Today we have another podcast with Jon Stewart that's a companion to his new series The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV+, though usually they are standalone episodes on different topics. This week it’s, “Why the FTX Crypto Scam Is a Tale As Old As Time.” As their website describes the podcast --“Whatever fun name you wanna put on it, it’s the same damn thing we’ve seen over and over again.” David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect, joins us to discuss the spectacular rise and fall of crypto exchange FTX and its disgraced leader, Sam Bankman-Fried. We dive into the ways its collapse mirrors the worst failures of more mainstream markets, how SBF was able to use effective altruism as cover for garden-variety political influence, and why it’s a mess that the House Agriculture Committee ended up regulating exchanges like FTX. Plus, writers Henrik Blix and Jay Jurden stop by to talk about living in a golden age of grifts and teach Jon about the Liver King’s dirty secret.
Happily, though a podcast, the show now seems to be posting an audio Zoom version of the episode, so that's what we'll go with. And you can watch it here.
Over the weekend, actress Valerie Bertinelli decided to show how ludicrous the new “Twitter Blue” verification policy was. And so, she changed her screen name to “Elon Musk” and tweeted out about a dozen messages, many of them in support of Democratic candidates. She then changed her name back.
I was curious how Elon Musk reacted, so I went to his feed. It was not pretty. My intention was just to check out if he had a response, and my post a reply. But what he wrote on the subject and so much of the other criticism was just jaw-droppingly bad. It was sort of like forming a comedy duo act, and he decided to be the straight man. Tweet after tweet after tweet after tweet.
I kept thinking, “Okay, that’s it.” But then I’d read the next one. And then think, “Okay, I can’t not comment on that.”
Here’s how I spent about a half-hour last night --
Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That’s our mission.
Well, y'know, getting rid of the Identity Verification protocol was a *Really Bad* way to start going about this. By the way, you did a nice job in "One Day at a Time."
My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.
What about someone else's direct personal safety risk? (Like, say, where people tweet that someone deserves to die.) Are you committed to *that*??
Or to the safety of democracy? As in "spreading misinformation to help destroy people's trust in institutions."
Power to the People
Like no voter suppression!
And no laws that discriminate against anyone, regardless of race or gender!
And laws that require corporations pay fair taxes, like The People!
And a woman's right to choose for HER life!
And no book banning!
And teaching the truth of slavery!
Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.
This sounds a little like a line from the commandant in "The Great Escape."
BTW, what if one has not signed up for $100/year "Twitter Blue" and therefore not received the "warning?" Will they get suspended even though they weren’t warned?
Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying “parody” will be permanently suspended
You seem a bit touchy.
Define "parody." How does it differ from "mocking"? Or "social protest"?
P.S. Are you aware that when you tell a joke but say, "OK, this is going to be a joke, it's funny" it generally ruins the joke.
Ohh, I get it. This is "free speech." With limits.
Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark
This is an added burden for women who get married and change their name.
And Kanye West a couple times a year.
Trash me all day, but it’ll cost $8
It will cost $8 to criticize someone now on Twitter?? Or just if you are criticized.
Is that $8 per criticism, or will it cover criticizing you for a full month?
Free speech seems to be getting more expensive by the day.
Again, to be crystal clear, Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged. In fact, we have actually seen hateful speech at times this week decline *below* our prior norms, contrary to what you may read in the press.
And your whitewashing note is contrary to what I see on my actual feed.
We have totally different definitions of "crystal clear" and "commitment." I believe mine are more accurate. Though, to be crystal clear, I'm biased.
Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.
No one forced YOU to vastly overpay $44 BILLION for Twitter. So, that was a choice.
And you chose to change policies about verification & making hate speech more accessible, driving away advertising.
Cool, so it was "You're fired, instead of 2 weeks severance, here's 3 weeks."
Excellent summary of Twitter’s Trust & Safety from the head of the team. [He then attached a statement from the head of the team.]
”As proof that all our new policies are GREAT, our new company official who I hired to install them will now tell explain the new policies are GREAT!!"
Followed by creator monetization for all forms of content
Is this from you or Valerie Bertinelli?
Today we take another of those Points of Personal Privilege. Readers here may recall that I periodically write about my friend, Dr. Greg van Buskirk, chemist extraordinaire. I met him and his wife Sharon Kantor when we lived in the same graduate dorm at UCLA.
The eminent Dr. Buzz worked for years at Clorox, where I've always liked to say he invented Scrubbing Bubbles, even though a) he didn't, and b) that was from another company. But he was in charge of some top products, and when he went out on his own, he invented a fabric softener, Sofft, that also acted as a stain repellent (a project which is still ongoing).
And then a couple years ago, I wrote here about how he not only has a new one, but this invention is a full line of home products that has actually started to hit the shelves. The only unfortunate news is that it came to the market too late to qualify for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he long deserved.
It's a product line called, Sensitive Home, which are cleaning products, particularly suitable for those who suffer from chemical sensitivities and people who are concerned about toxins in their home -- but it's made, as Greg says with his usual eloquence, "for use and enjoyment by all!"
Well, just to let you know that – as I always say – I tries nots to steers ya wrong. Yesterday, Greg announced that Sensitive Home was chosen as a 2022 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Winner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the second year in a row! And just to be clear, it’s “only” two years in a row because the company has only been in business for two years.
(What this all means is that the “EPA Safer Choice” program helps identify products with safer chemical ingredients that don’t sacrifice on quality or performance. It focuses on efforts to advance sustainability, environmental responsibility, and product safety. These are considered by many to be Good Things. And all the better, the entire line of Sensitive Home products is certified. Which is also considered A Good Thing.)
I feel obligated by contest rules of fairness to point out that the award is for the entire Sensitive Home team, not just its esteemed inventor. But the inventor gets to sleep with the award under his pillow.
There -- proof that I’m not lying about the award. And that Dr. Buzz actually exists, and is not a character like Mr. Clean. (Well, okay, he is sort of a character, but he is real and has a PhD, so you don’t just have to call him “Mister.”)
Well, I must say that I knew he had it in him!! I knew it. When everyone else was saying, "Greg, stick with the guitar and taking apart motorcycles just so you could put them back together, I said -- No! You can do so much more. Like at least try to make sourdough bread and invent a line of great, environmentally friendly and safe homecare products. (It’s long been my theory that he moved to Northern California in order to be closer to the sourdough industry. That and so he and Sharon could be around more Dungeons and Dragons geeks. But that's a long story, made more aching and memorable with Thanksgiving being only a few weeks away. So, we'll leave it for now and stick with Sensitive Home, the EPA award, and sourdough bread.)
I am deeply impressed by this. Actually, I was seriously impressed just by him inventing the Sensitive Home products, period. And getting a company started. This simply takes it to another level. Though there was nothing simple about it. So, big, huge congrats to Dr. Greg van Buskirk -- the chemist who takes chemistry out of chemistry by using chemistry. Voted one of the world’s Top 8 most sensitive chemists six years in a row. And seven years out of the last 10.
A couple of days I wrote about Kanye West and his ongoing virulent and violent anti-Semitic comments, and how the issue isn’t about Kanye West, but about the Republican Party which has not only been silent about it all, but has continued to back him and Trump’s own recent anti-Semitic rant.
I stand by that. But I do think Mr. West does deserve some attention of his own.
(Quick side note: I know well that he’s now referred today as “The former Kanye West who legally changed his name to Ye.” But what he didn’t seem to bother to change was his Twitter account, for which he doesn't use "Ye," but still posts as Kanye West. So, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.)
This comes because, after having been pummeled by his business partnerships, notably losing his deal with Adidas who he basically dared cut ties with him, and they did, he’s be acting very desperate lately.
As I said before, Kanye West will be fine financially. If he loses 90 percent of his income, with the remaining 10 percent he’s still doing great. (Assuming he had a billion dollars – maybe more, maybe less – that still would leave $100 million.) That said, we don’t know his financial ties and if he’s leveraged and has outstanding loans, and how losses from other business cutting ties will affect his finances.
What we do know, though, is that after Adidas dropped him, Forbes magazine almost immediately removed West from their billionaire's list, significantly plummeting his net worth to $400 million. That's a huge loss of wealth. It's also still a massive amount of money. Though whatever real-life problems it may cause him, I don’t especially care. Because this isn’t about money. It’s about a virulent, violent anti-Semite.
But as much as I don’t care about Kanye West’s finances, he clearly does.
The other day, he went uninvited into the corporate headquarters of Skecher, trying to get a new deal to replace the one lost with Adidas – and not only didn’t get the deal, but was escorted out of the building, getting the company to put out a press release explaining that they would not be working with Kanye West now or in the future, saying among other things, “Skechers is not considering and has no intention of working with West. We condemn his recent divisive remarks and do not tolerate anti-Semitism or any other form of hate speech."
He's lost partnership deals with Adidas, Balenciaga, Skechers, TJ Maxx. His talent agency CAA dropped him as a client. The MRC Entertainment production company has shelved a documentary that already completed about it. Vogue has cut ties with him. Gap has said it’s removing his Yeezy Gap products and shutting down the Yeezy Gap website. Apple Music announced that while it’s not removing all his music, it is, however, removing the Kanye West Essentials Playlist some material, along with his biography.
By the way, going back to Gap a moment, Kanye West put out a weird social media post yesterday – one of many, so that’s par for the course – that included a small comment that hasn’t gotten much attention: “As to Gap, the non-compete expires December 15, 2022. You own the Yeezy name and all trademarks associated with Yeezy.”
He lost the name and all trademarks for Yeezy?? Well, that can’t be good. Most especially for someone who went to the trouble of legally changing his name to Ye.
Also not good were all the social media postings he put out yesterday. The most notable one, though, was ostensibly sent to his former agency, writing –
"I LOST 2 BILLION DOLLARS IN ONE DAY
AND I’M STILL ALIVE
THIS IS LOVE SPEECH
I STILL LOVE YOU
GOD STILL LOVES YOU
THE MONEY IS NOT WHO I AM
THE PEOPLE IS WHO I AM"
"The people is who I am."
Just not all the people. Just not the people he wanted dead and to go “Death Con 3” over. And has been virulently attacking for many weeks, in fact months and perhaps years. (A news story yesterday told how in 2018 he apparently wanted to title his album Hitler. And had to be talked out of it.)
Fun fact: Writing "love speech" doesn't make people (and business partners) forget one's hate.
And that’s the point of this all.
Kanye West can cry out that he’s all about love and The People, but his words and words and relentless words come tumbling out before him. He can’t claim his was misquoted. They were his own social media postings he himself wrote. (And never claimed anyone else did.) They’ve been his own relentless, ongoing words.
And beyond his own virulent and violent words of anti-Semitism that have been picked up by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups, he even has taken on his own black community, wearing “White Lives Matter” t-shirts and claiming George Floyd wasn’t killed by a now-convicted police officer kneeling on his neck for eight minutes, but rather died from a drug overdose. (A “claim” the Floyd family has sued him $250 million for.)
That’s the problem he faces.
Given all he’s said about Jews and even blacks and for so long, it’s very difficult to apologize and say, “Gee, I didn’t mean it. It was hurtful and wrong, I’m sorry.” Because clearly he did mean it, and meant it repeatedly. Bluntly. You don't accidentally want to title your album Hitler. Single “oops” statements can be apologized for with a mea culpa. But this is about core beliefs about who a person is. Such things require acknowledging who you are, explaining the hurt and harm it caused – giving comfort to white supremacists, understanding why it is wrong and why you have been wrong for so long and what you are going to do about the long process of changing who you are right now and for the rest of your life.
And even that doesn’t erase what is on the long record of what you said.
That’s the problem he faces.
By the way, the added problem is that I don’t see most people, and most especially Kanye West, given who he’s showed himself to be his long public life, going through such a complete public cleansing of his past. And even if, for some miraculous reason, he did, it would likely be seen as being just an attempt to reclaim is lost partnerships and money, not a public rending of his soul. But even if – beyond even miracles – his words and actions are so profoundly powerful that they are seen as deeply heartfelt to the extent that he’s gone through a personal conversion…those words he’s long said still live on.
And though people at that beyond-miracle point could forgive him, it would still be hard for businesses to want to risk being associated in any way with those early and relentless, hate-filled, violent words. And hoped-for album titles.
To be clear, I think it’s possible some people, maybe many, would be able to forgive Kanye West and keep listening to his music, and would want to buy his products if they could find them being made and sold somewhere, even if he only gave a moderate apology.
The hurdle for West is that it’s hard to see he has even that in him. And further, while it might be enough to win some or many fans back, it wouldn’t be enough to bring businesses back. He’s much too toxic to the corporate world for just a mild “I’m sorry if I offended anybody” apology.
And his business deals are the core to his wealth now, not his music. And music trends are short shelf lives. The public often can forgive egregious, but simple transgressions, however those tend to take a while, let’s say five years. The music world in five years (let alone more) may not likely have much place for a Kanye West, other than in the Oldies bin. And the fashion world is even more fickle, often changing from season to season. And now make it, what if the mea culpa comes in 10 years?
I’m not saying Kanye West won’t be able to turn around how he’s crashed and burned his life. Or that he will be impoverished by his actions. Financially, he should be better than fine, just perhaps at a less-grandiose scale. And depending on how he chooses to respond to everything, he may stop being a pariah.
But “should” and “may” are tangential terms. And they come up against a monumental wall and onrushing tsunami that he himself created.
That he himself created, and then dared Adidas to do something about it. Not recognizing the obvious that his world revolved around so much more than just Adidas. Who, in the end, had utterly zero interest in understanding that it was far more in their corporate interest to move to higher ground.
There are so many biblical quotes one could throw around here, starting with “Pride goeth before the fall.” But it’s one other that most stands out --
We have not yet reached the point where this deeply-ironic biblical phrase has taken on brand new meaning, but it’s up to him to avoid it:
Abandon all hope Ye who enter here.
Well, this is quite the joy. A full 14 minutes of uninterrupted TV commercials.
No, really, it's pure joy because they're not just any TV commercials, but ads made by the master, Stan Freberg. Some of these, many people will remember. A lot will be fresh. All will be a total treat.
A few items of note as you watch.
1:30 -- This was one of Freberg’s more popular campaigns, for Sunsweet Prunes. Very low-key for his work, and very funny. That’s Freberg as the offscreen voiceover interviewer. You can see it in the freeze-frame below.
7:20 – One of Freberg’s most-famous and off-beat campaigns was for the introduction of Jeno’s Pizza Rolls. The series of thoroughly offbeat ads initially began with a satire of a commercial then-running for Kent cigarettes. For those, signs were held up on the street saying “Show us your Kent cigarettes” while the William Tell Overture played, and the public “supposedly” grabbed their Kent packs to show to the passing camera.
9:20 – the fellow on left is Bill Idelson, who’s an interesting fellow. He began his career as a kid playing the son ‘Rush’ on the radio classic series Vic & Sade. As an adult, he became a TV writers and wrote a lot of episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show. But he is probably most recognized today for appearing in a few episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show as Sally Roger’s sometime boyfriend Herman Glimscher.
10:25 – another of the Jeno’s ads which takes a lot a digs at other commercials which were running at the time.
11:30 – This may be Freberg’s most famous TV ad, although a lot of others compete for that honor. But it definitely got the most press attention, and, at the time when it was made in 1970, it was the most expensive TV commercial by anyone, costing $154,000. (Again, that's in 1970 dollars, so probably around a million dollars today.) It’s to introduce Heinz Great American Soup, which were trying to compete with Campbell’s Chunky Soup. The ad feature MGM legend Ann Miller and had choreography by Hermes Pan, who most-famously worked with Fred Astaire on 17 movies and won an Oscar with two other nominations.
12:30 – Freberg usually did voiceovers in his ads, but he appears on camera here.
The other day, CEO Joy Gendusa of PostcardMania, which is based in Florida, told employees that they should keep working through Hurricane Ian (in order to have a good end of quarter) because the hurricane was likely to be a "nothingburger." Unfortunately for her, the comments were made on video, and it became public. What I love is that, as a result of the public response and within the company, their president Melissa Bradshaw backtracked by saying that the CEO's words "weren't official company position"!!
Employee reaction was, not shockingly as I said, not positive, not just for the initial statement, but also the reversal. “There is no company worth sacrificing for,” one worker said. And another employee commented -- “She speaks for the company. She is the company. She is the boss.”
I have no idea if Ms. Gendusa is Republican. I do know that "nothingburger" has become the beloved term of disdained dismissal by the far right, after Don Jr. used the term to disdainfully dismiss meeting with with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential campaign.
You can read more about the story here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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