Thursday, April 14th, 2022



To paraphrase Al Pacino's Tony Montana in Scarface: "In this country, first you get the money, then you get the power, THEN you get the Twitter." Surprise, surprise. Elon Musk's flirtation with Twitter has led to this headline from ReCode: Is Elon Musk really going to buy Twitter for $43 billion? Maybe? My reaction: Will I keep using Twitter? Maybe? Musk has made a hostile bid for Twitter to the tune of $43 billion. Remember when it seemed like such a nice idea that billionaires would buy media brands? Welcome to opposite world. One of Twitter's greatest trolls is going to buy Twitter. Or maybe not. We don't know. That's part of the fun of being a troll. Here are a few quick thoughts that I should probably just share on Twitter, but I'm trying to get used to not sharing anything there in case Musk really owns it.

First, there's no doubt that Twitter hasn't managed the business side of things particularly well and that the company has untapped financial potential. "That's why Google brought in $257 billion last year, and Facebook brought in $117 billion —and Twitter did $5 billion. And it's why Google is worth $1.7 trillion, Facebook $583 billion, and Twitter $36 billion." But there are better ways to "unleash" that potential than taking the company private, especially into these hands.

Second, much of Elon's fixation with Twitter relates to the notion that Twitter is failing to give people enough free speech (which is like saying a tsunami is failing to provide enough moisture). A few weeks ago, Musk tweeted: "Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy. What should be done?" One thing that should be done is to educate people on what free speech is (it has nothing to do with private companies like Twitter). But it's worth putting Musk's insinuation that he is somehow being silenced into a broader context. He has 81 million followers on Twitter. Almost every word he says makes headlines. He is the richest person in the world and probably the most famous, too. To quote the great philosopher Nigel Tufnel, if the loudest, free-est speech ever measured goes to ten, then Elon's goes to eleven. His speech goes to eleven. His fame goes to eleven. And his wealth goes to infinity and beyond. And yet, he feels like he's somehow being shortchanged by the current ecosystem. I see this trend playing out with other wildly successful businesspeople as well. This era brings us a staggering version of narcissistic victimhood. People who couldn't be benefiting more from the current state of things are intent on convincing themselves that they are actually the victim of the current state of things. A lot of smart people have made a lot of money during the internet era. But it doesn't take a genius to show up at a gold rush with a shovel and a pan.

Third, this whole situation is one more reminder of the big issue that underpins so many of America's other issues. The wealth divide is out of control. Elon Musk is obviously a very smart and incredibly effective business person. I suppose one could argue that if any business leader deserves to have built a net worth of $273 billion over the past decade, it's Musk (even though he didn't start Tesla, he took it over). But no one should be able to amass that amount of wealth in a decade, especially a decade in which so many average Americans have gone from the middle class to intermittently lining up for food. And, still, for some of those on the fat end of the cat scale, it's not enough to have all the money and all the fame and all the power. They want their toys, too. And Elon Musk may very well buy Twitter and take it home and make the rest of us play by his rules. I'm a capitalist. I'm an investor in tech companies. But I can also see that things have gotten out of hand. As Bob Lefsetz wrote this morning: "People have too much money. This is what happens when belief in the American Dream runs amok." What Elon strange trip it's been. And, sadly, it could just be getting started.


The FDA Has Big D Energy

The FDA is working pretty efficiently when it comes to the D. But, seriously, what the F? "A monthslong investigation found that regulating food is simply not a high priority at the agency, where drugs and other medical products dominate, both in budget and bandwidth – a dynamic that's only been exacerbated during the pandemic. Over the years, the food side of FDA has been so ignored and grown so dysfunctional that even former FDA commissioners readily acknowledged problems." Politico: The FDA's Food Failure.


Plan of Attack

"Today's anti-abortion movement has even proposed new laws that prevent people from crossing state lines to terminate a pregnancy. Republicans in Missouri are considering such legislation right now. Under the statute, Missouri's citizens could sue doctors who perform an abortion on a Missouri resident in a different state—like neighboring Illinois, whose clinics serve countless Missourians. Missouri's citizens could also sue anyone who facilitated the abortion, including the friend or family member who transported the patient across state lines. Similarly, in 2019, Georgia Republicans passed a sweeping law that appeared to impose criminal penalties on patients who traveled out of state for an abortion. The courts have put that law on hold, but the state may commence enforcement after Roe is overturned." How Red States Plan to Reach Beyond Their Borders and Outlaw Abortion in America. (I'd say the "plan" has been forming for a few decades. The action is what's happening now.)

+ Today's examples: New abortion restrictions passed by Republican lawmakers over the Democratic governor's veto will force the only two abortion clinics in Kentucky to stop providing the procedures for women. And, with DeSantis' signature, Florida bans most abortions after 15 weeks.


Lend Me An Ear

"With legions of folks wearing the buds for hours, days, and weeks on end, the company's scientists hope they'll amass an incredible data trove, in which they'll uncover the hidden patterns of mental health. For now, that's the stuff of dreams. What's real is that on one day in 2019, a patient tucked a bud into each ear, fell asleep, and proceeded to astound NextSense's scientists—by churning out brain waves that showed exactly how this product could save a person's life." Steven Levy in Wired: This Startup Wants to Get in Your Ears and Watch Your Brain. (All tech startups want to get into your brain. NextSense just takes a shorter route...)


Extra, Extra

Russian Camp: "Volodymyr Zelensky talked about his recent visit to Bucha ... He said what he had seen there had further narrowed the possibility of peace talks with the Russians. 'It's not about me - it's about Russia. They will not have many more chances to speak with us.' He said he had 'experienced the entire spectrum of emotions' during last week's visit, but ended the day with 'nothing but hatred towards the Russian military.'" Along with that hatred, he wants more weapons. Here's the latest from BBC. And from Time: A Visit to the Crime Scene Russian Troops Left Behind at a Summer Camp in Bucha.

+ The Other Wave: We tend to quickly move on from even the biggest, oddest stories. Let's pause for a second and look back at a once-in-a-century event. The Tonga earthquake created a tsunami, but that wasn't the only wave. It also "generated something that scientists hadn't seen in more than half a century: a planetary-scale pressure wave, or shockwave, in the atmosphere. The wave circled Earth for days." NYT (Gift Article): See How the Tonga Volcano Unleashed a Once-in-a-Century Shockwave.

+ The Call is Coming From Inside the Louse: "A key, a neon construction jacket, a gun." Those items helped NYC police narrow in on the subway shooter. They were helped further when he called in a tip on himself.

+ That Sucking Sound "There is no global total of how many tons of carbon dioxide have ever been permanently removed from the atmosphere so far, but Ransohoff estimated that they numbered in the thousands. To go from thousands to billions, virtually everyone—including members of the Frontier team—agrees that the federal government should eventually pay to remove most of that carbon. The carbon-removal market will probably need to reach $1 trillion a year, Ransohoff told me, a figure that places it well outside any company's reach. But today, the government is not yet making those purchases, so the companies behind Frontier have pledged to begin buying carbon instead." Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic: We've Never Seen a Carbon-Removal Plan Like This Before.


Bottom of the News

"It is no exaggeration to say that when a big-league pitcher retires the game's first 21 batters in order on only 80 pitches with 13 strikeouts, that pitcher is pitching about as well as it is possible for a person to pitch. If anyone in an MLB game has ever gotten that close to a perfect game that efficiently, I have not heard of it. He was cruising. And they damn pulled him out of it!" Everyone Involved In Yanking Clayton Kershaw From His Perfect Game Must Go To Prison (Just For A Few Days). (And Kershaw himself said he agreed with the move, so Clayton's got to do some time too!)

+ "You must notify staff of the number of words you need to write, and by when. Every hour, the manager will come and check in on you. You can choose what tone of voice you would like to have the check-ins: 'mild, normal or hard.'" Cafe in Koenji is Only For Writers Working on a Deadline.