Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer, the Mann Act and neo-Puritanism

Never having been elected governor of New York by a landslide on the strength of my character and intellect, I never sat on so tantalizing and grandiose an edge of hubris as Eliot Spitzer's, so who am I to judge this obviously unhappy man? Such a thought does not seem to bother today's garment-rending neo-Puritans -- nor does the fact that the allegedly violated Mann Act is the federal statute most flagrantly misused to bring down celebrities of color.

The online Huffington Post, for example, has no biography of moralist Chris Kelly (author of Eliot Spitzer Disappoints Wife / Commits Federal Offense), so we don't know the details of Kelly's glass house.

But how about the publisher, Arianna Huffington? Shall we forget that Arianna was a conservative who went after Bill Clinton when it was salacious, making a name for herself, and now styles herself a liberal, when the wind is blowing that way.

Shall we forget that her millions come not from journalistic talent but from sleeping with a millionaire, ex-husband Michael Huffington, whose proclivities toward men she reportedly knew well before she divorced him, allegedly for his bisexuality? By my reckoning1 Arianna's per-hour sex rate during this gold-digging marriage comes out to nearly $175,000, not the paltry $4,600 Spitzer's Kristen got -- which she had to split with the prostitution ring managers.

So Arianna Huffington is in a position to sponsor moral lectures now?

Let's also consider the Mann Act, technically the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910.

The law was most egregiously used against boxer Jack Johnson, who in 1910 defeated a white contender and later had to flee the United States after marrying a white woman, Lucille Cameron, as Southern ministers called for his lynching. In 1920, Johnson was prosecuted for allegedly violating the Mann Act by sending his white girlfriend, Belle Schreiber, a railroad ticket to travel from Pittsburgh to Chicago. His life was the inspiration for the 1970s film "The Great White Hope."

The Mann Act was also used against rock musician Chuck Berry and Rex Ingram, a 1940s film and stage actor, both African American, in dubious circumstances.

The law wasn't just used against blacks. Charlie Chaplin was accused; he was acquitted, but the charge eventually became the basis for his blacklisting in the 1950s.

Think about it: might you (or, if you are a woman, your boyfriend) have violated the Mann Act? According to a 1917 Supreme Court ruling that has never been challenged, the statute's prohibition against "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes" applies to noncommercial consensual sexual liaisons.

How many millions of Americans should sit in jail next to Eliot Spitzer?

Perhaps the answer should come from an ancient tradition. It is said that 2,000 years ago there was once a woodworker who became an itinerant preacher in the hills of Galilee. The story goes that he was brought a woman caught in the act of adultery and was asked whether she should be put to death by stoning, as Mosaic law prescribed.

He replied: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

1. Arianna Stassinopoulos married Michael Huffington in 1986 and divorced him in 1997. The settlement was not divulged; however, Huffington spent $29 million of his own money on a senate race against Diane Feinstein, so let's assume she got $100 million. Assume sexual encounters that, on average, lasted an hour once a week on average over roughly 11 years, that's 572 times. Dividing $100 million by 572 yields $174,875 an hour.


dirtyword.net said...

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Cecilieaux said...

I'm leaving the above obvious spam to show how this thought-provoking crisis is treated.

Geneviève said...

I would be temped to joke : we don't have Cecilieaux's biography for us to jugde his ability to do morale lecture, but I would risk to be said infuriating, so I say nothing:)Moreover I am not sure I understood everything of the story, and misunderstrandings lead to the worse. So double reasons for me to shut up; the third being that I should MMOB, since this is not my country and I have not a clue about the laws overthere, that is why I keep quiet.

Anonymous said...

Practicing what you are preaching is part of the problem with Spitzer and others who have been caught in similar situations.
If they weren't out there condemning other people for their behavior and then doing the same thing they are condemning, it would be a whole different story as far as glass houses. But these are people like the Senator who was caught in the bathroom, who are often out there throwing bricks at other peoples glass houses. What kind of politician can he be if he is that much of a hypocrite? Won't it be interesting if this blind black man replaces him and becomes the first Black governor in New York state (assuming he isn't hiding any dark secrets)?

jen said...

i'm basically (somewhat) with anonymous on the hypocrisy thing.

now, where can i get a Spitzer mug?

Anonymous said...

Your analysis of the Mann Act, however, is very interesting and you make some very good points about it. It sounds like Spitzer is going to resign sometime tomorrow. I never did understand why Arianna Huffington did so well here in Washington after her husband lost his campaign and then they divorced. But you are probably right - it is probably due to all her money that she is so successful.
I don't know if I want a t-shirt or a cup.

Anne said...

I wonder when the business of sex will be no one's business or anyone's interest outside of cases of rape and bondage.

Cybill said...

Good words.