitzer's tactics is bound up in one's philosophy on proper (if any) governance. Where you might see an appropriate use of the state to ensure balance, I see the ugly essence of the state itself: bullying, prosecutorial overreach and abuse of power.

I still say Spitzer's an evil fucking douchebag but your mileage may vary!

Cheers!

J

larry said...

Jay-
What, we're not supposed to present our thoughts as a utilitarian point of view? That's what all the news organizations do these days, present two opposing views to talk about the issues. Man, if they don't do it right, then what have we become? (/sarcasm)

In any case, I think that the take home message for this difference of opinion is that we view government's function in very different lights (surprise!). I like government (except that spying, bombing, facist part), and you don't. Not unforseen.

That being said, I will give you that maybe Spitzer is a douchebag. Maybe even a fucking douchebag. But evil? Come on. There are certainly more things in this world that could be considered evil. And do you REALLY feel bad for an uber-millionaire who's name was dragged through the muck? I'm sure Greenberg's crying about it every night, wiping his tears with hundred dollar bills, and throwing them away in his diamond encrusted solid gold trash can...

That being said, I think that the system is set up so that only a megalomaniac can become president (which I think was your ultimate end point in thought - Spitzer, or someone like him, using these types of tactics becoming president). I guess at this point, it becomes what kind of megalomaniac do you want? I know, I know, a Liberterian megalomaniac. But I don't think those exist...

Happy New Year!

lar

J Ballot said...

Lar,

With regard to Spitzer's evilness, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much. Sure, it's a sliding scale, but evil is evil. Let's just agree that on the Evil Spectrum™, Spitzer falls well short of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot but somewhere ahead of Jack Valenti, sinus infections, and ass hair. Fair enough?

Regarding Greenberg, I know it's fashionable to bash the wealthy, but our reputations are priceless. False or flimsy accusations can undo a lifetime of honesty, integrity, and decency. I don't know that to be the case for Greenberg but I'm unwilling to be so cavalier about his public destruction and humiliation. For all we know, his "crime" may have been no worse than failing to bend the knee to Eliot Spitzer.

And I agree 100% that the system is set up to attract the megalomaniacs. Power is an irresistible incentive for the very worst elements of society -- you can't change that, but you can limit the amount of damage they can do by prescribing the boundaries of their power. That's what the Constitution tried to do but, alas, that's a dead letter. We can't keep the megalomaniacs out of office and we can't have the government (or lack thereof) we want, so what can we do?

The only thing we can do: we criticize the evil fucking douchebags in a public (if mostly ignored) forum such as this one and hope for the momentum or critical mass needed to keep the very worst power seekers at bay.

Happy New Year to you and yours as well!!!

J

Anonymous said...

Very Prophetic, Mr. Ballot. I'm impressed.

-Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg

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