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.