Monday: The Double Edged Sword of Comedy’s Double Standard or Why Can’t she just be a nice funny lady?Posted: April 30, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Comedienne Michelle Wolf has managed to do what other Lady Comediennes have done before her. She scored a triple hit on Politics, Comedy, and Journalism. She’s ripped apart another old boy’s club (or three) by letting us know it’s not funny when a woman does it to another woman. We’re only allowed “cat fights” when there’s the chance they get to see our lacy underwear.
So, the nerd prom exposed the pearl clutching double standards of DudeBros of Comedy, Journalism, and Politics. I’m actually counting Andrea Mitchell in the DudeBro ranks for this. C’mon Imus? He took deeply personal pot shots at the Clintons that made Trump’s Nasty woman comment look like a compliment! Wolf pointed to the obvious amount of lying behavior rampant in any one speaking for this White House including its sycophant women.
I recognize laughter in the age of Trump as though it were a cousin of anti-totalitarian laughter. It is the reaction to seeing act-based reality, as when “Saturday Night Live” essentially reënacts White House press conferences, or when late-night comedians offer up what amounts to straightforward reportage and analysis. The hunger for a reflection of reality is so desperate that, I have discovered repeatedly over the last year and a half, one can reliably get laughs simply by quoting Trump during a public talk.
Last month, Hillary Clinton got laughs and applause during her Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which concluded pen America’s annual World Voices Festival, by merely referring to Trump’s lie about the size of the crowd at his Inauguration (around the twenty-three-minute mark here). There was nothing funny about any of it: not about the President’s lies, nor about the grief that this had not been Clinton’s Inauguration, nor about the fact that, speaking a year and a half after her electoral loss, addressing the friendliest of all possible audiences, Clinton was as stilted, scripted, and unapproachable as ever. She was still campaigning, still losing, and there was no reason to laugh.
Political satire in less troubled times exaggerates existing facts, pointing out the absurdities inherent in all ideologies, or playing up smaller disagreements and failures for bigger laughs. But Trump is hard to exaggerate—it is enough, it seems, merely to mirror him. But why does faithful portrayal of fact-based reality elicit laughter in a country that has a free press and a healthy public sphere in which, it seems, reality is robustly represented? What do late-night comedians reclaim from the Times?
Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner suggests an answer. She called the President a racist, a truth as self-evident as it has proved difficult for mainstream journalists to state. Her humor was obscene: she joked about the President’s affair with a porn star; about his “pulling out,” as promised (of the Paris agreement); and about the G.O.P.’s former deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy’s $1.6 million payoff to a former mistress. She also made minced meat of White House staff, House and Senate Republican leaders, the Democrats, and journalists on the right and left, in their presence or in that of their colleagues,
I often skewer Campaign Mommy (Kellywise Conway) and Sisterwife Huckabuck (Sarah “Aunt Lydia”Huckabee). They’re easy prey for any woke woman because they’ve so obviously sold out everything modern women hold dear and at what cost and benefit? From Emily Stewart writing for Vox:
Wolf, a former Daily Show correspondent and host of an upcoming Netflix late-night show, skewered Sanders as the press secretary sat just a few seats away from her onstage. Wolf compared Sanders to Aunt Lydia — a fearsome character from the dystopian Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale who reeducates women into subjugation and enforces strict punishmenton them — and drew attention to the press secretary’s lying, saying she was an “Uncle Tom for white women.”
Here’s what Wolf said:
We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.
Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get — you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. “It’s shirts and skins, and this time don’t be such a little bitch, Jim Acosta!”
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter.
I’ve seen less flattering and meaner portraits of her and Conway in print media by political cartoonists. Could it be Wolf’s sex or is it just that TV journalists are more self-absorbed with their own images and appearances? Come on! Every one know’s they both lie like rugs. Wolf just pointed that out in a comedic satirical frame. Is it just the guilty conscience of an enabling set of TV journos? Trump and his minions are out to destroy a free press and y’all want to demonize the ones shouting that the building is on fire?
From Eric Wemple at WAPO: ‘The president is seeking to destroy journalism. Now let’s debate dinner entertainment!’
And for a bit of historical enlightenment, who can forget the time that two WHCA titans used a USA Today essay to establish rough equivalence between the Trump and Clinton campaigns vis-a-vis their approach to the media?
Extreme caution. Bland statements. Neutrality above all else. Those are the pillars of the WHCA’s approach to the Trump White House. For more on this dynamic, check out New York University professor Jay Rosen’s new piece, “What savvy journalists say when they are minimizing Trump’s hate movement against journalists.” The gist: White House correspondents preoccupy themselves with matters of access and protocol while the president’s “fake news” campaign hacks away at their profession’s very core. “It’s just theater,” said New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker at a WHCA event.
Now consider this incongruity: It was this conciliatory and deferential organization that hired comedian Michelle Wolf to provide the entertainment at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. She killed it, in every way possible. Her jokes were original and nasty, as she roasted Sanders herself, who was seated nearby at the head table at the invitation of the WHCA itself; she did stuff about vaginas, stuff about President Trump and hookers, stuff about the day’s news; she advanced her own career by offending scores of longtime Washington types who used Twitter to express their consternation over her raunch-filled riffs.
Also from WAPO and Molly Roberts: ‘Michelle Wolf got it just right’.
That’s how comedian Michelle Wolf answered Sean Spicer’s declaration that her headliningstand-up set at the the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner was “a disgrace.” Her response is instructive: To Wolf, an insult from Spicer is an accolade – and accolades, surely, would be an insult. She’s right.
Wolf managed Saturday night to scandalize the majority of Washington’s tuxedo-clad intelligentsia with a barrage of bon mots that, in the eyes of much of the press and political establishment, weren’t really so bon at all. The speech, these pundits have argued, wasn’t amusing; it was lewd, and worse than that, it was mean.
Wolf faced particular criticism for (besides all that sex stuff) her satire of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who apparently was a profile in courage for sitting still with pursed lips while someone told jokes about her — “to her face!” These commentators spun the strange narrative that Wolf went after Sanders for her appearance, when in reality Wolf’s barbs centered on the press secretary’s falsehood-filled performance on the White House podium.
“She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye,” Wolf said of Sanders. Correct, on both counts — and many would rejoice at such an endorsement of their eye makeup. Callous attacks on women for their looks, even after Saturday night, still belong to the president who refused to attend Saturday night’s event — not to the comedian who skewered his cohorts.
All the same, countless journalists rallied behind Sanders, the same woman who spends her days lying to them. And that says a lot more about them than it does about Wolf’s routine. Everyone who told Wolf to read the room is missing the point: The room, and the misplaced notion of a “special” night to celebrate the “special” relationship between the press and the presidency that brought everyone to it on Saturday, is precisely the problem.
Wolf, according to the commentariat, violated a sacred standard of decency that defines the correspondents’ dinner every year. The comedian should roast people, yes, but she should do it at a suitably low temperature for this town’s all-too-tender egos. Wolf broke protocol by turning on the broiler. Yet the figures she scorched have shattered norms that are far more important than an unspoken prohibition on vagina jokes.
The correspondents’ dinner supposedly celebrates the rapport that journalists have with the people they cover. This three-course fete of access journalism has always made some skeptics queasy, but after the Trump administration’s active attempts to undermine every organization in the room Saturday that doesn’t treat the president as an unassailable dear leader, it’s hard to pretend that the fourth estate and its subjects can carry on a relationship that’s adversarial and respectful all at once.
Yup, That is it. Exactly.
And who doesn’t remember all the examples of shooting women messengers? Kathie Griffin any one?
Comedian Kathy Griffin has claimed President Donald Trump ordered federal agents to investigate her and make her life miserable in the wake of her ill-considered bloody severed head online post featuring him.
Griffin, who apologized in the wake of the post when she received a barrage of outrage from both sides of the aisle – but later said she wasn’t sorry – was speaking on the ABCStart Here podcast with host Brad Mielke. She is also attending tonight’s White House Correspondents Dinner as a guest in what was anticipated to be a showdown with the president. Instead, Trump opted to hold a rally in Michigan.
Mielke asked Griffin about the aftermath of the photo incident. “You were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Secret Service. But you did say the investigation dragged on for months, and you have said this goes all the way to the White House. Are you saying that the president personally directed federal agents to investigate you?”
Griffin replied, “Of course.”
A woman’s place in journalism, politics, and comedy appears to be safe when you’re the bearer of patriarchy propaganda. Otherwise, no white knight rescue for you princess! Just a burning stake waiting for you baby!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
The countdown clock has come to the final week, I cannot wait for all this wedding business to be over. My mom is still bleeding internally…but she is home. She can’t wait for all this wedding stuff to be over with as well. To top it all off I’ve been saddled with a bad cold. There are strange noises coming out of me, I sound like a midget accordion…wheezing out it’s last few breaths.
So, I’m in the dark news wise, I check out Twits last night and I’m hit with a whole new language: Incel, Roasties, Chads etc.
Only to realize that my favorite character in literature….my hero of the 12 inchers, the Don Quixote of New Orleans was a preconceived epitome of what this new word being lashed at me from all points at once…. my Ignatius was an Incel!
Well, now I’m finishing this post up while I wait to see a PA at the local clinic.
First in line and there are three people behind me, that old man thinks he can sweet talk his way and skip in line? Fuck you viejo, get your flat saggy ass back where you came from.
So here are some tweets of interest:
When is this clinic going to open…geez.
I think I just saw the PA go in… that is good.
Hope y’all have a pleasant day….
I will still be here waiting. This is an open thread.
I’m tired . . . so tired. Life in Trump world is exhausting. We’ve reached the point where it’s obvious that Trump’s family and campaign conspired witIh Russia to win the White House, and yet we still have to listen to Trump rant “no collusion” in his ugly, blaring voice. Have you noticed his Queens accent really comes out when he’s apoplectic like he was on Fox and Friends on Thursday? It seems his rosacea gets worse when he’s angry too. If only I never had to hear that honking voice or see his ugly orange face ever again!
I think maybe Angela Merkel agrees with me. Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: All the Times Angela Merkel’s Face Said “STFU You Dumkopf Orange Oaf.”
On Friday, German chancellor Angela Merkel arrived at the White House for a three-hour “working session” with Donald Trump, the goal of which was to convince the American to resist his impulses and not do anything stupid on a host of issues ranging from trade to Iran to the environment. Picking up where French president Emmanuel Macron left off—which is to say, at square one—Merkel’s visit was expected to be much less of a lovefest, meaning no hugging, kissing, hand-holding, fancy dinners, 21-gun salutes, or animal-kingdom mating rituals. The best anyone could hope for, experts warned, was that through small words and simple sentence construction, the chancellor could make Trump understand that so many of his threats—particularly the ones on trade—would hurt not only the targets for which they were intended, but the U.S. as well.
Even then, expectations were extremely low, given the 45th president’s inability to understand complex, nuanced issues, or the freaking difference between a trade deficit and a surplus. Still, when the two took to a pair of podiums to hold a joint press conference on Friday afternoon, the vibe seemed slightly better than expected. For one thing, Trump was neither foaming at the mouth nor actively refusing to shake Merkel’s hand. For another, Merkel dug deep and paid Trump some compliments using words and phrases you know he just ate up, mentioning the “strength” of his sanctions on North Korea, and claiming that last year’s tax legislation has made the U.S. a “very interesting place for our companies” to invest. Still, one need only take a gander at Merkel’s notoriously weak poker face to understand that inside, she was screaming I can’t believe I have to occupy the same airspace as this knuckle-dragger.
Watch videos and read more snark at Vanity Fair. I can’t even begin to imagine how Macron could bear to have Trump’s hands all over him during their visit. Just the thought of it makes me gag.
On the “no collusion” front . . .
Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: The new House GOP report on Russia is revealing. But not in a good way for Trump.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday released a report on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Although it is meant to exonerate President Trump and everyone around him, what it actually does is bring the utter degradation and disgrace of that committee to its fullest expression.
By contrast, there may be real news in the Democrats’ response to the report. In particular, the Democrats detailed new information that appears to shed light on what Republicans would not do in their investigation.
The response by Democrats makes this important charge: That Republicans refused to follow up on a lead that could have demonstrated whether, despite his denials, Trump had advance knowledge of the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a group of Russians and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.
Specifically, it appears very likely that Trump talked to Don Jr. on the phone while Jr. was setting up the meeting.
According to the Democratic response, right after Trump Jr. set up the specifics of the meeting, he had two calls with a number in Russia belonging to Emin Agalarov. Between those two calls, the Democratic response recounts, Trump Jr. received a third call from a blocked number. Who might it have been? [….]
“We sought to determine whether that number belonged to the president, because we also ascertained that then-candidate Trump used a blocked number,” Schiff said during our interview. “That would tell us whether Don Jr. sought his father’s permission to take the meeting, and [whether] that was the purpose of that call.”
Schiff added that Democrats asked Republicans to subpoena phone records to determine whose number it was, but Republicans “refused,” Schiff said. “They didn’t want to know whether he had informed his father and sought his permission to take that meeting with the Russians.”
Raise your hand if you think the call from the blocked number was from someone other than Daddy Trump. I’m sure Robert Mueller and his team already know whose number that was.
A direct line of communication between the Kremlin-connected Agalarov family and the Trump family was open during the transition after President Donald Trump’s presidential election, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The “first of a series” of text messages was sent between Emin Agalarov and Donald Trump Jr. two days after the 2016 election, a source familiar with the communications told BuzzFeed News.
The communications continued through at least mid-December 2016, according to information made public Friday.
It is not clear how many messages were sent, whether Trump Jr. sent any of them, or how many were sent by either party — although BuzzFeed News confirmed that multiple messages were sent.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee revealed one of the text messages, from Dec. 13, 2016, in their “minority views” report on Friday — one of several new pieces of information that suggest that the Trumps’ relationship with the Agalarovs was much closer than the president and his family have said.
Many more details at the Buzzfeed link.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Friday that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya reached out to the Trump family after the election with a request to follow up on efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 Russian sanctions the US enacted over human rights abuses.
Veselnitskaya was the Russian lawyer at the center of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where Donald Trump Jr. expected to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton but instead Veselnitskaya focused on the repeal of the sanctions.
“Clearly, there’s an expectation there on the Russian side that they may now have success with the Magnitsky Act, given that the prior meeting and communications dealt with the offer of help,” Schiff said. “It certainly seems like the Russians were ready for payback.”
In addition, another effort to reach out to Trump’s team after the election came from Aras Agalarov, the Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch who also has ties to the Trump Tower meeting. Agalarov, along with his pop-star son, Emin Agalarov, also worked with Trump to bring the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow….
Democrats cite a November 28, 2016, email from publicist Rob Goldstone to Trump’s assistant, Rhona Graff, which said that “Aras Agalarov has asked me to pass on this document in the hope it can be passed on to the appropriate team.”
“Later that day, Graff forwarded to Steve Bannon the email with Agalarov’s document regarding the Magnitsky Act as an attachment, explaining, ‘The PE [President Elect] knows Aras well. Rob is his rep in the US and sent this on. Not sure how to proceed, if at all.'”
Trump’s team has denied there was any follow up after the Trump Tower meeting.
While Trump claims credit for the meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jon Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Max Boot points out at The Washington Post that this has happened before: Don’t let the Korea summit hype fool you. We’ve been here before.
The meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea was acclaimed as “historic.” The two leaders hugged, “smiled broadly, shook each other’s hand vigorously and toasted each other with glasses of champagne.” Reporters noted that the “opening formalities seemed surprisingly relaxed, exceeding the expectations of many people, including perhaps those of the principals themselves. The South Korean leader said we must “proceed together on a path of reconciliation and cooperation.” The North Korean leader replied that “you will not be disappointed.”
Sound familiar? It should, because the news coverage of the 2000 meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang parallels the euphoria over Friday’s meeting in Panmunjom between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s son. If anything, the 2000 meeting produced more tangible results: Not only declarations about ending the Korean War and uniting the two countries, but also concrete steps toward creating a joint South Korean-North Korean industrial park in Kaesong , allow South Korean tourists to visit the North, and to reunify families long divided by the demilitarized zone. Between 1998 and 2008, South Korea provided some $8 billion in economic assistance to North Korea in the hope that all of this aid would create a kinder, gentler regime. Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts.
And yet the Sunshine Policy, so widely heralded at the time, is now widely judged a failure. Despite North Korea’s promises, it did nothing to ease the repression of its populace or to end its nuclear and missile programs. It turned out Kim Dae-jung only achieved that “historic” 2000 summit by offering Kim Jong Il a $500 million bribe. Another summit was held in 2007, arranged by Moon Jae-in, then an aide to President Roh Moo-hyun, and it too was rapturously acclaimed. But the next year, a conservative government took power in Seoul and ended the Sunshine Policy.
Read the rest at the link.
Finally, a little schadenfreude. The Independent reports that there was a fire in the Trump Tower in Azerbaijan. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
A skyscraper that was slated to become a Trump International Hotel in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku has caught fire.
The Azadliq newspaper reported that the blaze broke out on the middle floors of the 33-storey building, which is locally known as Trump Tower, and spread.
Etibar Mirzoev, deputy head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said there were no injuries and authorities were working to establish the cause of the of the fire.
What stories are you following today?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
It’s been a week where toxic masculinity has been on full display. So, should I qualify that or not? Do I need to say not all men? Do I need to say enablers count? What do we say about all of this? Every day in Trump’s America is a day where we find yet another example of #MeToo but most of it is not a current event unless you point out that we’re finally getting some accountability but also some blowback. Let me count the ways.
Katie J.M Baker writes this for the NYT: ‘What Do We Do With These Men?’
The bad men are plotting their comebacks.
In recent days, Page Six reported that the former CBS anchor Charlie Rose, accused by employees of acts ranging from groping to walking around naked in their presence, is shopping a return to television. His new project? Interviewing other men felled by #MeToo.
Mr. Rose isn’t alone: In the past few weeks, men from Tom Ashbrook to Matt Lauer to Mario Batali to Louis C.K. have reportedly been testing the waters. The response has been swift and incredulous. “Maybe don’t,” wrote Jessica Goldstein in a ThinkProgress piece called “Men who pulled out their penises at work think people want to see more of them now.” “Perhaps these guys could just stay quietly at home for a few more months and jerk each other off,” Anna Merlan wrote in a piece for Jezebel (where I previously worked).
I get it. For the first time in history, it seems, an unprecedented number of powerful men are facing significant consequences for predatory behavior. For a minority — such as Bill Cosby, who was found guilty this week in the first post-#MeToo celebrity sex crimes trial — the road to justice seems obvious. But for the vast majority, it isn’t. Still, it feels appalling, unfair, even beside the point to turn to questions of what should happen to the #MeToo-ed men who aren’t headed to court.
Yes, Cosby had his day in court. He lost.
The verdict was widely celebrated as a win for sexual assault victims. Gloria Allred, the lawyer for dozens of Mr. Cosby’s accusers, said outside the courtroom, “After all is said and done, women were finally believed.”
Still, they persisted.
In the news business, “I think people generally did not care” about women’s stories of sexual harassment, said Soledad O’Brien, who worked at NBC for 12 years, went on to CNN for another decade and now runs her own production company. “I don’t think that people who were victims would feel particularly supported by going to someone and asking for help, whether that person was in HR or that person was a colleague.”
O’Brien added that she did not experience sexual harassment at NBC but said that within the industry, “People were mostly concerned they would lose their jobs if they complained. I think those concerns were valid.”
But, these weren’t the only stories making headlines this weeks. We have the arrest of two mass murderers. One that destroyed millions of lives of women over a period of time and another that shattered the lives of people in a few minutes. What does it take to get folks to realize there is a common thread here?
Gary Younge writes this for The Guardian: “Nearly every mass killer is a man. We should all be talking more about that.”
From the Oklahoma bombing to the massacre in Norway it is always the same. In the immediate aftermath of mass murder, the initial hypothesis is that it must be a Muslim. And so it was on Monday that, within minutes of a van mowing down pedestrians in Toronto, a far-right lynching party was mobilised on social media looking for jihadis. Paul Joseph Watson, of conspiracy site Infowars, announced, “A jihadist has just killed nine people”; Katie Hopkins branded the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a “terrorist shill”.
But there is a far safer assumption one can generally make. For while a relatively small proportion of mass killers in North America are Muslim, across the globe they are almost all men.
There will be, though, no appeals for moderate men to denounce toxic masculinity, no extra surveillance where men congregate, no government-sponsored schemes to promote moderate manhood, or travel bans for men. Indeed, the one thing that is consistently true for such incidents, whether they are classified as terrorist or not, will for the most part go unremarked. Obviously not all men are killers. But the fact that virtually all mass killers are men should, at the very least, give pause for thought. If it were women slaying people at this rate, feminism would be in the dock. The fact they are male is both accepted and expected. Boys will be boys; mass murderers will be men.
Who got the Golden State Killer?A sort’ve public library of 23 and me for one.
To get a leg up in the investigation in the cold case of the “Golden State Killer” (aka the “East Area Rapist”), authorities recently turned to modern DNA and genealogy analysis tools.
But they didn’t use any of the big-name DNA analysis firms like 23andMe; instead they relied on GEDmatch, a free, open source site run by a small two-man Florida company that just a few years ago was soliciting donations via PayPal.
According to the East Bay Times, which first reported the connection to GEDmatch late Thursday evening, California investigators caught a huge break in the case when they matched DNA from some of the original crime scenes with genetic data that had already been uploaded to GEDmatch. This familial link eventually led authorities to Joseph James DeAngelo, the man who authorities have named the chief suspect in the case. To confirm the genetic match, Citrus Heights police physically surveilled him and captured DNA off of something that he had discarded.
The former police officer was arrested Tuesday at his home in suburban Sacramento, having eluded law enforcement for decades. DeAngelo is expected to be arraigned Friday in Sacramento County Superior Court.
The Yolo County District Attorney said Thursday that DeAngelo “is suspected of committing over 50 rapes and a dozen murders across 10 different Northern, Central, and Southern California counties between 1976 and 1986.”
Paul Holes, a retired Contra Costa County District Attorney inspector, told the East Bay Times that the investigation’s “biggest tool was GEDmatch, a Florida-based website that pools raw genetic profiles that people share publicly. No court order was needed to access that site’s large database of genetic blueprints.”
BB has suggested–and I would argue rightly so–that the obsessiveness of one woman brought the ice cold case back to life. This is from the New Yorker and it was published this last January. (Caution Rape Trigger)
You were your approach: The thump against the fence. A temperature dip from a jimmied-open patio door. The odor of aftershave permeating a bedroom at 3 a.m. A blade at the base of the neck. “Don’t move, or I’ll kill you.” Their hardwired threat-detection systems flickered meekly through the sledgehammer of sleep. No one had time to sit up. Awakening meant understanding that they were under siege. Phone lines had been cut. Bullets emptied from guns. Ligatures prepared and laid out. You forced action from the periphery, a blur of mask and strange, gulping breaths. Your familiarity freaked them. Your hands flew to hard-to-find light switches. You knew names. Number of kids. Hangouts. Your preplanning gave you a crucial advantage, because, when your victims awoke to the blinding flashlight and clenched-teeth threats, you were always a stranger to them, but they never were to you.
Hearts drummed. Mouths dried. Your physicality remained unfathomable. You were a hard-soled shoe felt fleetingly. A penis slathered in baby lotion thrust into a pair of bound hands. “Do it good.” No one saw your face. No one felt your full body weight. Blindfolded, the victims relied on smell and hearing. Floral talcum powder. Hint of cinnamon. Chimes on a curtain rod. Zipper opening on a duffel bag. Coins falling to the floor. A whimper, a sob. “Oh, Mom.” A glimpse of royal-blue brushed-leather tennis shoes.
The barking of dogs fading away in a westerly direction.
These are the words of Michelle McNamara.
This piece is excerpted from “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer,” which was published on February 27th by HarperCollins. The Golden State Killer is the name McNamara gave to an unidentified man who raped more than fifty women and likely killed ten or more people in California in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Several years ago, McNamara began investigating the case and blogging about it on her Web site. She died in April, 2016, at the age of forty-six.
Still, she persisted until death.
But again, not all men.
What caused Paul Ryan to dismiss a Catholic priest serving as chaplain for the House? The rumor mill is is busy with this one.
If you’re going to fire a beloved House chaplain, it helps to have bipartisan support. Even better if that person is a Catholic, too. Ryan thought he did have House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) sign off. “She and her office were fully read in and did not object,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokesman, told Kane.
Pelosi’s office denies they agreed Conroy should go. Ryan and Pelosi may fight in public a lot, but behind the scenes they have a fairly good working relationship. The fact they can’t agree on the basic facts of a conversation about the chaplain just adds to the mystery surrounding this.
There’s also talk that it came from outcries of the religiously whacky freedom caucus. “Ousted House chaplain: Ryan told me to ‘stay out of politics'”
Ousted House Chaplain Patrick Conroy said Thursday that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told him to “stay out of politics” after he offered a prayer on the House floor as the chamber was debating tax reform.
“A staffer came down and said, We are upset with this prayer; you are getting too political,” Conroy told The New York Times. “It suggests to me that there are members who have talked to him about being upset with that prayer.”
Conroy said that shortly afterward Ryan told him, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”
The prayer was said in November amid debate about overhauling the tax code.
“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” Conroy prayed on the House floor. “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”
Whatever the reasons, it’s another clear example of the many way that men who have power or seek it through destroying others run amok in these times. The irony that Paul Ryan is supposedly Catholic is not lost on us.
Still, we persist.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
The pressure is building on Trump. This morning he had a major meltdown on Fox and Friends. It was so bad that the hosts couldn’t hide their embarrassment and they finally had to cut off the call. Trump publicly accused James Comey and Andrew McCabe of committing crimes and for the first time he said the words “Stormy Daniels” and admitted that Michael Cohen was representing him (Trump) in Cohen’s dealings with Daniels. He also admitted that he spent the night in Moscow in 2013, despite what he told Comey. Finally, he said that he wasn’t going to keep his hands off the DOJ much longer.
President Trump called into his favorite morning show for a wide-ranging interview during which an animated — and, at times, angry — Trump weighed in on several scandals swirling around his administration. Chief among them: special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
The president chastised the Justice Department for greenlighting the Russia probe into his campaign’s alleged ties with Russia rather than pursuing a separate investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“Our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point, I won’t, our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia,” Trump said. “There is no collusion with me with Russia and everyone knows it.”
Asked about the extent to which Cohen handles his legal affairs, Trump characterized his involvement as “a tiny, tiny little fraction.” But there was a notable exception.
“He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal,” Trump said, marking the first time he had ever spoken the porn actress’ name publicly. The disclosure also raised further questions about his earlier assertion that he had no knowledge that Cohen paid the porn actress $130,000 in hush money during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“He leaked classified information to get a special counsel and leaked the memos which are classified — the memos were about me and he didn’t write those memos accurately. He wrote a lot of phony stuff,” Trump said as the Fox & Friends hosts looked on in silence. “For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant, so I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia, now, I didn’t go there, everybody knows the logs are there the planes are there. He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time but of course I stayed there. Well his memo said I left immediately, I never said that. I never said I left immediately.”Trump also said of Comey: “I did a great thing for the American people by firing him.”
Here’s his rant on McCabe.
I hope McCabe’s lawyer was listening, because I think he has a case for defamation.
First, Trump claimed that Cohen — his longtime personal lawyer and fixer — only represented him in “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work….
Trump’s comments come a day after a lawyer representing him told a federal judge that Trump himself “is ready to help recommend what materials seized from his personal attorney that relate to him should be withheld from federal investigators because of attorney-client privilege,” according to the Associated Press.
The day after the raid on his longtime personal attorney, Trump suggested that it shouldn’t even have happened because of attorney-client privilege.
But Trump’s claim that Cohen only deals with “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work will likely complicate his lawyers’ efforts to shield seized documents from federal investigators in prosecutors.
Trump acknowledged during the Fox & Friends interview that Cohen did represent him during his dealings with Daniels. Trump recently claimed he had no knowledge of the payment at the time.
“Michael would represent me and represent me on some things,” Trump said. “He represented me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. He represented me and you know, from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong.”
But Cohen’s story about the secret Daniels hush payment — which may have been illegal if it was meant to help Trump’s campaign — is that he made it from his personal funds, without Trump being looped in at all. Trump’s acknowledgement that Cohen “represented me” in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal” undermines the repeated public claims of his own lawyer.
Read more details at the link above. Also see this piece at The Guardian: Trump admits Michael Cohen was his lawyer in Stormy Daniels matter.
You can watch a long clip from the interview at this Business Insider link. If you can’t stand to listen to Trump’s voice, at least watch it with the sound muted to see the embarrassed looks on the faces of the Fox hosts.
Here’s what Trump whisperer Maggie Haberman had to say about Trump’s meltdown.
And here we go. The government’s attorneys quoted Trump’s Fox and Friends rant in their filing for the court hearing in the Michael Cohen case today at noon.
Click on that link to read the entire document.
One more related story from The New York Times: Michael Cohen to Take Fifth Amendment in Stormy Daniels Lawsuit.
Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, will invoke his Fifth Amendment right in a lawsuit filed against the president by Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star better known as Stormy Daniels.
Mr. Cohen’s decision, disclosed Wednesday in a court filing in California, where the suit was filed, came a day before a federal judge in Manhattan was set to hold a hearing regarding materials seized from Mr. Cohen during an F.B.I. raid earlier this month.
Mr. Cohen cited the Manhattan investigation in his filing on Wednesday, saying that, if called as a witness in Ms. Clifford’s lawsuit, “I will assert my 5th Amendment rights in connection with all proceedings in this case due to the ongoing criminal investigation by the F.B.I. and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.” [….]
Citing the Fifth Amendment in the Clifford case allows Mr. Cohen to avoid being deposed and revealing sensitive information in the more important criminal investigation.
In Trump “I know the best people” news, The White House has withdrawn the nomination of Ronny Jackson to run the VA. The Washington Post:
The White House withdrew the nomination of Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, to lead the Veterans Affairs Department on Thursday after lawmakers went public with a torrent of accusations leveled against him by nearly two dozen current and former colleagues from the White House medical staff.
In a statement released Thursday morning, Dr. Jackson announced that he was withdrawing his name for consideration to be the secretary of Veteran Affairs.
“Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes,” Dr. Jackson said in a statement provided by the White House press office.
He said that the charges against him were “completely false and fabricated.”
Within minutes of the withdrawal, President Trump lamented the loss of his nomination, and said that Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, would “have a big price to pay” for undercutting Dr. Jackson.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will face a double whammy of hearings on Capitol Hill Thursday that could make or break his career at the EPA. You can watch the C-SPAN livestream here.
The hearings were originally intended to give Pruitt the chance to pitch his agency’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. But members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, including some Republicans, are expected to grill Pruitt over his growing list of alleged ethical lapses.
A tsunami of accusations of improper dealings has emerged since Pruitt’s last trip to the Hill in January, from using sirens to get to dinner reservations to a sweetheart condo deal with a lobbyist to ousting staffers who questioned his luxury travel. These allegations have led to investigations from Congress, the White House, and government watchdogs. The Government Accountability Office already found that the $43,000 phone booth in Pruitt’s office broke the law.
And though his prepared statement for the Energy and Commerce Committee completely ignores the controversies around him, the New York Times reported that Pruitt is preparing for a confrontation with a set of talking points on his long list of scandals. He will argue, among other things, that he flew first class based on recommendations from his security staff and that he wasn’t involved in the decision to bypass the White House to get massive raises for two close aides.NB
Meanwhile, EPA employees protested outside the agency’s headquarters on Wednesday, decrying budget cuts alongside activists and lawmakers who want to “Boot Pruitt” out of office.
NBC News’ First Read suggests that Trump’s biggest problem might be the competency question.
This morning, President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs withdrew his nomination after new allegations against him surfaced. Today, Congress is expected to grillthe president’s EPA administrator over alleged ethical lapses. And the president’s personal lawyer and fixer is pleading the Fifth Amendment.Yes, it’s chaos and controversy, which we’ve constantly chronicled here. But it’s also a matter of competency. According to this month’s NBC/WSJ poll, a majority of Americans — 56 percent — said that Trump’s administration isn’t competent, including 39 percent who said it isn’t competent at all. By contrast, 43 percent said it was competent, including 16 percent who said “very competent.”
To put those numbers into perspective, 50 percent of American said Barack Obama’s administration was competent in June 2014 (so after the Obamacare website crash during his second term), and 53 percent said George W. Bush’s administration was competent in March 2006 (after Hurricane Katrina).
So for all the potential dangers to Trump’s presidency — the Russia investigation, historically low approval ratings, Democrats possibly winning the House (and Senate) in November — the biggest could very well be the competency question.
Indeed, majorities of women (61 percent), seniors (58 percent), millennials (57 percent), independents (57 percent) and men (51 percent) said the Trump administration wasn’t too competent or not competent at all. Even whites were split down the middle — 50-50.
That’s a big problem.
That’s all I have for you this morning. I know I’ve only touched on a small part of what’s happening. So . . . what stories are you following today?