Mar 19, 2020

A coronavirus-free newsletter.

A coronavirus-free newsletter.

Plus, Tulsi Gabbard drops out of the race.

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Today’s read: 6 minutes.

An entire newsletter of news without one mention of that thing everyone is talking about.

Tulsi Gabbard announced she was dropping out of the presidential race. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Keeping promises.

On Monday, I promised you that I’d do my best to write a newsletter this week without talking about the one thing that everyone is talking about. Today is that newsletter. I’ll be sending a special Friday edition tomorrow with updates so you can go into the weekend informed, but my hope is that today’s newsletter can help you get caught up on the “news you missed” while also giving you a reprieve from the panic. If you just subscribed to Tangle, today’s newsletter won’t be formatted it normally is. You can find yesterday’s newsletter here.

Happy Spring.

Huh? That’s right. Today is March 19th and the first day of Spring. For the first time since 1896, every time zone in America will experience Spring a day early this year. As you may know, Spring typically starts on the spring equinox — the first day of the year when day and night are roughly the same length. That’s typically March 20th or 21st, but this year — due to the vernal equinox arriving 18 hours early — it’s springtime already. Try to get outside. If you’re interested to read more about this phenomenon, check this out.

What D.C. isn’t talking about.

The last week has been full of important news drowned out by one single story. Here are some rapid fire break downs of what’s been going on — and what you may have missed.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announces she was ending her campaign for president today. She also endorsed Joe Biden in her announcement, putting a final end to rumors that she might run as a third-party candidate or rebel against the party. The endorsement was notable, given Gabbard’s longstanding support of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is still in the race. “I feel that the best way I can be of service at this time is to continue to work for the health and well-being for the people of Hawaii and our country in Congress, and to stand ready to serve in uniform should the Hawaii national guard be activated,” Gabbard said. “Now after Tuesday’s election, it’s clear that Democratic primary voters have chosen Vice President Joe Biden to be the person who will take on President Trump in the general election.” Click.

Joe Biden has taken a commanding lead in the Democratic primary. With another week of voting in the books, and during a truly unprecedented moment in time, Biden has the nomination locked up. The next big question for the race is how long Bernie Sanders stays in. Yesterday, Sanders grew frustrated with reporters who peppered him with questions about his plans. “I’m dealing with a f—ng global crisis,” he told a gaggle of reporters about when he’d decide on whether to stay in the race. Some eagle-eyed reporters noted that Sanders’ team had stopped all of his Facebook ads. One tell-tale sign a candidate is packing it in is when they begin shutting down ad campaigns. Yesterday, Axios reported that Sanders was suspending his campaign, but the Sanders team said the reports were untrue and Axios later removed the story and issued a correction. Click.

Utah suffered a 5.7 magnitude earthquake yesterday, the largest tremor the state has seen in 28 years. The earthquake was so big it damaged public transportation and forced the state’s largest airport to shut down. There have been no deaths or injuries reported yet. Click.

In Illinois, Marie Newman — a progressive Democrat — unseated longtime incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski in a House primary race. Rep. Lipinski had served for eight terms — 16 years — in Illinois’ third district in Chicago before losing on Tuesday. His dad held the seat for 22 years before him. It different times, this upset would have been a huge story. Lipinski was long considered a “conservative Democrat” as he vocally opposes abortion access and voted against Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. The upset win is akin to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Rep. Joe Crowley in 2018. Newman was endorsed by the Justice Democrats and is one of the first big wins for the far-left progressive wing of the party in some time. Click.

On Sunday, the federal surveillance program expired and this week the Senate decided to punt the vote on the House-passed update to the bill. The bill passed by the House would have reauthorized now-expired provisions in the 2015 USA Freedom Act and also updated FISA, the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act used to monitor a member of the Trump campaign team. The legislation that passed the House addressed concerns about the federal government’s ability to obtain the private phone records of citizens during terrorism investigations and privacy statutes inspired by the FBI’s ability to wiretap Trump’s former campaign adviser Carter Page. For now, all the controversial rules will stay in place. Click.

A New York City police officer was caught planting marijuana in a car — for the second time. The first time the officer was caught planting pot on a suspect, the video evidence was convincing enough that a court threw out the charges against the defendant and suggested the officer get a lawyer. But an internal review process by the New York Police Department found “no misconduct had occurred.” Now a second video has been leaked exclusively by The Intercept showing the same pair of officers pulling off the same scheme just two weeks later. But it took two years for the videos to surface. The new evidence raises questions about the effectiveness or value of body cameras when the evidence they hold remains inaccessible. Click.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Reader questions are at the heart of what Tangle is about. If you want to ask something, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in.

Q: What suggestions do you have for improving the voting process? My initial gut reaction is to have an electronic system but for it to actually work at scale it would likely need to be run by a large tech firm to avoid what happened in Iowa. This definitely raises many ethical concerns but is there a point in which some controls implemented for managing that risk outweighs how inefficient the voting process currently is? Could this be a space for Andrew Yang to step into a government role to oversee some ethical change to this outdated process? Waiting in line for hours to cast your vote is just absurd.

- Hafeez, Pittsburgh, PA

Tangle: I love this question. In such crazy times, one of the most important things to me is voting accessibility. If I could snap my fingers, I’d make a few major changes to the voting process immediately.

First, I’d automatically register every American citizen over the age of 18. This is a no-brainer to me. People can choose to vote or not, and I would never advocate for a mandatory voting process, but the idea that I have to register to vote is absurd to me. Voting is a right. It’s a civic duty. I firmly believe, and I think history would demonstrate, that voter registration is a lot more about keeping certain people from voting than it is about “preventing voter fraud.” I don’t really care much how the federal government achieves registering everyone, but I would absolutely change the law so any American citizen can begin voting at the age of 18 without having to go through some arcane, insane registration process.

Secondly, I’d making voting in national elections a holiday. It shocks me every election year that goes by without this being law. I could think of several historical figures off the top of my head who we celebrate national holidays for (George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.) who I think would be thrilled in the afterlife to learn that we had changed their holiday to a voting day. So many Americans struggle to vote simply because they have to work, work in low-wage jobs where they can’t take a day off, or work night shifts on top of their day job and can’t hit the polling places between the two. Voting by absentee ballot is annoying and difficult, and there’s simply no reason we don’t take a true day off from work to give everyone the ability to participate in our Democracy.

Third, I’d stop revoking people’s right to vote for crimes. This is controversial, of course, but I absolutely fall into the “far-left” stance that convicted felons and — yes, even prisoners — should be allowed to vote. “Oh, so you want a rapist to be able to vote?!” No, I don’t. So maybe we change the felony statutes so there are certain laws where if you are convicted of a particular crime (rape, murder, etc.) you can’t vote. But still, felons can’t vote in a few American states, and as a nation, we remain one of the most punitive in the world when it comes to allowing someone who has been convicted of a crime to vote. 6.1 million Americans can’t vote because of felony offenses. I can only think of few things that will reinforce the idea someone is “other” or “outside the norm of society” more than not allowing them to vote. And keeping people who were convicted of crimes on the outside is the absolute opposite way to rehabilitate them and bring them back into society.

Fourth, I’d abolish caucusing. For good. It’s absolutely bonkers to me that we still have people standing around in a gym like it’s 1832 trying to convince each other to come stand in their corner and select a candidate. Whoever thought of caucusing was perfectly well-intentioned (it’s sort of a form of ranked-choice voting) but it’s not feasible with the sheer number of people we have today. It’s also bizarre to have drastically different systems of voting across state primaries. Get rid of it.

Finally, to the actual process: I’d actually do the opposite of what you’re suggesting. Hate it or love it, one of the few things that is actually reliable in the voting process are paper ballots. Sure, mistakes happen. And yes, things can get messy here and there. But I can’t think of anything I’d trust less than electronic voting. I know it’s trendy and cool and lines suck, but there is no way to eliminate the risk of mass fraud or manipulation (unless you’re backing them up with paper ballots, which defeats the purpose anyway) and I have no incentive to open our voting process up to hacks. If people were given a day off of work, and if people were automatically registered, a little bit of a wait at a polling place wouldn’t be a big deal.

Also, I know many people have asked me about ranked-choice voting. My short response here is I’m not sold yet in either direction. I wrote about ranked-choice voting in a previous edition of Tangle, though. And weighed both sides. You can read that here.

Have a nice day.

NBA star Charles Barkley said he is selling all his unnecessary awards and accolades to help raise money for affordable green housing in his home state of Alabama. Items like his 1996 Olympic gold medal and his 1993 MVP award are up for sale. If he gets the price he wants, he may be able to build around 20 homes. "I don't think I have to walk around with my gold medal or my MVP trophy for people to know I'm Charles Barkley, so I'm going to sell all that crap,” he said. “That just clutters my house. I used to keep it at my grandmother's house, but they all passed away, and I don't want that stuff crapping up my house." The MVP trophy alone could bring in $300,000. Click.

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