Thursday, July 25, 2013

Personal lives are immaterial in politics

Another week has come and gone and another political sex scandal has steeped. This time with former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner — again.

Weiner is fighting like mad to make a rapid political comeback after resigning his congressional seat due to a sexting scandal. He seeks the only mayorship in America that matters — New York City. But he also finds himself right back in the thick of it, it having been revealed that he didn’t exactly stop sexting random women he meets on the Internet after he resigned in disgrace and promised to be a changed man.

By the grace of God — or something — his wife has again forgiven his virtual indiscretions and asked the people of New York to elect her husband despite his tomfoolery. But the question remains: Will sexters in the city forgive Weiner’s dalliances? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, in the same city, former (disgraced) Gov. Eliot Spitzer is also seeking political redemption. His personal shortcomings were discussed in this column two weeks ago. In short, while governor, he sought out high-priced hookers and more eggregiously (in my opinion) cheated on his wife. But as I mentioned previously, he paid the price for his mistakes and somehow his wife has also forgiven him.

Personally, I couldn’t care less who Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner send nude photos to. It matters not one iota who they sleep with on their own time. And as stated previously, I don’t even care if they pay for it — and the voters of the Big Apple shouldn’t either.

What should matter to people is whether these people can do a good job at the offices they’re running for.

The concept of “character counts” when it comes to politics should be thrown right out the window. We’re not voting for the position of best friend. We’re not hiring a nanny. We’re looking for people who can make decisions that are in the best interest of our communities as a whole.

You may recall about 15 years ago or so when the biggest problem this nation had was the fact that our Commander in Chief had an affair with an intern. Sure other people had other issues with him, but really his biggest flaw was his sexual ego.

After Bill Clinton left office, we got a member of the moral majority in charge and things kind of went to pot. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’ll take Bill Clinton’s flaws over George W. Bush’s any day.

There is, however, a portion of the country that would disagree with me wholeheartedly. They’d rather have a squeeky clean moralist who royally stinks at running the country than a jerk who’s really good at it.

I want my friends to be nice people but I don’t really care if they’re good at their jobs. I want my employees to be good at their jobs but I don’t really care if they’re good at their marriages.

When it comes down to it, politicians are our employees and unless their personal lives make them incapable of doing their jobs, they should remain personal. Not public.

Scott Leffler is an expert in character flaws and schooled in politics. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Internet was just crazy this week

I believe Denis Leary put it best when he said on Twitter, “Remember - if you see a Sharknado, stay in your car and do not follow it. Unless you live in Florida.”

It’s subtle but it ties in two of the top trending items on social media for the week — the George Zimmerman trial and the SyFy original movie, Sharknado. Add in the controversy surrounding Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s face gracing the cover of Rolling Stone, and you pretty much have the entirety of the Internet for the week.

Let’s start with the Zimmerman trial. I can’t say I was shocked when I heard Saturday night that he was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, but I was appalled. That said, I’m much less inclined to believe that it was some sort of racist conspiracy to let Zimmerman get out of jail free as that it was a case of justice and the law not always being the same thing.

I wasn’t there. You weren’t there. And to be honest, neither of us even watched much of the trial, right? But that sure doesn’t seem to stop people from complaining (or rejoicing) about it online.

There’s only two people that know exactly what happened … and one of them is dead. So only Zimmerman knows how it all went down. But the puzzle was pieced together by a number of witnesses and those witnesses talked to the jury. The jury, in turn, was instructed exactly what the law is and concluded that the charges didn’t fit the situation.

Do I think the ruling was just? I do not. Do I think it was correct — according to the law? I regretfully believe that it was.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, sharks got sucked out of the ocean by a huge tornado and dropped into the streets to wreak terror on the good citizens therein. At least that was the premise of Sharknado, the movie that took Twitter by storm (shoutout to Clip Smith for the inspiration for the bad pun) last Thursday.

Almost everyone I knew — and everyone I didn’t know — seemed to be watching the low-budget b-grade movie live and discussing it on the 140-character social media site. In fact, 318,232 tweets relating to Sharknado were sent during the premiere broadcast.

I had to catch it off the DVR, missing out on the sarcastic live play-by-play on Twitter. I watched it Saturday morning, expecting it to be horribly awesome. Or awesomely horrible. Let’s just say I was half right.

Rumors are swirling that a sequel is planned which will drop sharks on New York City. Two words: I’m in.

Meanwhile, in Boston, people are incredibly agitated that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wasn’t made to look like a mass murderer on the cover of Rolling Stone. From what I can gather the image is too complimentary and thus “glorifies” Tsarnaev.

Anybody remember when Time ran a bad (and doctored) photo of O.J. Simpson? They took a lot of heat for it — and rightfully so. It lacked journalistic integrity.

It’s not the media’s job to make people look good — or bad. Could they have specifically looked for a photo that made him look like a terrorist? Maybe. Would it have been ethical? No.

Look, Rolling Stone is in the magazine-selling business. Why use a bad photo when you have a good one that you can use? Does that mean they’re making him a rock star? No. It means they’re selling magazines.

I’m sorry that not all terrorists are scarred and wearing turbans and eye patches. But misguided people’s perceptions of what a terrorist looks like should not be Rolling Stone’s concern.

And that … is what happened on the Internet this week.

Scott Leffler likes sharks and justice but not terrorism. He really likes Twitter. Find him there @scottleffler.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Moral turpitude is an affront to justice everywhere

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has decided to jump back into the political arena, running for New York City controller. Apparently “The Steamroller” — or “Client #9” if you prefer — just can’t seem to avoid the limelight.

Spitzer, you should recall, resigned his position as governor on St. Patrick’s Day, 2008, after it came out that he was a regular client at a high-priced escort agency. He then did some TV, made some jokes at his own expense and tried to get his image fixed.

Well apparently him getting back into politics is “an affront to women everywhere” according to Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.

Rosenthal says that soliciting prostitutes is demeaning and degrading to women and adds to the problem of human trafficking.

Except I’m not sure I buy it at all.

Just as prohibition led to more cheaper alcohol and the “War on Drugs” has led to more harmful drugs (and a staggering prison population boom), the fact that prostitution is illegal to begin with is probably one of the biggest reasons human trafficking exists.

Let me explain.

If prostitution were legal — regulated, mind you, but legal — it wouldn’t have to be carried out under the cloak of darkness. That openness would lead to safer conditions, and less likelihood that the type of conditions that leads to human trafficking could exist in the first place.

Mind you, prostitution isn’t illegal everywhere. It’s perfectly legal in Nevada. Regulated, mind you, but legal. That regulation means that sex workers must be treated humanely, are tested for sexually transmitted diseases regularly, are paid fairly, and pay taxes on their earnings.

The primary reason that prostitution is illegal has nothing to do with degradation of women or human trafficking. It has everything to do with some people’s moral compasses navigating other people’s lives.

The illegality of prostitution makes no more legal sense than bygone laws which prevented interracial marriage; Some people’s values ruling everyone’s lives.

Personally I think that cleaning toilets or working in the sewer is disgusting. But that’s no reason for those things to be illegal. In fact, they’re a necessary evil. I’m not sure prostitution is either necessary or evil, but a comparison could be made to sewer workers. It’s a dirty job. Some people are willing to do it. Others aren’t.

My basis for laws goes like this: If what I’m doing doesn’t hurt anyone else, there’s no reason for it to be illegal. If — hypothetically speaking, of course — I wanted to sell myself for sex or pay someone for sex, how does that hurt anyone else?

Personally, I think “an affront to women everywhere” should be that they’re told by law what they can and can’t do with their bodies. “An affront to women everywhere” should be the fact that prostitution is illegal to begin with.

That said, Spitzer did break the law. But he paid his price. He resigned his office. He did his apology tour. And he’ll never be president.

Continuing to punish someone for a “crime” for which they’ve already paid is an affront to justice. And punishing someone for a “crime” which shouldn’t even be illegal is equally appalling.

Scott Leffler would undoubtedly end up homeless if he tried to work as a prostitute. That’s why he writes columns instead. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler