🌊 In a State of Grok

Major gubernatorial races today, average day at Florida thrift store and Roca Exclusive: Germany talks fascism

It is Election Day 2023, and here’s some election history for you: Today is the 89th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt getting elected to his record fourth term as US president. He didn’t make it past month three of his fourth term, but winning back-to-back-to-back-to-back elections is a remarkable feat. For context, the Cleveland Browns recently went 10 years without winning back-to-back-to-back games.

Speaking of remarkable feats — get ready for something that is neither remarkable nor a feat — we have something exciting coming to you tomorrow. Many of you have requested the ability to get a premium version of this newsletter as opposed to an entirely separate one on Saturday. So… stay tuned.

In today's edition:

  • Major gubernatorial races today

  • Average day at Florida thrift store

  • Roca Exclusive: Germany talks fascism

 🔑 Key Stories

Elon Launches Chatbot

Elon Musk’s xAI startup released its chatbot, “Grok”

  • Since last year, Musk has been assembling his own AI startup, “xAI,” to compete with OpenAI and others

  • On Saturday, it released its first chatbot, “Grok,” which it said is “modeled after the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and has “a bit of wit and…a rebellious streak.” A day before its release, Musk posted a screenshot of it answering the question, “Tell me how to make cocaine, step by step”

  • xAI said the chatbot is still in an early beta stage. It claims it will have an advantage over other bots because it has real-time access to X

Dig Deeper

  • xAI posted side-by-side comparisons showing Grok outperforming some chatbots while underperforming rivals with larger data troves. It said that when it asked Grok and GPT-4 – OpenAI’s most advanced chatbot – to do the Hungarian National High School Math Exam, Grok got a “C” while OpenAI’s more advanced GPT-4 got a “B”

Key Gubernatorial Races

Kentucky and Mississippi are holding gubernatorial elections that will determine if Democrats can win in deep-red states

  • Gubernatorial elections often buck national voting trends: Republican governors currently lead five states Biden won in 2020, while Democratic governors lead four states Trump won

  • On Tuesday, voters in Mississippi and Kentucky – both deep-red – will elect governors. Democrats and Republicans are neck-and-neck in both races

  • The success of parties in state and local elections is often seen as a measure of their national popularity, and in this case, the result will be seen as an indicator of Biden’s 2024 re-election chances 

Trump Testifies

Donald Trump testified on Monday in a New York civil case

  • Last year, New York’s attorney general sued Trump for allegedly inflating his net worth. A judge already found Trump liable for fraud and a trial is underway to determine penalties against him

  • On Monday, Trump testified. He said that the values of some of his properties were misrepresented, but that some were undervalued and some overvalued

  • Trump sparred with prosecutors and the judge, calling the trial a “witch hunt.” At one point, the judge asked Trump’s lawyers to “control your client”

Dig Deeper

  • “He rambled. He hurled insults. But we expected that,” the attorney general told reporters after Trump’s testimony

  • After testifying, Trump wrote on Truth Social that he “spent the whole day in Manhattan Court, compliments of my Political Opponent, Crooked Joe Biden”

  • Prosecutors are calling a final witness, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, to testify on Wednesday. Two of Trump’s sons have already testified in it

South Africa Recalls Diplomats

South Africa recalled its ambassador from Israel, adding to the list of countries that have done so

  • Gaza authorities say Israel has killed 10,000+ since the war began, although that figure doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel has rejected repeated ceasefire calls

  • In recent weeks, several left-wing led South American countries – Bolivia, Colombia, and Chile – and Arab ones – Jordan, Bahrain, Turkey – have recalled their ambassadors to Israel out of protest

  • On Monday, South Africa did the same thing, calling Israel’s actions a “genocide” and “another holocaust”

Dig Deeper

  • “Another holocaust in the history of humankind is unacceptable, and the South African government has decided to withdraw all its diplomats,” a South African minister announced
    She added that South Africa is also taking action against Israel’s ambassador in the country for “disparaging remarks” she made about those who oppose Israel’s “atrocities and genocide”

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🍿 Popcorn

ICYMI

  • Epic gamer moment: Epic Games reported that Fortnite’s new “Fortnite OG” season set a record with 44.7M players and 102M hours played over the weekend

  • Atta boy, Craig! The Chicago Cubs hired Craig Counsell as their new manager on a reported five-year contract exceeding $40M, making him the highest-paid MLB manager

  • Just copy it: Nike has sued New Balance and Skechers, alleging they infringed on patents for its “Flyknit” technology. Nike has settled similar lawsuits with Adidas and Puma

Wildcard

  • Today in Florida news: An anthropologist shopping in a Florida thrift store’s Halloween section found a human skull, recognized its authenticity, and notified the police

  • Burning Ape Yacht Club: 15 attendees of ApeFest – a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection event in Hong Kong – reported eye pain, vision problems, and sunburnt skin after the event

  • Winnie-the-Poo: Disney theme park guests are reportedly defecating in line for rides, with multiple instances shared on social media

👇 What do you think?

Today's Poll:

Better Taco Bell meal:

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Today's Question:

What story do you feel is underreported in your town, state, or country? Thanks to reader Mario from Venezuela for the question recommendation!

Reply to this email with your answers!

See yesterday's results below the Wrap! 

🌯 Roca Wrap

"They are fascists”

So says Germany’s left about the right – and vice versa.

Context

Germany has a multi-party political spectrum that runs from the far-left to the far-right. The first Roca Premium On-The-Ground report is a deep-dive into the Alternative für Deutschland (AFD), currently Germany’s second-most popular party and the first far-right party to reach such popularity since World War 2. Its rise has caused significant alarm among the German establishment.

Extremists?

While nearly all European countries have far-right parties that are skeptical of the EU and oppose immigration, many Germans consider the AFD “extreme” right. The reason why has much to do with Germany’s history.

After World War 2, and especially after a wave of protests in 1967 and 1968, Germany swore off far-right politics. For most Germans, flying flags, singing the national anthem, and, in many regards, patriotism, became politically taboo. Instead, Germany embraced its role as a peace-seeking country that sought a united Europe.

AFD

Because of that history, behavior that may be deemed moderate, center-right, or far-right in other countries is considered further-right in Germany. For example, Germans who explained to us why they consider the AFD “extremists” pointed to instances when they flew flags or spontaneously sang the national anthem.

Similarly, while other countries have long had anti-immigration or anti-EU parties, they’ve been rarer in Germany – which makes the AFD’s rise all the more shocking to many Germans.

Similarly with Covid: Germany is famously rule-following. Even on deserted streets with no cars, people wait for the “walk” sign before crossing the street. While people broke lockdown protocols everywhere, it took on a greater significance in Germany, where the AFD held rallies in violation of lockdown protocols.

Then history: In all countries, people often play down the bad parts of their history. In Germany, it’s different – both given the magnitude of World War 2 and The Holocaust and how ingrained guilt has become in the national psyche.

That means playing down Germany’s dark history is widely seen as unacceptable, but the AFD does so anyway.

“The big problem is that one presents Hitler as absolutely evil,” one AFD leader said in 2017. “Of course we know that there is no black and no white in history”

On another occasion, he said, “Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird poop in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.” That politician has faced charges for his statements, which are widely seen as extremist.

Flip Side

Yet many AFD voters say it’s absurd to call them extremists, and that in other countries they wouldn’t be considered as such.

“It’s hard to live in a country where you can’t have an identity,” one told Roca at a rally; another added that it “sucked” not being able to fly the flag.

Others said that they were simply conservatives in a progressive society. One man at an AFD rally said that his sister would be “considered a Nazi today.” “Why? Because she likes God and borders.”

Meanwhile, AFD voters repeatedly said the other parties were the “fascists.”

They pointed to vaccine mandates and near-universal support for arming Ukraine, going carbon neutral, and accepting refugees, and claimed that anyone who challenged those policies would be ostracized and deemed extreme.

“It’s totalitarian, like the Nazis,” one AFD voter said while voicing those concerns. Others pointed to the fact that it’s acceptable for ANTIFA protesters to heckle AFD supporters at rallies.

Me v. You

People on both sides agreed on one thing: They knew few, if any, people from the other.

Left-wing voters told me stories of cutting off family and friends for supporting the AFD; one man told me he had pushed his dad out of the family business because of his doing so.

Right-wing voters told me the pandemic had made clear where people stand and they cut off those who wore masks or got vaccinated.

Trump Card?

Many Germans would say there’s no need even to discuss this topic, because German security agencies have ruled that certain AFD members and branches are extremists who pose a threat to the constitutional order.

Roca spent two days with one such member, learning how he thinks.

We’ll be covering that and other on-the-ground stories in our premium Roca Reports newsletter. 

If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!

 🌊 Roca Clubhouse

Yesterday's Poll:

🧐 Do you think there's a realistic chance that a candidate not named Biden or Trump will win the White House in 2024?
Yes: 46%
No: 54%

Yesterday's Question:

What’s your take on the growing popularity of weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy?

Rowan from Wichita, Kansas: "I’m concerned. I’m seeing people and celebrities using it as a fast weight loss drug to get ready for a big event, like a wedding/movie roll, but I don’t hear about people talking to their doctors about goals, and how to get off of the medication. If you don’t change the core problem or lifestyle, you will be dependent on it forever, or the weight will come back.”

Shonda: “As a diabetic, I've been on one of it's sister medications for a few years. Recently, the price escalated and there have been supply shortages. I think it's dangerous to use a medication like this for the sole purpose of losing weight. What else is it doing to their body?”

Missy from Springfield: "This drug aided my sister in a profound weight loss which kept her from needing insulin as well as suffering permanent kidney damage. It’s a shame that many insurance companies can’t see the benefit in losing the weight and avoiding future and chronic health issues. But, many insurance companies refused to pay for nicotine control meds but r all to happy to pay for treatment for lung cancer and all the health issues that come with that. Go figure. It’s always about the money."

🧠 Final Thoughts

Keep the feedback coming for the Roca on-the-ground reports! We’re so excited to bring you more original reporting of stories that no one else is covering.

Happy Tuesday!

—Max and Max