Tuesday, September 26th, 2023



Maybe it was because it was National Daughter's Day. Maybe it was because of weakness and lightheadedness associated with our Yom Kippur fast. Whatever it was, yesterday afternoon, my 15 year-old daughter who has never watched a down of football and almost never offers unsolicited personal information to me, said this: "Dad, I'm a Kansas City Chiefs fan." And so it was across the country in the hours after Taylor Swift attended the Chiefs game as Travis Kelce's guest. The NFL is America's biggest entertainment brand. Almost. This Defector headline sums things up: Football Game Played Near Taylor Swift. The bonding moments (between Taylor and Travis, my daughter and me, and Swifties and the NFL) aside, you may be wondering why I'd lead NextDraft with a salacious, voyeuristic romance story, that for all we know is fake, and which is not serious, not political, and has virtually no importance beyond good old fashioned titillation—and that we all know will eventually be covered in much greater detail in a Taylor Swift breakup song (86ing 87, Travisty, Tight End of an Era?). Well, I'm leading with TnT precisely because it's light and fun and gossipy; because I'm nostalgic for news stories that are unrelated to the impending end of American democracy. We'll get to those, believe me. But isn't it nice to spend one blurb on a topic that doesn't involve election overthrowing, indictment denying, insurrections, mugshot worshipping, government shutdowns, or Jewish Space Lasers? Who knows, if I cover this story extensively enough, maybe my daughter will even subscribe to NextDraft (editorial note: she won't). The New Yorker: "Swift and Kelce are a dream pairing for the NFL: it's an alliance with the only cultural force in America bigger than itself. On TikTok, the official N.F.L. account changed its bio to read, 'Taylor was here.' On sports radio, in Boston, the legendary coach Bill Belichick said that Swift would be the biggest catch of Kelce's career." Kelce-Swift Is a Dream Pairing for the NFL. (It's a dream-pairing in my household, too. At least until/if the the 49ers play the Chiefs in the SuperBowl.)

+ "Swifties and football fans may represent the two largest and most powerful forces in American popular entertainment. It would be silly to suggest that these fan bases are mutually exclusive (hello!). It is fair to say, though, that the two groups are mingling like never before, and learning to speak each other's languages." The Ringer: The Definitive Guide to All Things Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.

+ Maybe I was overly sanguine and starry-eyed in suggesting this story wasn't political. In today's America, everything is political and most of those politics are jaw-droppingly stupid. "Travis Kelce, the Kansas City Chiefs tight end who has been making headlines for his rumored romance with Taylor Swift, is also facing backlash from right-wing fans for his appearances in advertisements for Bud Light, the beer brand boycotted by some conservatives, and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines." (Oh, please pick a popularity fight with Taylor Swift. It may be the one thing that can save democracy.)


The Bullhorn Pulpit

"Lawmakers often appear at strikes to show solidarity with unions, and Biden joined picket lines with casino workers in Las Vegas and auto workers in Kansas City while seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. But sitting presidents, who have to balance the rights of workers with disruptions to the economy, supply chains and other facets of everyday life, have long wanted to stay out of the strike fray — until Biden." In an un-presidented move, Joe Biden joined the autoworkers on the picket line.

+ "Folks, you've heard me say many times, Wall Street didn't build this country, the middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class!. That's a fact, so let's keep going. You deserve what you've earned, and you've earned a hell of a lot more than you're getting paid." Here's the latest from CNN. (Trump heads to Detroit on Wednesday, which makes Wednesday another good day to focus on Taylor and Travis.)


The Path of Khan

"FTC Chair Lina Khan's meteoric rise to the helm of the antitrust enforcement agency has been closely tied to the e-commerce company. She gained national attention while still a law school student for a paper titled 'Amazon's Antitrust Paradox,' arguing the e-commerce giant constitutes an anti-competitive threat that evades political scrutiny because of the relatively narrow way the courts have interpreted antitrust law. Her paper has been at the center of a broader political movement that argues monopoly law should be more creatively and aggressively enforced, extending beyond the prices consumers pay." Lina Khan's paper just got real. WaPo (Gift Article): U.S., 17 states sue Amazon alleging monopolistic practices led to higher prices. "In a sweeping lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission alleges the e-commerce giant abused its powers to raise prices for shoppers and levy high fees against businesses that sell on its platform." (At this point, it doesn't look like the feds are looking to break up Amazon, so relax, your package won't be delayed...)


Tongues Twister

"What if podcasters could flip a switch and instantly speak another language? That's the premise behind Spotify's new AI-powered voice translation feature, which reproduces podcasts in other languages using the podcaster's own voice." (Like everything in AI news these days, this is both incredibly promisingly and strangely disturbing. That said, this Fall I plan on offering a version of NextDraft in tongues.)


Extra, Extra

Official Time Out: "'It was just exhausting,' Daniels said. 'It really was like The Twilight Zone of government service. Groundhog Day ... every day you wake up and it's the same thing over and over again. It doesn't matter how much information and data you share, it doesn't matter how many concerns you answer. There will just be a new group of critics to again dish out the new conspiracy of the day.' Daniels is part of a large group of voting officials who have decided to leave the profession since 2020 and the tension and pressure that followed Donald Trump's loss in that election." These days, the crazies are running people out of politics. They're also running people out of working on election fairness. So who will be left? You know who. In some states, more than half of the local election officials have left since 2020.

+ Today in Not Normal: "Late Friday night, the former president of the United States—and a leading candidate to be the next president—insinuated that America's top general deserves to be put to death. That extraordinary sentence would be unthinkable in any other rich democracy." (And enabling this bullsh-t long enough will make maintaining our rich democracy unthinkable.) The Atlantic: Trump Floats the Idea of Executing Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley.

+ Cryptogether Forever? "At Stanford Law School, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried specialized in ethics and social fairness. Now that their son stands accused of one of the largest financial frauds in U.S. history, they're scrambling for legal escape routes." The New Yorker: Inside Sam Bankman-Fried's Family Bubble.

+ Bob and Leave: "The dam is breaking: A torrent of Democratic senators are now calling for the resignation of Sen. Bob Menendez, led by his longtime home-state ally Sen. Cory Booker and a group of swing-state Democrats up for reelection in 2024." (Just tell him he gets a gold watch if he resigns.)

+ Expanding the Strike Zone: Hollywood writers appear to be close to a deal to end their strike (Thank god, because I'm running out of content.) But that deal is not done yet, and the actors just expanded their strike to include videogames.

+ Bama Sutra: "In June, the court ruled that Alabama's Republican-drawn congressional map violated the Voting Rights Act because, in a state with seven congressional districts and a 27% Black population, the GOP-dominated legislature had created just one congressional district in which Black voters are either a majority or close to it." Supreme Court rejects Alabama's defiance in voting case. (A few more decisions like this and Alabama may have to acknowledge it has black residents. These guys bend their district lines so much it looks like the Bama Sutra.)

+ JPMorgan Chased: "JPMorgan Chase has reached a settlement with the US Virgin Islands over a lawsuit alleging the bank enabled Jeffrey Epstein's sex-trafficking crimes. The settlement includes 'significant commitments' by JPMorgan Chase to curtail human trafficking, and a $75 million payment to the US Virgin Islands."

+ Heartwarming Staggering Genius: "Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, and the world's foremost energy economist, said much more needed to be done but that the rapid uptake of solar power and electric vehicles were encouraging." 'Staggering' green growth gives hope for 1.5C, says global energy chief.

+ The Gang's All Here: 100 Jewish leaders call out Elon Musk for antisemitism on X, formerly Twitter: "We have watched in horror." And, "a top European Union official said Tuesday that the social network X, formerly known as Twitter, is the biggest source of fake news." Jack Dorsey in 2022: "Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness."


Bottom of the News

Forget Ozempic. Just weigh yourself in Indiana. Uneven Gravity Makes You Weigh More in Illinois Than in Indiana. "A number of factors cause you to be lighter or heavier in different parts of the world." (This may related to the unexplained phenomena that makes everyone in Fulton County Georgia 6'3 and 215 pounds.)

+ "Candidate A gets 13,000 votes. Candidate B gets 12,000 votes. Given the corruption of the élites in the deep state, which candidate should win?" Joel Stein in The New Yorker: Questions from Florida's Newly Adopted Classic Learning Test.
+ "A Canadian amusement park ride turned into nightmare fuel on Sunday after stopping suddenly, suspending passengers upside down, 75 feet above the ground, for nearly 30 minutes."