Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 29, 2011

We are living in the week that never ends – the debt ceiling/budget debate careens towards the precipice of financial ruin for the United States – which would include you and me. Meanwhile the debate ignores the invisible hand of the corporate leaders who could reboot this country’s economic engine by hiring Americans. Meanwhile, in the midst of this madness, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has climbed out of the crypt of anonymity to which his last campaign consigned him to announce his interest in running for the presidency. And in the midst of the madness the hotel maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape has managed to find herself as the one on trial.

We’re in the Money!

In this era of structural discord and disagreement, most of us would agree that more people working would make this country a better place in which to live. Indeed, when people use the term “the economy” they are actually referring to “jobs, jobs, jobs”. So where are the jobs?

As usual, a few facts won’t hurt. In the July 27, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal an article appeared on page B1 with the following information regarding the past 10 years:
1. The U.S. economy’s output of goods and services has expanded by 19%
2. Nonfinancial corporate profits have risen by 85%
3. The labor force has grown by 10.1 million
4. The number of private sector jobs has fallen by almost 2 million
5. The percentage of adult Americans at work has dropped to 58.3%, the lowest such figure since 1983

But wait a minute! Weren’t the Bush era tax cuts, implemented at the beginning of the reference ten year period supposed to stimulate job growth? Isn’t the set in concrete position of the G.O.Tea Party in Congress that there can never ever ever be any new taxes because taxes are “job killers”?

It turns out that major corporate employers have decided that they can be just profitable with fewer employees. And if and when they do hire they bring on part-time, temporary or contract workers. And if they do hire, increasingly the beneficiaries are workers outside of the United States. During the past 10 years multinational companies decreased their U.S. workforces by 2.9 million while increasing employment by 2.4 million abroad.

It looks like President Obama and the American people are playing against a stacked deck. To the extent that targeted government spending can stimulate the economy and create jobs the G.O.Tea Party kamikaze wing is barring the door. To the extent that tax revenues might reduce the budget deficit and thereby create a more job-friendly environment the G.O.Tea Party threatens to default and discredit the entire American economy.

And all the while the corporate plutocrats rake in the highest compensation packages in the history of the planet. I have to assume that, as children, these plutocrats and G.O.Tea Party stalwarts never heard of the goose that laid the golden egg and how that story ended.

Extra! Extra!………..Not!

And now, for the next act in the G.O.Tea Party circus – Rudy Giuliani for president? Yes, the self-proclaimed America’s mayor and self-anointed hero of 9/11 had decided that the humiliation of his last failed presidential bid doesn’t smell so bad after 3 years in the dust bin of history.

Too many people don’t remember that on September 10, 2001 Rudy Giuliani was by all accounts the most racially divisive mayor in the history of New York. Having initiated singularly graceless divorce proceedings via a press conference, he was sleeping on a friend’s couch counting the days until he would slither into the realm of the thankfully forgotten.

The terror attack of 9/11 focused the world on Rudy Giuliani and, to be fair, he did his job. He did not hide in the basement and suck his thumb. But he saved no lives and many first responders still blame him for the deaths of their brothers because his administration had totally bungled the emergency communications systems then in use. And, as a New Yorker, I can tell you that it wasn’t Rudy Giuliani who inspired us to go on, it was my fellow New Yorkers.

But, in Giuliani Land he was so very important on that fateful day and he has cashed in on his fake heroics to the tune of millions of dollars of “security” consulting fees. But I doubt that he can turn his personal fable into a successful presidential candidacy.

Who’s on Trial?

The hotel maid who accused former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape finds herself on trial. In an interesting display of sleight of hand, the DSK defense team and its pals in the press have managed to translate questions about her visa application and tax returns into a fog of doubt regarding the credibility of her accusation.

A few facts never hurt anyone. There is DNA evidence of sexual activity in DSK’s room consistent with the accusation. There are several women who have publicly stated that DSK has engaged in similar behavior. And finally, the visa application and tax return questions simply have nothing to do with the accusation.

One can’t help but think that this woman is caught in the unfortunate vortex of race, class and power. We can only hope that she gets her day in court.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

The Song of Solomon

The Bible may not offer all answers to all questions, but it does offer some interesting insights. This past Sunday the priest at the Catholic Church that I attend gave a sermon which referred to King Solomon and the gift of wisdom that had been granted to him. A clear illustration of that wisdom was his resolution of the dispute between two women as to who was the actual mother of a small infant.

You will recall that King Solomon, after listening to the arguments of the two women claiming to be the child’s mother, offered a very simple solution – cut the baby in half. One contender immediately agreed to this horrific solution while the other woman, appalled beyond imagination immediately gave up her cause, granting the child to her opponent rather than risk harm to the baby in question.

In his infinite wisdom, King Solomon declared that the woman who agreed to cutting the baby in half was the impostor. His impeccable reasoning was that the true mother of the child would rather give up the child than see it harmed in any way.

And that brings us to the latest debt ceiling/budget debate. Every respected economist, every respectable business commentator and every serious financial publication has stated in the clearest possible terms that the harm of an August 2nd fiscal default by the United States government would result in a horrific impact on the global economy, on the American economy and on the lives and livelihoods of the American people.

In the event of such a default, which would be the first in the 222 year history of this country, the international marketplace would be destabilized, causing incalculable damage to the economy of countries around the world. In the event of a default the American economy, already wobbly and barely breathing the fresh air of distant recovery, would suffer setbacks ranging from higher interest rates to increased unemployment as businesses would lose much needed access to capital for their business operations.

Sadly, the American people would suffer as well. Employees of government contractors would be unpaid and furloughed, if not dismissed. Elderly citizens and children would risk missing meals and necessary medical care.

The Federal Aviation Administration is already shut down in 35 states because Congress could not overcome G.O.Tea Party obstinacy and phony fiscal pledges. As this column is being written 4000 FAA workers have been laid off and hundreds of millions of dollars of airport infrastructure repairs have been halted. Now multiply this madness throughout the entire governmental apparatus and you begin to see the potential for financial and social Armageddon.

The G.O.Tea Party has made a profession out of pseudo-patriotism. But it takes more than singing the national anthem and wearing an American flag pin to be a patriot. The cavalier fashion in which the Tea Party stalwarts and their partners in foolishness have dealt with this self-induced budget crisis is alarming and incredibly dangerous.

Just as King Solomon uncovered the phony mother by threatening to harm the child she claimed to be hers, the G.O.Tea Party is showing itself to be the fake patriots by embracing the disaster that looms over this country and its people.

The truth is that the G.O.Tea Party has no philosophy and no principle to which its followers adhere except the overwhelming desire to bring about the defeat of President Obama. There is no argument regarding fiscal probity that would support allowing the federal government to default. When Ronald Reagan, the G.O.Tea Party deity, was president, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times in a little less than 8 years! Indeed, it was President Reagan who said that allowing the United States to default would be “unthinkable”.

But now the inmates have taken over the asylum and are threatening to blow it up. The no new taxes pledge of the Tea Partiers is a fake fig leaf to cover their naked desire to fatally damage the presidency of Barack Obama. That the G.O.Tea Party would damage this country for decades to come in their frothing ambition to unseat the President of the United States is shameful and should be labeled for what it is – treasonous.

How ironic it is that Representative Michelle Bachmann, the head of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress once suggested that Barack Obama should be investigated for his “un-American views”. It turns out that the real traitors wear Tea Party hats and wave American flags to distract us from their real mission – the defeat of Barack Obama even at the risk of wrecking this country’s economy.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 15, 2011

What a week it has been…..just about wherever you are in the United States it is boilingstupidhot, so try and stay cool. But it is hard to stay cool when watching the twin forces of greed and meanness surface in the debt ceiling/budget debate. Meanwhile the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is finally going to remove the name “Nigger Lake” from its official records – that only took a few hundred years. And last, but not least, the Texas State Board of Education has renewed its efforts to introduce creationism into science courses taught in that state, presumably to make sure that Texas students get dumb and stay dumb.

For the Love of Money

Here is a brief primer on the current debt ceiling/budget debate. While there are many moving parts to this grand conflict and true philosophical battle between President Obama and the Democrats on one side and the G.O.Tea Party on the other, facts do matter:

1. Social Security and Medicare are key elements of the social services safety net in this country. Proposed cuts to these programs (cuts that have been demanded by the G.O.Tea Party as the price for raising the country’s debt ceiling and avoiding an economic Armageddon) will inflict true hardship and real pain on millions of Americans, typically men, women and children who can least afford any more pain and hardship in their lives.

2. The G.O.Tea Party has pledged to wreck this country’s international credit ratings for years to come rather than raise taxes or eliminate deductions that wealthy individuals and mammoth corporations have used to avoid paying taxes.

3. In this tax-friendly environment Google has an effective tax rate of 2.4%, Microsoft profits are up by 30% and General Electric pays no taxes on 2010 profits of $10 billion and has received a $3.2 billion tax credit. (Please note that General Electric also received a $140 billion taxpayer funded bailout.)
The presumed logic of the G.O.Tea Party is that any increase in taxes will “kill jobs”. What we know is that after over a decade of reducing corporate and personal taxes the rich are richer, the wealthy are wealthier, and the supremely profitable companies are raking in profits while creating few, if any, new jobs. And somehow the poor, the elderly, the working middle class are supposed to pay for phony wars, tax subsidies for the rich and bear the burden of reduced social services.

I doubt that many Americans actually signed up for this cruise. But right now we are on boat to Nowhere, and getting there fast.

What’s in a Name?

I read the news today…..oh boy! The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it is removing the name “Nigger Lake” from it official records. This upstate lake has been on the official records of the state of New York for decades, if not centuries.

No one knows the origins of the lake’s name, but I would hazard a guess that if someone were to dredge that lake they would find the waterlogged remains of its namesake.

This little story should serve as a reminder regarding how far this country has come – and how far it still has to go.

Visiting the Tomb of Adam and Eve

Barbara Cargill was appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry (and soon to be G.O.Tea Party presidential candidate) as the chair of the Texas State Board of Education. She has stated that her mission is to bring “Christian values” to public education in Texas beginning with a requirement that creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to the theory of evolution.

Perhaps Ms. Cargill could better spend her time searching for the tomb of Adam and Eve or the wreckage of Noah’s Ark. Unfortunately she seems intent on seeing that the students in the Texas public school system will be ignorant of basic scientific theories and principles.

Chemistry, biology, physiology, astronomy and geology cannot be taught usefully from a curriculum based upon creationism. To ask the students in Texas, or anywhere else, to be ignorant during the most competitive economic times in the history of the planet is…..well, just ignorant.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

The irony would be delicious if it wasn’t so foul.

It is generally acknowledged that the economic crisis in which we currently live was precipitated by a major collapse of the housing market along with the mortgage-backed bond instruments that supported the fake bubble that eventually burst. It is also generally acknowledged that these bond instruments could only have been sold with the cooperation and blessing of the major ratings agencies that turned a blind eye to defects that are painfully obvious now – and should have been obvious three years ago.

So it is ironic that two of these complicit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have announced that downgrading the credit standing of the United States may occur if the debt ceiling/budget deficit debate is not resolved soon. These agencies abandoned any semblance of objectivity as they granted bogus ratings to bonds sold by soon to be bailed out investment banks while they raked in Midas-like fees.

For these agencies to now step up and add more stress to an already contentious debate for nothing less than the financial soul of America is outrageous. Moody’s and S&P are relying on the historic amnesia of the American public. We are supposed to forget that the crisis about which they are opining was in no small part due to their transgressions and malfeasance – how their reputations can be above reproach is one of the great fan dance mysteries of our time.

Meanwhile, there is a financial crisis of tsunami-like proportions looming. Somehow the G.O.Tea Party has created an Alice in Wonderland logic that goes something like this: the federal budget should be balanced at all times (there are boatloads of economists who would debate this “fact”), the budget should be balanced now (although the deficit was created over the last 12 years, somehow it can be erased in one year), the budget should be balanced by reducing spending (many economists will argue that targeted government spending does indeed create jobs and stimulate the economy) and taxes can nevernevernever be increased (taxes for upper income Americans have been drastically reduced during the past dozen years).

The intransigence and stubbornness and stupidity of the G.O.Tea Party are compounded by the politics of the moment. Since January 20, 2009, Republicans have declared as their sole mission insuring that Barack Obama is a one term president. In modern history there has never been such unyielding and irresponsible opposition to every single proposal or initiative of a president. The future of the country takes second (or third) place to making sure that President Obama “fails”, as Rush Limbaugh so delicately put it.

And so we have a political party on a permanent crusade against the president. This would be the same political party that has jettisoned common sense and basic economics into the dumbosphere and built an economic strategy on this tattered logic. The notion that the federal government must have a deficit of zero is based on the analogy that the government of the United States of America should operate like a business.

Except the government of the United States of America is not a business, its mission is to promote and preserve the general welfare (so says the same Constitution of the United States which is so often quoted by the G.O.Tea Party zealots).

Government is not supposed to turn a profit in the manner of a private corporation. The “profit” that the government is supposed to show is in the improved lives of its citizens as well as safeguarded the future. The G.O.Tea Party is looking to establish a caretaker government that will be minimalist in its approach to the needs of the people.

Taking care of people is the antithesis of the G.O.Tea Party.
So in a G.O.Tea Dada world where no sense makes sense, it makes sense to cut taxes and reduce or eliminate human services spending wherever possible because government is not supposed to take care of people. In this mean and flinty world, the strong may not survive, but the rich will prosper. And in the logic of the G.O.Tea party, that is the same thing.

During the next two weeks we can hope that the American public can take time out from worrying about Casey Anthony’s new job or Jennifer Lopez’ next husband and keep their eye on the ball. The G.O.Tea Party rhetoric that glorifies a balanced budget masks the hidden agenda of visiting misery and hopelessness upon too many Americans for too long.

Nothing less than the soul of the country is at stake. Let’s hope that we can all wake up.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 15, 2011

Whether it is Sarah Palin erroneously bleating about the mission of Paul Revere or Michelle Bachmann obscenely misconstruing the horror of American slavery, the right wing of the right wing creates historical facts to suit their rhetoric of the moment. Meanwhile, President Obama and the G.O.Tea Party continue to play high stakes poker and we are the chips.

The Traveling Gong Show

Michelle Bachmann seems intent on proving that the combination of stupidity and insensitivity is truly a toxic combination. Last week she and Rick Santorum (famous for comparing homosexuality to bestiality) signed an “oath” in Iowa as presidential candidates pledging themselves to certain conservative principles.

The preamble to this “oath” stated that an African American child born into slavery in 1860 is better off than an African American child born today during the term of an African American president.

This kind of language is part and parcel on an historic effort on the part of apologists for slavery and the Confederacy. The argument goes something like this: sure slavery was wrong, but it was a benign system that had many redeeming virtues. Anyone who believes that American slavery was “benign” is either truly ignorant or willing to accept the notion that the mistreatment of African Americans is just “not that bad”.

Her gaffe is not surprising given the fact that Michelle Bachman was born in Iowa at a time when it had a more miniscule minority population than it does now. Moreover, her congressional district is the whitest district in the state of Minnesota, which is really saying something.

But even these facts do not excuse the heartless and cruel ignorance of the humanity of people held in bondage simply for the sake of putting a few political points on the board.

Her papier-mâché resume and her transparent idiocy would be the stuff of comedy except for the fact that there are adults who are not residents of mental institutions who believe that she should be president of the United States. I am thinking that we should be more afraid of her supporters than we are of her.

Keep Your Eye on the Bouncing Ball

There are unconfirmed reports that during the tense budget/debt ceiling negotiations President Obama and Congressman Eric Cantor almost came to blows. It has been confirmed that President Obama did at one point walk out on the meeting having expressed his anger and frustration with his typical eloquence.

I am assuming that the Secret Service would have wrestled Mr. Cantor to the floor before Barack Obama used his superior reach to jab him into oblivion. But it is good to see some fire emanating from the Ice King whose adversaries sometimes mistake his cool demeanor for wimpishness. Clearly the battle over the budget and the debt ceiling transcends dollars and cents and is being fought in the arena of ideology.

Historians will look back on these serial budget conflicts as being linked with the debates that preceded the ratification of the Constitution along with the philosophical conflicts that preceded the Civil War. The outcome of these conflicts deserves some fire and brimstone from the progressive side of the table and I for one am glad to see President Obama start drawing some lines in the sand.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Apocalypse Now…..Or Later?

It is getting more and more difficult to try to find good news in the news. On the one hand we are presented with the spectacle of Sarah Palin seriously considering running for President of the United States. This, despite the fact that she has done her level best to prove to every American that she is absolutely lacking in the skills, ability or intelligence that would make her even a mediocre president.

On the other hand we are witness to President Obama and the G.O.Tea Party engaged in a monumental game of Chicken. The federal deficit cap must be raised by August 2, 2011; otherwise there is a very real risk of global financial meltdown. The G.O.Tea Party is linking the vote on the deficit to a budget proposal that will pare trillions from the federal budget without increasing taxes to pay for what used to be thought of as essential federal services.

President Obama has doubled down on the budget/deficit debate by offering to consider what can only be described as draconian cuts in social programs such as Medicare and Social Security. He has also proposed eliminating the Bush era tax cuts by 2012 and revising the federal tax code.

It seems as if we are watching the ship of state careening towards the unknowable abyss that could come from the economic apparatus of the United States government coming to a screeching halt. Since this has never happened before no one knows if apocalyptic predictions are valid. But that is like saying that, never having jumped out of a 22nd story window one is cannot be certain that death will be the result of such a leap.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, who famously could not name a newspaper or magazine that she reads regularly, somehow fancies herself as being presidential timber, as the saying goes. When celebrity is mistaken for leadership and fame (or infamy) is seen as a qualifying asset for the presidency, it may be that the Apocalypse is truly at hand.

But someone needs to remember that Sarah Palin’s irresponsible rhetoric – “lock and load” and gun-sight cross-hairs targeting the offices of political opponents (one of whom was shot in the head) has exacerbated an already overheated America. That Sarah Palin tried to portray herself as the aggrieved party after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head should have disqualified her from being considered for public office for all time. But this is the United States, where the collective public memory is about the length of time that it takes to click a remote – and all is forgotten, if not forgiven.

The election of Sarah Palin as President of the United States would confirm the arrival of the Apocalypse. The fact that she can be considered a possible candidate is cause for concern that the Apocalypse isn’t that far away.

And all the while the President and the G.O.Tea Party are engaged in a Texas Death Match, bound at the wrist, each with a knife that promises to eviscerate the vision and future of the other. Of course, the real losers in this fight are the American people who will have to face the consequences of unwarranted reductions in social and governmental services that will fundamentally downgrade the quality of life for millions of us.

There is simply no way that so-called “entitlements” (which are really part of the social contract between the government and its people) can be suddenly and drastically reduced without creating serious dysfunction for people who can neither afford it nor endure it.

The ill, the poor and the elderly will certainly suffer. But also suffering will be young people who will see their hopes and dreams for a better life extinguished with the elimination of education and training programs. And the embers of those hopes and dreams will not be easily re-ignited, leaving ashes at the feet of the youth of America that deserves so much more.

The vision of a future America that is mean and stingy and careless when it comes to the concerns of those most in need may not be apocalyptic, but it isn’t a vision that can give comfort to anyone who even pretends to being compassionate. And the irony is that these cuts and reductions would be taking place while it is clearer than ever that this country’s competitiveness in the international arena depends upon the quality of life that it offers its citizens – including education, healthcare and an enhanced environment.

A better United States that is bereft of hope and compassion is a tragic oxymoron. The G.O.Tea Party has framed the entire budget/deficit debate based upon the assumption that social and governmental services must be slashed and that the wealthy cannot be taxed any further. Within that construct lies a future where dreams will no longer come true.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 8, 2011

Clearly President Obama is either the best poker player on the planet, or the worst. His negotiations with the Republicans over raising the deficit ceiling have baffled his supporters and emboldened his adversaries – the end game will tell. Meanwhile football fans of a certain age mourn the passing of NFL Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey. Sadness at his passing is tinged with disdain for the greed of the NFL owners and players who are too busy carving up a $9 billion pie while leaving less than crumbs for former players who were broken and damaged by the game. And finally, the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case plays out with the victim now being on 24/7 defense. It makes you wonder who is actually accused of a reprehensible crime.

It’s Always Darkest before……Midnight

Anyone who cares about the future (and the present) of this country is watching the negotiations over the raising of the federal deficit ceiling carefully. The G.O.Tea Party has been very transparent in stating that they are prepared to bring the known world to the brink of financial ruin if that’s what it takes to get President Obama and the Democrats to agree to draconian budget cuts.

Indeed, if the deficit ceiling is not raised by August 2nd, the United States government will go into virtual default on its debt and the global capital markets will be on the verge of collapse. Republicans are claiming that raising the debt ceiling is a major event that cannot occur without a major reconfiguration of the federal budget.

In point of fact the budget ceiling has been routinely raised by Congress dozens of times over the past two decades. The fact is that the Constitution of the United States specifically allows Congress to raise the debt ceiling so that the government can finance its mission which includes “promoting the general welfare” of the people of the United States. But on the Planet Tea Party facts don’t matter and ideology conquers all.

And so we see President Obama seeming to offer up fearful reductions of government services that will most certainly impact upon those least able to provide for themselves. By appearing to appease the G.O.Tea Party lion with the red meat of budget cuts his plan may be to coax them into the cage of raising the debt ceiling and increasing taxes on the mega-wealthy individuals and Midas-like corporations.

If President Obama can cage the beast with this bit of strategy he will be a hero. But he is taking a tremendous risk as the G.O.Tea Party beast has yet to be tamed by anyone.

Giant Steps

The news that John Mackey passed away on July 7th was greeted with sadness and regret. There is sadness because John Mackey was a great NFL Hall of Fame player who also was a leader of the National Football League Players Association. There is regret because John Mackey died at the age of 69 in an assisted living residence where he had been living for over a decade suffering from frontotemporal dementia, a condition almost certainly brought on from years of collision and combat on the fields of the NFL.

There is irony in the fact that a pioneer of the modern NFL was entitled to benefits of approximately $88,000 year at the time of his death while at the same time NFL owners and players are haggling over how to divide a $9 billion pie with barely a thought for the former players who live their lives burdened by chronic pain or in clouds of confusion that never clear.

As the NFL labor dispute comes to an end, let’s hope that the owners and the players remember the wounded warriors who deserve so much more than they are getting.

The DSK Saga – continued……

The case against former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn is reputed to be “crumbling” because it appears that his accuser, a hotel maid from the West African country of Guinea may have lied on her visa application. Her multiple sins also include possible false information on her tax returns and an ambiguous taped telephone conversation with her boyfriend that was translated from her native Fulani just last week. It should be noted that neither the accuser nor her lawyers have been able to hear the tape or read the transcript of the translation.

Defense lawyers get paid to engage in the shell game of getting the jury and the public to take their eyes off the alleged criminal conduct. In this instance we are supposed to be concerned about the presumed misdeeds of the accuser while ignoring the fact that there is DNA evidence of a sexual encounter between DSK and the hotel maid with no evidence to support his presumed contention that the encounter was consensual.

Many times in rape and sexual assault cases defense attorneys seek to “blame the victim”. However, robbers can be raped. We cannot forget that murderers can be sexually assaulted. Whatever misbehavior can be attributed to the accuser in the DSK case cannot possibly excuse the former banker’s conduct. I am hoping that this will not be an instance where justice turns a blind eye to moronic and beastly behavior.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Sex In The City – Sex In The Country

Sex and sexism are never too far from the surface of public discourse and private discussion. And then there are times when these issues come to the forefront and simply cannot be ignored.

The media has worked itself into an absolute frenzy over the latest developments in the sexual assault case of Dominque Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund. For those of you who have been on the Planet Incommunicado for the past two months, Mr. Strauss-Kahn has been indicted on charges related to his having been accused of sexually assaulting a chamber maid in a $3000 per night suite in the posh Hotel Sofitel Hotel in New York City.

Rape and sexual assault cases are never genteel or pleasant. The charges in this case more unpleasant than the unfortunate norm. Mr. Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting a domestic worker while he was nude in his suite. Torn clothing, coerced sexual acts and physical injuries consistent with a sexual attack led to DSK, as he is now known globally, being pulled out of a first class Air France cabin and arrested just before his departure for Paris.

Now the Manhattan District Attorney has issued information regarding facts that presumably cast doubts on the credibility of the accuser in this case. It now appears that the accuser may have misrepresented facts on her visa application in coming from her native Guinea to the United States, including fabricating a tale of having been gang-raped (turns out that she may have only been raped by an individual). There is also information about lying on tax returns and sources of income other than her salary at the Hotel Sofitel.

Somehow we are being led to the conclusion that, if a woman lies about a visa application or a financial statement that she cannot be a credible rape victim. If only blameless individuals could be credible crime victims the prisons would be virtually empty.

While the credibility of any witness is important in a criminal (or civil) matter, it would seem that the alleged female victim of a sexual assault has to have a pristine reputation and be possessed of a cloak of eternal virtue in order to be believed.

That the accused DSK is nicknamed “The Great Seducer” is somehow of little or no import given that his accuser may have misrepresented facts on her tax returns. Charges of unwanted sexual advances have followed The Great Seducer around for years seem to evaporate in the heated glare of inquiry over false statements on a visa application.

It would seem that in the delicate balance of “he said, she said”, “she” almost has to walk on water in order to be believed. And, at least in L’Affaire DSK, “he” can track the mud of sordid behavior through the courtroom and into the light of freedom without a care in the world.

And this is not the first case where a female that is the victim of an alleged sexual assault may not be believed – not because her version of the events is not credible, but because her “overall credibility” or “reputation” denies her the right to be able to accuse a man of sexual misdeeds. And this is unfair. And this is wrong.

Meanwhile, there are advocates of women in politics who, while not supporting Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, are complaining that they are receiving unfair treatment as they stalk and stomp their way through the political countryside. While it is certainly true that women are treated unfairly in many situations, it is hard to understand how Congresswoman Bachmann and former Governor Palin fall into the category of the aggrieved.

If anything, they both seem to be getting deferential treatment, perhaps in part because they are women. Consider – if a male candidate for national office could not name a single book, magazine or newspaper that they read on a regular basis they would justifiably be greeted with eternal hoots and catcalls. Sarah Palin revels in her ignorance and deflects any criticism of her limited intellectual capabilities as the fault of the “lame stream media”.

Michelle Bachmann has loudly proclaimed that God “told her” to run for President of the United States. Really? Can we really imagine Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty being credible presidential candidates if either of them stated that they had a mandate from God to run for president? But Michelle Bachmann and her rapture roll on as if she is some latter day Joan of Arc, conversing with God in the morning, and giving us the Word in the afternoon.

Perhaps they really are getting deferential treatment after all.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 1, 2011

This week saw the formal entry of Michelle Bachmann into the race for president and the star that was Sarah Palin continued to dim even as Gabrielle Giffords took her first tentative steps towards recovery. And all the while the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case kept getting sketchier and seamier. C’est la vie?

See How She Runs!

Michelle Bachmann began her quixotic quest for the presidency in Iowa, in the town in which she was born. The fact that she was born in one of the most color-free states in the America and represents the most color-free congressional district in the state of Minnesota should not be dismissed as an irrelevancy.

What can be dismissed is her language-impaired effort to link herself to the heritage of John Wayne (yet another Republican icon who pretended to be a hero – Ronald Reagan anyone?). Somehow she managed to link herself to John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer who dressed as a clown.

While the irony is delicious and bizarre, it detracts from the actual Michelle Bachmann narrative. It is a fact that is that she is an unabashed and unbowed religious zealot who believes that God has chosen her to put America on a true Christian path. A graduate of the O.W. Coburn School of Law, that well-known home of legal scholars, Michelle Bachmann trained to apply “Christian principles” to the law.
It is always wise to beware of zealots.

The danger with zealots is they don’t believe that they are right, they know that they are right, which means that anyone and everyone who doesn’t agree with them is wrong.

History shows us that when zealots lead it never ends well.

Sad Coincidence

During this past week, on the same day that Sarah Palin appeared in Iowa to continue her will she-or won’t she presidential candidacy fan dance, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords appeared publicly for the first time. A truly sad coincidence as I would imagine that Sarah Palin is the one who publicly put cross-hairs on Congresswoman Giffords’ district and then feigned innocent indignation after the congresswoman was gunned down.

Being that the attention span of the American public and the memory of the American media can be measured in nanoseconds, it should come as no surprise that this sad coincidence went without commentary. But it should not be this way.

Sarah Palin’s off the chain and irresponsible rhetoric created an environment where a member of Congress was shot and almost killed. Just as Gabrielle Giffords will carry the scars of her attack for the rest of her life, Sarah Palin should carry the burden of responsibility and guilt for the rest of her days.

C’est La Vie?

As this column is being written the prosecution’s case against Dominque Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, appears to be crumbling. The hotel chambermaid who accused him of sexual assault appears to have some very sketchy aspects to her own background in the process undermining her own credibility.

We may never know all of the facts regarding what happened at the Sofitel Hotel in New York City in May. What we do know is that the next woman who complains of rape or sexual assault anywhere now will carry a greater burden of proof than ever before.

And that is the real tragedy.

Have a great weekend!