Life imitates snark!
"can we lift that please?" pic.twitter.com/JIgl91XxrW
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) September 23, 2020
But does it separate?
My work here is done…
I thought surely it was from a parody account, but nope, it’s real.*
I’m a professionally trained word-having person, but I find myself utterly bereft of verbiage.
Also, I just read that the Third Lady is going to speak at the RNC event at the White House, and there’s no contemporary convention speeches from Michelle Obama to plagiarize, so Melania’s probably speechless too.
*After-market graffiti courtesy of MS Paint!
What are the rules of engagement for a mob of highly-equipped men, with layers of protective clothing, against a woman wearing no clothes?
That was the situation in Portland on July 18. The woman was as unidentifiable as the men, wearing only a mask and a knit cap. She appeared, danced, and then sat to expose her vulva to the men. Photo showing nudity after the fold.
The men shot pepper balls at her feet, in contrast to the rubber bullets and teargas they have shot at other protesters. About ten minutes after she arrived, the Portland Oregonian says, the men left.
What are the rules of engagement? We have seen the pseudo-military mob attack a man in sweatshirt and knee-length shorts for speaking to them about their presumable oath to the Constitution. We have seen them attack the Wall of Moms and Leafblower Dads, seemingly without provocation. A clothed woman who danced with flowers was roughly taken into custody.
The contrast between the heavily armored and equipped men and a woman covering only her hair and nose and mouth echoes the disparity between police bodies and black bodies that the Portland protests have commemorated – in particular, the death of George Floyd, who was wearing ordinary clothes while the armed and armored police crushed out his life and breath.
Clothing protects. Layers of Kevlar, pads for elbows and knees, breathing apparatus against the irritants they intend to deploy, rip-stop fatigues, helmets, and heavy boots and gloves protect easily injured human skin and bones.
Protection is necessary for anticipated violence. But anticipating violence often prepares the way for it. The woman’s nakedness said that she anticipated no violence, and those anticipating violence directed little of it her way.
Do the Rules of Engagement for the armed mob say anything about attempting to de-escalate tensions? To mediate where possible? Do they list appropriate and inappropriate actions in response to “the enemy,” aka citizens in the streets? Do they take into account the power difference between agents of the state and ordinary citizens?
The difference in physical power between a naked woman and men dressed for combat is absolute. But there are other kinds of power. The men left the area without assaulting and detaining her. Another photo, from two years ago, also speaks of a physically vulnerable woman’s power in contrast to heavily uniformed men.
In the older photo, the woman is lightly clothed and impassive. She seems in control of the situation. Her strength and lack of fear are similar to that of the Portland woman. She was taken into custody just after the photo.
The women’s legitimacy lies in their existence and their lack of fear. The men have a physical legitimacy in their gear: expensive, provided by the state, protective of their physical person. The legitimacy of their behavior has not been validated by the authorities, who have gone to some lengths to make the men unidentifiable and who have not made the rules of engagement public.
The Portland woman may be calling on another sort of legitimacy. Femininsts have rediscovered Sheela-na-Gigs carved in churches in the British Isles. They take the same position that she took toward the men, which may be a position of power and protection for those behind her. That is the interpretation that some feminists have taken of the Sheela-na-Gigs, but we don’t know their meaning.
Once again, the Trump administration has mistaken violence for effectiveness. The Portland woman reminds us there is another way. We need to ask whether restraint and mediation are any part of the protected men’s rules of engagement.
Cross-posted to Balloon Juice
It’s been 500 years or so since the impeachment, but remember Fiona Hill, formerly of the National Security Council? There’s a fascinating piece by Adam Entous in The New Yorker: “What Fiona Hill Learned in the White House.” If you were intrigued by Hill’s testimony, wondered about her background or are curious about how a no-nonsense public servant like Hill ended up working for Trump and Bolton, it’s worth a read.
Hill doesn’t seem to buy into the theory that Trump does Putin’s bidding because he (Trump) is compromised in any direct sense. She appears to believe Trump is a credulous ignoramus who is impressed by autocratic power and unaware of how the presidency functions. He follows his instincts — unleavened by knowledge of history or geopolitical considerations — and thus treats U.S. foreign policy decisions as personal transactions for his own gain. None of that surprised me.
Neither did my biggest takeaway from the article: that Trump is every bit as egregious a sexist pig as I imagined. But I’m seething over that aspect of his misrule anew after reading the article. Hill tells a story about her first day on the job, when she accompanied then-Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Advisor McMaster to the Oval Office to debrief Trump after a call with Putin.
As the Russia expert, Hill thought she would be contributing to a “substantive discussion about the call.” But Trump was preoccupied with editing a press release someone had written about the call, and he evidently mistook Hill for an administrative assistant. He momentarily confused her by waving the annotated press release at her (I’m imagining “YOUR EXLENCY” and “VERY” and “VERY STRONGLY” inserted via gold Sharpie). When Hill looked baffled, Trump said, “Hey darling, are you listening?”
Her male colleagues left her hanging, perhaps afraid that it would anger Trump if they told him Hill’s actual White House function. Ivanka got huffy about it for some reason and thought Hill was being rude to Trump, maybe because Hill didn’t immediately leap up to do the press release edits? Who knows. But Hill found herself in Stepford right from the start and tried to fit in, sort of:
Until that point, Hill said, she had always let her work speak for itself. But she had noticed that women in the West Wing wore designer dresses and more makeup. After the meeting, she went out and bought a few new outfits, “just so I wouldn’t be conspicuous in my dowdiness.” It was well known that Trump put inordinate stock in appearances, particularly when it came to women. “Central casting is a real thing for him,” a longtime Trump adviser told me. Trump addressed his female aides as “honey,” “sweetie,” and “darling.” If he didn’t like how an adviser looked, he would say, “Honey, you look so tired.” Trump would sometimes say of his female advisers, “They look O.K. in person, but on TV they look really bad. Why do they look so bad?”
After Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, was interviewed on “60 Minutes,” Trump complained that she wasn’t attractive enough. When officials were discussing the possibility of a new position for Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Trump said he didn’t like how her cheeks looked. He complained to officials that Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, wasn’t sufficiently aggressive toward migrants—and she was too short. When Trump insulted a female adviser, the men in the room would look away. “It throws you off your game,” a former female adviser told me. “It deflates you.” Another former White House official, a man, told me that Trump was “rougher with women. He has a problem with women.” It was soon evident that Trump had a problem with Hill. “Forgive me, Fiona’s attractive, but he doesn’t trust women that are kind of non-players in his world,” the former official said. He added, “Anyone who takes notes is suspect.” A former national-security official told me that, after the incident in the Oval Office, some of Trump’s top advisers, including Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, began referring to Hill as “the Russia bitch.”
I think we can all guess what the unnamed former male official meant when he said Trump “doesn’t trust women that are kind of non-players in his world.” Among the women who are “players” in that world are the empty-headed pouty wife and vacuous grifty daughter and vacant lying press secretary. I don’t believe for a minute he trusts any of them either but likely considers them interchangeably fuckable (except the wife, who is probably considered too old now).
It’s so hard to focus on any single aspect of Trump’s personal awfulness. He’s such an irredeemable asshole in every respect. His behavior is so consistently inappropriate and outrageous that it’s impossible to catalog it all, let along pause to acknowledge each horrendous and destructive aspect of it, at least in real time. It’s more difficult still to comprehend all the ways Trump’s elevation to the presidency cheapens and shames this country and demeans and alienates tens of millions its citizens.
But some day, damn it, we need to have a reckoning about Trump creating a low-rent escort service environment in the White House and the gross toadies like Reince Preibus who eagerly joined in. We should know the names of the cowardly shits — men and women — who not only did not oppose this outrageous behavior but didn’t even think it was worth mentioning. Hill didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about Trump and the organization he runs, not during the impeachment hearings, and not in this article. But if we’re making a list of the things Trump wrecked that need to be fixed, I hope the vile misogyny he exuded and enabled at least makes the top fucking 5.
This probably the first, last and only thing I’ll have to say about the Tara Reade issue, largely because I like to let a thing play out, so I can work with all the facts.
The “Me Too” movement was started by Tarana Burke in 2006, to raise awareness not on sexual violence, but on it’s pervasiveness. Because of the nature of the sexual violence & harassment, despite it’s ubiquity, it feels unique. It’s happening to you, to your body, to your mind. And it traps you there. Yet, sexual violence and harassment is pretty much something every woman has experience with and a lot of men as well. We live in a world where corrective rape is a thing, for god’s sake. When the #MeToo movement had a surge due to the hashtag’s use on social media and it’s connection to the Harvey Weinstein case, it really felt like a damn had finally burst and a lot of toxic silence as well as the enabling behavior of people towards powerful abusers was about to end.
Fast forward to 2020 and for a second time, a presidential candidate stands accused of sexual assault. Others have done a lot of work examining the accusation and it’s inconsistencies, so I won’t go into that. What I’m more concerned about is the idea that the accusation is enough to demand that Biden step down and more disconcerting, that investigating the accusation and finding inconsistencies is being a rape apologist. Me Too came about to shine a light on the prevalence of sexual assault & violence, particularly in being heard, believed and to have these crimes investigated so there could be consequences. At least, that’s what it means to me. Has it changed? And what does it mean if we should believe without question?
Interpersonal interactions are not easy to navigate. What one person says and feels will not be what another person says and feels. That’s partially why dealing with sexual harassment has been hard. As we evolve as a society, interactions that were ok by a dominant group to a sub group are now not ok. I’ve had my share of unwanted hugs from people who were huggers and could mandate that as an interaction. Frankly, I’ve always found touchy, handsy people irritating because there is no concept of “this is cool for me, but I should ask if it’s cool for you”. Is it easy to believe Joe touched in a way that Reade didn’t like? Sure. Does that equate to believing he’s a rapist? No. Does that mean her claims shouldn’t be investigated? No. Does it mean it’s impossible it happened? No. In fact, to know the truth of the matter, we must investigate. Whatever details she can provide, her full truth must be heard so we, the voters, can make a decision on whether or not this is credible and therefore, actionable. Yet, I am seeing that the search for the truth means you’re ignoring sexual assault.
Truth is the most important thing to base our decisions on. Truth must inform our actions. And even when those truths are inconvenient, we must listen to the truth. It’s disturbing to see that Biden has been condemned in multiple corners of the internet based on an allegation. It’s even more disturbing that inconsistencies and interference from some of the people who broke the story are being reframed as rape apology. Aren’t we on the left supposed to be focused on facts? If we abandon facts in favor of what we want to believe, then we’re in trouble. There’s also another troubling question. Why aren’t we supposed to ask questions and instead supposed to simply react? I do believe we’re witnessing right now the destruction of our country by an entire party that’s given up on facts, truth and only reacts wildly to everything. How would aping that benefit any effort to stop it?
When I started this, the Eva Murry accusations of Biden ogling her breasts when she as a 14 year-old attended the Gridiron Dinner in 2008 just hit Twitter through Sasha Pezenik of ABC. The accusations fell apart pretty fast, but it’s starting to show a pattern of weaponizing Me Too and the natural instinct to punish sexual predators in power. Today, Jacob Wohl & his partner Jack Burkeman have been exposed in an attempt to take down Dr. Fauci (I beg forgiveness for the Reason link), using emotional manipulation of the accuser, knowledge of her past as an assault victim and plain old cash payments. It’s incredibly typical to take good things, necessary things and twist them so they’re no longer good.
For far too many cases of sexual assault & harassment, corroboration with tangible evidence is not likely. Women have had to have the presence of mind to preserve things like torn clothes, nasty emails, voicemails – you get the gist. And that’s to be believed. Reade’s story seemed like she had corroboration – until we learned that they had been carefully helped to remember. Reade herself has shifted her story, multiple times. From just anger at unfair treatment, to now, a rape charge. But here’s the uncomfortable truth. It could be true. She could be a crook, a fraud, an attention hound and she could be telling the truth, for once. Due to the people who have latched onto it for entirely political purposes, we may never know. That’s the trap. Weaponizing Me Too for political purposes.
Any hope of justice is gone. The waters are too muddied. The people who want to believe Biden is guilty of rape – either because they can’t bear the idea that someone could lie about something as awful as sexual assault for attention or power or perfectly fine with spreading a lie for power – don’t want to hear anything except acquiescence. The people who don’t want to believe Biden is guilty of rape, well, kinda in the same boat. Vox’s latest article covers Laura McGann’s efforts for a year, to get the story from Tara – who maintained in her Intercept interview that no media would talk to her. Turns out a lot of media would & did talk to her. Many of the details McGann took from her initial statements changed. Many of the corroborating people said one thing at first, then updated statements later to match the new story. You can’t take down the powerful like this.
I feel the same knot in my stomach now as when I first heard of this. I’d like to know the truth. I mean, to a certain degree, I am always certain when I’m in the company of the powerful, I am in the company of people who have abused the weak. In small ways, in big ways, but in some ways. I guess I’ve seen a little too much to avoid having such a prejudice, but I acknowledge my prejudice and work to let people exist and judge only their actions. Biden will be fine, whether he wins or loses. I firmly believe if we win the Senate – supermajority style – and keep the House, the Presidency is less important. Disagree with me, I don’t care about that. What I care most about is that some on the left seem to have abandoned truth unless it services their purposes. The Biden story is just the latest iteration. It’s why there’s literally nothing the GOP does that isn’t met with “And Pelosi does nothing about it!”. If you push back on it, you’re a neolib moderate or rape apologist. If you say nothing, it’s tacit approval. We’ve adapted labels to stifle healthy discourse and intellectual approaches to tough issues. And I don’t know where this will lead. No one will bear a consequence for it. Too many factions who use internet bullying and courts of public opinion to control narratives. Controversy itself is a profitable brand. But we must make sure the Me Too movement survives and if possible, make it sacrosanct as a tool for gain. Women, men, non-binary people and all the marginalized groups who fit in those categories need it. It cannot be used like this. It’s too important. Everyone Me Too took down, went down under the weight of tons of evidence. Not flat belief. It took courage, it took persistence, it took years. That’s what the power of Me Too is. A demand to listen, support and investigate so every person is accountable. I’d love to believe this will be the last time anyone, at least on the lefty media side, does this. But I see the same people refusing to hear and I see the right wing media picking up the ball and running with it. All I know is, I’m furious and betrayed. I guess it might just be too much to ask that people stop reading content they want to believe and start reading content that presents enough facts to be believable. We’ll see what happens from here on out. I hope Ms. Reade finds peace, whether manipulated, or conwoman or both. It would be nice if many people familiar to us who immediately were sure Biden was credibly accused of assault said, “Hey, you know, I may have jumped the gun.” That won’t happen, of course. I hope we find the truth as much as we can even, as we focus on the goal of preventing more death and destruction in America. Because truth is worth protecting and fighting for.
New NBC poll shows Sanders in the lead, with a four-way tie for second place.
But let’s see how they tweet it.
Someone missing, no? And do they shorten the men’s names to Bloo or Butt? I think not.
Jeez, NBC. Do better.
I understand the argument when people say Trump isn’t the worst president ever — or even the worst this century. In terms of body count through pointless military actions and the number of lives ruined through financial malfeasance and mismanagement, Trump doesn’t come close to George W. Bush (yet).
But Trump is in a class by himself in his willingness to recklessly gin up rage against entire groups of people and tell outrageous lies that endanger individuals. He eagerly and often does both for political gain, to get himself off the hook or to paint himself as less sleazy by comparison to others. It’s grotesque and repellent, and, as far as I know, it’s unmatched in US history. In this way, Trump has exposed countless people to crackpots and mobs and has caused death and mayhem, though not at scale…so far.
Two of his favorite targets are former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok. Trump defames them not because they engaged in official misconduct (investigations turned up indiscreet behavior but nothing illegal) but rather because they were critical of Trump in text exchanges, which Trump latched onto as evidence of a “deep state” conspiracy. Trump has relentlessly mocked the two and called for their jailing, just like the tinpot authoritarian he aspires to be.
Trump’s behavior toward Page and Strzok is particularly disgusting to me because they aren’t public figures. The way he leers about “lovely Lisa” and lingers over the word “lovers” when talking about Page and Strzok at his hate rallies is grotesque because no one deserves to have their private business publicly mocked by a foul, degenerate hypocrite like Trump. (It’s also jarring to me because I once found it impossible to imagine Trump using the word “lovers” outside the context of a food order in which it immediately follows the word “meat.”)
Anyway, after remaining silent and hoping in vain that Trump would move on, Page has had enough of the shitgibbon’s shit, as she says in an interview with Molly Jong-Fast in The Daily Beast. Here’s an excerpt where Jong-Fast describes why Page decided to speak out:
I asked her why she was willing to talk now. “Honestly, his demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she says. The president called out her name as he acted out an orgasm in front of thousands of people at a Minneapolis rally on Oct. 11, 2019.
Ugh. That’s just so many shades of fucking cringe.
I hope Ms. Page gets some measure of relief from breaking her silence and highlighting the many ways Trump and his nasty sycophants have subverted our federal law enforcement institutions. The whole interview is worth a read.