Sunday, April 24, 2022

Last Call For Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, Con't

Twitter shareholders when into revolt this weekend over the company not selling the whole enchilada of the social media platform to billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk for $43 billion so that he could take it private and turn the company into another of his very expensive toys and are now openly forcing the company to reconsider the offer.

Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) is coming under increasing pressure from its shareholders to negotiate with Elon Musk even though the world's richest person has called his $43 billion bid for the social media platform his best and final offer, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

While the views of Twitter shareholders vary over what a fair price for a deal would be, many reached out to the company after Musk outlined his acquisition financing plan on Thursday and urged it not to let the opportunity for a deal slip away, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. read more

Twitter's board is expected to find that Musk's all-cash $54.20 per share offer for the company is too low by the time it reports quarterly earnings on Thursday. Nonetheless, some shareholders who agree with that stance still want Twitter to seek a better offer from Musk, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $270 billion, the sources told Reuters.

One option available to Twitter's board is to open its books to Musk to try to coax him to sweeten his bid. Another would be to solicit offers from other potential bidders. While it is not yet clear which path Twitter will take, it is increasingly likely that its board will attempt to solicit a better offer from Musk even as it rebuffs the current one, the sources said.

"I wouldn't be surprised to wake up next week and see Musk raise what he called his best and final offer to possibly $64.20 per share," one of the fund managers who is invested in Twitter said on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with the company.

"He could also drop the whole thing entirely. Anything is possible," the fund manager said about Musk's offer.

Twitter shares closed at $48.93 on Friday, a significant discount to Musk's offer that reflects the uncertainty over his bid's fate.

Twitter Inc. TWTR 3.93% is re-examining Elon Musk’s $43 billion takeover offer after the billionaire lined up financing for the bid, in a sign the social-media company could be more receptive to a deal.

Twitter had been expected to rebuff the offer, which Mr. Musk made earlier this month without saying how he would pay for it. But after he disclosed last week that he now has $46.5 billion in financing, Twitter is taking a fresh look at the offer and is more likely than before to seek to negotiate, people familiar with the matter said. The situation is fast-moving and it is still far from guaranteed Twitter will do so.

Twitter is still working on an all-important estimate of its own value, which would need to come in close to Mr. Musk’s offer, and it could also insist on sweeteners such as Mr. Musk agreeing to cover breakup protections should the deal fall apart, some of the people said.

The two sides are meeting Sunday to discuss Mr. Musk’s proposal, the people said.

Twitter is expected to weigh in on the bid when it reports first-quarter earnings Thursday, if not sooner, the people said. Twitter’s response won’t necessarily be black-and-white, and could leave the door open for inviting other bidders or negotiating with Mr. Musk on terms other than price. Mr. Musk reiterated to Twitter’s chairman Bret Taylor in recent days that he won’t budge from his offer of $54.20-a-share, the people said.

The potential turnabout on Twitter’s part comes after Mr. Musk met privately Friday with several shareholders of the company to extol the virtues of his proposal while repeating that the board has a “yes-or-no” decision to make, according to people familiar with the matter. He also pledged to solve the free-speech issues he sees as plaguing the platform and the country more broadly, whether his bid succeeds or not, they said.
We'll see where this goes, but odds are in Musk's favor. If he does pull this off, Twitter is going to be a very different place very quickly, and the changes are not going to be for the better.

The Big Lie, Con't

As of this weekend, the official platform of the Michigan Republican party is that the 2020 election was stolen, that Donald Trump is the rightful resident of the White House, and that their slate of statewide office candidates are committed to proving that.

Michigan Republicans picked two candidates — who deny the 2020 election results and have been endorsed by former President Trump — to serve as the state's next top elections officer and top law enforcement official.

Kristina Karamo, a community college professor who rose to prominence after claiming she saw election fraud in Detroit in the last presidential race, won the three-person race for secretary of state with about 67% of the vote at Saturday's GOP endorsement convention in Grand Rapids. On the November ballot, her opponent will be incumbent Democrat Jocelyn Benson.

Matt DePerno, an attorney who has pushed Trump's false claims of election fraud, won the party's endorsement for attorney general. In a runoff race, DePerno took 54% of the vote to defeat former state House speaker Tom Leonard, who was seen as the more establishment Republican candidate. DePerno is now running against incumbent Democrat Dana Nessel.

Michigan does not hold primary elections for a number of down-ballot races, including the secretary of state — who oversees elections — and attorney general. Instead, Republicans and Democrats endorse and nominate candidates for November's general election at party conventions.

At this weekend's GOP convention, the party voted resoundingly to support former President Trump's false claims about the 2020 election. About 2,000 delegates from across the state participated in the vote.

The convention was seen by many as the first major test of Trump's influence over the 2022 elections. Trump's former campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani attended the convention, as well as MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, who has become a leader in the election denial movement.

The former president came to Michigan earlier this month to stump with both Karamo and DePerno.

"This is not just about 2022," Trump said during his visit to the state in early April. "This is about making sure Michigan is not rigged and stolen again in 2024."

Karamo is the first of the many election-denying candidates running in secretary of state races across the U.S to move toward appearing on a state ballot in November. She has also said she doesn't believe evolution should be taught in schools.

Incumbent Democrat Benson faced a torrent of threats and harassment following the 2020 election that echoed Trump's lies about voting in Michigan. Ahead of Saturday's vote, Benson said that she worried about the state of democracy, should the state elect a secretary of state candidate like Karamo, who thinks the 2020 election was stolen.

"It's like putting arsonists in charge of a fire department. It's like putting a bank robber in charge of a bank and giving them the keys to the vault," Benson said. "This is a choice between whether or not we'll have a democracy moving forward."

Looking ahead to the general election, some Michigan political insiders question whether Karamo will be able to widen her support outside of Trump's base, considering the range of controversial views she has already voiced.

She appeared at a QAnon-adjacent rally last year, and she has said she believes the conspiracy theory that left-wing activists were behind the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"Every ad from April 24 through November is going to say 'QAnon Karamo is too crazy for us,' " said state Rep. Beau LaFave, a Republican who ran for secretary of state against Karamo, before Saturday's vote.
It's amusing that anyone on Earth, let alone America, believes for a microsecond that embrace of the Big Lie, Q-ball conspiracy theories, and denial of evolution will somehow stop Republicans from voting for Karamo in Michigan, or stopping any of the Big Lie candidates in other states in November. They will vote for awful people in order to stop Democrats from winning.
And the awful people they elect in 2022 will make sure no Democrat whatsoever can win in 2024 in those states either.

Sunday Long Read: Small Change, Big Changes

In our Sunday Long Read this week, The Guardian's Tom Lamont explores the world of vending machines, the original "contactless" delivery method, in the age of tech dominance, drone delivery, internet metadata and the pandemic.

A minute before midnight on 21 July 2021, as passengers staggered sleepily through Manchester airport, I stood wringing my hands in the glow of a vending machine that was seven feet tall, conspicuously branded with the name of its owner – BRODERICK – and positioned like a clever trap between arrivals and the taxi rank. Standard agonies. Sweet or savoury? Liquid or something to munch? I opted for Doritos, keying in a three-digit code and touching my card to the reader so that the packet moved jerkily forwards, propelled by a churning plastic spiral and tipped into the well of the machine. My Doritos landed with a thwap, a sound that always brings relief to the vending enthusiast, because there hasn’t been a mechanical miscue. Judged by the clock, which now read 12am, it was the UK’s first vending-machine sale of the day.

Nine hours later, I was sitting in a spruce office in the Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe, drinking coffee with John “Johnny Brod” Broderick, the man who owned and operated that handsome airport machine. I’d had an idea to try to capture 24 hours in the life of vending machines. These weird, conspicuous objects! With their backs against the wall of everyday existence, they tempt out such a peculiar range of emotions, from relief to frustration, condescension to childish glee. For decades I’d been a steady and unquestioning patron. I figured that by spending some time in the closer company of the machines and their keepers, by immersing myself in their history, by looking to their future, I might get to the bottom of their enduring appeal. What made entrepreneurs from the Victorian age onwards want to hawk their goods in this way? What made generations of us buy? Johnny Brod seemed a good first person to ask.

Freckle-tanned, portly and quick to laugh, Broderick has a playful exterior that conceals the fiery heart of a vending fundamentalist. He is a man so invested in the roboticised transmission of snacks that, come Halloween, Johnny Brod has been known to park a machine full of sweets in his driveway, letting any costumed local kids issue their demand for treats via prodded forefinger. With his brother Peter and his father, John Sr, he runs the vending empire Broderick’s Ltd, its 2,800 machines occupying some of the most sought-after corridors and crannies of the UK. The Broderick family sugar and sustain office workers, factory workers, students, gym goers, shoppers and schoolchildren. They pep up breaktimes in a nuclear power station. If you’ve ever wolfed a postpartum Snickers in the maternity ward at Chesterfield or Leeds General, or turned thirsty while waiting to fly out of Stansted or Birmingham airports, then you’ve almost certainly shopped, at one mechanical remove, with Johnny Brod. He thanks you.

The coffee we drank that morning had trickled into cardboard cups from one of his own hot-beverage makers. Business had been hurt badly by Covid, he said. There had been one wretched day in the spring of 2020 when he awoke to find himself not the owner of the second-largest fleet of vending machines in the UK, but instead, of “timebombs. All these machines of ours in places we couldn’t access. All full of perishable food.” After enduring months of closed workplaces, abandoned airports and dead campuses, the Brodericks had lost millions on foregone Twirls and Mini Cheddars. Even so, Johnny Brod was bullish, insisting that the pandemic presented him with opportunities, too.

As he led me on a tour of his Wythenshawe headquarters, I told him about my early hours purchase from a Broderick machine at the airport. Talk about a smooth transaction, I said. No snagging! I imagined he would be pleased to hear this, but he twitched his head in frustration, as if at a grave breach of etiquette. Vending people hated it, he explained to me, this unexamined expectation of mechanical failure. Modern machines contained many failsafes against botched vends. Despite this, the one time that Johnny Brod could remember his beloved industry trending on Twitter, a cruel joke had done the rounds. “About change being inevitable. Except from a vending machine.”

Every one of his machines, he countered, was fitted with a contactless card reader. Since Covid, people didn’t want to touch anything they didn’t have to. Big change was sweeping through automated vending, and the first thing to go was small change. As cash sales tumbled in 2020 and 2021, and contactless sales climbed, the Brodericks had been the beneficiary of new and better information about their customers. Pre-Covid, not only did they have to go and fetch someone’s coppery quid, then count it – they didn’t even know whose quid it was. Now the tycoons of vending understood us better. Johnny Brod had released a smartphone app that tempted people with discounts in return for permission to track their vending habits.

He led us into a control room that had large screens mounted on the walls and employees arranged Nasa-style, facing screens on which stationary dots and travelling arrows identified thousands of vending machines and the technicians who roved between them. We watched a live ticking record of the day’s sales activity, north to Aberdeen, south to the Isle of Wight. A couple of quick clicks on a technician’s computer and we were marvelling at the snacking history of a loyal, I would say fanatical, Broderick customer in Manchester, someone who must have been sourcing two full meals a day from behind glass. While Johnny Brod made a note to slip this customer a thank-you tenner via the app, I asked his team if they’d be able to find the record of my midnight Doritos. A few keyboard taps and there it was.

The Doritos fell from their spiral at midnight, closely followed by a sachet of peanut M&Ms, a stubby Mars and a bottle of water. What happened next in the wider world of these machines? I contacted a number of Johnny Brod’s competitors, outfits of all sizes, and asked them to share with me similar sales data for that day in July. I enlisted volunteers to help me track vending activity around the globe. Everywhere mouths watered, spirals turned. A world of people bent double, their hands patting blindly inside retrieval wells, claiming juice boxes, cola bottles, cereal bars, gum, whatever they’d bought, whatever they craved.
Turns out being able to get anything you want from a vending machine at whatever time of day or night is something the world has in common. Insert a few minutes into the slot and enjoy the story.

Utahn Me Out

Having finally accepted that the Democratic party in Utah has been dead for years, apparently we're not even bothering with a Senate candidate and instead officially backing independent failed third-party presidential gadfly Evan McMullin to run against GOP Sen. Mike "Suddenly Sedition" Lee.

In an extraordinary move on Saturday, Utah Democrats voted to back independent candidate Evan McMullin over Democrat Kael Weston to challenge the winner of the Republican primary later this year.

At the Utah Democratic Convention at Cottonwood High School in Murray, McMullin received 782 of the delegate’s votes, nearly 57%, to Weston’s 594 votes, according to preliminary results.

It’s an unprecedented measure for Utah’s Democrats, who grappled between party loyalty or backing an outsider to increase the likelihood of defeating a Republican in November. The Democrats were motivated by the prospect of unseating Sen. Mike Lee, who is running for his third term this year, and won the support of Republican around 75% of delegates at his party’s convention.

Lee still needs to defeat challengers Ally Isom and Becky Edwards in his June primary to face McMullin in the general election.

“Democrats are putting country over party,” McMullin said after the vote. “This is our democracy and, yes, it can be messy at times as we saw today, but it’s sure a heck of a lot better than the alternative.”

Weston said he accepted the outcome of what delegates decided and that it sparked an important dialogue.

“Of course, you want to be the candidate that walks out with a unanimous degree of support, but I knew this was always going to be an important conversation to have and I think with a great team, and a lot of supporters who drove from all across the state, it was a real conversation,” Weston said. “Today was a crossroads and a certain path was taken. It’s a path that has not been taken before.”
If you're wondering how we got here, understand that Democrats in many red states have decided that it's time to do whatever it takes to stop sitting Republican seditionist traitors like Mike Lee. It's also a tacit admission that the Democratic party brand is so toxic in 40 out of 50 states or so (and on life support in the other 10) that the only coalition-building criteria is "not Republican but that's a huge chunk of real estate".
On the other hand a moribund Team Blue isn't exactly a recent development in Utah, a state that hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since before I was born.
If it takes Evan McMullin to unseat Mike Lee, great. In reality, I figure it means he might only lose by 15 points instead of 25, much like Democrats here in Kentucky.

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