It's Time to Cancel Elon Musk's Government Contracts - The Friday AM Quickie 9/8/23

Why oh why did I skip breakfast? I'm certainly old enough to know better! - Corey

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Elon Musk Is the World's Whiniest War Profiteer

The latest, perhaps unwitting, argument against the continued existence of billionaires comes from an unlikely source: Tulane University university history professor and business-friendly author Walter Isaacson. As a former Time magazine editor, CNN chair, and president of the hoity-toity Aspen Institute, Isaacson is an insider's insider. He's written a number of enthusiastic books about tech industry figures including Steve Jobs. His latest is a biography of apartheid mining heir-turned-obnoxious Silicon Valley icon Elon Musk, who seems to have given Isaacson some measure of access. An excerpt published yesterday in the Washington Post adds disturbing detail to an episode most recently covered in Ronan Farrow's New Yorker profile of Musk, in which the SpaceX boss decided to intervene to Russia's benefit in the war on Ukraine.

After providing free Starlink satellite services to Ukraine following the Russian invasion, Musk decided the Pentagon should be paying him for it. When his demand for $145 million leaked, Musk threw a public tantrum and backed down. But then he unilaterally decided that Ukraine could no longer use Starlink, which had become critical to the war effort, in its campaign to recapture Crimea. That much was known. What Isaacson reveals is the galling extent of the ketamine-addled, hatemongering oligarch's attempt to dictate Ukraine's war strategy.

When Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, objected to Musk's decision on Crimea, Musk responded in a private exchange reproduced by Isaacson. "Once Russia is fully mobilized, they will destroy all infrastructure throughout Ukraine and push far past the current territories," Musk predicted. "Russia will stop at nothing, nothing, to hold Crimea. This poses catastrophic risk to the world. ... Seek peace while you have the upper hand."

After essentially telling Ukraine to surrender, he picked up the phone and whined to Isaacson: "How am I in this war? ... Starlink was not meant to be involved in wars. It was so people can watch Netflix and chill and get online for school and do good peaceful things, not drone strikes." That's pretty rich from a guy who made his fortune in large part thanks to exclusive defense contracts. Presumably Musk shared his private messages with Isaacson because he thought the exchange reflected well on him. I think not.

Who is Musk to decide how Ukraine should defend itself? Nobody promoted him to general. Nobody elected him. Nobody even asked him. When billionaires are deciding matters of war and peace for multiple countries on a whim, wealth inequality has become an existential problem for humanity. As Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University's Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, puts it in a somewhat more moderate comment to the Post:

"You would expect people with this kind of corporate power to operate from self interest or to make mistakes. But you would not expect someone who provides an ally with crucial technology and then snatches it back when they are using it in the middle of a war. Whatever responsible corporate behavior is, that's not it."

What Musk has done with Starlink is tantamount to extortion. In past wars, he might have been prosecuted as a profiteer. Instead, his amoral scheming paid off: the Pentagon struck a new contract with SpaceX, the terms of which are secret. Industry experts speculate the terms may give the military more control over how Starlink operates, and allow it to prevent another incident like the one Isaacson describes in his book. But why should we have to speculate about this? SpaceX should be nationalized and Musk's fortune should be taxed to oblivion and put toward the good of the public. I honestly don't expect them to go that far, but even the most milquetoast corporate Democrats should now be able to understand that billionaires have become a national security problem.

Trumpdates: The Best Lawyers

  • Trump Trade Adviser Peter Navarro Convicted of Contempt of Congress "We don't know that he wasn't stuck on the Metro," Navarro's lead attorney, Stanley Woodward Jr., said, in a failed bid to persuade the judge that Navarro's failure to testify to Congress might have been an accident. via the Washington Post.
  • Georgia Prosecutor Accuses GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Obstruction in Her Trump Racketeering Case "Your attempt to invoke congressional authority to intrude upon and interfere with an active criminal case in Georgia is flagrantly at odds with the Constitution," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wrote in a letter sent to the Ohio Republican yesterday. via the New York Times.
  • GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley Again Denies He Was to Play a Role in Trump's Jan. 6 Coup Attempt Former Trump lawyer John Eastman dodged a question under oath about Grassley's possible role in the Jan. 6 plot during his disbarment trial this week in California. via HuffPost.
  • Border Wall Caused 'Damage and Destruction' to Environment, Native American Burial Grounds A Government Accountability Office report released yesterday catalogues the harm caused by the 450 miles of barrier built on Trump's orders, some of it irreparable. via Politico and HuffPost.

'Tick Tock': UAW Chief Says Strike Likely Next Week

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain yesterday rejected the latest contract offer from a major automaker, GM, calling it "insulting," while warning that a massive 150,000-member strike is likely when current contracts expire next Thursday. "The clock is ticking. Stop wasting our members' time. Tick tock," Fain said in a statement. According to the Washington Post, the union's talks with Ford are at "a more advanced stage." President Joe Biden blew off the possibility of a strike on Labor Day, saying "I'm not worried," but Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said yesterday that "there's reason to be concerned." Fain reiterated yesterday that the UAW is, for now, withholding its endorsement from Biden, but he also had harsh words for Donald Trump, who this week called on autoworkers to withhold their union dues. "That's not someone that represents working-class people. He's part of the billionaire class; we need to not forget that," Fain told MSNBC yesterday. "And that's what our members need to think about when they go to vote." If the UAW does strike, members will collect $500 a week from the union strike fund. Meanwhile in California, striking SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America members rallied for state Senate Bill 799, which would allow striking workers to collect unemployment benefits.


  • 'End Fossil Fuels' Protesters Shut Down U.S. Open Semifinal for 50 Minutes "One protester glued his bare feet to the concrete floor." via the Associated Press.
  • California Democrats Vote to Decriminalize Natural Psychedelics, Protect Libraries from Censorship Gov. Gavin Newsom backed the anti-book ban bill and has until Oct. 14 to make up his mind about magic mushrooms. via the Los Angeles Times and Politico.
  • Wearing Bitcoin Socks to Court, Fourth FTX Executive Pleads Guilty Like three other FTX execs before him, Ryan Salame is expected to cooperate with prosecutors against his former boss, crypto kingpin Sam Bankman-Fried; Salame, who faces up to 10 years in prison, will pay $11 million in fines and restitution, and forefit two properties as well as a Porsche. via the New York Times.
  • More Than 20 Million Americans to Benefit from Expanded Disability Protections The Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule yesterday to "update and clarify obligations to provide nondiscriminatory health care and social services to disabled people." via HuffPost.



That's how many gallons of water one Delta Air Lines aircraft loading agent at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport says he consumes in a single 12-hour shift in an attempt to stay hydrated. As the Washington Post reports, the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating complaints from airport workers who've suffered severe health problems from working in the heat; even though extreme temperatures are becoming more common, there remain no national regulations to protect workers from heat.


9/8: It's Casual Friday! Sam speaks with David Dayen, executive editor at the The American Prospect, to round up the week in news.


Vivek SQUIRMS When Confronted with His Trump Criticisms

Ramaswamy also went to bat for the Proud Boys this week.


Alex Jones would be embarrassed to recycle laughable conspiracy theories from 2008 that never gained traction. Not Tucker!


"I think their messaging was not the problem. Their position is the problem, and they're going to be stuck with those positions."

-- Emily's List spokesperson Christina Reynolds, speaking to NBC News about a Republican effort, informed by recent polling, to come up with new euphemism to replace "pro-life" to refer to their anti-abortion policies. One hapless GOP Senator suggested "pro-baby" as an alternative.

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