Sharing some thoughts on news stories as we enter the final week in August.

No Smudge on the Mudge

Fox Business News reporter Charlie Gasparino is an old school journalist who focuses on the Big Picture and isn’t afraid to draw it even if it involves the most powerful corporations and individuals. His column in the Sunday New York Post is a must read.

Gasparino puts the spotlight on Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko, a.k.a. “Mudge,” who like most people airing the dirty laundry of their former employers is one weird dude. Among Zatko’s allegations about Twitter is that the company failed to live up to a 2010 FTC settlement that forced the company to better secure customer data. Another is that Twitter undercounts fake accounts known as bots to deceive advertisers they are reaching more real Twits than is the case. Zatko is understood to have alleged Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal failed to heed his warning about the issue.

If Zatko’s allegations prove to correct, Gasparino notes that Twitter would emerge as yet another corporate securities fraudster, not quite of the magnitude of Enron but close to the altitude.

“If claims are true, the SEC will open an investigation and could seek a bar to prevent executives from holding executive positions in the future,” Gasparino quotes Chester Spatt, a former director of the SEC’s Office of Economic Analysis, as saying on Fox Business News.

Rebecca Hahn/LinkedIn

To discredit Zatko, Twitter spokesperson Rebecca Hahn told the Washington Post that his allegations appeared to be “riddled with inaccuracies” and that Zatko “now appears to be opportunistically seeking to inflict harm on Twitter, its customers, and its shareholders.” Hahn said that Twitter fired Zatko after 15 months “for poor performance and leadership.” The Washington Post said attorneys for Zatko confirmed he was fired but denied it was for performance or leadership.

Hahn isn’t just any PR person; she’s Twitter’s Global Vice President of Communications, so when she speaks, apparently the whole world listens. In my mind, her public disclosure that Zatko was fired gives him much credibility.

You see when companies are confronted with conscientious employees who question their business practices, honesty never comes into play. If Zatko was indeed questioning Twitter’s corporate behavior, rest assured his HR reviews didn’t say, “Mudge is on to Twitter and knows that people who work here are lying scumbags who deceive advertisers and censor scientists and people with unacceptable conservative views.”

No, they concoct stuff like, “Mudge isn’t a team player, and his colleagues say he is confrontational and difficult to work with. Mudge adheres to ideas that aren’t aligned with Twitter’s vision and values and is an impediment to the world-class aspirations that all Twitter employees religiously adhere to and work diligently and wholeheartedly to achieve 24/7.”

For a real life example of a despicable attempt by managers to discredit someone for failing to toe the party line, read this story the National Review published on how top editors at USA Today conducted a witch hunt against former deputy editorial page editor David Mastio after he had the temerity to tweet, “people who are pregnant are also women.” As I’ve written previously, despicability runs far and deep at USA Today, which is owned by the despicable Gannett publishing company.

Twitter has caused great harm to America. I hope management is held accountable, particularly those overseeing censorship.

Elon Musk – a modern day P.T. Barnum?

“There’s a sucker born every minute,” is a quote often attributed to the circus impresario P.T. Barnum, although it’s debated whether he actually said it. Elon Musk’s twist on that line: “There’s a rich sucker born every minute.”

The thought crossed my mind reading this CarBuzz story about problems with the steering yokes on Musk’s most pricey Model S Tesla, which start at $104,990 without any options.

CarBuzz writer Jarryd Neves did a great job reporting on the issue, so here’s some highlights:

Even though it’s been in production for 10 years, the Tesla Model S is still a segment leader in many aspects. If you spring for the $135,990 Model S Plaid, you’ll be rewarded with one of the fastest accelerating vehicles in the world, all wrapped up in a practical and usable package. But, despite the premium pricing, Tesla has often been criticized for its less-than-premium interior finishes and build quality.

There’s more evidence of this now, as several owners have reported premature wear on their steering yokes. One owner posted a picture of his peeling steering wheel to Twitter, expressing shock at the poor quality. “Only 12,000 miles on my Plaid Model S and this is already happening?” he tweeted, while others have reported the same occurrence with as little as 4,000 miles on the clock.

This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident. Another Twitter user, known as The Kilowatts, also shared his experience. The steering wheel trim on his 2021 Model S started disintegrating after 20,000 miles. In Tesla’s defense, the owner notes it was used as a rental on Turo and, as we know, rental cars lead particularly hard lives. Then again, far cheaper cars are pressed into fleet duty and don’t suffer similar quality issues.

In a bid to become more environmentally friendly, Tesla stopped using genuine leather and started using a synthetic hide known as vegan leather. One Model 3 owner covered a mere 6,500 miles before his seats started bubbling. Astonishingly, Tesla quoted him $1,880 to repair the issue, which it said stems from the use of lotions, sunscreen, hair sprays, or gels.”

The main benefit of synthetic leather (in most instances, vinyl) is that it’s supposed to be more hard-wearing – ask anyone who’s owned a Benz with MB-Tex upholstery. However, this is clearly not the case here. What’s more, it’s bizarre that Tesla would attribute the accelerated wear to things such as lotion and sunscreen. These are items other car owners use every day without damaging their trim.

I’m still intrigued by the Model S I saw getting electrified at my local Whole Foods with a bumper duct taped to the car.

Tesla Model S

P.T. Barnum was also once among the richest persons in the world but went bankrupt after buying a clock company that turned out to be a fraud. If by chance Musk is forced to make good on his offer to buy Twitter, that could put a real dent in his net worth.

Like Musk, Barnum thrived on attention.

“Without promotion, something terrible happens – nothing!” Barnum reportedly once said.

Deep State Propaganda

It’s a wonder how anyone, even far-left liberals, can view the New York Times and the Washington Post as anything but propaganda organs for the Deep State.

Take this story by Trump nemesis Maggie Haberman and three of her Times colleagues with two other reporters contributing. It provides detailed information about 300 classified and “sensitive” documents Donald Trump supposedly had at Mar-a-Lago, “helping to explain the Justice Department’s urgent response.”

As with these types of Times stories, only anonymous sources are quoted. If the information is true, why couldn’t the Justice Department just disclose it? Leaking it to the Times is just Washington’s cowardly way of avoiding any scrutiny or real accountability.

Maggie Haberman was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on Trump, some of which has since been discredited. A contributor to the story was Glenn Thrush, who it was revealed submitted a story to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for review before publishing when he worked at Politico.

Notably, it took the Times just a few weeks to report the supposed reasons behind the Mar-a-Lago raid but 17 months to confirm the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the other day that an FBI warning about Russian misinformation was responsible for Facebook restricting the Post’s story when it came out just before the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, Pranshu Verma published this gushing story about how scientists have supposedly found a way to charge electric auto batteries up to 90 percent in just 10 minutes. That’s obviously an EV game changer.

Just one thing: the technology is at least five years away from coming to market. Know where the scientists work? The Idaho National Laboratory, a research center run by the Department of Energy.

I’ll bet Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm loved the story.

The Adderall Surge

One might expect that in the wake of the opioid epidemic we’d see a curb in narcotic prescriptions, but that optimism would be misplaced. Citing data from Iqvia Holdings Inc., a data and research services provider for the pharmaceutical industry, the Wall Street Journal reported prescriptions for Adderall rose to 41.4 million, up 10.4 percent from 2020.

Adderall is a Schedule II drug, the same classification as heroin, cocaine, or meth. It is typically given for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which according to the CDC nearly 10 percent of children aged 3 to 17 suffer from.

If ADHD is a real disease, then I’m definitely inflicted with it. I have all the symptoms, but I’ve long been suspicious that the diagnosis was a pharmaceutical concoction to control children and adults who are naturally hyper.

Here’s what I find works well: Yoga and meditation. It takes a lot of effort and is often unpleasant, but for most people, it isn’t addictive. To my knowledge, no one has ever died because they practiced too much yoga.

Practicing self-care

I get few “likes” when I post on LinkedIn, so I’m going to give myself one for this post I published on May 14, 2019, headlined, “R.I.P. Bed Bath & Beyond. I knew the company was doomed when some private equity clowns took it over; while BB&B didn’t die quite as fast as I expected, it’s on its last legs. Lots of savvy investors are betting on the decline.

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