Matt Yglesias made a recent attempt to put the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal of the 2016 election to bed. I have to say that I generally agree that this shouldn’t be as huge a story as it is, but he goes too far IMO for the reasons outlined below.
1) I’m concerned that the message people will take from this is “don’t admit you did anything wrong.”
2) “If she wanted ready access to both her email accounts, she would need to carry two smartphones. As any reporter in Washington knows, this indignity was in fact visited upon a huge number of DC denizens for many years. … Clinton decided to do something about it.” Ehh, come on. This is the kind of thing many people hate – not about Clinton, but about her surrogates (which then becomes hatred of Clinton). Their daily lives require a level of effort and hoop-jumping that is hard to state clearly in a blog post, but when the excuse for not following the rules that they routinely go to jail or get fired for not following is “I had to have two cell phones and it was too hard so I just didn’t” it comes off as particularly out of touch.
3) “Hillary Clinton — who is, again, his wife — also set herself up with an account on the same server. This is a bit unusual, but a lot about being married to a former president is unusual. What it’s not is suspicious.”
Okay, but again, it’s not like out of this world that people who already have trouble with trusting her – mostly because they have trouble with trusting her husband, which is a whole other post but still a reality – would find it to be suspicious, and telling them there’s no reason to be suspicious in whatever “shut ’em down” method the author seems to prefer would come off as pedantic and I’m glad she didn’t do it.
4) “I’d be left juggling phones and looking like an idiot, exactly how federal employees tended to look in the heyday of the double-fisting phones era. I would not want to do that. Colin Powell did not want to do that. Hillary Clinton did not want to do that. Because that would be terrible.”
The idea that rules were bent to avoid looking stupid is a troubling one, and it’s a kind of blindness that a lot of Democrats have that they don’t even notice when they attack Trump supporters for being blindly faithful to him. [Disclaimer to all: I am not a Trump supporter and I am voting for Hillary.] Sometimes being a government employee is a bad gig, sometimes it isn’t the West Wing; deal with it. Your lives are easier than nearly 100% of the world’s population. Even the use of “terrible” to describe a workplace annoyance is another example of the above-mentioned inability to understand what most people go through every day. Ask a guy negotiating a belt full of electronic monitoring tools while balancing on the rung of a telephone pole how “awkward” it must be to have a whopping two cell phones that you maybe need to get through your day.
5) “There are two possible interpretations here. One is that Clinton hatched the private email account plan as an elaborate dodge of federal record-keeping laws, but then months before the public became aware of the server’s existence complied with requests to turn them over. The other is that the federal records rule on the book was antiquated and a bit absurd, requiring officials to turn over paper copies of emails for no good reason, and simply got ignored out of sloppiness.”
Sloppiness. It’s at this point that the people who keep talking about this story have some weight on their side. Yes, vis-a-vis Donald Trump the idea of Hillary Clinton being “sloppy” is far more appealing, but it’s hard to say that not wanting your public officials to ignore rules due to “sloppiness” is not a legitimate concern when voting for president. For many it’s not just hard; it’s a dereliction of duty. People shouldn’t demean that impulse too easily, because it again displays the reason why so many Trump supporters so virulently hate Clinton supporters: You treat them like they’re idiots, when in fact they have real, sincere concerns.

Yglesias has a good point in that this story has received too much coverage. However, I don’t think the response should be to call bullshit on all of it. The appropriate response accurately points to the things Secretary Clinton did wrong, admits them as such, and then puts them in context. Yglesisas’s response may seem like an effort at that but it ignores so much that it comes off as a “yeah but whatever” response to anyone who doesn’t already agree with him. And in many of the ways I pointed to above, I feel like it displays an arrogance and a disconnect with working people that could be the death of the Democratic Party.

All that said, go eat your peas and vote against Donald Trump this Tuesday.

 
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New piece on dailypublic.com: Prison Notes: Sexual Assault in America’s Jails | The Public.

1L Sketch #3: (untitled)

January 18, 2014

Dirt tangled vine embrace

Ragged wounds in my house

The tree I cannot kill

mocks me with its warm growth

in my chest

You dumb heart

Fix another mimsy, why dontcha?

Talk about the talk about the

talk about the past

Give yourself a ‘fresher course in

your friends’ lives and all of your inabilities

Or trade up, date up, and never marry

(Both)

There’s a bluebird that wants to get out

but I won’t let him because I’m a coward

Both life and poetry are easier when you only show the tips of

your icebergs

It’s safer to hide that which  is

made real by the attention of others

But where do you even go from there?

Back yourself into a corner

where the adrenaline flows

so you become feisty like a hobbit in a corner

instead of the palsied house-hobbit you’ve become

This nine-to-five life is driving me crazy

Too much sleep, not enough life

Hook me in a couple slugs of that brown water

clear my eyes a bit

1L Sketch #2: An Ode

January 18, 2014

O! to the girl gardening next door–
I don’t even live here;
I barely live anywhere–
please, don’t.
Don’t play “Hotel California” on your phone.
If you persist, I need to be Eric Stoltz,
we need to have started making out minutes ago,
to coincide with the first chorus.
Why?
Why do you appear
Here, with interests like mine
New in town and eighteen
So fresh with vulnerabilities
and the likelihood of collapse.
You will always be next door, I think
I should take my safety blanket off
the older, worn couch I take my best naps on
and fold it on the back of your frame
Because you are the hot girl next door,
and you, unlike my love,
will never leave or die.

Jack the Rabbit

January 18, 2014

 

Jack the Rabbit woke up naked on the floor of his burrow. He twitched his ears a bit, shook some dust out of his once cute nose, and surveyed the room.

My hip is killing me, he thought. Old Father Time rapping on poor Jack’s door. Oh boy. Look at this place. What did you get yourself into now, Jackie-boy?

There were whisky bottles everywhere; most empty, some broken. Beer cans and half-empty glasses used as ashtrays stood at strategic sitting-and-talking points around the room, though it was clear that at some point these were abandoned in favor of the floor. What looked like half of his record collection was splayed out in a jagged semicircular pattern from the nexus of his still-turning record player like the “Rising Sun” emblem on an old Japanese war poster.

Who the hell was over last night? Jack trudged through the thick slushy snow of his memory as he scanned the room for clues. We were all at Badger’s house after we stopped in to see how Duck was doing, then… fuck, those idiots!

He quickly hopped over and shook the gutted remains of a blunt off of his sister’s copy of “Rumors.”

I can’t remember anything, he thought. Haven’t blacked out blacked out like that since the reunion.

The reunion of the day the human family had come out to paint the forest village’s portrait had been hard on everybody. It had been a serendipitous morning, when almost all the animals had just happened to be walking or foraging in the same glen. Everyone was just milling around, saying hello’s and catching up, when suddenly two full grown humans—a buck and a doe—came blundering through the trees carrying a picnic basket and several large bags. If they’d been alone, each of the animals would have bolted. But there was a feeling of solidarity in the air, so they stood their ground, staring at the curious visitors with eyes as wide and blank as if they’d been looking at an oncoming Chevy. The humans stopped, their mouths dropped open, and pointed… and a barely audible sigh rippled through the animal crowd.

“Jesus,” everyone thought at once. “Tourists.”

But these humans seemed friendly enough, for all their stupidity, and they had plenty of food, so it was some time before Duck—ever the suspicious one—noticed the Doe-Human pulling an easel and brushes from one of the bags as the Buck quietly packed up the food… and that’s when the waistcoats and suspenders came out.

Details are fuzzy. No one seems to really remember just how many children’s portraits they all posed for that day, but after the humans disappeared and the forest dwellers were left staring at each other through the haze of their food comas, all who were there remember the gaping chasm of shame and depravity that opened up inside them from their ears to their paws—or hooves, depending on the case.

Nobody could look at one another. They mumbled good-byes and staggered off one by one, never to return to that glen again. Duck was hit the hardest. Some time around when he and Badger had been forced to pose in 19th Century cavalry uniforms holding baseball mitts, he just lost it. He *kept* the waistcoat, and spent the rest of the afternoon babbling about daguerreotypes and cotton futures. Eventually he waddled off into an unfamiliar part of the forest, moved into a cave, and saw no one but the few sympathetic visitors that would occasionally venture out, from time to time, to check on his well-being.

The rest of the animals formed a sort of loose, silent confederacy of survivors. They met in small groups off and on, never mentioning the paintings (at least, never when sober; never in groups larger than two), and once a year they gathered at Badger’s for a reunion of sorts, to check in and see who was left, who was still holding on, and these, inevitably, devolved into bouts of alcoholic nostalgia.

The last reunion was the last time Jack had seen everybody from the old glen, though he could barely remember much more of the night than a game of strip poker with a couple of suburban cottontails on vacation. He’d drawn them all-in with a King-high straight and then—well, he did what jackrabbits do.

Lately, though, Jack had been running with a different crowd. They all lived in the forest, to be sure, but they weren’t faces you saw more than maybe once a year and from far away, or perhaps if you’d ventured a bit too far from home a bit too late at night. There were possums and feral cats, owls, raccoons, and even a few lizards, though these only hung out for a few hours after dusk before slumping into a dark corner to sleep off the sun-hangover. And there were coyotes now, too, showing up late and drunk from the hunt, peddling booze and pills they’d scavenged from the suburbs and half-jokingly challenging some of the smaller animals to a footrace.

“We’ll give you a head start!” Har har har.

Jack put on a pot of coffee and began shifting some of the least offensive rubble towards the door. His coffee table had been reduced to a mockery of splinters in the center of the room. At first glance, he assumed Big Bear had come by last night, gotten severely twisted on clover mead, and belly-flopped right through the thing. Which would actually be a relief, because it meant Big Bear—a master carpenter—would owe him another, better table. Again. But then he saw the bite-marks.

“Ah, Christ,” he muttered.

Surrounding the remnants of the table were a number of gnawed-through branches with green, recently-living flesh, interspersed with what appeared to be fuzzy red berries. These formed a wine-colored trail that lead away from the wreckage to a dark alcove towards the rear of the burrow: Jack’s bedroom. Jack followed the berry trail to the edge of the alcove and listened to the hissed, nasal breath he knew he would find when he got there.

“Dude, Beav,” he said. No answer. “Beav!”

There was a sound of flustered snuffling and scurrying, then two distinct paw stomps, THUMP-THUMP—the sounds of a rodent that knows it is trapped and cornered. A quiet, tense voice came out of the shadows, lisping.

“ ‘the fuck wants to know?”

“Beaver, man,” Jack tried to remain calm. “Beaver, are you chewing sumac again? You know I can’t have you doing that shit here.”

No answer.

“Beav, we’ve all tried to be understanding about this, but man, you gotta—“

“I said, who—the fuck—wants to know?”

“Beaver, it’s fucking Jack! You’re in my house!”

THUMP-THUMP

“Jack RABBIT, dude, what are you gonna do? What’s next? You’re gonna fight me now?

THUMP-THUMP

Jack sighed; they had been here before. The only way to get a sumac-addled Beaver out of his fighting stance was to slowly back away to the other side of the room and feign disinterest. Jack crouched and began lazily sniffing the ground, pretending to aimlessly look for food among the mess of his own living room, as he slowly backstepped into the opposite corner—with one eye cocked toward the alcove at all times.

“Bedroom’s probably covered in vomit right now,” he muttered as he chewed someone else’s leftover lettuce leaf and tried to look as though he was doing it idly.

After a few minutes of snuffling and pretending to be asleep, Jack finally saw Beaver poke his head out of the alcove, sniff the air, the slink the rest of the way out. Jack sat back, folded his paws, and waited for Beaver’s traditionally sheepish apology.

“Ah, dude, er…” Beaver began as he approached Jack’s corner. “Dude, I mean, I’m sorry, y’know? You know how we get.”

“Yeah, Beav, I do. Listen, just tell me—did you puke in there?”

“Ah, jeez there Jack…” Beaver looked at the ground. “I mean, I don’t think so, but ah… I mean, I could check.”

Jack put a paw over his eyes.

“No, dude, don’t worry about it, just—I’ll just do it—man, listen, I’m sorry, but I gotta ask you to take off. I’m still so fucked up and I gotta clean this place.”

Beaver looked a little dazed himself.

“Ah, you sure you don’t wanna hang out or something? I mean, I could just stay, and help or whatever.”

“No, dude, it’s fine, you’ve done enough—no, I didn’t mean it that way, just—I’ll be fine, okay, I just have a long day ahead of me; I think my parents are coming over later, I just wanna—yeah, no, they’re fine, I just—yeah, I’ll see you later, alright? Alright, later, Beav.”

Jack sat back, closed his eyes, listened as his friend Beaver made his way up the tunnel towards the surface, and let out a long sigh as he heard the leaf-hatch close far above.

|REAPS 4 LYFE|

What a dumb little game I played today

No more conscious than the leaf

that claps back and forth in the wind

in the alley between my neighbor’s yard and the firehouse

Dead

(the leaf)

I took advantage of myself in a weakened state

I took off my pants

I knew

I slept

She lay there asleep

I woke her up

I told her I would avoid her for the next several weeks because of how depressed I would be at my lack of self-control and forethought. That it wouldn’t be awkward, it just wouldn’t be anything. And the thought of how utterly dead and blasé I would be about the entire thing would plunge me further into a kind of despair that I still wouldn’t feel, not really, because I just don’t feel things anymore, really. She didn’t say anything for awhile. Mostly because I  didn’t say any of that. I didn’t even know it at the time. So she sat there and it galled me that she could be so robotic at a time like this, when there was so much we weren’t saying, so much we didn’t know.

I walked out her front door when we both knew.

Well, after I did. But she’s smart.

I didn’t remember her hallway being so long.

I didn’t even remember she had a hallway.

I looked around for some reason, focused on details the way you do when you know you’re doing something for the last time.

I grabbed the door knob.

I couldn’t remember if I’d locked her door behind me. She was asleep again now, and hadn’t moved much since.

I had a pen on me; maybe there was something I’d forgotten not to say. I looked down the yawning brownish tunnel of her average Buffalo three-unit vestibule, straining my eyes past the eight or so feet of floral carpet and radiators I’d definitely forgotten she had, to see what type of doorknob I’d just closed, and tried to remember what things I knew to be true about doorknobs. I reached a satisfactory conclusion that regardless of what I knew or saw I would tell myself she had a doorknob that locked automatically as you shut it.

Except I didn’t even say that.

I just left.

42 and Shades of Green

November 16, 2013

Here’s a wonderful video I found via Numberphile:

The actual, legit facts in this video blow my mind far more than any mystical connection to a number that Douglas Adams has said time and again meant nothing to him other than comic value. (Sort-Of Alert: If you haven’t read the books, you should.) The amazing literary/historical truth to the multitude of theories about this number is that he created – in the real world – an evolving group of people who will do what one of his characters did: wear yourself out on a mystery, and at the end of the night, check a bizarre, personal, and probably foolish hunch on the off-chance that it might reveal the answer. For the people with the theories mentioned in the video, that hunch is now “42”, whatever that means. For Douglas Adams’s Zaphod Beeblebrox, it was the color green. (Read the books.)

For some reason, I love that he was able to (albeit unintentionally) write onto life in such a large and meaningful way. His writing was meaningful to everyone who read it, but I never realized how cool it was that it meant that much to the 42-theorists I’d half-believed at the time I first read the books and who, had I not read the books, I might find too easy to pass off as loonies, so much that they brought his art to life in as literal a way as he probably never, ever hoped for.