Happy Friday or as we say in my house, T.G.I.F.
For the newbies among you: Hi, I’m Nellie. And welcome to my highly particular round-up of the stories I couldn’t stop reading about this past week.
This was a big week for Common Sense. Brazilian-born biology professor Luana Maroja always felt like her ideological enemies in science were creationists on the right. Now, she says it’s from those on the left who have embraced an “ugly authoritarianism.” We sent Peter Savodnik to Scottsdale, Arizona, to hang out at Kari Lake’s election watch party which...didn’t go as her supporters had hoped. On Honestly, we reconvened the roundtable from last week—Mary Katharine Ham, Josh Kraushaar, Batya Ungar-Sargon—plus New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi to do a post-game on the midterms.
Bari delivered a column late yesterday on the major lessons from the midterms. Some of you may have gotten an email with the headline “Voter Prefer Sanity,” and while, yes, I do, we’ve corrected it to read “Voters.” Apologies for the error.
Alright voter(s), you know why we’re here. Here’s everything else you may have missed this week.
→ Nary a red wave to be found: On Tuesday night, all across the country, reporters took out their beautiful pre-written takes on crime and inflation and lit them on fire. Because it turned out that even though Americans are indeed sick of the crime, sick of the inflation and sick of Joe Biden, there’s something they’re sick of even more: a Trumpist Republican party. At certain points Tuesday night, it was unclear if Republicans would even take the House. Fox News had a strange funereal energy, so in this home MSNBC blasted, ole Maddow hasn’t been that excited since Trump’s tax returns. It was the Republican’s Red Wave to miss and they did.
Earlier in the day, when the Red Wave was still surely coming, the Times had put out a tips sheet about how to emotionally handle what would happen that night. Readers could work on breathing like a baby and plunging your face into a bowl of ice water.
But by the end of Tuesday night, those MSNBC moms were standing tall, drying off their faces, breathing like big girls, and marching triumphant.
Two (of many) reasons for the Dems’ success.
→First, America rejected the fringe: The extremists all got the boot. Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who makes Trump’s MAGA look tame, lost to the balanced seeming Democrat Josh Shapiro, who has the energy of a cashmere sweater. And Trump-backed congressional candidates across the country lost handily to moderate Dems. The family values candidate Blake Masters, backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel and strongly supported by Trump, is currently behind in Arizona to former astronaut Mark Kelly. Late Thursday night, some analysts started calling the race for Kelly. And Dr. Oz lost to a large tree (a Redwood, suggests our fact-checker).
The smartest money spent in this whole election was the tens of millions the Democratic party spent to help ensure Republicans picked the craziest candidates in nine different state primaries. It was a risky, cynical move for Dems to boost the most radical Republicans—and it paid off. The most effective (i.e.: dangerous) Republican candidate is someone reasonable like Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin. Trumpist Republicans reject these types as RINOs, and Dems were only too happy to help.
Americans also rejected the #resistance stars. Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams lost again. And Texas’s Beto O’Rourke lost, again again. Not that it will deter either of them from running for President (certainly not from fundraising at least). TGIF looks forward to the Abrams-O’Rourke ticket in 2024.
→Second, the Dobbs backlash: It was clear that a backlash hit right after Roe fell, but it wasn’t clear if that would last til the midterms. It did. Americans didn’t want Roe to fall: 57% were unhappy about its repeal, while only 41% supported the change. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, Dems ran on protecting abortion rights, while Republicans mostly scrubbed their websites of anything abortion-related. Anti-abortion amendments to state constitutions failed in both Kentucky and Kansas.
→Trump is not going to go quietly: You might think that with Trumpist candidates rejected so roundly, Trump himself would fade away to nice afternoons at his golf course, maybe an Arnold Palmer with Melania. LOL of course not. Trump now has a “HUGE” announcement on November 15 at Mar-a-Lago. He writes: “This announcement will perhaps be the most important speech given in the history of the United States of America.” Move over Gettysburg Address, and that inaugural one that Kennedy gave about asking what you can do for your country. The Donald has something to say.
I guess it’s that he’s running in 2024. Or maybe it’s just another rambling speech about how an announcement is coming, as he gave this week before the election. Either way he’s too exhausting to me. One baby is enough.
And it’s going to be a sweaty ugly fight to oust him. Here’s Trump on Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, who won big in Florida and now is emerging as the Republican standard-bearer: “I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering — I know more about him than anybody — other than, perhaps, his wife.” Or read his new bizarre memo about DeSantis that reads like someone ranting at a TV.
Or how about: "Now that the Election in Florida is over, and everything went quite well, shouldn’t it be said that in 2020, I got 1.1 Million more votes in Florida than Ron D got this year, 5.7 Million to 4.6 Million? Just asking?"
And (actually this one is an honor) Trump bestowed a nickname on DeSantis: Ron DeSanctimonious. I hate to say it, but he’s still got it.
Biden said this week he would, indeed, run again in 2024, with a formal announcement expected in the new year. If the Republicans put Trump up against him—my lord, haven’t we suffered enough?—my money’s on Joe winning, even if he’s just rolled out silently for viewings and then rolled back.
Last note is that, at least among the conservative intelligentsia (the actual conservatives, not the Lincoln Project ones), the cult of Trump is finally faltering. As National Review writer Nate Hochman put it: “I’m not a Never Trumper. I am, however, a Republican. I like it when Republicans win elections. Trump backed losers in winnable races, nuked blue-state GOP gains, and then had the audacity to pick a fight with Ron DeSantis—the leader of the one state GOP that didn’t underperform.”
→When Dems thought failure was coming, election fraud was in the air: For a few days there, when all assumed the Red Wave was imminent, the smart line suddenly on the left (yes) was voter fraud. A pre-emptive cry of stolen election! “There are real risks that hackers could tunnel into voting equipment and other election infrastructure to try to undermine Tuesday’s vote,” wrote Politico, saying Democracy-doubting things that I’m pretty sure are banned on social media. And MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson: “The level of voter suppression [in Georgia] is beyond anything that we saw in 2018 . . . We can’t say that whatever happens tonight is a fair and equitable election.”
Now, in the bright light of Friday morning, the wave averted, that’s all forgotten.
I don’t think there’s much good election fraud evidence one way or the other, but I do believe in the vast possibilities that come from human incompetence. So I’m not surprised reading things like this from an NBC News reporter: “Big Election Day mess in Luzerne County, PA. Dozens of polling places ran out of printer paper for ballots. Voters had to be turned away. Court just ruled to extend polling hours to 10pm - an unprecedented move.”
We’re the greatest super power on earth and no one had time to run to Kinko’s?
→The L.A. mayor’s race is craaaaazy close: The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder announced late Thursday that Rick Caruso, the tough-on-crime sort-of Democrat who has garnered some big-time Hollywood support, was a teeny tiny bit ahead of Democratic Rep. Karen Bass by some 2,700 votes. (I’m sure that’ll be out of date by the time you read it.)
→Magic mushrooms now legal in Colorado: We turn to the publication called Marijuana Moment for an update from Colorado. This week, the state approved an initiative on the ballot to legalize possession of a small amount of the psychedelics (they’ve been decriminalized in Denver for a while), as well as authorizing special centers to provide “psilocybin services.” And built into the new law is a promise of more to come (but not quite yet). Regulators have to wait until June 2026 before they can decide to legalize DMT, ibogaine and mescaline. This is all bad news for fake shamans in Tijuana guiding tech workers who want to get really, really high.
I’m pro-total drug legalization, mostly because the legal stuff is already insane. Alcohol’s a carcinogenic killer. And don’t get me started on prescription drugs. If you disagree and want psychedelics to stay illegal, tell me why down below. Dads who were serious about curfew, sound off in the comments!
→A bloodbath in Silicon Valley: Facebook (aka Meta) is cutting 11,000 workers—roughly 13% of its workforce. Redfin and Salesforce are also slimming down. At Twitter, Musk not only laid off workers, but he eliminated the “Days of Rest,” the employees’ monthly paid mental health days (how could he).
Amazon is on a hiring freeze as it becomes the first public company in history to lose a trillion dollars in value. A correction for big tech isn’t all bad, though. A lot of people at these bloated Silicon Valley behemoths are doing fake jobs (“rest and vest”, is the line at Google), and with that free time comes time to do annoying things that have nothing to do with Facebook’s bottom line, like attempting to manipulate American culture and algorithmically decide elections.
Also: People should get out of the nap pods and start companies. There’s a semi-famous quote about modern Silicon Valley that I think of a lot, said by a data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” It does. As someone now in the business of a small business, I highly recommend it. New business formation, which slumped after a 40-year decline, is on the rise again, and those businesses might be able to actually compete for talent now that the unlimited poke bowl party is over.
But the big tech story is Twitter, where Elon Musk has been actually pretty unhinged. Too unhinged for me? I mean, when he shared the theory that Paul Pelosi’s attacker was his gay lover, I didn’t love it, no. Now he’s losing a lot of Twitter talent, like actual talent who are resigning or being fired or maybe all put in time out on Mars. Gone is Twitter’s chief privacy officer and gone is the chief compliance officer, according to the tech news site Platformer. The head of "Trust and Safety" Yoel Roth and head of sales Robin Wheeler are also gone. Then Musk on Thursday told employees “bankruptcy isn’t out of the question.”
The previous Twitter regime didn’t allow reporting on Hunter Biden and blocked conservative satire, so I was excited about a change, but it seems like there’s got to be middle ground before burn it down, lay off everyone, declare bankruptcy. (Just FYI if Twitter dies, TGIF goes with it.)
On Wednesday Musk held a town hall (broadcast on Twitter, of course) to assuage advertisers who are worried that Twitter is turning into a wild new cesspool different from the cesspool they were accustomed to. (The townhall’s Twitter executive co-hosts have since also resigned.)
→For an update from inside, we turn to Mike Solana, venture capitalist and writer at the fabulous Pirate Wires:
In his town hall, Musk confirmed what he’s said for months: content moderation on the platform has not changed. It was honestly kind of boring. But that didn’t stop the activists from claiming it’s a terrible new day on the platform, a dark dawn. The night of Elon’s acquisition, a spike in platform “hate speech” was reported by a popular pro-censorship activist.
She was careful to direct the concern toward Twitter’s advertisers. What would they think of all this platform chaos? This was picked up by Ben Collins, NBC’s chief “misinformation expert,” and the entire story was woven into a tale of gross distortion that some change was made to Twitter’s content moderation policies.
Hateful conduct, conspiracies, white nationalists under every chair—something about Twitter was in some fundamental sense… changed. Did it matter that literally nothing had changed? Come on, now, these are professional truth people. Vibes are enough. And advertisers are responding to vibes. General Motors, Pfizer, and United Airlines have all left Twitter.
In his town hall, Musk suggested “there's a big difference between freedom of speech and freedom of reach,” which is indistinguishable from what moderate misinformation researchers have been saying for years. The implication here is people won’t be banned for saying things Twitter’s new arbiters of truth don’t like. They just won’t be amplified. Do I love this? No. But is it better than the decentralized state propaganda machine? Is it better than NBC determining the truth in accordance with whatever the Biden administration thinks this week?
Sorry to say, folks, but Musk is the best we’re ever going to get. Pray he pulls this off.
→In other tech news: The wunderkind of crypto and a new Democrat mega-donor, Sam Bankman-Fried saw his fortune drop from $16 billion to less than $1 billion, basically unimaginable poverty. As his crypto exchange FTX collapsed, people tried to withdraw $6 billion in 72 hours. Of course there’s no actual bank to save you, so a lot of people just lost a lot of money.
Now the Justice Department and the SEC are looking into the turmoil. It looks like Bankman-Fried (SBF, if you’re in the know) loaned about half of the crypto exchange’s assets to another firm…that just happened to be his own trading firm called Alameda.
This is all sad news for Democrats, who were hoping this strange, fake fortune would be the new George Soros pile of cash. In fact, SBF was second only to Soros in individual donations to Democrats this cycle, spending about $40 million. In earlier, loftier days, he said he would be spending up to about $1 billion on the presidential election, though that was a “soft ceiling” and he’d go higher. Liberal America was getting ready to put laser eyes on AOC or whatever other meme these people want them to do so long as the check is on the way. But it wasn’t. The entire team at his philanthropy resigned, as first reported by Puck’s Teddy Schleifer.
The investment firm that helped the wunderkind rise to fame and fortune ran a hilarious piece of propaganda about the founder. After his fall this week, the firm, Sequoia, took the piece down. But an excerpt was saved for posterity by another tech wunderkind, Delian Zebulgar. This is real:
→The long slow fizzle of MeToo: In another bit of air coming out, the woman who accused Alan Dershowitz of abusing her has rescinded her claim and now says she’s not sure. For Dershowitz: it’s too little too late for that lost summer of parties at Martha’s Vineyard.
His accuser, however, definitely was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein. For me: Isn’t it weird how the biggest sex scandal of them all was Epstein and the story sort of disappeared? I still think about how when he “committed suicide” the prison guards were asleep and all the cameras were broken. Anyway, I digress.
→China gives Americans the crack version of TikTok: While China gladly has American teens and tweens (ok, and adults) zonked out on mindless videos endlessly, TikTok in China is very different. “They make their domestic version a spinach TikTok, while they ship the opium version to the rest of the world,” said Tristan Harris on “60 Minutes” this past week. (Tristan is a former Google employee who’s become a prominent tech ethicist and whistleblower.) Apparently the TikTok version in China is a lot more educational videos and anyway the government limits children to no more than 40 minutes of TikTok a day.
→Brittney Griner is going to a penal colony: The WNBA star caught in Russia with a small amount of hashish oil is not just imprisoned but being sent to a work camp. Nothing is more nightmarish. Axios put out a helpful “What Brittney Griner could face in a Russian penal colony,” told in the site’s chipper bullet-point tone.
Penal colonies are the descendants of Russia's Soviet-era forced labor camps, known as gulags.
They are also a source of revenue, with many housing manufacturing plants for food or clothing, and others doing construction work.
Good to know. Never leave America.
→Who allowed Norway's Princess to meet an American? Norway’s Princess Märtha Louise has relinquished her royal duties and cast it all away to be with an American alternative medicine guru named Durek Verrett. Some of what Verrett believes: Cancer is a choice; he knew about 9/11 years before but it was his destiny not to intervene; and not only is he part reptilian but “reptilians are here to shake up the system in a big way.” Basically, he is a standard Los Angeles mom. But now engaged to a Norwegian princess. It’s like a rom-com except with chemtrails.
“We’ve agreed to disagree," Norway’s King Harald said of the soon to be son-in-law.
As someone who once ate handfuls of mushy white grapefruit pith because I heard it was healthy, I can attest that no one is more compelling than an American alt-health scammer. Run, Märtha.
→SNL writers boycotting Dave Chappelle: The comedian Dave Chappelle is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend and it is not ok. Chappelle’s Netflix comedy special is what caused a walkout and weeks of chaos at the company (he made some really quite mild and actually very tender jokes about his trans friend). Now some SNL writers are reportedly boycotting the show this week.
I waited all week for some absurd little gem like this. The eco protestors didn’t glue themselves to anything good. The diversity consultants are putting out documents on “The Jewish Question” that are too upsetting for me to even summarize here. The MAGAs got routed. Even the Princess of Montecito was quiet. I had to look to Norway for god’s sake. Then finally, finally, the SNL writers gave me a little, tiny (not even the whole staff, not even an open letter) protest. So thank you, SNL writers for doing your part. We can’t wait for Saturday night. I hope one of you storms the stage. Otherwise it’ll have to be me.
TGIF. See you in the comments.