Greetings from Sun Valley. Bari and your narrator are here with the Masters of the Universe (I am master of TGIF universe) trying not to fall in the duck pond.
→ Small signs of relief on inflation and gas: The Federal Reserve’s rate hikes seem to be working. Wholesale gas prices are falling. There’s a “goods glut” at Walmart and Target. Commodity prices are falling. Thank you, as always, to Joe Manchin and the cooler heads who saw what was coming and blocked the White House’s cash-gone-wild-palooza. Meanwhile, a sliver of the failed Build Back Better bill is making headway in the Senate: Letting Medicare negotiate on some prescription drug prices and capping Medicare patients’ out of pocket costs at $2,000. Good.
→ Does Biden actually believe this is how gas prices work? Here’s Biden last weekend, blaming gas prices on local gas station owners: “My message to the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump is simple: this is a time of war and global peril. Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now.” More than 60% of gas stations are operated by an individual or family who runs a single store. When did the White House decide it was time to blame the kulaks?! My message to the Biden admin: If you hired a former Hugo Chávez speechwriter, the time to oust him is now.
The WSJ editorial board comes back, of course, with a great econ 101 takedown of these remarks. Worth reading.
Meanwhile, our tied-for-favorite spaceman Jeff Bezos got in a fight with the White House over Biden’s comments about gas station owners, writing: “It’s either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.” The White House Press Secretary wrote back real catty: “I guess it’s not surprising that you think oil and gas companies using market power to reap record profits at the expense of the American people is the way our economy is supposed to work.”
→ Boris Johnson is out: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, my favorite blustery Brit, has resigned amid a series of very British scandals: “I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks.” Was he hosting fun parties during lockdown? Definitely seems like he was. But the thing that’s done him in is knowing about and not punishing Chris Pincher, the Conservative deputy chief whip, who apparently was indeed a pincher and groped two men at a private club.
If we have a reader who understands British politics, please leave us an explainer in the comments.
Like, for example, can someone explain this:
→ Gavin Newsom has started running ads in Florida: His slicked back hair has gotten a little greyer, but Newson’s teeth are white as ever in a new ad aimed at encouraging Floridians to come West, where he promises more “freedom.” Really he’s testing the waters for a presidential run.
On the one hand: He repeats the now beloved line that the book banning is something you’d escape under blue leaders when, again, it’s a bipartisan hobby! On the other hand: He says the controversial word women! Which at this point is how Democrats say to voters I’m cool and won’t call you a menstruator. I’m very curious if any Dem can take on Biden in 2024.
Newsom is currently on vacation in Montana, a state that California deemed so terribly conservative it doesn’t allow state employees to travel there for state business. If Newsom wants to run for president, he has to explain why 22 states are banned for state-funded visits by California’s government workers.
→ SF’s radical DA replaced with a great moderate: Former homicide prosecutor Brooke Jenkins has been tapped by San Francisco’s mayor to replace ousted district attorney Chesa Boudin—and I for one could not be more pleased.
Jenkins had quit the Boudin office in October 2021, claiming that Boudin had defanged the office and was soft on crime, showing empathy only for the perpetrators and rarely the victims. She joined the recall effort. Boudin seemed wary of engaging with or debating Jenkins in public, likely knowing the bad optics (Boudin, the radical white guy v. Jenkins, the moderate liberal black woman). A debate was scheduled between Jenkins and a supporter of Boudin, but the venue deemed it too dangerous. “I will restore accountability and consequences to our criminal justice system here in San Francisco,” she said in her first speech as DA.
→ Self-defense is illegal in New York: A man jumped behind a bodega counter in West Harlem and attacked the guy working the register, Jose Alba. The bodega worker fought back with a knife, killing his attacker. Manhattan’s progressive DA put Alba in Riker’s, arraigned on a second degree murder charge, and set bail at $250,000 (lowered now to $50k after protests). The lesson: Self-defense is illegal. If you’re being attacked, you need to take it.
→ Polls keep showing that Americans agree on abortion: Americans are overwhelmingly good and moderate people who agree with each other on a lot and yet are forced to be represented by parties that play to our extremes. Congressional Democrats and abortion-rights groups have floated no new passable national abortion rights law since Roe was overturned—they are still clinging to the hardcore Women’s Health Care Act, which essentially allows abortion up until birth. How realistic is passing that law? Well, only 10% of all voters support that position, according to a new Harvard Harris poll. And what about the flip side, a total ban on abortion at any time? Only 8% of voters support that, according to new data from PEW.
Yet 72% of Americans support a ban on abortion starting at 15 weeks, which is right where almost all of Europe is. Why don’t we have a bill proposing that?
The old rallying cry, “My body, my choice,” is gone, NPR announces this week. Banished from the lexicon. The reason: Pro-choice activists worry that it allows Covid vaccine skeptics to say the same thing. Apparently some bodies, some choices wasn’t as catchy.
→ Why is Ilhan Omar getting booed in Minneapolis? Squad-member and staunch BDS supporter Ilhan Omar got onstage in her hometown to wave a hello and say some remarks at a big Somali music night, no doubt expecting a warm embrace. Instead, she was booed down by the crowd of thousands. Two theories: It could be her support of liberal sexual politics. Or it could be that last week, she cited police violence and said that Minneapolis is more violent than a refugee camp. If any readers are in the know on Minneapolis politics, please explain it to us in the comments!
→ Urgency is white supremacy, says Oregon: Public health officials in Oregon announced they would be delaying a meeting because to rush and get everything done for it was a white trait. Here’s what a high ranking Oregon Health Authority official wrote to postpone the upcoming confab: "We recognize that urgency is a white supremacy value that can get in the way of more intentional and thoughtful work, and we want to attend to this dynamic. Therefore, we will reach out at a later date to reschedule." The KKK would unironically love this explanation.
→ Arizona’s GOP gubernatorial primary is great TV: It’s from the end of last week, but it holds up and is pretty wacky. Watch the chaos—“Your campaign’s a psyop” and “I feel like this is a spoof, honestly”—and then watch these ladies drag a guy named Scott Neely.
→ Whatever happened to just calling someone a Republican: If you’ve been reading mainstream media, first, I’m sorry. Second, you’ve probably noticed that the words conservative and Republican are falling out of favor for a hot new descriptor: far-right. Much scarier.
The NYT brings us this week’s headline: “The Rise of the Far-Right Latina.” The paper names three Latina Republicans who “share right-wing views on immigration, the 2020 election and abortion, among other issues.” Here’s how one Texas congressional candidate’s politics are described by the Times: “Raised conservative, she went to church three times a week and entered politics soon after college, working as the outreach director for Mr. Cruz in McAllen. As a candidate, she has focused on religious liberty, school choice and abortion bans — issues on which she said the region’s Hispanic voters were increasingly like-minded.”
You might think, well, this sounds like a standard issue conservative congressional candidate. Not anymore.
→ Born in the USA . . . and very depressed about it: NPR this year ended the 33-year tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July, opting instead for a segment on equality and inequality. A related chart to explain why this change makes sense for the NPR workforce:
→ Russia orders the Jewish Agency to cease operations: The organization that has for decades supported Russia’s Jewish population and helped scores of diaspora Jews emigrate to Israel has been abruptly told it’s now in violation of various laws and needs to shut down in Russia. This is most likely in retaliation for Israel’s government standing by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky. But the Russian government cited the Jewish Agency for breaking data privacy laws.
Meanwhile, WNBA player Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking (the alleged crime: bringing hashish oil into the country). She’s already been held for five months, and now likely faces years in a Russian prison.
→ The Joe Rogan boycott ends with a whimper: After a big show of quitting Spotify over Joe Rogan’s deal with the platform, the folk rock group Crosby, Stills and Nash has quietly returned to Spotify. Meanwhile, this week Rogan, who’s come out in favor of Ron DeSantis, said he’s turned down having Donald Trump on the show a few times. “I don’t want to help him,” he said.
→ Tucker Carlson blames shootings on male privilege lectures: In a segment on the Highland Park shooter, Fox’s Tucker Carlson listed some elements that are alienating America’s young men. They’re numbed out with prescription pills to make them more docile in school, and angry that their fortunes may be worse than their fathers.’ Also: “The authorities in their lives, mostly women, never stop lecturing them about their so-called privilege.”
He’s right that America’s young men are over-medicated, isolated, and generally made to feel bad about themselves. But in this case: Tucker and conservative media have a hammer and keep looking for nails.
In what world of traditional values and more amenable women does the Highland Park shooter suddenly become a functional member of society? There are lots of fantasies about the old traditional world, but my guess is that in a world of real old traditional values, a mentally ill, violent young man would be dealt with in significantly more severe ways long before he had the opportunity to get on a roof and slaughter families. Carlson is right that there is social breakdown that contributed to this shooting: After police took away the boy’s knives amid his various threats of violence, the Highland Park shooter’s dad helped buy him a gun.
→ Universities are getting even scammier: Nothing we’ve published caused more outrage than when Pano Kanelos, the former president of St. John’s College, announced on Common Sense that he’d be starting a new university. Elite media flew into conniptions. How dare he? How could he?
The critics said it was a grift. Which was predictable. Anything new and outside the control of the establishment is described that way.
There definitely is grift in higher education. A lot of it. The latest: Universities are partnering with for-profit companies who then use the school’s name and logo to sell “courses.” The company keeps 80% of the student’s money, but it kicks 20% to the university. For the student, it’s a pretty fake, low-quality class run by an unaccredited for-profit company. For the University of Oregon, who is among many involved in this, it’s a tidy $600,000 for the year. According to a WSJ investigation released this week: “The U.S. Government Accountability Office, in a May report, said at least 550 colleges and universities have hired vendors for online programs.”
→ How far man can fall:
→ A big blow to Universal Basic Income advocates: As someone who instinctively likes the idea of fewer inefficient government-run social service programs and more just giving low-income folks money, it brings me no pleasure to report: a new Harvard study found giving low-income Americans cash isn’t that helpful. Researchers gave 5,000 US participants $2000, $500, or nothing. “Within 4 weeks, we see no significant difference in bank balances between either cash & control groups,” wrote one of the study authors. And: “We find NO positive effect of cash—if anything, in some prespecified analyses, we even see negative effects.” Apparently the cash infusions added stress to people’s lives, which makes sense (likely family and friends came knocking).
→ Water’s clean and the dolphins are back! Dolphins have returned to the waters around New York City. The water is cleaner now than at any time since the Civil War, according to Ted Timbers, a spokesman for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection in the WSJ. Environmentalists fought a very long time to clean up the air and water in America’s cities, and it’s amazing to see the results (literal dolphins leaping in the air).
→ Meanwhile, a great way to get everyone to oppose your climate activism:
→ Progressive coffee shop apologizes for existing, shuts down: A small progressive coffee shop in Philadelphia called Mina’s World has shut down after staff accused the owners of the “queer haven” of ableism, tokenization, and lack of financial transparence among other things. The staff demanded a public apology, and they got one. Here are the coffee shop owners live streaming their apology:
“We’re going live as part of a radical accountability process. We are complicit in gentrification and anti-blackness on 52nd Street. We put our community at risk with our presence.”
The workers tried to raise money for an acquisition. But it all got too hard. Plus then the building has been put up for sale. So they’ve shut the shop down. Here’s the truth: We’re all living in Mina’s World.
→ Elon Musk and Nick Cannon are repopulating the world: Polygamy is back in a big way, and it’s not just the poly communities of Bushwick and Berkeley. Consider the rapper Nick Cannon and Tesla founder Elon Musk. We already know that Cannon has seven kids with four different women. This week, Insider broke the news that Musk has fathered twins with one of his top executives, born around the same time he was having a second child with an ex, the singer Grimes, which brings the known total of Musk descendents to nine. As a gay lady who had to use a sperm bank, I honestly wish I’d known Elon Musk was available.
→ American professor claims Covid came from U.S. lab: The economics Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who ran the prestigious Earth Institute at Columbia University for years and was a Time Magazine 100 Most Influential, now argues that the U.S. made Covid. “I chaired a commission for The Lancet for two years on Covid. I'm pretty convinced it came out of U.S. lab biotechnology,” he said at a recent conference.
Sachs was so proud of this argument that he republished it on his personal website a whole interview he gave to the Tehran Times: “The U.S. government was sponsoring a lot of dangerous genetic manipulation of SARS-like viruses and has not yet honestly revealed the nature of that work. There are worrying signs that this research may have created SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease.” Just when I think American academia can’t sink lower, there’s Jeff Sachs—in the Tehran Times!—arguing that America made Covid. Predictably, the American media is ignoring a hero’s inconvenient fall. I hope the money’s good, Jeff.
→ We’re done with colonialism, but China’s just getting started: The Chinese Communist Party just opened its first School for Political Parties in Tanzania. According to reports, the $40 million facility welcomed its first class of 120 cadres from six African one-party states.
→ In England, you can officially say biological sex again: After the old-school feminist Maya Forstater wrote that one can’t change biological sex (as opposed to gender presentation), she was fired from her job at a think tank. This week, she won her case against her former employer. (Financial damages to come at a later date.) In other English feminist good news, England is moving to stipulate that all new public buildings contain distinct women’s restrooms. And in American news, Bette Midler came out as a TERF, writing: “They don’t call us ‘women’ anymore; they call us ‘birthing people’ or ‘menstruators’, and even ‘people with vaginas’! Don’t let them erase you!” Bette, welcome to the dark side!
→ Quote of the week: “Joy too can be an act of resistance. I want to talk about personal acts of reclamation because sometimes people will say, ‘There’s nothing I can do. I feel so powerless.’ There is no act too small that you can engage in. Even today, I have a personal errand, I need to redo my nails. And I’ve decided that I’m going to use my new manicure as almost like a personal act of reclamation for me and my story.” — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
This Week in Common Sense:
For July 4th, we asked some of our favorite writers and thinkers, including Liel Leibovitz, Joseph Massey, and Substack’s own Lulu Chang Merservy, what makes them proud to be an American. Yeonmi Park, the North Korean dissident, officially became a citizen this year. “To become American was like winning a thousand lotteries,” she wrote.
But just a few miles away from where Yeonmi took her oath this past January, an all-too-familiar terror unfolded. Seven people in Highland Park, Illinois were killed while attending a parade on July 4th. One of our interns, Maya Sulkin happens to be from that very Chicago suburb. She wrote about her hometown and about the 220 other people who were killed with guns over the holiday weekend.
Joseph Manson was living the dream: He had a tenured position at UCLA in the Anthropology department. But recently, he left his post. He wasn’t canceled, or accused of anything untoward, or hounded out for a thought crime. He just saw the writing on the wall.
On the podcast, Bari spoke with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the Big Lie, the future of the GOP, and TikTok. And in a speech to the first ever batch of University of Austin students Bari laid out what will be required of the nation’s next generation of founders to meet—and fix—this broken moment.
TGIF everyone. I’m heading out to fly fish. See you in the comments.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this newsletter stated that Chesa Boudin backed out of a debate with Brooke Jenkins. In fact, a supporter of Boudin’s was scheduled to debate Jenkins when the venue considered it too dangerous.