TGIF: We Made It to January 7
Teachers unions hold families hostage. Patton Oswalt apologizes for being friends with Dave Chappelle. Lin-Manuel Miranda sings for January 6. And more.
Welcome back. We made it through January 6 without riots from either side. Mazel tov to all.
Now to the news:
→ January 6 is a strange new American holiday: And it has very strange rituals. Nancy Pelosi introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Hamilton cast to perform “Dear Theodosia” via Zoom:
More than a dozen senators spoke to commemorate the anniversary. Historians spoke (it’s all on CSPAN here). Biden of course blamed Trump for it, and Trump sort of blamed Biden. Kamala Harris compared the riot to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. In the evening, there was a candlelight vigil.
Liz and Dick Cheney were the only Republicans present in the chamber for the ceremony, and Democrats lined up to shake their hands. (A truly surreal scene for anyone who remembers the early 2000s.)
Democrats have good incentive to replay scenes from the January 6 riot indefinitely and to argue, essentially, that all Republicans are those rioters, which is about as fair as saying all Democrats were lighting Seattle on fire in the months prior. The Times editorial board tells us that “Every Day is Jan. 6 Now.” This is not true. It’s possible to condemn the riots without comparing them to Pearl Harbor or saying that January 6 is any kind of new normal.
→ You know what’s better than teaching? Forever vacation! The teachers union in Chicago voted on whether to come back in person, and guess what? They voted no. They’d rather stay on Zoom, thanks! So 330,000 children are home from school in Chicago for a third day, despite the mayor’s opposition.
The fight to keep schools closed is maddening, especially considering what we know now, two years into this.
We now know Zoom school is a farce—one that especially hurts poor children. (Meanwhile, for a sense of how well these public schools are working in general, consider that only about 23% of Chicago eighth graders are proficient in reading. That’s right. Nearly 80% of Chicago’s public school eighth graders are not proficient in reading. And that’s a statistic from before the pandemic.) The mental health issues of isolating children and forcing them to cover their faces will take decades to measure. An early, chilling flare from the U.S. Surgeon General last month: Self-harm amongst adolescent girls has skyrocketed by 51%.
We knew another wave of Covid was coming and we were told it was being taken care of. Congress gave public schools $122 billion in March for Covid preparedness. They spent the money, but schools are still closing.
Meanwhile, teachers’ unions are still holding families hostage. One thing that seems relevant is that teachers unions are using the pandemic to bargain for various new benefits. In California in mid-2021, after refusing to return unless they got subsidized child care, teachers won a $500 a month childcare stipend.
Meanwhile, some of the children lucky enough to be in schools are still being made to sit outside in the winter cold to eat socially distant lunch. The only way to make sense of that cruelty is to realize a lot of people have a little sadism in them.
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→ Space-laser congresswoman gets the tech boot: Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conspiratorial representative from Georgia, was permanently kicked off Twitter. Strangely, I think this will work in her favor. Seeing the unvarnished voices of our politicians is a double-edged sword, and without social media, someone like Rep. Greene can seem closer to reasonable. (Another recent tweet that’s probably not helpful for getting votes: AOC posted that her critics are just taking out their sexual frustration on her.)
→ Whoops, we keep banning conservatives entirely by accident: The writer, mother of five and friend of Common Sense, Bethany Mandel, edits a children’s book series that puts out books about conservative heroes such as Amy Coney Barrett and Ronald Reagan. She said that Facebook banned them from advertising, citing that they are “disruptive content.”
After an online outrage, Facebook backed down. Here’s Andy Stone, Facebook’s Policy Communications Director, who previously worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: “This should not have happened. It was an error, and the ad account’s been restored.”
Here’s Andy Stone in October 2020, announcing the platform’s suppression of news about Hunter Biden’s laptop and allegations of corruption against his father: “While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want to be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.”
The new directives he sent out indicate that if you do an armed robbery of a business, but the gun isn’t loaded and no one is seriously injured, you ought to be prosecuted for petty larceny (a misdemeanor). Garage or backyard storage unit break-ins are downgraded (if the guy’s not in your bedroom itself, were you even robbed?). Drug dealers believed to be low-level will be charged only with a misdemeanor. He won’t prosecute: turnstile jumping, traffic infractions, trespassing, and resisting arrest for many types of crimes.
“The Office will not seek a carceral sentence other than for homicide,” Bragg wrote, or for very extreme cases like violent felonies with a deadly weapon that cause serious injury. Otherwise: Back on the street.
→ Climate change satire is a hit: A movie about how Americans would respond if they were told a meteor was heading to earth is now one of the most popular ever on Netflix, with people spending more than 159 million hours streaming it during its first week.
The movie, “Don’t Look Up,” stars Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio as scientists begging people to care about impending doom. One of the writers behind it is David Sirota, a former top Bernie Sanders presidential campaign advisor with a flame-throwing online persona. And, as if on cue now that I find something to love in the Bernie diaspora, the movie has been panned by critics.
We at Common Sense watched the flick and had very mixed reviews. Some say it was heavy handed. Others say that was the whole point.
So Patton Oswalt posted a really depressing apology. “I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I didn’t consider the hurt this would cause,” he wrote, along with a photo of himself alone, downcast and hunched over legal pads.
It’s so sad watching people try to stay in Good Standing. It’s sad watching a grown man throw his friend under the bus. For what? To make the ten meanest people on Twitter like you?
→ What’s cancel-worthy one year is common sense the next: Speaking of things that get you yelled at for no good reason, here’s one: suggesting Covid severity is linked to obesity and that healthy lifestyles are protective.
Now, finally—and uselessly since the worst of this pandemic is over—CNN is coming out this week saying that weight matters and losing weight helps one fight the virus off. But don’t worry, we still have the Times with an essay this week on why “diet culture is immoral.”
→ Mr. and Mr. Smith: Independence is the hot new thing in media.
This week, The New York Times media columnist Ben Smith and Bloomberg Media chief Justin Smith left their high perches to start something new.
“I think that there’s a big audience that wants journalism that respects their intelligence,” Ben Smith said. He added that the era of social-media driven news is done.
We’re eager to see what they build.
And now, a short guest essay from Honestly producer Suzy Weiss…
While Everyone’s Talking About Bitcoin, Normies Can’t Find Quarters
In the subterranean Ocean’s 8 Billiards, a pool hall and bar down the block from my Brooklyn apartment, the manager, Norman Alexander, 67, wants to know where all the quarters have gone. “We’re running around to banks in Jersey trying to get them to give us quarters,” he says. “They just don’t have any.”
Anyone who is anyone is obsessed over which cryptocurrency will go to the moon (I, of course, bought my coins near the top). So the death, or at least dearth, of domestic hard monies has gone largely unnoticed.
But for businesses where coins—specifically quarters—are still very much in vogue (think laundromats, arcades, car washes, casinos and corner stores), the shortage has left the little guys scrambling.
A bodega clerk in the Lower East Side says he’s been forced to accept card payments for tiny amounts since he can't come up with change—usually they have a ten dollar purchase minimum—three to four percent of which he says goes to the credit card companies. “Today’s generation is more tap and leave,” he says, “They carry less cash, and they never have change.”
Scott Chernis, 48, the owner of a chain of three self-service laundromats in San Francisco, has posted on Craigslist and NextDoor offering cash for quarters. He also has a fixer: a teller at his local Chase branch. “When an older customer came in with five hundred dollars in quarters, I was her first call.”
In Brooklyn, store owners and managers have taken to driving to bank branches in the suburbs of the tristate area, where they tend to have better luck scoring rolls. “I heard about some pizza guys from a few blocks away talking about how they have a connection in Jersey that could get them quarters,” says Benny Williams, another manager at Ocean’s who brought in his own stash of change when the tills were running low.
So what gives?
The U.S. Mint insists that there is no shortage. In fact, production is up. America has minted 13 billion coins so far this year, which accounts for 30% of the coins in circulation (usually the Mint accounts for less than 20% of new coins annually), but the loot is not being turned over nearly as much as it should. “This is NOT a coin supply problem,” a rep for the U.S. Mint told me via email. “It’s a circulation problem.”
Fewer coins in circulation and fewer transitions in cash means there will be more digital payments, keeping everything nice and trackable, the cornerstone of any self-respecting surveillance state.
Solution: Gather ye coin jars. Let’s get spending, dime by dime.
This Week on Common Sense
We kicked off the week with Dr. Marty Makary’s excellent essay about how universities’ Covid policies defy science and reason.
Douglas Murray wrote about a noxious incident on the right that should not go ignored.
But I think the best thing on the site this week was our first subscriber-thread. More than 1,000 of you wrote in, introducing yourselves. We’ve been reading them all week and are just stunned. Much more to come on this front, but for now I highly recommend anyone feeling politically lonely to spend an hour reading through.
Have a wonderful weekend. TGIF.