The DSK Affair surfaces again View 681 20110702-2


View 681 Saturday July 2, 2011 – 2

It was a bizarre story from the beginning. Dominic Strauss-Kahn, CEO of the International Monetary Fund and presumptive Socialist candidate for President of France, was arrested with fanfare, perp walk, and press conference by New York authorities. The District Attorney is the son of Cyrus Vance, Kennedy’s Secretary of the Army and Carter’s Secretary of State, and it was his press conference. The charge was that DSK had forcibly raped a hotel maid, supposedly after he came out of the shower to discover her presence in the $2,000 a night suite; overcome with lust, he forced her to have sex with him. Then he tried to flee the country. Incidentally, the DA is running for Mayor.

DSK is pretty well known as a womanizer, but he is also very rich, and New York is a city with no shortage of models, escorts, and call girls of various degrees of elegance. One suspects that for less than the cost of the suite DSK could have been met as he emerged from the shower by a far more attractive young lady than a Guinean single mother working as a hotel maid. The French reaction from a Socialist leader:

To tell the truth, everybody knows that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a libertine; what distinguishes him from plenty of others is his propensity not to hide it. In Puritan American, impregnated with rigorous Protestantism, they tolerate infinitely better the sins of money than the pleasures of the flesh. It would be easy to trap a personality so unresistant to feminine attractions as D.S.K.

It’s a reasonable reaction, and one that ought to have occurred to Cyrus Vance. If ever there was a situation made to order for a detective story, this was it: wealthy man, bizarre crime, victim with a very unusual story; no witnesses and little evidence other than the story of the victim; but apparently the temptation to have a say in French politics was too much for Mr. Vance, thus the perp walk and press conference before any real examination of the credibility of the accuser.

Now, it comes out, there may have been a few flaws in the case. The victim turns out to have made up stories before, to have asked at least one shady character how she could make money out of this, and to have received a rather large sum of money from some mysterious friends: exactly the elements one expects to find in a mystery story. I suspect we will see a Castle episode about this sometime in future. It ought to play well. Cyrus Vance Senior was often accused of credulity in dealing with the Russians. Apparently it runs in the family.

Of course this proclivity to believe the worst about anyone of stature is a rampant part of the modern age. For decades we have had best selling mystery novels in which the major plot element is that the most venerable and respected person in the story is inevitably the villain. We have seen episode after episode of Law and Order in which murders are never committed by street urchins or hoodlums: it’s always by a Park Avenue physician, or a stock broker, or the socially prominent wife of a wealthy professional, or – well, you get the idea. Prior to those, Ross MacDonald made a career of villainizing the prominent members of Santa Barbara county. And, of course, there had to be the fetish of giving greater weight to the (improbable) story told by an illegal immigrant hotel maid than to that told by a high ranking member of the international ruling class. The irony is that DSK is a prominent Socialist and liberal intellectual. I am sure that Mr. Vance would have been much happier had the supposed rapist been, say, Sarah Palin’s husband, or Rush Limbaugh rather than DSK; but when you’re running for Mayor against a fortune, you take what you can get for publicity.

We still don’t know precisely what happened in that hotel suite, but there was a time when everyone automatically would have suspected: maid sees opportunity, offers sexual favors to prominent and very wealthy man, continues to clean the room afterwards, and contemplates how she can make a bit of money out of the deal. That may not have been what happened, but most of my generation would have suspected it from the beginning. DSK, after all, could have afforded the most expensive call girl in Manhattan, and the hotel will not lack people who can tell him how to make the arrangement in case he didn’t know. “Go take your shower, monsieur, and when you emerge someone will be waiting…”

Ah well. Perhaps Cyrus Vance, Junior, doesn’t read detective stories.

And we have not heard the last of this one.

School Thought Experiment View 681 20110702


View 681 Saturday, July 2, 2011 – 1

I’ve been catching up all day. I’ve been working on fiction, including getting some older books ready for Kindle publication, but also on the new novella with Niven and Barnes. This takes place in the Legacy of Heorot world, and is set in the time between that first book and Beowulf’s Children. (The Kindle version of Beowulf’s Children is in preparation.) We are calling this a novella but it will be about 50,000 words, which was a novel when I got into this racket.

There’s a ton of stuff to write about, but it’s late.

Thought experiment: in most cities now the average expenditure per child in school is $10,000. Now High Schools may have different requirements, but in my time, grade school was 2 grades to the room, about 20-25 students to the grade, and a teacher with a 2 year Normal school degree. Imagine now that we take a four-year degreed teacher, give her 25 students, and $200,000. She is free to do with the money as she sees fit, but for every student who doesn’t get a passing grade (we’ll quibble about how we go about determining that another time) she gets docked $8,000, and for every student who gets outstanding grades she gets a $10,000 bonus. Again we can quibble about how all this is determined, but assume it’s meaningful and real, not just a way to stroke the unions. She’s free to teach anywhere she wants; we can be sure that capitalism will take care of offering classrooms for rent with desks and chalkboards and all the expected accoutrements. She can hire assistants as she likes. She can buy or rent computers, and Internet connections. In other words, she is free to try what she likes and keep the profits, so long as the kids learn, and she can go for the bonuses.

Do you think this would be an improvement over what we are doing now?

It’s late. Good night.