Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Adrift on the Mayflower

Up on Guardian CiF,

My cleaner in Sullivan County, New York, charges over twice the minimum wage, but it would take her 40 days incessant hard toil on her hands and knees polishing floors to get whatever Ms Kristen got from New York state's governor, for a few hours work, possibly also on her hands and knees, but probably on a soft mattress.

While Governor Spitzer has a host of legal issues to contend with as a result of his meeting with Kristen, not the least is that he presumably violated the Mann Act, a piece of legislation dating back to 1910 that was designed to combat "white slavery," a quaint term which implies that it was more reprehensible than the more acceptable black slavery. It made it illegal to transport women across state lines for prostitution, "or debauchery," and of course, that was a legal device to make it a federal offence.

Even more than most of the puritanically-cast prostitution laws, the Mann Act has frequently been used for highly suspect purposes, whether imprisoning black heavyweight boxing champion for Jack Johnson for sending a railway ticket to his white girlfriend, or going after Charlie Chaplin for being subversively funny.

It seems that if anyone transported Kristen from New York to Washington DC and into the arms of Governor Spitzer, it was Amtrak, a Federal government-owned corporation. In addition, far from being drugged, bound and threatened, and railroaded, she would appear to have been an eager volunteer, rushing down to Penn Station, which is understandable when an hour's work weighs in at three months' worth of minimum wage toil.

Indeed, one has to admire the professional integrity of the model concerned. The cheers that greeted the news on Wall Street, made it plain that there were people out there who would pay far, far more for her evidence than she could earn in a month of trysts with destiny in DC. One may also commend the green-ness of her and the governor for taking the more ecologically sound Amtrak train instead of the shuttle.

However, it's those cheers from Wall Street that dull my otherwise natural schadenfreude at seeing a hypocrite laid low. As New York's attorney general, Spitzer put serious brakes on the Wall Street machinery for skimming off the savings and investments of ordinary Americans. He spoke truth to power and ticked off Hillary Clinton with his eminently sensible proposal for driving licenses for undocumented immigrants, and - not to be forgotten - tried to enforce the labour and pay laws on his state's employers.

In the end, it's the hypocrisy. Bill Clinton did not resign for his various affairs in which he paid his partners with vicarious access to power, despite parading his church-going familial lifestyle. Several Evangelical luminaries and their political allies did, quite rightly, resign for doing things that they had so piously denounced. And Spitzer as a state attorney general had boasted of his prowess in busting exactly such prostitution rings as the one he was patronizing so lavishly.

With this White House's propensity for politically-inspired prosecution, it is entirely possible that "Client Nine" was actually "Target One" not least since the Department of Justice's so-called Public Integrity Section is conducting it, which suggests that politics, not prostitution is in their sights.

The Democratic Governor of New York, highly unpopular with many influential and unscrupulous people, put his testicles and perhaps a bit more on a plate with a side order of ketchup. I hoped he had the balls to refuse to resign, but rather suspect he left them in the Mayflower Hotel. I suppose his last claim to prestige will be that he came in the Mayflower.

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