Happy Friday to my friends, and especially to my nemeses (you keep the fight alive in me!).
→ The Big Trump Arrest: On Tuesday, I, along with every single journalist in America, gathered round the TV with my family to watch CNN’s live coverage of Trump’s arraignment. The camera stayed tight on a courthouse door for maybe half an hour while various analysts talked about whatever they could muster to fill the air; the protesters, the counterprotesters, the protesters interacting with the counterprotesters. Finally, Trump walked through the door, took a few steps, and then walked through another door. A few seconds, tops. But certainly enough mill grist.
Network news replayed those steps dozens of times, analyzing each moment. Did you notice that Trump had to hold the door open for himself? That’s interesting. What does it mean? See his posture? Is it defiant? Does he look sad?
Trump’s not waiting for his mug shot: he’s already selling fake mug shot t-shirts ($47).
The district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is rip-roaring to go: he’s charged Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. (It is sometimes allowed to be said that Alvin Bragg was funded by George Soros, but only when New York mag and Soros want it to be noted in a positive way, but if it’s said with a vaguely negative tone then it’s a Fact Check: False.) Regardless, the case against Trump seems a little weak. The best way to get a sense of its frailty is to read a site that is otherwise thrilled with the arrest, like Vox.com—over there, even #resistance writer Ian Millhiser agrees that the case is, yeah, really weak.
→ My favorite New York City arrestee: Is not Trump, though we had some fun Tuesday. My favorite is Charlie Javice, the 31-year-old wunderkind founder of a company called Frank, which helped students with financial aid applications. Javice was on top of the world (or at least on the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list), and in 2021 she sold Frank to JPMorgan for $175 million. But when JPMorgan started kicking the tires, they realized our girlboss had claimed the company had four million customers—but it only had. . . 300,000. It turns out she basically made up that four million number and a bunch of emails bounced when JPMorgan tried to reach the pool of people. I mean, let them cast the first stone, am I right?
This week, she was arrested on conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, you name it fraud.
If you’re like me and enjoy reading complaints, you might enjoy SEC v. Javice for gems like how she paid a data science professor to build her Potemkin village of student users: “In a series of messages, Javice guided the Data Science Professor in creating a list of fake user data, answering questions from him about how the data should look.”
Now she’s out on bail. But I think this arrest is foolish. If I were JPMorgan, I wouldn’t sue her, and here’s why: Javice sold her company for $175 million. But what did she pay the data scientist who made her entire fake company, filling it with fake activity? $18,000. He didn’t even get healthcare. If I were JPMorgan, I’d keep talent like that in-house. Charlie, come run The Free Press!
→ Dems use DeSantis’ own law against him: Florida Dems are trying to use Governor Ron DeSantis’ law banning “inappropriate” books from school libraries to ban his own book, The Courage to Be Free. After all, the tome contains words like woke and gender ideology dozens of times, and those are concepts students can’t be exposed to.
“The very trap that he set for others is the one that he set for himself,” Fentrice Driskell, the minority leader in the Florida House, told The Daily Beast.
Well played, Fentrice. TGIF supports a good troll.
→ Speaking of Florida going mad: Florida Republicans have introduced an amendment to expand their bill censoring drag shows to include even drag shows at Pride parades. Under the amended bill, any government entity (including a city) would not be able to issue a permit if a show didn’t comply with new restrictions that prevent children from viewing anything deemed “lewd.” Which, as anyone whose dad has covered their eyes during a sex scene in a movie knows, the toolbox for parents here is light.
From a Sun Sentinel story on all this (unpaywalled here): “We are failing as lawmakers. . . . if I am not putting something like this forward,” said state senator Clay Yarborough, a Republican from Jacksonville. “When we see things, we cannot unsee them.” Yes, the party of Small Government is becoming the party of Big Drag Queen.
Here we see the pendulum swinging. A preview of where the culture war is headed. The Christian Right returned. The drawbacks are obvious, but what about the benefits of the rising New Moral Majority? 1) We’ll suddenly see a lot of the “queer-identified” straight people flee the movement. 2) Gay pride parades will stop being sponsored by Coke and Goldman Sachs and will be fun and illicit again. 3) I’ll get three hot meals a day in jail and, let’s be honest, have my pick of prison wives.
→ Don Lemon hates women: I assumed Don Lemon was a sociopath, since most people on TV are. But Lemon appears to be in a league of his own. We just need to quote from an insane Variety investigation exposing his bizarre behavior toward women (an investigation that will have absolutely no impact on him):
While [Kyra] Phillips was on assignment in Iraq—a high-profile gig that Lemon coveted—he vented his disappointment at being passed over by tearing up pictures and notes on top of and inside Phillips’ desk in the news pod they shared, according to two sources who worked there at the time. When she returned from Iraq, things only got weirder. One night while dining with members of the news team, she received the first of two threatening text messages from an unknown number on her flip phone that warned, “Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it.” Phillips was visibly rattled and quickly enlisted CNN’s higher ups to identify the sender. Remarkably, the texts were traced back to Lemon.
Don, meanwhile, kept getting promoted. Hating women and getting burner phones to harass your female colleagues is all par for the course if you have the right politics in other ways (women are old news anyway). If you see someone on TV, just assume it’s for the best that they’re there, under observation by a team of professionals.
→ This is how democracy does abortion rights: Michigan Dems won back full control of the government for the first time in 40 years, and with that power they repealed an old and defunct 1931 abortion ban that was still on the books. The fall of Roe is forcing states to grapple with abortion through old-fashioned democracy, and Michigan is showing that it can be done and done well.
Across the country, in races big and small, abortion is proving to be a very powerful tool for Democrats, who have public opinion behind them. In Wisconsin, liberal Janet Protasiewicz won the empty seat on the state Supreme Court. Wisconsin’s had a near-total ban on abortion since Roe fell. By basing her campaign around her pro-choice stance, Protasiewicz beat the conservative candidate by 11 points. And now Dems have a majority on the court.
→ Conservatives in crisis over abortion: The fall of Roe was sort of a win for Republicans. But ultimately it led to a crisis, highlighting some of their crazier ideas—like that a pretty big contingent wants to say life begins at conception (bye bye, IVF). And in doomed pregnancies, the extremists seem to be comfortable making women get really close to death before they can have an abortion. Finally, Republicans are calling on each other to moderate.
Ann Coulter this week is begging her fellow Republicans to drop the anti-abortion push: “The demand for anti-abortion legislation just cost Republicans another crucial race. Pro-lifers: WE WON. Abortion is not a ‘constitutional right’ anymore! Please stop pushing strict limits on abortion, or there will be no Republicans left.”
If Ann Coulter is saying, “Hey, why don’t we bring the heat down a little?” then you have a problem.
Or here’s conservative American Principles policy director Jon Schweppe: “Republicans need to figure out the abortion issue ASAP. We are getting killed by indie voters who think we support full bans with no exceptions. Time for everyone to suck it up and unify behind @LindseyGrahamSC’s 15-wk bill w/ exceptions. That’s the play. The alternative is suiciding the pro-life movement. We are months away from that happening.”
Meanwhile, the Idaho governor signed a law criminalizing helping a minor get an abortion in another state.
→ The center lost big in Chicago: How could anyone disagree with a moderate? How could you say I’m wrong about anything? And yet some have the gall.
In Chicago, mayoral candidate and former school superintendent Paul Vallas lost to “Defund the Police” advocate and former county commissioner Brandon Johnson. How? In part, thanks to very successful ads that highlighted Vallas saying in 2009 that he wasn’t a Democrat at all: “I’m more of a Republican than a Democrat. . . fundamentally, I oppose abortion.” In retrospect, the moderate Democrat to run in a deep blue city probably should have been a Democrat. Just an idea!
→ Some conservatives reining it in: Hillsdale College has broken ties with Tallahassee Classical Academy, the charter school that forced the resignation of its principal after deciding the statue of David was a little too sexual. I stand with Tallahassee, and against the nude male form.
And now, an interlude from resident cartoonist David Mamet. . .
→ Rupert Murdoch is back on the market! The 92-year-old and his fiancée Ann Lesley Smith have called off their engagement, apparently because Smith was being a little annoying about her evangelical views and evangelizing too much. This seems like a trait you would identify before popping the question. You need to stress-test dates—push them to their edge—with at least three boozy dinners featuring a chaotic mix of your exes, enemies, colleagues, and former lovers. Or at least that’s what I did to Bar. Post in the comments if you’re interested in being Rupe’s next fiancée.
→ Dems love dark money: For a long time there was a panic over the sinister-sounding idea of dark money in politics, or money from a random rich person funneled through nonprofits and such to fund political candidates far beyond campaign contributions. That panic was when the money came from the Koch brothers and the funding was for Republicans. Now, the money goes to Biden and it’s just for saving democracy.
→ Your politics affect your parenting: The new fad in liberal/progressive families is “gentle parenting” or “permissive parenting.” In this approach, you can’t force your child to do anything. You have to ask and cajole and communicate. This proves really annoying to, let’s say, a doctor who needs your kid to open wide for an exam—one such doctor wrote a very interesting essay this week. (Yes, a takedown of gentle parenting is a top news item of the week now because for me it is.)
→ Americans support a TikTok ban: I thought I was alone in this, but it turns out that Americans, liberal and conservative alike, endorse a TikTok ban. By more than two-to-one! Cool.
At the same time, after actually reading the big TikTok-banning bill—S. 686, the RESTRICT Act—I have some concerns that it’s too far-reaching and infringes on civil liberties way beyond controlling TikTok. Have you read this bill? Weigh in in the comments.