Month: November 2015

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.

Uber’s Latest Stunt Is Literally A Crock of Horse Shit, But What Follows?

I am not particularly a fan of the ride-sharing service Uber. Although in general I am not a fan of occupational licensing and monopolistic barriers to entry, I would rather have a well-regulated taxi fleet than a giant corporation with lousy attitudes toward labor and safety. Especially if said corporation acts like a peevish child.

So I am, of course, not amused by this:

Austin City Council members are considering regulations for ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft. If passed, the City would collect fees from these companies, and also impose fingerprint-based background checks on drivers. On Thursday, Uber launched a campaign against the Council member who initiated these regulations.

Not named for the room in your house, but District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen. The service area spans from five square blocks downtown – from Nueces Street to Congress Avenue, stretching from Cesar Chavez Boulevard to Fifth Street – charges a flat $50 fee, doesn’t operate before 6 p.m., and won’t operate in the rain. There’s another caveat to the service: its drivers only operate a horse and buggy.

“When you open it up no cars are available right now and you see what life was like before Uber in Austin,” says Chris Nakutis, general manager of Uber Texas. He says the ridesharing requirements proposed by Kitchen will push Uber out of Austin, Kitchen begs to differ.

“These rules are not about about getting rid of Uber,” she says, responding to Uber’s campaign today. “The fact that a corporation is attacking the Council because they don’t want to comply with safety rules is disgraceful.”

Uber, of course, has every right to engage in politics, and I have to admire the targeting of their campaign. But let’s not get fooled by faux-populism; any industry that can afford to pay  high-powered consultants like Chris Lehane (of Airbnb and formerly the Clinton White House) and David Plouffe (of Uber and formerly the Obama White House) is one that wields plenty of power.

Per the New York Times, the strong-arming is about to get serious:

Airbnb offered the latest and most vociferous example of this on Wednesday. Fresh off defeating a San Francisco measure that would have severely curtailed the company’s business in its hometown, Airbnb staged a news conference that functioned as a warning shot to other cities thinking about proposing new regulations.

The event was billed as a debriefing to discuss the defeat of Proposition F, which would have toughened existing rules for the service by, among other things, cutting the number of nights people could rent out rooms in their homes.

But the briefing was less about the actual election than an attempt to turn the results into a mandate for the sharing economy.

Chris Lehane, a Washington political operative who now serves as Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs, framed Proposition F as a hotel-industry-led attack on the middle class.

In this city of about 840,000 people, roughly $8 million was raised by groups opposed to Proposition F — about eight times the amount raised by the proposition’s backers, according to records filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission.

Assuming, ad arguendo, that Crazy Don Zimmerman’s lawsuit gets thrown out, Austin will still have fairly tight rules regarding campaign donations. But I would not be surprised if Uber tried to scare candidates (especially those who are not as established as Ann Kitchen) with PACs, issue-ads, astroturfing and other general shenanigans.

Watch for it.

Greg Abbott: Not A Leader, Kinda Useless

It’s upsetting that the Governor has to involve himself in H.E.R.O., repeating the same dishonest “bathroom” canard as the antis on Twitter.

But I think it’s even more upsetting that the only thing that Greg Abbott seems to do these days is to be led around by a bunch of tin-pot Teabagging wingnuts.

Greg Abbott is a guy whose signature achievement since taking office is to boldly explore new ways to engage in “me too”-ism. He’s the worst kind of demagogue — the kind with no original ideas or voice of his own.

Whether it be charging into the “sanctuary cities” debate without doing his homework, mindlessly following the anti-Planned Parenthood lynch mob, senselessly pandering to paranoid cranks over Jade Helm 15, killing mental health legislation to appease Scientologists, or steadfastly refusing to help Texas hospitals by accepting free money, it is clear that Greg Abbott will do literally anything to suck-up to the crazy conspiracy theorists and other wackadoos.

One expects – in a partisan, ideological society – that our elected officials will be partisan and ideological. But one also expects that they will, from time-to-time, break out of that mold and actually lead.

I honestly cannot think of a single time, since his swearing-in as governor, that Greg Abbott has even attempted to do that. His entire tenure seems to be driven by a fear of the far-right; whereas at one point perhaps he hoped to be its master, it seems that he has become its slave.

He might as well just quit and hand the reins over to Ted Nugent, Rafael Cruz, Steve Hotze and Alex Jones. At least that way we taxpayers could save money by not paying him.