Thursday, 25 August 2011

Random Thoughts

                               Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Consensual (but hurried) Sex

The case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is dismissed. DSK, as Strauss-Kahn is widely known in his native France, is let out of jail, literally and figuratively. The Manhattan prosecutors did not feel comfortable about going ahead with the prosecution as they had serious concerns about the credibility of Nafissatou Diallo, the woman at the centre of the sex scandal that cost Stauss-Kahn his job as the head of the IMF.

‘Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt,’ said the Assistant District Attorney, the exotically named Joan (this is not the exotic part) Illuzzi-Orbon, as she formally recommended that the case be dismissed, ‘means, in good faith, that we could not ask the jury to do that.’

The much talked about DNA evidence, in the end, was ‘simply inconclusive’ according to prosecution lawyers, as all it confirmed was that ‘a hurried sexual encounter’ took place between Strauss-Kahn and Diallo.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer did not deny that he had had sex with the hotel maid (but maintained that it was consensual), which may well have been hurried sandwiched as it was between Strauss-Kahn phoning his millionaire wife (probably telling her how he missed her) and meeting with his daughter before he flew off to Europe to solve the weightier problems of world economy (where one hoped his brain and not his penis would do the thinking).

Diallo’s accusation that she was held hostage and was forced to have sex by the about-to-be-ex chief of the IMF suffered a serious blow when it was revealed that she had lied in her asylum application about being raped by soldiers in her native Guinea. She also changed her account of her activities after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn: initially she said that she ran out of the room and hid in the stair-well until the (alleged) rapist left. She changed this account subsequently and claimed that she went to the next room, cleaned it, and after that actually returned to Strauss-Kahn's room (where she claimed to have been held hostage and forced to perform sexual acts against her will, which made her cry non-stop for the next one month and gave nightmares) and cleaned it as well!. While one may applaud the maid's courage in returning to the scene of crime (as it were) as also her work ethics (not letting anything come in the way of her job), one doesn't have to be a hot-shot lawyer to figure out that this somewhat weakened her case. Finally, Diallo was also captured on tape, talking to a friend (who has had more jail sentences than you and I have had hot meals), and saying, ‘he [Strauss-Kahn] has a lot of money and I know what to do.’ This was refuted by Diallo’s lawyer, one Kenneth Thompson, who was mightily pissed off that the prosecution decided to drop all the charges against the Frenchman, although whether that was on account of the maid being denied justice (or his version of it) or he being denied fifteen minutes of fame (had the charges been pressed) was unclear. What was Thompson’s explanation? It was an error in translating the taped conversation. Diallo spoke in her native dialect called Fulani, which, we were invited to believe, is ‘one of the most complex in the world’. So what was Diallo saying to the jailbird? Thompson would have us believe that what the maid said was: ‘A man tried to rape me at my job. I did not know who he was.’ Quite how this sentence, even when spoken in one of the ‘most complex’ dialects in the world can be translated as ‘he [Strauss-Kahn] has a lot of money and I know what to do’ is beyond me (although on occasions I have come across instances when similar mistakes have been made even when both parties are speaking English, as in case of an erstwhile friend from my university days who was convinced that any woman who smiled at him and wished him  good morning (or afternoon of evening) was inviting him for a session of hot sex). If you believe that then (paraphrasing Harry S Truman) I am Hottentot. 

The truth of what really happened between Strauss-Kahn and Diallo in the luxury suit of the Manhattan hotel will never be known, as, at the end of the day, it is one person’s word against another’s. When Diallo claimed that Strauss-Kahn forced her to give him a blow-job she might have been telling the truth, or she might not. The point is: when you have a history of repeated lying for personal gains you are less likely to be believed when you make these accusations.  

It was also interesting to see the battle-lines being drawn along the racial lines. When Diallo decided to go public with her story (an indication, if any, that the case was going to be dismissed and her team had advised her—ill-advisedly—that she should come out all guns blazing, as it were, to destroy what remained of Strauss-Kahn’s reputation), she was flanked by an assortment of Blacks—the self proclaimed leaders, activists, lawyers, they all came out of the woodwork and flanked Diallo as she gave a public account of her side of the story, throwing, for good measure, accusations about race and politics. That was—as I told an ex after she broke three of my Queens CDs when we broke up—unnecessary.

So Strauss-Kahn has walked free, but it would be fair to assume that his political career is over. The man who was widely tipped to beat Nicholas Sarcozy in the French presidential election next year before the sex scandal exploded in his face, will wonder where it went wrong for him. He may even wonder whether it was the conspiracy of his political opponents (was it Sarcozy?. .  . no it must have been Putin, . . . wait a minute, it must be right wing nutters in the USA, and so on and so forth). However, if he is honest to himself—and he might not dare to be—he would realise that the thing that put paid to his presidential ambition was his insatiable libido. In vulgate:  if you take your d**k out when it should be in the trousers, sooner or later you will land in merde.

As for Diallo, she should take heart from at least one comment of the prosecution. ‘Diallo,’ the prosecution said had ‘ability to present fiction as fact with complete conviction.’ How about a career as a novelist (although, if she is going to write in her native Fulani she should hire a better translator)?

                                  Eurozone Debt Crisis: We haven't See the Worst

I heard a stand-up comedian, a German stand-up comedian, no less, who makes a living in the UK, on Radio 4 the other day. He said that many Brits were going to Greece for holidays, purportedly to help the Greek economy. His advice? It is pointless going to Greece; the tourists should go to Germany as it is the Germans who are pouring money into what everyone knows is a lost cause. 

Trying to bring moribund economies of countries like Greece and Ireland is like bringing a corpse back to life. It has not been known to happen. Surely, the sensible thing to do is to accept that the case is hopeless, declare that the patient is dead, make funeral arrangements, and pick up the pieces of what is left of your life.

Anyone with more than a dozen functioning neurones would have seen that the Greeks and the Irish couldn't possibly live with the same currency as the Germans; they were never going to make up the yawning productivity gaps between them and the Germans. The Greeks probably managed to gain entry to Euro in the first place by fiddling their accounts.

The pillars that supported the Eurozone as a monetary entity were made of clay, and it should come as no surprise to anyone with a modicum of interest in the financial affairs of the world that it is all collapsing.

The Greeks (and the Irish and the Portuguese and the Italians and the Spanish) either don’t earn enough or they spend too much. Either way they are a burden which the Germans—by that I mean the German public and not the politicians—may not be prepared to bear for much longer.  (And before we Brits wrinkle our uppity noses at the Greeks, we would be well advised to take notice of what Ratan Tata, the chairman of the India-based Tata Group, which now owns the Jaguar and Land Rover, thought of the British work ethics. Tata, who flew to Britain for meetings, was unimpressed by the British managers who, he felt, did not compare favourably with their Indian counterparts. ‘It’s a work ethics issue,’ Tata was reported as saying, ‘no body is willing to go the extra mile, nobody.’ He was unhappy to see the employees leaving the work place even before their bosses; he felt they were lazy. We might make snide remarks about how Europe is different from India and how we work here differently from the sweat shops of India, but the truth is Tata is proposing to close some of the plants in Britain, which means thousands of jobs will go. And can you blame him? As Tata remarked, ‘When you are in crisis, if it means working till midnight, you’ll do it’, not clock off at 4.30 on a Friday to meet with your mates for a pint.)

The German (and the French) politicians have characteristically opted for the fudgy approach which, one might argue, is not dissimilar to how the Americans deal with the Indian reservations or the Australians with the Aboriginals—bunch of people that is never going to be productive and forever going to be dependent on the state largesse for survival.

This may be an acceptable solution to the politicians but it may not be acceptable to the German public. A time will come when the Germans will be faced with another decision time—are they going to bail out the Italians and the Spanish? Given the eye-watering levels of Italy’s public debt and the impossible demands it will put on the budget simply to refinance the debt, that day won’t be far.

It would be erroneous to dismiss the recent plummeting of the stock-markets (all the shares in my virtual portfolio have taken a hammering—what more proof do I need that times— they are a-changing, and not in a way I approve?) as the irrational behaviour of the markets. If one goes by the historical behaviours of the markets and their links to world economies, then one would have to conclude that stock-markets antedate the changes in the economies; in which case what is in store six to eight months down the line is not nice.

The world went into recession three years ago (in defiance of Gordon Brown’s assertion that he had personally abolished the boom and bust cycles). The hope that the recovery would be V shaped (rapid ascent out of recession) soon gave way to the realisation that it may be W shaped. Now, even the prediction of W shaped recovery seems overoptimistic and looks like the recovery is going to be L shaped—we are going to spend prolonged period in the trough.

The Eurozone crisis will not go away. We did not really sort out all that crap the first time round; we just kicked it high up in the air; and now it’s falling again on our heads.

Posterity may well mark this as the period when the balance of power began to shift away from the West tot the East.