The Smoke Eater For Feb. 12, 2020

Knives out, no cease-fire, and snow in Baghdad.

Good day, this is The Smoke Eater for Wednesday, February 12, 2020, and the time is now!

Quick Hit

* Bernie technically ties Buttigieg (again) * Andrew Yang does some math * Joe Biden embarrasses himself * “Kloburknocker” is not a word * Bloomberg's big bet * Peace? In our time? * Snow in Baghdad *

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"Us" and "Them"

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary last night with an earth shattering 1.4 percent margin. Although former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg came in a close second, winning the same number of delegates, Sanders is being declared the front-runner by talking heads and the Twitterati. New Hampshire employs a plurality voting system, so arguments about popular vote totals are irrelevant. There are multiple methods to how elections work, so don't yell at me (I'll just send cat pics). Yell at the Democratic Party, and state legislatures.

Math nerds are now giving credence my own lizard brain theory and admitting the chances of a contested convention are much more likely. As further evidence of this, I submit the mysterious email blast I got (very) late this morning from a "grassroots Democratic group" that calls itself the "Beat Bernie 2020" PAC. Here's the full press release...

LOL, RIP #YangGang

Businessman Andrew Yang dropped out after finishing somewhere near the bottom last night, surprising almost nobody. In a speech before his supporters, Yang said, "I am the math guy, and it’s clear from the numbers we’re not going to win this campaign." Shortly after Yang admitted what the traveling press corps had been snickering about since last summer, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet dropped out too. In a speech before a handful of supporters in New Hampshire, Bennet suggested he might return to the Granite State, alluding to another possible presidential run. Writing for Buzzfeed, Ryan Brooks reports the #YangGang is already thinking about 2024; hoping to spin the campaign full of defeats into a win.

Shitposting forums were quick to poke fun at the departure of both Yang and Bennett. And because irony is dead, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey payed his respects to Yang's campaign and tweeted that he was "sad" Yang was dropping out. Dorsey called Yang an, "authentic person who was focused on solving the big existential problems facing the world."

"Klomentum" Is A Terrible Phrase, And You Know It

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's third place finish has created an unnecessary deluge of stories with "Klomentum" or "Klobucharge" in the title, and brilliant guesstimates that she, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg are all splitting the moderate vote. It's as if reporters are worried the senator will throw a stapler if they don't make this crap fetch. As the Columbia Journalism Review argues this has largely come at the expense of Sen. Elizabeth Warren who has been more or less ignored in major media coverage over the last few crucial weeks.

Sen. Warren's fourth place finish has left her team scrambling. The Washington Post reports Warren's team is shifting towards a message of party unity, which was evident during her speech last night. The senator warned against the factionalism some of her rivals have been pushing, saying, "These harsh tactics might work if you’re willing to burn down the rest of the party in order to be the last man standing,"adding, "Ads mocking other candidates and with supporters of some candidates shouting curses at other Democratic candidates."

Last night Warren's campaign manager Roger Lau took the rather unusual step of releasing a memo with internal campaign data to reporters that says the campaign expects to finish within the top three on Super Tuesday. I take issue with some of this data as it assumes Mike Bloomberg won't cannibalize Joe Biden over the next month.

Joe Biden did so poorly in New Hampshire that he didn't even stick around for his own post-election night rally. The campaign is hurting in all the ways that matter: his message is shot to hell, the base is having second thoughts, and cash is drying up. Biden's abysmal fifth place finish last night caused one advisor to comment to Politico, "We're all scared. I think we're going to make it to South Carolina. I know we're supposed to say we're going to and we're going to win. But I just don't know."

Tom Steyer said rumors of his own campaign's demise are greatly exaggerated. Before bailing out of New Hampshire last night, Steyer brushed off insults to his performance, saying, "There's also maybe a tweet that I've lost my arms and legs, but here they are."

Just "Like," Or "Like-Like?"

Mike Bloomberg has been tooling around the South trying to court black voters while his rivals farted around frozen hellscapes wooing white people. His campaign's slogan, "I like Mike," seems to be the understatement after Bloomberg was endorsed by Rep. Lucy McBath, a mother-turned-gun control activist after her son, Jordan Davis, was murdered in a gas station parking lot over loud music. In a statement, McBath says, "Mike gave grieving mothers like me a way to stand up and fight back." The Washington Post notes McBath is the latest politico to endorse Bloomberg following his financial support of their elections.

Bloomberg's gripping and grinning may be for nothing after audio of a 2015 speech in which Bloomberg defends his support of of stop-and-frisk made the rounds on social media. Bloomberg defended himself by saying he should have apologized "faster and sooner." Opponents to the left of Bloomberg were quick to capitalize on the clip, but the punditocracy began chasing a new shiny object after Trump deleted a shitpost calling Bloomberg "racist"

In Other News...

Nevada caucus volunteers are worried there could be a repeat of Iowa on Feb 22. AP reports that a perfect storm is brewing that now includes early voting. Nevada Democrats dumped the company that Iowa used, and are working to train people on a "Caucus Tool" app that will be loaded onto iPads. The tablets won't passed out until until caucus day, and the state party isn't releasing any details about the app in fear of hackers (much to the dismay of transparency geeks). Some volunteers are already complaining about a lack of training, and confusion over paper ballots.

A bill to grant Washington D.C. statehood is likely to pass a historic House floor vote, and then die a lonely death in the Senate.

The Philippines has pulled out of a 20-year-old security agreement with the US, per the order of President Rodrigo Duterte. The move comes in retaliation for the US canceling the visa of Philippine Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the former chief of the National Police who headed up Duterte's bloody crusade against drugs. Nerds note Duterte embrace of China has come at the US's expense; and that it's possible this is merely a heavy handed bargaining tactic.

The Justice Department is weighing whether or not to press charges on Erik Prince for lying to Congress during the Trump-Russia investigation, and whether or not Prince violated US export laws in a business agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

The Anti-Defamation League says 2019 was the second straight year where incidents involving white supremacist propaganda jumped. According to the ADL, incidents rose 120 percent over 2018, and the propaganda uses rhetoric about "patriotism" to make their garbage, "more palatable," adding that this was, "a tactic to try to get eyes onto their ideas in a way that’s cheap, and that brings it to a new generation of people who are learning how to even make sense out of these messages." [Report]

A new peace agreement with the Taliban is likely to call for for a reduction in violence across Afghanistan, not a full "cease-fire." Nerds familiar with the situation aren't holding their breath.

One More Thing...

It snowed in Baghdad for the first time in over 100 years. Photos are surreal, but you really need to check out some of the videos popping up on social media to get an idea. The Washington Post notes kids were throwing snowballs in the rebel stronghold of Tahir Square.

Human rights workers point out that while the snow may be a blessing for some, Syrian refuges have struggled to survive in the freezing temperatures. By midday the light blanket of snow had melted, and the 9-year-old daughter of Mustafa Ali asked her father, "Will it ever happen again?"

OK, now here's a warm and fuzzy critter video! Cuddling with baby golden snub-nosed monkeys!

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