TGIF: Champagne for Socialists, Masks for Kids, and Meth Pipes for All

Plus, we hit a big milestone.

Welcome back. This week Common Sense hit a huge milestone: more than 150,000 people have joined this community. You—and especially those of you who are paid subscribers—have allowed for a week like this one, full of smart, on-the-ground, original reporting. We’re thrilled. And we cannot wait to keep delivering stories you can’t get anywhere else.

Now, onto TGIF.

→ The polls must be bad: Though none of the science around masking is changing, politicians have started saying that the science around masking is changing. Some are enraged that it took so long. We get it. But also: we’re thrilled. 

The ritual of wearing a face covering to talk to a maitre d’ and walk to your table before eating in a crowded restaurant turns out to be mostly about power and control and symbolism—and not at all about health. Across the country—in California, Connecticut, Delaware and Illinois, New York and New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Rhode Island—mask mandates are falling. Showing vaccine cards at the door is ending too. What happened? The politicians hired special groups to figure out what voters are thinking. And voters are very done with all this. 

“Arranging a series of focus groups across the state to see what they had missed, [New Jersey Governor Phil] Murphy’s advisers were struck by the findings,” the Times writes. “Across the board, voters shared frustrations over public health measures, a sense of pessimism about the future and a deep desire to return to some sense of normalcy.” The biggest piece of news here is that anyone was struck by these findings. 

→ The polls are bad: A new CNN poll has Biden’s approval at his lowest: 41%. Meanwhile 58% of Americans disapprove of how he’s doing his job. They cited Covid policies and inflation, which is soaring at the fastest rate in 40 years, up a jarring 7.5% in the last 12 months. 

→ Masks for thee: Our leaders still seem to love posting photos of themselves smiling, unmasked, with be-masked children or service workers. Stacey Abrams posted one of these to her social media this week. There she is, cross-legged, smiling—and all around her are tiny children whose masks go from neck to eyes. When people balked, her team implied they were racists because Abrams was there for a Black History Month event. Her team called the criticism “shameful.” Finally, she begrudgingly apologized

I try to understand the logic of posting these in the first place, and I think it’s a little like the bro that posts pictures of himself in a Lamborghini—like hell yeah, this is how I roll. I think the politicians think they look cool in these pictures. 

→ Speaking of Cool Kids: Hasan Piker, a leading socialist political influencer among Gen Z and younger Millennials, is having a lot of fun. Piker, a handsome and very charismatic 30-year-old, does his progressive prostleyzing via a platform called Twitch where he livestreams himself explaining what he sees as the hellscape that is capitalism to a rapt young audience. 

(If you haven’t heard of Twitch or Piker, he live streams for many, many hours a day here.)

Piker’s content is very, very popular, and it has incidentally made him quite rich. He recently bought himself a $2.7 million Los Angeles house and this week was featured in a cool video picking up his new $200,000 Porsche Taycan (soundtrack: “La la la la wait til I get my money”). The old phrase champagne socialist doesn’t do this one justice. He’s not stealing from anyone a la BLM—whose shadiness and financial corruption seems truly without end. Piker’s adoring fans just give him money to keep talking about how awful money is. And so: We salute this thriving young capitalist. 

→ Facebook’s power may wane: The company’s stock has dropped by nearly 30% since February 2. This is good news. The less power is concentrated in big institutions, the better off we all are. Though it’s not great that the replacement in young people’s pockets is TikTok, owned and controlled by China. In perhaps a sign of Facebook’s waning influence (or a sign of just more interesting things elsewhere), conservative board member Peter Thiel stepped down this week. He says he wants to focus on getting Republicans like Blake Masters and J.D. Vance elected instead.

→ Amir Locke: At the end of last week, a 22-year-old Amir Locke, who had a legal firearm, was taking a nap on the sofa in a Minneapolis living room. Police conducted a no-knock raid of the apartment, looking for someone else. They entered the room. Locke, wrapped in a blanket, woke up, confused and raised his firearm. The police instantly shot him dead. 

Amir Locke had nine seconds to figure out what the hell was going on and respond properly to a group of armed men smashing through the door, an event that may not be so uncommon in some of America’s rougher neighborhoods. As Reason Magazine put it: Anyone who cares about gun rights should be furious about this case. 

→ Meth kits for justice: The Biden Administration announced this week it would be putting $30 million of taxpayer money into grants for programs that will in part provide drug users with crack and meth “safe smoking kits,” which typically include the glass stems (the pipes). Priority would be given to drug programs for minority-groups, the administration said. 

The Free Beacon reported that a source told them the crack kits could specifically include pipes, and the story went viral. The Fact Checkers were furious. Snopes, which at one time was a Facebook official fact checker, labeled the reporting with a big red X and MOSTLY FALSE rating . . . while confirming the Free Beacon reporting as entirely true. Here’s how they explained it:

In 2022, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services substance abuse harm reduction grant did require recipients to provide safer smoking kits to existing drug users. In distributing grants, priority would be given to applicants serving historically underserved communities. However what’s false is this was just one of around 20 components of the grant program and far from its most prominent or important one.

That’s right: Snopes claims that the news about smoking kits is true. It’s just not important

Or here’s Facebook’s “Partly False” Fact Check that also confirms the Free Beacon reporting:

While a description of the HHS grants stated that the grantees would be required to buy materials like safe smoking kits and supplies to "enhance harm reduction efforts," such kits and supplies are just a few of the many materials that grantees can utilize. 

The crack kits are just one of many other things in the basket, you see. So it’s false. 

The backlash did, thankfully, reach the White House, which responded by saying they would not directly fund crack pipes and then later that they never were going to add pipes into the smoking kits. Are they lying now in the face of outrage? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s what fierce, independent reporting is for, and that’s why banning articles on developing stories is idiotic.

The disinformation-is-whatever-I-say people run media tech coverage, social media content policy, and now are heavily influencing domestic terrorism policy. Biden’s Department of Homeland Security released this week a bulletin about Domestic Terrorism focused on those who post “mis- dis- and mal-information.” I’m not kidding. The DHS writes: “These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest.” 

Remember this anytime you read a story about “misinformation” in the legacy press or see a “fact check” from your social media giant of choice. The people doing this are hoping you can’t use your eyes to read, and their goal is to get the government involved. True is now Mostly False. Unknown is Definitely Known. For all Trump’s sweaty efforts at controlling information, the best authoritarians are well-educated bureaucrats. 

→ The only good thing about the Olympics: The only silver lining to this morally hideous event is that it’s producing aesthetically hideous content for all of us—dystopian photos of the ski jumps with fake snow set against factories and of the athletes’ meals. Meanwhile, American leaders tell athletes to keep quiet and just play (you’re athletes, not activists, is suddenly Nancy Pelosi’s tune). 

→ Activists are mad! Just not about China: America’s activist class continues to remain relentlessly focused on Joe Rogan. This weeks-long Rogan outrage cycle is being helped along by Democratic Party fundraising operatives. The second biggest problem of the week: white people not having strong enough white racial identity in their emoji-use. NPR this week tells us that white people need to use the white-skinned emojis when giving a thumbs up, not the yellow that Apple sets as standard. Ok.

→ Notching a few wins: Parents have woken up over the past year to some of the new antics going on in schools, especially when it comes to race, specifically in that schools are separating children by race and telling them to feel very, very strongly affiliated with their racial identity. This is America, and all this segregation is completely illegal. Which is why a legal challenge brought by parents against school segregation efforts in Wellesley, Massachusetts, won handily this week. 

→ Some really good news: A team of brilliant Swiss researchers has allowed severely paralyzed people to walk again, they announced this week. By implanting electrodes and attaching them to individual nerve fibers, the researchers have helped multiple patients walk, bicycle and even swim. The most extreme case was one man with a fully severed spine who is now able to walk and climb stairs. Miraculous.

Just for fun:

This Week on Common Sense:

Michael Shellenberger wrote a dark, gorgeous piece on San Francisco’s slow-motion suicide. The city is carrying out a bizarre medical experiment in which they are helping homeless drug addicts use drugs. And as Shellenberger learned, to question or try to report on this phenomenon is to get yourself in hot water. His specialty is just asking people on the street what’s going on, and they tell him. What he finds is shocking. 

A lot has been said about the trucker protests in Canada. Not a lot of real reporting has been done. Rupa Subramanya, a Canadian writer, wrote for us about what the truckers actually want. Why her story is so great and complex: She actually walked around Ottawa and talked to the protestors. The truckers keep on honking, and they seem to be getting heard. Now Alberta and Saskatchewan have dropped Covid restrictions. But Ottawa’s police are upping the fines and threatening to seize the vehicles. We’re watching this story closely.

Batya Ungar-Sargon published a piece on how the GOP is trying to position itself as the party of the working class

Suzy Weiss brings a story on the revenge of the moms, parents who have been pushed to their brink by Covid rules—and who are starting to take matters into their own hands by running for office. Hell hath no fury like an angry mom.

And, on the podcast, a fantastic debate about American power with Matt Taibbi and Bret Stephens:

Last, a note about comments: We love smart, thoughtful comments that bring new angles, personal stories, or smart counter-arguments. The comments are my favorite part of a lot of our articles. But we’ve noticed sometimes the tone gets a little rough, the pile-ons a little too hard. That’s not good. Common Sense is a big tent, and our goal is to keep it kind and welcoming even when we disagree with one another. One useful house rule we try hard to follow: act online the way you act in real life. (To the one commenter who every week calls me the Sotomayor of Substack, you are exempt because that’s funny.)

See you next week.

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