Friday Reads: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth

Good Morning!

I continue to investigate news stories where a large group of people seem to sit in denial.   You might even say they wallow in denial.  There are never ostriches-head-in-sandstories with one side.  There are never truths that should be accepted with out proof and facts.  Nothing good ever comes from denying the complexities of life.  Here are a few stories that offer up complexities.  I hope you enjoy reading them, although I have to admit that the details aren’t always pretty.

The first story I want to offer is about Greece and the collapse of its government, its economy, and the ongoing collapse of its culture.  Is Greece a nation for sale?  Is it a nation whose people are being sold out and have been sold out?  How can democracy exist when your entire country is up for sale to the highest bidder?

The savage methods of alleged “economic efficiency” and privatization increase neither efficiency nor competition, but do lead to price increases for consumers, higher costs for government, corruption, embezzlement and the destruction of democracy.

When the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came to Greece’s rescue in May 2010 with a 110 billion euro bailout loan in order to avoid the default of a eurozone member state (a second bailout loan worth 130 billion euros was activated in March 2012), the intentions of the rescue plan were multifold. First, the EU-IMF duo (with the IMF in the role of junior partner) wanted to protect the interests of the foreign banks and the financial institutions that had loaned Greece billions of euros. Greece’s gross foreign debt amounted to over 410 billion euros by the end of 2009, so a default would have led to substantial losses for foreign banks and bondholders, but also to the collapse of the Greek banking system itself as the European Central Bank (ECB) would be obliged in such an event to refuse to fund Greek banks.

Second, by bailing out Greece, the EU wanted to avoid the risk of negative contagion effects spreading across the euro area. A Greek default would have led to a financial meltdown across the euro area and perhaps to the end of the euro altogether.

Third, with Germany as Europe’s hegemonic power, there was a clear intention to punish Greece for its allegedly “profligate” ways (although it was large inflows of capital from the core countries that financed consumption and rising government spending), and by extension, send out a message to the other “peripheral” nations of the eurozone of the fate awaiting them if they did not put their fiscal house in order.

Fourth, the EU wanted to take the opportunity presented by the debt crisis to turn Greece into a “guinea pig” for the policy prescriptions of a neoliberal Europe. Berlin and Brussels had long ago embraced the main pillars of the Washington Consensus – fiscal austerity, privatization, deregulation and destatization – and the debt crisis offered a golden opportunity to cut down the Greek public sector to the bare bones and radicalize the domestic labor market with policies that slash wages and benefits and enhance flexibilization and insecurity.

ostrich-head-in-sandEveryone has known for some time that the Southern United States is primarily a drag on the rest of the country.  Its states cannot function without massive infusions of federal dollars. Its institutions remain broken.  Its governments are corrupt.  What does it mean to the country that the South behaves like a third world set of nations where any one can dump pollutants, destroy worker’s rights, deny women and the poor basic health care, and pay wages that don’t cover any kind of normal expenses?   What’s worse is that poor white Southerners just seem to vote like they love taking it up the ass.  Why are we letting an entire region drag the country to ruin?

On this point Thompson is unrelenting. “We can no longer afford to wait on the South to get its racial shit together,” he writes. “It’s time to move on, let southerners sort out their own mess free from the harassment of northern moralizers.” This is pretty much what William Faulkner wrote in more eloquent terms some 60 years ago. And, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Thompson finds plenty of Southerners who think, as one of them tells him, “We’re on the verge of a civil war.” Thompson asks, “Between North and South?” The answer: “Between conservative and liberal.”

It’s attitudes like this that keep white Southerners from understanding that year after year, decade after decade, they support policies that don’t help them. “Rank-and-file southern voters—who have lower average incomes than other Americans—resoundingly defeated Barack Obama in 2008; the eventual president carried just 10, 11, and 14 percent of the white vote in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana respectively,” Thompson writes. “An influential percentage of poor, uneducated, underserved, insurance-less white southerners continue to cast votes for candidates whose agendas clearly conflict with their own self interest.” What Thompson doesn’t do—what I’ve never seen anyone do—is offer a valid explanation for why white Southerners ally themselves with the party that treats them contemptuously.

Whites in the South overwhelmingly support right-to-work laws, which Thompson defines, correctly, as “the Orwellian euphemism for ‘the right for companies to disregard the welfare of their workers.’ ” According to a 2009 survey by Grand Valley State University, annual salaries for autoworkers in Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina averaged about $55,400, while their counterparts in Michigan averaged $74,500. Thompson notes that Southern blue-collar workers also have “inferior health and pension plans, less job security, higher risk of being fired for trivial reasons, and diminished safety precautions. … ”

Not only are Southern workers hurt by their anti-union attitudes, the whole nation suffers. “Southern economic success,” writes Thompson, “comes at the expenseof the rest of the country.” By luring foreign manufacturers to Southern states with promises of cheap labor, “The South is bad for the American economy in the same way that China and Mexico are bad for the American economy. By keeping corporate taxes low, public schools underfunded, and workers’ rights to organize negligible, it’s southern politicians who make it so. … [The South] is an in-house parasite that bleeds the country far more than it contributes to its collective health.”

That leads to what is for me the single most baffling 21st century paradox about the South. The region, home to nine of the nation’s 10 poorest states, is rabidly against government spending, yet all of its states get far more in government subsidies than they give back in taxes, as pointed out by Sara Robinson in a 2012 piece for AlterNet, “Blue States Are the Providers, Red States Are the Parasites.”

Ostriches-head-in-sand2The subject of Palestine and Israel frequently leads to passionate, intractable arguments.  At another blog, we eventually decided to leave the topic in the “Do Not Discuss” box for the sake of peace and quiet.

I still cannot believe that some folks find disliking Israeli neocon policy to be the same as being anti-semitic, but there it is and seems to be.

I do not support Hamas or consider it blameless. Indeed, the horrific things going on in Iraq due to Sunni Muslim fundamentalism should be damned.  But, so should Israel’s continued oppression of Palestinian people.

I’m no longer staying quiet and avoiding arguments.  I cannot stay quiet while completely innocent people die, when they live under apartheid and intolerable situations, and when I hear completely unsubstantiated talking points from Israel’s propaganda ministry held up as truths.

The first completely unsubstantiated talking point just got a vote in the US House of Representatives. I’ve read every independent NGO that I can find.  There appears to be no truth to rumor that Hamas uses citizens as human shields.  There is some proof that the IDF actually uses children in that capacity.  I stand appalled.  I will call out the mass slaughter of indigenous people and innocents no matter what their religion or what their nationality.  This is ethnic cleansing with a sophisticated Luntz-style propaganda show.  I’ve linked to a well sourced article on Five Israeli Talking points that no independent source can verify and if looked into are completely false.

Hamas hides its weapons in homes, mosques and schools and uses human shields.

This is arguably one of Israel’s most insidious claims, because it blames Palestinians for their own death and deprives them of even their victimhood. Israel made the same argument in its war against Lebanon in  2006 and in its war against Palestinians in  2008. Notwithstanding its military cartoon sketches, Israel has yet to prove that Hamas has used civilian infrastructure to store military weapons. The two cases where Hamas indeed stored weapons in  UNRWA schools, the schools were empty. UNRWA discovered the rockets and publicly condemned the violation of its sanctity.

International human rights organizations that have investigated these claims have determined that they are  not true. It attributed the high death toll in Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon to Israel’s indiscriminate attacks.  Human Rights Watch notes:

The evidence Human Rights Watch uncovered in its on-the-ground investigations refutes [Israel’s] argument…we found strong evidence that Hezbollah stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys, that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started, and that Hezbollah fired the vast majority of its rockets from pre-prepared positions outside villages.

In fact, only  Israeli soldiers have systematically used Palestinians as human shields. Since Israel’s incursion into the West Bank in 2002, it has used Palestinians as human shields by tying young Palestinians onto the  hoods of their cars or forcing them to  go into a home where a potential militant may be hiding.

Even assuming that Israel’s claims were plausible, humanitarian law obligates Israel to avoid civilian casualties that “would be  excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.” A belligerent force must verify whether civilian or civilian infrastructure qualifies as a military objective. In the case of doubt, “whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed  not to be so used.”

I did want to put up a link to an interview with Rabbi Henry Seignman at Democracy Now! The Rabbi was an executive director–for some time–of the American Jewish Congress and is considered the foremost authority on Jewish people in America.  Please watch it.  The number of American Jewish Rabbis and intellectuals coming out against Israel’s policies and attacks on the occupied territories is amazing.  As the children of holocaust victims and survivors, they recognize the “slaughter of innocents”.  There are two interviews that you may watch or read. 

HENRY SIEGMAN: Yes, it’s disastrous. It’s disastrous, both in political terms, which is to say the situation cannot conceivably, certainly in the short run, lead to any positive results, to an improvement in the lives of either Israelis or Palestinians, and of course it’s disastrous in humanitarian terms, the kind of slaughter that’s taking place there. When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the slaughter of—repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we’re watching these days on television, that is really a profound, profound crisis—and should be a profound crisis—in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and to its success. It leads one virtually to a whole rethinking of this historical phenomenon.

If you’d like to read an interesting discussion on how violence drives colonization of the remaining Palestinian territories, I suggest this article in Jacobin Magazine. 

Seeing Israel as engaging in senseless bloodletting might seem an even more reasonable conclusion in light of the massacre of sixty-three people in Shujaiya after “the extensive use of artillery fire on dozens of populated areas across the Gaza Strip” that left bodies “scattered on streets,” or the bombing of United Nations shelters for those fleeing the violence. That conclusion is also tempting based on reports out of Khuza’a, a hamlet in the hinterlands of the Strip that was the scene of another Israeli massacre.

But describing such violence as aimless misses the underlying logic of Israel’s conduct throughout Operation Protective Edge and, indeed, for much of its history.

As Darryl Li points out, “Since 2005, Israel has developed an unusual, and perhaps unprecedented, experiment in colonial management in the Gaza Strip,” seeking to “isolate Palestinians there from the outside world, render them utterly dependent on external benevolence,” and at the same time “absolve Israel of responsibility toward them.”

This strategy, Li goes on to argue, is one way that Israel is working to maintain a Jewish majority in the territories it controls so that it can continue to deny equal rights for the rest of the population.

The suppression of Palestinian resistance is crucial to the success of the Israeli experiment. But there is a corollary, which is a cyclical interaction between Israeli colonialism and US militarism. As Bashir Abu-Manneh explains, there is a relationship between American imperialism and Zionist policies. American policymakers believe that an alliance with Israel helps the US control the Middle East. So the United States enables Israeli colonialism and occupation, which in turn creates contexts for further US interventions in the region that can be used to try to deepen American hegemony.

I would like to see a peaceful two- (very secular) state solution; but as I’ve said before, I don’t think Bibi wants that at all.

downloadSupreme Ruth Bader Ginsberg gave a wonderful interview to Katie Couric.  It’s worth watching.  Ginsberg is our only hope on SCOTUS.

“Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?” Couric asked Ginsburg of the 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling, which cleared the way for employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives to female workers on religious grounds.

“I would have to say no,” the 81-year-old justice replied. Asked if the five justices revealed a “blind spot” in their decision, Ginsburg said yes.

The feisty leader of the court’s minority liberal bloc compared the decision of her five male peers to an old Supreme Court ruling that found discriminating against pregnant women was legal.

“But justices continue to think and can change,” she added, hopefully. “They have wives. They have daughters. By the way, I think daughters can change the perception of their fathers.

“I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow,” she said.

Rachel Maddow sent a team down to look into the Operation Save America siege of New Orleans.   If you haven’t seen the interview with the 74 year old Ostrich-man-head-in-sanddoctor whose home and clinic was terrorized, please go watch. She’s something too!  Equally as crazy is this coverage of a Louisiana Republican Woman running for Congress who ran away from a nonpartisan group that interviews candidates. 

David Wasserman reported yesterday that he recently sat down with state Rep. Lenar Whitney, a Republican congressional candidate in Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, though their interview didn’t go well.

As a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, I’ve personally interviewed over 300 congressional candidates over the course of seven years, both to get to know them and evaluate their chances of winning. I’ve been impressed by just as many Republicans as Democrats, and underwhelmed by equal numbers, too. Most are accustomed to tough questions.

But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday.

Whitney, who reportedly likes the “Palin of the South” nickname, “froze” when asked to substantiate her claims that climate change is the “greatest deception in the history of mankind.”

And then Wasserman asked about President Obama’s birthplace.

…I asked whether she believed Obama was born in the United States. When she replied that it was a matter of some controversy, her two campaign consultants quickly whisked her out of the room, accusing me of conducting a “Palin-style interview.”

It was the first time in hundreds of Cook Political Report meetings that a candidate has fled the room.

A tip for candidates everywhere: if you literally run away from questions, you’re doing it wrong.

Whitney is running ads that say global warming is a hoax and that we’re on the verge of an ice age without any apparent knowledge of why that’s the bury-your-head-in-the-sandcase.

Whitney, a graduate of Nicholls State University who is running for Louisiana’s open 6th District, owned a dance studio in Houma, La., for 34 years and also worked in sales for small telecommunications and oilfield equipment companies. She clearly relishes poking Democrats in the eye, cites Minnesota’s Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) as a political role model, and takes kindly to the nickname “Palin of the South.”

Whitney has only raised $123,000 to date (fourth in the GOP field), but she has sought to boost her profile and appeal to conservative donors with a slickly made YouTube video entitled “GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX” (84,000 views so far). In the video, Whitney gleefully and confidently asserts that the theory of global warming is the “greatest deception in the history of mankind” and that “any 10-year-old” can disprove it with a simple household thermometer.

Whitney’s brand of rhetoric obviously resonates with some very conservative Louisiana voters who view President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency as big-city elitists directly attacking the state’s energy industry and their own way of life. And she would hardly be the first “climate denier” elected to Congress. But it’s not unreasonable to expect candidates to explain how they arrived at their positions, and when I pressed Whitney repeatedly for the source of her claim that the earth is getting colder, she froze and was unable to cite a single scientist, journal or news source to back up her beliefs.

We’ve definitely entered a zone where people are just saying things they believe are true simply because they want them to be true or–ala Luntz–they’ve heard it from some one who keeps repeating lies over and over again.  Hey, it ain’t there if they don’t want to see it, right?

I’m on break today.  Enjoy yourselves.  Whats on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Tuesday Reads: Damned If He Does; Damned If He Doesn’t, and Other News

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

Syria is still the top news story today, and its still very unclear what is going to happen. The latest CBS/NYT poll found that 56% of Americans disapprove of the president’s handing of the Syria situation, and 61% are opposed to military strikes.

Yesterday President Obama told CBS’ Scott Pelley, “I understand” American people aren’t with me on Syria strike. You can read the transcript of the interview at the above link. The interview ended this way:

SCOTT PELLEY: The people aren’t with you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah, well, not yet. And I, as I said, I understand that. So I’ll have a chance to talk to the American people directly tomorrow. I don’t expect that it’s gonna suddenly swing the polls wildly in the direction of another military engagement. If you ask the average person — including my household — “Do we need another military engagement?” I think the answer generally is gonna be no.

But what I’m gonna try to propose is, is that we have a very specific objective, a very narrow military option, and one that will not lead into some large-scale invasion of Syria or involvement or boots on the ground, nothing like that. This isn’t like Iraq, it’s not like Afghanistan, it’s not even like Libya. Then hopefully people will recognize why I think this is so important.

And that we should all be haunted by those images of those children that were killed. But more importantly, we should understand that when when we start saying it’s okay to — or at least that there’s no response to the gassing of children, that’s the kind of slippery slope that leads eventually to these chemical weapons being used more broadly around the world. That’s not the kind of world that we want to leave to our children.

Obama will address the nation tonight, and it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to shift public opinion dramatically enough to get support for military intervention in Syria. According to the CBS/NYT poll linked above, Republicans oppose Obama on Syria even more overwhelmingly that Democrats do; and it’s not clear to me that the opposition is just about military action. As far as I can tell, the hatred for Obama at this point is so strong among Republicans–and among many Democrats as well–that he can’t do anything right. If he had ignored the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, he would have been called weak, but now that he wants to act, he’s suddenly a warmonger. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Currently the focus is on whether Obama can convince Congress to support action on Syria. If, as is most likely, his speech tonight doesn’t magically change public opinion, he’ll apparently be seen as an utter failure, both nationally and internationally. From The Boston Globe: Credibility stakes high for Obama in Syria speech.

President Obama’s speech to the nation Tuesday night has turned into a defining moment for the remainder of his term. The outcome of his call for Congress to authorize military strikes against Syria could determine both his credibility on domestic issues and his power on the international stage, analysts said Monday.

The stakes remained high even in light of Monday’s development that Russia is pushing Syria to allow United Nations control of its alleged chemical weapons. In an interview with CBS, Obama said Monday night that any proposed diplomatic solution must be backed by the “credible military threat from the United States.” [….]

“If he loses, then clearly, his lame duck status probably starts more than a year earlier than normal,” said Elaine C. Kamarck, a Clinton administration veteran and now a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution. “Also if he loses, it’s difficult to say how the bad guys in the world, like North Korea and other places, interpret this.”

President Obama said he will go ahead with his speech on Tuesday, outlining the rationale for US military action. The task has been made much more difficult because Obama has seemed uncertain of his own course. He initially drew a hard line on chemical weapons and then, once convinced that the Syrian government had used them last month, spoke and acted as if a military strike were imminent.

But of course if Obama hadn’t asked for Congressional approval, he would have been excoriated by the press for that and his second term would have been written off anyway. I just don’t think Obama can win at this point, regardless of what he decides to do on Syria or any other issue. Even the endorsement of popular former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can’t turn around the current judgment that Obama is always wrong.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday endorsed President Obama’s call for military strikes against Syria and said “it would be an important step” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad surrendered his stockpile of chemical weapons.

“The Assad regime’s inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order, and therefore it demands a strong response from the international community, led by the United States,” she said.

Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, made her first public remarks on Syria during a previously scheduled appearance at the White House. She said she had just come from a meeting with Obama, during which they discussed a proposal advanced by Russia to avert U.S. military strikes by having Assad turn over control of the country’s chemical weapons to international monitors.

She said that such a move would be important but that “this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction, and Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account.”

She also suggested that the Russian proposal came about only because of a “credible military threat by the United States.”

I think that’s probably true. Personally, I hope there’s a diplomatic solution, and the fact that Obama and Putin discussed such a possibility last week–and even before that–gives me some hope.

In other news,

Four men have been convicted in the gang rape of a women in Delhi, India last year. From BBC News:

The 23-year-old woman was brutally assaulted on a bus and died two weeks later.

Her death led to days of huge protests across India in a wave of unprecedented anger.

The case forced the introduction of tough new laws to punish sexual offences. The four men are expected to be sentenced on Wednesday.

Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta denied charges including rape and murder, and lawyers for three of the men said they would appeal against the convictions.

They face the death penalty over the attack on the physiotherapy student after being found guilty of rape, murder and destruction of evidence.

Read more at the link.

Will the verdict affect attitudes toward violence against women in India? Nita Bhalla discusses this question at Thompson Reuters: As India gang rape trial ends, a debate over what has changed.

The serial rapist stalks her for days. Eventually he breaks into her home when she is alone and tries to rape her at knifepoint. But she somehow manages to overpower and trap him.

Now, with the help of her two housemates, she has to decide what to do. Kill him and bury him in the garden? Or call the police, who are known to be insensitive and may let him off?

The plot is from “Kill the Rapist?” – a provocative new Bollywood thriller which aims to embolden Indian women to report sexual assaults – and to deter potential rapists by making them “shiver with fear before even thinking of rape” the film’s Facebook page says.

Controversial? Yes, but it is part of a growing awareness in India about violence against women since the high-profile fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in December.

“Like most Indians, I had become used to hearing about rapes and other crimes against women. I would read about them, then turn the page and forget,” says Siddhartha Jain, the 39-year-old producer of “Kill the Rapist?”

“But the December incident shook me to the core. I didn’t want this just to be another story that would be forgotten in a year. My film, which will be released on the anniversary of the incident, is an excuse to amplify the discussion of women’s security and hopefully bring about some positive changes.”

It sounds a little like that play from the 1980s, “Extremities,” that Farrah Fawcett starred in. Perhaps India is getting its consciousness raised?

Meanwhile, check out this info I just pulled off Twitter: Study: 1 in 4 men across parts of Asia admit to rape. Some highlights:

1  A UN study in 6 Asia-Pacific countries found that 1 in 10 men admitted to raping a woman other than his wife or girlfriend. Counting wives and girlfriends, the figure rose to 24%. More than 10,000 men were interviewed in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.
2  The percentages of men who admitted to rape varied by country. In Bangladesh, 11.1% admitted to rape; in Cambodia 20.8%; in China 22.7%; in Indonesia 31.9%; in Papua New Guinea 60.7%.
3  More than 70% of those who admitted to forcing a woman to have sex gave reasons that fell under the study’s category of “sexual entitlement.” Nearly 60% said they were bored or wanted to have fun. 40% said they were angry and wanted to punish the woman. Only half said they felt guilty and 24% had been imprisoned for rape.
There are citations at the end of the piece.

Here’s an economics story from Wonkblog for Dakninkat to opine on. Why doesn’t Fed policy pack more punch? Blame Grandpa.

One of the great frustrations of the last few years has been that, even as central banks around the world have taken extensive steps to try to prop up growth, the impact hasn’t been that great. Indeed, over the last generation, there’s lots of evidence that changes in interest rates don’t pack the punch, in terms of both jobs and inflation, that they used to.

A researcher at the International Monetary Fund has a novel explanation for one reason  why this may be: namely,  a growing proportion of the world population, and especially in advanced nations, that is elderly.

“We will argue that monetary policy also has a weakened effect on the economy due to changing demographics,” Patrick Imam writes in a working paper. “The elderly used to account for a small share of the population, but technological breakthroughs and social changes over the last two centuries have transformed this demographic structure.”

The gist is that young people are more likely to borrow money, while older people tend to live investments, so lower interest rates have less effect on an aging society overall.

When just embarking on a career, a young person might take out major loans for education and for buying a house and car. As they reach middle age, they will tend to have paid down some of that debt while also building savings. By the time they hit retirement age, they should be net creditors, with significantly more savings than they still owe in debt.

That would imply that in an older society fewer people are actively using credit products. Which should in turn imply that a central bank turning the dials of interest rates will be less powerful at shaping the speed of the overall economy.

As usual, it’s the baby boomers’ fault. Anyway it’s an Interesting theory . . . we’ll have to see what Dak has to say about it.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Head of IMF Arrested for Sexual Assault in NYC

IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund and a candidate for the French presidency, was pulled off a plane at JFK Airport and arrested late this afternoon. He was accused of sexually assaulting a maid at the hotel he had been staying at in New York City. According to the NYT:

It was about 4:45 p.m. when plainclothes detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey suddenly boarded the plane, Air France Flight 23, as it idled on the tarmac at the airport 10 minutes before it was scheduled to take off and took Mr. Strauss-Kahn into custody, according to an agency official.

The Port Authority officers were acting on information from the New York Police Department, whose detectives had been investigating a brutal attack of a woman employee at the hotel Sofitel New York, at 45 West 44th Street, in the heart of the city’s theater district.

This isn’t the first time Strauss-Kahn has been accused of sexual misconduct.

In 2008 he was embroiled in a controversy after accusations arose that he had had a sexual relationship with one of his subordinates, Piroska Nagy, a senior official in the I.M.F.’s Africa Department. The I.M.F. hired a law firm to launch an investigation, and Ms. Nagy left the fund and went to work for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. With the I.M.F. needed to quell the international economic meltdown, Mr. Strauss-Kahn was kept on the job. He later apologized for an “error in judgment.”

More on Strauss-Kahn from the Guardian UK:

Rumours of dangerous liaisons and sexual conquests have had little effect on Strauss-Kahn’s chances of occupying the highest office in France, but last night’s arrest may alter his future ambitions. Strauss-Kahn was expected to throw his hat into the election ring within weeks. He has been fighting off a very French furore over assertions his tastes are too luxurious to lay claim to the political left.

Strauss-Kahn is married to a wealthy heiress, Anne Sinclair,

the granddaughter of Paul Rosenberg, a celebrated dealer of modern art, and has inherited part of his collection, which is said to include at least one Picasso. In many countries, such wealth would not necessarily be viewed as an impediment to a leftwing politician’s career. In France, however, the flashiness has appalled some observers.

It seems that in France being wealthy is a drawback for a liberal candidate. Now he’ll have to figure out how to deal with being arrested for a sexual attack and having to meet with detectives from New York’s Special Victims Unit.

The LA Times has more detail on the maid’s accusations.

The 32-year-old woman told authorities that she entered Strauss-Kahn’s room at the Sofitel near Manhattan’s Times Square at about 1 p.m. Saturday and he emerged from the bedroom naked, threw her down and tried to sexually assault her, Browne said. She somehow broke free and escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said. They called police.

When New York City police detectives arrived moments later, Strauss-Kahn had already left the hotel, leaving behind his cellphone and other personal items, Browne said. “It looked like he got out of there in a hurry,” Browne said.

This is an open thread.