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FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is led away handcuffed by officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force on December 13, 2022. (Mario Duncanson via Getty Images)

TGIF: Just Another Week in the U.S.A

Trump's NFTs. SBF's vegan jail food. Plus: 'dragphobia,' nuclear fusion and, yes, more Twitter.

You may have heard of our re-launch. Assigned Common Sense at birth, we now go by The Free Press. But TGIF? TGIF is forever. 

For our new readers, hi, hello! I’m Nellie and this is where I send-up the happenings of the past week. Originally conceived as a way to monetize my mental illness (addiction to news, hour-long rants at dinner), it is a regular Friday feature. You may be asking: How did I get this job? 

Had I distinguished myself as a newshound back at the New York Times? I hadn’t. But I happened to marry Bari, and I am a trophy wife who demanded a column. 

To my longtime readers, I just want you to know that even though we relaunched and had major Twitter scoops – our company email was full of you asking why TGIF took the week off. And I liked that. 

Ok, let’s get into it:

→ Twitter files: Elon Musk decided to open up Twitter’s archives for a small group of reporters to trawl this week and last. Whenever a source wants to dump documents in your hands, they have an agenda, and Musk is no exception. What was his? The archives show well-intentioned, power-high and pretty random progressives with unimaginable power—and they wielded it. 

Those former Twitter execs could and did alter the American public discourse to fit their whims, limiting conversation about topics that weren’t helpful for their political cause of the moment, propping censorship up by citing rules they made up on the fly. Responding to the documents, Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey wrote a mea culpa this week. “The biggest mistake I made was continuing to invest in building tools for us to manage the public conversation, versus building tools for the people using Twitter to easily manage it for themselves. This burdened the company with too much power...”

If too much power was in the hands of a few people then, now it is in the hands of just one man, Elon Musk. And he is being driven by some of the same whims, just with new targets.

Earlier this week, he banned an account called @ElonJet, which tracked his private jet’s location. Musk announced his own new anti-doxxing rule to justify it, saying tracking real-time locations is dangerous.

As of Thursday night, Musk has suspended the accounts of several reporters who have been critical of him; Musk says they violated his doxxing rule. That new list of suspended accounts includes Ryan Mac at the New York Times and Drew Harwell at the Washington Post. It includes Keith Olbermann. It also includes the account of a Twitter competitor Mastodon. The argument Clarence Thomas once posited—that social media platforms should be regulated like common carriers (airlines, postal services)—seems more reasonable by the day. 

Musk’s Twitter reign (of terror?!) is a developing story. I’m working on something longer. And we accept all document dumps from all agendas. 

→ Sam Bankman-Fried is finally arrested: Our favorite high-flying crypto mogul and Democratic mega-donor has finally been arrested and jailed. The charges: mail and wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to avoid campaign finance regulations, and more. Bankman-Fried claimed he needed to get out on bail because he was depressed and also a vegan. (Why does one always come with the other?) 

SBF has hired the lawyer who defended Ghislaine Maxwell, which is a little too on-the-nose.

His parents, Stanford Law School professors who teach on philosophy and taxes, were there in the Bahamas as their son was booked. From the CoinDesk reporter who was in the courtroom with them all: “Bankman-Fried’s mother audibly laughed several times when her son was referred to as a ‘fugitive’ and his father occasionally put his fingers in his ears as if to drown out the sound of the proceedings.” The fugitive’s father, Joseph Bankman, who was paid by and worked with his son, will not be teaching his usual tax-policy course this year. Stanford Law students are there to learn how to cheat the tax code successfully—not to learn how to get caught! 

In other Stanford chaos notes, the school’s president is under his own scrutiny. Stanford has had to hire an investigator to look into allegations that its president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a celebrated neuroscientist, fabricated the results that got him so celebrated. The allegations look pretty legit. Stanford University produces America’s finest scammers, including the artiste Elizabeth Holmes, so we should celebrate that the school may be led by the best scammer type there is: the green-juice-drinking fake-the-results scientist. 

→ Iran continues to crack down on protestors: The brutal regime that Biden desperately wants to cut a nuclear deal with continues to torture and kill its own people, who have been protesting for basic freedoms. The 23-year-old Iranian protestor Majidreza Rahnavard’s last words before his execution: “​​Be joyful. Play happy music.” An Iranian soccer player who campaigned for women’s rights has been sentenced to execution.  

They are heroes. 

→ Trump announced trading cards: Trump said he would have “a major announcement.” Doesn’t he always. This week it is that he’s selling Trump-branded trading cards for $99 for an individual card (which is shocking to me; an earlier edition of this newsletter said that was the price for a set). The card images are various hyper-butch, fanfic Trump drawings, where he has rippling muscles and wears capes. There’s a Tom of Finland quality to the whole thing, but I’ll leave that for someone else to parse. Amazingly, the Trump trading cards are actually NFTs. Yes, they don’t even print these things. It’s just a JPEG. A single JPEG!

But it doesn’t appear that Trump’s antics are working as well as they used to. According to a new USA Today/Suffolk University Poll, Republican voters prefer DeSantis over Trump by a lot. The numbers: 56% would go DeSantis to 33% who’d go for Trump. But can Trump be stopped from running as a spoiler for DeSantis? I doubt it. 

→ Speaking of Republicans who need to bow out: After running and losing for governor of Arizona, television personality Kari Lake appears to be unable to let go. She’s filed a lawsuit to overturn the election, and she’s actively gunning to be Trump’s VP in 2024. 

Over at American Greatness, a paleoconservative publication, they have a piece headlined “Hard Truths and Radical Possibilities,” where a writer argues that: “Even if conducted legitimately, elections no longer reflect the will of the people.” To correct the course, it “would require an alliance in a quasi-political street fight, probably leading to a constitutional crisis, to bring the bureaucracy to heel.” 

Ummm, excuse me? 

Deciding that all elections are fake and that voting isn’t doing anything is a fun argument to make over some weed gummies, but not a great way to galvanize voters and win an election in the still very much functioning America. Maybe I’m wrong and the right-wing revolution is coming, but given the drubbing those kind of candidates just took in the midterms, it looks unlikely. There’s a smart take from Commentary’s Noah Rothman on chaos inside the RNC: “This is what a losing party looks like.”

→ Long Covid is a disease of the white and anxious: More research is coming out about long Covid, and the findings are fascinating. Nearly 80% of the deaths attributed to it are among white Americans, according to the CDC. And the only medical factor that seems to predict a long Covid diagnosis is pre-existing anxiety

Now, I think long Covid is very real. I do not question the genius of that lab in Wuhan: This virus ravages people. But it also seems like people with other issues are latching onto the diagnosis, in similar ways the very real Lyme disease gets hanger-oners. (Here’s a gorgeous New Republic piece on why that’s happening around long Covid and also why it shouldn’t be dismissed.) 

To admit that some virus is in your mind is not to say it’s fake. In fact, in certain ways, it’s much more real, much harder to treat. For context around what might be happening, the National Center for Education Statistics has found a spike in mental health crisis among adolescents under Covid lockdowns of 2021. According to the numbers the CDC released recently, 1 in 5 adolescents had seriously considered suicide and 9% of those surveyed tried to take their lives in the previous 12 months. 

→ Kyrsten Sinema, showing bisexual pride, will not choose a party: The senator from Arizona, America’s first out bisexual in those hallowed halls, is taking that historic role very seriously. She announced that she no longer identifies as a Democrat. She’s not a Republican! But she’s not a Democrat either. She wrote: “I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington and formally registering as an Arizona Independent.” 

Ok Kyrsten, we’re all happy for you. Let’s check back in after college.  

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