Monday Reads: Unwanted Ivanka and “Je ne suis pas amusé” Legard

My Caption for this:
In her Princess Jasmine nightie giving daddy the big girl now eyes!!

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Just when you think the Trump Family Crime Syndicate couldn’t embarrass the country any more we get another command performance at the G-20.  Ivanka Trump showed up in what looked like a pink nightie (it reportedly cost about $4500) and barged unwanted into circles, conversations, and pictures with World leaders.  Democratically elected Presidents and PMs got Ivanka. Dictators got the Russian Potted Plant.  C’est la guerre.

Prizes go to the French government via the Financial Times:

The abiding image from this year’s G20 summit will not be Donald Trump sharing another chuckle with Vladimir Putin. It is the clip of his daughter, Ivanka, inserting herself into an awkward circle of world leaders.

The video, released by the French government, shows varying expressions of tortured politeness as Ms Trump intrudes on a discussion between France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Theresa May, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF. Ms Lagarde, in particular, was unable to conceal her irritation.

What they were discussing is secondary. Mr Macron made a point about social justice. Mrs May replied that people notice when the economy is brought into it. Ms Trump then interrupted with a non sequitur about how the defence industry is male-dominated. The real point is that America’s self-named “First Daughter” is rarely out of the frame at global summits. Other Trump officials are almost invisible compared with Ms Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, the only two White House players who are thought to be immune from Mr Trump’s trademark phrase: “You’re fired.”

By contrast, leaders of patrimonial countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are very comfortable with Ms Trump’s role. Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, conducts much of his US communication over WhatsApp with Mr Kushner. The first son-in-law is also a favoured conduit for other leaders. Rex Tillerson, the former US secretary of state, recently disclosed that he had found out his Mexican counterpart was in Washington when he stumbled across him dining with Mr Kushner.

The absolute audacity of all these displays of nepotism, despot adoration, and stupidity just shows how low we’ve fallen in a few short years.  The WAPO and writer Ann Gearan put it this way: “‘Surreal’: Ivanka Trump plays a prominent role in her father’s historic Korea trip”.  I call it insulting to every woman that ever had to earn her way to the top with degrees, jobs, and personal skills that exponentially pass all of her peers.

Few Americans alive today have set foot inside North Korea, the isolated, nuclear-armed dictatorship sometimes called the Hermit Kingdom.

On Sunday, Ivanka Trump became one of them, capping a consequential three-day Asian trip in which the president’s eldest daughter played a very public role that blended family ties with diplomatic work that is usually performed by diplomats.

She pronounced the short walk to the other side of one of the world’s most fortified borders “surreal.”

Previously, at the Group of 20 economic summit in Japan, Ivanka Trump was everywhere — at her father’s side at times when other leaders’ spouses were present (first lady Melania Trump skipped the trip), in meetings where her presence puzzled other participants, and even giving an awkward video “readout” of Trump’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Another video of Ivanka Trump talking with British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde at the G-20 also went viral over the weekend. Lagarde’s impatient side-eye as Ivanka Trump interjects in what appears to have been a back-and-forth between Macron and May suggested irritation at finding herself standing alongside the daughter of the U.S. president — rather than the president himself.

“As soon as you charge them with that economic aspect of it, a lot of people start listening who otherwise wouldn’t listen,” May can be heard saying, as Lagarde nods in agreement.

“And the same with the defense side of it, in terms of the whole business that’s been, sort of, male-dominated,” Ivanka Trump then says, as a startled-looking Lagarde turns toward her, then purses her lips.

The first daughter’s prominence in Japan and South Korea appeared to be by design — a sign of her influence with President Trump and the current absence of influential opponents within the administration.

It’s not clear, however, to what end.

This led to some surreal fun last night on twitter.  The HuffPo notes:”‘Unwanted Ivanka’ Is The Latest Meme After *That* Awkward G20 Video.The president’s daughter tried to insert herself into a conversation between world leaders and it ended in… ridicule.” The most unreal moment is that of her actually sitting next to her father in her Princess Jasmine nightgown ($4500) flirting happily with him while every other leader of the G20 looks quite hostile, put out,  and disgusted.

Enjoy yourself some “Unwanted Ivanka” photoshop play! Then watch Sarah Kendzior talk about how far off the rails our country has gone with Trumpism.

This is from New York Magazine:  Trump’s G20 Trip Was a Victory for Dictators.

When Trump wasn’t posing for smiling snapshots with this all-star cast of brutal dictators, he was taking potshots at real U.S. allies like Europe and Japan. Prior to the summit, he said Europe “treats us worse than China” and repeated his talking point about NATO members not paying their fair share of costs, while also somehow claiming credit for the fact that NATO still exists at all. His talks with European leaders at the G20 were friendly enough, but seemed to skirt around the heaviest issues weighing on the American-European alliance.

On Saturday, he dropped another pointless bombshell, saying he had told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the post-World War II security treaty between the U.S. and Japan would need to be rewritten because it was unfair to the U.S. in that it commits the U.S. to defend Japan but not vice-versa. (The New York Times’ Gary Bass explains why this is absurd, even by Trump’s standards). Withdrawing from the pact would mean pulling large numbers of U.S. forces out of Asia at an extremely bad time, which means it’s a total nonstarter with the Pentagon and has little to no chance of actually happening. All Trump accomplishes by picking this fight is insulting a longstanding ally and signaling to China and North Korea that this security alliance is negotiable.

To be sure, Trump isn’t the only reason why authoritarianism is on the rise in rich and middle-income countries. Putin’s dark assessment that Western liberalism has failed and will soon fade from this earth has an element of truth to it, and Trump is much more a consequence than a cause of that failure. Yet it is impossible to feel good about the future of liberal democracy around the world when the president of the United States consistently praises and accommodates its enemies, such that the U.S. is no longer seen as reliably on the side of the angels.

Well, we already have Gulags for children at the border. Add to that the fact that our democracy is dying then read this Third Reichish request: “Trump asks for military tanks on the Mall as part of grandiose July Fourth event.”

National Park Service acting director P. Daniel Smith faces plenty of looming priorities this summer, from an $11 billion backlog in maintenance needs to natural disasters like the recent wildfire damage to Big Bend Park.

But in recent days, another issue has competed for Smith’s attention: how to satisfy President Trump’s request to station tanks or other armored military vehicles on the Mall for his planned Fourth of July address to the nation.

The ongoing negotiations over whether to use massive military hardware, such as Abrams tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles, as a prop for Trump’s “Salute to America” is just one of many unfinished details when it comes to the celebration planned for Thursday, according to several people briefed on the plan, who requested anonymity to speak frankly.

Trump — who has already ordered up a flyover by military aircraft including Air Force One — is also interested in featuring an F-35 stealth fighter and involvement from Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which flies the presidential helicopter, two government officials aid. The Navy’s Blue Angels were supposed to have a break between a performance in Davenport, Iowa on June 30 and one in Kansas City, Mo. on July 6, but will now be flying in D.C. on the Fourth.

Paging Republican Deficit Hawks?  Wasteful Government spending clean up on Aisle Trump!!! 

But, as Michael Tomasky Writes for the NYT, “Do the Republicans Even Believe in Democracy Anymore?”  My vote is absolutely NOT.

A number of observers, myself included, have written pieces in recent years arguing that the Republican Party is no longer simply trying to compete with and defeat the Democratic Party on a level playing field. Today, rather than simply playing the game, the Republicans are simultaneously trying to rig the game’s rules so that they never lose.

The aggressive gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court just declared to be a matter beyond its purview; the voter suppression schemes; the dubious proposals that haven’t gone anywhere — yet — like trying to award presidential electoral votes by congressional district rather than by state, a scheme that Republicans in five states considered after the 2012 election and that is still discussed: These are not ideas aimed at invigorating democracy. They are hatched and executed for the express purpose of essentially fixing elections.

We have been brought up to believe that American political parties are the same — that they are similar creatures with similar traits and similar ways of behaving. Political science spent decades teaching us this. The idea that one party has become so radically different from the other, despite mountains of evidence, is a tough sell.

It’s a hard sell to make for one very simple reason: It doesn’t have a name, this thing the Republicans are trying to do. It’s not true democracy that they want. But it’s also a bit much to call them outright authoritarians. And there’s nothing in between.

We need only look to the Supreme Court and notice this: “The Supreme Court, gerrymandering, and the Republican turn against democracy.A bigger threat to American democracy than Donald Trump.”  This was written by Zack Beauchamp at Vox.

The Supreme Court’s Thursday morning ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause amounts to a blank check for partisan gerrymandering. Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion holds that federal courts should not have the power to declare particular maps unconstitutional, as doing so would be “unprecedented expansion of judicial power … into one of the most intensely partisan aspects of American political life.”

What this means, in practice, is that local authorities get to decide on the shape of House and state legislative districts. Parties that control statehouses will be freer to not only cement their own hold on power but ensure that their party sends more representatives to Washington as well.

While Republicans and Democrats both gerrymander, there is no doubt that Republicans do it more and more shamelessly. North Carolina Rep. David Lewis, who helped draw one of the maps at issue in Rucho, was admirably honest about his motives in a 2016 statehouse speech.

“I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” he explained. “So I drew this map in a way to help foster what I think is better for the country.”

This principle — that Republicans believe their rule is better and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure they take and hold power — does not merely lead to gerrymandering. It has produced a whole host of undemocratic actions, at both state and federal levels, that amount to a systematic threat to American democracy. Indeed, some of the best scholarship we have on American democracy suggests that this is even more alarming than it sounds; that it fits historical patterns of democratic backsliding both in the United States and abroad.

In her dissent to Roberts’s ruling, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that “gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government.” I’d take it a step further.

The Court’s ruling in Rucho reveals that there’s a threat to American democracy more subtle and yet greater than the Trump presidency: the Republican Party’s drift toward being institutionally hostile to democracy.

The Court’s ruling permits a systematic attack on democracy

Partisan gerrymandering is, on its face, an obviously anti-democratic practice. State legislators pack large numbers of voters from the opposing party into a handful of legislative districts, thus ensuring their voters dominate the bulk of districts and hand them a majority. It gives their supporters’ votes more weight, a direct violation of the core democratic principles relating to equal citizenship and representation.

We can look no further than to our know-nothing President and his Russian mentor for clues.  This is from New York Magazine. “Trump Thinks Putin’s Attack on ‘Western-Style Liberalism’ Was About California.”

Putin was expressing a broadly fashionable argument that he has promoted for years, and that has recently taken hold among reactionaries in several Western countries, including the United States. Their critique is not of liberalism in the sense of the American center-left tradition identified with the Democratic party, but the longer historical tradition of liberalism that emerged from the theories of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and other traditional philosophers whose beliefs created the foundation for democratic government. Most graduates of an elite college who took any humanities courses would have some rough familiarity with their work, which is a cornerstone of what’s called a “liberal education.” The “West,” of course, refers to Europe and the United States, where liberal ideas first took hold.

Trump did not recognize this debate at all. Instead, he concluded that “the west” means California, and “liberalism” means the Democratic Party.

Believing Putin had criticized life in California rather than America’s philosophy of government, Trump explained that, yes, Putin is correct that things are terrible in cities in California (“he does see things that are happening in the United States that would probably preclude him from saying how wonderful it is.”) But, Trump added, this is the fault of the Democrats, not him. He then assured reporters he’s not offended, because Putin has congratulated him on the overall state of the American economy.

Trump’s riff encapsulates the comic and sinister aspects of his political rise. As demographic change has made the U.S. population more progressive, Republicans have embraced more authoritarian methods to preserve their minority rule. Just this week, Florida Republicans imposed a poll tax to prevent enfranchised former prisoners from exercising their right to vote.

Trump himself is an instinctive authoritarian. He demands subservience, identifies himself completely with the state, denies the right of journalists to criticize him, believes he has the right to start or stop any prosecution at his discretion, refuses to acknowledge Congress’s right to conduct any oversight of his administration, and praises foreign dictators for their strength. Bonding with Putin, Trump joked at their shared disdain for independent media. “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?” Trump said. “You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.”

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress have nothing better to do than lie in wait to attack Mueller and the Russia Investigation.  This is from Natasha Bertrand writing for Politico.

Democrats have been dying to hear directly from special counsel Robert Mueller for months, but they’re not alone. President Donald Trump’s GOP allies in Congress are salivating at the chance to bruise Mueller’s reputation and cast doubt on the integrity of his work.

Mueller’s intensely anticipated July 17 testimony will bring him face to face with the Republican lawmakers who have savaged his reputation and called him the ringleader of a “coup” against Trump. While Democrats attempt to squeeze morsels of new information out of the notoriously tight-lipped investigator, these Trump defenders are signaling that they’ll use the historic moment to try to undercut his credibility and paint him as a political pawn in Democrats’ efforts to undermine the president.

“He’s done some irreparable damage to some things and he’s got to answer for them,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, one of 25 Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees who get to grill Mueller during the back-to-back hearings.The Texas congressman added that his reading of the special counsel’s report did little to temper his long history of animosity for the former FBI director: “It reinforced the anal opening that I believe Mueller to be.”

Many House Republicans on the committees set to interview him have actually supported Mueller in the past, even if they’ve criticized his Russia investigation; they’ve sought to separate the man — a senior Justice Department appointee dating to the George H.W. Bush administration and Marine Corps veteran — from the probe.

But Mueller will also face a grilling from Trump’s top Republican allies in Congress, including Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.). They intend to press him on long-held articles of Trumpian faith: that Mueller’s team was biased against the president from the start and that the Russia investigation was tainted by inappropriate surveillance.

It seriously amazes me that Louie Gohmert has not gone off with those nice young man in their clean white coats yet for an extended stay.  The Daily Beast says they will focus on those two FBI agents who fucked each other.  Like the Republicans should pearl clutch about that.

Republican lawmakers, as well as prominent allies and legal advisers to this president, want to turn it into a hostile referendum on the nexus of the “deep state” and sexual dalliance and infidelity—which is to say that they want to use Mueller’s testimony to zero in on the duo that President Trump has repeatedly slammed as “the FBI lovers.”

What the hell is this shit?  And why can’t we focus on this?  Recognize the Nobility Clause of the US Constitution?

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

The Wiki explanation is this:

The Framers’ intentions for this clause were twofold: to prevent a society of nobility from being established in the United States, and to protect the republican forms of government from being influenced by other governments. In Federalist No. 22Alexander Hamilton stated, “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.” Therefore, to counter this “foreign corruption” the delegates at the Constitutional Convention worded the clause in such a way as to act as a catch-all for any attempts by foreign governments to influence state or municipal policies through gifts or titles

We’re coming up on the celebration of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence of which I am the descendant of six signers of that Document and I can tell you my family takes our heritage on this very seriously. Two of my ancestors signed the US Constitution. Members of my family have fought in every war on the right side of the Republic since the Revolution.

We’ve get some idiot president’s idiot daughter acting like an heir apparent in a Princes Jasmine Nightie (at $4500) who can’t find her way around a cogent economics discussion because she HAS NO FUCKING CLUE OR QUALIFICATIONS.  We have the Russian Potted Plant saying Russia go ahead and collude with me again on TV.  We have evidence that the desire for planting Hotels with his name on it in countries run by a despot is his priority.  Can we please get some fucking oversight here and maybe a damned impeachment on the road?

So, I leave you something uplifting.  Here’s a parade that represents what American is about and a candidate I believe that will uphold it in a Levis Jacket that probably didn’t cause the annual food expense of your normal family of four.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads


Good Morning!

Many of you might be stuck in your homes today with all that weather so here are some things to keep you busy. First, Richard Engle’s Diary of his kidnapping in Syria has been published in Vanity Fair.

A group of about 15 armed men were fanning out around us. Three or four of them stood in the middle of the road blocking our vehicles. The others went for the doors. They wore black jackets, black boots, and black ski masks. They were professionals and used hand signals to communicate. A balled fist meant stop. A pointed finger meant advance. Each man carried an AK-47. Several of the gunmen began hitting the windows of our car and minivan with the stocks of their weapons. When they got the doors open, they leveled their guns at our chests.

Time was slowing down as if I’d been hit in the head. Time was slowing down as if I were drowning.

This can’t be happening. I know what this is. This can’t be happening. These are the shabiha. They’re fucking kidnapping us.

“Get out!” a gunman was yelling as he dragged Aziz from the car.

Then I saw the container truck. It wasn’t far away, parked off the road and hidden among olive trees. The metal doors at its rear stood open, flanked by gunmen.

That’s where they are going to put us. That’s here for us. We’re going into that truck.

I got out of the car. Two of the gunmen were already marching Aziz to the truck. He had his hands up, his shoulders back, his head tilted forward to protect against blows from behind.

Maybe I should run. Maybe I should run right now. But the road is flat and open. The only cover is by the trees near the truck. Maybe I should run. But where?

I saw John standing by the minivan. Gunmen were taking Ian toward the truck. It was his turn. Like me, John hadn’t been touched yet.

Maybe they’ve forgotten us? Maybe they don’t want us?

Our eyes made contact. John shrugged and opened his hands in disbelief. Time was going very slowly now, but my mind was racing like a panicked heart in a body that can’t move.

“Get going!” a gunman yelled at me in Arabic, pointing his weapon at my chest.

I looked at him blankly, pretending not to understand. Foreigners who speak Arabic in the Middle East are often assumed to be working for the C.I.A. or Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad. The gunman took me by the finger, holding on to it by the very tip. I could have pulled it away with the smallest tug.

But then what? Then go where?

John was the next to join us in the back of the truck. He walked slowly, as if being escorted to a waiting limo. John is a New Yorker and was dressed entirely in black. He has long white hair and a devilish smile, and his nickname is the Silver Fox. He and I had been in a lot of rough places—Libya, Iraq, Gaza. John, Ghazi, and Aziz were among my closest friends in the world.

At least I’ll die with my friends.

This will let you know how tough it is out here: “To Place Graduates, Law Schools Are Opening Firms”.

The plan is one of a dozen efforts across the country to address two acute — and seemingly contradictory — problems: heavily indebted law graduates with no clients and a vast number of Americans unable to afford a lawyer.

This paradox, fed by the growth of Internet-based legal research and services, is at the heart of a crisis looming over the legal profession after decades of relentless growth and accumulated wealth. It is evident in the sharp drop in law school applications and the increasing numbers of Americans showing up in court without a lawyer.

“It’s a perfect storm,” said Stacy Caplow, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who focuses on clinical education. “The longstanding concerns over access to justice for most Americans and a lack of skills among law graduates are now combined with the problems faced by all law schools. It’s creating conditions for change.”

Remember  John Yoo.  He was the lawyer/author of those Bush legal memos justifying torture.  He thinks that Obama is “getting too much grief over targeted killing”.

And he wants Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—who filibustered Obama’s nominee to head the CIA for 13 hours on Wednesday—to lay off.

“I admire libertarians but I think Rand Paul’s filibuster in many ways is very much what libertarians do, they make these very symbolic gestures, standing for some extreme position,” said Yoo, now a UC Berkeley law professor, who once suggested it was okay for the president to order a child’s testicles be crushed. Referring to Paul’s marathon filibuster, an attempt to force the Obama administration to clarify its views on the use of military force against terror suspects in the United States, Yoo said “It sort of reminds me of young kids when they first read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and they suddenly think that federal taxation equals slavery and they’re not going to pay any federal taxes anymore.” Yoo’s statements were made on a conference call Thursday held by the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal organization.

Paul’s conservative colleagues also pushed back on him on Thursday: On the Senate floor, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mocked Paul’s objections as “ridiculous.”

Yoo said that he thought the administration’s problems stemmed from its belief that it needed to provide “due process” to terror suspects abroad—or even in the United States, referring to a recently leaked white paper outlining the Obama administration’s legal views on targeted killings of US citizen terror suspects.

So, here’s an interesting study.  It seems that the “States With Most Gun Laws Have Fewest Gun Deaths”.

“It seems pretty clear: If you want to know which of the states have the lowest gun-mortality rates just look for those with the greatest number of gun laws,” said Dr. Eric W. Fleegler of Boston Children’s Hospital who, with colleagues, analyzed firearm-related deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 through 2010.

By scoring individual states simply by the sheer volume of gun laws they have on the books, the researchers noted that in states with the highest number of firearms measures, their rate of gun deaths is collectively 42 percent lower when compared to states that have passed the fewest number of gun rules. The study was published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

 As proof, Fleegler pointed to the firearm-fatality rates in law-laden states such as Massachusetts (where there were 3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 individuals), New Jersey (4.9 per 100,000) and Connecticut (5.1 per 100,000). In states with sparser firearms laws, researchers reported that gun-mortality rates were higher: Louisiana (18.0 per 100,000), Alaska (17.5 per 100,000) and Arizona (13.6 per 100,000).

Speaking of working to end violence, today is Intentional Women’s Day. This year’s theme  is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” Here’s some headlines for that celebration. First off, here’s French economist and head of the IMF Christine BEys8WOCIAAO8YI.jpg largeLeguarde.  You can watch her speak at this IMF Link. 

Here’s some suggested readings for you.

From the UK Guardian: “International Women’s Day: school is ‘the new front line of feminism’

Surveys and anecdotal evidence may suggest that few young women identify with the word feminism, fearing it sits at odds with a desire to wear makeup or heels. Yet there are increasing signs of an interest in gender equality issues among these same young women, who are now turning to social media such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook to reach out to fellow activists or just to share experiences and seek advice about what can be done.

Laura Bates, the founder of the #everydaysexism campaign, says that 10% of its more than 20,000 entries detailing harassment come from under-16s, with many more from colleges.

Campaign group UK Feminista has been so inundated with requests to speak to schools around the country that it has now launched a two-year programme of workshops and campaigns aimed at secondary pupils. Called Generation F: Young Feminists in Action, it comes as the government considers a cross-party bid to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.

From World News Australia, we read that  “International Women’s Day 2013: Gender inequality ‘still rife'”.

Australian women make up just over half of the total Australian population.

In some areas, equality has been achieved, but in others there is clearly a long way to go.

The boards of both private and public organisations are still dominated by men.

For instance, only about 10 per cent of the executives of companies listed in the Australian Stock Exchange Market are female.

And according to federal government figures, average weekly earnings for women are $250 less than men.

United Nations Women director for Australia, Julie McKay, thinks a combination of socio-economic factors contribute to this situation.

“I think there’s a huge issue about unconscious bias, that we sometimes don’t even realise that we have, about the roles that women should play and the sort of characteristics that make different people leaders. But I think we also got other issues around accessibility and affordability of child care, which prevent many women being able to access work and particularly full time work.”

Many migrant and refugee women in Australia can be prevented from working in the field in which they’re experienced, due to lack of English skills or problems with qualification recognition.

But Chin Wong, from the Australian Migrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance, says that doesn’t mean they don’t get into the workforce.

She argues that female newcomers can be preferred by employers because they are more likely to ignore their rights, and tend to argue less than men about working conditions.

“Sometimes the women can find jobs easier than men and therefore a lot of times the man become the homemaker, and the woman has to go to work. But that doesn’t mean that when they come home they don’t still have to make sure that the houses are maintained, because that’s culture. Some of the cultures mean that the women have to do most of the work.”

Here’s two suggested reads on racism in America by Ed Kilgore with a link to Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column in the New York Time.

If you are a white person who has on occasion felt aggrieved at the persistence of allegations of white racism in America, do yourself and your conscience a favor and read Ta-Nehisi’s Coates’ guest column today in the New York Times.

His point of departure is the humiliating frisking of the very famous and distinguished actor Forest Whitaker by an employee of a deli in Coates’ own Manhattan neighborhood. But he uses this incident to make the very important point that if we disclaim the possibility of racist behavior on the part of “good” or “moral” people, we may well wind up excusing racism almost altogether.

The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion. We can forgive Whitaker’s assailant. Much harder to forgive is all that makes Whitaker stand out in the first place. New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.

But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner. The promise of America is that those who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the “middle class,” will be treated as such. But this injunction is only half-enforced when it comes to black people, in large part because we were never meant to be part of the American story. Forest Whitaker fits that bill, and he was addressed as such.

I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people.

The thing is, this has always been more or less true. My extended family (thought not, mercifully, my nuclear family) when I was growing up in the Jim Crow South was loaded with racists. None of them were members of the Ku Klux Klan, perpetrators of violence, or “bad people” by any general measure. Most of them were very regular church-goers. One of the sweetest people I ever knew was a great aunt who after MLK’s assassination allowed as how she wished she could take in the assassin and feed him and protect him for his great act in defending Christian civilization. That wouldn’t have been surprising to Dr. King himself, whose classic Letter From a Birmingham Jail was addressed to the good Christian clergy of that city who by their silence and calls for an unjust “peace” were defending segregation more effectively than the hooded riffraff of the Klan.

So, there are my suggestions today.  Please be careful if the weather around you is “lionly”.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?

France’s Christine Legarde Set to head IMF creating another ‘first’ for Women

One of the world’s best economists and France’s Minister of Economics, Finance, and Industry–Christine Legarde–will likely be the newly appointed head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).   Thankfully, the U.S. joined with other members of the IMF board to approve Legarde which virtually assures her appointment.  Legarde will be the first woman to head the IMF.  She is widely regarded as the best Finance minister in the Eurozone.  She will inherit an IMF still reeling from the sex scandal surrounding Dominique Strauss-Kahn as well as an IMF dealing with the Greek sovereign debt meltdown. The IMF is an important development vehicle for many of the world’s struggling economies.  It has been controversial in the past since it has been seen to implement ideological as well as development strategies.

Lagarde’s presence itself as the first female head of the IMF will go a long way toward reinvigorating any demoralization of the staff. Granted, Lagarde is poised to earn the job because she’s the most qualified and best positioned to help the organization deal with its pressing economic crises. And while putting an extremely successful woman atop the IMF certainly won’t erase the Strauss-Kahn scandal or stop every unwanted advance, it should go a long way toward reminding the IMF’s staffers how much the organization values gender equality and won’t tolerate such behavior at any level. At the very least, having someone in charge who doesn’t have the reputation of being a womanizer is surely a good thing.

It’s unclear how much the internal culture at IMF actually needs fixing. A May New York Times story laid out an image of the IMF as a place “in which romances often flourish—and lines are sometimes crossed,” and where a pressured, “sharp-elbowed” place left complaints of harassment unanswered and where “rules are more like guidelines.” Some 676 women in the organization filed a response to the story, saying they were insulted by the way their workplace was depicted.

Still, Lagarde herself says the organization will need to “take pains to show the outside world” that it is a leader in ethical behavior.  And she acknowledges that staff morale will need some mending following the august organization’s embarrassing time in the spotlight.

Legarde has a formidable intellect and is well-known for her straight and tough talk.  Finance and economics are areas dominated by men with swagger.  She has succeeded in ways that many men have not.

Ms Lagarde was appointed France’s Trade Minister in 2005 and under her watch, French exports reached record levels.

In 2007 she became finance minister, the first woman to hold this post not just in France but in any of the G8 major industrial countries.

Never afraid of speaking her mind, she has blamed the 2008 worldwide financial crisis partly on the male-dominated, testosterone-fuelled culture at global banks.

One of France’s most popular right-wing politicians, in 2009 she came second in a poll carried out by broadcaster RTL and newspaper Le Parisien on the country’s favourite personalities, beaten only by singer and actor Johnny Hallyday.

But her popularity has stretched beyond French shores and she is viewed with high regard in the international arena.

In 2009, the Financial Times voted her the best finance minister in Europe.

She has won international respect for promoting France’s negotiating clout in key forums like the G20, for which France currently holds the presidency.

She has also received plaudits for the key role she played in approving a bail-out mechanism to aid struggling members of the eurozone last May.

Lagarde has played a large role in the many challenges facing the Eurozone since the U.S. financial market meltdown.  Unlike the U.S. which has basically coddled the very executives whose risky behavior and bad business practices have gone largely unpunished, Largarde has worked hard to reform the system to avoid a repeat.  She not only has to herd French politicians but also create consensus among the other members of the EU community.

Lagarde has won praise for steering France through the financial crisis, notably by dispensing $48 billion in aid to French banks, which are repaying the money with interest after stabilizing themselves. She also fought successfully to provide corporate tax relief, aid to small businesses, and tax credits to stimulate research. “None of those things would have happened without Christine Lagarde,” says Frédéric Gonand, an economics professor at Paris-Dauphine University who recently stepped down after four years as Lagarde’s chief economic adviser. “She placed her own mark on economic policy.” A May poll by Ipsos for the magazine Le Point put her approval rating at 51 percent, far above her boss Sarkozy’s 37 percent.

Still, France has fallen behind Germany in making the kinds of changes that could give the economy a serious boost, such as reducing government bureaucracy and labor market restrictions. The need to carry out policies dictated by Sarkozy has also put her in awkward situations at times. In 2009 she had to defend his plan to invest $51 billion in research and development and other projects at a time when France was under attack by other euro zone countries for running a 7.5 percent budget deficit, far above the 3 percent that member countries had agreed on. And despite her role in negotiating the euro rescue package, the terms of that deal, such as automatic sanctions against aid recipients if they didn’t meet agreed-upon targets, were dictated largely by Germany. “France’s game seemed to be, ‘Let’s stick to the Germans as closely as possible,'” says Philip Whyte, a senior research fellow at the London-based Centre for European Reform. “She’s a great facilitator and chair, but she’s probably not in the absolute center of influence.”

I actually can’t tell you how excited I am about this development.  As I’ve said before, she’s been a great success in France.  This shows she can once again bust through a major glass ceiling that’s been there for ages for women in my profession.