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Travis Kelce Has Brought Taylor Swift Back From Troy
Hail the conquering hero
Taylor Swift is great. She’s an incredible performer. She’s not my favorite, because I’m a 41 year old man who grew up loving pop rock and alt-country, but she’s really good, and she writes her own stuff unlike the plethora of overrated performers in this business at the moment. Moreso, she’s a great AMERICAN star, American in every way, but also dragged down by the fact she has dated a series a thin wimpy Brits whose manhood is, well, technical as opposed to virile. Now she has joined what is obviously a manifested relationship, egged on by public statements, undeniably a corporate merger of the biggest thing in music with the biggest thing on television — Taylor Swift is dating the NFL shield, not just Travis Kelce. But Kelce must be praised, because he has accomplished a great thing for America: he has brought our girl back home after all her dalliances across the pond, to great effect.
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. (For instance, I know the Ray Guy reference above was a struggle for some of you reading this; it’s fine, you don’t need to look it up. Likewise, I probably lost a few of you with West Elm Caleb; you don’t need to look it up, but I’d recommend it.) Don’t worry. We’re here for all of you. Let this glossary bridge the gaps between those of us who know the “All Too Well” bridge by heart, and those of us who know how to find the gaps in a zone defense:
Tight end (n.): This is the position Kelce plays within the Chiefs offense. The best question I was asked yesterday was whether there is a “loose end,” which is what I will be calling wide receivers now. Playing tight end requires a combination of strength and athleticism, and Kelce, a two-time Super Bowl champion and eight-time Pro Bowler, is among the best to ever do it.
Easter egg (n.): A hint or clue, often strategically placed by Swift in song lyrics, music videos, social media posts, or public appearances. For example: In November 2021, Swift wore a black dress to an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers that resembled the famous “revenge dress” worn by Princess Diana in 1994. About a year later, she released the album Midnights, containing the song “Vigilante Shit,” containing the lyric “lately I’ve been dressing for revenge.” Ahead of the announcement of her Lover album in 2019, Swift posted a photo of seven palm trees to her social media accounts, which fans correctly deciphered to be a clue that the first single from her seventh studio album would come out on—I shit you not—Arbor Day. Swifties have become adept and, at times, overzealous interpreters of Swift’s every move because of this. Now, as it relates to current events: Kelce wears jersey no. 87, and there is a lyric in Swift’s “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” that goes, “When I’ll be 87, you’ll be 89.” She is currently promoting her upcoming album, 1989 (Taylor’s Version). You know the drill.
Clowning (gerund): When we Swifties go overboard with the Easter egg hunting, we’re clowning. For example: After Swift went to the Chiefs game on Sunday, Swifties recalled a photo she’d posted in July after the Eras Tour came through Kansas City. Visible in the photo was the red collar on a yellow shirt—you know, Chiefs colors—which some took as a sign that a relationship between Taylor and Travis was already underway. More likely: Swift was wearing her own merch, and we were just clowning.
Delulu (adj.): When we clown too hard, we’re delulu.
Catching Kelce (proper noun): Travis’s dating show on E!, which aired for one season in 2016. The premise was that Kelce would date 50 women from 50 states, though he dumped 30 of them in the first episode. One of the women made a big thing about having previously dated Fabio, and Kelce wore a lot of bright sport coats. A contestant from Kentucky named Maya Benberry won, but she and Kelce broke up after just a couple of months, and she kind of accused him of cheating on her. Travis does not enjoy talking about Catching Kelce these days and said during a podcast interview last year that he just did it for the money.
Seemingly ranch (phrase): Description made by one Swift fan account of a condiment spotted on the pop star’s plate in a photo taken in Kelce’s luxury suite on Sunday. A good example of the level of scrutiny Swift draws, and a budding in-joke within her fandom.
Tape grinder (colloquialism): A football fan ball-pilled enough to pore over the All-22 film and obsess over details. Though it would be a new kind of endeavor, this is the type of energy Swifties feast on. By Sunday afternoon, several Swift fan accounts were already displaying a more sound understanding of situational football than Josh McDaniels.
Operation Don’t Let Joe Trip
As voters express deep concerns about the 80-year-old president's age and fitness for office, Biden's team is taking extra steps to prevent him from stumbling in public — as he did in June, when he tripped over a sandbag at the Air Force Academy.
With a physical therapist, Biden has been doing exercises to improve his balance as far back as November 2021.
Since his stumble in June, he has been wearing tennis shoes more often to avoid slipping — and using the short stairs on Air Force One, entering the plane on a lower deck than before.
Democrats, including some in the administration, are terrified that Biden will have a bad fall — with a nightmare scenario of it happening in the weeks before the November 2024 election.
Some senior Democrats privately have been frustrated with Biden's advance team for months, citing the sandbag incident and noting that the president often appears not to know which direction to go after he speaks at a podium.
Often without context, Republicans have used video clips of Biden looking confused about where to go after speeches to raise further questions about his age.
Biden's balance difficulties are likely the result of what his physician has diagnosed as "a combination of significant spinal arthritis" and "mild post-fracture foot arthritis."
Biden works out many mornings with physical therapist Drew Contreras, who also worked with former President Obama.
Biden's doctor has recommended exercises for balance, which he called "proprioceptive maintenance maneuvers."
What the maneuvers entail is unclear.
"I have never heard the term 'proprioceptive maintenance maneuvers.' It is not a clinical term in standard use," said Professor James Gordon, associate dean and chair of the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California.
Iran’s Astounding Influence Play
In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues — particularly its nuclear program — by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative.
The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails reported for the first time by Semafor and Iran International. The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: At least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.
The documents offer deep and unprecedented new insights into the thinking and inner workings of Iran’s Foreign Ministry at a crucial time in the nuclear diplomacy — even as Tehran’s portrayal of events is questioned, if not flatly denied, by others involved in the IEI. They show how Iran was capable of the kind of influence operations that the U.S. and its allies in the region often conduct.
The emails were obtained and translated by Iran International, a Persian-language television news channel headquartered in London — which was briefly based in Washington due to Iranian government threats — and shared with Semafor. Semafor and Iran International jointly reported on some aspects of the IEI. Both organizations have produced their own stories independently.
The communications reveal the access Rouhani’s diplomats have had to Washington’s and Europe’s policy circles, particularly during the final years of the Obama administration, through this network. One of the German academics in the IEI, according to the emails, offered to ghostwrite op-eds for officials in Tehran. Others would, at times, seek advice from the Foreign Ministry’s staff about attending conferences and hearings in the U.S. and Israel. The IEI participants were prolific writers of op-eds and analyses, and provided insights on television and Twitter, regularly touting the need for a compromise with Tehran on the nuclear issue — a position in line with both the Obama and Rouhani administrations at the time. The emails describe the IEI being initiated following Rouhani’s 2013 election, when he was looking to find an accommodation with the West on the nuclear issue. According to the emails, Iran’s Foreign Ministry, through its in-house think tank — the Institute for Political and International Studies — reached out to ten “core” members for the project, through which it planned to liaise over the next 18 months to aggressively promote the merits of a nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington, which was finalized in July 2015.
“This initiative which we call ‘Iran Experts Initiative (IEI)’ is consisted of a core group of 6-10 distinguished second-generation Iranians who have established affiliations with the leading international think-tanks and academic institutions, mainly in Europe and the US,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, a Berlin-based Iranian diplomat and future Foreign Ministry spokesman, wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, the head of the IPIS think tank in Tehran, on March 5, 2014, as the project gained steam. Their communication veered between English and Farsi — which was translated by Iran International and independently verified by Semafor.
Khatibzadeh wrote again a week later, on March 11, and said that he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics — Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary — following a meeting with them in Prague. “We three agreed to be the core group of the IEI.”
Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018-2021.
Tabatabai and Esfandiary didn’t respond to requests for comment on the IEI. Esfandiary’s current employer, the International Crisis Group, confirmed her participation in the initiative. But the Crisis Group, which promotes conflict resolution globally, said the IEI was an informal network of academics and researchers that wasn’t overseen by the Iranian Foreign Ministry and that it received funding from a European government and some European institutions, which they declined to identify.
The emails discussing the IEI were part of a trove of thousands of Zahrani’s correspondence that Iran International obtained. These include passport copies, resumes, invitations to conferences, airplane tickets, and visa applications. It’s not clear how complete or comprehensive the documents are concerning the IEI.
Youngkin’s Virginia Blueprint
“Please run. We need you to save our country. Please.”
A man pleads with Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, referring to speculation that Youngkin may jump into the 2024 GOP presidential primary — and that Republican donors are encouraging him to do so.
Youngkin responds, with a laugh: “I’m busy.”
The governor is, indeed, quite busy.
It is late August and he has just finished up one of his “Parents Matter” listening sessions, this one in Virginia Beach. Youngkin has been traveling the Commonwealth and hearing directly from parents to fulfill one of his biggest 2021 campaign promises: protecting the rights of parents from government overreach in matters concerning their children.
Parents groups mobilized during that election to great effect. Covid-related school closures and the intrusion of divisive gender and racial politics into the classroom made parents a crucial and energized part of the coalition that elected Youngkin.
Since then, the Republican governor has introduced new statewide policies that require parents to be notified when their children request social gender transitions in school, when their children are exposed to sexually explicit material and, within twenty-four hours, when their kids are subjected to bullying. Students are also required to use facilities and join sports teams consistent with their biological sex. He has dedicated $30 million in state funds to address pandemic learning loss.
Beyond education, Youngkin signed a bill forcing pornography websites to verify the age of their users; rather than implement systems for doing so, the porn sites opted to no longer operate in Virginia.
The “Parents Matter” events are more than just rallies for the governor. As Youngkin listens to attendees share their experiences with their children and the public education system, he has his head down as he takes vigorous notes. These chats will help inform his priorities for the next Virginia legislative session.
“They’ve been very consistent across the state where parents have been concerned about learning loss, and we heard today that there are some parents who feel very, very prepared to deal with learning loss and others who don’t,” Youngkin tells me after the event. “And so this is a place that we’re going to work very constructively across the aisle in order to address quickly the need to provide extra resources for students. I also see consistently this concern about the role of social media and behavioral health with regards to their children.”
The social media issue is one that Youngkin asserts is “not political” and one that he is “hugely frustrated” he has been unable to work productively on with Virginia Democrats.
“Our bill last year that was going to require parental permission to open a social media account for minors was blocked by Senate Democrats,” he said. “I think they should pass that. I do not believe that social media companies should be harvesting the data of our minors.”
That’s where Youngkin’s other big objective comes in: doing everything he can to help remove the roadblock to parts of his agenda created by the Democratic majority in the State Senate. The governor is working to keep control of the Virginia House of Delegates and take back the Senate in state elections this November. Republicans currently have a four-seat majority in the House of Delegates and are at a four-seat deficit in the Senate. If Youngkin is successful, it would be the first time in ten years that Republicans had the “trifecta” and could push through their legislative priorities unencumbered by partisan spats.
“I do believe that given the way that I think we’ve been performing as a state, we’ll have a real chance of winning these elections,” Youngkin said. “But I’ll still work across the aisle with folks, even if we have control of both the House and the Senate.”
Items of Interest
“I love the way music inside a car makes you feel invisible; if you play the stereo at max volume, it's almost like the other people can't see into your vehicle. It tints your windows, somehow.”
— Chuck Klosterman