May 23, 2012

Hollande’s cabinet

Filed under: world news by Victoria Liberty @ 7:42 am

François Hollande - Janvier 2012

Last week, Francois Hollande, the new President of France, announced who he would be appointing to various ministerial positions in his government.

Among his new cabinet members are traitor Pierre Moscovici (Finance Minister), who was Hollande’s campaign manager and used to be a supporter of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, before throwing him under the bus when he became politically unpopular, as well as Aurelie Filippetti (Culture and Communications Minister), who once accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual harassment.

But more notable, in my opinion, is Hollande’s appointment of two ministers who have either been accused or convicted of serious crimes.

Laurent Fabius (Foreign Minister) served as Prime Minister in the 1980s and, according to the BBC, faced “accusations that his government had knowingly distributed blood products contaminated with HIV, one of the biggest public health scandals in French history. He was cleared of manslaughter in 1999.”

Additionally, according to the Telegraph, Jean-Marc Ayrault (Prime Minister) was convicted of favoritism in awarding a local government contract in 1997. Although the conviction was officially expunged from the record in 2007, he served a 6-month sentence and paid a 30,000 franc fine.

Considering the way Hollande has treated Strauss-Kahn (who has been fighting against criminal investigations, but has consistently maintained his innocence and has not been convicted of anything), it is hypocritical for him to give important government roles to people who have been accused, let alone convicted, of crimes. Hollande once said, “There are rules and principles. Dominique Strauss-Kahn will not be in a government I pick.” More recently, he made nasty comments about Strauss-Kahn when the latter had the audacity to attend a birthday party that he was invited to.

Additionally, Hollande said during the campaign that he would never appoint anyone who has been “tried and convicted” and told people to “remind me of this statement if I fail to keep my word.”

It looks like Hollande failed to keep his word, and it looks like his “rules and principles” apply only to DSK.

May 15, 2012

Strauss-Kahn, Hollande, and the sad state of French politics

Filed under: world news by Victoria Liberty @ 7:13 am

Socialist rally Zenith 2007 05 29 n4 François Hollande - Journées de Nantes

Since Francois Hollande will be sworn in as France’s new president today, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arraigned in a New York courtroom one year ago tomorrow, I figured this was a good time to give my opinion on the French election. Or more specifically, my opinion about how French politicians have reacted to the trials and tribulations of Strauss-Kahn, the former frontrunner for the presidency.

Naturally, DSK’s political enemies have mercilessly bashed him. When he gave an interview about the sexual assault case that he faced last year, soon-to-be former president Nicolas Sarkozy of the center-right UMP party said that DSK “should have the decency to shut up. The fact that he dares to speak shows that he does not get it.” The horror! God forbid that an unpopular person be allowed to speak. I guess Sarkozy does not care about freedom of expression, or about the people who might actually be interested in what Strauss-Kahn has to say.

Continue reading…

April 12, 2012

Comparing the French and American elections

Filed under: world news by Victoria Liberty @ 10:11 pm

Mitt Romney, 2006 François Hollande - Royal & Zapatero's meeting in Toulouse for the 2007 French presidential election 0550 2007-04-19
I cam across an interesting article by Robert Zaretsky for Le Monde Diplomatique, comparing Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican candidate for president, with Francois Hollande, the Socialist candidate for president of France:

“Hollande, while the choice of the party’s establishment, has failed to inspire much passion, or even trust, among the voters. Like Romney, he is as ill at ease on the hustings, all the while evasive in his policy proposals. Yet on both candidates there is unrelenting pressure from their base to be not just more specific, but more radical. This places them both in the same unenviable position of making deeply dubious claims, whether it is Romney running against Obamacare (largely inspired by Romneycare) or Hollande promising to create a 75% tax bracket for France’s wealthiest citizens.”

Continue reading…

March 28, 2012

DSK: Civil hearing and “aggravated pimping” charges

Filed under: world news by Victoria Liberty @ 10:59 pm

IMFC Presser

Photo via International Monetary Fund

This has been a busy week for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and not in a good way.

On Monday, he was put under preliminary investigation (basically the same as being charged) for “aggravated pimping in an organized gang.” DSK never made money off of prostitutes, as the word pimp would suggest, but he did attend “libertine soirees” where he enjoyed their company. These soirees were paid for by two businessmen who were friends of DSK, allegedly out of company funds. The big dispute in this case is just how involved DSK was with planning and organizing these parties, and how much he knew about their financing. He says he didn’t even know that any of the women were prostitutes, but investigators theorize that he was involved enough to be considered part of the conspiracy.  The good news is that he was not (knock on wood) charged with receiving embezzled funds.

His lawyer, Richard Malka, criticized the decision, saying:

No one could understand the application of the notion of pimping in his situation…On the basis of his behavior alone, which should concern only himself and those close to him, Monsieur Strauss-Kahn finds himself here in large part due to his renown, thrown on the pyre. Colossal police and judicial means were deployed to crack and dissect his private life to an infinite degree, with the only goal being to invent and then castigate what can be considered a crime of lust.”

Another lawyer for DSK, Henri Leclerc, added:

Certainly Dominique Strauss-Kahn has attended a certain number of parties with women, libertine parties with female friends and women who were friends of his friends…They are trying to ban a sort of crime of lust. He’s being attacked over his libertine behaviour.”

And Club DSK, a (semi-official?) group of Strauss-Kahn supporters, made a great point in their press release:

We are worried about the dangerous drift for public liberty of the unbelievable decision to want at any cost to inculpate a man on the sole grounds of having practiced free trade without asking for prior authorization from a judge. Since there is no shadow of a criminal infraction in the behavior of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a private soiree between free and consenting adults, one can be astonished at the willingness of the judge to want to institute a police of morals and to advocate a return of the moral order which constitutes a dangerous slide in the protection of public liberties for each citizen! Liberties of morals and religion constitute one of the pillars of our secular and republican society.

Yesterday, DSK was supposed to give a speech at the European Parliament in Belgium, but he was forced to cancel it. At first I thought he had caved in to lawmakers who demanded that he be barred from speaking. But it turns out that he actually couldn’t go, as under his bail conditions, he is not allowed to leave France. I suspect DSK knew significantly in advance that the decision about whether to charge him was going to be announced Monday, and he probably had an inkling of what the decision was going to be.

Today, a motion hearing took place in DSK’s civil case in New York. As you may remember, hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo accused him of sexual assault last May, but the criminal case was dismissed because she lied numerous times and there wasn’t enough evidence. She is now suing him for damages. His legal team argued today that the case should be thrown out because, as the director of the International Monetary Fund at the time, he has diplomatic immunity. Unfortunately for him, according to news reports, the judge sounded skeptical of this argument, but he did not make a ruling yet. DSK’s lawyer, William Taylor, said that he was “in good spirits.” I hope that’s true, as he still has a long legal road ahead of him, and I hope he can emerge from it with some sort of vindication.

While his two legal cases wind through the courts, the media is being as merciless as ever to Strauss-Kahn. Le Monde released a transcript of DSK’s interrogation in the prostitution case last month, which purportedly show his “disrespect” for women. The transcripts also show that he and his legal team have a consistent defense to the charges, but the media, naturally, doesn’t devote too many lines to that. He is filing a complaint against Le Monde for selectively quoting him.

Also on the topic of media, a special mention must go to Beatrice Legrain and Dominique Alderweireld, the reputed bosses of a prostitution ring that DSK is accused of patronizing. They recently gave one of the trashiest interviews I have ever seen or read (which I am not going to dignify by linking to it) in which they disparaged DSK and shared intimate details of his sex life. Shame on them for gratuitously insulting and invading the privacy of a man whose reputation is already in tatters.

My take on DSK’s latest legal developments:

First of all, the laws about prostitution in France are confusing and conflicted. Prostitution itself is legal, as is being a customer, but soliciting, directing prostitutes in an organized enterprise, and making money off of prostitutes are all illegal. It seems that by banning so many prostitution-related activities, the legal system is trying to get rid of prostitution, but without criminalizing it per se. Personally, I support legalizing all of these activities, as long as they are consensual, but in any case, the laws as they are now seem to be too unclear, to have too many gray areas, and to make it  too difficult to tell whether a given action is legal or not. It certainly seems to be a stretch to call DSK a “pimp” when he was nothing more than a client, and possibly an unknowing one at that.

Ultimately, it seems that DSK is being persecuted for his sexuality by the media, by protesters at Cambridge University and the European Parliament who have tried to use intimidation to prevent him from speaking, by former allies who turned their backs, and by the legal systems of both the United States and France. There is no evidence that DSK sexually coerced anyone into doing anything they did not want to do – the New York case was (correctly) thrown out, and a separate case in France was thrown out due to the statute of limitations (although as I explained in an earlier post, there was really no evidence in that case either). He hasn’t been charged with corruption or embezzlement. So all that he has done is engaged in various consensual sexual encounters (some possibly paid, some not) with various women. And because of that, the majority of people seem to consider him unfit for any type of political, economic, or public speaking career.

That is un-libertarian. As long as no acts of aggression are committed, a person’s private sexual life is not anyone’s business. It’s wrong to discriminate against gay people for their sexual orientation, so why is it considered any better to discriminate against a person who chooses a libertine lifestyle instead of being monogamous? DSK’s critics are also anti-feminist. Those who condemn the practice of “slut-shaming” are often the very same people who actively condemn DSK for being…well…a slut. (Or whatever the male equivalent of that is.) Feminism is about equal treatment of men and women, and this double standard is the opposite of feminism. If you want to help the cause of women’s rights, it would make a lot more sense to actually advocate against sexist policies than to bully men whose sexual behavior you happen to disapprove of.

It saddens me that, if his legal woes had ended with the New York criminal case, DSK’s story could have been the perfect victory for defendants’ rights, and the perfect example of a wrongful conviction in the court of public opinion. But alas, his trials and tribulations go on. Good luck, DSK; I have a feeling you’re going to need it.

January 23, 2012

Anne Sinclair’s new job

Filed under: world news by Victoria Liberty @ 11:57 pm

Anne Sinclair et Dominique Strauss-Kahn sur le char d'HES, du MJS et du PS

Famous journalist, TV personality, and author Anne Sinclair officially started her new job today as editorial director of the French version of the Huffington Post. Sinclair, of course, also happens to be married to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was the world’s most well-known rape defendant until the charges against him were dismissed and continues to be a major news story as he faces additional scandals. At a press conference today, Sinclair said that her site will not have any particular political viewpoint but will “give people space to talk.” The site’s founder, Arianna Huffington, said that Sinclair’s triumph over adversity “gives hope and courage to every other woman,” and that DSK might even become a guest blogger.

Sinclair has faced criticism from people who doubt her ability to be neutral and wonder how her site would cover news about her husband. One even said that Sinclair “is no longer a journalist. Ever since she compared the DSK affair to the Dreyfus affair, she is an interested party.” This is an interesting question, but ultimately I don’t think that Sinclair’s support of Strauss-Kahn should disqualify her from a job in journalism. First of all, do her critics think that if she threw her husband under the bus, that would make her neutral about his case? That wouldn’t make sense; no matter how she chose to react to her husband’s scandals, the fact that she is his wife means that she is affected by his legal struggles to some extent. If Sinclair’s critics take their reasoning to its logical end, the only conclusion they could come to is that anyone who has any relationship with a person in the news, or has expressed an opinion about any event in the news, is disqualified from being a journalist. That would disqualify almost everyone in the world. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone who is partial about a particular subject in the news to have a career in journalism but simply avoid covering that particular subject. This is what, for example, WCBV TV reporter Gail Huff does with respect to her husband, Senator Scott Brown, and what Sinclair says she will do with her husband: “It goes without saying that we will cover all news topics that come up whatever they might be. I’m not saying I would write the article but it will be covered and in the most professional manner possible.”

Additionally, as she has since she decided to stick with DSK, Sinclair faces criticism from so-called feminists who are in reality not feminists at all. People have referred to her as “undignified,” “shockingly weak,” “very very sad,” a “doormat,” a “terrible role model,” “an embarrassment,” and a “depressed woman with no respect for herself” who is “under submission.” They speak constantly of DSK’s “victims,” and what he “has done to other women.” They describe the prostitutes that DSK allegedly slept with as “vulnerable young women run controlled [sic] by pimps.” Most offensively, some even write that Sinclair “needs an appointment with a psychiatrist.”

In addition to the fact that it is wrong to disrespect the presumption of innocence, hideously offensive to claim that someone is mentally ill for making different choices than you, and bizarre to call someone weak and cowardly for defending an unpopular individual against an attacking mob, these comments are simply anti-feminist. It is anti-feminist, for example, to demand that all woman have the same standards and value the same things in a husband. It is anti-feminist to assume that in rape cases, women always tell the truth and men always lie. It is anti-feminist to treat sex, unless proven to be non-consensual, as something that men “do to” women. It is anti-feminist to treat women as inherently vulnerable and in need of protection, to assume that prostitutes are controlled by pimps, and to assume that Sinclair is weak, submissive, and controlled by DSK instead of being an autonomous and independent person.

In actuality, Sinclair and DSK are a couple that feminists should approve of. Instead of her staying home and being financially dependent on him, she is the wealthier one, and both are intellectual equals who have their own identities, their own lives, and (until DSK’s was unjustly destroyed) their own highly successful careers. Anne Sinclair is brave, independent, strong, intelligent, and feminist. People who make comments like the ones above are sad, undignified, and weak.

Because of her courage and her very impressive resume, Sinclair more than deserves this job. Congratulations, Anne, and the best of luck in your new endeavor.

To mark her comeback, Sinclair gave an interview to the French version of Elle magazine, in which she explained a little bit more about her ordeal, her idea of feminism, and why she supports her husband. Some of the best quotes:

  • “To be an object of speculation, of permanent harassment to know what is happening in my home, has something about it that is Orwellian, totalitarian.”
  • “There are trashy newspapers in the U.S., like everywhere, and violations of privacy. But, in regard to the big media, the press is demanding, precise, and hardworking.”
  • On her presidential ambitions, or lack thereof, for DSK: “I wasn’t keen on the idea of candidacy. Power? I’ve seen it too close up to find it fascinating. As for the role of First Lady, it doesn’t exist in France. All that leaves me totally cold.”
  • On her new job: “It brings me great pleasure to resume my career, in the euphoria of participating in something new! … I think that I can still bring something to this field. What makes me nervous is the launch of a journal, that it wouldn’t be ready in time, the stress, all that. But my return to the spotlight, as you say, it already happened, no? … But it’s true that the professional spotlight is always more pleasant.”
  • On people who say that she should leave DSK: “Well then, leave your husband if you want to want to leave him. That’s your problem.”
  • On accusations that she is condoning violence against women: “It’s unacceptable because there was no violence. If there had been, the prosecutors would have pressed charges. They didn’t. Violence horrifies me – verbal violence too.”
  • “I, too, felt a great violence when certain self-proclaimed feminists unleashed themselves on me. I am a feminist, I always have been; I always will be. I have been part of all of the battles, on abortion, on equality at work, on the dignity of women here and elsewhere, on the role of women in public life. I think I have done at least as much as packs of ‘feminists’ for the advancement of women in men’s fields.”
  • “Unconditional support does not exist. One supports if one has decided to support. Nobody knows what happens in the intimacy of couples, and I deny anyone the right to judge mine. I feel free in my judgments, my actions, I decide about my life in all independence. I am neither a saint nor a victim; I am a free woman.”

Sources: Elle.frThe TelegraphDaily Beast

September 18, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s TF1 interview

Filed under: world news by Victoria Liberty @ 11:54 pm

A few hours ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn spoke at length for the first time about the attempted rape allegations that derailed his political career. During the interview with Claire Chazal of the French TV channel TF1, he was somber but poised and explained himself well, in my opinion, striking the right balance between apologizing for his mistakes and strongly proclaiming his innocence.

A few of the highlights, taken from news articles as well as the interview itself (I speak a little French so I could understand a good amount of it):

On the alleged sexual assault at the Sofitel hotel: “There was nothing violent, no constraint, no aggression, nothing criminal about what happened; that’s what’s the prosecutor said, not me…What happened was not only inappropriate, it was more than that, it was a fault; a fault towards my wife, my children, my friends, but also a fault towards the French people, who placed in me their hope for change…It was worse than a weakness, it was a moral fault of which I am not proud. I regret it infinitely. I have regretted it every day for the last four months and I don’t believe I have finished regretting it.”

On his accuser: “Nafissatou Diallo lied about everything. It’s not me saying that – it’s in the prosecutor’s report. She didn’t just lie about her background – that wasn’t important – she lied about the facts…The whole story she invented was a lie.”

On his experience with the American legal system: “I was afraid. I was very, very afraid. When you are in a crunching machine like that, you have the impression it is crushing you to death. I felt trampled, humiliated, and I wasn’t able to say a word. I have suffered a violent experience.”

On his loyal wife, Anne Sinclair: “She’s an exceptional woman. I wouldn’t have made it without her. I’m lucky to have her at my side. I did her wrong, I know that…She would not have supported me if for one second she thought I was not innocent.”

On the attempted rape allegations by French author Tristane Banon: “I told the truth. There was no act of aggression or violence…the version of events presented is imaginary and defamatory.”

On his attitude toward women in general: “I’ve always had respect for women, I understand their reaction, I understand they are shocked. I paid heavily, I’m still paying……I’ve seen the pain that I caused around me and I thought, I thought a lot…This lightness, I have lost forever.”

On his future: “I’m not a candidate for anything. But all my life has been dedicated to being useful to the public good. We will see.”

Sources: AP, CNNDaily Mail, Europe 1The Guardian, The Telegraph

Video Part 1 and Part 2