Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
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Twitter’s board has approved a deal allowing Elon Musk to buy the company and take it private, in alarming news for anyone who doesn’t want a major social media platform controlled by an egomaniacal billionaire ranting about free speech while his signature company is being sued for racial discrimination.
Musk’s initial offer/threat to buy Twitter drew skepticism, but talks turned serious after he made progress in lining up financing, though it’s not yet a done deal and could—especially given who we’re talking about here—fall apart, perhaps in spectacular fashion. [EDITORIAL UPDATE: On Monday Twitter's board unanimously approved a $44 billion buyout by Musk.]
Musk has claimed he wants to turn Twitter into a “platform for free speech around the globe,” but basically every expert on social media and speech says he has no clue what he’s talking about. The major social media companies, including Twitter, have invested a lot of time and money into figuring out what works, and while no one’s saying they’ve perfected it, the likelihood that Elon Musk can manifest a better answer directly from his ego is low.
”What Musk seemingly fails to recognize is that to truly have free speech today, you need moderation,” Katie Harbath, a former Facebook executive, told The Washington Post. “Otherwise, just those who bully and harass will be left as they will drive others away.”
”A platform that allows people to spam misogynist and racist abuse is unsafe for pretty much anyone else and would lose advertisers, corporate partners and sponsors rapidly, leaving it a commercially unviable husk within months,” said the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Imran Ahmed.
Speaking of racist abuse, Musk’s signature company, Tesla, lost one racism discrimination lawsuit, with an initial judgment of $137 million recently reduced to $15 million. Other Black employees describe a horrifyingly, overtly racist environment at Tesla’s California plant, spurring a major discrimination lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. That’s important context for Musk’s “free speech” talk. This is someone who presided over a company at which Black employees are assigned particularly difficult work in a section of the factory referred to as “the plantation,” a Black worker was fired after complaining that a supervisor called him and other Black workers “monkeys,” and use of the N-word was “the norm. It was Tesla’s tradition.”
Another interesting piece of context for Musk’s effort to buy Twitter is that in 2018, he had to step down as Tesla’s chair and paid $40 million in penalties ($20 million from himself and $20 million from Tesla) after—in a fascinating precursor to his current effort—he used tweets to claim he was taking Tesla private, causing “significant market disruption.”
Over the weekend, Musk continued to use his own high-profile Twitter account to show the kind of chaos he likes to bring to the platform, attacking Bill Gates with a crude, fat-shaming graphic, and suggesting that his hyperloop would work better than other forms of transportation because “Underground tunnels are immune to surface weather conditions (subways are a good example), so it wouldn’t matter to Hyperloop if a hurricane was raging on the surface. You wouldn’t even notice.” This howler drew a flood of responses with pictures of subway stations flooded after hurricanes or even just major rainstorms. The guy never lets not knowing what he’s talking about stop him from saying it through a huge megaphone.
Twitter may announce a deal with Musk as soon as Monday, though it could fall apart even after a public announcement.
Printed with permission from DailyKos.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), having already lost her personal Twitter account for promoting COVID misinformation, is now attacking noted historian, author, and conservative columnist Max Boot for expressing concern about billionaire Elon Musk’s attempt to take over Twitter.
Musk, not only currently the richest person on the planet, but the richest person in history, was sanctioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission and ordered to pay Tesla shareholders $40 million over his Twitter posts in 2018 ($20 million from Musk, $20 million from Tesla.) He was also ordered to have his tweets vetted before posting, which he is now fighting.
Friday morning Musk officially attempted to buy the social media platform, after almost joining the company’s board earlier in the week, which came after a late disclosure he had purchased more than nine percent of the company’s stock.
“I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter,” Boot, a former Republican, said on Twitter. “He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”
Rep. Greene went ballistic, calling Boot a “communist.”
Kill freedom of speech to save democracy?\n\nSay you\u2019re a communist.\nJust say it.\n\nYou\u2019re actually scared of people freely discussing ideas and saying words.\n\nYou\u2019re terrified of the impact on politics when truth isn\u2019t censored. \n\nI\u2019m offended by your weakness.https://twitter.com/maxboot/status/1514570168730636290\u00a0\u2026— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (@Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene) 1649941564
She was quickly mocked, including by Boot himself.
Jewish space laser lady thinks I\u2019m a Communist. https://twitter.com/RepMTG/status/1514590815431106563\u00a0\u2026— Max Boot \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Max Boot \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1649941629
But Boot also made a serious observation about the response to his original tweet:
“All the hyperventilating from Trumpist trolls in response to this post (claiming that content moderation=fascism) is a good example of the worst of social media. It’s corrosive tendencies should be curbed not amplified. Trump must never be allowed on Twitter again.”
Others chimed in too:
She ran to the police to file a report against Jimmy Kimmel for telling a joke about her.pic.twitter.com/vPIvAMANjE— Ron Filipkowski \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Ron Filipkowski \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1649941700
This from a person that called police to report an innocuous joke by a comedian. You people never, ever value \u201cfree speech\u201d the way you claim.— Brian Normoyle (@Brian Normoyle) 1649942777
Tell me you don't understand freedom of speech, democracy or communism....— Our Government is broken. \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08 (@Our Government is broken. \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08) 1649941974
MTG's last tweet prior to this one was a defense for banning books from libraries. You really can't make it up.https://twitter.com/RepMTG/status/1514590815431106563\u00a0\u2026— Morten \u00d8verbye (@Morten \u00d8verbye) 1649942085
pic.twitter.com/oPU2l1gSM6— Justin Norvell \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\udf3b (@Justin Norvell \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\udf3b) 1649942046
Sorry Marjorie, if you break a platform\u2018s rules you get banned. That is not taking away your freedom of speech that\u2019s taking someone who can\u2019t follow the rules off of a platform of people who do follow rules.— Lara reads banned books in Florida (@Lara reads banned books in Florida) 1649941602
YOU ARE SUING JIMMY KIMMEL FOR TELLING A JOKE ABOUT YOU. \n\nYOU WANT TO BAN BOOKS.\n\nI wanted to say it loud so you wouldn't miss it.— BlueBellBetty (@BlueBellBetty) 1649942370
Published by permission of Alternet
Washington (AFP) - Twitter moved Friday to defend itself against Elon Musk's $43 billion hostile takeover bid, announcing a "poison pill" plan that would make it harder for the billionaire to get a controlling stake.
Musk's proposed buyout faces several hazards, including possible rejection and the challenge of assembling the money, but could have significant impacts on the key social media service if consummated.
Twitter said its board unanimously adopted a so-called shareholder rights plan, also known as a "poison pill," which kicks in if an investor buys more than 15 percent in shares without the directors' agreement. Musk holds nine percent.
The maneuver makes it harder for a buyer to build too big of a stake without board approval, by triggering an option that allows other investors to buy more of a company's shares at a discount.
Twitter said the plan, which experts consider a potent tool against corporate raiders, does not prevent discussing or even agreeing to an acquisition.
Musk sent shockwaves through the tech world on Thursday with an unsolicited bid to buy the company, stating the promotion of freedom of speech on Twitter as a key motive for what he called his "best and final offer."
The world's richest person offered $54.20 a share, which values the social media firm at some $43 billion, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
He has not directly addressed the poison pill, but tweeted after his bid was announced that the board would face "titanic" legal liability if it goes against the interests of shareholders in rejecting his offer.
Analyst Dan Ives predicted that the board's move would "not be viewed positively by shareholders" given both the potential dilution of stock and the signal it sends of hostility towards being bought. He foresaw a "likely" court challenge.
Musk has already acknowledged he was "not sure" he would succeed and refused to elaborate on a "plan B," though in the filing he noted a rejection would make him consider selling his existing shares.
He also said he "could technically afford" the buyout while offering no information on financing, though he would likely need to borrow money or part with some of his mountain of Tesla or SpaceX shares.
'Frightened' By Musk Ownership
Some investors had already spoken against the proposal, including businessman and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
Morningstar Research analysts echoed that perspective, saying, "While the board will take the Tesla CEO's offer into consideration, we believe the probability of Twitter accepting it is likely below 50 percent."
Twitter stock closed down nearly two percent Thursday.
Musk's move throws another curve into the roller-coaster ride of his volatile relationship with the global social media service, and raises many questions about what comes next.
He was offered a seat on the board but turned it down over the weekend.
Musk's shock offer to buy Twitter drew worries -- and some cheers -- over putting the platform in the hands of a mercurial billionaire who advocates generally for few limits on what users can post.
He provided some detail Thursday on his vision, saying he'd like to lift the veil on the algorithm that runs on the platform, even allowing people to look through it and suggest changes.
He also reiterated his support for a more hands-off approach to policing the platform, a thorny matter particularly in high-profile cases such as Donald Trump who was banned after the assault on the US Capitol last year.
Critics argued that free speech absolutism on social media can be very messy in the real world.
"I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter," tweeted Max Boot, a Washington Post columnist, on Thursday.
"He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less," Boot added.
Still Musk was rallying support on Twitter, where he has over 81 million followers, for the fight ahead.
"Thanks for the support!" he tweeted in reply to a poll that overwhelmingly backed his bid.
April 5 (Reuters) - Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) said on Tuesday it will offer Tesla boss and entrepreneur Elon Musk a seat on its board of directors, a position he plans to use to bring about significant improvements at the social media site.
The move came after Musk disclosed in a regulatory filing on Monday that he had amassed a 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him its largest shareholder.
Beyond the promise of big change, Tesla Inc's (TSLA.O) CEO, who often chooses unconventional paths, has provided little detail.
Even so, Musk will be involved in strategic decisions, including the direction of Twitter's Bluesky project and the addition of an edit button, according to a source familiar with the situation.
He will not have a say on the platform's moderation, what speech gets banned or whose accounts get restored, the source said - a policy that applies to all board members.
Twitter shares were up more than 4% in midday trading, after closing up over 27% on Monday.
Musk's appointment, however, will potentially block chances of a takeover bid because the billionaire cannot own more than 14.9% of Twitter's stock either as an individual shareholder or as a member of a group as long as he is on the company's board.
The disclosure of his stake on Monday stoked widespread speculation that varied from a full takeover of the platform to taking an active position.
Musk has not indicated an interest in acquiring the company, the source said.
Twitter executives tweeted out congratulations after the announcement. There is hope that his presence can revive the platform that has struggled to attract users and possibly stir interest from retail investors.
"I'm excited to share that we're appointing @elonmusk to our board," Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said in a tweet. "He's both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term."
In response, Musk tweeted: "Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months."
Musk reached out to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and CEO Agrawal shortly after he built his stake on March 14, telling them he wanted to join the board, according to a source familiar with the situation.
They were eager to bring him on board, believing he could bring buzz to the platform as well as good ideas, the source said.
Bluesky is a company funded by Twitter to develop a new operating standard for social media. The company is working on building an open protocol that would allow different social media companies to operate together.
Musk, who calls himself a free-speech absolutist, has been critical of the social media platform and its policies, and recently ran a Twitter poll asking users if they believed the platform adheres to the principle of free speech.
After disclosing his stake on Monday, Musk put out another poll on Twitter asking users if they want an edit button, a long-awaited feature on which the social media platform has been working.
"News that he is taking a board position will lead to expectations that he wants, and will have, greater involvement in decision making at the social network," said Susannah Streeter, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
"This may lead to some nervousness about Mr Musk getting too much influence about the way Twitter is run, with a view to bolstering his own personal brand and that of his companies."
Musk, a prolific user of Twitter, has made a number of announcements to his over 80 million followers on the social media platform.
His board term expires at Twitter's 2024 annual meeting of stockholders, the company said.
The world's richest man will also be a board member of Endeavor Group Holdings Inc (EDR.N), owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, until June 30. In 2018 he exited the board of tech nonprofit OpenAI, which he cofounded.
His new role as a board member at Twitter could be a further distraction from work at Tesla. He is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX, and leads brain-chip startup Neuralink and tunneling venture the Boring Company.
He said in January that Tesla will not launch a $25,000 electric car, saying "we have ... too much on our plate, frankly." Tesla needs to ramp up production at its new factories in Berlin and Texas and boost production at its existing ones despite supply-chain disruptions.
Printed with permission from Reuters.
Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru, Svea Herbst in Boston, Hyun Joo Jin in San Francisco and Greg Roumeliotis in New York Writing by Anna Driver Editing by Anil D'Silva and Matthew Lewis
Nearly everything Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted about Elon Musk was wrong. Scratch the word "nearly." Everything was wrong.
Last month, the senator from Massachusetts tweeted, "Let's change the rigged tax code so the Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else."
Some background: The founder of Tesla had just been anointed the richest human on earth, and Time Magazine named him Person of the Year. Three months before, SpaceX, which he also founded, sent the first all-civilian crew into space.
Musk tweeted back to Warren, "And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year." He's put the number at something north of $11 billion, which, if true, would be more taxes than any other American paid ever.
Whether Musk's tax bill should have been higher can be subject for debate. We can agree that $11 billion is a healthy tax bill, but it's not an unseemly sum for one enjoying a net worth of around $243 billion.
Warren's implication that Musk doesn't pay taxes at all, however, is ignorant. The charge that he's "freeloading" — if you look at how he made that money — is awe-inspiring dumb. Musk has done more than any person on earth to replace cars run by the internal combustion engine, a significant factor in the climate crisis, with clean electric vehicles.
In 2020, when General Motors and Ford were closing factories because they couldn't find enough specialized computer chips, Tesla took the chips that were around and rewrote software to make them work in its cars. So while Ford, GM and Stellantis (Fiat Chrysler merged with Peugeot) sold fewer cars in 2021 than the year before, Tesla sold 87% more.
Six years ago, when the major U.S. carmakers were wondering whether or not to go big on electric, Tesla was building a huge battery factory in Nevada. The others are now in the game major league, and Tesla can be credited with pushing them
.But in the marathon race to win the electric vehicle market, Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, said, "Tesla is in the lead at mile number 21. Everybody else is at mile 2 or still tying their shoes."
So Musk is full of himself. He has reasons.
What bothers some 20th-century progressives is that Musk is an unapologetic capitalist who mocks them for obsessing on his wealth.
Leading the pack is Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator's brain has long been stalled on the subject of billionaires whom he once said shouldn't exist. When he tweeted, "We must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Period," Musk trolled him: "I keep forgetting that you're still alive."
Musk may not be volunteering to pay more taxes than he has to, but we who think the superrich should pay more must understand that the solution is not them, but the tax laws. The tax code is the creation of Congress.
Back to Warren. "As we face the existential threat of our time — climate change," she wrote as a presidential candidate, "Wall Street is refusing to listen, let alone take real action."
Wrong again. Actually, Wall Street has been moving away from investments in fossil fuels — to the point that Texas passed a law banning companies that refuse to finance oil ventures from state contracts.
It is Wall Street that rewarded Musk for accelerating the changeover to electric vehicles. (Tesla also has a thriving solar panel business.) If helping save the planet let Musk edge out Amazon's Jeff Bezos as the world's richest person, well, where's the problem?
Article reprinted with permission from Creators.com
Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir.
Reprinted with permission from ProPublica
Two prominent members of the Senate Finance Committee are calling for an investigation into tax avoidance by the ultrawealthy, citing ProPublica's "Secret IRS Files" series.
In a letter sent today, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) wrote to the committee's chairman, Ron Wyden (D-OR), that the "bombshell" and "deeply troubling" report requires an investigation into "how the nation's wealthiest individuals are using a series of legal tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of income taxes." The senators also requested that the Senate hold hearings and develop legislation to address the loopholes' "impact on the nation's finances and ability to pay for investments in infrastructure, health care, the economy, and the environment."
Last month ProPublica began publishing a series of stories about tax avoidance among the ultra-wealthy, based on a vast trove of tax data concerning thousands of the wealthiest American taxpayers and covering more than 15 years. ProPublica conducted an unprecedented analysis that compared the ultra-wealthy's taxes to the growth in their fortunes, calculating that the 25 richest Americans pay a "true tax rate" of just 3.4 percent.
The wealthy pay so little in taxes primarily because they keep their incomes low, the article explained, often borrowing against their fortunes to fund their lifestyles. Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Tesla's Elon Musk, Bloomberg L.P.'s Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires have each paid no federal income taxes in one or more recent years. The tax avoidance techniques described in "The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Taxes" are legal, and routine among the ultrawealthy.
In a subsequent article, ProPublica highlighted how some rich people, such as Peter Thiel, have been able to use Roth individual retirement accounts, intended as vehicles to bolster middle-class savings, to create vast untaxed fortunes. A third article showed how billionaires use a provision in the tax code to reduce their taxes after buying sports teams.
Banks and financial institutions are lending more to the rich than ever, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal last week. The senators called for an investigation of banks and wealth management firms to understand the techniques, strategies and products offered to the wealthy that enable them to avoid paying taxes. Morgan Stanley's wealth management clients have $68 billion worth of loans backed by securities and other investments, more than double the amount they had five years ago, and Bank of America has loans worth over $62 billion, the Journal reported.
In March, Warren introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Whitehouse, that would create a tax on the wealth of the richest Americans. Most Republicans and some Democrats oppose such a measure.
Update, July 14, 2021: In a statement, Wyden said that he agreed with the points raised by Warren and Whitehouse. "The country's wealthiest — who profited immensely during the pandemic — have not been paying their fair share," he said. "I've been working on a proposal to fix this broken system since 2019 and continue to work to get the bill ready for release. I'm also going to work with my colleagues on other ways the committee can tackle this issue."
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