Hello and welcome back to the week, reviewed by me. If you are a superfan of a political figure or another, if you have Casey DeSantis tattooed on your arm or AOC on speed dial, you’re not going to like what happens here. If you think every congressional term should be followed by six months of jail time just to be safe, then come with me.
Two housekeeping notes: Remember to get your local high schoolers to submit to the Free Press essay contest by June 12 (there’s even a prize of $2,000). And next week I’ll be on vacation—you’ll find the lovely, the handsome, the Great Nick Gillespie in your inbox.
→ Debt ceiling deal: Congress passed a deal to suspend the debt ceiling for two years to narrowly avoid default. It seems like a good deal: it requires that spending next year be flat and go up only 1 percent in 2025. The bill will cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion. The GOP wanted it to be $4 trillion, but they compromised. Kevin McCarthy said of it: “I wanted to do something no other Congress has done, that we would literally turn the ship and for the first time in quite some time, we’d spend less than we spent the year before. Tonight, we all made history.” Every once in a while there’s a panic over The Debt, and I find that nodding and saying, Well, we should pay down that debt, no one likes debt gets me out of most conversations on the subject unscathed.
→ Biden falls: The president tripped and fell Thursday, needing two men to help him get back up, a stumble so bad even The Times covered it. He had just finished giving a commencement address to the graduates of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs when he tripped over a sandbag, which, let’s be fair, could happen to anyone. His age is going to be the number one topic come 2024, and Biden is not looking as spry as DeSantis (44) or even as robust as Trump (the age of a very old leather chair). Between Biden and the continued sad situation of Dianne Feinstein’s refusal to retire, my recommendation is that Dem leadership track down some drugs. I’m talking about the stuff city workers give out in San Francisco, the stuff gay men use to stay up all night, the good stuff.
→ Casey DeSantis on the trail: Ron DeSantis is barnstorming Iowa, talking about how we’ve all gone too soft and too woke. Explaining why military recruitment is struggling: “We look at our military now and we see them getting caught up in political ideology, gender pronouns, talking about global warming. . . . People don’t want to be part of a woke military.” DeSantis is a man with a woke hammer and everything he sees is a woke nail (you get what I mean). Anyway, if a young would-be soldier is debating his options, I just doubt too many nonbinary gunners is the issue as much as the idea of being sent to a miserable pointless war in a miserable pointless place. The real campaign winner so far is Casey DeSantis: she’s got the big hair; she’s got the gloves (and the glove takedowns). A pageant star who seems at ease on the biggest pageant stage of them all.
Meanwhile, in DeSantis’s Florida, kids are now banned from attending furry conventions, and the furries are upset. (The convention itself chose to do this to follow the new DeSantis rules.) I don’t know enough about furry conventions and how much sex is or is not involved to weigh in here.
→ Conservative intellectuals turning on Trump, who turns on all: Trump this week sold out his former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, even giving her a new nickname: “Kayleigh ‘Milktoast’ McEnany” (not his best, but you know what? Not his worst), adding that “Fox News should only use REAL stars!!!” Dave Rubin, who endorsed Trump in 2020, called it “Trump’s latest unhinged meltdown.”
Trump’s biggest liability among his base remains his great success rolling out the Covid vaccine so fast and effectively. While speaking in Iowa Thursday, a voter spoke to Trump from the crowd: “We have lost people because you supported the jab.” Trump: “Well, you know, everybody wanted a vaccine at that time, and I was able to do something that nobody else could have done. . . . There’s a big portion of the country that thinks [the vaccine] was a great thing.” The “DeSantis War Room” team quickly posted the video as a gotcha. It still stuns me that this of all things is Trump’s Achilles’ heel.
He hasn’t started campaigning yet, really, but The Spectator this week asks: “Is Trump taking Hillary’s road to oblivion?” Spectator, please. I just emotionally recovered from “Bridge to Nowhere.” Let the primaries play out before we start discussing made-up infrastructure projects.
→ Drone strikes in Moscow: In the new endless war, this week there were drone strikes in Moscow. The videos are pretty wild.
→ AI is the end of the world! In something out of the start of a horror movie, this week top artificial intelligence researchers called for major regulation of the technology, releasing a one-sentence letter: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
The cynic in me thinks these guys want regulation to lock out any new competition. But there is obviously something real in the fear. AI is unlike virtual reality and unlike Bitcoin. AI is going to be like electricity or the internet, changing the world in ways we can’t even imagine, coursing through every facet of our lives. But America can pass all the laws it wants; there’s no way countries like China and the United Arab Emirates will stop their progress on this.
In the anti-AI column we have: a harrowing hypothetical given by Colonel Tucker “Cinco” Hamilton of the military trying to get an AI-powered drone to stop killing the drone operator during simulations. Here from the Royal Aeronautical Society blog: “We were training it in simulation to identify and target a SAM [surface-to-air missile] threat. And then the operator would say yes, kill that threat,” the Col. said, describing a hypothetical situation. “The system started realizing that while they did identify the threat, at times the human operator would tell it not to kill that threat, but it got its points by killing that threat. So what did it do? It killed the operator. It killed the operator because that person was keeping it from accomplishing its objective.”
→ Heritage Foundation suing over Prince Harry’s visa: In good news for those who live for drama (not me, don’t know what a tabloid is, never read one), and I guess right-wing donors who are into this too, the Heritage Foundation, a stalwart conservative think tank, is suing the U.S. government to unseal Prince Harry’s visa papers. The rule is that visa applications must be denied for someone “determined to be a drug abuser,” and the prince has written about his drug use and yet there he is, Prince of Montecito, California, USA. Could the process of an English prince’s move to California have been slightly smoothed out? I shudder to imagine it.
→ NASA holds an alien summit: This week, NASA held a public meeting to discuss evidence of alien activity around Earth. Mostly they want you to know that you don’t need to be scared to report your local flying saucer, because for sure some are real. David Spergel, chair of NASA’s UAP team (it stands for “unidentified anomalous phenomena”) said: “One of our goals is to remove the stigma, because there is a need for high-quality data to address important questions about UAPs.” Translation: the tip lines are full of nuts, let’s get some nice BBQ dads reporting aliens out over the overpass.
→ Biden family text chain for scams: It’s largely settled fact that nine members of the extended Biden clan started getting paid by foreign entities before and during Biden’s vice presidency, but the game everyone in mainstream media plays is that Joe Biden had no idea and no involvement. That’s a fine excuse if, say, an 18-year-old Natalie Biden was caught drinking a white wine spritzer in the Rose Garden. But this is. . . not that.
This week messages between Hunter Biden and Joe’s brother Jim emerged, showing the two of them discussing Hunter’s financial straits, with Jim saying the young Biden needs “a safe harbor” and that “I can work with you[r] father alone!”
→ Some good news for Joe: Tara Reade, Biden’s onetime sexual assault accuser, has completed her journey through American right-wing media and fully defected to Russia. She says: “I am enjoying my time in Moscow, and I feel very at home.”
→ Kristi Noem for and also against free speech: The Republican governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, sent a letter this week with her education priorities to the state’s board of regents. Number 4: Free speech! Number 5: No free speech!
Number six, below drag show rules, is “Find ways to cut costs to ensure the affordability of college.” I repeat, finding ways to cut the bloated costs of college and cut useless state payroll for college bureaucrats is below campy fashion shows for musical theater kids. The Heritage Foundation is fiending for hot Prince Harry goss, and Republican governors are like, first we must find and defeat RuPaul.
→ Finally okay to say Stalin was bad: The ongoing war with Russia is opening up something amazing: British Labor members of Parliament are publicly recognizing that the Soviet Union had some problems. Labor MP Nadia Whittome this week called for England to recognize the Soviet Union’s mass starvation of Ukrainians as a genocide. It’s known as the Holodomor, and this is one of those genocides they sort of skip over in school. Now you’re telling me the Soviets did bad things? I thought it was all egalitarian space stations!
For more on this, I recommend Anne Applebaum’s harrowing book, Red Famine.
→ CUNY graduation speaker goes on tirade: The City University of New York School of Law graduation speaker Fatima Mousa Mohammed took the stage and went on a 13-minute school-sanctioned diatribe against America, the cops, and most of all, “Zionists.” Among the new lawyer’s rant: “the law is a manifestation of white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation and around the world.” The school’s dean applauded her.
Some of her social media reveals similarly subtle critiques; accounts were deleted but preserved here. She hopes that “every Zionist burn in the hottest pit of hell.” She tweeted: “my mom would have a heart attack if she knew i pray upon the death of the USA on a public platform but yolo i guess.” She wrote: “May you burn in the same fire the settler zionist celebrated today and may every zionist like yourself face the wrath of your injustice. Allah yl3nak” (May God curse you.)
Speaking of alarming takes on Israel, I highly recommend reading this, which is a pretty perfect encapsulation of the modern anti-Zionist belief system, published in the leftist magazine Jewish Currents. It’s a takedown of the Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile defense system that protects people in cities like Tel Aviv from rockets lobbed from Gaza. The argument is that it keeps Jews alive really well. Like, too well. As the magazine’s editor-in-chief Arielle Angel wrote: “The orientation toward absolute safety for individual Jewish bodies over the prospect of long term peace and safety for both peoples is one of the things at the root of the problem. So something has to shift.” Duh, guys. Less safety for Jewish bodies equals more long-term peace. How many times does this have to be spelled out?
→ FTC finally looking into formula makers: The Federal Trade Commission announced it will look into whether baby formula makers engaged in collusion when bidding for government contracts. All I know is Europe has a thriving competitive landscape of high-quality baby formulas, and the U.S. has government-subsidized corn syrup–filled sludge, so, I don’t know, seems suspicious. Good on the FTC.
→ In Oakland, people are sick of violence: This week, Oakland residents gathered for a heated hearing with city leaders about crime. One woman described being attacked: “I’m almost 60 years old. I’m one of the old women that just got taken down. And it’s happening everywhere.” Watch the video of the meeting here. Here’s the thing you have to remember if you live in Oakland: Your chance of being the victim of violent crime in Oakland is 1 in 80. Your likelihood of being a victim of violent crime and then being called a monster for calling the cops is 100 percent.
And now, a cartoon from David Mamet:
→ Twitter is worth 33 percent of what Musk paid for it: That’s the pretty remarkable markdown from Fidelity this week. Meanwhile, Musk was enjoying the fruits of his purchase, chatting with the guys from the satire site The Babylon Bee at the Twitter office café. It was The Babylon Bee’s banning by the old regime that got Musk interested in buying Twitter in the first place. Now, the Bee is back and inside the building. Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, and now it’s worth some $15 billion. Though I understand the pleasure of inviting the rebels into the castle, for me it’s not worth losing that $29 billion. But for Musk, I look at his happy face, yukking it up for over an hour with the Bee bros, and I think, for him, it was indeed worth $29 billion.
→ Atlanta PD arrest organizers of bail fund: The activists who bail out protesters were arrested for “money laundering” and “charity fraud” in a dramatic raid this week. This is the group that’s been paying bail for the various antifa members who’ve been trying to block the new Atlanta police and fire training center, known in that crowd as Cop City. Anyway, heavily armed cops stormed the nonprofit headquarters like they were raiding a drug den. Do I believe the nonprofit was corrupt? For sure. Do I also think this is cops retaliating? For sure.
→ Please wash your clothes: There is a movement now to be more green by not washing clothes as often: “The rise of the ‘no-wash’ movement,” the BBC announced this week in their “Sustainability” series. Reminds me of this Jaden Smith ad. Listen, if you want to make your life a little harder to feel better, that’s not crazy. A paper straw, a smelly t-shirt, jeans crusted in months’ worth of sweat, it all just adds a little friction. It has nothing to do with the environment, but I’m happy if people find their joy through weird hygiene rituals, and may they never sit on my sofa.
→ Who watches the watchmen who take choppers to Maine: I always thought James O’Keefe and Project Veritas were the same thing—that he was the face and the organization. But apparently that is very much not the case because Project Veritas is now suing James O’Keefe. Here’s the lawsuit, which opens with: “Being known as the founder of an organization does not entitle that person to run amok and put his own interests ahead of that organization.” And: “O’Keefe must be held accountable.” They allege that O’Keefe broke a non-disparagement agreement and misspent donor funds, including $150,000 in high-end car services in 18 months and $10,000 for a helicopter trip to Maine. And: “Using his Project Veritas credit card for expensive hotel rooms and suites at luxury hotels without clear business purpose, when other employees on the same trips were required to stay in budget accommodations.” All of these things are exactly how I imagined James O’Keefe spent donor funds. If anyone has the inside scoop, please explain in the comments.
→ The Stasi weren’t supposed to investigate me: After the summer of 2020, the James Beard Awards, the top honor for chefs, went on hiatus. The winners would have been all white, and that would have been a big problem. Also: chefs are real jerks (looking at you, Will Aghajanian!). And that would have been a big problem, too. So they decided to relaunch the James Beard Awards with a new, totally reasonable system: nominees for the James Beard Award undergo scrutiny via private investigators. That’s the only way we can be sure a chef has never raised their voice or sent a bad text. And those investigators are finding out loads of bad stuff, but here’s the problem: it’s not just from white men. It turns out even women chefs can get mad. Even—and bear with me here, because this is hard—even non-white women chefs have the full range of human emotion and sometimes lose their temper.
The chef Sam Fore, who is of Sri Lankan descent, went through the private investigation for accusations of bullying on Instagram. The investigator findings were delivered in a kind of riddle: They “did not find it more likely than not that you violated the Code of Ethics.” And she was disqualified. As the shocked NYT put it in a piece this week: “Ms. Fore is among the first subjects of an investigatory process created in 2021 as part of that overhaul. But in many ways she is the kind of chef the retooled awards are meant to recognize more fully.”
There’s a meme I think about a lot, and I think it’s a useful guiding tool as we all navigate various culture wars:
By the end of this, James Beard Awards will just be given to especially stable cutting boards.