Bill Maher: American Kids Are Way Too Confident. Plus. . .

An afternoon at Karen summer camp. Patriotism is back. Lonely hearts. And more.

On today’s Front Page from The Free Press: Olivia Reingold goes to Karen summer camp; Julia Steinberg reports that patriotism is back; John Sailer uncovers the latest DEI excesses at Yale; lonely hearts; and much more.

But first, an excerpt from Bill Maher’s new book: What This Comedian Said Will Shock You. Every Friday night, at the end of Real Time, Bill reliably delivers the smartest five minutes in cable. His new book is the best of the best of these must-watch monologues. Here’s Bill with an important message for America’s youth:

America is a country whose children score low in math and science but off the charts in self-esteem. A study of eight developed countries found that U.S. students were dead last in math skills but number one in confidence in math skills, even though they suck at it. Yes, we’re number one in thinking we’re number one.

The idea that kids have too little self-esteem is antiquated. It’s a Zombie Lie, one of those ideas that perhaps was true in the past but now is not, and yet people keep saying it. Kids now have too much self-esteem, and it’s turning them into angry, screaming grievance collectors.

All of that childhood tolerance is resulting in grown-up tyrants. It’s no wonder that by the time they get to college, just having to listen to an opinion they don’t agree with is considered an act of “violence.” This is what happens when no one ever loses and everyone gets a prize. You can run the wrong way on the field and score five goals for the other team, and you’re still a winner. Even though you’re actually a big fucking loser. No wonder today’s NBA players give each other high fives when they miss a foul shot.

We tell our children they don’t have to fix their flaws, because it’s the world’s job to accept everything about them and love it. Like they say on reality shows, the most important thing is just “you doing you.” But what if “you” is a big asshole?

Continue reading. 

Earlier this month, the world screamed with laughter after footage of a Rage Ritual Retreat hosted by Mia “Magik” Banducci made the rounds on social media. In the clip, viewed at least six million times on X, about a dozen white women stand along a road in a forest, beating tree branches on the pavement and howling up at the sky. “Right now I feel afraid,” one woman in athleisure bellowed.

But while much of the internet was laughing, many looked at the chaos and thought: Where do I sign up? Free Press reporter Olivia Reingold attended Banducci’s first-ever virtual retreat last Tuesday to see what all the fuss was about. This is her dispatch:

A couple dozen women, plus one purple-haired man, are screaming at the top of their lungs over Zoom. Some are in their bedrooms, whacking Swiffers and broomsticks onto their mattresses. One blonde woman is outside in the tall grass, heaving in a child’s pose. 

“Let all your pain out,” their leader, Mia Banducci, a 36-year-old self-described “ambassador for the ancient magikal way,” yells while gasping for breath. “Let everything you’ve held back out.” 

This is a rage ritual, an event that Banducci bills as an opportunity to “release emotions that have been shamed or suppressed within you for years, even generations.” 

Fifty participants showed up to Banducci’s Zoom this past Tuesday for her “first-ever live, virtual rage ritual,” which cost her acolytes $47. The event, which happened at 1 p.m. PST when most employed individuals are still at work, began with a quick call to grab our “tools.” 

“A broom has a great thwack when you use it like this,” Banducci explains from the edge of a bed, thumping hers down on the white duvet cover. “Really satisfying.”

Olivia learns to ‘tango with demons’ and commune with witches…read on.

  1. The UK’s conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak, trailing in the polls, has called a general election for July 4. Maybe not the most auspicious date for an unpopular British leader hoping to cling to power? (The Telegraph)

  2. Speaking of unpopular leaders facing election this year, Joe Biden’s approval rating hit a two-year low in a new poll. Only 36 percent of Americans are happy with the job Biden is doing as president. (Reuters

  3. The Federal Reserve’s annual report on the well-being of American households found that 65 percent of adults say that price increases meant their financial situation was worse in 2023 than in 2022. (Federal Reserve

  4. A teacher did all he could to keep kids off phones—now he’s quitting in frustration. Crazy (good) idea: let’s ban phones in school. (WSJ)

  5. More Americans report using marijuana on a regular basis than alcohol. A new report finds that the number of people who use pot daily or near daily has risen twentyfold over the last 30 years, to 17.7 million. And the marijuana being consumed is growing ever more potent, with more THC than is typical in medical studies. (Washington Monthly)   

  6. The trial of a German prince accused of plotting to storm the Reichstag in a right-wing coup began this week. Labels like far-right and fascist are, in many cases, applied too loosely. But for a guy called Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss who runs a group called Citizens of the Reich that was allegedly planning a paramilitary takeover? Seems fair. (The Times

  7. Nikki Haley says she will vote for Donald Trump in November. During the primary, she called Trump “diminished,” “unhinged,” “toxic,” and lacking in “moral clarity.” (CNN

  8. Want to get smarter? Then study stupidity, says Ted Gioia. Here’s his reading list on foolishness. (The Honest Broker

  9. The European leg of Taylor Swift’s tour has led to a surge in transatlantic travel. Data released by United Airlines shows a 25 percent bump in demand for flights to cities she is performing in compared to 2023. It’s Taylor Swift’s economy, we’re just living in it. (Vanity Fair

  10. With hip-hop’s big beasts busy beefing, a surprise contender for song of the summer comes from an unlikely source. “The Spark” is an up-tempo techno-rap number made by a group of Irish tweens, and it’s very catchy. Your move, Drake. (RTE)

The tide appears to be turning against DEI—particularly when it comes to academic recruitment. Earlier this month, MIT dropped diversity statements as a requirement from their job applications. And now even The Washington Post says that “DEI statements advance their declared objectives at too high a cost.” We were opposed to the DEI bureaucracy before it was cool, but as the bandwagon gets a little more crowded, John Sailer brings news of the latest DEI excesses in academic hiring.

→ Yale scientists told to put “DEI at the center” of everything: Want to be a molecular biologist at Yale? Well, make sure you have a ten-step plan for dismantling systemic racism. When making hires at Yale’s department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, faculty are told to place “DEI at the center of every decision,” according to a document tucked away on its website

Meanwhile, every job advertised on the site links to a DEI “rubric” that tests candidates’ “knowledge of DEI and commitment to promoting DEI,” their “past DEI experiences and activities,” and their “future DEI goals and plans.”

The questions are designed to find out how they would infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion—a focus on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other categories of “marginalization”—into their work. 

Applicants for professor and lecturer jobs, currently advertised on the site, will get “zero” points if they:

  • Have “no knowledge or awareness about DEI issues” 

  • Do “not feel personal responsibility for helping to create an equitable and inclusive environment” 

  • Were “not involved in activities that promote DEI” 

  • Have “no goals or plans for promoting DEI”

But they are marked “exceptional” if they:

  • Have “clear knowledge of DEI issues” 

  • Can demonstrate “strong interest in contributing to promoting DEI in teaching” 

  • Have a “sustained track record of multiple efforts in promoting DEI” 

  • Show a “clear and detailed plan for promoting DEI through teaching”

The assessment puts the thumb on the scale for those with progressive sensibilities. Scientists earn a high score in the category of “DEI knowledge” by showing they understand the “specific challenges faced by underrepresented minorities”—a criterion likely to favor those with a strong faith in the concepts of microaggressions, implicit bias, and systemic racism.

Diversity statements raise serious issues about free expression, and they also signal an ill-advised shift in priority—away from disciplinary excellence and toward social activism. 

As one of the world’s most influential universities, Yale has popularized diversity statements. But they are finally past their expiration date. Yale should wield its influence and join MIT in putting an end to this misguided experiment.
John Sailer

→ Portland’s progressive DA fired: Nathan Vasquez, the independent challenger in the Portland district attorney race who Olivia Reingold profiled in The Free Press on Sunday, has unseated progressive prosecutor Mike Schmidt.

“I am committed to ending open air drug dealing and drug use while helping connect individuals to treatment, to rebuilding the broken relationships between the DA’s office and the community, and to ensuring that victims are the number one priority of my office,” said Vasquez in a statement after Schmidt conceded on Wednesday evening.

Victory for Vasquez marks an extraordinary moment for Portland. In 2020, voters in one of America’s most liberal cities elected Schmidt in a nearly 77 percent landslide win. But since then, the homicide rate in Portland tripled, car theft soared, and much of downtown was overtaken by open-air drug use. And now frustrated voters have backed a Republican turned independent. 

“A lot of people still want social justice, and that’s a wonderful part of what we’re trying to do,” Vasquez told our reporter last week. “But what they also want is a safe community.” 

It turns out that very liberal voters don’t like crime either. Who knew? —Ben Clerkin

→ “These are the women who can get pregnant”: A new video offered a horrifying glimpse into the ordeal faced by young Israeli women kidnapped on October 7. The footage, recorded on bodycams worn by Hamas terrorists on October 7, shows five female Israeli soldiers bloodied and with their hands tied as they are threatened by their captors. One of the terrorists says, “These are the women who can get pregnant.” Another says to a captive, “You are very beautiful.” 

“The disturbing video has been the reality of Agam, Daniella, Liri, Naama, Karina, and 123 other hostages for 229 days,” said the Hostages and Missing Families Forum in a statement. “The video is a damning testament to the nation’s failure to bring home the hostages, who have been forsaken for 229 days.”

Read Ayelet Levy Shachar’s December Free Press essay: “The Woman in the Hamas Video Is My Daughter.” 

→ U.S. aid not reaching Palestinian civilians: When President Biden announced in March that he was directing the military to build a pier in Gaza, he said it “would enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day.”

Two months later, the results are in. The U.S. built the pier in Gaza. That pier has facilitated the shipment of 569 metric tons of humanitarian aid to the strip. But none of that aid has reached Palestinian civilians.

“Some of that initial aid that was brought in, as it was being taken along a transportation route, was intercepted by some people who took that aid off those vehicles,” Pentagon press secretary Patrick Ryder told reporters Tuesday. 

The Biden administration announced that aid had finally begun to flow to warehouses in Gaza from the pier on Wednesday. But Ryder’s comment further supports the argument of Israeli officials that Hamas is the primary cause of food shortages of Gazans, contrary to recent charges made by the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The Free Press reported Wednesday on a new working paper from top Israeli universities that found Israel has facilitated the delivery of enough food to feed Gaza’s population. —Eli Lake

→ America is so back, bro: On May 11, in an out-of-character expedition, I went to a frat party. After half an hour of dancing, drinking, and losing my phone in the foamy, muddy mix that covered the floor from the foam machines, a familiar song started playing: The Star-Spangled Banner. Yes, at Stanford’s Kappa Sigma, hundreds of students in bikinis and jorts sang along to the national anthem (the real one, by Francis Scott Key, not the one by Americana queen Lana Del Rey, which also would’ve been awesome). I was one of them. 

Everyone I told about the incident was shocked. How could it be that—after a school year full of chants of “death to America” and teach-ins about the evils of settler colonialism—hundreds of young Stanford students would sing the national anthem at a frat party?

The answer is that patriotism is back. So back, as my frat-bro hosts might put it. On the cover of her new country album, Beyoncé is on horseback, wearing red, white, and blue and carrying the flag. In The Guardian, a critic complained of the “terrible” timing of Beyoncé’s display of patriotism given systemic racism and inequality and you know the rest. Everyone else loved it. At UNC, frat bros who defended the flag after it was taken down by protesters raised more than $500,000 on GoFundMe after facing down “commie losers.” And recruits at America’s hottest tech start-ups don’t identify as nationless citizens of the world, but patriotic Americans competing to display the largest American flag in their factories. 

Why is patriotism back? An underappreciated factor: it’s fun. Contrast the foamy, America-loving darty with the official Stanford social calendar for this weekend. Events on the agenda include “Synergy Beltane,” a party at an “anti-hierarchical home that centers people marginalized by the matrix of the existing systems of oppression.” The hosts promise to kick out “those perpetuating behaviors or ideas of misogyny, racism, transphobia, homophobia, fatphobia, anti-blackness, anti-indigeneity, or ableism.” Also on the social calendar for fun-loving students are a “Queerceanera” and a “Land Back Rager.” I hope I make it past the bouncer!

These events serve an ever-shrinking cohort of students at Stanford. Meanwhile, there’s a growing cohort who just wants to work hard, have fun, and, once in a while, sing the national anthem while a little tipsy. As our ranks swell, I get more optimistic about this country’s future. America is so back. —Julia Steinberg 

Single readers, whether your ideal date consists of spinning pizza dough or Scottish country dancing, we have you covered. Best of luck to all suitors, and if you need help finding a mate before Hot Girl Summer is officially upon us, you know who to call (email)! 

Elon, Mid-40s, Santa Fe, New Mexico

My name is Elon, and for the past few years I avoided traditional dating after getting a dog (Matzah) who’s significantly happier to see me at the end of the day than any woman I’ve ever dated. But motivated by equal parts hope and naivete, I’ve decided to get back out there. 

I’m in my mid-40s, work remotely, love ice hockey, mountain biking, tennis, and generally being active. Being fit and eating healthy are important to me, and I’d like to find someone who feels the same way. I’m moving to Santa Fe, NM for the summer and likely Salt Lake City in October. I don’t have any children, I’ve never been married, and I probably don’t want either given my miserably divorced friends. That said, I’d love to find someone who makes my life better and vice versa. Skiers and skaters to the front of the line, but if you can pitch a tent and make good salads, I’m interested! I’m generally upbeat, and you should be too.

Benjamin, 28, Toronto, Canada

In an attempt to preserve his dignity, Benjamin has written this advertisement in the third person.

Benjamin has been described by people who know him as “really friendly” and someone who “smiles too much” as well as “too dry,” “aloof,” and “the kindest person I know.” Oh, and also “an asshole.” He is okay with these contradictory descriptions because he believes in the importance of considering differing points of view and forming a balanced perspective—and since you read The Free Press, he assumes that you must too!

Benjamin’s work and life span a wide range of disciplines, including web development, academic research, audio editing, and choral singing. He enjoys Scottish country dancing, drinking espresso in the sun, and writing poetry that he never shows to anyone. Benjamin has two degrees in music yet struggles to name a single popular song written within the last ten years.

If you’re a woman who shares Benjamin’s passion for music and art, getting blissfully lost on forest trails, and trying to untangle the meaning of life over a warm beverage, he would love to hear from you.

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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