No maps here.

What a terrible day. I could have won a $100 million lottery purse today, and on the way to cash in the ticket I would have flipped on the radio and heard even part of the president’s “celebration” of his impeachment acquittal and it still would have ruined the day. It was so crazy, it was chilling. And maybe there’s something about hearing this stuff alone in the car, in winter when most people are not on the street, in the middle of the day when lots of people can’t hear it in the first place, all of this — that makes you feel incredibly alone. You think: This is it. This is the way our country ends. This and all the terrible shit, opening up national monuments to mining and sending Ivanka around the world so she can pose with pens and pretend to be important, and Don Jr. calling Mitt Romney a pussy and all the rest of it. This is it. This is the end.

I try not to get too discouraged, but what a terrible day. It’s hard not to despair.

Despair, my childhood religion tells me, is a sin. On the other hand, God must really be pissed at us. Who wouldn’t despair?

After I turned off the radio, I experimented with different animal voices for the coyote and the badger in this video. It was a way to take the pressure off.

So. It’s been a long week. Lots of work, still another day to do it. Let’s go to the bloggage, shall we?

After reading as much as I could handle about the Iowa fiasco, I think this piece sums it up best: Welcome to the bullshit economy. And how:

But the spectacle has highlighted a much more consequential problem in America, something I have coined the bullshit economy. We’ve seen elements of it all over the place. When MoviePass offered unlimited screenings for ten bucks a month, when Uber gets an $82 billion valuation for a low-margin taxi business it has never made a dime on, when WeWork implodes after the slightest scrutiny into its numbers, that’s the bullshit economy at work. We have seen the farcical bullshit of Juicero and the consequential bullshit of Theranos.

Even at the highest levels, bullshit pervades, in fraudulent advertising metrics and fake numbers peddled to convince the world to siphon cash through Facebook and Google’s dominant platforms. So many counterfeit goods pass through Amazon that the site might get listed on the U.S. Trade Representative Office’s “Notorious Markets” list.


The story of Shadow, makers of the app that utterly failed to deliver in Iowa, is a perfect example of the bullshit economy. It starts by being a tech solution to a non-existent problem. Iowa counties are compact; the largest one has a landmass of 973 square miles, and it’s close to twice the size of the average county in the state. Even there, no major city is more than a 30-minute drive from the county seat, Algona. Even with that ancient technology of the car, you could have each of the 99 counties report final results within a couple hours of the end of the caucuses.

Somehow, the Iowa Democratic Party got sold that they needed to improve upon this, to “disrupt” the caucus reporting. Already, the party had to increase what they would keep track of and tabulate, reporting the first set of results before the 15 percent viability threshold, the second set afterwards, and how that translated into delegate counts. It wasn’t clear why anyone needed to adding another layer of complexity into this with the app. But the app’s backers must have been persistent, getting $60,000—really nothing for the purposes of app development—to design a tool to forward the results to a central repository.

Yep yep yep. You know what this reminds me of? A story I read in “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” the account of how the Bush administration totally screwed post-invasion Iraq. It was about the Iraqi stock market, which ran on a paper-and-pencil system until a bunch of ambitious young Republicans swept in after the war to inflict computers on the place. Computers, in a place that had electricity only a few hours a day. Great idea.

OK, I gotta go. Big day tomorrow, with a chance of 30 percent less despair. See you on the other side.

Posted at 9:19 pm in Current events |

39 responses to “No maps here.”

  1. Deborah said on February 6, 2020 at 9:46 pm

    This is excellent, David C said this at the end of the previous comment thread, in case you missed it:
    “I’m tired of the “they tell me in private” nonsense. I hear it from politicians, pundits, and reporters and it’s time for it to stop. If they don’t name names they’re collaborators”

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 6, 2020 at 10:29 pm

    Well, this might help:

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  3. Jessica Weissman said on February 6, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    They evidently tried to disrupt the norms for application development, too. You don’t release an app without load testing, and you don’t release it without having representative users try it out.

    Had they followed the norms the disaster MIGHT have been avoided. Not that there was any actual need to insert an app into the process that has worked just fine for many years.

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  4. alex said on February 7, 2020 at 12:03 am

    This was a sucky day. We had a friend who’s an HVAC tech check out my parents’ furnace because they were getting bulldozed by a fucking salesman and we wanted them to get an objective second opinion on their 20-year-old furnace.

    The furnace was fine. It was a high-quality model to begin with. Minor tune-up. Should be good for years to come.

    So we figured we’d get ours serviced while we were at it. New in 2006. At the moment, condemned, although we turned it back on.

    We mentioned that the inducer motor had gone out and been replaced a couple of times. Our friend thought that was highly unusual and wondered why no one had investigated the cause, which turned out to be that the insides of the hermetically sealed system were corroded and rusted and the heat exchanger was totally fucked. Although it was functioning okay, we likely have had a carbon monoxide issue without even knowing it. So tomorrow we’re going to be spending $5-7K with the option of spending more if we want to get ahead of the central air game — as of January 1, they can no longer replace refrigerant in old units and the cost to do so equals the cost of replacement.

    I know what the problem is. The people who installed the furnace in 2006 didn’t do a good job of draining the condensation and we had some backups and floods until we finally fixed the drainage problem by running the hose to our well pit. By then it must have done its damage. We don’t have any recourse at this point.

    Other than to call out Coe Heating and Air for being grossly incompetent and we’ll never do business with them again or recommend them to anyone else.


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  5. Dexter Friend said on February 7, 2020 at 2:39 am

    Alex…the only Coe I ever heard of was that famous “Indiana Boy” David Allan Coe. Not a real good guy…another time.
    My furnace began losing fire back in 2011. It was old; it had a pilot light. I was re-lighting it five times a day, so of course I called the HVAC dudes, apparently J.I.T. The thing was completely worn out and the heat exchanger/firewall was about to blow out, which would have meant flames would have shot out the bottom and likely would have burnt the place down. The next day they installed a new high percentage furnace ; we use window AC so no central system. And no more fucking pilot light.

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  6. Suzanne said on February 7, 2020 at 9:26 am

    I can’t figure out why I have seen so little mention anywhere that during Trump’s shtick at the Prayer Breakfast & his later tirade about his impeachment, he certainly appeared to be drugged or something. His voice was hoarse and lower than normal, slurring a bit. This was not someone working at full capacity.

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  7. alex said on February 7, 2020 at 9:44 am

    Five grand and they don’t even include a tube of KY with that.

    Maybe Trump’s delamination is accelerating to the point that he’ll be unelectable. Hope springs eternal.

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  8. Julie Robinson said on February 7, 2020 at 10:41 am

    Alex, in modern furnaces 14 years old is considered replacement time. They really don’t make them like they used to. We had a major part go out on ours something like five years after installation, on a holiday weekend no less. It was a lot of moolah, and it wasn’t covered by the warranty. Same thing with the frig; the expensive and vital part that died wasn’t warranted. Warranties are worthless, because they’ve been written so cleverly that what is likely to break won’t be included.

    Just saw a New Yorker cartoon, of an oil tank repair guy saying, “You can replace the tank, switch to natural gas, or huddle in a corner and cry as you ask yourself why you ever thought buying a house was a good idea.”

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  9. Deborah said on February 7, 2020 at 10:59 am

    I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, another way to resist the hideous power apparatus in the country is to pay for more access to the press, besides the ones I already do to the NYT, WaPo and the NYer. The more we can help continue good journalism, especially investigative journalism the more they will reveal the utter corruption going on. So which ones do you suggest I join?

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  10. Sherri said on February 7, 2020 at 11:48 am

    As the primary season moves on to New Hampshire, a reminder that while New Hampshire has two Senators, a population over half the size of New Hampshire has zero: Washington, DC.

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  11. Scout said on February 7, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Yesterday’s predictable tirade by trumplethinskin, who once again got away with his crimes, was dubbed the #pettysburgaddress by Twitter wit Rick Wilson.

    The rapid and obvious mental and physical decline of the ‘president’ should preclude his being able to run again, but I believe the only reason he insists on doing so is because once he is out he is fair game for all sorts of lawsuits and criminal charges. He is probably hoping to die in office so he’ll be protected by the bootlicking GOP until then. It is crucial to make Mitch McConnell minority leader (or better yet the loser to Amy McGrath) in November in case Russia manages to keep T in place.

    After this all ends, there should be better safeguards in the system to prevent someone so glaringly unfit to be able to run. No more personal doctor asserting that someone is healthy when it is obviously false. Mental and physical health screenings by independent professionals should be instituted for all presidential candidates, as well as independent periodic evaluations once the person is in office. Finally, anyone running for POTUS should have to take the same test that someone applying for citizenship must take. I’d bet the farm that babyhands could not pass it.

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  12. Jeff Borden said on February 7, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Locating honest tradespeople is never easy. We were having issues with our drainage several years ago. I called several plumbing and basement leakage companies for estimates. One company sent two “technicians” with a video camera and monitor. They put it down the standpipe, then called excitedly for me to come and look. They said our sewer line had collapsed beneath the basement floor, meaning they would have to completely dig up our finished basement and put in a new line. They estimated the cost at $20,000 to $25,000. A neighbor suggested we try his preferred plumbing company. A single guy came out, inserted a Roto-Rooter and then took me outside, where he pulled up the sewer lid in front of our house to reveal all kinds of frothing water. That was my sewer line working perfectly. The cost was $350. Multiple estimates are always a good idea.

    tRump is now unbound. How silly of Susan Collins to suggest this impeachment process would “teach him a lesson” and he’d straighten up and fly right. Ha. He learned a lesson, all right. He’s beholden to no one. This has been a gangland-style presidency all along, but it’s going to get much, much worse. Notice how the Department of Homeland Security is singling out the State of New York and not allowing its residents to participate in programs meant to ease overseas travel because New York had the temerity to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Oh, those small government Republicans, haw haw haw. The next shoe likely will drop on Lt. Col. Vindman, the NSC officer who found tRump’s phone call with Ukraine appalling. He’s a dead man walking.

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  13. susan said on February 7, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Jeff B, regarding Lt Col Vindman…yep, you are correct about that dropping shoe.

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  14. Charlotte said on February 7, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    For a number of years there was a ponzi scam going around the valley, mostly pushed by CUT and ex-CUT members, that Iraqi Dinars were a great investment. Get in now! They’re going to skyrocket! Himself heard it on more job sites than he could count.

    Couple of years ago, walking the dog, during one of my more-broke freelance periods and I see some money on the ground by where folks sometimes park to eat their fast food lunch with a stupendous view. I pounce, only to discover –$5500 in Iraqi Dinars! (looked it up, worth about $5 at the time).

    Made my day. They’re still pinned to my corkboard.

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  15. David C. said on February 7, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    I’ll probably feel daft when I find out which isn’t an unusual thing. What is CUT, Charlotte?

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    • nancy said on February 7, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      Church Universal and Triumphant, a big Jim Jones-y/Baghwan-y/cultish church in Charlotte’s back yard. Google it.

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  16. David C. said on February 7, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks, I never heard of that one. They don’t sound particularly compelling enough to be both universal and triumphant or even universal or triumphant. I guess I’ll stay unaffiliated.

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  17. TGF said on February 7, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    @Sherri47 on 06 Feb — Yup, election work is far more about turnout than persuasion. Lots of undecideds are folks stuck in a rut of dithering. A friendly phonebank chat or knock on the door can be the nudge it takes to convert them to a this-time voter.

    @Brian Stouder48 on 06 Feb — Good on you! Another big chunk of my volunteer life is invested in education – currently on some specialty career tech programs in the Cincinnati system. Part of what drew me was that, working with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, CPS BOE & the current superintendent have been laying the groundwork for student success that includes building social-emotional-behavior skills throughout the system (preK-12). Their efforts give me some reassurance that we can begin to make a difference.

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  18. Ann said on February 7, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Late again to the discussion, but I pretty much hate everything that claims to be “disruptive.” Uber, of course, being example A of how you can disrupt the taxi business by deliberately violating local laws and regulations all over the place until you get so big they have to create some kind of exception for you. I sometimes volunteer for a place that says it’s disrupted traditional legal services models. Every time I get a letter or email blast mentioning that I’m less likely to sign up for the next volunteer session.

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  19. beb said on February 7, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    Taxi service a highly regulated industry. Uber’s idea was to “privatize” this industry, which amounts to screwing the employees. That’s what all privatization schemes come down to. The only way to squeeze profit out of marginal business is to screw the workers. The other question we have to ask about Uber is what causes very wealthy people throw money into a business that has never made a profit and has no business plan to could make a profit. The investers must be among the dumbest people on the planet.

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  20. Sherri said on February 7, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    I’m currently listening to Winners Take All, by Anand Giridharadas. Chapter 3, “Rebel Kings in Worrisome Berets” talks about companies like Uber and the disruption they wreak. Somehow, they manage to convince themselves that they are the brave warrior standing up for the common man against the entrenched interests of the taxi cartel, all the while exploiting their drivers to get insanely rich.

    I’m just fascinated (and repulsed) by all the people who refuse to believe they have any power when in fact, they hold enormous power. From Silicon Valley to Wall Street to DC, the cult of victim hood is strong.

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  21. Deborah said on February 7, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    I read “Winners Take All” by Anand Giridharadas when I was doing a lot of traveling. It’s excellent, but I feel like I need to read it again, because I had a lot going on and was distracted. Listening to it might be a good way to “reread” it. I watch and read everything I can find by him now. Highly recommended.

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  22. Deborah said on February 7, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    I’m so fed up with our icy parking lot situation I could scream. All of the other owners in the building are absentee landlords, they couldn’t care less. I’m getting direct complaints from the tenants about it because they know we’re owners now. My husband said to just go ahead and hire someone and we’ll pay for it if the association won’t. Which I did, but the ice build-up is so extreme now that there’s not a lot more that can be done. It is so aggravating that it has come to this. I’m spending a lot of time on it every day and it shouldn’t be all on me. Grrrr.

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  23. A.Riley said on February 7, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    One thing I’ve learned in a long career is that no matter how cool the app or the disruptive idea is, if it’s supposed to do something important, it needs to have that clunky unglamorous legacy procedure backing it up.

    For example, the folks in Iowa could have arranged to have a phone room set up with a few dozen volunteers ready with pencils and paper to take down results.

    In each precinct, one functionary could have been asked to phone in unofficial results to that legacy-type phone room (yes! talking on the phone! voice!!) while another functionary did the app for the official results.

    Once enough of the functionaries phoned in to the volunteers in the phone room, the unofficial results could have been announced to the world, making clear that they’re unofficial.

    That way, the candidates could have made their speeches in prime time, the cable news talking heads could have had something to talk about all night besides what a mess it all was, and the papers could have had at least something to put in the early edition besides DEBACLE.

    The complete official results would then follow whenever they were finally ready.

    It wouldn’t have been that hard. It would have taken a certain amount of planning and volunteer management, but not that hard.

    Chicago’s late great (and notoriously cheap) City News Bureau did it like that for years, with election judges in a couple thousand city precincts phoning in to a few dozen volunteers while an army of candidates and media eagerly awaited the numbers.

    How do I know? I helped City News do it for some of those years.

    No slick app, no highly paid consultants (don’t I know it), but the numbers got reported.

    Shadow and Acronym Inc., you could have asked around Chicago — and probably most other big cities — a little more.

    Bullshit economy, indeed.

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  24. Sherri said on February 7, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    The Iowa caucuses weren’t totally reliant on the app. They did have a backup plan of calling in numbers. Apparently, their security was for shit and the phone numbers got posted on 4chan.

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  25. David C said on February 8, 2020 at 6:40 am

    Deborah, the best thing for ice like that is sand or whatever gritty substance is available in your area. You have to put quite a lot down so it will be tracked all over the building but it’s better than having to deal with a fall

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  26. Suzanne said on February 8, 2020 at 7:29 am

    I read ‘Winners Take All’ last summer. It is excellent! It was one of several things that changed the way I look at philanthropy.
    If you have not read it, do so.
    When I heard about all the money that a Jeffrey Epstein gave to universities & such, I thought of the book immediately.

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  27. Deborah said on February 8, 2020 at 8:48 am

    David C, I am using sand. I got 2 bags of it a few days ago and every day I spread it on the areas where people have to walk to their cars. The center part of the lot is the iciest, really thick, dense ice, because that’s where the cars travel across when they come and go, the snow packs down there the most. I’m urging the residents not to walk diagonally across the lot, they don’t really have to, there’s a cleared path both for them to get to their cars on one side and the trash bins on the other. I realize it’s quicker to cross diagonally than to walk along the perimeter. We keep having warmer days that sort of melts some of the ice, then refreezes at night, that plus over the years the gravel has embedded into the ground causing low spots that don’t drain, it’s a mess. The condo association is made up of mostly absentee landlords except for us now, so it’s falling on me and LB to take care of it, they don’t want to spend much money on it.

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  28. basset said on February 8, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Everybody remember to watch Ed Sullivan tomorrow night, he’s gonna have that new band from England and I hear they’re really good.

    (translation: tomorrow’s the 56th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on that show, and this year it’s on a Sunday so you can play your dvd of the whole show starting at 7 pm and be in sync with history.)

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  29. Jakash said on February 8, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    So, “Orange Face” is trending on Twitter. Take a guess. My two favorites, after a quick survey, with an Honorable Mention to the folks posting comparisons to the Heat Miser:

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  30. Dave said on February 8, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    That would be 7PM Central, would it not? I remember Ed Sullivan coming on at 8 Eastern.

    As a matter of fact, I do have that DVD.

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  31. Deborah said on February 8, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    My husband is back in NM and we’re in Abiquiu. So glad to get a respite from the icy parking lot. LB is going to continue with the sand spreading in Santa Fe. It is thawing nicely today.

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  32. beb said on February 8, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    Here’s an interesting longform read somewhat related to the bullshit economy — on how management connsultants have destroyed the middle-class
    the tl;dr is that companies used to hire people for life, trained them in their jobs and promoted from within. This created both a sense of loyalty to the company, camaraderie with employees and deep institutional knowledge about the company and it’s products. Management consultants chiefly recommended firing most of the middle managers, isolating upper management from pressure from below and fueled the worship of profit over anything else.

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  33. basset said on February 8, 2020 at 9:21 pm

    Dave, that’s correct; our CBS outlet was WTHI in Terre Haute. A few years ago we did the dvd thing for Jr and a few of his friends, served tv dinners and all. That was the first time I’d noticed that tv dinners aren’t in foil trays any more.

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  34. Dexter Friend said on February 9, 2020 at 2:09 am

    Those guys, heh heh heh, they crack me up…HVAC guys. We switched plumbers and heating guys a few years ago when the old guys retired. The new guys ripped us off, so we switched again. Our water heater blew out; I swear I cannot remember how many water heaters have blown out here in the 39 years in this house. So a guy shows up and inspects the venting and all and declares a fire hazard…we must have them tear out a wall and install all new venting up through the roof. Many thousands of dollars. The company then sends two technicians to do the work. One asked me why would I want to do all this venting work, as every part up through the roof was solid and stable. I said it was your guy who said this. I detected a slight eye roll and a muffled “oh Jesus Christ”. They returned later sans the pipe work supplies and installed a jim-dandy efficient new water heater.

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  35. Sherri said on February 9, 2020 at 11:53 am

    Beb, I regard the McKinsey (and Booz Allen, which was the hot firm before them) problem as the MBA problem all grown up and on steroids.

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  36. Brian stouder said on February 9, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Beb, an enlightening article, indeed; thanks for sharing

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  37. Sherri said on February 9, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Am I crazy, or when Mayor Pete first started making noise way back in 2016, didn’t he talk more like a leftist? Now he’s talking about cutting the deficit?! I began to doubt him when I saw he’d been at McKinsey, but this is ridiculous.

    I don’t know who he’s getting advice from, but I don’t believe that running as a young, gay, Joe Biden, only with less African-American support is a winning strategy.

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  38. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 9, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Well, not in South Carolina or Virginia, I’d imagine.

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