Quote of the day

Cato Institute

Pam and Russ Martens have made exposing the dubious methods of the Koch brothers and libertarian icon Ayn Rand their personal project (see this and this). During one of their reports, which detailed the dispute between the Kochs and the other owners (!) of the non-profit Cato Institute, they made the following observation:

The original Cato Five, who signed a “Shareholders Agreement” on January 26, 1977 were: Charles Koch, George Pearson, Roger MacBride, Murray Rothbard, and Edward Crane.

Pearson became an employee of Koch Industries; MacBride was the Presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party in 1976; Rothbard became a libertarian icon. A 1981 issue of The Libertarian Forum, a newsletter  edited by Rothbard, charged Crane and Charles Koch with illegally grabbing his shares of Cato and barring him from attending future Board meetings in order to consolidate their control. The details of Cato having owners and the extent of their control over the nonprofit has not found its way into mainstream media until now.

Rothbard, who died in 1995, summed up the episode as follows: “Let each and every one of you, dear readers, consider this crucial question: How many fellow libertarians would you trust to guard your back in an ambush?… As a friend and long-time libertarian observed in reply: ‘Ambush, hell. How many libertarians would you allow in the same room with you and trust not to poison your food?'”

The IMF will receive a woman’s touch…

Christine Lagarde, currently the Minister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry in President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s center-right government, will soon become the first women to lead the International Monetary Fund. Her statement on her appointment:

“The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund has just selected me to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as Managing Director for a five-year term, starting on July 5. I am deeply honored by the trust placed in me by the Executive Board. I would like to thank the Fund’s global membership warmly for the broad-based support I have received. I would also like to express my respect and esteem for my colleague and friend, Agustín Carstens.

“The IMF has served its 187 member countries well during the global economic and financial crisis, transforming itself in many positive ways. I will make it my overriding goal that our institution continues to serve its entire membership with the same focus and the same spirit. As I have had the opportunity to say to the IMF Board during the selection process, the IMF must be relevant, responsive, effective, and legitimate, to achieve stronger and sustainable growth, macroeconomic stability, and a better future for all.”

As the person who has received the honor of replacing Dominique Strauss-Khan, Ms. Largarde has an opportunity to replenish the aura of an institution revered by everyone.

Cristine Legarde walks the red carpet

The politics of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s criminal career

Might we consider Dominique Strauss-Kahn‘s recent troubles to be little more than a sex scandal? If we did, Strauss-Kahn would just be a cad and schmuck, like Anthony Weiner. Has he not been made ridiculous by his own hand? Are his troubles just another instance in which a powerful man is found to be undeserving of the highest honors and, perhaps, even brute sympathy? Is this scandal his alone? Or, is there more to the scandal than one man’s perverse desires and the stigma he must now wear?

I would say that Strauss-Kahn’s predicament amounts to something more than a sex scandal. Marie Bénilde, writing for Le Monde Diplomatique, succinctly gives the reasons for considering them to be so:

A positive aspect to the furore [sic] after the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges including attempted rape was the revelation of the workings of the French media. These include the extreme personalization of politics (leader writers deplore this while pursuing their own causes); the continuity between communications advisers and journalists when a “client” fits mainstream media ideology; and the close ties, always condemned but never severed, between the press and government. The DSK affair also revealed the class reflexes that move editorial writers, on the top rungs of the social ladder, when the powerful fall. The misfortunes of the weak are too banal to be news.

Some men are petty tyrants. Their crimes are matters to be handled by the police and the courts. Other men are grand tyrants. Their crimes often become political matters because their power and influence shields their actions from critical scrutiny and legal accountability. Strauss-Kahn’s troubles belong to the second category. He was a member of the French elite, a leader of the International Monetary Fund and, it seems, an abuser of women for much of his life. His sexual misadventures were not the private affairs of two or more consenting adults. They were instances in which he abused his power. And the members of his class, political party and others closely related to his milieu indirectly sponsored his criminal by providing political and social coverage for him.

Revolutions were made over lesser slights.

Quote of the day

Russell Mokhiber asks:

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner talks dirty and sends out lewd pictures over the Internet.

Our Congresswoman — Shelley Moore Capito — votes to end Medicare while more than 40,000 Americans die every year due to lack of health insurance.

Who should resign?

Sherry Wolf sets her sights on Dominique Strauss-Kahn

After ridiculing Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French Socialist Party, the French media and the International Monetary Fund, Sherry Wolf concluded her article by pointing out that:

We rarely, if ever, see such a powerful man fall, and never for the rape of a Black immigrant woman. I can only assume that he’s pissed off people much higher up who decided to cut the cord.

In coming weeks we’ll see the institutions he represents and his former hangers-on scurry about to cover their asses, but for now we can take a bit of pleasure in the political, social and personal collapse of such a man. Let’s use his fall to shine a light on the organizations that have protected him all these years.

Au revoir, Monsieur Pig! FSP and IMF, j’accuse!

Ben Stein defends a ‘socialist’

Ben Stein recently took up the cause of Dominique Strauss-Khan. He defended the embattled politician by blaming the victim who made the allegations against Strauss-Kahn; by class baiting the New York Police Department, the New York District Attorney’s Office, the media that has covered the scandal and the have-nots who are reading about it; and by offering obscurantist arguments regarding Strauss-Kahn’s propensity to commit this crime. Stein also pleads for special treatment for Strauss-Kahn because the former IMF Chief is rich, famous, powerful and important enough that he need not spend time at Rikers Island and should not be subject to a perp walk. In Stein’s world, these indignities ought to be applied only to criminals.

Stein claims: “…this is a case about the hatred of the have-nots for the haves, and that’s what it’s all about.” Actually, the Strauss-Kahn case originated in the serious allegations made by a hotel employee against a specific man, Dominique Strauss-Khan, a man who already had gained a reputation as a serial harasser of women. His class is irrelevant just as her class is irrelevant.

More commentary on Dominique Strauss-Kahn (Update)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn‘s recent arrest has left marks in the areas of international politics and economics. Some defend the man, some defend the reform-minded IMF chief and some criticize him for being a neoliberal apparatchik. There is no doubt whatsoever that Strauss-Kahn was an elite technocrat and a major political personality in France. He also was a socialist in name only, a figure who represented the political collapse of socialism in France. But, was he a reformer of the International Monetary Fund?

Dean Baker, an American economist, believes he was. Baker recently defended Strauss-Kahn because of Strauss-Kahn’s work at the IMF:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to shake up this institution. He brought in Olivier Blanchard from MIT, one of the world’s most prominent macroeconomists, as the IMF’s chief economist. He gave Blanchard a free rein, which he quickly used to harshly criticize the orthodoxy within the IMF.

Last fall, the IMF published a study in its World Economic Outlook that showed that fiscal austerity in the wake of the economic crisis would further contract demand and raise unemployment. This reversed the institution’s historic role; the IMF officially became a voice for expansion and employment rather than contraction and austerity.

Of course the story at the country level was often quite different. The teams that imposed specific terms for IMF support are well entrenched. Their plans for “internal devaluations” (declining wages and prices) in countries like Estonia and Latvia pushed their unemployment rates to nearly 20 percent. Getting the country-level teams in line with any new thinking at the top was likely to be a long and difficult process even in the best of circumstances.

If the charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn hold up, then he will not be around to carry this effort forward. As far as for what the future holds, his interim successor, John Lipsky, was a former vice president at J.P. Morgan. This could mean that the whole world will suffer for Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s criminal conduct.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French journalist and longtime friend of Strauss-Kahn, used the purple prose which marks his style to defend Strauss-Kahn against the charges made by his accuser, the New York Police Department and the New York District Attorney’s office, on the one hand and plead for special treatment for Strauss-Kahn, on the other:

I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.

I do not know — no one knows, because there have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question — if Dominique Strauss-Kahn was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, at the time, as was stated, he was having lunch with his daughter.

I do not know — but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay — how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.

And I do not want to enter into considerations of dime-store psychology that claims to penetrate the mind of the subject, observing, for example, that the number of the room (2806) corresponds to the date of the opening of the Socialist Party primaries in France (06.28), in which he is the uncontested favorite, thereby concluding that this is all a Freudian slip, a subconsciously deliberate mistake, and blah blah blah.

What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs.

To this Matt Welch offers the following as a rebuttal:

I’m guessing what BHL really means here is that no worldly rape can justify Strauss-Kahn’s treatment. Since if the accusations are true, a 62-year-old man known by every French person I’ve asked to have the sexual manners of a primate lunged nakedly at hired help half his age, grabbed her breast, knocked her to the floor, and chased her around his expensive hotel suite attempting with some success to thrust his penis into her body and discharge DNA evidence.

I don’t know if he’s guilty, and it would be imprudent not to consider the conspiracy theories in a case involving someone who until this week was the single biggest political threat to the sitting president of France, but the only decent way you can arrive at “nothing in the world can justify” Strauss-Kahn’s treatment is if you oppose all perp walks equally. Short of that, it’s just special pleading for a powerful dick. And another reminder that BHL is 10 times the national embarrassment to France than Jerry Lewis or even Johnny Hallyday ever was.

Update

Dianna Johnstone takes the harsher position on Strauss-Khan, his politics and this scandal, one closer to my first take on the man. She wrote:

But the real scandal for the Socialist Party is the one it does not even begin to recognize: that it was pinning its electoral hopes on a leading champion of global capitalism, the president of the IMF. Whatever the outcome of the New York proceedings, the bursting DSK bubble marks the total degeneration of the Socialist Party in France, for reasons that have nothing to do with his sex life.

The crisis of the PS was long in the making.

Thirty years ago, the wily François Mitterrand led Socialist Party politicians to an election victory they are still celebrating. Initially allied with the French Communist Party, the better to subjugate and destroy it, Mitterrand’s Socialists started out in a blaze of reforms, ending the death penalty, nationalizing enterprises and lowering the retirement age, only to turn around a couple of years later and abandon socialist economic policies as impossible to pursue in the free market context of the European Community (now the European Union). The Mitterrand era in reality buried socialism, or even social democracy, but the Socialist Party went on calling itself “the left”. This no longer referred to economic policies favoring the working class but above all to moral issues such as anti-racism and all sorts of vague good intentions.

The Socialists were no longer socialist, without being anything else.

Well, they did embrace neoliberalism.

With Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the mere absence of socialism evolved into something much more vigorous: unabashed promotion of global capitalism. After becoming Minister of the Economy, Finances and Industry in 1997, he totally reversed the early Mitterrand direction, carrying out a wave of major privatizations, turning over French telecommunications, steel, aerospace and other key industries to the whims of international finance capital. This was to be expected from the vice president of the high level “Cercle de l’Industrie”, which he joined in 1994 at the invitation of Raymond Lévy, then head of the Renault auto manufacturer. In this charmed circle, dedicated to promoting the interests of industry in the European institutions, DSK hung out with the same crowd of top French capitalists whose company so delights Nicolas Sarkozy. Indeed, it is only fair to suggest that Sarkozy chose DSK to head the IMF not only, as is constantly repeated, to keep his rival out of France, but also because the two see precisely eye to eye when it comes to international financial policy.

Consistently, DSK opposed the last Socialist Party reform intended to favor the workers, namely the reduction of the work week to 36 hours adopted in 2002. Having written his doctoral thesis in economics on “human resources”, he has argued in favor of both a longer work week and raising the age of retirement, “now that we live a hundred years”.

A report now has an incarcerated Strauss-Khan subject to a suicide watch.