Welcome back. For paid subscribers who missed it, we hosted a live discussion on Wednesday about Rupa Subramanya’s investigation about factoring race into sentencing decisions. It was a provocative, intense conversation—highly recommend watching it here.
Okay, let’s get to it!
→ The polls are back: The prospect of an actual election between Biden and Trump or Biden and DeSantis looks fairly even, with it basically at a tie. But in the Republican primary, it’s not so even:
This is why CNN is still melting down over their Trump town hall, in which the audience laughed and cheered for The Donald. Christiane Amanpour this week is talking about how she hopes the audience’s trust in CNN is “shaken, but not shattered,” and CNN media writer Oliver Darcy was scolded by his boss for his overly emotional post–town hall display, yet he continues to tweet about what has become #townhallgate.
They’re panicked with good reason: Trump is well and truly back, baby. But if you remember CNN’s ratings during the Trump presidency, then you know that quivering you see among the talking heads now might not be rage so much as thrill. More like the quivering you hear about in romance novels. There’s an unholy but unstoppable union, a love hidden but never extinguished kind of shake—yes yes yes!—it’s the story of Donald J. Trump and cable news.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani has been sued by a former employee, who alleges a bunch of gross sexual comments and behaviors from the former NYC mayor, and also that Giuliani and Trump were selling presidential pardons. I mean, if I were a betting woman, I’d bet yeah, probably they sold some pardons. Steaks, diplomas, pardons—if the man can stamp it with a TRUMP label, it’s probably for sale.
→ DeSantis gets ready to get in: The New York Times reports that on a call with donors yesterday afternoon, Florida’s governor said that only he could beat Trump: “You have basically three people at this point that are credible in this whole thing,” DeSantis said. “Biden, Trump and me. And I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president—Biden and me, based on all the data in the swing states.” Get the popcorn.
→ RFK is polling at 20 percent: I saw one poll and thought it was a fluke. But yes indeed, in a variety of polls, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is consistently polling around 20 percent. In other presidential contender news: I have a Vivek Ramaswamy voter in my immediate family. Anything can happen.
→ Baltimore suing cars for being too easy to steal: The city of Baltimore is suing Hyundai and Kia for causing a “vehicular crime wave.” The cars are too easy to steal, the city alleges in federal court, and Hyundai and Kia need to equip them with anti-theft technology. Other cities suing the automakers: St. Louis, San Diego, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Seattle. And everyone’s upset with Toyota Prius for having catalytic converters just sitting there, waiting to be snatched. My family has a Honda, and she conducts herself with the dignity a CR-V should; she’d never allow her converter to get taken. And she’s stolen outright only when I more or less consent.
And making a comeback: the suburbs! Now, 45 percent of millennials expect to buy a house in the suburbs, according to new Bank of America survey data that calls it “suburban nation.” Give me two years, tops, and please have the wine chilled and the pistachios shelled for me when I get there.
→ Did Joe Biden just squash the IRS’s Hunter investigation? Sure seems likely. A supervisor at the IRS is alleging political interference into their investigation of Hunter Biden’s taxes, according to The Wall Street Journal. The whistleblower says “his entire investigative team” was removed from the Hunter Biden tax investigation, that the order came directly from the Justice Department, and that it happened weeks after the Biden legal team met with the Justice Department.
At this point, what is there to say about the wayward Prince Hunter? He is not the First Son we deserve, but he is the First Son we have. (He is also probably the First Son we deserve.)
→ Durham report released: After years, Special Counsel John Durham came out with his report on the Russiagate saga and found that indeed, there wasn’t much there with Russiagate, that the FBI acted badly, and that the FBI and mainstream media took us all for a ride. Most importantly, the pee tape source really did just make the whole thing up, which is heartbreaking news to younger me. The FBI released a statement saying basically, they already fixed all this: “The conduct in 2016 and 2017 that Special Counsel Durham examined was the reason that current FBI leadership already implemented dozens of corrective actions.” And the mainstream media, which has never apologized for convincing me to learn so many fake Russian spy names, is calling Durham a bust anyway. (“Failed to deliver,” says the NYT; “a sinister flop,” says The Atlantic.)
Actually, there’s one exception to the party line: Jake Tapper. He said of the report on his prime time show: “It might have not produced everything of what some Republicans hope for, it is regardless devastating to the FBI, and to a degree it does exonerate Donald Trump.” I don’t care what John Durham and Jake Tapper tell me, I believe the moon landing is a little sus and the pee tape is real.
For a smart take on the Durham report, read Eli Lake in our pages: The FBI Didn’t Persecute Hillary. It Protected Her.
→ $14 trillion reparations bill: A group of prominent Democrats are calling for $14 trillion to be paid as reparations to the descendants of slaves. The bill was introduced by Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, who said: “The United States has a moral and legal obligation to provide reparations for the enslavement of Africans and its lasting harm on the lives of millions of Black people.” I’m on board with reparations. At least, I think it’d be better to do a big reparations shebang—cut checks and call it a day—than the strange sort of slow-drip reparations plans we see in liberal institutions. Like, yes, $14 trillion is a lot of money. But if the alternative is Robin DiAngelo trainings till the end of time and making the MCAT illegal and allowing people to self-ID as doctors because that’s more equitable, then $14 trillion is a bargain.
But here’s why reparations (I’m serious, a good idea!) will never happen: simply cutting checks to the descendants of slaves means shuttering all the thousands of racial justice nonprofits that serve as an employment program for America’s white grad students. You do not simply give people money. Maybe Cori Bush could propose something where the government cuts a check and then pays a handful of white PhDs to pass that check back and forth, taking 5 percent each time, then when they each have enough money for a brownstone plus enough left over for a very tasteful remodel, the remainder goes to a descendant of slaves? Still workshopping this one, but I can see us getting somewhere.
This is like when I was in high school and learned how much real estate the Catholic Church owns. Which is like, all of the real estate.
→ Polygamy is coming back! In unrelated news (I will NOT make a Mormon joke, I love Mormons) . . . polygamy is back. People are fighting for their right to have many wives, but with a twist: it’s hipster! It’s called a “polyamorous relationship” (I’ve been in one! In college!) and want laws protecting it (I didn’t like it). You see, it’s not like those Christian bumpkins with lots of wives; now there are many wives but they all get latté art every morning so it’s cool. Plural marriage hits a little different if there’s a fiddle leaf fig in the room.
I’m a yes on this. Live and let live. Comments section, tell me why I’m wrong, and I’ll make my friends at Reason email each of you individually.
→ OpenAI chief wants AI regulation: Sam Altman, the head of artificial intelligence company OpenAI, is calling for regulation of artificial intelligence. Altman, who helms ChatGPT, the leader of the AI pack, thinks the government should maybe do things like require licenses for those developing AI technologies from now on.
Requiring regulation after getting super successful is a time-tested business strategy. And I’m inspired by it. And so: everyone should have to apply for a license to do a news roundup from here onward. You see, I do this and I do it safely. If you are interested in doing this, you ought to have to go to the government and stand before a board (I will choose its members) to apply.
Listen to Bar’s interview with Sam Altman here.
→ Anti-capitalist coffeeshop saved by rage: Gabriel Sims-Fewer, the owner of an anti-capitalist coffee shop in Toronto called The Anarchist, which allowed customers to pay whatever they wanted, announced he was closing shop for lack of funds. “F–k the rich. F–k the police. F–k the state. F–k the colonial death camp we call ‘Canada,’ ” Sims-Fewer wrote in his letter announcing the end of his coffee shop. Conservative media seized on it. How funny! How perfect! The café didn’t even open till 9 a.m. each morning! And that rage blew life right back into it. The new announcement:
Thanks to a huge influx of support, and a very generous donation of publicity and attention from the Christian Conservatives of Texas and Florida, The Anarchist will continue to operate after May 30th. . . . Keep an eye on instagram for updates!
Still very much fuck the rich, the police, and Kkkanada.
Gabriel, a.k.a. The Anarchist
TGIF salutes Gabriel, and we are happy and honored to wait, we assume, a full 18 minutes for that iced matcha and tahini cookie.
→ Paul Gosar is a really scary figure: The Republican congressman from Arizona keeps having ties to white nationalists, specifically Nick Fuentes, who is quite proudly and truly racist, in the original meaning of the word. This week, Talking Points Memo came out with an investigation into how Gosar’s digital director, Wade Searle, is a huge Fuentes fanboy, attending his freaky little chat room rallies and pledging allegiance to the guy with creepy emoji hands as he prattles on about gays and Jews. The Republican Jewish Coalition has released a statement blasting the congressman for having this guy on staff. Though, given that Gosar himself has spoken at Fuentes events, it’s hard to imagine we’re going to see apologies here.
→ Oh god, masking too long makes you sick: A new study out of Germany details the elevated CO2 levels in the air a be-masked person breathes, levels that are actually harmful if you’re pregnant. Citing CO2 safety standards set by the Navy, the scientists find that while masked, someone is breathing extremely toxic levels of CO2. And in fact, the authors postulate: this might be why some mask-mandate countries saw an increase in stillbirths and a drop in childhood test scores during the pandemic, while Covid-chillaxed Sweden did not.
If you’re a mom, it’s worthwhile to read the study itself to let that sweaty fear really sink into your stomach. It’s like a scary movie, but instead you get to stare at your toddler gnawing on a chair and. . . wonder a little.
→ Masha Gessen resigns from PEN Board: Prestigious literary group PEN America was hosting their annual World Voices Festival of International Literature and decided that Russian dissident writers were still too Russian to attend. So they canceled the Russian writers panel. The writer Masha Gessen, one of those Russian dissidents, resigned as vice president of the PEN board over it. Anyway, it’s a typical mess. Amid bad publicity PEN apologized, calling it a big misunderstanding. I’m all for helping the Ukrainians and am pro–Team America World Police, but liberal America’s intensity on this war has gotten to the point where we’re going to have to watch out for suburban dads terrorizing local pierogi joints.
→ Let Senator Feinstein retire: The California senator is back in action this week after a two-month health hiatus, and absolutely alarming everyone. In a brief interview with a writer for Slate, the senator was confused and seemed not to have remembered she was gone at all. Not sure whether to blame her family or the Democratic machine.
→ Eric Adams sees public schools as good migrant housing: The New York City mayor is considering repurposing 20 school gymnasiums to turn into migrant housing.
“The 20 gyms that we are looking at. . . are separate from the actual school buildings. They are independent from the school buildings,” Adams said. “This is one of the last places we want to look at. And none of us are comfortable with having to take these drastic steps. But I could not have been more clear for the last few months of what we are facing: over 65,000 migrant asylum seekers have reached our city.”
Meanwhile, he really has begun busing migrants to the suburbs, which remain in a state of rage.
→ Who knew our cartoonist could write: When I gave cartoonist David Mamet a chance here, he mentioned that he also likes writing, which I encouraged him to pursue. And I’m thrilled to announce, thanks to my loving guidance—and giving him a few hours off (unpaid)—he is making a new movie! With Al Pacino, Viggo Mortensen, Shia LaBeouf, and Rebecca Pidgeon. The topic: The assassination of JFK. I repeat: JFK. With Al Pacino, Viggo Mortensen, Shia LaBeouf, and Rebecca Pidgeon. We’re renting out the theater, and you’re all invited.
Here’s some of Dave’s main work, though, in the meantime:
→ MeToo is out: There were a few years when the focus of modern society was on women and the slogan was #BelieveWomen and make them feel safe and comfortable. Now, #MeToo is #done.
Case #1: The group of sorority sisters in Wyoming who are suing their sorority for allowing a biological male who occasionally IDs as a woman to join, alleging that the new member had a boner while they changed clothes. The villain in the modern telling? Those girls! (Also I will say, the “transwoman” here doesn’t seem totally legit, as it were, in that they haven’t changed the sex on their driver’s license, haven’t had surgery, and apparently rarely even wear women’s clothes. I’m gonna need to see a little more effort before you can go full Kappa Kappa pillow party.)
Case #2: In Seattle, a city official who is a rape survivor didn’t want a convicted repeat sex offender to serve on the homelessness council but was overruled this week. The new line: believe none of these crazy ladies! They’re being a little touchy, don’t you think? A little. . . hysterical?
Meanwhile, to avoid sexual harassment, girls in New York are wearing subway burkas, or “outfit dampeners,” big, loose t-shirts over their actual outfits. I haven’t spent much time in New York but from the two times I’ve been on the subway (screaming, crying, lost), I’d say a scantily clad woman is about the 15th most outlandish thing happening on any given train.
→ Because the culture war was getting boring: The LGBTQ advisory group of Massachusetts is recommending that the commonwealth expand child abuse laws to include “the withholding of gender-affirming care for LGBTQ youth.” (H/t Wesley Yang for finding that.) Tasking child protective services with taking children away if they’re not immediately put on hormone therapy will surely calm the conversation around this.
Meanwhile, Texas Children’s Hospital said they would stop performing hormonal and surgical interventions on gender nonconforming children but has not stopped, according to a City Journal investigation. And The New York Times, in attempting a takedown of pediatric patients who detransitioned, accidentally confirmed that 15-year-old girls are getting mastectomies.
I’m a hard yes on adults doing with their bodies what they want, when they want. And I’m a hard wait and see on kids under 18 wanting medical intervention. But no wait, no see in America.
→ Florida teacher in trouble for showing a Disney movie: One fifth-grade teacher is under state investigation after playing the Disney movie Strange World, since doing so might have violated DeSantis’s new law. She pressed that fateful play button to entertain kids while others were finishing some standardized testing. The movie is rated PG and all the students’ parents had approved showing PG movies, but you see: there’s a gay character in Strange World.
That teacher, Jenna Barbee, spoke to CNN about the fallout: “I had no idea whatsoever that this was such a big deal.”
School board member Shannon Rodriguez is leading the charge against Barbee, saying: “As a leader in this community, I’m not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools. . . . God did put me here.” Speak your truth, Shannon!
Ron DeSantis is probably not going to be the Republican nominee, but oh, Ron DeSantis will strike the fear of God into elementary school teachers who even think of playing a Disney movie that isn’t the one where a princess gets kissed while she’s sleeping.
Elsewhere in Florida: at Mar-a-Lago this week, a band of Village People impersonators were performing in chaps and unbuttoned shirts by the pool. And where was Trump? Dancing along.