Jennifer Coolidge accepts the Best Supporting Actress award for "The White Lotus.” (Rich Polk via Getty Images).

TGIF: Planes, Trains, and Gastric Bypass for Kids

Out for 2023: the IRS, gas stoves, pictures of Muhammad, National Merit Scholarship certificates, cardigans, and the British monarchy.

Welcome back to TGIF. 

Four months ago I believed I gave birth to a perfect angel. In an unexpected twist, our daughter—whom I have extended meetings with at 1 A.M., 3 A.M., and 5 A.M.—appears to be an active member of ISIS, sent here to break us. So forgive me if I’m punchier than usual this week. Ok, here we go . . . 

→ American infrastructure in collapse: It’s unfair to say American infrastructure is third world, which is an insult to Peru and Tunisia and all the good developing nations. But American infrastructure is a unique shame, since we are so rich as a nation, and the rails and pipes and air control systems that hold us together are so very poor. This week saw every flight in the country just randomly grounded thanks to software trouble. You know it’s not good when the cutesy FAA Twitter account is on “Update 6.”

Meanwhile on Amtrak, one breakdown this week was so extreme, so inexplicable, that passengers began assuming they’d been taken hostage. An accident along a track between Virginia and Florida added 12 hours to one train’s journey. Staff needed to be switched out. At one point, panicked passengers started calling 911. 

You know it’s bad when you, as a train conductor, have to reassure your passengers they are not hostages in a terrorist plot: “Once again, for those of you calling the police, we are not holding you hostage. We are giving you all the information we have and apologize for the inconvenience.”

I used to like Pete Buttigieg because he was my type of politician (a technocratic McKinsey shill with a sassy partner) but McKinsey would never put up with this. 

→ Out of the grounded planes and into the fire: Never mind the trains and the planes. This week, the Biden administration was instead laser-focused on the most important issue of our era: banning new gas stoves. Now, I’m a health freak and lover of Big Brother public health interventions (a la Bloomberg’s Big Gulp Ban). I want raw spring water to flow from my faucet. I’ve never met a car seat I didn’t want to install just to be sure. But of all the interventions we need, this is such a minor and bizarre one.

The administration is claiming gas stoves cause 12.7% of all pediatric asthma cases, citing a December 14 study. To be safe, I looked into the research myself (i.e.: I read Emily Oster’s post on the topic). She says it’s really not true. “Overall analysis, though, suggests that factor may be small relative to other factors—including other kinds of air pollution from (say) cars.” But beyond that, she writes, “we do not see the kind of smoking gun in any of these data that would suggest a really consistent link.” 

Within days, thanks to backlash, the administration dropped the idea. I turned the gas all the way up across my giant range this morning, breathing in American freedom. 

→ The GOP keeps trying to abolish the IRS: This is, I guess, going to be a major Republican effort now. House Republicans are voting on a bill to abolish the IRS and eliminate the national personal and corporate income tax. The bill would also abolish the death, gift and payroll taxes. This is happening thanks to the growing power of the right-wing Freedom Caucus.

Nothing will come of the effort. But no one likes the IRS, and I guess it feels good to say I voted to end those jerks, your boat is a deductible business expense in my heart. Like any good American, I would like lower taxes. But I also like roads and running water and our military. 

→ Mishandling classified documents is apparently no big deal now: Biden staffers found classified documents including “intelligence memos” in the president’s Delaware garage and his pre-Oval Office office. The documents were “discovered” by the president’s team right before the midterms but announced only this week. 

Do you remember the apoplectic panic about the classified documents at Mar-A-Lago? No comparison says Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who said: “There is no comparison. They were in a locked closet. They were not accessible.” Biden during a press conference emphasized that even the documents in his garage were well-guarded, since they were being kept by his car: “My Corvette is in a locked garage, OK? So it’s not like they’re sitting out on the street.”

Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to look into this classified document situation. But why was Biden hiding these documents in the first place? And why announce their “discovery” now? Likely it’s related to the fact that Republicans are going to launch a series of investigations into, among other things, Biden family corruption. For a taste of what’s to come from Republicans here, I recommend watching this Tucker Carlson monologue. There are a lot of GOP-led Hunter Biden investigations coming. We’ll be following along.  

→ Inflation is getting under control: Consumer prices are 6.5% higher now than last year. That’s still real inflation, but it’s coming much slower than the height of the stimmy check, money-firehose days. Cheers to the Fed.

→ Meet our new colleague, SBF: We who publish on Substack are a family, and so it’s with a lot of joy that I welcome my brother in blogs: Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced crypto magnate and Dem megadonor. On Thursday, comrade Bankman-Fried published a long, dense piece continuing to explain just how innocent he is and how his various crypto schemes (FTX and Alameda) were very legitimate. He does summarize it nicely: “All of which is to say: no funds were stolen,” he writes. Meanwhile, his old company, which declared bankruptcy, recently “discovered” $5 billion more in cash and liquid assets. Sorry, what? And from where? Impossible to know, really. As the Wall Street Journal puts it: “The company didn’t keep reliable financial records and lacked normal corporate controls under past management.”

→ George Santos should definitely resign: The Republican congressman from New York who fabricated his entire resume is just . . . not resigning. Sure, he lied about all those properties, his education, family, a 9/11 connection, Jewish heritage, and probably his own name, but his plan seems to be: keep on keeping on. And get in an elevator as quickly as humanly possible

Some House Republicans are calling for him to resign. But not enough. Weirdly, Santos said he would resign if 142,000 people asked him to. More than 142,000 of you read TGIF every week, so what I’m saying is we could really accomplish something together. 

And now a brief interlude from our resident cartoonist, David Mamet . . . 

→ Please stop making TGIF so easy: Government administrators seem to be misreading TGIF. This newsletter is not meant to be inspirational. These missives (a primal scream) are not meant to give you fresh ideas for the lunch-and-learn. This month the state of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services decided to ban the term “field worker” (as did the University of Southern California). The term does not have a racist history at all, but apparently the word “field” is triggering. "Phrases such as ‘going into the field’ or ‘field work’ may have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers that are not benign," USC administrators wrote

This movement is so removed from the reality of what actually happens in rural America that it literally believes the word “field” is racist. People do realize that food is grown in fields, right? Baseball is played there and I’m pretty sure it’s something you can do with questions too. You have to be many generations deep into city-living for the word “field” to make you think of white supremacy instead of something like garlic. 

→ More drugs and surgery for kids: The American Academy of Pediatrics this week came out with new recommendations: Obese children should be given weight loss drugs and surgery at ages as young as 12 and 13, respectively. Now, that is probably the right thing to do for severely obese children. But also: The new recommendations argue that “obesity is a chronic disease.” Obesity, in the new mindset, can never be about choices. It is not a lifestyle problem. 

The message is: body positivity and junk food are a-ok (can’t be shaming anyone!) until the American medical establishment can profit, and then it’s a sharp pivot to  hardcore drugs and surgery. It’s cheap, government-subsidized corn products shoveled into school lunches, then a series of expensive drugs for chemically imbalanced adolescents. There is no middle ground. 

One thing I noticed in the new pediatric guideline is they use the word overweight in a way I’d never seen. It goes: “youth with overweight and obesity.” As in: “This is the AAP’s first clinical practice guideline (CPG) outlining evidence-based evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents with overweight and obesity.” Obesity and “overweight” is a disease you catch. 

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