TGIF everyone. A lot of quick items this week. And don’t worry, we get to the M&Ms.
→ Supreme Court Justice Breyer to retire: The 83-year-old from San Francisco, nominated in 1994 by Bill Clinton, is hanging up his gown—a rare and commendable act these days in Washington, home to our very elderly leaders. Nancy Pelosi, 81, announced this week she would not retire and will run for a 19th term. Biden, 79, is the oldest man to assume the presidency and has indicated he will run for a second term.
As for a Breyer replacement, Joe Biden is standing by his pledge to only nominate a black woman. The idea of looking for someone based on merit or humoring legal minds of other races with an interview is apparently absurd to even consider, so there are only about three real contenders. Interestingly, precedent here comes from former President Ronald Reagan, who in 1980 promised he would nominate a woman.
→ A surprising new study on Pre-K: A comprehensive, devastating new study finds that free state pre-K programs can make children perform worse. There was a lot of hope that pre-K programs could help kids, especially kids from poor and minority communities. But for years, the data behind it has been questionable. No study has been as comprehensive as this one, which randomly assigned about 2,990 kids in Tennessee to attend pre-K and followed them through sixth grade. What it found: Children in state-sponsored pre-K had worse grades and more disciplinary problems. One caveat: There’s some indication that Tennessee's Pre-K programs have been uniquely lagging.
One theory for why Pre-K could hurt is that childcare facilities seem to stress out young children (those younger than 36 months).
→ Covid is the new normal, doctors say: Covid case numbers are still very high this week, but the risk of serious illness remains vanishingly low for the vaccinated. The big question is what to do with that information. One option is for healthy people—and especially children—to go back to normal life, which is what four of UCSF’s top Covid doctors recommended this week. It means living with Covid, like we live with the health risk of driving a car or putting on a little belly fat. It means probably getting an annual ‘rona booster with your flu shot, which is what the Moderna CEO suggested this week.
The other option (and one promoted by a very vocal minority) is to structure the rest of your life around avoiding Covid. “I may never go indoors to big crowds and ever feel comfortable without a mask,” said The View’s Sara Haines this week. Some prefer wearing masks and being six-feet apart forever. More power to them. But leave the rest of us out if it! It’s time for a common sense plan to unwind pandemic restrictions, especially for children.
→ The vaccine is what allows us to relax: This week, Tucker Carlson hosted Alex Berenson, a prominent vaccine skeptic, on his show. Berenson told Mr. Carlson’s largely older and vulnerable viewership the following: “The mRNA vaccines need to be withdrawn from the market. No one should get them. No one should get boosted. No one should get double-boosted.” Unvaccinated people are some 20 times more likely to die of Covid than the vaccinated. It’s really sad that Carlson would feed this to his highly loyal viewers, especially given that he is surely vaccinated himself.
→ Speaking of sad: J.D. Vance this week celebrated his endorsement from Marjorie Taylor Greene, a congresswoman who has supported Qanon and thinks wildfires come from Jewish Space Lasers. Here’s the tweet, in which Vance, who was catapulted to fame by writing a critically acclaimed memoir about growing up in poor rural America, said he planned to “win this thing and take back the country from the scumbags.” Vance is a smart guy. He could have succeeded without embracing the lunatic fringe.
→ More evidence for the lab leak (and the suppression of the lab leak theory): A new City Journal investigation looks at recently unearthed emails from the start of the pandemic between some of the nation’s top virologists. In the exchange, the scientists basically agree that this looks very much like it came from a lab. Then, they have a teleconference. “What happened at the February 1 teleconference to make the virologists change their minds so radically? It was impossible to tell from the emails released in June 2021 because almost every word in them was redacted.” After that, the message from these experts is singular: The coronavirus came from nature.
The author Nicholas Wade explains one potential reason for suppressing the origin story: “Collins and Fauci could share a portion of the blame for having funded gain-of-function research despite its obvious risks and then failing to ensure that grant recipients were taking all necessary precautions.”
→ Culture war is entering the dumb cycle: Is it good that Minnie Mouse put on a a pantsuit? What does it say that Mars is making more “inclusive” M&Ms and how much exactly are you going to care if the sexy green one now wears practical shoes? What does it mean for practical-shoe-wearing lesbians? Am I personally an unsexy M&M? God bless America, where we have the bounty and comfort, the health and peace to spend our days on these debates. May our worries always be this dumb, and may your M&Ms be whoever you need them to be.
→ Great medical news: The entrepreneur Mark Cuban last week launched a new pharmacy—Cost Plus Drugs—and the prices are incredible. The leukemia treatment imatinib, which retails for $2,502, is sold on Cost Plus Drugs for $17. How? The company says it’s cut out the middle-men and now negotiates directly with manufacturers. It doesn’t take insurance, but prices like these are less than a lot of co-pays. Pharmacies and hospitals act like a cabal forcing ever-higher costs on consumers, insurers and taxpayers. It’s great to see someone from the outside enter the broken healthcare market—and with such a radically lower price-point.
→ Harry and Meghan, heroes: Speaking of scams . . . beloved woke royalty Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, survivors of being His and Her Royal Highness, received a reported $25 million from Spotify in 2020 to produce a slate of podcasts “elevating underrepresented voices.” So far, they’ve only made a single 34-minute holiday special.
Now, Spotify is trying to get a producer to come help, and of course Page Six got the ad (Spotify removed the job listing): “The ideal candidate has experience working with high-profile talent, and an interest in the intersection of social activism and popular culture.”
If a Common Sense reader wants to make a lot of money recording the chirps of a Montecito chicken coop and their highnesses, this is your moment.
→ Special internet, moderated by the teachers union: The AFT teachers union bought a big license for NewsGuard, which will filter and assign disinformation scores to student search results. I’m very curious what the software will rate charter-school content. Google the words Catholic school, and the kid’s computer will just light on fire.
→ Joe Rogan v. Neil Young: When Neil Young told Spotify that the company could either have his music or keep controversial podcaster Joe Rogan, it took only hours before the audio-streaming company honored his request and began removing the Neil Young catalog. Good on them.
→ Carjackings on the rise: Carjackings are up a lot in American cities—55% in New York City, 85% in Philadelphia, and 63% in Minneapolis. NBC put some of the footage together in a short segment. It’s a good time to read about how to handle yourself during a carjacking. Philly police even put out a tip sheet.
→ S-O-B is cool now, we’re all friends here: Biden called a reporter a “son of a bitch” for asking about inflation. The mainstream media thought that was hilarious. It was directed at a Fox News reporter! But . . . when Trump said the exact same phrase (in his case about NFL players who kneeled for the anthem) it was deadly serious. Democracy was in crisis! Here is MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Trump: “Today the President called American citizens who express their political views sons of bitches.” And here’s Hayes when Biden says the phrase to a reporter asking a reasonable question: “Literal LOL.”
→ The CRT backlash is intense and getting more so: A quick tit-for-tat summary: First, public schools implemented race essentialist curriculums and started getting kids as young as five thinking of themselves as white perma-oppressors or black perma-victims. Parents, seeing their children in Zoom classes doing all this, were shocked. Schools and the media erred on the side of deception, denying any of this was happening at all.
Now we are entering the backlash. And the backlash is going to be harsh. Case in point: A Florida school district this week canceled a civil rights history lecture. And a school board in Missouri has now banned four books, including Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.”
One reason to fight for common sense liberalism is to be able to have some moral standing and trust when you say that it’s important to keep Toni Morrison in the library—and that Morrison is not Tema Okun.
One other note: There has been a bipartisan consensus rising around the idea that children cannot handle upsetting or dark content. That seems to be what was behind a Tennessee school board’s removal of the celebrated graphic novel about the Holocaust, “MAUS,” from its curriculum. So you can read all of this through left/right political extremism, each group banning books. Or you can read it through the Jonathan Haidt lens of American parents across the political spectrum wanting a world with no sharp corners for their kids.
Just for fun:
If you want to have some laughs, check out this new inclusive language guide from the University of Washington IT Department. There have been a few of these in the last couple years, but this one is especially good. So many new phrases that will get you fired! Here are some entries:
Housekeeping: “It carries a fraught history and connotation of women’s traditional domestic role as housekeepers.” Replace with: Maintenance. Cleanup.
Blind spot: “This phrase is ableist, connoting that ‘blind’ is equivalent to ignorant.” Replace with: Unaware.
Jerry-rigged: “‘Jerry’ is a derogatory term used by soldiers and civilians of the Allied nations for Germans in WW2.” Replace with: Poorly designed.
Also on the verboten list: Grandfathered; blackbox; brown bag lunch. It goes on. Some poor kid who didn’t learn about the evil of “blind spots” at Brearley will be sent to HR for the phrase.
This week on Common Sense:
The philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy insists what is happening right now in Ukraine has everything to do with us. It has to do with whether we still believe in Western values and in Western civilization—and if we really think those values and that civilization are worth defending and sacrificing for. Read our Q and A with the last liberal interventionist.
Why are we boosting American kids? The CDC and the FDA have ignored other countries’ caution, the WHO’s chief scientist, leading American experts, and their own data. This is a very important deep dive from the investigative reporter David Zweig.
And: Bari was on Bill Maher last Friday night arguing that, a year after vaccines have become available, its time to unwind draconian policies, especially in light of what they are doing to kids.
This coming Monday at 8 PM EST/5 PM PST Bari is hosting a roundtable on Covid and kids. Bring all of your questions. Zoom info is here.