walkitout: (Default)
The comments thread is really interesting.

You can run it through an auto-translator; the gist comes through really well.


What I'm looking for is the full text of the Piroska Nagy letter. (She was the subordinate in the 2008 scandal.)

The excerpts are very clear on three points:

(1) She's fine with the severance and so forth of her departure. ("Les circonstances de mon départ et le montant de mon indemnité de licenciement sont un non-sujet"
(2) DSK abused his position/she felt coerced. ("Je pense que M. Strauss-Kahn a abusé de sa position dans sa façon de parvenir jusqu'à moi. Je vous ai expliqué en détail comment il m'a convoquée plusieurs fois pour en venir à me faire des suggestions inappropriées.")
(3) She said he wouldn't do well running an organization in which he had to work with women. ("Je crains que cet homme ait un problème pouvant le rendre peu adapté à la direction d'une institution où des femmes travaillent sous ses ordres.")

I _heard_ (on Bloomberg) that the reason the IMF said it was consensual and he got the "error in judgment" label was because Nagy declined to testify because she didn't trust the process, however I'd be a lot happier if I saw it written down somewhere so I could source it better because I may have misheard that.

[ETA: Here's the Bloomberg piece:


Relevant quote: "“Because I did not fully trust the internal processes at the fund, I declined to cooperate with the fund’s initial investigation,” Nagy wrote on Oct. 20, 2008, just days before Smith concluded his investigation."

I think it's all the same letter, but I am not sure.


Here's one place I have found excerpts from the letter:

http://www.linternaute.com/actualite/politique/rumeurs-dsk/piroska-nagy-2.shtml (that's where the quotes in parentheses came from).

Some commenters at the L'Express (wow, that sounds weird in my head with the double article) article attack the Socialist Party for being willing to put DSK forward given all the problems they knew about.

In the L'Express article and in the comments thread associated with it are remarks about how puritanical the US may or may not be, and the desirability of similar standards being applied in France/to Frenchmen. Meanwhile, over here:


This is a discussion of some problems of internal governance of international organizations that are very disconnected from their surrounding communities thus making dating/marriage/reproduction outside the work-circle difficult-to-impossible. If you can't ban internal relationships, managing conflict that arises from them is necessary, and the idealism associated with international organizations tends not to produce the kind of process oriented people that would be good at managing that conflict even-handedly. I liked some of the insight into why this is a problem; I don't want anyone to think that I agree with the more detailed opinions of the author or other authors at that blog.
walkitout: (Default)
I was watching the Daily Show coverage of people trying to defend DSK. Passing quickly over the really obviously dumb arguments (maids arrive in rooms in pairs in NYC and he's too short-fat-old to have done the alleged deeds), Stewart arrived at one worthy of some fact checking.

Here is what Ben Stein wrote:


The relevant passage:

"Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes? Can anyone tell me of any heads of nonprofit international economic entities who have ever been charged and convicted of violent sexual crimes? Is it likely that just by chance this hotel maid found the only one in this category? Maybe Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty but if so, he is one of a kind, and criminals are not usually one of a kind."

An astonishing number of people have produced a really impressive list of people who meet some or all of these patterns.

Randall Munroe at XKCD points to Paul Bernardo:


Here's another list that Munroe points to:


This blogger notes that not _all_ of the cases are violent.

What did The Daily Show come up with?

Richard Nyamwange (former ESU business professor sentenced to state prison for sexual assault)


Robert von der Ohe (former Rockford College economics professor pleads guilty to sexual abuse)


Robert Maubouche: French economist, worked at World Bank, convicted in 1997 for sexual assaulting a housekeeper.


While Stewart is clearly being humorous when saying economists are the "rapiest" profession going, Stein's clearly wrong in suggesting this is somehow a one-of-a-kind event and therefore, on the basis of that, probably not true.

I've been very cautious about what I've written about this whole incident. I've been really pleased and outspoken that I am pleased by our willingness as a culture to believe a maid (an immigrant maid, an immigrant African maid, an immigrant African single-mom maid), even when that maid accuses someone who would ordinarily enjoy substantial immunity from the repercussions of bad behavior. I agree that a person is "innocent until proven guilty", and I further believe that that's a _legal_ construct, not a social/gossip/whatever you want to call news-culture construct. I don't have a problem with seeing DSK "paraded in handcuffs" or kept at Riker's (hey, that's what we do to all the other people accused of rape in that jurisdiction, why should he be any different?). While Stein is free to say what he thinks in forums he can get access to -- a soapbox on the street or a column at The Spectator or a letter to a friend or whatever -- I'm overjoyed to see an enormous pile-on to tell him what a fucking jackass he is and how instead of successfully defending DSK or the legal construct of innocent until proven guilty, he's just making it clear to everyone paying attention that he's the kind of guy who would disbelieve an accusation of serious crime just because someone's the head of an "nonprofit international economic" entity and that strikes him as unlikely. Oh, and along the way, he's actually discrediting the idea of innocent until proven guilty by associating it with all the other attributes of sweeping-something-under-the-rug.

Not all judicial systems are based on the idea of a presumption of innocence (and not all of them are adversarial in nature, either). Whatever may or may not be the case with a judicial system, however, the details of the structure of that system DO NOT and SHOULD NOT dictate what can or should be said in the political or social culture of the society it is ONE attribute of. You want to talk about "chilling" effects on free speech or infringing freedom of speech? Telling everyone they can't talk about what some guy is accused of doing strikes me as being _very_ chilling and _very_ infringing. We do have to be clear that this is an _accusation_, and anyone participating in the judicial process (a juror or attorney or whatever) has to abide by the rules of that process.

But that's got nothing to do with the rest of us.

The Maubouche coverage I linked to above is interesting to me because it revolves in part around the complicated terrain that is "consent". An older belief in our culture -- one still held by more conservative participants such as Stein when he suggests that DSK was too short-fat-old to commit rape -- is that it isn't rape if she doesn't fight back. Another belief is that it isn't rape if the rapist has received consent in the past from the victim. The DKE incident was a form of activism in support of these beliefs: No Means Yes is "if she doesn't beat you senseless, what you did was okay". Yes Means Anal is "if she says yes to anything, she's said yes to everything". The young men were out there advocating for an interpretation of consent and a use of language that I find reprehensible and they were doing it in a context in which "freedom of speech" has significant limitations (a college campus which receives federal funding, thus subject to Title IX requirements regarding sexual harassment and hostile environment and so forth). I was pleased to see those limitations enforced meaningfully and overjoyed that some Very Bad People were punished.

These may be "words", but these are not "just" words. Saying "just" words implies that all words are roughly equivalent and/or roughly unimportant. But they are not. Words are how we communicate who we are and what be believe and how we want our world to be. Anyone who uses arguments like the ones Maubouche's attorney uses, or who argues that the Dekes should be allowed to say what they said where and how they said it is _explicitly advocating_ that our society should condone sexual abuse, in particular, sexual abuse by men of women and by people in a position of power of those whose ability to say no is compromised by economic dependence, and that it's okay to tolerate a dangerous environment where young people go to get an eduction.

If the allegations against DSK fail to hold up, nothing I've said will change. I'll still be happy we believed the maid. I'll still be fine with having put an innocent man -- who happened to enjoy a high position -- accused of Very Bad Things in Riker's for a while. We've done that to lots of poor innocent men (and women) and we'll do it again. We lock people up after they've been accused but before they've been tried because we've decided, on balance, that we'd rather be safe than sorry. I'm also happy that the bail negotiations revolved not exclusively around money, but on a way to give DSK a little more liberty while respecting concerns about risk to self-and-others and flight. I hope we'll see more of this in our justice system in the future.
walkitout: (Default)

Each country has law governing what can and cannot legally be said or depicted about people in the media. According to this article, "The CSA, the government's media watchdog, warned to use "the greatest restraint" in broadcasting them because the French law on presumption of innocence does not allow suspects to be shown in handcuffs."

It isn't just US media taking pokes at French media. "The feminist French lawyer Gisèle Halimi, praised the US justice system, which she said protected women's dignity. "I am convinced that if this affair had taken place in France, we would never have heard anything about it," she told Le Parisien." (I'm assuming the Guardian produced the translation?)

This is a discussion that has to happen in every country, as each country weighs the risks of amplifying a false accusation vs. allowing people to continue abusing a position of power. It is an iterative process that tends to lag cultural consensus, IMO. I'm a big believer in making the powerful feel their position is precarious. I think it's good for them.
walkitout: (Default)

Back in October, a YouTube video got a lot of media coverage. It showed DKE members (the Bushes were once members) saying very, very bad things. There was much outrage.

Over six months later, Yale has finally figured out a response. The fraternity chapter has been suspended and may not conduct any activities on campus including recruiting for five years. Apparently particular individuals were punished as well.

"Yale's disciplinary actions Tuesday come several weeks after officials confirmed the university was under federal investigation for a possible Title IX violation. The complaint that prompted the investigation alleged that the school's policies permitted a "sexually hostile environment" to exist on campus."

I think what we are looking at here is really solid proof that elite institutions do not, actually give a flying fuck about their reputation. They are completely okay with the idea that the population at large looks at them and thinks, I Will Never, Ever, Ever Let My Child Near That Cesspool if that's what's going on over there. They do, however, care about action by legal authorities. If there are, indeed, any starry-eyes anarcho-capitalist idealists out there (doubtful) this should be a clue that reputation is not strong enough an enforcement mechanism.
walkitout: (Default)
Translation: the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was staying at a Sofitel in New York City. A maid at the hotel has accused him of committing crimes against her and he has been arrested (quite dramatically -- taken off an Air France flight after leaving in such disarray that he left his cell phone behind, at least according to some coverage). The police have taken DNA samples, so anyone thinking this is going to devolve into he-said-she-said probably will be forced into a very lengthy explanation if there's skin under fingernails and defensive wounds. Further, it's more of a he-said/they-said at best.


A journalist/novelist in France, Tristane Banon says even her mother pressured her not to press charges against DSK for something similar that happened in 2002.

DSK was expected to run successfully for President of France and their registration/campaign/election timeline is drastically compressed compared to ours. This is extremely disruptive to the political process in France, far more so than the John Edwards scandal, which is the most similar recent event in the US.

The above is my summary of the coverage I've been cackling over for the last dayish. Here's the commentary bit: a _maid_ got taken _seriously_! For accusing a powerful man staying in a $3000/night hotel room! There are signs of _light_ in this country.


Here's a summary of what they're hearing in France:


DSK says he was at lunch with his daughter and the timeline doesn't work out.
walkitout: (Default)
Lyons' work on BM and the failed whisper campaign continues over at The Daily Beast:


There's a link in there to BM's press release, which states in part:

"The client requested that its name be withheld ...this was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined. When talking to the media, we need to adhere to strict standards of transparency about clients, and this incident underscores the absolute importance of that principle."

Here's PRSA:


Which says in part:

"Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented."

and as an example of Improper Conduct: "A member implements "grass roots" campaigns or letter-writing campaigns to legislators on behalf of undisclosed interest groups."

BM does _precisely_ that _all the fucking time_. The fact that BM felt a need to qualify "transparency about clients" to "when talking to the media" (after all, it's okay to lie to everyone else, as long as the media is In On It?) tells you more than anyone really needs to know about who the bad guy is in the room.

Here's the translation for anyone having difficulty following the shorthand that is the inside of my head:

A PR company, Burson Marsteller, was hired by Facebook. Facebook wanted Google's Social whatever to attract some media attention, you know, to share the wealth of media attention to privacy concerns that FB enjoys. BM tried to convince USA Today and some bloggers to place stories about a "problem" with google's service (a completely fictional problem, as it turns out, itself an example of Improper Conduct according to PRSA). USA Today and others declined (because of the fictional aspect). Lyons decided to find out who hired BM to do this. He succeeded and FB confirmed it. Only then did BM admit they were hired by FB and at that point, BM decided to blame FB for the resulting embarrassments. (Makes you wonder who puts together the damage control campaigns for BM.)

BM's campaign was hamhanded -- but their campaigns usually are. They're a lot like my compulsively and conveniently untruthful sister that way. People dumb enough to continue as Jehovah's Witnesses after how many rounds of failed predictions about the End of the World? believe stories told by my sister, but ordinary folk tend to see right through that crap. Similarly, BM's campaigns (Smokers' Rights!) are quite obviously bullshit. But BM is used to a deal where Philip Morris doesn't say, yeah, we hired them to do that and we probably shouldn't have and we didn't really expect them to do _precisely_ what they wound up doing. BM is used to a deal where everyone spends interminable time skirmishing in discovery and then a sealed settlement before trial or FOR SURE before a conviction.

I'm betting the partners at BM are in some sort of state of shock at the idea that FB would be that brazenly _honest_ about the whole thing once the shit hit. It must feel the same way the bankers on Wall Street feel when, say, Microsoft decides to do a deal to buy Skype for $8 billion plus -- and not involve any bankers. I mean, that's just not the way we do things around here! Who do they think they _are_ anyway?! Normally, BM and company would threaten to blackball FB and could reasonably expect them to toe the line. Not this time. I don't see FB hiring any of the Old Skool PR firms after this. We Won't Work For You Ever Again! Wait, what do you mean you won't ever hire us again. What?
walkitout: (Default)
Paul Kedrowsky was sensible: kinda unimpressed, figures we "want to be scandalized" because FB is "virginal", but notes that FB is "tone deaf".

The followup included Nicholas Thompson talking about slimy and "three layers of irony. The other guy (not sure about his name) didn't seem to want to use BM's name. Thompson recalled BM being hired by Microsoft to do exactly the same thing and adds "they are acting in an evil way and they are not particularly skilled at acting in that evil way". It was unclear to me (and I listened to it three times) who precisely he meant by "they" (FB, BM, puppet masters who control us all from a distance, etc.).

Thompson has all the information to understand the issue: BM does this crap all the time and they are really blatant about it. But he isn't taking it to the next step: hey, it's getting a _lot_ harder to get away with this stuff now. And everyone is unwilling to name BM in the coverage, preferring to focus on FB.

I don't get it. Is there some kind of deal in place where news organizations have been muzzled by PR firms? (<-- That's me feigning naivety. Of _course_ there's a deal in place. Duh. The question is whether the same approach to avoiding unwanted publicity -- money and quid pro quo -- from broadcast and cable media has any chance at all with the petri dish that is blog journalism.) It should be obvious that when FB hires BM to try to get Google into trouble by ratting them out on privacy issues, FB is _not_ determining the precise tactics used by BM to accomplish this task. I'm pretty sure the folks at FB are smart enough that if they had known in advance what BM was going to do and how they were going to do it, they wouldn't have hired BM. That, in fact, is where tech companies like FB (and Microsoft before them) _are_ virginal. They still believe that someone out there has some kind of magic get-away-with-it social touch and are willing to pay money to purchase this supposed skill/art/magic.

How wrong they are.
walkitout: (Default)
I get my news fix from google news. That brought me this tasty tidbit:


It is about Facebook hiring Burson-Marsteller (a name that _should_ cause you to pre-emptively cringe). Facebook wanted Burson-Marsteller to publicize privacy issues associated with Google, presumably for the obvious reason (no, not because FB is seriously concerned about google and privacy issues, but because FB recognizes there is a competition going on and this is part of their process). FB did not want their name associated with this. BM tried to get a blogger to write something punchy; the blogger declined when the client wouldn't be named and then publicized the exchange. Then Dan Lyons of Newsweek got involved and id'd FB. Very nice piece of journalism, can be found here:


"The mess, seemingly worthy of a Nixon reelection campaign, is embarrassing for Facebook...But even more so for Burson-Marsteller"

The whole idea that _this_ is unusually embarrassing for Burson-Marsteller, given their normal behavior, is so breathtakingly naive it defies belief. But I'm pretty sure Lyons isn't being sarcastic.

Years ago, Stauber and Rampton, the fine gentlemen who bring us PR Watch (never heard of PR Watch? Pity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PR_Watch), wrote a wonderful book called _Toxic Sludge is Good for You_ (which is still in print 15 years after I bought my copy). That's where I first heard about Burson-Marsteller. Because of that excellent book, I noticed Burson-Marteller as they popped up reliably, year in and year out, mostly in non-fiction of the expose variety but increasingly on news shows like TRMS. This whole incident is very, very minor when it comes to their wrongdoing.

When Lyons compares BM to the Keystone Kops, he isn't far wrong. I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that one of the benefits of the blog-journalism might be that BM will no longer be able to routinely get away with the crap they've been richly compensated for historically.

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