Friday, April 8, 2011

When Presidents Rape

Alpha males are notorious womanizers, as you well know if you dated, married, or worked for one.  But is it possible to go too far once you've reached the lofty heights of president of a modern nation?  Two current cases in the news suggest that it might just be possible.

EXHIBIT A:  Ex-President of Israel, Moshe Katsav (on the right in the photo), was convicted by a three-judge District Court in March, 2011, of rape, sexual assault, and harassment of three women employed in his vicinity, and of obstruction of justice.  Katsav has denied all the charges and backed out of a plea deal offered by the court that would have involved pleading guilty to lesser charges with no jail time.  Hoping to salvage his good name, he opted for the trial which resulted in the multiple convictions.  Sentencing will be in May.

EXHIBIT B:  Current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is to appear (or not) before a court in Milan to examine, for the first time, his private life, notably whether he had sex with an underage Moroccan girl who may or may not be a sex worker, lied to police to get her released from jail, and other assorted claims of favoritism.  Berlusconi has survived court inquiries into his business/political life before, and when corruption trials were on the horizon, had laws changed to protect himself.  He is making jokes about the current trial when not blaming it on persecution by left-wingers.

Is this a new day dawning for women in Europe?  For women in general everywhere?  WNL decided to take a look at some of the reporting on both these trials, both in the United States, and in Israel and Italy, home base for the two Alphas.

In Israel, there are two notable opinions about Katsav's recent convictions.
“This is a sad day for the State of Israel and its residents,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the verdict.
He added: “Today, the court conveyed two clear-cut messages — that all are equal before the law and that every woman has exclusive rights to her body.” (
Women's rights advocates agreed, The NYT  reporting
Israeli women’s groups hailed the verdict. “Finally, victims in Israel feel validated,” said Miriam Schler, director of the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, who was among a hundred or so women’s rights activists gathered outside the court. “It is an extremely historic day.”
Fewer than 20 percent of the women who contact Israel’s rape crisis centers file complaints, and of those cases that are filed, 64 percent end without an indictment, Ms. Schler said.
But the only reason there was a trial was because of Katsav's insistence on it, arrogantly and it turns out foolishly refusing to believe he could possibly be convicted. 
Katsav resigned in June 2007 and became a leper of the political establishment. He was only formally indicted in March 2009, more than two years after the case went public.
He initially accepted a plea bargain that incensed women's rights groups. However, he later decided that instead of facing trial for lesser charges he would "fight until the truth comes out" and called the deal off.
As he read the verdict on Thursday, presiding Judge George Kara told the former president that this decision was "a grave mistake." (reported by AlJazeera)
So, although Katsav was forced to resign the presidency and "became a leper", there was no will to prosecute him for anything that might involve jail time, so he was immediately offered, and initially accepted, a plea deal that would have been a legal slap on the wrist.  Turns out the "extremely historic day" was actually a miscalculation by the defendent, and instead of being reprimanded by the presiding judge for being a convicted rapist, Katsav was told passing up the offer to resolve the matter by admitting to lesser charges was "a grave mistake."

Turning to Italian politics, flamboyant 74-year-old billionaire and media mogul (and, oh yes, Prime Minister of Italy) Silvio Berlusconi gives the impression of being fully in control of the latest scandal in his presidency.  He's in control, all right.  Benedetta Brevini explains how in this article for UK's Guardian
What is even more alarming is the constant spin and censorship on all Italian news reports coming from RAI [Italian public television, controlled by the government] and from Berlusconi's commercial TV monopoly. The recent demonstrations that have broken out in several Italian cities have not even been mentioned by the majority of TV news reports. It has been alleged by La Repubblica that the chief editor of Berlusconi's family newspaper, the news director of the Mediaset empire and the directors of Berlusconi's magazines have all been summoned to a crucial meeting at the government's headquarters in Rome to plan the spin for the days to come.
Most of the work of the propaganda machine is obviously concentrated on television. Often it involves telling editors to spread the same, consistent message: that the magistrates are illegitimately prosecuting the prime minster, that the critical newspapers are publishing lies and that the electorate – il popolo – has given Berlusconi the mandate to rule, and therefore il popolo is his only natural judge. Montesquieu would rightly be rolling in his grave.
So what is then left for Italian people to ascertain? How can they secure an unbiased public opinion, brainwashed as they are by their own videocracy? Certainly, they could start reading newspapers. But why should they do so when for decades they have been told that newspapers are owned by communists and spread lies?
The Italian democratic emergency is not due to Italian admiration for a Casanova prime minster, as we so often read in the foreign media. It is due to Berlusconi's unconstitutional media empire and his efficient, unchallenged propaganda machine.
Turns out that this tempest over an underage Moroccan prostitute (for more on her, check out this Guardian article) is actually an attempt to get a handle on an out-of-control PM by the only opposing force left in Italian society, the magistrates,  a combination of judges and prosecutors often involved in anti-corruption efforts within the country.  According to this article in Time Magazine, the magistrates were able to bring down the previous government in Italy, and in the 1990s heroically took on the Mafia, resulting in the murders of a number of prosecutors.

So this isn't about women at all, not even the underage woman it is supposed to be about.  This is one part of an attempt by those who are sick of Berlusconi's corruption and control and his making a laughing stock of Italy on the world stage (for example, his chummy agreements with BFF Muammar Gadaffi and his unfunny "bunga bunga" party references) to start moving him to the sidelines.

WNL's CONCLUSION:  Alpha males come and go, even on the world stage, but how they treat women has nothing to do with their rise or their fall.  Women are nothing more than collateral damage - if anybody is bothering to keep those statistics.

(photo of Berlusconi and Katsav together on some official occasion from a news service)

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