TGIF: It’s Elon’s World
Twitter’s hostile takeover. Plus: the New York subway shooter. Victor Orban’s win. And more.
Hello and welcome back. Our podcast-version will return next week, so please just imagine me softly reading you these headlines. TGIF.
→ Elon Musk goes for a Twitter takeover: In the most exciting business news cycle in years, Elon Musk reneged on joining Twitter’s board and now has made an offer to buy the whole company. He wants to buy the whole thing for $54.20 a share (smells like another 420 joke) and take Twitter private. As of this writing, the price is around $45 a share. The Twitter board on Thursday held an emergency meeting to discuss.
The whole thing is better than an episode of Succession. Mark Cuban floated an excellent idea for the next episode: “Want to see the whole world lose their shit? Get Peter Thiel to partner with Elon and raise the bid for Twitter.”
Meanwhile, all the very important media thinkers have gone mad with rage. Their friends might not be able to kick their ideological enemies off Twitter anymore? It’s nothing less than the start of Nazi Germany. That’s what Jeff Jarvis, an NYU journalism professor, wrote: “Today on Twitter feels like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub at the twilight of Weimar Germany.”
Or there’s Robert Reich, who worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations and is now a professor at UC Berkeley: “Musk has long advocated a libertarian vision of an ‘uncontrolled’ internet ...[That’s also] the dream of every dictator, strongman and demagogue.”
The Saudi Arabian government, which owns part of Twitter, came out against an Elon Musk acquisition. To which Musk responded: “Interesting. What are the Kingdom’s views on journalistic freedom of speech?” Typical Nazi behavior.
Is Elon Musk in business the paragon of virtue? Of course not.
But here’s where we sit: Twitter’s rules are not just capricious. They are made by the hall monitor types who see anything vaguely offensive and politically incorrect as hate speech and who see inconvenient reporting as disinformation to be banned. So this particular chaos brings us more than a little pleasure.
Plus, it’s refreshing to see someone like Musk put their money where their mouth is.
“I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said Thursday at the Ted Conference in Vancouver. “In my view, Twitter should match the laws of the country. And really, you know, there’s an obligation to do that.”
→ The polls for Biden are getting worse: A new Quinnipiac poll shows that only 33% of Americans approve of how the president is doing his job, while 54% disapprove. Looking closer: only 18% approve strongly while 43% disapprove strongly.
Meanwhile, how is it looking among Hispanics, a traditionally reliable Democrat-voting demographic? According to a new CBS/YouGov poll, 54% of Hispanics disapprove of Biden. That is very bad news for Democrats. Here, Dems called them Latinxes, as they all wanted, and still they flee?
The polls for Democrats right now are so bad that a liberal senator from New Hampshire went down to the US-Mexico border to argue for more “physical infrastructure to secure our borders.” As in . . . a wall.
→ Inflation, still going strong: The White House warned that it would be “extraordinarily elevated,” and it was. Inflation hit a new high of 8.5% this week. Real wages have fallen 2.8% over the last 12 months. And take a look at the specifics: Gas is up 48%. Used cars: 35%. Hotels: 29%. Airfare: 24%. And eggs and coffee: 11%.
Biden is blaming it on Putin and trying this week to call it “Putin’s price hike.” But that’s just obviously false. The culprit was the trillions of dollars injected into the economy during our lockdowns.
At least we’re getting real, sober apologies from the party’s official news outlets. Here’s Dylan Matthews at Vox in 2021: “Don’t worry about inflation: Why fears of the return of 1970s-style inflation are overblown.” And here he is with an impressive mea culpa this week: “I unfairly dismissed the most boring, Econ 101 explanation for why inflation happens: that there was too much money sloshing around for the amount of stuff the economy was able to produce.”
→ A terrorist in the subway: Frank James, the man in custody for shooting 10 people in a New York City subway car this week, posted at times in favor of Black Supremacist ideology and raged against Jews.
He posted about how “blacks and whites should not even be in the same hemisphere,” at times celebrated the Nation of Islam, posted a meme praying for the death of whites, and discussed how upset he was that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson married a white man. (This is the same ideological mush that the Waukesha parade killer ascribed to, though James appears to have engaged in more of a mish-mosh of these conspiratorial rants.)
James had 12 prior arrests.
→ CPAC is hosting Viktor Orban as a keynote speaker: A particular flank of American conservatives have come to adore and admire the conservative Hungarian president. For the party of freedom and liberty, Orban is an odd choice. He wants a lot less freedom and much tighter state-controlled media and academic centers. But he does advocate against Western liberalism and decadence, so if that’s what animates your politics then Orban is your guy. It’s a little like being sympathetic to Orban’s buddy Putin because “no one asks your pronouns in Russia.” I understand the specific annoyance but the broader moral picture seems a little more important. Regardless, Orban’s going to CPAC.
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→ A generational divide over Ukraine: Young Americans are less sympathetic to Ukraine than older Americans, according to a new YouGov/Economist poll. “Whereas 92% of those aged 65 and over said they sympathize more with Ukraine, just 56% of those aged 18-29 did—a difference of 36 percentage points.”
Part of the reason for this could be that feelings toward NATO are changing on both the left and the right. Here’s the Washington Post this week with the lefty take: “NATO was founded to protect ‘civilized’ people. That means White.” And on the right, a small bloc of Republicans voted against a bill reaffirming support for NATO, citing their discomfort with vague language about “democratic principles” and a new “Center for Democratic Resilience.” Some of these people should spend a little more time outside of NATO countries.
→ America is a gerontocracy: A longtime California lawmaker has turned to the San Francisco Chronicle this week to anonymously beg for 88-year-old Senator Diane Feinstein to retire. Apparently the senator has become extremely forgetful. It’s sad to see Senator Feinstein fall into old age, but it comes for all of us. The best thing to do is retire with dignity. The same could be said for the majority of D.C.
→ Why was Hunter Biden paying for his dad’s expenses? Why does he complain about having to split half his salary with his dad? Why is he paying for his father’s home expenses like the retaining wall and shutters? Why does he seem to share a bank account with his dad? What is going on here? These are questions I have after reading more of Hunter’s leaked emails in the New York Post.
→ Philanthropy laws are “unsafe,” says BLM founder: Patrisse Cullors says America’s laws around philanthropies are “unsafe” and “triggering,” which actually is accurate if you broke those laws and are looking at potential criminal charges. Laws around stealing are indeed unsafe for thieves.
“It is such a trip now to hear the term ‘[IRS Form] 990.’ I'm, like, ugh. It’s, like, triggering,” said BLM-founder Patrisse Cullors during a talk last week. “This doesn’t seem safe for us, this 990 structure—this nonprofit system structure. This is, like, deeply unsafe. This is being literally weaponized against us, against the people we work with.”
She said all of this on Vashon Island–average home price around $1 million, which is cheap now compared to where Patrisse Cullors bought her personal compound in Topanga Canyon, where the average home price is 1.75 million.
Philanthropies are tax-exempt entities. The deal is you post a lot of financial information about all the good you did with that money and don’t have to give the IRS their usual cut. But let’s say, as BLM did, you spend $6 million on a party house that your friend bought a week earlier for $3 million and don’t post any details at all. Well, the IRS gets curious. Not for any moral reason, really, just: The IRS wants its cut. Death and taxes being inevitable, etc. That said, if you do get away with it, Patrisse, we would love to get some tax advice: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the whole video here or this clip:
→ CNN+ has fewer daily visitors than Common Sense: After a big launch and spending $300 million so far, CNN+ has only some 10,000 people tuning in on a daily basis, according to a new CNBC report. The network saw the rise of alternative voices in digital media and thought they could get in on that by putting their milquetoast voices in the mix. It didn’t work. The reason people are fleeing to watch new digital shows like Breaking Points (which features a Bernie leftist and a conservative debating the news of the day) or hang out in places like Common Sense is that we’re absolutely not CNN. Our only concern here is for Alison Roman, who must be saved: CNN+ is too terrible a venue for our favorite canceled chef.
→ Covid doesn’t spread if the day is very special: The White House both insists that the President and Vice President do wear masks indoors but also posted a video clearly showing that Kamala Harris was not wearing a mask indoors at all. Here’s press secretary Jen Psaki with the spin: “It was an emotional day. It was a historic day.”
→ English teachers announce that book reading is overrated: The National Council of Teachers of English has come out with a strong new position statement: “The time has come to decenter book reading and essay writing as the pinnacles of English language arts education.” (A hat tip to reader Zac Bissonnette for this one.)
→ Why is the FBI doing this? The FBI has been trying to go after white supremacist domestic terrorists more and declared the group the number one threat. Before the 2020 election, they announced they had stopped a plot by right-wing men to try and kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The only trouble: It looks like the FBI was the plotter. The defense (convincingly) argued that the whole plot had been concocted and promoted by the FBI itself to entrap these guys. The jury acquitted two of the men and a mistrial was declared for the other two. In other odd news, the Bidens’ secret service has suffered a massive security breach featuring bribery and Department of Homeland Security impersonators whose passports indicate trips to Iran and Pakistan.
→ No mail for you, Santa Monica: USPS has suspended mail delivery for a block of Santa Monica. Apparently, a few too many mail carriers had been assaulted there in that gorgeous, beachfront town of Los Angeles, full of signs reminding visitors how in this house we believe. Residents of the no-mail territory can go to a post office to pick up their mail themselves, USPS says.
→ The end of Bitch Magazine: As a teenage feminist, I loved the wild, sexy and radical journal Bitch. This week, the magazine announced they’d be shuttering. It doesn’t quite click with New Feminism, which is less rebellious rage, more Shell Oil-sponsored panels. And anyway, the category of woman by definition cannot be rebellious. You see, anyone can self-identify as a woman, and it just means self-identifying as a subservient vessel (I’m not kidding this is the chic modern gender thinking). So, goodbye to Bitch. This vessel will miss you.
→ But the dam has broken on trans issues: Even as the Biden admin goes hard on pushing for medical interventions for gender dysphoric teenagers (green-lighting double mastectomies and the like), the mainstream media is finally listening to trans clinicians and trans adults who have been sounding an alarm: The teenage transitions are out of control.
Here’s a profile in the Los Angeles Times this week of the brave Erica Anderson, a clinician and trans woman (Abigail Shrier quoted her in her groundbreaking Common Sense story last year). Anderson lets the LA Times reporter sit in on a session with a kid who is not sure about their gender and who talks about how their friends identify as things like raccoon gender vibe: “One friend says that their gender is the same vibe as a raccoon. They’re saying that their gender has the same, like, chaotic, dumpster vibes as raccoons.”
Also this week, adult trans woman Corinna Cohn wrote a heartbreaking essay for the Washington Post about sex reassignment surgery and what it has been like to never have experienced orgasm, warning young people not to do this so quickly, not to give up that part of life so quickly. “From the day of my surgery, I became a medical patient and will remain one for the rest of my life,” she writes. And: “I chose an irreversible change before I’d even begun to understand my sexuality.”
And in a third vibe shift this week: JK Rowling hosted a boozy lunch with England’s greatest old world feminists. Critics call these women TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) because they do not want mixed-sex prisons or sports. The TERFs may have been hounded out of jobs and polite liberal society, but they are having fun.
→ Don’t Say Gay in China is totally cool, though: For the release of “Fantastic Beasts” in China, Warner Bros edited out any references to a gay relationship. Or as Warner Bros calls it: “nuanced cuts in order to respond sensitively to a variety of in-market factors.” If the Chinese Communist Party wants it, it’s not homophobia at all; it’s nuance and sensitivity. (Speaking of: We continue to be absolutely horrified by the brutality of the Shanghai lockdown.)
→ No college degree needed: With unemployment low and business owners having a hard time filling jobs, a lot of bosses are rethinking why they required applicants to have a college degree. Now there are more people who are getting on the job training, or arriving with various certificates, and earning great incomes. This is fantastic.
→ Also very cool: A group of big companies—Facebook, Google, Stripe, and others—are planning to buy $1 billion in carbon removal over the next eight years, and there’s a great piece about it this week. The technology for doing all this is still nascent, but these companies are casting a vote of confidence for carbon removal, which could be a major tool to improve our air quality (my personal obsession) and stave off climate change.
→ Two great reads: Common Sense godmother Alana Newhouse has a piece out in Tablet this week about what the Exodus can teach us about freedom and servitude. This is a piece for anyone wondering how we can get out of our current morass: The Jews Who Didn’t Leave Egypt.
And Common Sense’s actual father (in-law), Lou Weiss, has a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about Passover time-travel: Exodus to the Metaverse.
This week in Common Sense:
Our Sunday essay was an excerpt from Matti Friedman’s new book “Who By Fire” about Leonard Cohen’s time in the Sinai during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973.
We had Zoe Strimpel on who hijacked feminism.
And Jay Bhattacharya wrote about a disturbing new law making its way through the California legislature—the law would strip medical licenses from doctors who disagree with government positions on Covid.
Over at Honestly, Bari hosted two great thinkers. The first, Jonathan Haidt (The Coddling of the American Mind, The Righteous Mind) took us on a tour of the last ten years, when social media took over and everything fell apart. Our second episode of the week was with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, who took us a little further back—about 3,000 years. It’s about the Exodus, America, and resisting tyranny.
Happy Easter, Ramadan Mubarak, and Chag Sameach. Most of all: TGIF!