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.

Thursday Reads: Birther Madness, Town Hall Uprisings, Tornadoes, and Armadillos

Good Morning!!

Just so everyone will know what’s going on–we are trying out having some ads on the blog so that we can raise a little money for ongoing improvements. We hope no one will be too bothered by this. We are working on blocking ads that we don’t think belong on “the little blog that could.” If you see something offensive, you can let one of us know.

Now for today’s news links. As of late last night, the right wing nuts were still in an uproar about Obama’s birth certificate and whatever else they can think of to try to make him seem illegitimate. I don’t get it. There are so many things to criticize about Obama–why focus on these nutty conspiracy theories? I hate to say it, but it has to be racism and/or xenophobia. Check this out from birther start Orly Taitz:

“Look, I applaud this release. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” so-called “birther queen” Orly Taitz told me in one of her many media interviews this morning. “I credit Donald Trump in pushing this issue.”

But she still has her suspicions. Specifically, Taitz thinks that the birth certificate should peg Obama’s race as “Negro” and not “African.”

“In those years … when they wrote race, they were writing ‘Negro’ not ‘African’,” Taitz says. “In those days nobody wrote African as a race, it just wasn’t one of the options. It sounds like it would be written today, in the age of political correctness, and not in 1961 when they wrote white or Asian or ‘Negro’.”

Taitz says she’s not giving up her fight. She also claims Obama isn’t a “natural born citizen” because she uses a standard that requires both parents to be American citizens — a misreading of the Constitution which if enforced would have rendered several other American Presidents ineligible.

These people are utterly shameless. I wouldn’t dare go look at World Net Daily to see what they’re saying. Oh wait…the Washington Post did it for me.

“It raises far more questions than it answers,” said Joseph Farah, editor in chief of WorldNetDaily and birther extraordinaire, almost breathless between media interviews.

Farah, whose online publication has run hundreds of articles over the past couple of years questioning Obama’s citizenship, professed delight at the latest development. So did real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who has found that raising questions about Obama’s legitimacy is political jet fuel for someone pondering a presidential run.

And across the pond they’re laughing at us.

Has there ever been a more absurdly surreal moment, even in US politics, that unchallengeable theatre of the absurd and the surreal? One moment, we were watching a property magnate, with one eye on the presidency, the other on his reality TV show ratings, and puffed up like a bullfrog, rejoicing on an airport tarmac in New Hampshire that America’s President of two years had finally made public his birth certificate.

The next, America’s TV networks interrupted their schedules to cut to the White House, where that self-same President appeared to confirm the momentous fact: not that Barack Obama had indeed been born, but that the happy event indeed took place, as no sane person has ever doubted, on the unimpeachably American soil of Hawaii, one August evening in 1961.

Of late, however, America has seemed to be taking leave of its senses. A quarter of the population, polls showed, and close on half of Republicans, still refused to believe that unassailable fact.

Sometimes it’s just so embarrassing to live in the same country with these bumpkins.

From Think Progress, historian Douglas Brinkley is calling for NBC to drop Trump’s show (I didn’t know he had one) and for corporate sponsors to pull their ads.

Also from Think Progress, another Republican is schooled by his constituents at a town hall meeting.

Rep. Charlie Gibson (R-NY) felt the heat of that movement last week when constituents responded to his fear mongering about undocumented immigrants not paying taxes by asking him, “You mean like GE?!” Yesterday, at yet another town hall meeting captured on YouTube, his constituents angrily and passionately rejected the GOP’s budget plan and demanded that the rich pay their fair share.

Check out the video:

Yelled out at the end: “Tax the rich!” Keep fighting back America!

Minkoff Minx can update us on the storms hitting the Southern states. From the LA Times this morning: Deadly storms, tornadoes kill more than 170 in South

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— A wave of tornado-spawning storms strafed the South on Wednesday and early Thursday, splintering buildings across hard-hit Alabama and killing at least 178 people in five states.

At least 128 died in Alabama alone, officials said early Thursday. Among the cities hit hard by a tornado was Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. The mayor said sections of the city were obliterated and its infrastructure decimated.

“What we faced today was massive damage on a scale we have not seen in Tuscaloosa in quite some time,” Mayor Walter Maddox told reporters Wednesday.

The tornado “paralyzed many city operations that directly respond to events like we experienced today,” he said. “Pray for us.”

Did you know you can get leprosy from an Armadillo?

“A preponderance of evidence shows that people get leprosy from these animals,” said Richard W. Truman, director of microbiology at the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge and lead author of a paper detailing the discovery in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Until now, scientists believed that leprosy was passed only from human to human. Every year, about 100 to 150 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the malady, which is also known as Hansen’s disease. Though many have traveled to countries where the disease is relatively common, as many as a third don’t know where they picked it up.

Most of those cases are in Texas and Louisiana, where leprosy-infected armadillos live too.

The good news is that leprosy can now be treated with a combination of antibiotics.

I know this news post has been on the lightweight side, but it’s the end of the semester and I’m stressed out and don’t want to deal with anything too heavy. Feel free to do that in the comments though. What are you reading and blogging about today?

Paul Ryan’s Selective Randianism

While browsing the links on Memeorandum earlier this afternoon, I came across this post at Down With Tyranny: The Inspiration For Paul Ryan’s Profoundly And Explicitly Anti-Christian Budget. As Lambert would say, it is a post filled to the brim with “linky goodness.” I read all the linked articles and I refer to a few of them in this post.

DWT discusses Ryan’s self-professed admiration for the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand.

What is the great cause for which Ryan wants to devote his political life? Unkind critics point to the unprecedented– at least in Wisconsin politics– gushers of money Ryan has solicited from the Wall Street sector and detect a correlation between the bribes he takes and the policies he espouses. And since there is nothing that holds his voting record– huge, unjustifiable bailouts for Wall Street banks coupled with the dismantling of Medicare and unconscionable tax breaks for the richest Americans coupled with privatization of Social Security– other than obeisance to a garden variety Big Business agenda, this interpretation has become widespread. What people may be missing, however, is a parallel influence on Ryan– one not unrelated, but not identical either: his devotion to the adolescent philosophy of Ayn Rand: “the virtue of selfishness,” a more direct– if somewhat off-putting to non-believers– description of a philosophy known as “Objectivism.”

DWT points out that Rand’s teachings are explicitly anti-Christian–Rand was an atheist who thought altruism was evil and poor and working people were losers and “parasites.” Newsweek’s Jonathan Chait writes:

Ayn Rand, of course, was a kind of politicized L. Ron Hubbard—a novelist-philosopher who inspired a cult of acolytes who deem her the greatest human being who ever lived. The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites.

John Galt, the protagonist of her iconic novel Atlas Shrugged, expressed Rand’s inverted Marxism: “The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.”

Chait calls Ryan an “acolyte” of Ayn Rand, and explains at length that the deficit and the debt aren’t what’s bugging the new House superstar. Most of Ryan’s proposals don’t cut the deficit much, and besides, he includes huge new tax cuts for the rich and goodies for Wall Street in his plan. Further more Ryan was an enthusiastic supporter of the Wall Street bailout and he voted for every spending bill that came down the pike under George W. Bush. So what are the Ryan cuts all about?

Ryan’s plan does do two things in immediate and specific ways: hurt the poor and help the rich. After extending the Bush tax cuts, he would cut the top rate for individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent. Then Ryan slashes Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and low-income housing. These programs to help the poor, which constitute approximately 21 percent of the federal budget, absorb two thirds of Ryan’s cuts.

Ryan casts these cuts as an incentive for the poor to get off their lazy butts. He insists that we “ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.” It’s worth translating what Ryan means here. Welfare reform was premised on the tough but persuasive argument that providing long-term cash payments to people who don’t work encourages long-term dependency. Ryan is saying that the poor should not only be denied cash income but also food and health care.

OK, that part does sound like Randianism, doesn’t it? Rand admired the strong and despised the weak, and so does Paul Ryan, apparently. Rand even went so far as to praise a serial killer for his lack of empathy for his fellow human beings.

On the level of personal behavior, the heroes in Rand’s novels commit borderline rape, blow up buildings, and dynamite oil fields — actions which Rand portrays as admirable and virtuous fulfillments of the characters’ personal will and desires. Her early diaries gush with admiration for William Hickman, a serial killer who raped and murdered a young girl. Hickman showed no understanding of “the necessity, meaning or importance of other people,” a trait Rand apparently found quite admirable.

But did Rand believe that corporations should benefit from government largess? According to Rand devotee Donald L. Luskin, she didn’t.

it’s a misreading of “Atlas” to claim that it is simply an antigovernment tract or an uncritical celebration of big business. In fact, the real villain of “Atlas” is a big businessman, railroad CEO James Taggart, whose crony capitalism does more to bring down the economy than all of Mouch’s regulations. With Taggart, Rand was anticipating figures like Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, the subprime lender that proved to be a toxic mortgage factory. Like Taggart, Mr. Mozilo engineered government subsidies for his company in the name of noble-sounding virtues like home ownership for all.

Still, most of the heroes of “Atlas” are big businessmen who are unfairly persecuted by government. The struggle of Rand’s fictional steel magnate Henry Rearden against confiscatory regulation is a perfect anticipation of the antitrust travails of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. In both cases, the government’s depredations were inspired by behind-the-scenes maneuverings of business rivals. And now Microsoft is maneuvering against Google with an antitrust complaint in the European Union.

The reality is that in Rand’s novel, as in life, self-described capitalists can be the worst enemies of capitalism. But that doesn’t fit in easily with the simple pro-business narrative about Rand now being retailed.

Luskin seems somewhat bemused by the selective Randianism (my term) of the new Tea Party radicals like Ryan. Traditional conservatives like William F. Buckley “loathed” Rand back in the day, probably because of her atheism and the fact that, while she verbally denigrated feminism, she lived

her life as an exemplary feminist, even as she denied it by calling herself a “male chauvinist.” She was the breadwinner throughout her lifelong marriage. The most sharply drawn hero in “Atlas” is the extraordinarily capable female railroad executive Dagny Taggart, who is set in contrast with her boss, her incompetent brother James. She’s the woman who deserves the man’s job but doesn’t have it; he’s the man who has the job but doesn’t deserve it.

Rand was strongly pro-choice, speaking out for abortion rights even before Roe v. Wade. In late middle age, she became enamored of a much younger man and made up her mind to have an affair with him, having duly informed her husband and the younger man’s wife in advance. Conservatives don’t do things like that—or at least they say they don’t.

These weren’t the only times Rand took positions that didn’t ingratiate her to the right. She was an early opponent of the Vietnam war, once saying, “I am against the war in Vietnam and have been for years. . . . In my view we should fight fascism and communism when they come to this country.” During the ’60s she declared, “I am an enemy of racism,” and advised opponents of school busing, “If you object to sending your children to school with black children, you’ll lose for sure because right is on the other side.”

BTW, none of the male authors I have cited except for Luskin mentioned the abortion issue or the incongruity of the anti-abortion Ryan claiming to believe in Ayn Rand’s vision of complete individualism.

I guess the new fantasy-based Republicans like Ryan can just mentally excise much of Rand’s individualistic philosophy–taking what they want and leaving the rest–just as they do with the bible and with science. How else can Ryan and his radical colleagues rationalize idolizing Ayn Rand while voting again and again to limit the rights of women?

Hillary says No

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer has released an interview with SOS Hillary Clinton. Blitzer asked if she was going to either serve a second term or run for President in 2012.  This is pretty clear evidence the Clinton is planning on returning to private life shortly. Blitzer interviewed Clinton during her visit to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on March 16, 2011.

Q- If the president is reelected, do you want to serve a second term as secretary of state?


Q- Would you like to serve as secretary of defense?


Q- Would you like to be vice president of the United States?


Q- Would you like to be president of the United States?


Q- Why not?

Because I have the best job I could ever have. This is a moment in history where it is almost hard to catch your breath. There are both the tragedies and disasters that we have seen from Haiti to Japan and there are the extraordinary opportunities and challenges that we see right here in Egypt and in the rest of the region. So I want to be part of helping to represent the United States at this critical moment in time, to do everything I can in support of the president and our government and the people of our country to stand for our values and our ideals, to stand up for our security, which has to remain first and foremost in my mind and to advance America’s interests. And there isn’t anything that I can imagine doing after this that would be as demanding, as challenging or rewarding.

Q- President of the United States?

You know, I had a wonderful experience running and I am very proud of the support I had and very grateful for the opportunity, but I’m going to be, you know, moving on.

Q- I asked my viewers and followers on Twitter to send questions and a lot of them said, “Ask her if she’ll run in 2016 for the presidency.” A lot of folks would like to you to do that.

Well that’s very kind, but I am doing what I want to do right now and I have no intention or any idea even of running again. I’m going to do the best I can at this job for the next two years.

Clinton also spoke of democratic reforms in Egypt while visiting that nation and Tunisia. She was greeted with protests in Tunisia.

Clinton toured Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the pro-democracy uprising that led to last month’s resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Clinton said visiting the square was a “great reminder of the power of the human spirit and desire for freedom and human rights and democracy.”

She was welcomed by Egyptian citizens and shook hands with passersby in the square before meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

Before leaving for Tunisia on Wednesday, Clinton was set to meet with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. Moussa, 74, is a veteran Egyptian diplomat and has announced his candidacy for the country’s presidency.

Clinton also met with pro-democracy activists and members of Egypt’s civil society. She is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Egypt since the anti-government protests.

Clinton arrived in Cairo Tuesday after attending a Group of Eight foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris.

After wrapping up talks in Egypt, she travels to Tunisia – the starting point of the pro-democracy movement that has swept through much of the Middle East and North Africa this year.

Dozens of Tunisians took to the streets in Tunis on Wednesday to protest against Clinton’s visit.  The demonstrators said they oppose foreign intervention in their country.

There appears to be no break through in her meetings with the G8 in terms of backing a no-fly zone for Libya.  While she met with Egypt’s Prime Minister, some details of their meeting have not been released.

On Tuesday, Clinton issued a strong statement of praise for Egypt’s political revolution, declaring she was “deeply inspired” by the dramatic change and promising new assistance for America’s longtime Middle East ally.

Clinton pledged $90 million in emergency economic assistance during a meeting in Cairo with Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Araby. She is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Egypt since the overthrow of Mubarak.

“The United States will work to ensure that the economic gains Egypt has forged in recent years continue, and that all parts of Egyptian society benefit from these gains,” a State Department statement noted.

She’s not yet discussed her plans after she retires from the position of US Secretary of State.

HB Gary Federal CEO Resigns in Wake of Anonymous Attack

Aaron Barr

After being turned into a laughingstock by the Wikileaks-defending activist hacker group “Anonymous,” HB Gary CEO Aaron Barr has stepped down.

The announcement comes three weeks after Barr became the target of a coordinated attack by members of the online mischief making group Anonymous, which hacked into HBGary Federal’s computer network and published tens of thousands of company e-mail messages on the Internet. HBGary did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comments on Barr’s resignation.

In an interview with Threatpost, Barr said that he is stepping down to allow himself and the company he ran to move on in the wake of the high profile hack.

“I need to focus on taking care of my family and rebuilding my reputation,” Barr said in a phone interview. “It’s been a challenge to do that and run a company. And, given that I’ve been the focus of much of bad press, I hope that, by leaving, HBGary and HBGary Federal can get away from some of that. I’m confident they’ll be able to weather this storm.”

Good luck with that. For a nice, lucid explanation of what happened, along with numerous informative links, please refer to Sima’s recent post, Opening the Hive.

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what Barr did to invite the attentions of Anonymous:

Barr had found himself at the center of a scandal that began when he told the Financial Times he planned to reveal the names of some “leaders” of the hacker group Anonymous. Anonymous responded by hacking HBGary Federal’s site, stealing 71,000 emails from the company and its sister firm HBGary, and defacing Barr’s Twitter account.


But the worst was yet to come. Anonymous posted HBGary’s emails in a searchable format, and the ensuing press scrum exposed a darker side to HBGary Federal’s business that offered a variety of dirty tricks on behalf of clients. In a proposal intended for Bank of America and written on behalf of a law firm referred to the bank by the U.S. Department of Justice, Barr suggested borderline illegal tactics that aimed at responding to a potential release of the bank’s documents by WikiLeaks. Those methods included cyberattacks, misinformation, forged documents, pressuring donors and even blackmailing WikiLeaks supporter and Salon journalist Glenn Greenwald. In another deal, HBGary suggested similarly a shady response to the Chamber of Commerce in its campaign against the Chamber’s political opponents including non-profit organizations and unions.

Another corporate buffoon bites the dust. Good riddance. Of course there are probably plenty of others like him still employed by HB Gary Federal.