The Smoke Eater For Feb. 13, 2020

Census stupidity, a culinary disaster, and combat boots.

Good morning, this is The Smoke Eater for Thursday, February 13, 2020, and long live the party!

Quick Hit

* An eye on the 2020 Census * New Hampshire's turnout * Nevada caucuses are coming * A culinary disaster * Sen. Gillibrand's big idea * The Patriot Act * Pay your respects to McClatchy * Why I'm wearing combat boots to Milwaukee *

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Census Shenanigans

The GAO has a new report warning that the 2020 census is slacking in all the ways that matter. Aside from not simply recruiting enough temp workers, the Census Bureau is still hashing out tons of tech problems with just weeks to go. According to the GAO, online system intended to be used to fill out census forms was cracking under heavy strain, so back-up system (that's seen even less testing!) will be used due to its ability to handle 600,000 users simultaneously. The Census Bureau is also re-upping a warning from an earlier Commerce Department IG report that cautioned the system had serious "weaknesses" in its plans for recovering any data that's been lost due to a cyber attack or disaster.

Rather than discuss the very serious issues, members of congress played the blame game yesterday during a hearing of the House oversight committee. Republicans accused Democrats of wasting time arguing the constitutionality of citizenship questions, while Democrats wondered why the RNC was sending out mailers designed to imitate census forms last year.

Census officials confirmed a citizenship question would not appear, but when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked if the bureau had advised the public "clearly and decisively" of this, Census Director Steven Dillingham stated that people were "more interested in knowing the benefits" of filling out the census. Dillingham did assure members of congress that the Bureau was monitoring social media for disinformation campaigns.

Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney noted, "If these gaps are not filled, it is our most vulnerable, our most vulnerable citizens who will suffer, including children, low-income communities, rural communities and minority communities." [GAO Report]

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

New Hampshire Democrats are hailing a high turnout in Tuesday's primary as a sign that Trump's reelection chances are winnowing, reports Josie Albertson-Grove for the New Hampshire Union Leader. "It looks like we're on track to make history with turnout," said state Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley, noting that the turn out seemed higher than 2008. Vox adds it's possible that because New Hampshire has an open primary those numbers could be inflated by the state's large number of independents.

The Las Vegas Review Journal has an interesting piece on Nevada's caucus math calculation, and the prep working some campaigns are undertaking ahead of Feb. 22.

The Nevada Independent got its hands on to flyers being passed out by members of the Culinary Union that frame "Medicare-for-All" plans proposed by senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as bad for union members. The flyers praise more moderate healthcare plans proposed by center-left candidates. One flyer curiously singles out Sen. Amy Klobuchar, praising her, "work with unions on regulations about technology at work." The Culinary Union claims it's been "viciously attacked" by Bernie bots for providing "facts on what certain healthcare proposals might do" to members' healthcare system. Sanders pushed back during an interview last night by arguing socialized healthcare will ultimately lower healthcare costs and increase wage growth.

Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin write for Roll Call that congressional Democrats are trying to stay out of the 2020 race as much as they can, especially now that Joe Biden's presidential prospects look increasingly dire. All that could change after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29. Stay tuned.

Writing for MLive, Malachi Barrett has a piece on Bible-thumping progressives hoping to woo Evangelical Trump voters in Michigan by asking them, "What would Jesus do?"

It will probably take a Supreme Court ruling to decide the fate of Arizona's ballot harvesting ban. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled the ban violates the Voting Rights Act by disproportionately affecting black, Latino, and ingenious peoples, but Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has sought to keep the ban in place. Ballot harvesting is the process of delivering a neighbor's mail-in ballot to the post office. Advocates say the process increases voter turnout, but opponents complain about the potential for fraud.

Civil liberties advocates are hoping Puerto Rico's governor veto's a bill to allow Puerto Rico to vote online in the next eight years. The ACLU is warning, "There is no secure way to hold elections online."

Earlier this week Senate Republicans blocked three bills aimed at safeguarding elections from fuckery. Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn complained the bills would "seize control over elections from the states" and "rest it in the hands of Washington DC bureaucrats." The bills would have required campaigns to notify the FBI and FEC about offers of foreign interference, increase election funding, and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet. This is just the latest in a string of defeats for security advocates calling for common sense reforms, like paper ballots.

I Still Know What You Read Last Summer

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has proposed creating a federal agency to oversee data and enforce federal privacy laws. Gillibrand's bill has yet to be released, but in a Medium post announcing the bill this morning, Gillibrand says her Data Protection Act would allow the president to appoint an agency director to serve a five-year term. The agency would enforce privacy violations with "a broad range of tools ... including civil penalties, injunctive relief, and equitable remedies," and advise Congress on how to handle new digital issues, like deep fakes.

The bill comes at the same time as 45 civil liberties and privacy advocates send a letter to Congress backing a bill by Sen. Ron Wyden to overhaul the 2015 USA Freedom Act, (AKA the updated 2001 Patriot Act). Wyden's bill would formally dump the NSA's discontinued practiced of sucking up phone calls and text messages.

The FBI's Crime Complaint Center recorded its highest number of complaints and financial losses to businesses and individuals in 2019. The most expensive scams were compromised corporate email, fraud, and spoofing. Most of the 467,361 complaints came from California, followed by New York, Texas, and Florida.

RIP Local News

McClatchy, one of the largest newspaper publishers in the country, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this morning. Many of the local stories appearing in The Smoke Eater rely on reporting from local news outlets owned by McClatchy. Control of the 163-year-old family publisher is likely to be be turned over to a hedge fund, pending court approval. Remember that all journalism requires support (read: money)!

One More Thing...

NPR launched a delegate tracker to help you track the horse race. Remember that delegates are the only thing that matters heading to the nominating conventions, and each state party awards delegates differently. If no candidate is able to win enough delegates before a nominating convention, the convention is said to be brokered or contested; that's when all Hell breaks loose.

On March 3 (AKA Super Tuesday) there's 1,357 delegates in play. After Super Tuesday there's 2,467. In order to win on the first ballot heading into the Democratic convention, a candidate needs to win a majority of the party's 3,979 pledged delegates. If nobody wins at least 1,990 delegates before the convention, the party holds a second balloting contest during the convention where candidates need to win at least 2,373 delegates. (For the best example of this, read Hunter S. Thompson's write-up on Sen. George McGovern securing the Democratic party's nomination at the 1972 convention in Miami in "Fear & Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72.")

Bernie Sanders supporters fought the DNC for a rules change in 2016, so uncommitted or "super delegates" won't factor into the nominating contest until the second ballot. This is where stuff like coalition building and party loyalty comes into play, and where arcane rules and genuine fuckery are likely to be dredged up.

One would expect Sanders supporters to scream bloody murder if Sanders heads into the convention with a lead in pledged delegates, but is still short of the 1,990 necessary to clench the nomination on the first ballot. Sanders would likely get screwed at the the 11th hour for crashing the party, at which point the Democrats standard bearer would be chosen by party bosses in a smoke filled room while some darkly comedic spectacle plays out on the convention floor.

If that's the case, may the Gods of alcohol and cigarettes and coffee save the fools reporting on that chaos, and watch over the poor bastards marching through the streets of Milwaukee.

OK, now here's a warm and fuzzy critter video! BUN-BUN AND DOGGO!

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