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Crime And Punishment: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, The Rule Of Law And Wall Street Rape

Guest post from Dr. Pitchfork

Crime And Punishment on Wall Street

In this clip (from May of this year), Naomi Wolf and Moe Tkacik discuss feminism and the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.  The discussion is interesting in its own right, covering topics like police and prosecutor inaction in ordinary cases of rape or sexual assault, for example.  What was remarkable, however, was that when Tkacik was asked about her own experience with date rape and how the authorities responded in her case, she immediately put it in the context of the financial crisis and the near-total lack of Wall St prosecutions.  (Start watching at 13:00).  Tkacik returns to the issue of Wall St. crimes several times during the interview, referring to them as “larger crimes” than even rape.  In doing so, she doesn’t appear to be simply drawing a metaphor, but invoking a worldview.  Moreover, it’s a way of looking at the world that I think many of us who have been close observers of the financial crisis have increasingly come to share.  We might differ on the specific issue of rape, but the idea that there is one set of rules for the elite and a different set of rules for everyone else is starting to harden into a consensus.

In contrast to the massive fraud in mortgage underwriting and securitization (think Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Countrywide), Tkacik calls the Galleon insider trading case an exercise in prosecutor PR.  Much to Wolf’s consternation, Tkacik also admits that she doesn’t really care if someone like DSK, a member of the international banking elite, has been treated unfairly by prosecutors, by Mayor Bloomberg or by the media, because (quote) “it looked like it [the rape] happened.”  At this point, Wolf nearly hyperventilates, insisting on the presumption of innocence, but Tkacik responds with a shrug, saying, essentially, that in the wake of the financial crisis it’s hard to muster outrage at the fact that DSK was frog marched or that we casually assume he did it.  Finally, in trying to explain this view, Tkacik describes herself as something of a “judicial relativist.”  In spite of Wolf’s eye rolls on this point, I think Tkacik describes the attitude of a great many of us who have waited month after month, year after year, for some consequences to come for those who contributed to the crisis through the commission of fraud, and thereby reaped enormous benefits.  And those consequences are not likely to come, especially as the statute of limitations begins to come into effect.  It’s no wonder, is it, that people are ready to take the law into their own hands?

But all of this points to an ironic paradox that seems to characterize the way many of us have come to think about the rule of law and how it relates to the so-called 1%.  On the one hand, one of the chief reasons we had a financial crisis in the first place, as well as one of the main reasons many of us are still so angry (and increasingly cynical), is that the basic rule of law has simply been tossed out the window.  Many laws, which are already on the books, just have not been enforced.  One of the most harmful and corrosive results of this is, that we have become less and less scrupulous about advocating the rule of law, at least when it comes to dealing with the banks and bankers.  The thinking goes like this:  if laws could be bent, broken and ignored in order to save AIG (in order to save Goldman Sachs and Soc. Gen.), then why not bend the laws just a little bit in order to break up Citigroup, or to prosecute Dick Fuld?  Or why, for instance, should we continue to pretend that Fabrice Tourre and Dan Sparks are not guilty of securities fraud in the way they marketed and sold Timberwolf?  (We know damn well they’re guilty, right?)  Or, as Tkacik argues, who cares if DSK’s name was dragged through the mud – he’s a banker (of sorts) and he probably did it anyway.  Besides we want some damn retribution.

It’s not unreasonable to look at the world this way.  In fact, because of the enormity of the financial crimes that have been committed in the last decade, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between the commitment to principle and mere naiveté (we’re looking at you, Naomi Wolf).  When the fundamental rules of the game have been trashed (or rigged in someone else’s favor), what’s the proper way to respond?  Do we continue on our merry, middle-class way, following the rules and being good citizens (all the while being financially raped), or do we take the law into our own hands and exact some kind of rough justice?  In light of the death-grip the banks have on our political process, I’m not sure there is an easy answer to that question, but it’s one that will soon have to be answered, one way or the other.  And I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a dark part of my bailout-weary soul that just doesn’t give a shit about rules anymore.  I just want to get even.

In any case, watch the clip.  A fascinating document of the times in which we live.


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Reader Comments (7)

Good one, Dr. P. The White House recently announced, in so many words, that the Rule of Law is dead. Check out this exchange between ABC correspondent Jake Tapper and White House press secretary Jay Carney concerning the Administration's unilateral decision to assassinate an Ameican citizen without trial, indictment, or indeed any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever:

Q. You said that Awlaki was demonstrably and provably involved in the operations. Do you plan on demonstrating—

A. You know, step back. He is clearly—you know, provably may be a legal term. I think it has been well-established, and it has certainly been the position of this Administration and the previous Administration, that he is a leader in, was a leader in AQAP, that AQAP was a definite threat, was operational, planned and carried out terrorist attacks that fortunately did not succeed, but were extremely serious, including the one specifically that I mentioned in terms of the would-be Christmas bombing in 2009, and the attempt to bomb numerous cargo planes headed for the United States. And he was obviously an active recruiter of al-Qaeda terrorists. So I don’t think anybody in the field would dispute any of those assertions.

Q. Not anybody else in the government would dispute—

A. Well, I don’t know of any credible terrorist expert who would dispute the fact that he was a leader in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and that he was operationally involved in terrorist attacks against American interests and citizens.

Q. Do you plan on bringing before the public any proof of these charges?

A. Again, the question has embedded within it assumptions about the circumstances of his death that I’m just not going to address.

Q. I really don’t understand. He’s dead. You are asserting that he had operational control of the cargo plot and Abdul Matallah plot. He’s now dead. Can you show us or the American people—or has a judge been shown—

A. Well, again, Jake [Tapper], I’m not going any further than what I’ve said about the circumstances of his death and the case against him, which again, you’re linking. I think that—

Q. No. You said that he was responsible for these things.

A. Yes. But again—

Q. Is there going to be any evidence presented?

A. You know, I don’t have anything for you on that?

Q. Do you not see at all, does the Administration not see at all how a President asserting that he has the right to kill an American citizen without due process, and that he’s not even going to explain why he thinks he has that right is troublesome to some people?

A. I wasn’t aware of any of those things that you said, actually happening. And again, I’m not going to address the circumstances of Awlaki’s death. I think it’s—again it is an important fact that this terrorist who was actively plotting, had plotted in the past and was actively plotting to attack Americans and American interests, is dead. But I’m not going to—from any angle—discuss the circumstances of his death.

Q. Do you know that the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU tried to get permission to represent Awlaki, and his father had asked that they do that? But they needed to get the permission of the Treasury Department so they could challenge his being on this targeted killing list. And this Administration, the Obama Administration, refused to let them represent him. He couldn’t even have the ACLU representing him.

A. I would send those questions or take those questions to Treasury or Justice. I don’t have anything on that for you.

Q. What do you think constitutional law professor Barack Obama would think of this?

A. I think he spoke about it today.


Well, that's it, folks. Not to be outdone by the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration has burned the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and indeed every legal document ever produced by Anglo-American jurisprudence all the way back through the Magna Carta itself.
Oct 17, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheyenne
Thanks for the transcription cheyenne...i'll get it posted eventually.
Oct 17, 2011 at 4:26 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
Naomi is correct, DSK was the subject of a political hit job irrespective of how guilty he may or may not have been.
The young reporter is amazingly naive if she can't see that this was the case. However, I believe she represents the attitude of many in society today. Heaven help us!
Oct 17, 2011 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterThomas Y
Dominique Strauss-Kahn took part in an orgy with prostitutes in New York just days before he was arrested there on attempted rape charges, it has been claimed.

Oct 18, 2011 at 9:37 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
Moe has the worst case of the "um & um's" I've ever seen. Is this the face of journalisome today? She does'nt even come close to Naomi Wolfs level. WTF? Can someone just give me a chip implant now? This generation is a total loss.!
Oct 27, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commenternicholas studyvin
"This generation is a total loss!"

Thank you, Gertrude Stein... Call it Generation Bailout. That was the point of this post -- that people of my generation are so shell-shocked by the bailouts that we've totally lost faith in basic institutions of justice. While there may be a danger in that, it could lead to real change, real reform down the road. Witness #OWS. We'll see, but one can hope.
Oct 27, 2011 at 11:39 AM | Registered CommenterDr. Pitchfork

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