Re: Everybody's Stupid

1

I didn't comment on the earlier Spitzer threads, but yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Also, the process of succeeding in politics seems to usually winnow out people without tremendous egos.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:14 AM
horizontal rule
2

"The capacity to not fuck up is very rare, and has very little to do with startling intelligence."

I don't think this is quite right. Rather, I think the ability to not fuck up (which surely isn't one ability, but can be met in several ways) is well served by applying normal smarts to every-day life, including one's own emotional life or sexual desire. But most people don't do that and don't (think they) want to- it's more comfortable, if also more stupid, to think your emotional life and desires are just something that happens to you rather than something you can think about and have some control over like any other aspect of your life. That's wrong, though, and the reluctance to do that is why many smart people do so many dumb things- they just don't apply their smartness to this part of their lives, often because they think this part is something that just happens, but it's not.


Posted by: Matt (not the famous one) | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:18 AM
horizontal rule
3

You could put it like that. The failure to apply what intelligence you have to all aspects of your life is what I'm calling 'stupidness' -- someone who's successfully using their heads, regardless of context, is someone who manages to be 'not stupid'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:21 AM
horizontal rule
4

As Gary Gygax would say, there's intelligence, and there's wisdom.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:23 AM
horizontal rule
5

To rephrase, "intelligence" is not a single quality, and is in any case not the same as good judgment, and in any case judgment isn't a single quality either, and in any case any of these various areas of knowledge and judgment and understanding are applied haphazardly, and can be overridden by the stress of the moment. So those who are best able to manage or channel their pitched reactions in time of stress are by definition better able to handle stressful careers without cracking in self-destructive ways.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:31 AM
horizontal rule
6

The comedian Richard Herring said it:

Hubris? I don't know the meaning of the word. Which is unfortunate as I am just about to enter a high-stakes "Who Can Give The Best Definitions of The Key Concepts Of Greek Tragedy?" But I am sure I will win anyway.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:34 AM
horizontal rule
7

I see what you're getting at, but I don't quite buy it. If you're successful, it means you haven't had to pay for the startlingly stupid things you've done, or you haven't had to pay permanently, or overmuch, etc. But you've still almost certainly done them. Including, minimally, hookers or other forms of cheating while married. Cf. Bitch's claim that 95% of powerful men cheat.

But I agree that not doing startlingly stupid things is rare.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:34 AM
horizontal rule
8

they just don't can't apply their smartness to this part of their lives, because applying clear-eyed judgment to a situation is monumentally easier to do when you're at even an arm's-length distance.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
9

LB, I asked that you keep our financial transactions private. A pool boy has his dignity, you know.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
10

This is probably a bad time to tell you that with my new job, I can't afford your rates anymore. I think you're going to have to put that ad back in the Chronicle of Higher Education classifieds.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:44 AM
horizontal rule
11

To me it isn't so much stupidity as megalomania and neediness that explains his willingness to take these risks.

You do have to wonder about the bad judgment he showed in his use of emails and the way he handled the financial transactions. He was caught by the same kinds of traps he'd caught others in. He had to know that he had several different groups of high-powered, ruthless enemies: in the legislature, on Wall Street, and at the federal level. Some combination of cockiness and obsession.

Maybe when he gave in to his desires he just let all of his other prudent behaviors go too, as a sort of transgressive performance. Some people think that once you start breaking a big rule you get to break all the little rules too, whereas in fact the rules of crime are just as strict as the rules of law.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:51 AM
horizontal rule
12

Intelligence isn't the same as practical wisdom, and the two aren't always found together. Absent-minded professors, etc.

Still, if you're a politician who prosecutes prostitutes, how much practical wisdom are we needing here to think that maybe it's a bad idea? Ignore his book-smart intelligence! Let this be decided simply by prudence. We're talking 'the sense God gave a turnip' here.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:52 AM
horizontal rule
13

Witt (8)- I'm not sure I disagree, but I would disagree if you're implying that people cannot take an arms-look length at their own lives. They usually don't, of course, but they can and ought to. It's an essential part of morality, (perhaps the core part of it) after, all.


Posted by: Matt (not the famous one) | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:54 AM
horizontal rule
14

You do have to wonder about the bad judgment he showed in his use of emails and the way he handled the financial transactions. He was caught by the same kinds of traps he'd caught others in.

I'm speculating here, but don't you think there's a shot that he was led astray by his practical knowledge of how prosecutions work? Still speculating, but I don't believe that he was caught because the nature of his transactions triggered something; after all, there were a bunch of rich men patronizing the same ring, and for some reason no one noticed the rest of them moving money around. I'd surmise that he knew that whatever exactly he was doing wasn't the sort of thing that would ordinarily trigger an investigation, and didn't allow for the possibility that someone was trawling through his records specifically for political purposes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 7:59 AM
horizontal rule
15

But the structure of the job selects against "the sense God gave a turnip." I see people with huge workloads and over-full schedules start to make compromises that make no kind of sense, no-how. I'm thinking of the governor's limo driver checking his BlackBerry while driving umpty-umph mph on the highway.

Being in a position of power, with a workload far beyond what any human can reasonably accomplish, means that you are triaging tasks and cutting corners thousands of times a day. You're giving quick responses to do issues that need more thought, you're saying yes or no on the run, spending money on the fly. You're having documents sent by personal courier when there's no real reason not to rely on the USPS, you're hiring people with no check to be sure their resumes claims are true, you're using money to solve problems and grease wheels in a way that it becomes totally second nature.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:00 AM
horizontal rule
16

I just want to point out that the "linked to a prostitution ring" framing of the story is brilliant. What about when Barack Obama was linked to a drug-trafficking operation in college?!? And it turns out to be true that almost all Jews are linked to the international banking cartel!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:00 AM
horizontal rule
17

Spitzer had lots of practical wisdom, though. I do have to think of his carelessness as a serious aberration.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:00 AM
horizontal rule
18

Contrast Giuliani. Completely blatant, no regrets, and it's unlikely that we know everything that he did. Maybe Spitzer's goody-goodiness was the thing that weakened his judgment.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:03 AM
horizontal rule
19

I'm speculating here, but don't you think there's a shot that he was led astray by his practical knowledge of how prosecutions work?

Also: Nobody understands better than a criminal lawyer - either prosecution or defense - the arbitrary nature of criminal justice in this country.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
20

Spitzer had lots of practical wisdom, though. I do have to think of his carelessness as a serious aberration.

Good lord. How much prostitution do you think exists in the US, and how much non-street level prostitution do you think is caught?

He did something that, on balance, shouldn't have seemed very risky. He got caught. It happens.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:05 AM
horizontal rule
21

if you're implying that people cannot take an arms-look length at their own lives. They usually don't, of course, but they can and ought to.

Hm. I think I'm agreeing that people usually don't, and arguing that one reason for that is that it is because sometimes they actually can't. I'm not at all sure that I would endorse a claim as strong as "they ought to" (in all instances). It seems superhuman.

Maybe we don't have the same definition of "arm's-length" -- I'm thinking of everything from time to maturity to a different person. Witt-at-15 might have done something stupid that Witt's friend could have identified at the time, and that I today could identify. That doesn't meant that I'm going to hold my fifteen-year-old self responsible in every possible instance for being able to get outside her own head.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:12 AM
horizontal rule
22

I believe that another failure of narrative in operation when folks talk about things like this is to ignore the roles of compartmentalization, and other behaviors that everyone exhibits that are only loosely under rational control. We all seem to go into "Cartesian theater" mode in these discussions (not that we can help ourselves).

Sybil was not an alien.

Witt's 15 as well.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:19 AM
horizontal rule
23

behaviors that everyone exhibits that are only loosely under rational control

Which is to say all of them.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:22 AM
horizontal rule
24

19: Yeah, maybe I've been reading too much Godwin recently, but it seems pretty obvious that anyone with that much power (and most who don't) has probably done something similar; otherwise he'd have had the expectation that doing something that stupid would get him caught. People get prosecuted for political reasons, not because it's a natural effect of committing crimes.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:24 AM
horizontal rule
25

People who don't fuck up in this way generally stay away from power, precisely because they know better. It's really rare that someone who is well-centered emotionally, careful and pragmatic in their choices, basically wise, also is someone who avidly seeks political or institutional power. If a person who is reasonably wise is also in a position of power, it's usually because they hung around an institution long enough, became trusted enough, that power was ceded to them gradually.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:30 AM
horizontal rule
26

23: What would make you say something like that?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:30 AM
horizontal rule
27

that people have at least two uncorrelated sorts of intellectual capacity. There's how smart you are...And then there's how stupid you are:

LB, this is the most insightful thing I've heard in a long time. I love it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:32 AM
horizontal rule
28

4: Props to the homage to our dearly departed G & G. Alas, Gov. Spitzer wasn't blessed with across-the-board 18s as he might he have thought he was.

I will give poor Eliot one thing: he certainly had more rarified and refined tastes than Clinton did...there's no way any of Bill's indiscretions would come close to pulling in a four-digit hourly rate...


Posted by: Eric T | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:32 AM
horizontal rule
29

20: He got caught by doing something that he knew very well was risky, which is moving money around in a dodgy way that seemed designed not to trigger federal reporting requirements. Spitzer of all people knew that banks are supposed to watch for that, particularly if it involves public officials. Moreover, he chose about the least discreet way to hire a prostitute, as an op-ed in the NY Times pointed out. This isn't just "damn, how unlucky can you get?": he was courting destruction.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:33 AM
horizontal rule
30

He also did something near-suicidally stupid; he tried to make his bank retroactively change the details on some of the wire transfers, presumably after realising they were a dead giveaway. Of course the bank refused, and very probably went straight off to file the SAR right then.

Big big stupid.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:39 AM
horizontal rule
31

Spitzer of all people knew that banks are supposed to watch for that

You mean because there's no way that he was taking credit for other people's work when he busted the prostitution rings?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:39 AM
horizontal rule
32

12
Still, if you're a politician who prosecutes prostitutes, how much practical wisdom are we needing here to think that maybe it's a bad idea?

Well, it's a bad idea for all politicians. Worse for him because it makes someone with his background look like more of a bad person than it would make, say, Pat Leahy look, but it's still a crime and it's cheating on his wife, which is still condemned in our society. And yet, lots of politicians -- for that matter, lots of people -- do it anyway.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:39 AM
horizontal rule
33

and didn't allow for the possibility that someone was trawling through his records specifically for political purposes.

Which, when you're Eliot Freakin' Spitzer, is a REALLY dumb thing not to allow for.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:42 AM
horizontal rule
34

It's not the prostitution thing, Tim. It's the wire transfers as per 30. The feds were evidently surprised to find that it was just about paying off an escort service: they were expecting something else. Spitzer surely knew that this kind of transfer activity was a red alert, because that's the kind of stuff he and his staff lived for as an AG.


Posted by: Timothy Burke | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:42 AM
horizontal rule
35

He got caught by doing something that he knew very well was risky, which is moving money around in a dodgy way that seemed designed not to trigger federal reporting requirements. Spitzer of all people knew that banks are supposed to watch for that, particularly if it involves public officials.

Seriously, I don't know exactly how this works, but most of the people talking about it don't either. Spitzer, if anyone, should have had a very clear sense of what precisely would trigger a bank's sense of 'dodgy' -- my guess is that the transactions he made wouldn't qualify as 'dodgy' in the abstract, but were only notable because he was being watched for partisan political reasons. And I'm pretty comfortable with that guess, because Clients 1-8 were making payments on the same scale, but for some reason their transactions didn't trigger anything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:43 AM
horizontal rule
36

It isn't so much the stupidity. It's the true weirdness of his choosing exactly this way to fuck up. Not just an affair, but involvement with the kind of prostitution ring he'd busted in public life, and doing shady things with money. It's like catching Cotton Mather down in the cellar, summoning Mephistopheles .

You can say what you like about Freud and the return of the repressed, but this is ridiculous. Also staring into the abyss and all that.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:45 AM
horizontal rule
37

When you stare into the abyss, the abyss turns you into a turnip.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:45 AM
horizontal rule
38

20: Spitzer made the specific mistakes that some of the people he caught made. Leaving an e-trail, transferring money in a fishy way, etc. He also didn't show the meticulousness in his breaking of the law that he did in his enforcing it, even though it was exactly the same laws that were in question.

For a guy who'd spent his whole life in adversarial snakepits, he also didn't seem to realize that he had to be especially carefully, since he was an important target for a lot of people.

I'm not sure that he was "courting destruction" in the death-wish sense, but it seems to me, as I said above, that he must have been in some kind of giddy escapist zone of lawlessness, rather than being a rational man carefully breaking one specific law. Maybe he was a sincere goody-goody, and felt that once he crossed the line at all he was damned and might as well let it all hang out.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
39

I think this ties into the long-noted truth that all anti-gay Republicans are secretly gay.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
40

Frankly, I'm really surprised that the bank aspect didn't get more play. I had a fair amount of sympathy up to that point, and suspected a political prosecution. But trying to enlist people who work at your bank to change the names on bank transfers is a) close to fraudulent, b) incredibly awful judgment, c) and blatantly suspicious in itself.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
41

pwned, as a matter of fact, by the comment I was responding to. Way to read, Sifu.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
42

And apparently only a few years ago (during the presumed activity as Client 9) he began railing about the need for more aggressive prosecution of prostitutes' clients.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:48 AM
horizontal rule
43

The feds were evidently surprised to find that it was just about paying off an escort service

That is of course the story, but Scott Horton -- who is of course inclined to suspicion where DOJ is concerned -- has his doubts.

Which again doesn't go to the stupidity issue, b/c Spitzer can read the papers and knew exactly what to expect from this DOJ.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:49 AM
horizontal rule
44

I'm basically with LB's theory that intelligence and stupidity are separate qualities, and one can have a lot of both, but there needs to be some qualification.

Stupidity, like intelligence, is not a single thing. As the non-famous Matt points out in 3, there are many ways to screw yourself up. Sometimes it is useful to mash all the different ways you can solve problems in to one measurement (intelligence) and all the ways you can sabotage yourself into another (stupidity).


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:55 AM
horizontal rule
45

4: When I was in high school, I have very specific (and non standard) theories about the difference between intelligence and wisdom in the D&D world.

I was also fascinated by the difference between the evil/good spectrum and the lawful/chaotic spectrum. To this day, I wonder why Gygax chose to carve up the moral universe that way.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 8:57 AM
horizontal rule
46

Maybe I'm underestimating this, but I don't have a good sense of how "political" his job was as AG. Did he really expect to have enemies who could do something to him, in that job? It seems a lot more possible for the "merely political" to be ignored there then it is as Governor.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:01 AM
horizontal rule
47

37: The abyss is a zombie black hole.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
48

46: he was about as political an AG as you can be; he spent his time going after very very rich, powerful people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:02 AM
horizontal rule
49

You don't stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:03 AM
horizontal rule
50

49: In Soviet Union, sure.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:05 AM
horizontal rule
51

Here we are - TPM:

But Spitzer had the money broken down into several smaller amounts of less than $10,000 each, apparently to avoid federal regulations requiring the reporting of the transfer of $10,000 or more, the sources said. The regulations are aim to help spot possible illegal business activities, such as fraud or drug deals.

Apparently, having second thoughts about even sending the total amount in this manner, Spitzer then asked that the bank take his name off the wires, the sources said.

Bank officials declined, however, saying that it was improper to do so and in any event, it was too late to do so, because the money already had been sent, the sources said.

The bank, as is required by law, filed an SAR, or Suspicious Activity Report..


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:06 AM
horizontal rule
52

43: I keep going back and forth on this one this. Right now I am not sure if it was "political" right at the start, but I think clearly it morphed into mostly political. Horton is very good as usual in stripping away the BS that the MS press gobbles up. And at a minimum, as others have mentioned, this illustrates the real abyss that opens up when general faith in the fair administration of justice erodes to the extent that it justifiably has under the current criminal administration.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
53

46.---He completely redefined what a state AG position could mean. He declared Wall St. his jurisdiction; if your company was traded on the NYSE, you were vulnerable.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
54

I get that he's had powerful enemies for a while. My sense is more that being governor is a lot more vulnerable to political attacks than being AG is; if he thought he was well-defended while AG against, say, hit men hired by Wall Street execs, he may not have thought as hard about the "what could they publicly expose that would force me out" angle.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:12 AM
horizontal rule
55

45: Yeah, I used to figure that, ideally, the U.S. was chaotic good and the USSR was lawful evil. Of course, that was in the 1980s, and I was 12.

As for intelligence and wisdom:

Deficiency in the faculty of judgment is really what we call stupidity, and there is no remedy for that. An obtuse and narrow mind, deficient in nothing but a proper degree of understanding and correct concepts, may be improved by study, so far as to become even learned. But as even then there is often a deficiency of judgment ... we often meet with very learned men, who in handling their learning betray that original deficiency that can never be mended.

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Muller tr.)

Spitzer knew the rules; he just failed to notice that his own case fell within them.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:13 AM
horizontal rule
56

51: The thing is, at this point we're looking at the prosecution's version of the facts and the law, because no one else is talking details. I know enough to know that I don't know what the regulations are in detail, or how good the sourcing is for 'Spitzer asked that the bank take his name off the wires' -- it's not clear to me what that could even mean, given that the wire has to include information on where the money came from, which would be Spitzer's account.

I'm not buying that Spitzer's conduct was objectively the sort of thing that raises suspicions yet, given that everything we know about the conduct and about standard practices is coming from the prosecution. The coincidence that of the how many rich guys patronizing the prostitution ring, the one that happens to egregiously fuck up paying for it is the Democratic governor of NYS seems wildly unlikely to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:16 AM
horizontal rule
57

When you stare into the abyss, the abyss turns you into a turnip.

Cala wins the thread.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
58

Spitzer is not liked by many people, not even Democrats, as I've found on the internet. The possibility that this is some kind of selective political prosecution, or that it began as an illegal fishing expedition, seems pretty real, but only Jane Hamsher seems to be talking about it.

And then there's the titillation. ("Tit", get it?)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
59

The coincidence that of the how many rich guys patronizing the prostitution ring, the one that happens to egregiously fuck up paying for it is the Democratic governor of NYS seems wildly unlikely to me.

It seems wildly likely to me that there wasn't anyone else who did anything so completely mad-headed as paying hookers by wire transfer.

it's not clear to me what that could even mean, given that the wire has to include information on where the money came from, which would be Spitzer's account.

Doesn't matter. Since when do you have to get your suspicious behaviour exactly right to qualify for suspicion?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:33 AM
horizontal rule
60

It seems wildly likely to me that there wasn't anyone else who did anything so completely mad-headed as paying hookers by wire transfer.

For real, paying by wire transfers was a stupid stupid move. Which Spitzer realized, of course, and which is why he panicked and tried to get the bank to take his name off the wires (yet another stupid stupid move).

No way did Spitzer, of all people, not realize the risk he was taking.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
61

Hey Labs, did LB pay you by wire transfer?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:50 AM
horizontal rule
62

55: It is still a puzzling system to me. Are libertarians who base their politics in contractarian ethics lawful or chaotic?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:51 AM
horizontal rule
63

It seems wildly likely to me that there wasn't anyone else who did anything so completely mad-headed as paying hookers by wire transfer.

It seems wildly likely to me that you're completely full of shit. On this question.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 9:59 AM
horizontal rule
64

To this day, I wonder why Gygax chose to carve up the moral universe that way.

I assume he lifted the law/chaos thing from Michael Moorcock because it looked shiny and he wasn't thinking very carefully about it.


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:01 AM
horizontal rule
65

63: O Rly? Choosing absolutely, positively the most traceable way to pay for something illegal is totally obvious in Emersonland? Jesus wept, he'd have to *go to a fucking bank branch*. "Oh hello, Governor, what can we do for you today?"


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:11 AM
horizontal rule
66

64: Yeah, in the old set you were lawful, neutral, or chaotic. It was AD&D that added the good/evil axis.

Analyzing one's friends & colleagues' alignments is a good way to pass the time while drinking.

Are libertarians who base their politics in contractarian ethics lawful or chaotic?

If the contractarian stuff is serious, lawful; if it's a b.s. veneer to rationalize doing whatever they like, chaotic.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:12 AM
horizontal rule
67

Well, it must have been common enough for them to be willing and able to process it. I'm surprised that Spitzer did it, but it doesn't surprise me that there are other people who do it.

They caught a high-end drug dealer in Portland who was amazingly indiscreet, as were his high-end clients. But it turns out that his clients were justified in their complacency, because nothing much came of it beyond prosecution of the dealer.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:17 AM
horizontal rule
68

Judges laugh when they hear a young lawyer say, "My client wouldnt be so stupid as to do such a thing!"


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:52 AM
horizontal rule
69

by the way, what kind of a fucking idiot becomes governor of New York State and then pays for his own hookers?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
70

The kind of fucking idiot with a shit-ton of enemies, I'd imagine.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
71

The same kind who doesn't pay cash.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 10:59 AM
horizontal rule
72

I thought comments 15 (from Witt) and 25 (from Tim Burke) were truly wise, really some of the better comments I have seen anywhere on this whole thing.

As for the original post, I take LB's point, but the traditional way think about this stuff is to separate cognitive intelligence from emotional self control -- one is about thought, the other about character. That accords with my own intuition and experience. Stupidity is lack of intelligence, and I'm not sure lack of self control has much to do with lack of intelligence. Although perhaps it does -- a lot of criminals seem to be both dumb and impulsive.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
73

Actually, I sounded too down on the original post...a lot of people seem to be ignoring the basic point that there is no real contradiction between being cognitively smart and having disastrous failures of self-control.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 12:01 PM
horizontal rule
74

See this from Scott Horton's blog:

Today's Times tells us that the North Fork Bank launched the inquiry by submitting a Suspicious Activity Report against their client, Governor Spitzer, on the basis that he had made a number of smaller payments in order to avoid a $10,000 threshold for reporting. * * *

Even more troubling is the fact that Spitzer, as a law enforcement officer, had challenged practices of North Fork Bank and had considerably embarrassed the bank and its management. This raises the obvious concern that retaliation, and not prudent oversight, was the motive behind the bank's decision to report Spitzer to federal authorities.

So he's using the very bank he had pissed off in the past? Dumb and dumberer.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 12:16 PM
horizontal rule
75

There's also a will to fuck things up that comes in here somewhere. Tragedy was an everyday thing on the veldt, so we evolved to require a certain amount of it for proper emotional functioning. If we can't get enough tragedy from natural sources, we have to go out and create some.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 12:51 PM
horizontal rule
76

A breakdown of The Wire characters by AD&D alignments would be illuminating. I think we'd find that there are more Lawful types among the gangsters than among the police.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 1:08 PM
horizontal rule
77

There's also a will to fuck things up that comes in here somewhere.

That fascinates me. I think it's a primal attraction to chaos...which is a kind of desire for freedom.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 1:40 PM
horizontal rule
78

I think it's a primal attraction to chaos

More like entropy, perhaps? Beyond the Pleasure Principle seems like the obvious cite here.


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 1:58 PM
horizontal rule
79

It seems wildly likely to me that there wasn't anyone else who did anything so completely mad-headed as paying hookers by wire transfer.

I may have misunderstood the stories I read, but I understood that the Emperors' Club was set up to only accept payment by wire transfer. Spitzer was asking that they accept cash as a special favor. I agree with you that I can't imagine why this sounded like a good idea, but I don't believe it was Spitzer's bad idea -- if I've got the story straight it was their standard practice, and should have been common to most or all of their customers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 2:45 PM
horizontal rule
80

LB, you may be right in some small technical way, but Alex's overall point is correct, because he asserted it really splendidly.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-13-08 2:55 PM
horizontal rule
81

PGD@77: you're damn right.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:11 AM
horizontal rule