This Is What A Real Scandal Looks Like

Now that I’ve vented regarding all the trivial and petty Hillary Clinton scandals, let’s talk about something that matters.

If you could only be angry about one thing in America today, the poisoning of Flint, Michigan should be it:

In 2014, the city of Flint, under the control of an “emergency manager” appointed by the governor, was looking for ways to save money. To that end, the Snyder administration approved a plan in which the city would switch its water source: instead of getting water from Detroit, Flint would cut costs by drawing water directly from the Flint River.

In theory, there’s nothing particularly wrong with getting drinking and bathing water from a nearby river; plenty of communities across the country already do that. But in order to make Flint River water safe for people, it has to receive a special anti-corrosion treatment. Failing to treat the water sends corrosive river water through local pipes, it starts to eat through plumbing, and the result is lead poisoning.

The Snyder administration did not take the necessary precautions. What’s more, as the community grew concerned about its water, administration officials initially told local residents not to worry and to keep drinking the water.

The result, of course, is a public health crisis in which countless city residents, including many children, have been poisoned, which leads to severe and long lasting  consequences. Snyder last week declared an official emergency – he also issued an apology of sorts on New Year’s Eve – but the people of Flint still don’t have safe, clean water.

There’s also the political crisis as a result of this man-made disaster. The EPA warned Snyder administration officials about rising lead levels, but the governor did not alert the public and state officials delayed action to address the problem.

The Republican governor is now facing calls for his resignation and #ArrestGovSnyder protests. Local residents are also moving forward with a class-action lawsuit over the crisis, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Michigan has confirmed it is investigating the matter to determine if any laws were broken.

The Detroit Free Press reported late yesterday that Michigan State Police troopers and other state officials “will start a door-to-door sweep of Flint on Tuesday to hand out bottled water and water filters, and the White House says it is monitoring the situation ‘very closely.’”
Flint has (of course) been a Category 5 economic shitstorm for about 30 years now. (Remember when a thin and youthful Michael Moore went searching in vain for some guy named Roger?) This is a scandal with very long roots, and it is not even entirely Rick Snyder’s fault; Flint was abandoned by GM, the government, and eventually by many of its residents. Snyder is just the latest fat cat to take a piss on Flint.

Happy New Year, Hillz

I went home this week to visit with my parents. While they’ve asked the progeny to avoid mentioning their political beliefs on social media, I do think it’s probably fair to say they are not supporting certain candidates. So, the past week gave me a lot of time to think about my own views and ponder the mysteries of partisan politics.

I’m not particularly anti-Hillary myself; I would say I am more lukewarm. I am currently supporting Bernie Sanders. I will support whoever my party nominates, provided they’re not in the KKK or Scientologists or La Rouchites or something gauche like that.

But, anyway. I have had the chance to meditate a bit on the Hillary phenomenon over the past week. Here are some random thoughts of mine:

1.) I am rather annoyed with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, over the debates, and the initial handling of the NGP-VAN mini-scandal. I do think many Bernie Sanders supporters are getting a bit paranoid and are spouting conspiracy-theories. But I do think any fair reading of the facts would show that the DNC chair is somewhat biased in favor of Team Clinton.

2.) I think some people, particularly those leaning toward the right, are inclined to believe that Hillary Clinton is an evil person, a pathological liar, etc.

I’m not inclined to view Mrs. Clinton as entirely a kindly grandma. I think she is a very competitive and ambitious person, and in some regards I find this entirely admirable. I believe that many of her critics do not give her credit for that, and that is unfair and (perhaps) sexist.

But, I also think that, objectively speaking, those traits do make her “unlikable” to a lot of people, and I think that after decades in politics, she has legitimately put-off a lot of people. She is certainly divisive, and seems to revel in that.

All those years of experience in public service (which, by the way, also are what qualifies her to hold the highest office in the land) has probably taken a toll on her personally – mentally, and potentially physically.

Anyone who has engaged at-length in political debate in the past two decades probably has at least a mild-case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Serious partisans (and I include myself in this statement) have tended in recent years to adopt a “bunker mentality” and this has resulted in many people (at best) ignoring good-faith criticism and (at worst) the dehumanization of political opponents.

So anyway, I think that the stress of national politics since at least 1991 has probably made Hillary Clinton and her closest supporters a bit paranoid and cranky, and probably have been for quite a while (remember the FBI file scandal?)

As such, I think that Hillary’s political judgment is going to be colored by anger, frustration and bitterness — and not all of it rational or constructive.

One of the things that I admired about Obama is that I think he honestly tried to appeal to conservatives in good faith, even to the point where he looked like a fool. I don’t see Hillary trying to do that. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

3.) Certainly, many people on the right seem to dehumanize and demonize Hillary Clinton unfairly. And probably far worse than Hillary has or does or will.

4.) I am frustrated and annoyed with the hecklers who are on Hillary’s tail regarding Bill Clinton’s indiscretions. I think it’s tacky to interrupt a campaign rally to attack people personally, which, given the identities of the hecklers, is exactly what this is about. I think Hillary Clinton was right to shutdown one of her hecklers as “very rude.”

(I wouldn’t mind if the hecklers were directly raising real issues; this is why I have no lingering enmity toward #BlackLivesMatter for interrupting Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton; I likewise think Bernie was admirable for allowing private citizens to bring up their concerns — let’s not forget that the President works for us, not the other way around).

However, I do think there is a serious issue that underlies the heckling, and one that Democrats ought to care about – not just right-wing cranks like Kathy Prudhomme-O’Brien.

Vox wrote an excellent explainer about this recently, as did Slate‘s Michelle Goldberg, who writes:

We will probably never know the truth of what happened between [Juanita] Broaddrick and [Bill] Clinton. But today, few feminists would find her shifting story disqualifying. Consider, also, another piece of evidence that was marshaled against Broaddrick in the 1990s: Three weeks after the alleged assault, she attended a fundraiser for Clinton. Speaking to Klein, she says she was traumatized and blamed herself for what happened. “I felt responsible. I don’t know if you know the mentality of women and men at that time. But me letting him come to my room? I accepted full blame.” In any other context, most feminists today would find this credible. After all, many were outraged when rape skeptics tried to discredit Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz because she’d sent friendly Facebook messages to her alleged rapist after the alleged rape.

 

To be clear: I don’t think for a moment that the people who hope to use Broaddrick against Hillary care about victim blaming. And it would be a profound sexist irony if these accusations, having failed to derail Bill Clinton’s political career, came back to haunt his wife. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why many on the right are giddy at the prospect of a new national conversation about Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, and thrilled that Trump is giving them one. As Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro told the Washington Post, “The irony of the situation is that the old Clintonian defense, ‘everybody lies about sex,’ doesn’t fly in a world in which Hillary has declared that nobody lies about sexual assault.”

There were many accusations made against Bill Clinton in the 1990s; many of the accusers, frankly, come across as demonstrably nutty (Paula Jones and the non-existent penis birthmark; Kathleen Willey and the various problems with her story). But, in my opinion, the accusations made by Juanita Broaddrick were never really disprovable, and Bill Clinton has never really answered them with the seriousness that is warranted (all I have ever seen is sort of a general, blanket denial; as well as a bunch of vague innuendo spread by Friends-of-Bill regarding Broaddrick’s credibility).

Anyway, the point here is that Bill and Hillary Clinton has not always been consistent feminists, at least with regard to women who have made accusations against Bill.

I think that this is largely because of a “bunker mentality” amongst the Clintonites, like the one I described above; I think that Hillary is sincere in her feminism, and not simply cynical and calculating (as many of her critics would suggest).  And I still think Hillary is a much better candidate on women’s issues than any of the Republicans. But, even with those concessions, I still think it is intellectually dishonest to ignore the problem entirely.

Now, as a Democrat, I would prefer the issue  would just “go away” (preferably with a plausible explanation from Bill, something we’ve never really gotten). But I have a feeling that this won’t happen.

5.) Regarding substantive progressive issues like bank regulation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the minimum wage — Hillary is, at best, a “day late and a dollar short” (or in the case of the minimum wage, three or four bucks short).

To be sure, I am certain she is better than literally every Republican. But Hillary Clinton would still feel like a step back from the (very incomplete) legacy of Barack Obama.

(In large part, because I remember Hillary running as a moderate-conservative in 2008, and am still annoyed with some of the things that happened then).

6.)  One of the complaints I heard this week, of course, is “why can’t Bernie Sanders criticize Hillary over [Benghazi/E-mails/Bill’s bimbo eruptions/whatever].”

Aside from the fact that doing so would be a massive distraction from the substantive issues at hand (one of the most important reasons that Bernie Sanders is running for President – aside from winning – is to educate voters about the democratic socialist alternative) — criticizing Hillary Clinton would just play into her hands. She’ll use it to polarize the party against her critics, and persuade Democrats to write-off critics as right-wing stooges.

7.) In conclusion: I respect Hillary Clinton and her campaign in the same way that a rodeo clown respects a steer — I know they’re kinda full of bullshit, but I’m not stupid enough to say it to their face!

Missing In Action

I’ve been really busy with work recently, and then with the Paris attacks last week there’s not a whole lot for me to say.

Well, except that Greg Abbott is still wrong, but you knew that.

Dear Jared Woodfill: Kiss My Queer Grits

Ahem:

Jared Woodfill, the former Harris County Republican Party leader who successfully championed the fight against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by proclaiming “no men in women’s restrooms,” is representing a man in court who has admitted to taking photos of women changing clothes without their knowledge—in a bathroom.

Ten years ago, at a pool party at a private home, seven women went into the master bathroom to change into their bathing suits. Following them were three drunk men, including local tech-company owner BJ Farmer, who sat in the shower, took out their cell phones, and began snapping pictures while the women changed. Earlier this year, one of those women, Andrea Villarreal, sued Farmer after his ex-wife found the pictures on his laptop, shortly before their divorce proceedings, and brought them to Villarreal’s attention.

Villarreal is suing Farmer for invasion of privacy, negligence for having never deleted those photos, and defamation, alleging Farmer made false, misogynistic comments about her with fake user names on a Houston Press article about the case last year (tech experts traced online comments calling her a “gold digger” and a “disgusting worm who flashes her breasts to get attention from every guy” back to Farmer’s computer). Three months later, in February 2015, Farmer admitted in a deposition to taking the photos of Villarreal without her knowledge. He said it was just a “stupid, you know, idea at the time while we were drinking.” In that deposition, Farmer also admitted to doing this on more than one occasion, and to having pictures of himself fondling an unconscious nude woman at another party.

Woodfill, who is defending Farmer in the lawsuit, is the same man who managed to convince 61 percent of Houston voters, more than 160,000 people, to vote against HERO with one simple message: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”

Defending his client, Woodfill has called the lawsuit against Farmer—which he says in legal filings is “frivolous,” “harassing” and “brought in bad faith”—nothing more than an attempt by Farmer’s ex-wife to obtain full custody of their children by slandering her ex-husband’s reputation.

Woodfill wrote in one filing that Villarreal had “full knowledge” of the photographs Farmer took of her, even though Farmer already said on record that he “did not know” if Villarreal was aware of the photos and that he never told her he had them. At another point, Woodfill jumps into the apparent slut-shaming portion of Farmer’s defense: the woman was asking for it.

“Surely if it bothered her, she would not have been in front of multiple other people, including men,” Woodfill writes in one filing. “If she was so concerned about her privacy, she would not have been an active participant.”

When the Houston Press phrases it like that, it almost seems like the anti-HERO campaigners were not really interested in protecting women at all!

One Of These Assholes Has To Win!

On the eve of another “are we really doing this again?” Republican debates, the quants over at FiveThirtyEight are debating whether they would bang-or-pass buy-sell-or-hold the Republican candidates. Possibly the most revealing part of this discussion relates to Nate Silver’s assessment of Marco Rubio:

natesilver: I’m buying at 38.6 percent, although I don’t think I’m getting a great bargain.

micah: You’re in the tank for Rubio.

natesilver: If I know you guys as well as I think I do, you’re going to be selling or holding a lot of the other candidates. Unless you’re really bullish on Jeb Bush or Trump or Ben Carson, it’s hard to get the numbers to add up to 100 percent unless you have Rubio in the 40 percent range or above. But more importantly, we have seen some signs of progress for Rubio. He’s one of only two Republicans to have received any endorsements in the past few weeks. He’s lined up some big super PAC backers. His favorability ratings remain strong.

Micah Cohen is, I think, joking. As you can see Weasel Silver’s main argument is mathematics — the odds have to add up to 100 percent, and right now Rubio has the best claim to a bigger share of the probability pie.

In short: somebody has to win. Even if all of those somebodies are just appalling to sober analysts.

(Incidentally, I think that Silver is putting too much faith in the GOP establishment and am willing to buy Trump at 18.7 percent, if only because one does not become a multi-billionaire without knowing how to manipulate a few rubes).

Jim Newell at Slate, meanwhile, hits the panic button over Democratic voter enthusiasm:

A new survey conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner demonstrates the enthusiasm gap. It polls likely voters across four Senate battleground states—Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin—of which three are also critical presidential battlegrounds. (Wisconsin isn’t a state that Democrats can take for granted, either.) Though GQR finds that demographic changes aid Democrats in these states, it does not find a whole lot of enthusiasm among the new national Democratic coalition of minorities, young people, and unmarried women.

As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent points out, one question asks voters how interested they are in the November 2016 election on a 1 to 10 scale. Among those who answered 10, the leading demographic affiliations are: seniors, overall “non-RAE” (the Rising American Electorate, meaning unmarried women, young people, and minorities), conservatives, Republicans, and white non-college men. These are, as Sen. Ted Cruz would describe them, “rock-ribbed conservative” demographics. The demographic groups with the fewest “extremely interested” members are overall “RAE,” millennials, and at the very bottom, white millennials, offering further proof that white millennials are the worst people ever created.

You need to have your own people be excited—and not just excited about defeating the opposition, which seems to be what Wasserman Schultz plows most of her resources into doing. Your party’s voters have to be excited about your party’s candidate. And if that candidate’s worth getting excited about, there shouldn’t be any hesitancy about exposing her to the public as much as possible, instead of hiding her few mass public appearances behind weekend football games.

Newell, as you can see, asserts that the enthusiasm gap has to do with what might politely be described as the Clinton coronation. I agree – but only up to a point.

I don’t the think the problem for the Democrats right now is so much that debates are getting shoved off to undesirable time slots. The big problem is that Democrats pretty much know that Hillary Clinton is going to win in the end, and that’s frankly a bit of a buzz-kill. Not because Hillary is a bad person or a bad candidate; but because certainty is rarely very exciting or interesting.

Right now, Betfair.com (the same site that the Gang of FiveThirtyEight are discussing) puts Hillary’s odds of winning at 1.12:1, which translates to an implied probability of about 89.2 percent. That may even be a slight underestimate (and I say this as a Bernie Sanders supporter and donor). To be sure, Hillary is only barely cracking 50 percent support in national polls, and Bernie Sanders is still in the same time zone, garnering around 30 percent. (The latest RCP average has it at 54.6 for Clinton, 32.5 for Sanders). But the actual poll numbers obscure the extent to which Hillary is winning the “invisible primary.”
(Yes, I remember 2008 – I was an Obama Precinct Captain on the day that Obama won the Texas caucus and Hillary won the Texas primary. But in 2008, Obama had a respectable share of endorsements… whereas this time around, Hillary Clinton is pitching a virtual shutout — she’s got 407 endorsements “points” versus only 2 for Bernie Sanders, per 538).

So anyway, the Democrats know who their candidate is going to be, warts and all. How does this compare to the Republicans? Those guys have no clue who their nominee is going to be, and many of the candidates are empty vessels for their wildest right-wing fantasies. Ben Carson is only the latest in a long string of Con-Dumpsters who have utterly no chance of actually winning, but who manages to win millions of fans by touching them in all of their socially-reactionary erogenous zones.

There are other reasons, by the way, why the GOP might be polling better enthusiasm right now. The most obvious is the surge-and-decline theory. And sure, perhaps better time slots would help pump up Dems a little bit. There is some evidence that competitive primaries are good for parties.

But, I  expect that as we get into primary season early next year – and one of the Republican rogues actually threatens to win the nomination – that the partisan enthusiasm gap will narrow significantly.

As noted political philosopher and musician Sebastian the Crab once said, “the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.”  Wiser words have never been spoken by a crustacean.
* This is an in-joke that you are not necessarily intended to understand. I actually have a lot of respect for Nate Silver.

Jerry Jones: Still Just The Worst

Deadspin, on the Team Jerry response to the disturbing photos they published this morning:

Jones’s support of Hardy doesn’t come as a surprise. The Cowboys declined to comment on Deadspin’s story when contacted, but have stood behind him since his signing earlier this year. Just 11 days ago, after Hardy blew up at a special teams coach on the sideline, Jones told reporters in a surreal interview that Hardy was “one of the real leaders on this team.”

Jones and his son Stephen—the team’s executive vice president—have both said that they want to sign Hardy to a long-term deal.

Why does Greg Hardy still have a job playing a boy’s game on national television? To be sure, much of the blame has to do with the continuing saga of Sheriff Roger Goodell, the most inept lawman on either side of the Pecos.
Don’t think you’re forgiven though, Bob McNair.