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

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.