The Smoke Eater For Feb. 5, 2020

An app for that, fighting dirty, and cleansing our collective colons.

Good day, this is The Smoke Eater for Wednesday, February 5, 2020, and I can't wait to go the fuck to sleep.


Quick Hit

* The App * Progressive Pariah * Pokemon Go To The Polls *

NOTE: Today I focused on the Iowa voting app. This is partially because I'm very fascinated by these stories, and because I haven't slept in a week. Things should go back to whatever normal is tomorrow. I've also uploaded over 40 photos with captions from the Iowa caucuses to my gallery. Pateron subscribers will get another 25+ photos later today. (In an ironic twist, there was a screw up with the app that prevented me from uploading photos and captions.)

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The App's Holes

Tech nerds are not shocked The App (that's what it's called) seems to have broken the idiotic group think exercise we call caucuses. The consulting group responsible, Shadow, cobbled the thing together over a few months and brushed off concerns with a laughable policy of "security through obscurity." In hindsight someone should have raised a red flag when Joe Biden's campaign stopped working with the company over cybersecurity concerns.

Motherboard actually got their hands on The App and concluded the bug-filled mess is what happens when, "Connected insiders [are] using buzzwords to sell an unnecessary and overcomplicated solution to a nonexistent problem."

Up Your Apps With Broken Glass

Democracy didn't die thanks to paper, pencils, and the army of reporters and photographers who documented the entire caucusing process. Vox explains the process of people herding themselves into one corner or another -- in full view of the press and observers -- and the use of paper ballots created multiple levels of security that invalidates most conspiracy theories. Russel Brandom points out that the recent changes to Iowa's caucusing process, in conjunction with The App, bottlenecked phone lines when people simply gave up/ignored the The App. "Taken together," Brandom writes, "it starts to look less like a single tech failure and more like a pileup of compounding disasters: the overloaded phone lines, the under baked app, the elaborate vote totals, all piled on top of a caucus system that has been eccentric to the point of dysfunction for nearly 50 years."

Last night spookier parts of the internet started dredging up more unsavory details on Shadow’s parent company, Acronym. One hot take is that this reeks of Cambridge Analytica, but with the goal to help Democratic candidates succeed in 2020.

A big through lines is that people behind Acronym are former Clinton and Obama alums. The founder, Tara McGowan, recently appeared on David Ploufe's podcast, Campaign HQ, to talk about her motivation after 2016, and the groups digital strategies heading into the 2020 election. McGowan's made a point of talking up successes in down ballot races, and in November she announced a plan to drop $75 million on anti-Trump ads in 2020. All the usual left-leaning super rich power players have cash tied into Acronym and its PAC, including George Soros, Haim Saban, Laurene Powel Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Jeffery Katzenberg, and the American Federation of Teachers.

McGowan is now being cast as a progressive pariah for using some of the same dirty tricks Trumpworld has been using against Democrats. The Daily Beast reports Acronym has already started damage control operations, as have the presidential campaigns of Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden, both of whom reported utilizing the services of Acronym at some point.

As one might expect, Trumpworld was quick to declare the election was rigged. Eurotrash troll armies have already begun flooding social media with easily disprovable conspiracy theories about vote rigging (Iowa has voter ID laws). Early this morning I personally saw posts geared towards convincing people that Hillary Clinton had emerged from a Chappaqua forest to announce #ShesRunning in 2020 (she's not). On the left, some outlets and Bernie blowhards have seized on muck raking journalism to call this a grand scheme funded by Buttigieg to screw Sanders.

Another Purity Test

After Nate Silver cried himself to sleep over the Iowa Democrats almost invalidating the last year of his life, he tried to predict a rationale for what happens next in the primary process. TLDR: a shrugging emoji.

There's no shortage of articles and op-eds complaining about the public shaming system Iowans call "caucusing." This morning the The Boston Globe kicked a hornets nest into the debate by arguing a state like Illinois would be more representative of the Democratic party's diversity, and should be #blessed with first-in-the-nation status.

It's probably a good idea that the Nevada Democratic Party has decided to stick to old school methods less prone to 21st century problems for its caucuses. But there are still other areas of the country that intend to use smartphones and computers for voting in some way, like the 19,000 overseas and military voters in Pierce County, Washington.

One More Thing...

Democrats will have to do some soul searching about whether or not it's ethical to take large sums of cash, and microtarget propaganda like Trump and Republicans. There's valid arguments that Democrats need to fight dirty lest they all boil like frogs in a water world, but just how dirty is the question.

I also don't see any validation in the argument that Buttigieg utilized The App to screw Sanders. They ran different campaigns in Iowa. Sanders has focused on attracting and maintaining support from young, often first-time voters in urban areas with a campaign message centered on his cult of personality (and relentless texting). Compare this to the messaging and outreach efforts from Warren and Buttigieg: Buttigieg focused on cutting into Biden’s base of older voters with TV ad buys while Warren went digital and targeted women. Their campaigns focused more on rural and suburban voters, respectively; where there are simply fewer doors to knock on, thus netting delegates due to proportionality vs population. It’s weird, but that’s politics.

Precinct totals right now show Sanders was out-maneuvered in Iowa (again) but that can still change. Ultimately it might not even matter as Iowa only accounts for 41 of the Democratic party's 3,979 delegates. But Iowa's influence (or lack thereof) could be the catalyst to a contested convention -- a scenario many of my colleagues have heard me privately ranting about for about a year.

OK, now here's a warm and fuzzy critter video! It's Saambili!

Sambilli is an adorable little gorilla at the Dallas Zoo. She's named after Aldegonde Saambili, a worker at GRACE (Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center), in the Democratic Republic of Congo who specializes in caring for orphaned infant gorillas kidnapped by poachers or illegal pet traders.

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