As I write this post I am watching the Hulu presentation of The Handmaid’s Tale…for the third time. I’ve wanted to write about this series, but the situation of late has been so depressing that watching hours of a possible futuristic society for our daughters…has not been high on my list of priorities.
I’ve read the book, ages ago. So long in fact, that I can’t remember much of the specifics. Certain things stick of course…but several changes have been made to transition the book to the screen.
When Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, she gave the world a dystopian masterpiece: the story of a woman named Offred who’s only purpose in the theocratic Republic of Gilead is to get pregnant and be a surrogate for her new owners. The book is back in vogue in a big way, thanks to a certain U.S. president (his name rhymes with Grump) and a new TV adaptation that premieres in Canada this Sunday. Here, aspiring Atwood aficionados, we pinpoint five major ways that the two-hour premiere differs from the novel. Spoilers ahead—obviously.
Be sure to go and read the other changes but I wanted to point these out:
Ofglen gets fleshed out
ON PAGE: Little is known about Ofglen, the Handmaid assigned to accompany Offred on all her errands (Handmaids always walk two by two). Still, she becomes a compelling character as a member of Mayday, the covert resistance against Gilead, whose survival instincts and knowledge help Offred. Eventually, Ofglen is discovered as a member of Mayday, and she hangs herself rather than enduring Gilead’s torture.
ON SCREEN: Alexis Bledel’ Ofglen gets a meatier storyline, which gives ol’ Rory Gilmore a chance to shine—she displays a surprising mastery of delivering subtext through little more than meaningful glances. The added information is both excellent and deeply sad. Ofglen tells Offred that she used to be a college professor, and that she recently attempted to escape to Canada with her partner. In the show, Ofglen is gay, which is forbidden. It adds an extra layer of horror when she is caught by The Eyes, Gilead’s secret police.
Handmaids once used Tinder
ON PAGE: Atwood provides very few details that hint at when The Handmaid’s Tale takes place or how long it has been since the U.S. dissolved into Gilead. This makes Gilead an eternal threat: the revolution could happen any time.
ON SCREEN: Flashbacks feature Uber, Tinder and artisanal coffee shops, making it far easier to situate Gilead in the modern era—perhaps just a few years from now. The Eyes also have earpieces and sharp black cars, instead of the horses and truncheons they use in the book. It’s an astute change: it’s a lot more terrifying for audiences to imagine Offred being taken out of today’s world than the distant past.
I do think that bringing it up to present day makes it more immediate…in that sense of desperation. That this sort of life is something that could happen just around the corner.
The much-anticipated Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel from 1985 does not disappoint expectations; in fact, it delivers an aptly horrifying and prescient treatment of the story’s increased relevance. You see, for women, the personal is the political, and vice versa. I was reminded of this while recently re-viewing the excellent documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, which chronicles the birth of the women’s movement of the late 1960s. In recent months, American women have seen rising complacency about sexist behavior as well as the normalizing of misogynist rhetoric. There is also a threat to our hard-won reproductive rights. The chatter around this new series has been enlivened by its eerily-accurate reflection of our present situation, which may yet escalate into a future not unlike the one depicted in this television adaptation.
Atwood’s novel was published to rave reviews and devoured by feminists, science fiction fans, and curious readers around the world. In the Republic of Gilead, in the not too distant future, women have lost all rights to their bodies, their reproductive autonomy, their livelihoods, and even their names. Atwood’s novel is narrated in the first person by Offred, a young woman whose name at first seems a comment on the bright red robes — flamboyant yet puritanical — that she and others like her are forced to wear. We soon realize women are referred to by the names of their fathers: “Ofglen” or “Ofwarren.” They have no jobs, are not allowed to own property, read books, or watch television. And oh, by the way, the young fertile ones are forced to bear children for complete strangers.
The review discusses an overview of the first episode of the series, but this is what I want to cut to:
One reason The Handmaid’s Tale (written by Bruce Miller, who also co-produced sci-fi series The 4400 and The 100 and is working on Jenji Kohan’s new series about the Salem Witch Trials, The Devil You Know) resonates strongly today is that the flashback scenes (memories of the world referred to as “Before”) take place in what looks very much like the present day: hip hop music plays on iPods, cafes serve complicated low-fat coffee drinks, an intimidating military presence makes use of semi-automatic rifles and wears black knit hats in the mode of Colorado hipsters, people buy used Volvos on craigslist. But there are differences: fascism is approaching, but the characters can’t quite believe it is taking place. When anger builds and there are marches and demonstrations, the police/military (there’s no real separation between the two anymore and, if you doubt this, see the recent documentary Do Not Resist) shoot unarmed protesters with impunity. Women are finally rounded up and reassigned according to their utility: as domestic servants (Marthas) or incubators (Handmaids). Known lesbians may be punished with “mercy” or “redemption”—I won’t spoil a particularly moving and harrowing scene by explaining those euphemisms further.
This article also brings up a change in the series from the book that is also of note:
The Handmaid’s duty is completed via bizarre ceremonies and rituals that center on impregnation and birth; the arrangement is strange, intimate, and humiliating for all involved. The overarching purpose is to serve God; but religion is an oddly cold and distant presence here. Offred is frequently heard speaking to God for help; but the constant anachronistic phrases uttered by the denizens of Gilead (“blessed be the fruit,” or “go with grace” or “praise be,” or even “under His eye,” which also refers to the “eyes” of surveillance) ring hollow given the violence and tyranny that govern America’s hypocritical culture. Those who managed to escape to Canada when things started changing are the lucky ones. In Atwood’s novel, Japanese tourists come to gawk at the strangely dressed and morally backwards citizens of Gilead. In one of several bold — but intriguing — changes to Atwood’s work, this society is a multi-cultural one. June and Luke have an interracial marriage, white June’s best friend Moira is African-American. In the 1985 novel, the new regime “rounded up” people of color and relocated them to Midwest camps.
I wondered if the change from Atwood’s novel could have been more powerfully done. After all, racist policies are currently being directed towards American immigrants; it would make sense that Gilead’s brand of authoritarianism would attempt to control to all expressions of the Other, not just women. Still, there are examples of the indignity of social rank, based on socioeconomic and class status. The handsome driver who works for Offred’s “Commander” is of “such low status” that he has not yet been “assigned a woman.” Meanwhile, the treatment of the people who protest the government — men, women, young, old, every race imaginable — is egalitarian. The spray of bullets that sends them fleeing for cover is remarkably democratic in its range and efficacy. As Offred says, “There will be no mercies for members of the resistance.”
Yet the most terrifying parts of “The Handmaid’s Tale” are the flashbacks, to a time very much like ours.
Before the coup, Offred has freedom, a job, Uber. Then things start to change — little things. Women are having trouble conceiving. The government becomes more reactionary. One day, a coffee shop clerk, unprovoked, calls her and her best friend, Moira (Samira Wiley), “sluts.”
Something primal and angry is awakening. Some people are exhilarated: Finally, they can say what’s on their minds, without the PC thought police cracking down! The show is also attentive to how progressive men can back-burner the concerns of women. Offred’s husband, Luke (O-T Fagbenle), for instance, is convinced that the craziness is bound to blow over.
It doesn’t. An intermediate layer of flashbacks finds Offred, Moira and a class of future handmaids at a re-education center being indoctrinated, with homilies and a cattle prod, by Aunt Lydia (a coolly imperious Ann Dowd). “This may not seem ordinary to you right now,” she tells them. “But after a time it will.”
The line is terrifying because it rings so true. You may not believe that anyone, in real life, is actually Making America Gilead Again. But this urgent “Handmaid’s Tale” is not about prophecy. It’s about process, the way people will themselves to believe the abnormal is normal, until one day they look around and realize that these are the bad old days.
And I think that scene in the coffee shop is one of the most disturbing, for me…because it is something that we are seeing nowadays…with more and more frequency.
Offred thinks, “Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists, and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then either.” Yowza. Dystopian nightmare fulfilled.
Flashback to June and Moira jogging in the city, earbuds in, as Peaches‘, F**k The Pain Away plays. Seems like a normal enough thing, but when they jog by a woman on the street, she looks them up and down and gives them the dirtiest look. And I realize, mmm no, all is not well.
At a coffee shop, a mouthy little jerk of a cashier, harasses Moira and June after June’s credit card is declined for insufficient funds, which makes no sense to her since she just deposited her paycheck. He calls them “f*cking sluts.” And then tells them to “Get the f*ck out of here.” So I guess this is the moment when the “it” that happened starts to happen. Clearly, this dude’s feeling himself with a dose of extra strength straight-white-male-privilege.
And what is worse, that behavior is something that is not being called out, rather it is being egged on by a population led by the “Grab your pussy” President and elected officials…(I’m including the asshole Sanders in that mix as well.)
Image below is a still from the coffee shop scene.
In Trump’s America, everything is political, and all of pop culture becomes commentary, whether it wants to be or not. From the beginning of 2017, TV shows from Scandal to The Young Pope to Big Little Lies have been mined for insights about our new political reality, despite having been written and filmed well before the election. But you won’t see a more timely or essential onscreen story this year than Hulu’s extraordinary rendering of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, reimagined as a fundamentalist nightmare for the Mike Pence era.
Full disclosure up front: my experience with The Handmaid’s Tale extends to the three episodes made available for review. We’ll have plenty of coverage for those familiar with the book here at Pajiba over the upcoming weeks, but I think a show should stand on its own, regardless of source material. If you have to have read the book/seen the movie/followed the Instagram account in order to fully understand the television adaptation, then that adaptation has failed. It undoubtedly means certain scenes, certain interactions, and certain imagery in those episodes will resonate differently for those who have read Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel. But absolutely no power was lost upon this particularly newbie to this dystopian world.
If I could sum up the overwhelming subtext of this show, it would be this: “We are not doing nearly enough to prevent this from actually happening.” The Handmaid’s Tale doesn’t take place in a future far removed from ours, and at times feels as if set tomorrow. This is a show that suggests The Women’s March on Washington this past January was a cute digression on the path towards the inevitable subjugation of women, a path forged by men via nuclear fire in order to clear the path for a return to a more “civilized” time. This isn’t a show in which the right side initially wins: Ideological purity trumps the concept of compromise little by little, until the ground falls out completely beneath those that had no idea just how rocky the terrain had become.
I use the verb “trump” there intentionally, because it’s absolutely, positively impossible to not view The Handmaid’s Tale through the lens of the last year. There’s a scene early in the third episode in which a barista, newly emboldened by the government’s increasingly sexist legislation in the days before the shit truly hits the fan, feels free to call two women who have just gone for a run “sluts.” They aren’t wearing anything particularly revealing: They are in what one might consider “normal” workout clothes, but they do show a bit of skin, and that skin is glistening with sweat, and that’s enough at this point in the narrative’s timeline for that to be the new benchmark. The word “slut” is uttered as much in relief as in hatred, as if this person has been holding it in for decades and feels happy to finally say it. It’s not hard to link this scene with the rise of those emboldened by Trump’s victory to overtly and publicly say things meant to demean other races, sexualities, cultures, customs, and anything that doesn’t look the same when viewed in the mirror.
Interview with Atwood:
Things like this are creepy to read about:
There’s a women’s march that occurs in The Handmaid’s Tale, which was filmed before Donald Trump was elected president and well before the actual Women’s March on Washington.
Image above is a sketch by Margaret Atwood.
Just a few more links on the series:
Found on Facebook:
Yeah, just to tie into the whole patriarchal thing….and threats.
“I want to thank Ambassador Nikki Haley for her outstanding leadership and for acting as my personal envoy on the Security Council. She is doing a good job. Now, does everybody like Nikki?” Trump said, according to reporters present at the White House event. “Otherwise she could be easily replaced, right? No, we won’t do that. I promise you we won’t do that. She’s doing a fantastic job.”
‘It was criminal once before, and it is their intent to make it criminal again,’ says Dr Willie Parker
And a few more disgusting shit stories for good measure:
We bring you now the “Women are Objects” section of the thread:
(Er…the whole damn post is women are objects.)
That video is just plain disturbing on so many levels. Especially the freaky dude saying the sex dolls will cut down on rape and assault. WTF?
And as if all this wasn’t depressing enough:
In order to avoid males of the species bothering them for sex, female dragonflies fake their own deaths, falling from the sky and lying motionless on the ground until the suitor goes away.
A study by Rassim Khelifa, a zoologist from the University of Zurich is the first time scientists have seen odonates feign death as a tactic to avoid mating, and a rare instance of animals faking their own deaths for this purpose. Odonates is the order of carnivorous insects that includes dragonflies and damselflies.
In other sad news this week…we lost one of our best directors in film.
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme died Wednesday in New York of cancer complications, his publicist told Variety. He was 73 years old.
Demme is best known for directing “The Silence of the Lambs,” the 1991 horror-thriller that was a box office smash, a critical triumph, and introduced moviegoers to Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, a charismatic serial with a yen for chianti, fava beans, and cannibalism. The story of a novice FBI analyst (Jodie Foster) on the trail of a murderer became only the third film in history to win Academy Awards in all the top five categories ( picture, actor, actress, director, and adapted screenplay), joining the ranks of “It Happened One Night” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Though he had his greatest success terrifying audiences, most of Demme’s work was looser and quirkier. In particular, he showed a great humanism and an empathy for outsiders in the likes of “Melvin and Howard,” the story of a service station owner who claimed to have been a beneficiary of Howard Hughes, and “Something Wild,” a screwball comedy about a banker whose life is turned upside down by a kooky woman. He also scored with “Married to the Mob” and oversaw “Stop Making Sense,” a documentary about the Talking Heads that is considered to be a seminal concert film.
I loved Married to the Mob…it is one of my favorite films.
Jonathan Demme, one of the American cinema’s finest, most insistently humanist directors, has died at the absurdly young age of 73, from complications of throat cancer and heart disease.
It’s hard to imagine New York or the world or the movies without Demme in the house. How do you eulogize someone whose overriding aspect is aliveness?
I guess you start by simply naming some of his wonderful movies, in chronological order: Caged Heat, Handle With Care, Melvin and Howard, Swing Shift, Stop Making Sense, Something Wild, Married to the Mob, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Beloved, Rachel Getting Married, Neil Young: Heart of Gold, A Master Builder … Those are my favorites, but many of the others are vital, too — Swimming to Cambodia, Cousin Bobby, his Haitian documentaries, his brave and urgent remake of The Manchurian Candidate, his patchy but exuberant Ricki and the Flash …
In 2002, I wrote an article about Demme for the New York Times in connection with his loose remake of Charade, The Truth About Charlie — a difficult piece because the movie was plainly a dud. It was, however, a generous and overflowing dud, and an excellent prism through which to view the man the Times’ headline writer called “the Happy Hipster of Film.” For one thing, Demme’s camera was always swerving off the main actors to catch street performers or passersby or people he knew.
“There seem to be no extras,” I wrote, “only characters from movies yet to be made … Mr. Demme tries to cram in the maximum amount of life per square inch of movie screen.” (The “Mr.” thing is Times style and is reproduced accordingly.)
“Other faces that show up in Mr. Demme’s films are from his vast circle of acquaintances, business associates and creative influences – so that watching his movies is like looking through a scrapbook of his life. In The Truth About Charlie, Mr. Demme not only salutes Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960) with an excerpt; he brings in its star, Charles Aznavour, to serenade the lovers.
Read that link in full…it has some good parts.
I know that I only focus on that one scene in the coffee shop. There are many other that spoke to me, as I am sure there are scenes that spoke to you. (The Salvaging being one of them.) But I thought it best not to go too fully into the series. I do think it is something that people need to see.
Even if the ones who truly need to realize the situation, and are the ones who would get the most out of the show’s message…still do not get their eyes open by the end of the third episode.
Yeah, from my experience…with my husband at least, he does not think a handmaid society is anywhere near within reach. Like the husband “Luke” in the show, who is a patronizing ass…he is completely complacent to the warning signs that seem to blare like the sirens and explosions that go on around him.
But it is all there folks. And what the fuck are we going to do, I don’t know how to get this message to the “Guardians” among us. Do you?
That is my offering today. It is depressing I know…but it is an open thread.
Today is the 100th day of the Trump regime. Of course everyone (except Trump) knows that the 100 days measure of presidential achievement goes back to Franklin Roosevelt.
NPR’s Tamara Keith: The First 100 Days: ‘A Standard That Not Even Roosevelt Achieved.’
The idea of measuring an American president by the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office goes back to 1933 and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dash to staunch a banking crisis and pull America out of the Great Depression.
In a July 24, 1933, fireside chat, he assessed the early months of his administration.
“I think that we all wanted the opportunity of a little quiet thought to examine and assimilate in a mental picture the crowding events of the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal,” Roosevelt said.
He had signed a record 15 major pieces of legislation in those first 100 days. But it’s not as simple as the legend would make it seem.
“Presidents since Roosevelt have been held up to a standard that not even Roosevelt achieved,” said historian Patrick Maney, a professor at Boston College who has written books about Presidents Clinton and FDR….
“Only two or, at most, three of those measures actually originated in the White House,” Maney said of the 15 major pieces of legislation signed by Roosevelt. “Almost all the rest had originated in Congress and many — including federal relief for the unemployed, the Tennessee Valley Authority — had been up for debate for years.”
Roosevelt, initially at least, opposed the creation of the FDIC. Now it is one of the enduring legacies of his first 100 days.
But there’s no doubt that Roosevelt achieved far more than the current occupant of the White House. Business Insider assesses the record here: Trump’s First 100 Days: Here’s how they compare with Obama’s, Bush’s, and Clinton’s. You can check that out at the link. Trump has signed more bills and executive orders, but they are less substantive than in past presidencies. He obviously has no significant legislative achievements.
Here’s an assessment from Rosa Brooks at Foreign Policy: Donald Trump Is America’s Experiment in Having No Government.
If you think like a citizen, the first 100 days of the Trump administration will reduce you to weeping and wailing.
But if you think like a scientist, you will see things differently. You’ll see that the United States of America has developed an excellent fourth grade science fair project.
This project is called “A Four-Year Experiment in Not Having a Government.”
Until recently, the United States has had a “government” with “policies.” That is: We have had an adult president, we have had other adults occupying senior government positions, and those adults have sought to develop reasonably coherent and consistent approaches to governing based on the assumption that the usual rules of physics, mathematics, and so on must be taken into account when developing policies, and the corollary assumption that “facts” and “evidence” can be said to exist.
The United States was reasonably successful when it had a government. It was by no means perfect but laws were passed, taxes were collected, revenues were used to fund public services, treaties and international negotiations were concluded, and so on.
But do we need an American government?
Perhaps not! Perhaps the United States and the world can chug along just fine without one. Thanks to the Republican Party, we’re in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime experiment to find out.
The study began by placing a child in the White House. Child labor laws passed by previous U.S. governments (and the Constitution) preclude sending a fourth grader to the White House, but we have done the next best thing by electing Donald Trump, a 70-year-old who makes decisions based on TV shows, doesn’t read, and announces new policy positions via late night tweets IN ALL CAPS.
So true. Please go read the rest.
Also happening today: the people’s march on climate change.
Thousands of people who support action on climate change are expected to brave the sweltering heat Saturday and march through the nation’s capital as part of the People’s Climate March.
“We resist. We build. We rise,” a slogan for the event reads.
With temperatures expected to hit 90 degrees, the march is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. near the Capitol. Protesters then plan to move to the White House and end up at the Washington Monument, according to the proposed route map.
Hundreds of sister marches are also planned across the US and around the world.
They’re being held to coincide with President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office and take on his environmental policies.
“We’ve already seen just how effective people power is against this administration: Trumpcare? Withdrawn. Muslim ban? Blocked,” the group’s website says.
“Now Trump’s entire fossil fuel agenda is next, and we believe that the path forward is based in the voice of the people — which is expressed first and foremost through mass protests and mass marches.”
I hope it goes well. My brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews are in DC for the event.
Tonight is the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner–sans Trump. Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show” will give a speech, presumably a humorous one. There also will be a competing event, Samantha Bee’s Not The White House Correspondent’s Dinner.
The Washington Post: Where to watch the 2017 White House correspondents’ dinner online and on TV.
The red carpet starts around 5 p.m.; The Washington Post will have a red carpet feed on Facebook Live. Typically, everyone heads into the dinner around 7 p.m. — the awards and speeches kick off at 9:30 p.m., and everything wraps at approximately 11 p.m.
CNN, Fox News and MSNBC will air portions of the dinner throughout the night, and also provide coverage of President Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania, scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
Oh boy, I can hardly wait to hear Trump brag about election night for the umpteenth time, like he did yesterday in his speech to the NRA.
The Washington Post: In Trump’s absence, ‘nerd prom’ challenged by Bee’s bash.
Washington’s once-glitzy “nerd prom” is about to get overshadowed.
Late-night TV star Samantha Bee was pulling in celebrities for the first “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” on Saturday — a tongue-in-cheek play on the real bash, where journalists, the president and, in recent years, lots of bold-face names have mingled.
But President Donald Trump was skipping the White House Correspondents’ Association gala, instead marking his 100th day in office with a rally in Pennsylvania. No president had declined an invitation since Ronald Reagan in 1981, and he was recovering from an assassination attempt. Still, Reagan phoned in some friendly, humorous remarks.
WHCA dinner organizers wanted to put the focus on the First Amendment and the role of the press in democracy. The scheduled headliners were Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, set to present journalism awards. Woodward told The Washington Post the two planned to speak about “the First Amendment and the importance of aggressive but fair reporting.”
Look for the celebrities at Bee’s event: TV stars such as Alysia Reiner of “Orange Is The New Black,” Retta of “Parks and Recreation” and Matt Walsh of “Veep” were expected at her after-party.
From Vulture, which is cosponsoring Samantha Bee’s event: Samantha Bee on Why Her Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Won’t Just Be an Anti-Trump Roast.
As host of the weekly comedy show/savage commentary on current events, Bee is usually fired-up and ready to sound a barbaric WTF about everything from Russian hacking to why Democrats are good at protesting but absolutely terrible at voting. But during an interview with Vulture Thursday morning, from her dressing room backstage at Constitution Hall, the actual Bee was pretty soft-spoken and relaxed. The relaxed part is impressive considering that, on Saturday, she’ll host the Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a made-for-television event that, thanks to the diluted nature of this year’s actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, being held that same evening, has become the most talked-about event of what is usually the buzziest weekend in D.C.
That buzz is humming at a much lower frequency this year. Considerably fewer celebrities are rolling into town for the festivities, several media outlets have cancelled the parties they normally host, and, for the first time in more than three decades, the president will not appear at the dinner. (President Trump announced in February that he would not attend the annual formal, glad-handy event; instead, he will hold a rally that evening in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.)
Before Trump bailed, Bee says she and her Full Frontal team sensed there might be a void and started to figure out how they might fill it. On Saturday, they will do so by hosting the TV- and Twitter-ready alternate dinner at D.C.’s Constitution Hall, where it will be recorded in the afternoon and air that night at ten on TBS. An uncensored version will stream on Twitter starting at 11 p.m., and proceeds generated will be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
I’m going to end there. I decided to keep things light today, because I’m just plain exhausted from the past 100 days. I’ll have a few more newsy items in the comment thread.
What are you reading and/or doing today?
The only success story from the first 100 days of Trump is the state of the Trump Family Syndicate’s financial position. But, wasn’t that the goal all along? Matthew Yglesias–writing for VOX–follows the first family of grifting. Yes, even Shakedown Barbie is in on the action.
…Trump isn’t failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand over fist. It’s a spectacle the likes of which we’ve never seen in the United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday, for now it shows no real sign of failure.The Trumps have unprecedented conflicts of interest
During the campaign and for much of the transition, Trump liked to at least vaguely allude to the idea that as president, he would separate himself from his business empire and do something to provide the public with transparency on his taxes. Since winning, he’s made clear that’s not going to happen. The day-to-day management of the companies is in the hands of his two oldest sons, while his oldest daughter and her husband (both of whom run substantial businesses in their own right) serve as high-ranking officials in the White House.But don’t just take my word for it. Multiple reports have found that no meaningful separation exists:
- Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw reporting for ProPublica have confirmed that the terms of the trust in which the Trump Organization is held allow the president to pull money out of the company at any time.
- Eric Trump says he is giving his father regular updates on the state of the Trump Organization, on a “probably quarterly” timeline but with no specific commitments.
- Donald Trump Jr. is not only a top executive at the Trump Organization but also does surrogate interviews on behalf of the president.
Beyond that, of course, there’s the fundamental reality that everyone knows Trump owns properties like the Trump National Golf Club or Trump Tower because they have his name slapped on them.Trump is even profiting from his golfing weekends
To an extent, this allows Trump to simply funnel money directly into his own pockets. Like many previous presidents, he golfs. And like all presidents who golf, when he hits the green, he is accompanied by Secret Service agents. The agents use golf carts to get around the courses. And to get their hands on the golf carts, they need to rent them from the golf courses at which the president plays. All of this is fundamentally normal — except for the fact that Trump golfs at courses he owns. So when the Secret Service spends $35,000 on Mar-a-Lago golf cart rentals, it’s not just a normal security expense — Trump is personally profiting from his own protection.
The Secret Service has, similarly, paid $64,000 for “elevator services” in Trump Tower. This is a fairly normal kind of expense for the agency, paying a building money to defray the inconvenience of taking elevators offline so they can be inspected for security purposes. But, again, there is nothing normal about the president personally profiting from the security procedure.
When Trump’s sons fly around the world doing business deals, they too are protected by Secret Service agents whose bills the federal government covers — even if they are staying at Trump properties.
There is something grating about this, especially from a president who is making a big show of donating his salary to charity. Trump is directly pocketing what could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in direct payments from the Treasury, while simultaneously claiming to be serving for free. What’s more troubling, however, is indirect financial entanglements into which we have little real visibility.
It’s now easy to funnel money into the first family’s pockets
Ivanka Trump, for example, was granted five trademarks by the Chinese government on the very same day she had dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Also on that day, Ivanka’s father decided to break his campaign pledge to officially designate China as a currency manipulator. That decision, by all accounts, reflected the growing clout inside the White House of National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and his key ally Jared Kushner, who happens to be Ivanka’s husband and in a position to directly gain or lose from China’s decisions regarding his wife’s trademark applications.
The most bizarre thing I’ve read about recently is the sudden need to treat Ivanka Trump like a serious person instead of Paris Hilton on steroids funded by taxpayers. She’s as much of a dim bulb as her father.
At some point during her Berlin sojourn, Trump spoke to Mike Allen, the political journalist. Allen ran an item on Axios with the headline “Ivanka Trump’s new fund for female entrepreneurs,” illustrated with a photograph of Trump grazing her fingers on one of the slabs that make up Berlin’s Holocaust memorial. “Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe,” Allen wrote. He added that contributors would include companies and governments—Canada, Germany, “and a few Middle Eastern countries” had already made “quiet commitments”—and that “President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter’s idea, and she has consulted with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.” Double huge. It sounded a lot like the Clinton Foundation, or like any number of corporate or N.G.O. initiatives, except that Ivanka Trump’s office is in the White House. This raised a flurry of questions: What about conflicts? Would this be a for-profit operation or a shakedown one? In a few hours, it became clear that it was neither of those—because “Ivanka Trump’s new fund” was a complete misnomer. This would be a World Bank project, as spokesmen for the White House and the bank emphasized. Trump would not be involved in raising money, managing it, or deciding how it would be spent. But the World Bank wanted everyone to know that it was very, very grateful to Ivanka for promoting the fund, or “facility,” as it would be called. It was kind of her idea.
And, who knows, maybe Ivanka Trump deserves some credit. But it’s worth noting, as Bloomberg pointed out, that the World Bank has set up similar “facilities” in the past. The idea that the World Bank or the I.M.F. needs Ivanka Trump to tell it that a lack of access to financial and capital markets is an issue for women in the developing world is a bit like her father saying that NATO needed him to tell it that terrorism is a problem. (Which he has, indeed, suggested.) But maybe the make-believe about Ivanka coming up with world-changing ideas is harmless, if it means that her father will look kindly on the World Bank—although a report, this week, in the Washington Post about the conditions in a Chinese factory run by the contractor who makes her brand’s clothes (extremely low wages and long hours) does not quite fit into the picture.
This is embarrassing on so many levels. I’m embarrassed as a woman, as an economist, and as an American. Shakedown Barbie is on the world stage, the taxpayer teat, and the front pages of newspapers because of NEPOTISM. She has nothing to offer. Her business is a sham. She’s a lousy designer. So, now she basically is being paid to whisper sweet nothings from foreign countries into Daddy’s ear. That basically sounds like the entire grifting scheme of every Trump “advisor”. Step one: Flaunt Access. Step two: get on the Federal payroll. Step three: set up a secret offshore bank account. Step four: Visit all you friends all over the world and shake it like a Polaroid. Step five: Live safely knowing the Republicans in Congress will do nothing but try to rescind the ACA one more time.
I’ve no doubt she thinks she is qualified. Politics is not really all that different from advertising, right? You promote handbags; you promote nice causes. Women entrepreneurs, friendship between nations, edgy earrings — whatever. These are all part of a lifestyle that everybody wants, and it’s a lifestyle that Ivanka Trump has been selling, for profit, for most of her life.
But when Trump appeared on a podium in Berlin this week, purportedly to discuss women in the workforce, she did not seem qualified. On the contrary, she provided a shocking reminder of the damage that the Trump lifestyle brand will do (and has already done) not just to America’s “image” but to America’s reputation as a serious country, even to America’s reputation as a democracy.
Why was she there at all? The other panelists — the Canadian foreign minister, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — raised no eyebrows, because their official functions explain themselves. But Trump was there as “first daughter,” a notion which the moderator of the panel — another impressive woman, the editor of a business magazine — at one point asked her to explain. “The German audience is not that familiar with the concept,” she said. “. . . Who are you representing, your father as president of the United States, the American people or your business?”
Trump has enough media training to know what to deny. “Certainly not the latter,” she said quickly (only to contradict herself, a few moments later, by saying, as she is no doubt accustomed, “Speaking as an entrepreneur . . .”). But the question never got a real answer. As everyone in the room knew perfectly well, Trump was not on the panel because she is an entrepreneur, or because she represents the American people or even because she speaks for her father, which is far from clear. She was on the panel because Merkel, ever the pragmatist, realizes President Trump is not interested in history, ideas, policy or any of the other things that have long tied the United States to Germany. To maintain its deep political and economic relationship with this American administration, Germany therefore needs to be solicitous of Trump’s daughter.
Trump voters appear to be willing targets of scams and snake oil salesmen. They probably think Ivanka is a rocket scientist instead of the heir apparent to a series of money laundering and ponzi schemes.
President Trump’s voters are sticking with him — even if they are starting to think he’s not keeping some important promises.
That’s the takeaway from a new poll conducted for Priorities USA Action, a Democratic advocacy group tracking the attitudes of U.S. voters about his first 100 days in office. The analysis, provided to USA TODAY, offers some insights into why Democrats in Congress may see little political risk in continuing to oppose the president’s agenda.
While 67% of Trump voters say he’s met their hopes and expectations, for the first time, a plurality (43%) say there are some important promises not being kept. That’s a 10-point swing from just two weeks ago. Just over a third say he’s kept all of his important promises so far. It’s a potential warning sign considering Trump’s 41% overall approval rating — in line with other national surveys — is already historically low.
In a speech on the hallowed ground of Gettysburg, Pa., just 18 days before his surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, Trump gave one of the most important speeches of his campaign in outlining a list of 28 campaign promises. By big margins, Trump voters identified six key promises he made as part of a 100-day action plan that he has yet to deliver.
These include replacing Obamacare with a plan that covers everyone at a lower cost; a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to modernize America’s roads, bridges and airports; banning foreign lobbyists from raising money for U.S. elections; naming China a currency manipulator and introducing legislation to provide a new child care tax credit to help working parents.
I’ve never seen such mass delusion in my lifetime. Paul Krugman says we’re living in the Trump Zone It’s akin to the Twilight Zone which we’ve been saying for what seems like decades. He likens working for the Trump Adminstration to the family and town afraid of Billy Mummy who would send every one he hated to cartoon land. That’s a disturbing image but undoubtedly an apt one. Trump is the monster child.
And now you know what it must be like working in the Trump administration. Actually, it feels a bit like that just living in Trump’s America.
What set me off on this chain of association? The answer may surprise you; it was the tax “plan” the administration released on Wednesday.
The reason I use scare quotes here is that the single-page document the White House circulated this week bore no resemblance to what people normally mean when they talk about a tax plan. True, a few tax rates were mentioned — but nothing was said about the income thresholds at which these rates apply.
Meanwhile, the document said something about eliminating tax breaks, but didn’t say which. For example, would the tax exemption for 401(k) retirement accounts be preserved? The answer, according to the White House, was yes, or maybe no, or then again yes, depending on whom you asked and when you asked.
So if you were looking for a document that you could use to estimate, even roughly, how much a given individual would end up paying, sorry.
It’s clear the White House is proposing huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, with the breaks especially big for people who can bypass regular personal taxes by channeling their income into tax-privileged businesses — people, for example, named Donald Trump. So Trump plans to blow up the deficit bigly, largely to his own personal benefit; but that’s about all we know.
So why would the White House release such an embarrassing document? Why would the Treasury Department go along with this clown show?
Unfortunately, we know the answer. Every report from inside the White House conveys the impression that Trump is like a temperamental child, bored by details and easily frustrated when things don’t go his way; being an effective staffer seems to involve finding ways to make him feel good and take his mind off news that he feels makes him look bad.
Trump is no longer amused by his job. Most of us are definitely not amused by the way he’s doing it other than those in Trumplandia that still think he’s going to chase of rogue Mexican banditos, stop unqualified women and black people from taking the jobs of noble white men, and send Muslim terrorists back to the Syrian desert. Did I miss anything?
More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.
Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”
He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.
Trump, who said he was accustomed to not having privacy in his “old life,” expressed surprise at how little he had now. And he made clear he was still getting used to having 24-hour Secret Service protection and its accompanying constraints.
“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he said.
Yes, you read that right. It’s the election map all over again.
Meanwhile, first quarter economic performance was extremely “slugglish” and mostly because of lack of buying from households and businesses. You can watch the stock market behave oddly as much as you want and say, wow, they feel great about life. That’s probably investors thinking they’ll never pay any taxes again. What these statistics shows is uncertainty and the desire to hang on to your money. My own personal index of how bad it will get is based on how many people I know start asking me is it time to change their IRA compositions. Believe me, I’ve been asked … over and over … and over now.
The U.S. economy grew at its weakest pace in three years in the first quarter as consumer spending barely increased and businesses invested less on inventories, in a potential setback to President Donald Trump’s promise to boost growth.
Gross domestic product increased at a 0.7 percent annual rate also as the government cut back on defense spending, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was the weakest performance since the first quarter of 2014.
The economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast GDP rising at a 1.2 percent pace last quarter. The survey was, however, conducted before Thursday’s advance data on the March goods trade deficit and inventories, which saw many economists lowering their first-quarter growth estimates.
I’m ending with good news. Fox news is under a Federal Probe. It’s also falling apart at the seams.
Financial crimes experts from the United States Postal Inspection Service are now involved, according to four sources connected to the investigation.Mail fraud and wire fraud cases are part of the USPIS purview.
Investigators from both the USPIS and the Justice Department have been conducting interviews in recent weeks — including with some former Fox staffers — to obtain more information about the network’s managers and business practices, the sources said.
The existence of the federal investigation was revealed in February. At the time Fox News and its parent company 21st Century Fox said they had not been subpoenaed, but a spokeswoman said, “we have been in communication with the U.S. Attorney’s office for months — we have and will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with any interested authorities.”
Contacted about this story, the Justice Department and the USPIS had no comment. 21st Century Fox also declined to comment.
In February the investigation was reported to be focusing on settlements made with women who alleged sexual harassment by former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, and questions about whether Fox had a duty to inform shareholders about the settlement payments.
The investigators have been asking “how the shareholder money was spent; who knew; and who should have known,” one of the sources said.
But, CNNMoney has learned, the settlement payments are not the only thing they are examining.
Investigators have been probing possible misconduct by Fox News personnel and asking questions about the overall environment at the network.
Investigators have also been asking questions about mysterious confidants of Ailes — people who were known inside Fox as “friends of Roger.”
The entire network may be work reworked but it will still, undoubtedly, spew right wing shit. Would a woman really take charge of the cesspool of misogyny?
The Murdochs may be preparing for a leadership change at Fox News. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, CEO and co-chairman of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox, have quietly put out feelers for a new head of Fox News. And the preference, according to two sources familiar with the Murdochs’ thinking, is that the new leader be female.
The move comes as pressure is building on Bill Shine, a 20-year Fox News veteran whom Rupert Murdoch elevated to co-president, with Jack Abernethy, of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network in the wake of the ouster of founding CEO Roger Ailes last summer. Shine runs the programming arm of the media empire, while Abernethy, also a longtime Fox News executive, runs the business side of the company, including ad sales, finance and distribution. On April 24, a few days after the network dismissed Bill O’Reilly, Rupert Murdoch took Shine and Abernethy to lunch at the Central Park South eatery Marea; the outing was interpreted as a public show of support and chronicled on multiple media sties.
In December, Shine and Abernethy announced a new head of human resources. Abernethy is credited with recruiting Kevin Lord, a veteran of NBC and General Electric who most recently worked at the digital media company Tegna. On April 10, they announced the hiring of a new CFO, Amy Listerman, formerly of NBCUniversal and Scripps Networks Interactive; she is due to begin work on May 1. Former CEO Mark Kranz, who was forced out last August, has reportedly been granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation with a federal investigation into the structuring of payments to women who complained of sexual harassment.
The Murdochs have been feeling increased pressure to make good on their public statements to foster “a workplace based on the values of respect and trust.” Putting a woman in the top spot at Fox News would send a distinct message given the issues that have been roiling the network. The feelers are external; though it’s possible that someone could get promoted from within.
Okay, that’s about all I can take reading for today. Just reading about what’s going on makes me want to scream.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’m struggling to get going this morning. Having a madman as president is exhausting. Some days I just can’t deal with the news. As usual when this happens, breaking news has overtaken me. There’s a new investigation of General Michael Flynn.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 against accepting foreign payments as he entered retirement, according to new documents obtained by the House oversight committee.
The inspector general of the Department of Defense also opened an investigation of Flynn earlier this month, according to an April 11 letter released by the oversight committee Thursday.
“These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, in a statement. “Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents.”
The news comes two days after Cummings and House oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz said Flynn may have broken the law by not disclosing payments he received from RT-TV, a station widely considered to be a propaganda arm of the Russian government.
At Politico, a little more on the warning Flynn received in 2014.
The intelligence agency informed President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser in a letter that, as a retired military officer, he was still subject to the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments.
Flynn was notified in the letter that he was prohibited from the “receipt of consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or salary … from a foreign government unless congressional consent is first obtained.”
In a letter dated earlier this month, the Pentagon’s IG informed the House Oversight Committee it was investigating the matter.
Also breaking mid-morning at The Hill: Dems issue shutdown threat over ObamaCare repeal vote.
House Democrats will oppose a short-term spending bill if Republican leaders attempt to expedite an ObamaCare repeal bill this week, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned Thursday. For those with high arched problems on their feet I suggest to get running shoes for high arches so that you can keep healthy with no problem.
Hoyer, the Democratic whip, spoke with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Thursday morning to warn him of the Democrats’ position.
The threat is significant because GOP leaders will likely need Democratic votes to pass a short-term spending bill in the face of opposition from conservatives historically opposed to government funding bills.
“If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well,” Hoyer said in an email.
“Republicans continue to struggle to find the votes to pass a bill that will kick 24 million Americans off their health coverage, allow discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, and impose an age tax on older Americans. That’s why they are trying to jam it through the House before their Members can hear from the American people this weekend about their opposition to this horrible legislation.”
This might be a relief to the remaining rational Republicans who don’t want to deal with constituents who will lose their health care if they vote for the bill–even though it would likely die in the Senate.
From last night, the House Intelligence Investigation of Trump and Russia is reportedly back on track. CNN: House Russia investigators agree on schedule, get new access to documents after ‘reset.’
“We’re working in a bipartisan manner, we’re going to be thorough, professional and meticulous,” House Russia investigation leader Mike Conaway told CNN on Wednesday. Conaway added that he is in discussions to get access to the top-level intelligence typically reserved for the “Gang of Eight” in Congress, but he declined to elaborate.
Conaway and Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat on the investigation, met and agreed on a likely witness schedule, culled from a witness list that investigators say includes 3-4 dozen names. Conaway told House intelligence committee members Tuesday that they should plan on spending more time in Washington as the investigation gears up….Rep. Denny Heck, a Washington Democrat on the investigation said that Democrats agreed on rescheduled the private hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, and Republicans agreed to reschedule the public hearing with former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.“We also are now having made available to us documents that were not heretofore available to us before,” Heck said. “So every indication is that we are now leaning into this. And I think (Conaway) ought to be given the space to do the right thing”
I sure hope it’s true.
Another Fox News host has gone on a sudden “vacation” after making sexual suggestive remarks about Ivanka Trump. Something that I recently found out – furry RP with animal tail butt plugs is a thing! https://loveplugs.co/collections/animal-tails.
In the wake of heavy criticism he’s received over remarks he made about Ivanka Trump and a microphone, Fox News’ Jesse Watters announced at the end of tonight’s broadcast of The Five that he’s taking a short vacation.
Watters has come under fire for making what was perceived by many as a penis joke about Ivanka. After watching a clip of her speaking at a women’s conference, the Fox News host said that he really likes “how she was speaking into that microphone” while flashing his signature smirk. It also appeared that he was making some hand gestures.
He later told Mediaite that he was describing the First Daughter’s voice, which he says is “low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ.”
Gabriel Sherman suggests there may be “a management shakeup at Fox News.”
As Fox News is roiled by lawsuits and the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, the network’s co-president Bill Shine has retained the backing of the Murdochs. On Monday, Rupert Murdoch took network co-presidents Shine and Jack Abernethy to lunch at Marea, a seafood restaurant near Fox’s midtown headquarters — a highly public show of support.
But privately, Shine is expressing concern about his future at the network. According to three sources briefed on the conversations, Shine has told friends he recently asked Rupert’s sons James and Lachlan — the CEO and co-chairman, respectively, of network parent company 21st Century Fox — to release a statement in support of him, but they refused to do so. The sources said Shine made the request because of withering press coverage of Fox News in recent weeks. A source added that Shine has privately complained that Rupert “isn’t fighting for him” in the press, which is why he wanted explicit support from the sons.
Through a Fox News spokesperson, Shine denied personally going to James and Lachlan for a statement. A Murdoch spokesperson said Shine did not directly ask for a statement.
By refusing to back Shine at this tumultuous moment for the network, the Murdochs may finally be signaling that they’re prepared to make the sweeping management changes they’ve so far resisted after forcing out CEO Roger Ailes last summer. Shine’s continued leadership has angered many Fox News employees, especially women, who view him as a product of the misogynistic Ailes culture. Shine joined the network in 1996, served as Sean Hannity’s producer, and rose through the ranks to become Ailes’s deputy. In that role, sources say he had the power to stop multiple instances of sexual harassment, including that of former Fox booker Laurie Luhn, but did not do so. He’s currently a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed this week by former Fox host Andrea Tantaros.
More at the New York Magazine link above.
Last night Rachel Maddow gave a helpful explication of yesterday’s complicated article on Jared Kushner’s sleazy business deals: Bribe Cases, a Jared Kushner Partner and Potential Conflicts. Here’s the introduction:
It was the summer of 2012, and Jared Kushner was headed downtown.
His family’s real estate firm, the Kushner Companies, would spend about $190 million over the next few months on dozens of apartment buildings in tony Lower Manhattan neighborhoods including the East Village, the West Village and SoHo.
For much of the roughly $50 million in down payments, Mr. Kushner turned to an undisclosed overseas partner. Public records and shell companies shield the investor’s identity. But, it turns out, the money came from a member of Israel’s Steinmetz family, which built a fortune as one of the world’s leading diamond traders.
A Kushner Companies spokeswoman and several Steinmetz representatives say Raz Steinmetz, 53, was behind the deals. His uncle, and the family’s most prominent figure, is the billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is under scrutiny by law enforcement authorities in four countries. In the United States, federal prosecutors are investigating whether representatives of his firm bribed government officials in Guinea to secure a multibillion dollar mining concession. In Israel, Mr. Steinmetz was detained in December and questioned in a bribery and money laundering investigation. In Switzerland and Guinea, prosecutors have conducted similar inquiries.
The Steinmetz partnership with Mr. Kushner underscores the mystery behind his family’s multibillion-dollar business and its potential for conflicts with his role as perhaps the second-most powerful man in the White House, behind only his father-in-law, President Trump.
Here’s Rachel’s report:
I have more links to share. I’ll post them in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?
It is a one two punch today….
Hey…the dude must have deserved it. Some assholes are just asking for it!
From the Twitterverse…
Well…I’m not certain if that statement about tRump not reading the EO is completely true or not. (Cough and hack.) So take it for what it is.
And now for something equally repugnant.
I mean, that headline tweet is just scary as hell.
Let’s put that into perspective. Today is April 26th….and do you realize this is an anniversary of a huge nuclear disaster?
Nuclear war is no where near the “China Syndrome” but looking at images of Chernobyl…it does remind one of the visual possibilities.
One more quick commentary link before we get to the cartoons:
Okay….I do believe that dickwad deserves a hand job.
Onwards and upwards.
And this is an open thread, post all the old Bullshit and new Bullshit you want below in the comments!