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Senators, Prostitution, and Crime:

Ann Althouse makes a very good point:

I hate seeing people publicly humiliated for the sexual things they do in private. But the government is criminally prosecuting a woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, for what it says was a prostitution ring. These are federal charges, and the senator, David Vitter, has some responsibility for the laws that make this prosecution possible.

Vitter situates his misdeed in the realm of religion and private morality: ... "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling... Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them...." ...

Palfrey can't say God has forgiven her and walk free. In fact, Vitter's statement hurts Palfrey because it strongly implies that Palfrey was doing what she's accused of. Vitter's confession -- intended to move us to mercy -- links him to criminal activity, but only she is facing criminal punishment.... It's not a matter to be resolved within the realm of church and family as long as Palfrey is being prosecuted.

Anderson (mail) (www):
Oooh! I *hate* it when I agree with Althouse!
7.10.2007 2:16pm
Temp Guest (mail):
Prostitution, drug dealing, and other violations of vice laws would be paying minimum wage to losers who could not find any other employment if government intervention didn't make these occupations high risk/high profit.

Palfrey made a lot of money breaking the vice laws. If prostitution were legal she would have made a lot less - probably enough less that she'd never have gone into the business in the first place. By portraying herself as the victim of wrongheaded laws she's biting the hand that was feeding her.

I do not understand why soi disant libertarians show any sympathy with Palfrey, "small time" drug dealers, and others of that ilk who profit from government vice laws as much if not more than the politicians who support these laws and the bureaucrats and police agents who batten off them. The only difference is the unmitigated gall and hypocrisy of those who make a living off of the vice laws and then cry foul when they must pay the piper. If people like Palfrey don't go to jail for violating vice laws, there would be no future profit for people like Palfrey who plan to violate the vice laws.
7.10.2007 2:17pm
Shake-N-Bake:
Temp Guest, there's always money to be made in the vices, laws or not. Maybe it wouldn't be as much money, but it would still be plenty. Just look how much money people spend in legal strip clubs all over the country, not to mention the legal brothels in Nevada.
7.10.2007 2:21pm
Steve:
Prostitution, drug dealing, and other violations of vice laws would be paying minimum wage to losers who could not find any other employment if government intervention didn't make these occupations high risk/high profit.

I don't follow the logic at all. If these things were legal, there would be more people willing to supply them, but there would also be more demand.

How can anyone seriously claim that if prostitution were legal, hookers would be giving it up for 6 bucks an hour? Check out the Western countries that feature legal prostitution. Do the sex workers make the equivalent of 6 bucks an hour?
7.10.2007 2:37pm
George Lyon (mail):
Make it all legal, get the tax money for it, and spend the money hunting down rapers, thieves, murderers and terrorists.
7.10.2007 2:49pm
Mike Keenan:
"Prostitution, drug dealing, and other violations of vice laws would be paying minimum wage to losers who could not find any other employment"

I would imagine that most individuals in these fields do not make much money. Only those at the top. If anything, wpouldn't the illegality causes wage differentiation.
7.10.2007 2:52pm
Carolina:
One of the articles I read about this case mentioned that Palfrey's women generally charged about $300/hr. I would be very surprised if college educated legal prostitutes in Nevada or Amsterdam charged much less.

I agree with "Temp Guest" that the law adds a huge premium to the street price of illegal drugs, but I think the chances of a discreet escort being arrested are so low that there is very little "premium" in that price. If you doubt this, pull out your local yellow pages and look up "escort service."
7.10.2007 2:52pm
TyWebb:
Temp Guest,

As others have pointed out empirically, there's a flaw in your reasoning.

While it is true that government intervention might restrict supply and give some leeway to suppliers of vice in charging a "risk premium", the problem is that the demand for vice is rather price inelastic. Put quite simply, drug addicts will pay whatever the price for their drugs because...they're addicts. People will continue to demand sex at very high prices (which include social ostracism for being an adulterer, pregnancy, disease, etc.) because they...well...that gets a little metaphysical even for me.

Put quite simply, it isn't the restriction on supply that causes price to go up in vice markets. Its the suppliers exploitation of a price inelastic demand curve.
7.10.2007 2:55pm
Hattio (mail):
Temp Guest,
Sorry to pile on, but the other commentaters are right. Doing a job that carries a social stigma means that less people will go into that job. I remember reading an article about Anchorage garbagemen starting at 50K a year in the late 80's or early 90's when I was in college....made me wonder why I was getting a degree. Then I thought about trying to pick up women in a bar and telling them I was a garbageman. That would have made my already abysmally low success rate at finding girlfriends immediately plummet to zero.
7.10.2007 2:59pm
jimbino (mail):
The profit that is made by a person selling drugs or sex illegally is a direct reflection of the degree to which the Nanny State is depriving its citizens of liberty and happiness. A madam who runs a brothel makes a lot of people very happy, and she is entitled to what she earns. Congress makes 82% of the Amerikan people very unhappy, and look what they earn.

I'd like to think things will get better once Bin Laden takes over, but I imagine they will get worse for hookers. As bad as it is, we may be living in the Golden Age of SDR&R.
7.10.2007 2:59pm
James Ellis (mail):
Perhaps it's my old New England roots, but there seems to be a very real element of the old public stocks and whippings that the pilgrims used for punishment. It's demeaning to the public and to the individual alike. The mayor of Los Angeles is going through a similar process right now. I often think that these days the media likes these peccadilloes because, lacking any real victim to sympathize with or focus on, they have free rein to shine the light squarely on the celebrity/politician perpetrator.

Readers love it because they can tell themselves that these prominent individuals are no different than anybody else.

And politicians and celebrities just can't help themselves--they are like moths to the flame of publicity. So they hold press conferences to deliver finely crafted statements to announce to all the world how very private these affairs are.

And often those statements are hysterical--why would Antonio Villaraigosa repeatedly characterize his ladyfriend as a "consummate professional"?
7.10.2007 3:00pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

These are federal charges, and the senator, David Vitter, has some responsibility for the laws that make this prosecution possible.


he's also got a responsibility to the people who elected him, the people who paid to get him elected, and to his party, NOT TO BE YET ANOTHER EMBARRASSMENT AND DUMBASS.

A Rhodes Scholar ends up, for all to see, with his name in a hooker's phonebook... atta boy, champ- and thanks.
7.10.2007 3:04pm
Kazinski:
I'd say there is a big distinction between Vitter, the actual prostitute and Palfrey who is running a prostitution ring. There is a similar distinction between a drug user, a small time dealer, and a drug traficker. Few would argue that all three share the same level of culpability.
7.10.2007 3:09pm
Carolina:

I'd say there is a big distinction between Vitter, the actual prostitute and Palfrey who is running a prostitution ring.


Really? One is a buyer, one is a seller, and one is the person who helps the buyer and seller get together. Palfrey was not a street pimp beating women to keep them in thrall. She ran what was basically a referral service so clients could call a single number instead of having to call individual escorts.

If there is some great moral distinction there between the three parties, I'm not seeing it.
7.10.2007 3:21pm
Happyshooter:
I seem to recall when a Dem does something like this they are lauded as brave for standing up and speaking out about the incident.

GOPers, however, are roasted for the sin, be it sex or gambling or anything.

Odd, almost a double standard being applied by the media and the darling left.
7.10.2007 3:22pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
These are federal charges, and the senator, David Vitter, has some responsibility for the laws that make this prosecution possible.


Really, what legislation did Senator Vitter sponsor or vote for in the two years and six months he's been in office which made this prosecution possible?
7.10.2007 3:24pm
Tom952 (mail):
prosecuting a woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, for what it says was a prostitution ring. These are federal charges,

Federal charges? What is this, a re-do of the FBI bust of a New Orleans whorehouse? Oh Uncle Sam, keep us safe from sexual capitalism.
7.10.2007 3:30pm
Allan (mail):
Happy,

Vitter is being roasted because his actions are exactly opposite of his words. That is, he is a hypocrite. And he hides it. And, he views what goes on in his bedroom (or mine, or Clinton's) as important in determining a person's character and ability to lead.

Liberals, on the other hand, view the issue as personal. So, while it is hypocritical for Vitter to commit adultery and speak out against it, it is not hypocritical for Clinton to get a blow job in the oval office.

I am trying to think of a similar thing for the left. Perhaps it would be a left-leaning politician being a flat-out racist.
7.10.2007 3:30pm
Angus:
Happyshooter, I think the #1 reason for that disparity is the high percentage of Republicans (including Vitter) elected based on "family values" and "holier-than-thou" campaigns.
7.10.2007 3:32pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Vitter is being roasted because his actions are exactly opposite of his words. That is, he is a hypocrite. And he hides it. And, he views what goes on in his bedroom (or mine, or Clinton's) as important in determining a person's character and ability to lead.


Do you have any evidence for any of this or are you just making up stuff that you think sounds good?
7.10.2007 3:33pm
Temp Guest (mail):
I had occassion to do some library research on legalization of prostitution in Western Europe (primarily the Netherlands and Sweden) and less developed countries (Thailand and Central America). In fact, prostitutes wages are lowered considerably as regulation decreases, just as economics might lead one to suspect. The demand for sex is extremely elastic -- far more so than for say housing. So, contrary to many earlier posters, economic theory and some empirical evidence would tend to support the assertions I made earlier about the relation between regulation and profitability in the sex trades.

This is even more the case for drugs. The market value of opium at the source is literally thousands of times lower than the street market value in the US. Refining and processing costs would account for a two- or three-fold price increase from farm to street. The rest, it can safely be assumed, is due to the risks of marketing an illegal substance. Laudanum used to sell for pennies. The empirical evidence suggest that eliminating regulation would enormously reduce the market costs of vice. Those who would argue otherwise are arguing against economic theory and empirical evidence.
7.10.2007 3:33pm
ATRGeek:
Kazinski's drug dealer/prostitute analogy fails if you have even a glancing familiarity with the contemporary arguments for these laws. With drugs, the idea is that the harm is caused to the drug users. With prostitution, the modern idea is that the harm is caused to the prostitutes.

Now, back in the day there might have been some notion that the johns were genteel sorts being corrupted by the vulgar prossies. But today the anti-prostitution buzz phrases are things like "sexual exploitation", "sexual trafficking", "sexual slavery", and so on.
7.10.2007 3:35pm
Happyshooter:
I am trying to think of a similar thing for the left. Perhaps it would be a left-leaning politician being a flat-out racist.

That's too easy. Grand Kleagle Byrd.
7.10.2007 3:43pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Really, what legislation did Senator Vitter sponsor or vote for in the two years and six months he's been in office which made this prosecution possible?

Winston, please don't be obtuse. Vitter certainly could have introduced a bill to *repeal* the laws in question, couldn't he?

If I'm a Senator in the habit of smoking marijuana, believing it's an enjoyable pastime, but I don't do anything to seek repeal of the laws criminalizing what I myself find okay ... then I'm a hypocrite.

Same with Vitter.
7.10.2007 3:43pm
Carolina:
Temp Guest,

I am not familiar with the laws of most of the countries you cite. But in THIS country, I challenge you to find a Nevada brothel (legal) that charges much less than $300/hr for college-educated prostitutes.

I just don't buy that there is much of an "illegality premium" on escorts in the U.S.
7.10.2007 3:45pm
bittern (mail):
TW

You are a hoot.

bittern
7.10.2007 3:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Vitter is being roasted because his actions are exactly opposite of his words. That is, he is a hypocrite. And he hides it. And, he views what goes on in his bedroom (or mine, or Clinton's) as important in determining a person's character and ability to lead.

Winston asked for evidence. This is pretty good, from his Senate campaign:

"This is a real outrage. The Hollywood left is redefining the most basic institution in human history, and our two U.S. Senators won't do anything about it.

"We need a U.S. Senator who will stand up for Louisiana values, not Massachusetts's values. I am the only Senate Candidate to coauthor the Federal Marriage Amendment; the only one fighting for its passage. I am the only candidate proposing changes to the senate rules to stop liberal obstructionists from preventing an up or down vote on issues like this, judges, energy, and on and on." stated David Vitter.


Obviously, his stand on traditional sexual values was supposed to be a reason why *he* should be elected Senator. Leaving aside the hilarity of "Louisiana values" as some sort of exemplar.
7.10.2007 3:50pm
Steve:
So, contrary to many earlier posters, economic theory and some empirical evidence would tend to support the assertions I made earlier about the relation between regulation and profitability in the sex trades.

You said prostitution would be a minimum-wage job if it were legal. How about if you just admit you were wrong.
7.10.2007 3:52pm
DCP:

In his limited defense, I think the solicitation here occured before he was elected to the Senate. While clearly illegal and immoral, it's not as bad as if he were passing laws by day, and breaking them at night. I would conservatively estimate that 95% of Congressmen had broken a law or two before they were sworn in.

And for why he isn't being punished, there might be a statute of limitations involved.

But police do arrest Johns. And some jurisdictions take it a step further and conspicuously run their mug shots in the local paper for all to see. The ol' punishment by humiliation.

And federal prosecution for "madams" (please, they're damn pimps) usually stems from the fact that they violate many other laws in furtherance of their profession, especially not paying any taxes. Many prostitutes are illegal immigrants, smuggled in and effectively used as sex slaves and some of them are underage. It's not so much the individual acts of commercial sex (although the demand axis certainly plays a huge role) but rather people who choose to profit on all this.
7.10.2007 3:53pm
Adam J:
ATRGeek, while I think you have a point, Palfrey wasn't a prostitute, and hence victim by your logic, she ran the prostitution ring and thus was the criminal. Palfry is more culpable than Vitter, she organized a criminal enterprise that exploited women, and Vitter did not. Not that I'm suggesting Vitter is blameless.
7.10.2007 3:53pm
ThomasL (mail):
I'm confused. The DC madam is charged with racketeering and money-laundering. Should Vitter have introduced legislation making those activities legal? Why on earth would he want to do that? Perhaps Althouse would have had him introduce legislation making an exception to the racketeering and money-laundering statutes for prostitution. That strikes me as absurd as well, so perhaps someone can help me with an explanation.
7.10.2007 3:55pm
bittern (mail):

I challenge you to find a Nevada brothel (legal) that charges much less than $300/hr for college-educated prostitutes.


Oh, but Caro-LIN-a,

You're disregarding economic THEE-O-RY! Bow down to our economic theory and ad-MIT there's no practical difference between your $300/hr figure and the minimum wage. Get with the program. This is the con-SPEER-a-cy.

bittern
7.10.2007 3:56pm
Adam J:
ThomasL- there wouldn't have been any racketeering or money-laundering if prostitution was legal. Racketeering can't occur unless the business is illegal and you don't have to launder money that's gained legally.
7.10.2007 3:57pm
r78:

That's too easy. Grand Kleagle Byrd.

So Vitter went to a prostitute 60 years ago?
7.10.2007 4:04pm
Steve:
In his limited defense, I think the solicitation here occured before he was elected to the Senate.

But before he was in the Senate, he was a member of the House.
7.10.2007 4:04pm
OK lawyer (mail):
Perhaps it would be a left-leaning politician being a flat-out racist.

Al Sharpton.
7.10.2007 4:07pm
Allan (mail):
Happy,

Yes, were Byrd a civil rights leader AND in the Klan it would be hypocritical. Perhaps, just perhaps, he saw the errors of his ways and repented and THEN started leaning left.

But Vitter was attacking morals at the same time he was acting immorally (by his terms). THAT is hypocritical.
7.10.2007 4:13pm
ThomasL (mail):
Yes, Adam, that's right. So I should also include a federal legalization of prostitution, overriding the laws of the 50 states and of DC, as one of the possible legislative fixes Vetter could/should have pursued. Equally absurd, but thanks for the suggestion.
7.10.2007 4:21pm
Hattio (mail):
Temp Guest,
This time I can't just help myself from piling on. You say;

In fact, prostitutes wages are lowered considerably as regulation decreases, just as economics might lead one to suspect.... So, contrary to many earlier posters, economic theory and some empirical evidence would tend to support the assertions I made earlier about the relation between regulation and profitability in the sex trades.


You didn't make assertions about a general lowering of wages with decreased regulation (what your research suggests), you suggested that the wages of drug dealers and prostitutes would be minimum wage. You've shown no support whatsoever for that. Once again, economic theory also suggests that if people are in general unwilling to do a job, the wage rises. That will be the case for the foreseeable future for prostitution in America, regardless of regulation.
Show me research that indicates the prostitutes in the Netherlands are generally paid minimum wage (not as defined in America, as defined in that country) and I will admit I was wrong...but you're not going to find it.
7.10.2007 4:22pm
Carolina:
Just so people don't think I am making up the $300 figure, here is a link to the affidavit of the government in the Palfrey case, in which they allege she charged $275-300.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/1009061hook4.html
7.10.2007 4:27pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Isn't everyone assuming that the $300/hr. is the wage, instead of the fee? An attorney who bills at $300/hr. probably isn't making $750,000/yr. Even if fees stay the same in a legal vs. illegal system, might'n the suppliers' costs change?

Also, didn't Steven Levitt produce publish convincing evidence (or at least a case study) that showed most drug dealers make very little?

Finally, I think a lot of people, at least purportedly, were upset with Clinton about the lying/obstruction issue, not the hummers.
7.10.2007 4:32pm
erics (mail):
Is Vitter's mea culpa any different from Barack Obama bragging about past cocaine use in an effort to sell books while simultaneously establishing "ordinary fella" credibility? Will someone show me the bills he sponsored reforming our glorious WOD?
7.10.2007 4:36pm
Chimaxx (mail):
In fact, prostitutes wages are lowered considerably as regulation decreases, just as economics might lead one to suspect.


You didn't make assertions about a general lowering of wages with decreased regulation (what your research suggests), you suggested that the wages of drug dealers and prostitutes would be minimum wage.... Show me research that indicates the prostitutes in the Netherlands are generally paid minimum wage....


You miss the slipperiness at the core of his assertion. Prostitution in the Netherlands is legal but highly regulated. So yeah, prostitutes can and do charge more in the Netherlands where the trade is highly regulated than in the Pacific Rim, where it's not. Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with Palfrey, Vitter, or the illegality of prostitution in the United States.
7.10.2007 4:40pm
bittern (mail):
It all strikes me as just a cultural difference. My take is that northerners get all bent out of shape by the sinning TV preachers and people like Vitter who make a career out of talking smack on other folks while getting a big piece of the action for themselves. Southerners, and Louisiana is nothing if not southern, understand that this is the human condition and don't get similarly bent out of shape. The two sides can't even really talk to each other, the cultural premises are so different.

To the extent that Vitter's campaign platform was based on waving "family values", Vitter's campaign was a red herring -- if ThomasL is correct that a congressman's got no authority over vice. But it was actually Althouse, ThomasL, not the above commenters, who first suggested otherwise.

So, Vitter represents his constituency. Let it go. Get your own senator.
7.10.2007 4:49pm
DCP:

When I was in Amsterdam (10 years ago) the fee for a session with a legal prostitute was $25 US (50 gilders). That price was set and regulated by the government, who I believe took a hefty cut of that in taxes (maybe 50%) as did the owner of the room in the red light district where they were required to work.

Some of these girls were classic Scandanavian beauties as well. I remember thinking they could make a killing if they came to the US and serviced select, wealthy clients at the $500-2000 rates that high class hookers charge here, as oppossed to the crackhead streetwalker rates they were required to work under in Holland's heavily regulated system.

And that's all I did - think, and then quickly scurry out of there!
7.10.2007 4:51pm
SeaDrive:
I note that no one has anything to say about Althouse's real point which, as I see it, is that Vitter blithely degrades Palfrey for a crime in which he was a co-conspirator, and gets away with it because he is a powerful man and she is neither powerful nor a man.
7.10.2007 4:54pm
Daniel San:
Allan: Liberals, on the other hand, view the issue as personal. So, while it is hypocritical for Vitter to commit adultery and speak out against it, it is not hypocritical for Clinton to get a blow job in the oval office.

If the oval office is analogous to a corporate office, Clinton's behavior was hypocritical.
7.10.2007 4:58pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
You are right, SeaDrive but odds are that Vitter is not going to get away with anything.
7.10.2007 5:00pm
Allan (mail):
Daniel,

I fail to see how Clinton was being a hypocrite on the sex issue. A liar and a cad, maybe. But not a hypocrite.
7.10.2007 5:01pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
So let me get this straight, a person who aspires to good moral character and supports public laws, positions, and statements that people should be of good moral character but is not themselves perfect in their own moral character is worse than a person who aspires to and advocates only to the lowest common debasement of human character and morality.

Sort of like saying that those who aspire for all to get great educations and build wealth for themselves and their families is a failure if he personally ever deviates from these aspirations and public positions, but the homeless alcoholic who aspires to nothing more than getting another bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 is a success if he panhandles enough suckers out of some change.

Not the kind of thinking that builds lasting cultures or societies, but hey it seems to be the liberal think expressed above by several posters. I guess the only smart thing to do for a public person is to either be absolutely perfect in their own lives or only advocate behavior, policies and laws that comport with the average person appearing on the Jerry Springer show.

Clinton was certainly the Jerry Springer kind of person character wise, yet he is constantly defended by many above as an example of what we should all aspire to become character wise (i.e. immature frat boys unable to stop themselves from sexually exploiting the young women over whom they might hold power and sway). God forbid someone who isn't perfect themselves should publicly state or suggest that perhaps people should aspire to be and the laws and the policies of the country should encourage people to be better than the average Jerry Springer show guest for they will be hypocrites instead of just the normal Jerry Springer show guest supporting types on the left.

Yep, I've got it now.

Says the "Dog"
7.10.2007 5:01pm
AndyM (mail):
Allan:
Perhaps a corresponding thing on the left would be someone who campaigns as an environmentalist and someone who will stand up for the little guy, takes lots of donations from environmentalist groups, and then when in office fights against wind power on the ground that windmills might be ugly when viewed from the homes of a handful of rich people?

Of course, nobody on the left would ever be that kind of hypocrite. Especially not someone from the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Or anyone named Kennedy.

Vitter should be held accountable for his hypocracy, and the voters should remember that he lied to them next time he's standing for reelection. Sadly, I'm not very optomistic about that happening, since voters seem to generally not care if those representing them are liars, hypocrites, or criminals, as long as they bring home the pork.
7.10.2007 5:12pm
U.Va. 2L:
So let me get this straight, a person who aspires to good moral character and supports public laws, positions, and statements that people should be of good moral character but is not themselves perfect in their own moral character is worse than a person who aspires to and advocates only to the lowest common debasement of human character and morality.

That would be a complete misreading of Prof. Althouse's post, JYLD. SeaDrive gets it right above.
7.10.2007 5:14pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Regarding Althouse's comments to which EV has agreed, I would note that Vitter is true, but neither are the ther 1,000 or 10,000 people on the Madam's list, so Vitter is NOT being treated differently from any other similarly situated person. Vitter should not be held to a different standard from all the other phone numbers/names/person's in the Madam's phone book.

I mean I understand having his phone number on this list is far worse than a Massachusetts congressman having a homosexual boy toy running a homosexual prostitution ring out of the Massachusetts congressman's Washington, D.C. apartment, but only because Vitter as a conservative is presumed to support public policies of higher moral character and standards, as compared to Barney Frank as a homosexual liberal from Massachusetts who is presumed to support the legalization of boy toy homosexual prostitution rings. Therefore vitter is an evil hypocrite, but Barney Frank is not a hypocrite or anything else that is "bad". Old Barney would just be a normal liberal of Jerry Springer guest character and morals.

Says the "Dog"
7.10.2007 5:15pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Oops, should say above

....that its true Vitter is not being prosecuted but neither are the other 1,000....

Sorry.

Says the "Dog"
7.10.2007 5:17pm
Justin (mail):
I think JYLD and Clayton Cramer should have a contest to see how many times they can use the word "homosexual" in a negative connotation, in responding to a post that has nothing to do with homosexuals.
7.10.2007 5:28pm
bittern (mail):

. . . and then when in office fights against wind power on the ground that windmills might be ugly

Fair comparison, AndyM, it comparing two fairly simultaneous circumstances. Touche!


You are right, SeaDrive but odds are that Vitter is not going to get away with anything.

David Sucher, what's going to happen to Vitter?


. . . Barack Obama bragging about past cocaine use in an effort to sell books

Big swing &miss by erics. Unknown memoirist just out of law school says he tried drugs. Public flocks to bookstores to read about cocaine use. Sorry, try again!
7.10.2007 5:29pm
Steve P. (mail):
And that's all I did - think, and then quickly scurry out of there!

It's okay, DCP — that's usually what I do after I get off, too.
7.10.2007 5:29pm
Mikeyes (mail):
My understanding is that Senator Vitter admitted to the use of a prostitute not because of the Palfrey phone record, but because of research done by Larry Flint's Hustler magazine, information which apparently included other instances of the same thing.

The issue is not whether Senator found love in out of the way places, but that he is from Louisiana and ran on a "Louisiana values" (vs the Barney Frank "Mass. values") and now has to eat his words. Senator Vitter will not face any charges over this and there will have to be more compelling proof that he used the services of a Washington, DC madam (and the gumption to go after all the names on the list) for him to be charged. Instead he will have to face the voters of Louisiana in three years who may just vote him back in. After all, it is the land of "live boy or dead girl".

Now what his wife, who invoked Lorena Bobbit in 2000 concerning this issue, will do is another question.
7.10.2007 5:39pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Southerners, and Louisiana is nothing if not southern, understand that this is the human condition and don't get similarly bent out of shape.

Bittern, I'm not sure how that comment could be more detached from reality. Southerners consistently poll high in wanting to "get bent out of shape" about the sexual proclivities of others. Indeed, that appears to be much of the reason why the Christianist base (heavily weighted to the South) will vote Republican no matter what.
7.10.2007 5:43pm
whataboutthefallout:
Regardless of when Vitter did the deed(s), he was still married and had children. His presence in Congress or the Senate should not really matter to the "family values" crowd. Is not adultery a sin? Sex outside marriage verboten?

He is just another opportunist, lying and peddling BS to the masses for his own personal gain. He is not the first and surely wont be the last. What i love about this one, and what will be interesting, is if the same "family values" crowd he preached too and got to vote for him accepts his alleged religious "repentence" like they have for others of their own flock who have been led astray.

Man, it must be nice to be a wing-nut. Be as hypocritical as you want, lie as much as you want, sleep with however many prostitutes, (gay or straight, young or old)you want, do as much drugs, alcohol, or other vice as you want and then, if and only if you get caught, just "repent" and ask for "forgiveness". There might be something to this Jesus thing after all.
7.10.2007 5:48pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Justin, the accurate use of homosexual as a factually correct descriptive adjective as regards Barney Frank and his boy toy's homosexual prostitution ring implies nothing more or less than the factually accurate description of the persons and events in question, if you find that the factually accurate use of the adjective homosexual contains some negative implication then the problem is in your mind. One might go so far as to suggest that your perceptions of this belie some latent homophobic tendencies on your part, and for which a quick trip to liberal re-education camp might be appropriate.

So stop with your homophobic hate thoughts causing you to read into others factually accurate writings something other than a perfectly innocent and accurate description of the persons and events being described thereby.

Says the "Dog"
7.10.2007 5:54pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

I'm confused. The DC madam is charged with racketeering and money-laundering. Should Vitter have introduced legislation making those activities legal? Why on earth would he want to do that? Perhaps Althouse would have had him introduce legislation making an exception to the racketeering and money-laundering statutes for prostitution. That strikes me as absurd as well, so perhaps someone can help me with an explanation.


You're correct which is why the "Vitter is responsible for the laws that made Palfrey's prosecution possible" line is so absurd. The RICO statute precedes Vitter's election by decades and IIRC doesn't even list prostitution as one of the corrupt practices. Unless we're now going to hear that "Vitter has some responsibility for not using the federal government to abolish State laws against prostitution, the critics of Vitter for his "special responsibility" as a Senator are reaching.
7.10.2007 5:55pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Is Vitter's mea culpa any different from Barack Obama bragging about past cocaine use in an effort to sell books while simultaneously establishing "ordinary fella" credibility? Will someone show me the bills he sponsored reforming our glorious WOD?


Good point although I'd be curious whether Obama has called for fewer or lighter prosecutions of drug kingpins (which would be the equivalent of a madam) as opposed to less stringent prosecution of casual users.
7.10.2007 5:57pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Winston, please don't be obtuse. Vitter certainly could have introduced a bill to *repeal* the laws in question, couldn't he?

If I'm a Senator in the habit of smoking marijuana, believing it's an enjoyable pastime, but I don't do anything to seek repeal of the laws criminalizing what I myself find okay ... then I'm a hypocrite.


Anderson while I'm sure we all appreciate that your public library has apparently seen fit to provide internet service to the mentally challenged and that you've taken time away from your latest attempt to earn those last few credits toward your GED (go get 'em tiger!), I'm afraid you failed to answer the question I put before the group. Nor have you actually even addressed an issue related to the question I raised.

Althouse claimed that Senator Vitter had "some responsibility for the laws that make this prosecution possible" because he is a United States Senator and has been for all of about two and a half years. It would be one thing if you or she could point to some other law that Senator Vitter had sponsored or even voted for in the whopping 22 months between the time Senator Vitter began his term of office and Palfrey's arrest that served as a basis for her prosecution but you cannot because there aren't any.

Accusing him of having "some responsibility" as a Senator or "hypocrisy" because he hasn't used the vast influence that a Freshman Senator wields during his first term of office to repeal decades-old federal racketeering and money laundering statutes or amend them to specifically exclude prostitution as an underlying "corrupt practices" is weak even for you.
7.10.2007 6:02pm
bittern (mail):

Bittern, I'm not sure how that comment could be more detached from reality. Southerners consistently poll high in wanting to "get bent out of shape" about the sexual proclivities of others.

Anderson, we may or may not be talking about the same thing. My read is that Southerners do NOT get particularly bent out of shape about

the sinning TV preachers and people like Vitter who make a career out of talking smack on other folks while getting a big piece of the action for themselves

Feed me some examples of honest shape-bending over THAT sort of thing and maybe you can help bring me to a new reality.
7.10.2007 6:06pm
WHOI Jacket:
Anderson, the "Christianist South" will only vote for a Republican?

Ever heard of the phrase "the Solid South"? Hint: it wasn't coined in reference to the GOP.
7.10.2007 6:10pm
G.R.:
I think the argument Prof. Althouse originally advanced (and our learned endorsed) isn't so much that Sen. Vitter should actually have been expected to repeal federal antiprostitution laws (isn't the Mann Act still in force?) or preempt state ones.

It's more of a reductio ad absurdum to Vitter's claim that his actions were properly a matter of "religion and private morality." (That's Althouse's characterization; I'll assume it's accurate.)

If Vitter really did believe that prostitution was (or should be) solely a matter of religion and private morality -- so that it would be inappropriate even for the press to question a public official or candidate for public office about whether he used a prostitute's services -- then shouldn't he work to repeal laws prohibiting it?

But, of course, he doesn't generally act as though he believes any such thing. That would make him probably too libertarian to be elected to the Senate; and certainly so as a Republican from Louisiana on a family-values platform. It's just something he says to avoid having to answer questions in this particular context.
7.10.2007 6:28pm
Houston Lawyer:
Vitter's from Louisiana, which has its own set of rules.

Remember Edwin Edwards, famous for saying that the only way he could lose the election was to be caught in bed "with a dead girl or a live boy".
7.10.2007 6:39pm
Happyshooter:
So Vitter went to a prostitute 60 years ago?

Grand Kleagle Byrd personally filibustered the Civil Rights Act for 14 hours in 64.

Grand Kleagle Byrd in a 2001 statement:
"I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us ... I just think we talk so much about it that we help to create somewhat of an illusion. I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, 'Robert, you can't go to heaven if you hate anybody.' We practice that. There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much."
7.10.2007 6:43pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I really don't care if Vitter sees a hooker, but I am disturbed that our elected leaders don't have the common sense to get a prepaid, throw-away cell phone.
7.10.2007 6:46pm
robertemmet (mail):
I thought a hypocrite was someone who acted contrary to what he professes. Being Liberal may mean never having to say you're sorry, but being Christian includes the idea that man is born in original sin and therefore will sin. But if he admits his sin and repents and seeks forgiveness from God for his sin, he can be redeemed. Unless Vittel has acted contrary to the entire sequence, he is not a hypocrite.

Now if his repentance is not genuine, he is a hypocrite. Perhaps this is where difference in the treatment of a Liberal/Conservative differs. The Liberal says "I'd never be sorry for doing that, so the Conservative's repentance is bogus. Therefore, he is a hypocrite."
7.10.2007 6:53pm
Angus:
One thing to add here that I don't see much is that Vitter was rumored to frequent prostitutes well before he ran for the U.S. Senate on a "family values" campaign. He flirted with running for Louisiana Governor back in 2002 until a fellow Republican told the media that Vitter had often picked up prostitutes in the New Orleans French Quarter while serving in the state legislature.
7.10.2007 6:59pm
ATRGeek:
Adam J,

Right, I was specifically responding to Kazinski's assertion that a prostitute is like "a small time dealer." I agree that the person doing the procuring (eg, a pimp, madam, etc.) is considered a bad person, because after all they are the one doing the sexual enslaving, trafficking, or so forth.

The real point to noting that prostitutes are the victims in modern prostitution analysis is, of course, that johns are not the least bad folks in this moral hierarchy (unlike users in the user-dealer-supplier hierarchy). That is because although johns are not usually considered as bad as those doing the procuring, they nonetheless are in fact purportedly participating in the exploitation of the prostitute.
7.10.2007 6:59pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Anderson, the "Christianist South" will only vote for a Republican?

WHOI, we've had a fundamentalist political movement in the last couple of decades, along with a flip since the 1960s as to which party is identified with protecting the civil rights of black Americans. Please take these changes into account in your present-day political analyses, and see if the news doesn't start making more sense to you.

Winston, if you don't want to stop being obtuse, I suppose the politer inference I can make is to grant that you have no freedom of choice in the matter.
7.10.2007 7:15pm
vukdog:
I find it hard to understand how so many people can accept abortion as a fundamental right and yet not also support freedom of choice for women to engage in sex for money. Surely this happens in more indirect forms all the time anyway.

Admittedly, poverty plays a role in the choices available to many women but I'm not so sure the lifestyle is any worse than that of the average female Wal-Mart employee, all things considered.
7.10.2007 7:24pm
frankcross (mail):
Do we think this:

Anderson while I'm sure we all appreciate that your public library has apparently seen fit to provide internet service to the mentally challenged and that you've taken time away from your latest attempt to earn those last few credits toward your GED (go get 'em tiger!),

Conforms with this:

We'd like the posts to be civil, of course (no profanity, personal insults, and the like), but we're also hoping that people try to be as calm, reasoned, and substantive as possible.
7.10.2007 7:39pm
HypoHypo:

If I'm a Senator in the habit of [something illegal], believing it's an enjoyable pastime, but I don't do anything to seek repeal of the laws criminalizing what I myself find okay ... then I'm a hypocrite.


By this definition pretty much every senator and congressman is a hypocrite.. which kinda makes the word lose its power against them :)
7.10.2007 8:18pm
ATRGeek:
vukdog,

Without personally endorsing this view, the basic explanation is that a lot of people see both anti-abortions laws and prostitution as oppressive of women.
7.10.2007 8:36pm
Cold Warrior:
From the Honorable Senator Vitter's own website:


Vitter Pushes for Reauthorization of Abstinence Education Program
June 25, 2007 -
(Washington, D.C.) -- U.S. Sen. David Vitter last week authored a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee expressing support for reauthorization of the Title V Abstinence Education Program of the Social Security Act. Twelve senators joined Vitter in writing in support of the program.

"This a valuable program with proven results, but it is nearing its expiration. We must reauthorize this program so we can continue the incredible strides we have made in teaching teens about both risk avoidance and protecting themselves from potential abuse," Vitter said.


Yeah, I think the charge of hypocrisy pretty much sticks.

For those who don't get it, let me explain:

Vitter is trying to take money out of your wallet to teach kids about abstinence and avoidance of risky behavior, but he is taking money out of his own wallet to engage in extramarital sex with a hooker.

As for the "Christianist South" rejecting him:

This is Louisiana. He'll lose votes outstate, but gain votes in New Orleans.
7.10.2007 9:03pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
On rates in Nevada brothels, I found the following as the first item in the FAQs at http://www.nvlb.com/home.htm

Q: Why aren't there prices on the menu?

A: We are prohibited by Nevada state statutes from discussing prices anywhere but in a private room in the brothel. The ladies are independent contractors so the pricing varies by lady, this way we can accommodate all budgets.

On the other hand, Craigslist has ads for "erotic services". The first ad in the DC area I found giving a price offered "200 For A 60 Minute Erotic Interlude" at http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/ers/371053258.html

By contrast, the first tradesman I found in the DC area giving a price (an electrician - I ignored trades typically involving multi-hour jobs) advertised at $30 per hour. See http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/sks/370585805.html. On the other hand, this was for "part time work" and did not indicate that he was licensed to operate as an independent contractor (meaning he probably is not - this is a significant overhead issue - I know because I have represented people in this area). This comes to $60,000 for a 2000 hour working year. When I started out as a lawyer, that was about what I was paid, and my starting billing rate was $175.

In other words, the consumer cost for 1 hour of prostitute time in Washington DC appears to be about the consumer cost of 1 hour of electrician time. On the other hand, the madam in question appears to be facing no more serious charges than one would face for running a large-scale organized deliberate business of supplying unlicensed electricians.

The argument that prostitution is just like drug dealing, because both are vice crimes is correct but incomplete. The basic type of influence on the market is the same, but the magnitudes of the influences are wildly different because we take the drug laws *much* more seriously than the prositution laws. Get caught soliciting a prostitute, you get your name published in the paper, and maybe pay a small fine. Get caught buying heroin and you face serious prison time. Note that nobody offers drugs on Craigslist.
7.10.2007 9:09pm
libertarian soldier (mail):
You can find quotes of 50 (and up) Euros in Amsterdam for a short time. Since it is also a developed country I am led to believe a significant premium is added due to its illegality in the US (except for one county in NV--and we all know how monopolies result in reduced prices to consumers, right?).
As other posters have commented, the cost of government regulation there makes it significantly more expensive than places where it is neither regulated nor illegal (or illegal but not enforced), such as much of SE Asia.
I think some of you law profs need to get out more.
7.10.2007 9:24pm
Randy Bean (mail):
The real issue for me is the inequality inherently found in vice laws as evidenced here, where Sen. Vitter faces no sanctions under the law but Ms. Palfrey does.

Of course, the inequality seen here is part and parcel of vice laws in general, otherwise they couldn't exist. If the consumers of vice faced the same punishments as the providers of vice, there would be vice law reform poste haste. But they don't, so vice laws aren't likely to change.

Ironically, Chrtistians tend to support vice laws which actually undermines one of Christianity's most basic, fundamental tenants, freedom of conscience. What Christians say about sin and man's fallen nature on Sundays is ignored on election Tuesdays. For some time now, the Christian majority has been sending this political message:


While we can't make you beleive in God, we can pass laws so you will have to live as if you do.


7.10.2007 9:36pm
tarheel:
For what its worth, Vitter may wish for jail...from Ezra Klein :

Asked by an interviewer in 2000 whether she could forgive her husband if she learned he'd had an extramarital affair, as Hillary Clinton and Bob Livingston's wife had done, Wendy Vitter told the Times-Picayune: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."
7.10.2007 9:41pm
plunge (mail):
"robertemmet (mail):
I thought a hypocrite was someone who acted contrary to what he professes. Being Liberal may mean never having to say you're sorry, but being Christian includes the idea that man is born in original sin and therefore will sin. But if he admits his sin and repents and seeks forgiveness from God for his sin, he can be redeemed. Unless Vittel has acted contrary to the entire sequence, he is not a hypocrite. "

I would say that your "Christian" out only works if you are honest about your sins, not if you engage in them while lecturing others on not doing them and condemning others for doing them and demanding that they resign or be impeached for them, etc.
7.10.2007 9:55pm
Public_Defender (mail):
I would agree that voluntary prostitution should theoretically be legal, but it's too hard to sort out who is "voluntarily" a prostitute. How much coercion or hard luck does it take to make it involuntary?

Because we can't sort out who's a sex trafficking victim and who's a voluntary prostitute, I favor making it legal to prostitute yourself, but illegal to be a John, madam or pimp. That would take down the Vitters and Palfreys of the world, but avoid using the law to inflict yet another humiliation on the prostitutes themselves.

The biggest problem with most prostitution crackdowns is that they focus on the prostitutes. The Vitters of the world (the Johns) are prosecuted much less vigorously, if at all.
7.10.2007 10:44pm
ATRGeek:
P_D,

How much coercion or hard luck does it take to make any job "involuntary"? And how does pushing prostitution into a black market make it less likely there will be human trafficking?
7.10.2007 10:53pm
crane (mail):
To sum up what others have said above:

As far as Southerners/religious conservatives are concerned, the public promotion of Christian sexual morality is so important that those who promote it publicly while failing to practice it privately have still, on balance, done good. Their failure to practice what they preached can be forgiven, because their preaching may have inspired many others to practice. Writing Christian rules about sex into the law is thus even better, because it will provide more reason for people to avoid forms of sex that the bible calls immoral.

This makes very little sense to liberals/secular folks, who are more likely to value honesty and consistency. To them, the fact that so many of the most vocal advocates of Christian sexual mores are unable or unwilling to conform to them in private suggests that ordinary people will probably be even less likely to obey them, and therefore trying to enforce them, especially via the law, is a bad idea. If a particular sexual practice involves only consenting adults and harms nobody, there's no reason to condemn it. Those that do condemn it, but enjoy it themselves on occasion, are therefore morally inferior to those that do not condemn it at all.
7.10.2007 10:53pm
Henri Le Compte (mail):
Can I ask a totally serious question? Didn't Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and assorted other major cases establish a "right" to privacy in the matter of sexual expression?? So why is prostitution still illegal? I just don't get it. It seems to me a very simple matter to apply the logic of those previous cases to prostitution. Here is the good Justice Kennedy on Lawrence-- "The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." But that doesn't apply to having consenting sex with a prostitute? Why?

In fact, I think it would not be much of a stretch to see within the emanations and penumbras of Lawrence a "privacy right" to use drugs. Again Justice Kennedy--"In out tradition the State is not omnipresent in our home... Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct." Wouldn't that apply to my own ability to govern the internal state of my body? If I want to put drugs into my body, isn't it part of my "autonomy of self" that allows me to? As long as I bother no one else, don't drive, and remain in my home?

I have never understood how the law can hold such lofty and sweeping principles in one case (homosexual sex), but act like it is absurd to apply the same reasoning in similar situations (paid for sex). It just seems like an obvious contradiction.
7.10.2007 11:40pm
Proud to be a liberal :
Vitter has been prominent in supporting "traditional marriage" and opposing gay marriage as subversive of gay marriage.

I think his own recent confession suggests that it was his own actions in seeking a prostitute that were the greatest threat to his own marriage &not gay people getting married in Massachusetts.
7.11.2007 12:15am
Public_Defender (mail):
I have never understood how the law can hold such lofty and sweeping principles in one case (homosexual sex), but act like it is absurd to apply the same reasoning in similar situations (paid for sex). It just seems like an obvious contradiction.

The problem with prostitution is that it's frequently really hard to tell when a paid sex act is consensual and when it's the result of sexual slavery.
7.11.2007 1:46am
Randy R. (mail):
Dear Proud:

Thanks for the post. But don't use the word 'gay', since JunkYardDog thinks that the proper noun is homosexual. He has no problem using the word. Over and over, and over and over.....
7.11.2007 1:47am
Fub:
Henri Le Compte wrote at 7.10.2007 10:40pm:
Can I ask a totally serious question? Didn't Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and assorted other major cases establish a "right" to privacy in the matter of sexual expression?? So why is prostitution still illegal? I just don't get it. It seems to me a very simple matter to apply the logic of those previous cases to prostitution.

In fact, I think it would not be much of a stretch to see within the emanations and penumbras of Lawrence a "privacy right" to use drugs. ...
The state of California has an express constitutional right to privacy, passed by voter initiative circa 1972. I don't know about privacy challenges to prostitution laws, although shortly after the privacy initiative passed, California NORML brought a case to overturn marijuana prohibition laws based on that right. It failed, very solidly.

Under Alaska's similar constitutional privacy provision, Ravin v. State established that the right to privacy included the right to possess and use marijuana in private and in limited quantities.

Go figure. Maybe it's that Brandeisian "states as laboratories of democracy" thang.
7.11.2007 1:57am
Cornellian (mail):
Can I ask a totally serious question? Didn't Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and assorted other major cases establish a "right" to privacy in the matter of sexual expression??

Privacy's a bit of a stretch when you're conducting a business transaction over the phone through a commerical business who is referring you to a third person. Totally different from two people in private, in the same room, agreeing to have sex in a non-commercial situation (Lawrence) and, of course, nothing at all like whether the government can stop a single individual from having an abortion some or all of the time (Roe v Wade).

In fact, I think it would not be much of a stretch to see within the emanations and penumbras of Lawrence a "privacy right" to use drugs.

I tend to wonder in what penumbra or emanation of Article II Republicans find the federal government's authority to stop anyone from taking drugs, but that's just the federalist in me talking. Re privacy right, I tend to think of it more as a liberty or life right. If the drug in question is the only thing between you and death from some serious illness, and the government wants you to prohibit you from taking it on the grounds that the drug has a side effect of making you feel good, that seems to me to involve a non-trivial argument of whether the state is depriving you of life without due process.
7.11.2007 2:32am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Why would anyone in pubic office, or anyone period use their cell phone to arrange for a hooker? Why not buy a pre-paid cell phone that can't be traced to the user. Am I missing something? Is David Vitter that stupid?
7.11.2007 3:30am
NickM (mail) (www):
Zarkov and Elliot - most politicians have no clue about how prepaid cell phones can be used to give anonymity, They live in more than a bit of a bubble.

As for the prices of prostitutes, there is a lot of variance in the prices they charge currently, because of the wide difference in demand for their services. The one who looks like a Playboy Playmate will be able to command a much higher price than the one who would be called a "two bagger" in a bar. This will be true regardless of the legality. Drugs just don't operate the same way (especially bootleg prescription drugs).

Oh, and for PDXlawyer - how do you know that they're not selling drugs on craigslist? Search for widely known drug codewords (420, tina, etc.) and see what you find.

Nick
7.11.2007 4:02am
ATRGeek:
Henri,

Just to back up the first part of Cornellian's answer, the private/commercial distinction is a common one in constitutional law. For example, commercial speech receives less protection under the First Amendment. To put the same thought another way, I think Lawrence does apply to the john having consensual sex with the prostitute. What it doesn't apply to is the john paying the prostitute for that sex.

But I also think there is a deeper issue here, which is the recognition in Lawrence that a prohibition on gay sex is actually an attempt by the State to "demean [gay people's] existence or control [gay people's] destiny." That analysis implies that being gay is not just a series of discreet choices to participate in a particular sex act, but rather something more fundamental to one's identity.

It is plausible that hiring a prostitute is not in fact similarly fundamental to one's identity. Interestingly, though, there are people who make the argument that hiring prostitutes is the only effective way for certain people to have a sexual dimension to their lives (eg, certain handicapped people). So, I actually think there is a potential for a prostitution case that could make a colorable Lawrence claim (eg, one brought by the hypothetical handicapped person who effectively needs prostitution to have a sex life).

But I don't think Senator Vitter could bring such a case.
7.11.2007 9:24am
Gaius Marius:
Ditto George Lyon's sentiments above.
7.11.2007 9:37am
vukdog:
Henri Le Compte,

Your absolutely right. Randy Barnett has a great article on the subject - Justice Kennedy's Libertarian Revolution: Lawrence v. Texas
7.11.2007 10:22am
Hoosier:
Look, GOD has forgiven him.

So who are WE to talk about it?

Geez.
7.11.2007 10:30am
SteveW:
Vitter is being roasted because his actions are exactly opposite of his words. That is, he is a hypocrite. And he hides it. And, he views what goes on in his bedroom (or mine, or Clinton's) as important in determining a person's character and ability to lead.


Vitter wrote an opinion piece in 1998 about the Lewinsky scandal. You can read some excerpts from it here. Vitter insisted that Congress should focus on "moral fitness" and impeach Clinton. I wish I had access to the full 1998 piece, because it's not clear from the excerpts whether the immorality to which Vitter objected was perjury or the underlying sex act. OTOH, I guess it doesn't much matter whether Vitter objected to Clinton's illegal act (perjury) or the underlying sex act, because Vitter appears guilty of both.
7.11.2007 10:58am
Fub:
Public_Defender wrote at 7.10.2007 9:44pm:
I would agree that voluntary prostitution should theoretically be legal, but it's too hard to sort out who is "voluntarily" a prostitute. How much coercion or hard luck does it take to make it involuntary?

Because we can't sort out who's a sex trafficking victim and who's a voluntary prostitute, I favor making it legal to prostitute yourself, but illegal to be a John, madam or pimp. That would take down the Vitters and Palfreys of the world, but avoid using the law to inflict yet another humiliation on the prostitutes themselves.
I don't buy for a second that it is difficult to determine who is a volunteer and who is coerced -- if the state simply asked nicely, without threat of prosecution, and with assurance of protection from the enslaver.

Criminalizing prostitution, ostensibly in order to police "sexual slavery", is nothing more than punishing the victim. It doubly encourages sexual slavery by creating both economic incentive and a colorably plausible sales pitch for abusive pimps: "I protect my working girls from the law."

The only parties who benefit from prohibition of prostitution are politicians, pimps, vice police and preachers. Unfortunately that's a very powerful coalition.
7.11.2007 11:27am
Hoosier:
Most prostitutes are drug addicts.

I'd like to get them cleaned up, and THEN asked if this is their choice of careers.
7.11.2007 11:35am
WHOI Jacket:
Anderson, so in your world, FL,AR,TN,KY,WV and LA DIDN'T go for Clinton in 1996? And GA didn't elect its first (R) Governor in over 130 years till 2002?

We all became irredeemable Godbothering Racists after all that, right?
7.11.2007 12:01pm
Clinton critic:
Allan,

Clinton counts as a hypocrite on the sex stuff because he had a pattern -- not one or two, but a consistent pattern -- of hitting on women who worked for him, and in using promotions and job help as a way to keep them quiet. That was the deal with Lewinsky, Jones, Flowers, and more.

Yet he and his defenders supported laws on sex harassment, and attacked Clarence Thomas on the idea that Thomas inappropriately hit on Hill as AN EMPLOYEE.

And in particular, most Clintonites supported the evidence rule changes to forbid looking at a victim's prior sexual history, while still looking at the accused's history. It was that latter principle that made it fair game to ask Clinton, in the Jones lawsuit, whether he had a pattern of hitting on other employees, and by lying about it, and later arguing that it was irrelevant, he was denying the legitimacy of a question that is STANDARD FARE in harassment lawsuits. And in attacking every "bimbo" on her other history, he and his supporters were hypocrites.
7.11.2007 12:14pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Randy R.

Someone recently posted:

if you find that the factually accurate use of the adjective homosexual contains some negative implication then the problem is in your mind. One might go so far as to suggest that your perceptions of this belie some latent homophobic tendencies on your part, and for which a quick trip to liberal re-education camp might be appropriate.

Says the "Dog"
7.11.2007 12:47pm
Public_Defender (mail):
I don't buy for a second that it is difficult to determine who is a volunteer and who is coerced -- if the state simply asked nicely, without threat of prosecution, and with assurance of protection from the enslaver.

Criminalizing prostitution, ostensibly in order to police "sexual slavery", is nothing more than punishing the victim.


That's why I woudn't criminalize prostituting oneself. I'd only criminalize the pimps, madams and Johns.

Most prostitutes are drug addicts.

I'd like to get them cleaned up, and THEN asked if this is their choice of careers.


Yet another reason to criminalize pimps, madams and Johns, but not the prostitutes themselves.

Most prostitutes are pathetic people whose lives have spiraled dangerously out of control. (The one I encountered most recently in my practice was on drugs and testified that my client, her stepfather, had raped her from a young age.) Completely legalizing prostitution would legitimize their wretched lives and hinder their chances of escape. But enforcement of the current laws is typically aimed at the people who need help the most--the prostitutes.

Again, legalize being a prostitute, but punish everyone else.
7.11.2007 1:11pm
Tom952 (mail):
Maybe Vitter attends church at the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries down in La, where this sort of thing is not considered a significant moral problem.
7.11.2007 2:04pm
Tom952 (mail):
Senator Vitter is linked to the New Orleans brothel shut down by the FBI in this AP story .
7.11.2007 2:08pm
Tom952 (mail):
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19685977/
7.11.2007 2:08pm
The Hobbesian Father (mail) (www):
Just curious: is there anyone here who thinks prostitution is wrong? Or am I the only one who will be counseling my daughter against it should it become legal?


Just curious.
7.11.2007 2:47pm
JosephSlater (mail):
ClintonCritic:

While the "Clinton did it too!" accusation doesn't address the point about Vitter, and while I'm not going to defend all that Bill did in his personal life, in fact, there's no evidence that Clinton did what you say he did. The Jones case was thrown out, in large part because there was no evidence of anything like Clinton using promotions or other employment actions for or against her. The Lewinsky affair was entirely consensual.

Thus, even after painfully extensive investigation and litigation, there's no evidence Clinton sexually harassed anyone within the meaning of the law or within common sense meanings. Having a consensual relationship with a subordinate may not always be wise, and cheating on your wife rarely is. But there's no analogous "Clinton was against sexual harassment and yet he harassed" point here, because, among other things, it's not harassment if it's consensual.
7.11.2007 2:52pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Just curious: is there anyone here who thinks prostitution is wrong? Or am I the only one who will be counseling my daughter against it should it become legal?

I don't think my posts could be characterized as pro-prostitution.

You should counsel your daughter against it, but if, Heaven forbid, she gets caught up in that wretched world, she will face enough misery without also having to face criminal prosecution.

Punish the Johns, madams, and pimps, but offer a hand up to the prostitutes themselves. That's my position.
7.11.2007 3:11pm
Fub:
Public_Defender wrote at 7.11.2007 12:11pm:
Most prostitutes are pathetic people whose lives have spiraled dangerously out of control. (The one I encountered most recently in my practice was on drugs and testified that my client, her stepfather, had raped her from a young age.) Completely legalizing prostitution would legitimize their wretched lives and hinder their chances of escape.
Whether most are is at best only arguable. That some are is likely true.

Having met prostitutes in the context of HIV prevention work, and in the context of criminal defense, over many years, I think it is extraordinarily easy to determine which is which -- just listen to what people wish to say about themselves.

I do not think either of our samples is a statistically valid one. But common sense indicates that "all" or "none" are certainly incorrect, and "most" is a highly questionable estimate.
But enforcement of the current laws is typically aimed at the people who need help the most--the prostitutes.
I agree with completely decriminalizing prostitution. I also do not think that some, likely most, prostitutes need any government "help", beyond decriminalizing their acts.
Again, legalize being a prostitute, but punish everyone else.
I cannot agree with that. Not all prostitutes' clients are committing any criminal act besides engaging the services of the prostitute, nor are all "madams" or pimps. Under decriminalization they would be committing no ordinarily criminal act at all, unless their role were specifically criminalized.

Pimps are more problematical, because their frequent protection racket role was a perceived necessity among some prostitutes due to the criminalization of prostitution. But under current law, being married to a prostitute and therefore sharing her earnings, is legally tantamount to being a pimp, though less often prosecuted.

I think the right approach is to decriminalize prostitution entirely among consenting adult parties. Then enforce existing laws against the usual illegal means (violence and threats, exploitation of minors, etc.) in which the bad actors of all categories (prostitutes, pimps, johns and madams) might engage.

I agree with Tracy Quan, who stated in a recent Reason interview, "We are really upset about people who use trafficking to attack the whole concept of prostitution. I think there is a lot of unexamined hatred toward prostitutes that gets expressed as compassion."
7.11.2007 3:36pm
Hoosier:
On the matter of arresting everyone BUT the prostitute:

I'm out of my depth here. Is there any other remunerative field in which the provider of a service is the only one who is NOT punished for the transaction? I'm trying to think of a comparison, but nothing is coming to mind.
7.11.2007 4:19pm
The Hobbesian Father (mail) (www):
I agree with Tracy Quan, who stated in a recent Reason interview, "We are really upset about people who use trafficking to attack the whole concept of prostitution. I think there is a lot of unexamined hatred toward prostitutes that gets expressed as compassion."

I fail to see the problem with referring to prostitution as human trafficking-- just because the person being bought and sold (or is it only okay if she's being rented?) is a "small businesswoman" who is voluntarily renting her body out. She's still being trafficked, it's just that she's the one doing the trafficking.

We're talking about making the human body into a commodity, like produce or toilet paper, or some other disposeable product.

Am I the only person who sees anything wrong with that? Am I the only person who finds the fact that some people voluntary do it to be more disturbing? Human Beings are being traded like pork bellies, and the biggest problem anyone has with it is the fact that the john is a hypocrite?



And please spare me the nonsense about how it's okay to buy a woman a ring for sex, but not okay to just give her the money. Outside of the west coast one of the two parties is trading goods for sex and the other is being duped into thinking the other loves him/her. That's fraud, not prostitution. And besides that, I pity the person who thinks that everyone in a relationship is "buying sex" in some fashion. A few of us out there still have emotional connections with the people we share a bed with. Maybe that's not important to most folk anymore, but it's important to me.


Usually I don't give a tinker's damn what people do in the bedroom. But the buying and selling of human flesh is wrong, no matter who's doing it, and codifying tolerance of it into law coarsens us all.

It's a stinking business, and it deserves no sympathy from us or our lawmakers.
7.11.2007 4:20pm
Hoosier:
Hobbesian Father--

I have a new hero--HF!

(But I'd think that a Hobbesian would be harder to shock.)
7.11.2007 4:41pm
ATRGeek:
The Hobbesian Father,

So do you feel the same way about people who get paid for giving therapeutic massages? How about people who are paid to dance ballet, or play basketball, or load ships, or so on?

That is a serious question, by the way: what distinguishes these other people who are paid to use their bodies to provide services from prostitutes? The obvious answer is that only prostitutes are providing sexual services, which of course is what defines them as prostitutes.

So, I think the whole "commodification of the human body" line is a bit of a red herring, unless you believe that no one at all should be paid for providing services with their body (which I guess Marxists would believe). The real issue, it seems, is the "commodification of sex" in particular, and I think the burden is on you to explain why it is OK to commodify basically every other sort of service or activity which people value, but not sex.
7.11.2007 5:40pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Can someone tell us what's wrong for charging for what can be legally obtained free of charge? What is it about the money that matters? Is it possible this is the last retreat of those who would like to make even free sex with a non-spouse illegal?
7.11.2007 5:55pm
Clinton Critic:
Mr. Slater -

You say that Clinton did not sexually harass anyone, nor did he, more broadly, do the things I said he did. A few responses:

On sexual harassment -

1. You note that the Jones suit was "thrown out," but fail to mention that it was settled for 850K while on appeal. So it's an open issue whether the courts would have found harassment.

2. As I mentioned, both Lewinsky and Flowers were given jobs or job-seeking assistance as payoff. E.g., Flowers was promoted to a position for which she was unqualified. This fact has a few implications. (A) If the quid pro quo were express or sufficiently implied, then "consent" does not remove it from constituting harassment. (B) The courts are still unclear (last I checked) on whether to accept "paramour" theory, i.e., that those NOT promoted have a cause of action when the boss promotes his girlfriend. No such person filed against Clinton, to my knowledge, but it makes it potentially harassment under current law, even if no court said so. And (C) it's a waste of public money, and thus a legitimate public concern, to pay your girlfriends with tax money.

3. Other women spoke of unwanted advances, and even rape, and it comes down to whom you believe. Kathleen Willey worked at the White House, albeit as a volunteer, and said he made unwanted and forceful advances. Juanita Broadrick was not an employee in Arkansas, but told a compelling (in my view) tale of rape, which Clinton never responded to adequately. And I believe he is on record as opposing rape?

Separately from harassment itself as hypocrisy:

On not answering the question honestly -

Clinton supported, as far as I can recall, the legal regime that makes questions such as the Lewinsky question, in the deposition in the Jones suit, fair game. Yet he refused to answer honestly, or to refuse to answer on some principle. It would be one thing if he had said, "I had no non-consensual affairs with employees, and I refuse to answer about consensual sexual activity with other employees." Instead, he just lied and said no. Even if the Jones case never amounted to harassment, witnesses have no right to decide what's relevant and then lie about what they consider irrelevant. Later, in the big perjury debate, he and his supporters insisted it was an irrelevant point, like lying about what you had for breakfast. But by supporting the legal regime, he supported making these questions legit, and that is an independent ground of hypocrisy. You and I and every CEO or manager must ask such questions, so that courts and juries can decide whether harassment happened.

On attacking his accusers -

He and his supporters also supported the principle that an accuser's own past history with others does not matter to the truth of her allegations. Yet he and his minions orchestrated a campaign of trashing any and all women who came forward as nuts and sluts. That is freestanding hypocrisy, apart from the other categories.

I am not going to claim that he needed to be convicted on impeachment and removed from office, but I think his entire pattern of using women and throwing them to the wolves, while claiming feminist politics, ranks as hypocrisy.
7.11.2007 6:39pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Can someone tell us what's wrong for charging for what can be legally obtained free of charge? What is it about the money that matters? . . .

Because sexual slavery is not a problem outside of the paid market, at least in the West.

Is it possible this is the last retreat of those who would like to make even free sex with a non-spouse illegal?
Not that I see. There is very little support for criminalizing extra-martial and non-marital sex in the West.

So do you feel the same way about people who get paid for giving therapeutic massages? How about people who are paid to dance ballet, or play basketball, or load ships, or so on?

Again, there is no problem with sexual slavery among people who give therapeutic massages, dance ballet, play basketball or load ships.

Then enforce existing laws against the usual illegal means (violence and threats, exploitation of minors, etc.) in which the bad actors of all categories (prostitutes, pimps, johns and madams) might engage.

The problem is that it's really, really hard to distinguish the "bad actors" from the "good actors."


I wonder how many people who say they support legalized prostitution have actually met someone whose life has spiraled down into that "trade." It's not the world of "Pretty Woman." It's mostly a world of desperate, drug-addled, (frequently) sexually abused teenagers and adults who've lost control of their lives.
7.11.2007 8:06pm
AntonK (mail):
Ann is taken to the woodshed here..


Blogress Ann Althouse quotes Vitter: "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. . . . Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there--with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way." Althouse lets Vitter have it:


I hate seeing people publicly humiliated for the sexual things they do in private. But the government is criminally prosecuting a woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, for what it says was a prostitution ring. These are federal charges, and the senator, David Vitter, has some responsibility for the laws that make this prosecution possible. . . .

Palfrey can't say God has forgiven her and walk free. In fact, Vitter's statement hurts Palfrey because it strongly implies that Palfrey was doing what she's accused of. Vitter's confession--intended to move us to mercy--links him to criminal activity, but only she is facing criminal punishment.

Shouldn't the expiation of Vitter's sins wait until he has introduced a bill that would create a federal right to engage in the business of prostitution? It's not a matter to be resolved within the realm of church and family as long as Palfrey is being prosecuted.



How would advocating the legalization of prostitution expiate Vitter's sins? Prostitution is illegal because it is wrong, not the other way around. The reason we have laws at all is not so that "good" people can impose their will on "bad" people, but because everyone has the capacity to do bad things. Thus it's not surprising that moralists sometimes turn out to be hypocrites. They are moralists because they are closely acquainted with the temptation to do wrong.

Larry Flynt does a better job in living up to his own moral standards than David Vitter does in living up to his. But that is because Flynt has no standards, not because he is some sort of exemplar.
7.11.2007 9:19pm
ATRGeek:
P_D,

As an aside, part of the problem with looking at prostitutes today is that you are looking at people who have chosen to engage in an illegal and stigmatized profession. If it was legal and not stigmatized, you might find different participants.

Anyway, I guess we would have to start with a working definition of "sexual slavery". My basic point to The Hobbesian Father was that it can't just mean getting paid for sex, because by that definition all paid services are "slavery". Your argument seems to be different, so you will have to explain when ordinary paid services become slavery, and why you think making the market for sexual services into a black market is likely to make sexual slavery less common as opposed to more common (the latter of which is the the more intuitively plausible hypothesis to me).

Incidentally, I suspect on any reasonable definition it is wrong that there is not an unpaid sexual slavery problem in the "West" (I am thinking of certain child and spousal sexual abuse cases). I also suspect that it is wrong that only "sexual" slavery is a problem (I am thinking of some "sweatshop" cases). Interestingly, though, we do not make it illegal to be a seamstress.
7.12.2007 9:45am
The Hobbesian Father (mail) (www):
ATR Geek:

So, I think the whole "commodification of the human body" line is a bit of a red herring, unless you believe that no one at all should be paid for providing services with their body (which I guess Marxists would believe). The real issue, it seems, is the "commodification of sex" in particular, and I think the burden is on you to explain why it is OK to commodify basically every other sort of service or activity which people value, but not sex.

I've seen this argument before. People basically accuse me of crypto-marxism because, after all, every job requires people to "use their bodies" to provide a service.

Fair enough, but there is the question of who is doing the using.

If person X pays person Y to mow his lawn, X is paying Y to use Y's body to mow the lawn. If person X pays person Y to have sex, then X is paying Y so that X may use Y's body.

X is not using Y's body directly in the first case, but X is using Y's body directly in the second.

The massuese example is trickier, as they both involve person Y doing physical things to person X's body for money. But there are degrees of usage, just as there are degrees of everything. Paying a doctor is different from paying a chiropractor, which is different from paying a massuer, which is different from paying a whore. Unfortunately, since the distinction is a moral one (much like the distinctions between self defense, manslaughter, and murder), it becomes a useless argument when arguing with a libertarian. If I were a smarter person, I might be able to do it. But I know enough to know what I can and can't do.


The nearest I can come is to point out that sex is, or at least used to be, a very intimate thing that two people shared. There was an emotional component integral to it, which is where the term "lovers" originated. By reducing the act to the mere physical, we lose something very special and uniquely human.

Again, probably a useless argument to make given the people I'm arguing with. But as I said, I'm not a good enough debator to convince you.



Regarding your later post:

Incidentally, I suspect on any reasonable definition it is wrong that there is not an unpaid sexual slavery problem in the "West" (I am thinking of certain child and spousal sexual abuse cases). I also suspect that it is wrong that only "sexual" slavery is a problem (I am thinking of some "sweatshop" cases). Interestingly, though, we do not make it illegal to be a seamstress.

You imply that I condone sweatshops, or any other form of human abuse. Where did I give that impression? Or is it just a straw man you're trying to set up to represent people like me?

The problem of sweatshops is not the legality of seamstresses, it is the abuse of them. Just as the problem of prostitution is not the existence of sex, or the problem of robbery is not the existence of weapons.

Again we see the problem of being unable to distinguish any form of commerce from any other. If it is okay to sew clothes for money, it must therefore be OK to have sex for money. As if everything in life is a question of economics.


If you really and truly don't see any difference between mowing a lawn and sex, I can't convince you otherwise. I can only pity you.
7.12.2007 10:30am
ATRGeek:
The Hobbesian Father,

As an aside, keep in mind I was also responding to P_D, so that is why some of my points may not have seen directly relevant to you. For example, P_D was arguing (I believe) that prositution is not per se wrong, but often associated with "sexual slavery", which is wrong. I was pointing out that other professions are also often associated with forms of "slavery", but we do not then make the entire profession illegal. And again, at least in the case of prostitution that strikes me as likely to increase, not decrease, the incidence of abuse of prostitutes. But I recognize that unlike P_D, you do think prostitution is per se immoral.

Anyway, you wrote: "Paying a doctor is different from paying a chiropractor, which is different from paying a massuer, which is different from paying a whore." Quan had written: "I think there is a lot of unexamined hatred toward prostitutes that gets expressed as compassion." I have to say I think you are making Quan's point.

As for sex and lawn-mowing: the thing is, I would also distinguish sex within a committed relationship (I'll call this intimate sex) and incidences of sex between people without such a relationship (I'll call this casual sex). And I think it is entirely possible for both sorts of sex to coexist, meaning the fact that at any one time some people in our society are having casual sex does not mean other people cannot be having intimate sex. Indeed, to me that would be like arguing that you can't have casual acquaintances because that would undermine lifelong friendships.

So I would agree that intimate sex is not like lawn-mowing. But casual sex is a different matter.
7.13.2007 7:42am