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TGIF: Free the Elders! Nellie Bowles

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A new poll shows that 77 percent of adults think President Joe Biden, aged 80, is too old to serve four more years. (Wiktor Szymanowicz via Getty Images)

Welcome back. Hope you all had a nice vacation. I learned that our daughter loves chewing the ice from a gin and tonic, which I’m sure is not indicative of anything about her mother. 

→ You choose between old or crooked: You’ll be shocked to know that a lot of Americans associate Biden with the words old, outdated, aging, and Trump with corrupt, criminal, crooked. And they associate Nellie Bowles with smart, talented, and prettier in person. Weird! 

About three-quarters of voters in fact think Biden is too old to run, according to the WSJ, and his support among minority voters continues to erode. How do Republicans do against Biden in a matchup? Biden and Trump are tied neck and neck. But Nikki Haley is beating Biden handily! Haley hive rise up! Now, this poll also says Mike Pence would win, and I know for a fact that only seven people would vote for Mike Pence, so make of it what you will.

Anyway, we all know how the Republican primary will work: all these men and Nikki Haley will fight for months in elaborate televised debates, each dutifully reported on and parsed for meaning, and it won’t matter because Trump’s getting the nom. But just for fun, just to live the lie for a little longer:

→ Is the congressional elder abuse hotline disconnected? Someone help Mitch McConnell. He has experienced a couple of freezing episodes on camera, with the most recent lasting about 30 seconds. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know what these are. But I know that America’s elders are being abused right before our eyes. I know that Dianne Feinstein, whose daughter has power of attorney over her legal affairs, should not be a sitting senator. Joe Biden’s speech in Maui, when he finally showed up, was bizarre. There are 115 confirmed dead with more than 100 still missing, a tragedy compounded by disastrous local politicians, and Biden compared it all to his small kitchen fire: “I don’t want to compare difficulties, but we have a little sense, Jill and I, of what it was like to lose a home. Years ago—now 15 years—I was in Washington doing Meet the Press. . . . [L]ightning struck at home on a little lake that’s outside of our home—not a lake, a big pond—and hit a wire and came up underneath our home into the. . . air conditioning ducts. To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my ’67 Corvette, and my cat.”

“Not the ’Vette!” shouted the people who lost homes and loved ones. 

If our parents or grandparents acted this way, we would take away the car. Let alone the country. 

Even The Guardian is concerned with that speech and Mitch’s freezes, coming out this week with: “Too old to govern? The age problem neither US party wants to talk about.” Oh, I’ll talk about it. Let me into Congress and I will free these elders. I will lead a very slow march straight to bingo and fruit salad. (Which honestly sounds so relaxing.)

→ Tucker’s credulous interview: Tucker Carlson this week brought to his show a man who claims he smoked crack and had gay sex with former president Barack Obama. First of all: I’m pro both legal drugs and gay sex. But more to the point: if you’re going to try to smear Obama with lies, at least find a better liar. Or a liar with teeth. 

As the writer Tim Miller put it: “Larry Sinclair had fraud charges in two states, went to jail in three, filed an affidavit 20 years ago saying he couldn’t stand trial because he was terminally ill (seems to be alive now), Colorado records list him with 13 aliases, and he failed a polygraph test over these claims.” Or as Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy said: “I met Larry Sinclair when I was doing my Tucker thing a couple weeks ago. I would trust Anna Delvey before I trusted anything Larry Sinclair said. Top to bottom maybe the least trustworthy human I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

The right beclowns itself with this stuff. And while I always took Tuck with a grain of salt, now I’m not even sure of that. How much had Fox News been holding him back from all this? Last: I’m sorry, but whatever your politics are, we all know that Obama is an attractive man, and if he ever had a boyfriend, the guy would be a 10. 


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June 18, 2024 Heather Cox Richardson

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My First Job, at the Stanford Internet Observatory Julia Steinberg

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Like a zillion other bright-eyed Stanford undergrads, I was drawn to work at a place that promised I’d “learn about the abuse of the internet in real time,” writes Julia Steinberg. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

The Stanford Internet Observatory—a research center tasked with rooting out “misinformation” on social media—is shutting its doors. Chances are if you’ve heard of the SIO it was in a scathing piece from Michael Shellenberger or Matt Taibbi, who have accused the center of being a key node in the censorship-industrial complex.

It was also my first employer. Like a zillion other bright-eyed Stanford undergrads, I was drawn to work at a place that promised to “learn about the abuse of the internet in real time, to develop a novel curriculum on trust and safety that is a first in computer science, and to translate our research discoveries into training and policy innovations for the public good.” To me, that meant ending internet abuse like the glamorization of anorexia on social media or financial scams that steal billions every year. But mostly I worked on the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP), which SIO ran during the 2020 and 2022 elections. The purpose of that project was to identify so-called “fake news” spreading on social media. 

In actuality, SIO hired a load of interns to scan social media for posts deemed to be mis- and disinformation. It turns out that the posts we students flagged were often sent along to moderators at Twitter (now X), Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, which took them down in order to quash dissenting viewpoints—viewpoints that sometimes ended up being right, as in the case of Covid likely being the result of a lab leak, or Hunter Biden’s hard drive being his actual hard drive—not Russian disinformation. 

Thanks to the work of independent journalists, the SIO’s work has come under a lot of scrutiny, including in Washington. A recent House Judiciary Committee report alleges that, by cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security, the SIO’s Election Integrity Partnership “provided a way for the federal government to launder its censorship activities in hopes of bypassing both the First Amendment and public scrutiny.” 

The SIO has stated that “Stanford has not shut down or dismantled SIO as a result of outside pressure. SIO does, however, face funding challenges as its founding grants will soon be exhausted.” But on June 13, Platformer reported that much of SIO’s staff was on the way out: “Its founding director, Alex Stamos, left his position in November. Renee DiResta, its research director, left last week after her contract was not renewed. One other staff member’s contract expired this month, while others have been told to look for jobs elsewhere, sources say.”

The Supreme Court will soon rule on a case, Murthy v. Missouri, that addresses whether the U.S. government should be able to collaborate with social media companies to censor commentary. The plaintiffs, in their brief, lambast SIO for its role in abetting government censorship. We’ll be watching that case closely.

Julia Steinberg is an intern at The Free Press. Read her piece on the college dropout who unlocked the secrets of ancient Rome using AI. And follow her on X @Juliaonatroika.

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My Promise to Palestine Chris Hedges

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When I accepted the Tafik Diab Prize for my writing on the genocide in Gaza in Cairo on June 10 I explained why the cartoonist Joe Sacco and I are planning to do our next book together on Gaza.

Written speech:

I would like to start with a story that happened to me in Gaza on October 5, 2000. One day I was working on a report at Natzarim (Jewish settlement). There were Palestinian boys near me. The boys threw rocks towards the Israeli army. A soldier shot one of the boys — and the boy died. Four boys each lifted up a limb and we ran. The incident aftected me to such an extent that I did not shave for three weeks. After three weeks, I went to visit the boy’s house to meet his family. I told his mother I was with her son when he was killed. The mother told me that when her younger son heard that his brother had been killed he went into the kitchen, and then he left the house. After ten minutes she asked her husband where her son had gone. They went out to look for him and saw him in the street with a knife in his hand.

She asked him, “Where are you going?”

He answered, “I am going to kill Jews.” I have never been able to forget that child. I often wonder where he is. He would be a man in his thirties now. Is he still alive? Married? Does he have children? Are he and his family frightened of the bombing? Where have they taken refuge? God willing, I will write a book on Gaza with the cartoonist Joe Sacco, the author of “Palestine” and “Footnotes in Gaza.” During that time I will look for him, I will complete his story and the stories of many others. Israel is determined to erase them from existence and from history. This is my promise.

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