TGIF: Kickin’ Ass for the Laptop Class
Migrants at Martha’s Vineyard. Hillary at The Met. Goldman Sachs back at the office. And much more.
What’s up, Common Sensors?
Shawn McCreesh here. I’m a features writer at New York magazine, where I cover politics, the Manhattan media elite and crazy rich people stuff. This week I wrote about the mutiny at the Gray Lady. (Click it or stick it.)
This is my first time publishing from within the hallowed halls of Substack, so everyone be nice.
Before we get to the juiciest news of the week, here’s some of the good stuff that was published at Common Sense: To celebrate—or maybe, commemorate—the 10-year anniversary of the dating app Tinder, Suzy Weiss spent some time talking to the digital dating app’s biggest losers. There was also a symposium on the subject of Tinder’s legacy, with takes from Jordan Peterson, Katherine Dee, Emma Camp, and more.
Jesse Singal delivered an autopsy of a racism sham at B.Y.U.. Rachel Richardson—the only black starter on Duke University’s women’s volleyball team—leveled a shocking accusation last month, when she said she was inundated with racist slurs at a match at the Mormon school. The press ran with it. But there's no evidence it happened.
And On Honestly, Bari spoke with Dr. Casey Means, a Stanford-trained doctor who left the traditional medical system behind to tackle the 300-pound question: Why are Americans so fat?
Here’s what else happened this week:
→ “Welcome to the Seventh Circle of Hell”: If you read one thing this weekend, make it this sprawling, investigative opus on the sordid saga of Hunter Biden’s laptop, by my colleagues Andrew Rice and Olivia Nuzzi. Imagine putting Burn After Reading, The Maltese Falcon, Boogie Nights and The Parallax View into a blender. (Forgive the logrolling; I promise it’s that good.)
The New York Post first began publishing things it found on the laptop in October 2020, just before the election. When the Big Brothers of Big Tech tried to squash it right out of the gate, the story metastasized into something much bigger: It became a question of censorship, and the relationship between tech, the press and the Democratic Party.
This was the hard drive that broke the media. New York Post reporters quibbled over who had to put their name on the story. Everyone from Brian Stelter to NPR kept flip-flopping on whether it was real or if they should even cover it, or if covering it somehow made it real. Glenn Greenwald ended up leaving The Intercept over the thing.
I still feel conflicted. Some fun right-wingers I know who hang out at the Beach Cafe—it’s this wacky spot in my neighborhood on the Upper East Side where they love to go—have been harping about this for a while. I always found their obsession with it, and the search for a smoking gun that probably was never going to emerge, to be rather reaching. I understood why they felt gaslit: Despite the Sturm und Drang of the legacy press, everyone always knew that the laptop was real. It just took the media years to admit it. And certainly, Hunter’s overseas ventures were pretty grimy. But after reading about all the scoundrels involved in peddling this thing, and their various motivations, it isn’t hard to see why the press was so wary of this story.
→ Royalmania in America reaches peak cringe: It’s perfectly understandable that the Brits are in meltdown mode. Lizzie was their last link to a glorious past. The U.K. has been reeling backward, shrinking in on herself, for some time now. And so, the London media circus around the Queen’s death continues, while the unbelievably long queue to take a glimpse at her coffin lying in state at Westminster Hall snakes for miles along the south bank of the Thames.
But what’s our excuse? I walked to my neighborhood newsstand for a pack of smokes this past Wednesday morning, which is when the latest issues of magazines get delivered. My guy gestured down at all the fresh print covers and lamented: “Queen, Queen, Queen. And Harry Styles. That’s all.” It’s bloody impossible to turn on the television, open a periodical or social media without being assaulted by something that reads like bad satire. “The Queen’s Bees Have Been Informed of Her Passing,” reports Vanity Fair without a trace of humor or acknowledgement that bees can’t be informed of anything. If only Christopher Hitchens were still here. “Buckingham Palace did not respond to a request for comment about who would now be caring for the dogs,” wrote the New York Times in a somber live briefing item about…corgis. In Vogue, Annie Leibovitz offered this poignant remembrance: “It was her duty sitting for photographs—part of what she did.” Um… okay?
“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”
If there’s one place you can go to escape around the clock coverage of this never-ending funeral procession, it’s an Irish bar. In the words of Seamus Heaney: “Be advised, my passport’s green/No glass of ours was ever raised/To toast the Queen.”
→ Clinton family field trip: Asked this week by CBS News if she would ever run for president again, Hillary Clinton said “No, no.” But lately, she’s been doing something much more alarming than forgetting to go to Wisconsin.
She’s been wandering around the Greek and Egyptian galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, comparing herself to the statues. In promo material for her new eight part docu-series—which is called Gutsy and will appear on Apple TV+ and is about, well, “gutsy women”—she strolls through the museum with her daughter, Chelsea, who comes to a stop before a gold statuette and whispers, “Diana, Goddess of the Hunt…” Her mother nods sagely. “Anytime you’re in this incredible space,” she says, “you think about history and you think about those who are willing to step up and speak out.”
Paging Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler—this is getting weird!!!
→ Democrats play hide-and-seek: On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, the Democrat vying to be the state’s next junior senator, finally agreed to debate his Republican foe, Mehmet Oz (aka Dr. Oz). Fetterman, you’ll recall, suffered a stroke in May, and has, since then, spent a great deal of time insisting he’s getting better every day while pretty much hiding from reporters. The Fetterman campaign’s agreement to take part in the debate—on October 25, more than a month after early voting starts in Pennsylvania—came in the wake of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Washington Post editorializing that, if he’s not fit to debate, he might not be fit to be a United States Senator.
“Since returning to the campaign trail, Mr. Fetterman has been halting in his performances,” the Post observed. “He stammers, appears confused and keeps his remarks short. He has held no news conferences. Mr. Fetterman acknowledges his difficulties with auditory processing, which makes it hard for him to respond quickly to what he’s hearing. He receives speech therapy—and we wish him a speedy, full recovery—but the lingering, unanswered questions about his health, underscored by his hesitation to debate, are unsettling.”
(There’s now a debate brewing about video clips appearing to show Fetterman struggling to speak clearly. He is contending that the clips, which were posted on Twitter and TikTok, have been doctored. “The videos include slight edits, such as cutting out the sound of the audience to make it appear as if he had abruptly stopped speaking,” NBC News reported. But “slight edits” can only account for so much, and these clips are inspiring legitimate doubt. Watch them for yourself.)
For now, Fetterman’s best hope—not unfounded, given polls showing him slightly ahead of Oz—is Oz himself. In a pattern that seems to be playing out across America, Democrats’ best hope of limiting their losses this election season appears to be the GOP, which has nominated several candidates in the mold of their idol (Donald Trump) who have a knack for shooting themselves in the foot. (See, for example, Dr. Oz’s “Wegners” flap. Or Blake Masters, in Arizona, mysteriously editing his website. Or Herschel Walker being Herschel Walker, in Georgia. Lambasting a new climate-change law, the former NFL football star recently said, “Don’t we have enough trees around here?”)
→ SF Crime won’t quit. It’s hard to decide which part of this big new San Francisco Chronicle poll is more shocking. Is it that “nearly half of respondents said they were victims of theft in the last five years”? Or is it that “roughly a quarter were physically attacked or threatened”? Midtown Manhattan is starting to seem a whole lot nicer.
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→ The strike that wasn’t: Federal government officials and railway workers have avoided a strike that would have dealt a blow to the economy less than two months before the midterm elections, it was announced Thursday. The tentative deal appears to have been mostly hammered out by Labor Department and union higher-ups, with a little help from President Joe Biden. One question the twittering classes had was: Where’s Pete? As in Buttigieg, our Transportation Secretary. Lefties were wondering whether he was just using his job as a platform to run for the White House again. “It’s really surprising that throwing the mayor of South Bend into the Transportation Department where he spends his time preparing another presidential run hasn’t worked out so well for the nation’s transportation!” snarked Ryan Grim of The Intercept.
→ Energy crisis deepens in Europe: In the U.K. the new Tory prime minister, Liz Truss, is limiting energy bill price hikes for all households for two years. In Germany, plans have recently been announced to delay the phasing out of two nuclear power plants. And in the Netherlands, people are being asked to… shower in under five minutes. On average, the Dutch spend 9 minutes in the shower. Thea Derks, a music journalist in Amsterdam, told the Wall Street Journal that she’s down to showering just once a week, for under five minutes.
→ A third-world water crisis right here in America: What’s happening in Europe is pretty luxe compared to what the people of Jackson, Mississippi have been dealing with. After nearly seven weeks, their governor lifted the boil-water advisory that had been in effect. The city, which is almost 83% black, has nightmarish infrastructure problems. Aging pipes froze last February, cutting off water. When it does run, it often isn’t safe for consumption.
→ Speaking of energy cutbacks…what about all those dead oligarchs? So far, in 2022, 12 Russian oligarchs have mysteriously—and violently–met their ends. Most appear to have committed “suicide.” Some were murdered along with their wives and children. Alexander Subbotin was discovered in a shaman’s basement, outside Moscow, having reportedly died from a drug-induced heart attack (which may have included the typical toad poison) that was part of “an anti-hangover session.”
The same phenomenon has been reported in China. Maybe the lesson here is: There is no such thing as independent wealth in authoritarian regimes. Just wealth that is dependent on the good graces of the powers that be.
→ The great Return to Office war rages on. Down on Wall Street, the bosses are done asking nicely. Jamie Dimon and DJ David Solomon have been itching to get asses back in seats for months, and their ability to corral their own troops was looked at as a weathervane for the future of the Great American Office, because if the Gordon Gekko’s of the world can’t get their Bud Fox’s back at their cubicles, who can? Solomon has finally got some leverage: Goldman Sachs expects to start making layoffs soon and now the troops are scrambling to show that, actually, they really do want to work! When some showed up to their Lower Manhattan headquarters this week, they discovered that the bosses had put a lid on the free coffee—which had appeared as an early pandemic perk. “The brass has since determined it doesn’t need sweeteners to get people back to the office, reported the New York Post. “Instead, management now believes the threat of getting fired should be more than enough incentive.” It was small, but delicious revenge.
Meanwhile, farther Uptown, New York Times bosses were having the complete opposite experience. As I wrote about this week, they tossed out a rather lame pandemic perk—Times branded lunchboxes—and hoped it would get their staffers back to the newsroom. Instead, 1,300 said they wouldn’t return until they had an acceptable labor contract. (Negotiations with their union have been dragging on for a long while now.) Some are suggesting a strike could be around the corner…
→ Planesful of migrants arrive at Martha’s Vineyard. This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott engaged in a political stunt so shocking they really might trump Trump. Abbott sent a bus of migrants to the Veep’s residence in D.C., while DeSantis chartered two planes carrying migrants into the heart of liberal East Coast elitedom, Martha’s Vineyard. (Larry David and Spike Lee both have homes there. As does Obama. It’s where he threw his celebrity-packed 60th birthday bash last summer.) At a presser on Thursday, DeSantis said, “We’ve worked on innovative ways to be able to protect the state of Florida from the impact of Biden’s border policies.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was right when she called it a “cruel, premeditated political stunt” that was “reckless and just plain wrong.” But cruel political stunts sometimes pay off. (See: Trump’s entire first campaign.) Or they backfire. DeSantis has his eye on 2024 and this will certainly enthrall the base, but who knows how it will play to most Americans.
Politico reported that the arrival of the migrants— there were nearly four dozen, including a child in need of medical attention — “stunned local officials on the island.” Their first night on the island was spent at St. Andrews Episcopal Church and a parish house in Edgartown. That’s close to Obama’s place. He’s got 29.3 acres on the waterfront. Might be cool to use it for something other than a Hollywood party.
→ If you thought your high school was bad . . . A front-page New York Times investigation into a network of Hasidic schools dotting Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley region revealed that the schools fail to teach the children much of anything. Twelve-year-olds don’t know their ABCs; one man said he’d never read a secular book until someone gave him “Green Eggs and Ham” at the age of 28—and teachers have reportedly beaten their male students. This, while the schools are showered with gobs of taxpayer dollars.
The linchpin of this story is that major New York pols from Bill de Blasio to Andrew Cuomo to Governor Kathy Hochul to now Mayor Adams did and said nothing for fear of pissing off the Hasidic voting bloc. That’s how you end up with Adams tweeting a video of himself going down a slide at one of these schools and insisting our education system “be culturally sensitive.” Asked about the story on Monday, Adams said, “I’m not concerned about the findings of the article.” (He later added that “any form of corporal punishment” is “not acceptable.”)
The people here at Common Sense were intrigued by this Twitter thread from Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow at AEI and himself a former Bronx public school teacher. He points out that the Times report lacked some critical context: It placed particular emphasis on the fail rates of the Yeshivas, but didn’t mention that city schools can be just as bad in that regard. (He pointed to a 2014 study which found that dozens of city schools failed to pass a single black or hispanic student on state exams for math or reading.)
→ Oh look, Facebook is doing something creepy again: The social media giant banned filmmaker Joshua Newton from promoting his Holocaust movie, Beautiful Blue Eyes, because it ran afoul of the social media giant’s policy against content that “includes direct or indirect assertions or implications about a person’s race.”
The reference to “blue eyes” apparently refers to a key scene about a child in the movie. Newton, who is the son of two Holocaust survivors, told Rolling Stone: “This is the action of haters—and there are sadly many in our society—who seek to damage the film in order to trivialize the Holocaust.”
The cyborgs at Facebook seem to have learned little from the global backlash that ensued in 2016 after they banned one of the most important images in the history of photography—the picture of the little girl fleeing a Napalm attack in Vietnam that was taken by the Pulitzer Prize-winner Nick Ut.
→ National Adderall shortage: More than six in 10 pharmacies are having trouble stocking the ADHD drug, according to a survey last month from the National Community Pharmacists Association. I'll be stockpiling mine for the long, dark months ahead.
That’s all from me. Good night, good luck, and TGIF!