Monday, November 12, 2007

Delia reveals a secret

Okay, I have something to tell you guys that I’ve held inside for a while now. I might as well come clean, because I just admitted this stuff in a comment on another blog. It’s very relevant to recent news events, too. And you can file it under “sometimes Delia is just too naïve for words.”

Here it is:

I actually read Bernie Kerik’s autobiography, Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice, a couple of years ago, and I actually thought he was an okay guy.

There! I said it!

Now let me explain: First, I’m sure I’ve mentioned at least once that I’m going to school again to get a degree in Forensic Science. That's why I'm suffering through the calculus right now. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated solving crimes. I never wanted to be a cop, though—I wanted to be a private detective or something cool like that, using my brain to solve crimes. I read Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and even Encyclopedia Brown (I thought Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew sucked). Cops were boring and mean and gave tickets and ate donuts; I wanted to solve crimes.

Later, when I started watching Bill Kurtis’ "Cold Case Files" (the first crime mystery type show ever—the one that started it all!), I knew I wanted to do that stuff—work in a crime lab and look at paint scrapings, or identify handwriting, or examine fingerprints. Something useful—something that would help find criminals and bring them to justice.

As a result of these interests, I have a rather odd library of books: beside all my general science and literature and birding and gardening books, I have titles like Whoever Fights Monsters, The Serial Killer Encyclopedia, MindHunter, Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner, and stuff like that. I absolutely love reading about what makes criminals do what they do, methods to catch criminals, etc. The Kat still gets a little freaked out when I come home with something like “Women Who Kill” or “Blood and Money” or “Helter Skelter” but she’s used it.

So I also love biographies—I’ve read books by cops, profilers, investigators, federal marshalls, and all sorts of people who investigate crimes. (I tend to stay away from the criminal bios, because I don’t want to support them like that; I try not to get dazzled by mafia types, killers, etc.) So when I saw Kerik’s book, and the fact that he was chief of police of NYC during 9/11, I figured what the heck? Might be interesting.

As I said, there were times when he’d drone on about his obviously right-wing beliefs and how big a threat terrorism is, blah blah blah--but I’ve found that many police officers are republicans because they mistakenly think that repubs are tough on crime, pro-police, etc – when all they really want is to make the cops enforce their fascist leanings (see GWBush).

But I digress. So anyway, the book was fairly interesting, and I thought he’d done a good job covering his life and his search for his mother’s killer (though the crime was never solved).

Then about a month after I'd read the book, I happened to catch a news story about Kerik's having possibly done some dirty stuff, using dirty money to redo his apartment, getting money from the Mob, etc. I was shocked, just shocked! Seriously—I just thought that he was an honest cop. At the time, I was taking an Intro to the Criminal Justice System class, and I even mentioned it to my teacher—a former Philly cop. He just shrugged and said there are good cops and dirty cops. I got the sense he didn’t want to talk about it, but it really bothered me. I mean, I knew there were dirty cops, of course. But I had read this guy’s book, and I kinda liked him! I was impressed with the good things he’d done while on the force. How could I have been so blind and so stupid!? And he sure didn’t mention anything about his Mob ties, his ass-kissing of Rudy, fudging his taxes, and all that in the book!

So he was indicted the other day on corruption charges; here’s a few details, from a story on

_ Accepting $255,000 in renovations to his Bronx apartment -- including a marble entrance rotunda, marble bathrooms and a Jacuzzi -- from a construction firm, in exchange for helping the company get a business license. Kerik had complained to one company official that "he felt like he was on `welfare,"' the indictment says. The company was being investigated for alleged ties to organized crime.

_ Allowing an official of the same company to pay more than $236,000 in rent for another Kerik apartment. _ Failing to report those payments on his financial disclosure forms, on his tax returns and to a state grand jury that investigated him.

_ Getting witnesses to lie about the payments to investigators.

_ Falsely claiming $80,000 in charitable contributions and a home-office deduction on his income tax forms.

_ Not reporting the wages he paid to a nanny for his children and not paying her Social Security and Medicaid taxes.

_ Not reporting royalties from a forward he wrote for a book.

_ Falsifying a mortgage application by not disclosing that he had borrowed -- from a real estate agent doing business with the city -- the money he was using as a down payment.
_ Falsely answering written and oral questions from federal agencies as he applied for federal posts, including homeland security secretary. Kerik ultimately withdrew from consideration for the homeland security post because of tax issues involving his former nanny.

Wow. I’m never surprised anymore at these kinds of indictments. It seems like the higher-up people get, whether it be in law enforcement or politics or big business, the more likely they are to both get money illegally and then try to hide it. It’s like they start to make a little money, and that just makes them want more; then they find that their positions grant them audience with all sorts of people who are ready and willing to give them more money if they’ll just do this or that “small favor,” nothing big, of course! Just use your newfound connections to do a little favor, and I'll help you out with those home renovations you were trying to do, or I'll give your campaign a nice fat check.

I sometimes wonder how these things progress—how someone who originally went into a job to do good gets corrupted and ends up being just as bad a slimeball as the crooks they originally wanted to nail. I’m sure at first, they’re thinking, “well, it’s just this once, and everybody does it, and I’m sure it’s not illegal or they wouldn’t have asked me to do it!” Then before you know it, you’re taking money from crooks just to look the other way, and you’re getting a second apartment for your mistress, and you’re covering it all up nice and neat by just not telling anyone.

In his book, Kerik singled out a few detectives who worked with him when he was a police officer, still working on the streets. He talked about these guys like they were Starsky and Hutch and McGyver and Clint Eastwood, all rolled into one -- hell, that's kinda how he described himself, really. I wonder what those guys think of him now. Maybe they were in on his dealings all along; who knows? Or maybe they’re just as disgusted as I am.

When I was starting to write this post, I googled for the full title of his book, and I saw this--you can get a copy of that cook for a stinkin' penny:

I find it very satisfying that more and more stories are appearing in the national press about the effect this case could have on Rudy Giuliani. Of course, Rudy’s doing all he can to distance himself from Kerik (so much for loyalty and friendship!), but it’s obvious that the two have been pals for a long time to anyone in NYC, anyone who read Kerik’s book, and anyone who remembers the hilariously ironic fact that Rudy suggested to Chimpy Bush that Kerik would make a great head of the Dept of Homeland Security (hard to type those words without throwing up a little in my mouth). It’s going to be delicious if the media finally decide to turn on Giuliani and report this story as it should be reported, with all the juicy background connections between these two crooks. Imagine if Kerik does jail time!

So there—I’ve exposed my deep dark secret that’s been bugging me since all these Kerik stories started coming out. I’m clean now, and you may judge as you see fit.


Anonymous said...

I've often been astonished at my own credulity. Not for the last time, I'm sure! You certainly can't blame yourself, though, for not knowing what you weren't told. Looking back, I'm horrified by the fact that I actually defended Bush during the leadup to the Iraq war. On the other hand, I couldn't quite believe that he, with the complicity of the media, was such a brazen liar. Now I'm struggling with this very issue, because I find it's hard for me to accept that things really have gotten better in Iraq, because I trust neither the media nor the administration. I can't shake the feeling that a terrible revelation awaits just around the corner of how bogus all the happy, happy news is.

Of course, intellectually, I realize that healthy skepticism is one thing. Habitual cynicism is another. I don't want to be cynical - just skeptical.
Maybe there is a real value to being credulous, to a point.

Re. being soft or tough on crime: I was watching a Frontline program about the War on Drugs yesterday. What was striking about it, amongst other things, was that the War on Drugs was started by Nixon, but it ironically (looking back) focused on TREATMENT, more than on law enforcement. It's painfully obvious, in my opinion, that the War on Drugs was a kind of precursor to the War on Terror; but if we were to take it in it's original, Nixonian sense, apparently, it actually would NOT presage the militaristic approach W has taken to the War on Terror.

So Nixon was soft on crime! But his approach worked. I can't remember how it came to be abandoned. Part of it had to do with a succession of drug scares: marijuana, cocaine, crack, cat. Frontline paid particular attention to the crack epidemic and Congress' reaction to it: as with the War on Terror, Congress responded to the Crack Crisis not with thoughtful and well planned legislation, apparently; but with hard line grandstanding. Back then, politicians were terrified of being "soft on crime", just as today they are terrified of being "soft on terror". Government focus shifted from treatment and education to law enforcement and stayed there.

Of course, law enforcement is presumably necessary to civil society, in some form. But we seem to have forgotten that the fundemental force in a democracy has to be persuasion, understanding, communication, mutual responsibility and accountability...when we allow ourselves to be stampeded by fear into forsaking those principles, we surrender democracy a little (or a lot).

Matty Boy said...

Just like in my racket, there are good teachers and bad teachers, just as there are good cops and bad cops. Are the systems actually working? That I can't say in either case.

If I were taking an educated guess, the main problems with bad teachers are incompetence and burnout, while the main problems with bad cops are inability to stay impartial and corruption.

FranIAm said...

Delia, Delia, Delia - no worries. I, for one, am reassured by your admission that you are human!

From one point of view, he was just another cop and as such, and given your interests - why wouldn't you read the book?

And you clearly saw the light when the light went on!

For those of us in the NYC area, we knew, we knew.

Rudy, Kerik and so forth... A regular rogues gallery of arrogant jerks.

In my estimation I think that an open mind is generally a good place to start, so never slam any doors shut.

Well, unless the door leads to Rudy or... well you know what I mean!!

Thanks for this great, great post.

dguzman said...

Fillip, I know what you mean about not wanting or being able to believe the things this administration has done. You want to say, "No way--they'd never do that. They're still Americans, after all." There's no way they could've known about or prevented 9/11--they would've done something about it if they'd known! etc.
You're right, though--healthy skepticism is preferable to full-on cynicism. I don't think you can be truly cynical and still be truly happy. But I don't want to ever live in a bubble, like so many Americans do, still believing that everything the government does is legal, just, and proper.
That's interesting about Nixon; I'd read about it in one of my criminal justice textbooks. Wild, huh?

Matty, an astute observation.

Fran, thanks for your New Yorker take on it. I suppose there were people all over the country who didn't know how stupid and corrupt Bush was, while I (the Texan) was trying to tell them he was an incompetent idiot. Sigh.