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BHL ups the ante

In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, Bernard-Henri Lévy continues to defend his buddy Dominique Strauss-Kahn. A translated selection:

Zeit: But Dominique Strauss-Kahn was treated like any other suspect.

BHL: Yes. But he's not like everyone else. When a run-of-the-mill murderer leaves the police station in handcuffs, a firing squad of cameras isn't awaiting him. But when it's Strauss-Kahn, the whole world is watching. To act like you don't see the difference there, that's the real injustice.

Zeit: Contempt for the American justice system seems to be spreading in France.

BHL: This is not a problem of justice, it's a problem of politics. On the one hand, they don't want to show the pictures of the dead Bin Laden so as not to insult Muslims. On the other hand, they present pictures of Strauss-Kahn on a constant loop without bothering to see if that might insult his wife or family.

Zeit: France's media has been discussing Strauss-Kahn's lifestyle for the past two weeks...

BHL: The fields were tilled in advance. Preparatory shots were fired. And now you have the result: the head of the IMF wearing the very corset of guilt that was designed for him.

Zeit: Are we learning anything new about the relationship between power and sex?

BHL: That puritanical nonsense has overtaken western society.

This is so confused as to be really kind of delightful. Yes, just why didn't President Obama realize that allowing the release of the DSK photos would potentially jeopardize national security by angering the Strauss-Kahn household? And if only Americans had the foresight to realize that the history books will record  as the "real injustice" their treatment of DSK as a normal human being...

Anyway, I'd suggest resisting the temptation to correct the multiple misjudgments in favor of simply appreciating the floridness of Lévy's imagination. (Is a "corset of guilt" a real garment? Is that why Lévy keeps his shirt unbuttoned to his navel, to show he's not wearing one?) Here's hoping Strauss-Kahn calls BHL in as a character witness.

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International Male Frathouse?

Today's New York Times piece on the culture of  sexual harassment at the IMF may torpedo the candidacy of Turkish economist Kemal Dervis, considered the frontrunner as of yesterday, a paints a very unexpected picture of the institution:

Some women avoid wearing skirts for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Others trade whispered tips about overly forward bosses. A 2008 internal review found few restraints on the conduct of senior managers, concluding that “the absence of public ethics scandals seems to be more a consequence of luck than good planning and action.”  [...]

What may draw even more attention to the culture of the fund is the revelation of an affair involving a potential successor to Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as managing director on Wednesday. Kemal Dervis of Turkey had a liaison while working at the World Bank years ago with a woman who now works at the I.M.F., according to a person with direct knowledge of the relationship.

Interviews and documents paint a picture of the fund as an institution whose sexual norms and customs are markedly different from those of Washington, leaving its female employees vulnerable to harassment. The laws of the United States do not apply inside its walls, and until earlier this month the I.M.F.’s own rules contained an unusual provision that some experts and former officials say has encouraged managers to pursue the women who work for them: “Intimate personal relationships between supervisors and subordinates do not, in themselves, constitute harassment.”

“It’s sort of like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’; the rules are more like guidelines,” said Carmen M. Reinhart, a prominent female economist who served as the I.M.F.’s deputy director for research from 2001 to 2003. “That sets the stage, I think, for more risk-taking.”

Between this story and Angela Merkel's unexpected praise today, signs are looking pretty positive for the Christine Lagarde candidacy.  

Update: Dervis says he's not in the running

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images