Welcome back to the news, holiday edition. In solidarity with thousands of other Americans, I too was stranded by Southwest, an airline that woke up and decided it didn’t feel like it anymore. They canceled more than 16,000 flights, including two of mine. I was worried at baggage claim that I might run into Biden’s former nuclear waste expert. But eventually, I, Bari, and our nepo baby made it home to L.A. in time for me to say:
Happy New Year to all of you Common Sensers now Free Press-ers. I hope it’s a beautiful one. I don’t love this holiday. I want each deranged week to last a thousand years and hate the passage of time. But I’m resigned to mortality, especially if I get to spend the days writing, thanks to you. TGIF.
Ok, one last time for 2022, here we go . . .
→ Just a little $1.7 trillion bill: It wasn’t a great year for anyone’s 401(k), not that you need me telling you that. The NASDAQ is down nearly 34% since the year’s start, the S&P down 20%. Tens of thousands of tech jobs have vanished. Even Goldman Sachs, that old vampire squid, is planning to lay off 8% of its workforce. But the Biden administration is ending the year flush. Biden just signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill, which had to be flown to St. Croix where he is on vacation at the home of wealthy donors. It includes another $50 billion in aid to Ukraine. Also, per the The Free Beacon: half a million in funding toward artificial intelligence that will detect microaggressions online. This is thanks to a movement that genuinely believes rude things should be illegal to post. Happy for the movement for getting closer to their dream. And I feel safe knowing that the special microaggression software will spasm and break down when it reaches the TGIF comments section.
→ November marks another record at the border: The border crisis continues to escalate, and this November saw the highest number of border crossings yet. More than 200,000 people were intercepted, and an estimated 73,000 illegal immigrants got through. This is a lot of people. The news is carefully buried by mainstream publications, whose staffers are more-or-less in favor of open borders. My thing is: If the Biden administration wants to dramatically increase immigration, at least be honest about it and help the southern states absorb all these new arrivals. Instead, the admin and the press that serves it cry racism when southern governors try to get national attention on the issue.
Remember the rage over the Martha’s Vineyard stunt?
All year, the social safety net in border states has been strained. The city of El Paso has declared an extended emergency.
→ Where did all that Stacey Abrams campaign money go? Stacey Abrams, the progressive who twice ran and twice lost a bid for governor of Georgia, raised $100 million through her PAC this most recent time. That’s a lot of money! Yet she owes vendors at least $1 million. Maybe she should check in with her campaign chair and close friend, whose firm made at least $10 million from Abrams in 2019 and 2020. Can’t wait to see how much it was in ‘21 and ‘22.
→ Is George Santos even his name? One New York Republican congressman-elect had a compelling story: He was a self-made businessman with 13 properties in his real estate portfolio; he had worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; he was the descendant of Holocaust survivors; he had a mother who died in 9/11; he graduated from Baruch College, and also had—or maybe has—a brain tumor. But when reporters went to do a fairly standard profile of him, they discovered that none of it is true. He admitted to “embellishing” almost all of it and is now under investigation by federal prosecutors. My question: If you were making up a fake college, why choose Baruch? Go big or go home, Santos! Yale or bust.
→ We have a dangerous oversupply of History PhDs: America’s graduate schools are hellbent on making thousands of unemployed people fated to wander the country reminding us that they have PhDs and that we should call them “doctor.” From Inside Higher Ed: “Between 2019 and 2020, 1,799 historians earned their PhDs, and only 175 of them are now employed as full-time faculty members.” What are the 1,624 remainders doing? Mostly screaming on Twitter, I guess? Cornering people at otherwise normal dinners to explain how their thesis shows mid-century modern furniture is homophobic?
These people are highly educated, highly articulate, saddled with debt and understandably full of rage. It’s a national security issue. We should probably create special PhD playrooms for them, Potemkin faculty lounges, pretend academic journals for them to bicker about.
→ MIT signs on for freedom of expression: The faculty of MIT are the latest to sign a pledge asserting that they value free expression and debate. The freedom agreement reads in part: “Learning from a diversity of viewpoints, and from the deliberation, debate, and dissent that accompany them, is an essential ingredient of academic excellence.” Yes, it is odd this even needs to be said. Who knows if they can hold to it. So many other universities haven’t.
→ Meantime, Stanford says more censorship please: Sometimes there is news that is so perfectly crafted for TGIF I almost feel bad. The fruit is too low. The fish are just waiting to get shot in that barrel. This week that comes from Stanford University, which has released a list of verboten words so crazed, so long, so thorough, that it would truly take a four-year $250,000 degree to learn it. Some words that pretty soon can get you fired: basket case, blind study, blind review, handicapped, handicapped space, lame, brave, tribe, mankind, manpower, seminal (“this term reinforces male-dominated language”), stand up meeting, senile, you guys, abort, peanut gallery, American, Hispanic, user, victim, master, rule of thumb, disabled person. Even the verb submit has dangerous connotations: “the term can imply allowing others to have power over you.”
Read the whole list here, and if you go to Stanford, I have this to say: You guys, do not submit to these lame basket cases.
It’s a good thing Stanford administrators have nothing else to worry about . . .
→ Scamford: Joining embattled Stanford president who is under investigation for faking his past research is now one of his professors, embattled for his own scam. Prominent Stanford genetics professor Stan Cohen has had to pay more than $29 million for misleading investors in his biotech startup. Will he still teach at Stanford? Of course he will, the school says.
I highly recommend reading the Stanford Daily for updates on America’s elite scams. As I write this, I double-check the website to see what else is up in school news and lo: “Stanford alum Caroline Ellison ’16 apologizes for wrongdoing that led to FTX bankruptcy” and “Sam Bankman-Fried to be under house arrest on Stanford campus.” On campus! Probably with a vegan meal plan. It’s perfect. Freshmen orientation should come with an ankle monitor.
→ Our latest Twitter Files: Internal documents at Twitter showed the company rigged the public debate about Covid. It did this by censoring information that was true but politically inconvenient to the government; by discrediting doctors and other experts who deviated from official policy; and by suppressing ordinary users, including some sharing the CDC’s own data.
Lies stayed on the platform if they served the proper political narrative. For example: Someone pointed out that no, in fact Covid was not the leading cause of death for children. Uh-oh! Twitter employees labeled it misleading and banned any further discussion.
The politics on this are actually fairly muddled. A lot of folks on the left want to talk about flaws in the vaccine too, since some there are arguing that the vaccine is not enough and we need long-term lockdown and universal masking. Too bad. That wasn’t allowed either. Lucky for them, though, the lockdown-forever community got two long features this week, one in the New Yorker and one in the New York Times.
In other Twitter news, the FBI is furious that we were skeptical of their involvement in our social media platforms. Here’s what the Bureau had to say: “The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public. It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.”
Many modern American journalists, the ones in very good standing at various mainstream publications, see the FBI as a legitimate partner in controlling the public conversation. We don’t.
→ Meanwhile at our friend TikTok: Nice, quirky TikTok, which would never do anything bad, has been tracking Forbes reporters. In an attempt to uncover leakers, TikTok obtained the IP addresses of multiple reporters covering the company in order to figure out if they were in the same location as TikTok employees. It’s quite a complicated way to root out leakers, but here we are.
TikTok and its parent company ByteDance publicly denied targeting journalists. But then internally the ByteDance CEO acknowledged that, yes, of course they had been tracking reporters movements.
TikTok, a tool of the Chinese Communist Party, is running roughshod over American civil liberties. I don’t expect the American press to stand up against the CCP, which is their preferred government, but I’m surprised there’s so little appetite among Congressmen and women for anything beyond deleting it from their own phones.
→ The fall of Roe has created nightmare scenarios: Since the repeal of Roe, we keep seeing stories of women in the middle of miscarriages, forced to see them through to the bitter end lest a doctor go to jail for performing an abortion. Most recently it’s a woman in Idaho.
Without a rational, federal bill around abortion, we’re left with the utmost extremes. In some states abortion is legal more or less all the way until the end of pregnancy, whereas in others standard IVF practices are on the edge of murder. None of this represents where most Americans are on this issue: moderate.
→ McConnell negs Trump: In another sign that Republicans are really ready to ditch Trump, Mitch McConnell was brutal on the former president in a recent interview with NBC News: “Here’s what I think has changed: I think the former president’s political clout has diminished.” And then on losing the midterms: “We lost support that we needed among independents and moderate Republicans, primarily related to the view they had of us as a party—largely made by the former president—that we were sort of nasty and tended toward chaos.” Nasty and trending toward chaos is a pretty perfect way to describe the former president and his would-be political successors.
→ A Roomba’s-eye-view on the toilet: New smart Roombas, exploring your house and documenting its various nooks and crannies as it cleans, can share those images back to Roomba headquarters, which then isn’t doing a great job of keeping it all private. Which is how we all now have a Roomba’s-eye-view of some poor soul on a toilet, among other leaked images. iRobot, which makes Roombas and—pending acquisition—is about to be owned by Amazon, says these were data-gathering Roombas that people consented to have at home. (I certainly don’t read the fine print consent forms on these things, so who knows how consenty the consent was). Also, what is Amazon doing exactly with those close up images of plungers and dust bunnies? I honestly don’t want to know.
A good rule of thumb for cheap consumer robotics that have cameras: Keep them out of your house.
→ The New York Times declares Louisa May Alcott a man: The trans movement is very determined to go back in history, find any interesting woman who seemed to act outside her prescribed lane (maybe she wore pants, maybe she wanted to vote) and declare that she was actually a man. These historic women should be revised and talked about as literally male. Women don’t vote, silly, and asking for that right means she wants a penis. The latest: Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women. The evidence: She wrote about wishing to have been born a boy and feeling like she had a man’s spirit. Could it be because she was ambitious and living in an era when only men could so much as open bank accounts? No. You have to read it to believe it.
→ Remember Wi Spa? End of the year, end of a mystery. There was a big brouhaha back in June 2021 when someone with a penis (which may or may not have been erect) was wandering naked in the women’s changing area of an LA spa. One woman in the spa complained to the front desk, launching a cascade of protests as antifa came in to “defend the spa.” The Guardian called the whole thing “misinformation” and Slate called it “a hoax.” But it was real. The penis in question belonged to Darren Merager, a convicted sex offender who had been arrested in 2019 for allegedly exposing said penis to children at a pool in West Hollywood. Now, Darren, who had been on the lam, has been arrested again and has given an interview (!) to Los Angeles magazine.
“If nobody else is using a shower curtain or nobody else is using a swimsuit, it’s illegal to try and make me do it,” Darren said. “Technically, and from all perspectives, I am female, and everybody agrees with that. We’re all on equal grounds under the law.”
Whatever you say, Darren! I’m just going to back away real slow now.
→ Life expectancy in the U.S. keeps falling: This is an item every couple months because it just keeps getting more grim. Life expectancy in the U.S. is falling and it’s not something you’re seeing in other wealthy western countries. Some of this has to do with Covid-19, but what sets the US apart from Europe are opioid deaths and obesity.
Meanwhile, in other truly dystopian headlines, Time magazine is coming in hot with: “The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise.” And Consumer Reports this month has an investigation into the high lead and cadmium levels in popular chocolate, pointing out the lead in the exact overpriced chocolate that I’ve been eating. Great.
→ Fun startup going rogue to blot out the sun: If your startup is working to block the sun’s rays and alter our earthly climate by releasing particles into the atmosphere, against the advice of many scientists, you probably should not give the following quote to a journalist when you’re asked about it:
“We joke slash not joke that this is partly a company and partly a cult.”
That’s Luke Iseman, the CEO and cofounder of Make Sunsets. Make Sunsets, which is based in Mexico, claims it has begun to release reflective sulfur particles in the stratosphere to block the sun’s rays, according to the MIT Technology Review. They are “making clouds,” according to the company. The thinking is that this will be helpful in a global warming situation. I like efforts to fix rather than just lament climate change, and I like the Make Sunsets website. I hope Luke lets us have a few rays of sun each day.
→ The end of 2022 we deserve: Because we live in a Clown World, it is only right that the end of this year saw a showdown between Andrew Tate, bro-influencer extraordinaire, and Greta Thunberg, wunderkind climate activist. Let me explain.
Andrew Tate is one of those “I’ll teach you how to be an Alpha Male” influencers who draw in young, self-conscious men. He’s handsome and chomps on a cigar, usually while showing off his chest. Thunberg is the ultra-earnest, strange young woman who became the avatar of all progressive climate change demands.
Tate trolled Thunberg by showing off his gas-guzzlers:
Thunberg—who I am alarmed to discover is now 19 years old—responded thusly:
The next thing that happened was that the perpetually online Tate put out a video mocking Thunberg, which for some reason involved eating some pizza from a local Romanian spot. Hours later, he and his brother were arrested in Bucharest on “suspicion of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized crime group.” Romanian police, classic tools of the woke mob.
When you find yourself wondering how expensive Andrew Tate’s Versace robe is, it’s time to log off and pour yourself a generous glass of wine.
Cheers to a year with all of you. See you in the comments—and right back here to kick off the first Friday of 2023.