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May 03, 2007

Wolfowitz blames bank rules for his conflict of interest

Paul Wolfowitz now blames "unclear" World Bank rules for his decision to personally order a raise for his girlfriend twice as large as World Bank rules allow.

This is getting almost Wittgensteinian: What World Bank rule says I must obey the World Bank rule not to order twice the raise for my girlfriend allowed by World Bank rules?

Touche, Wolfie!

Why, I bet the World Bank doesn't even have a rule about  lying about breaking World Bank rules!


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This is getting almost Wittgensteinian


I bet I can't see the beetle in your box, NTodd...

In the linked article, Wolfowitz just blames "ambiguous bank rules."

There is no complication of him saying that a rule needed to be repeated or anything like that.

The rules about the size of permissible raises for World Bank employees were very clear. We know that Riza's raise was twice what was allowed, and we know that Wolfie ordered it.

I'm sure there wasn't a official written rule about whether it was okay to lie about whether you gave your girlfriend a raise at the world bank. Yet, the fact that there was no official proscription against lying to cover rule-breaking doesn't exculpate anyone who did in fact do so.

My feelings exactly, FFOTD.

Totally agree with the thrust of your argument but have to question your use of "Wittgensteinian" to describe the situation. You mean Orwellian, right? Or Daliesque? Or simply insane? But please, however cool it sounds, not Wittgensteinian.

I'm not saying Wittgenstein would have made such an argument. I'm saying Wolfowitz is trying to exploit the kind of confusion that Wittgenstein called attention to when he discussed the paradox of interpretation.

Whatever set of rules you have, there's always the further question of how you should interpret those rules. So, if the rule says "No raises >X% of base salary" there's always the question of how to interpret that rule. Whatever further clarification might be supplied, one could always ask how we should interpret that rule.

Can I ask where I'd find Wittgenstein's discussion of this broad issue? I'm phi-curious.

How come with these people it always comes down to either incredible dishonesty or abject stupidity?

Since when is being really moronic and incompetent an excuse? That seems to be the flavor of the month - we didn't mean to do anything wrong, we just aren't that smart.

I see it as another "signing statement"... the interpreters "out" allowing for agreement and mutual association, affording the opportunity to further their agenda, but less the measure of responsibility needed to shoulder the costs.

Assuming that the WSJ coverage (and for that matter this Slate article - ) of this is correct Wolfowitz asked to recuse himself from anything to do with his girlfriend. It was the bank's ethics committee told him he couldn't do that but said that his girlfriend had to go and had to get a raise so as not to be out of pocket. He then implemented the ethics committee's recommendations and even got a note from the head saying "thank you" or similar.

You can entirely reasonably claim that world bank officials are vastly overpaid and you may dislike Mr Wolfowitz but in this case he seems to have been put in the position he's in by a bunch of world bank board members who are now leaving him to face the music alone when they realize the scandal.

Well, no, Francis, not really. The board never at any point suggested that he involve himself in negotiations for her future compensation. Nor did they suggest that that future compensation be at a significantly higher rate than was allowable under bank rules. Nor were they ever anything but clear that he should not be involved in any way with personnel matters involving an employee with whom he had an ongoing sexual relationship.

Now, you can definitely make a case that Mr. Wolfowitz has a rich history of making consequential decisions when he has no or inadequate knowledge of the implications in the real world, and it's never hampered him in Republican politics. Sadly, as the head of the World Bank he's required to do his due diligence by finding out what SOP in the World Bank is, even if that's not how he rolls. If he were going to personally negotiate personnel matters related to an employee he had an ongoing sexual relationship with. Which he wasn't allowed to do. According to the Ethics Board.

See how that works?

Maybe he couldn't see the "fog" for the fog.

I'm still having nightmares from that video of him schlurping his comb....

By the way, what does "Wittgensteinian" mean?

Hilarious! You nailed it, Lindsay. Sometimes, I think we have a wag-the-dog situation and there really is no Bush or Cheney or Wolfowitz or Gonzales or etc, etc. All I know about them is that they show up on my tv same as SpongeBob SquarePants; and how could anyone so awful as our current bevy of clowns be real and in charge of our country, and how could anyone so cute and lovable as SpongeBob not be real. Does one of these buttons on my computer allow me to choose which reality I want? Which one? I would like to push it now, please.

Heh, phi-curious, I like that.

This post got you on CAP's Progress Report, Lindsay! Not bad for something that references Wittgenstein.

What an amazing coincidence that his excuse would be the same the White House is using to justify their use of GOP email services for official business.

What are the chances?

Those darn rules are *so* confusing.

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