Tuesday, February 4th, 2020


Cauc Blocked

I think someone did too much Iowasca. After a year of build-up and hundreds of millions of campaign dollars spent, the Iowa Caucuses somehow ended up in a state of Iowait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. When it was all over, no one had any idea who won. Was it the way we set these things up? Was it a killer app created by a software firm called Shadow (seriously)? Or was it the fact that caucusing is just so complex and ridiculous? (Here's a weird process we might want to try next time: Step one, vote. Step two, count the votes. It's crazy, but it just might work.) Whatever it was, Iowa just gave us the most frustrating election results since hanging chads. Here's the NYT on the night when nothing worked as planned. A Systemwide Disaster: How the Iowa Caucuses Melted Down. (The people of Iowa had to put up with a year of nonstop campaigning and political commercials. So it's only fair that the rest of us have to put up with a few more hours of Iowa...)

+ Outside of political insiders, cable news pundits, and people having fun joking around on social media, the broader meaning of the Iowa snafu is … probably nothing. Unless you're really into the idea of a state with just over 3 million people having this kind of throw in a nationwide election. Politico Magazine: The Death of Iowa.

+ WaPo's Margaret Sullivan with least surprising headline of the day: Social media was a cesspool of toxic Iowa conspiracy theories last night. It's only going to get worse.

+ On the plus side, at least there were memes.

+ Someone's gonna win this thing. Here's the latest from WaPo.

+ And just in case your faith in the political process (and those who participate in it) isn't already completely ruined, this should do the trick: Homophobic Iowa Caucus-Goer Is Taken Aback When She Realizes Her Candidate, Pete Buttigieg, Is Gay. "Are you saying that he has a same sex partner? I don't want anyone like that in the White House!" (Oh, go suck a caucus, you dipshit.)


Battery Will Get You Nowhere

"It took decades of research to prove the devastating health effects of cigarette smoking, which kills nearly half a million people each year. Widespread vaping is just a few years old and has already produced one public-health panic. It may not be the last ... CDC scientist Brian A. King admits, 'We're certainly in the midst of a broad, population-based experiment, if you will, in terms of the long-term health effects of these products.' That's science speak for We have no idea what's going to happen." NY Mag: Who Thought Sucking on a Battery Was a Good Idea?


Neighborhood Watch

"All across the country, despite China's vast surveillance network with its facial recognition systems and high-end cameras that is increasingly used to track its 1.4 billion people, the government has turned to familiar authoritarian techniques — like setting up dragnets and asking neighbors to inform on one another — as it tries to contain the outbreak." NYT: China, Desperate to Stop Coronavirus, Turns Neighbor Against Neighbor.

+ Who did China turn on first? The Chinese doctor who tried to warn others about coronavirus.

+ ABC: China deploys drones to scold citizens amid coronavirus.

+ "In the new coronavirus, we see a world that is more connected than ever by international travel, but that has also succumbed to growing isolationism and xenophobia. We see a time when scientific research and the demand for news, the spread of misinformation and the spread of a virus, all happen at a relentless, blistering pace." Ed Yong in The Atlantic: The New Coronavirus Is a Truly Modern Epidemic.

+ Want to track the outbreak? Here's a dashboard from Johns Hopkins.


The Truth Hurts

"Court records show that Jan Peter Meister, a 52-year-old registered sex offender, told investigators he drunkenly left the threatening voicemail at Schiff's Washington, D.C. office after watching Fox News and googling the congressman's phone number. 'I'm gonna f--king blow your brains out you f--king piece of shit,' Meister allegedly said in part of the obscenity-filled voicemail." The threat against Adam Schiff. Every public (or now public) official who came forward to speak the truth during the impeachment process deserves our praise. Trust me, they're all getting plenty of the opposite...

+ Related: Rand Paul Asks Question About Whistle-Blower.

+ "Trump, says a source, wants Bolton to be criminally investigated for possibly mishandling classified information. Romney, Schiff, and Nadler are also in West Wing crosshairs." Gabe Sherman in Vanity Fair: With Acquittal Certain, Trump Plots Revenge on Bolton, Impeachment Enemies.

+ Trump Job Approval at Personal Best 49%.


Saute By Nature

"Karyn McMullen is tired of being asked how she cooks bacon without any clothes on. It's one of those jokes people can't help but make about nudists, and to Ms. McMullen, who has been cooking naked for more than two decades, it shows how misunderstood nudism is. Many people think only about the pitfalls — spattering fat, minor burns — and not the benefits." NYT: The Joy of Cooking Naked. (I like my cooking attire like I like my pots and pans: All Clad.)



"English-language popular songs have become more negative. The use of words related to negative emotions has increased by more than one third." Aeon: Why are pop songs getting sadder than they used to be? (Because sad songs say so much?)

+ This reminds me of my old piece featuring notes from a therapy session during which I only spoke in phrases from Radiohead's latest album. Radiohead Meets With My Shrink.


Tesla La Land

"Tesla's billionaire CEO fought a lawsuit over his own bad behavior and won. For the reality-bending entrepreneur, there was no other possible outcome." Ryan Mac in Buzzfeed: Elon Musk Can't Lose. This article was published about five days ago. Since then, Elon Musk's winning has entered ludicrous mode.


Ground Rules

"In a nineteen-page ruling, Judge Jenifer Holt wrote that Brittany's use of deadly force was not demonstrably justified because she doubted that Brittany had reason to believe that Todd was about to use deadly physical force, assault, burglary, rape, or sodomy when she shot him. The judge wrote this despite the fact that Todd had already assaulted Brittany—a rape-kit evaluation found thirty-three wounds on her body—and despite the fact that Brittany said Todd had been choking her brother when she fired the gun." The New Yorker: Brittany Smith Loses Her Stand Your Ground Hearing.


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

"'Recently, I have been driving around, seeing a black person, and having an assumption that they are up to no good,' says Alison Gubser. 'Immediately after I am like, that's no good! This is a human, just doing their thing. Why do I think that?'" The Guardian: Why liberal white women pay a lot of money to learn over dinner how they're racist. (If you want to have nightly dinners where you're informed of what an idiot you are, just have kids.)


Bottom of the News

"We tend to think of Google Maps as an indispensable tool that is rarely wrong, but an artist from Germany named Simon Weckert found a humourous way to game the app. Using a wagon loaded with 99 second-hand smartphones, he was able to 'hack' Maps to create virtual traffic jams throughout Berlin."

+ Here Are 17 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About This Year's Super Bowl Halftime Show. And some amazing behind the scenes video from JLo.