☕️ PRICEY PATTY ☙ Monday, November 27, 2023 ☙ C&C NEWS 🦠
A 14-second TikTok video about a McDonald's meal panics Joe Biden; Ken Paxton sues Pfizer over fake clinical trials; CDC's mysterious budget; Disney's SEC report admits ESG PO's customers; and more.
Good morning, C&C, it’s Monday! We’re headed into the final week of November, 2023, and before you know it, it will be election year. Again. So how about we take our time and enjoy these last few weeks of relative sanity? Your roundup includes: White House in full-on panic mode over TikTok about overpriced McDonald’s hamburger; Texas sues Pfizer for faking clinical trials, an allegation that shocked the world; CDC buries its budget in bureaucratic baloney; and The Hill remarkably runs a conservative take on Disney’s failing woke experiment.
🗞💬 WORLD NEWS AND COMMENTARY 💬🗞
🔥 It’s happening again! They just can’t help themselves. The latest round of U.S. government censorship and propaganda — for your own good! — started eleven months ago, with a random, 14-second TikTok with some guy in Idaho marveling over his $16 McDonald’s quarter-pounder with cheese, large fry, and a Sprite.
Here’s his receipt, from the linked clip:
Last Friday, the Washington Post excreted its latest unappetizing piece of journalistic propaganda headlined, “The viral $16 McDonald’s meal that may explain voter anger at Biden.” The more ominous sub-headline warned: “As some Democrats fear social media is exaggerating economic problems, the White House faces a crucial choice on election strategy.”
Get it? Social media is exaggerating economic problems. In other words, it’s MISINFORMATION. Just. Like. Covid.
WaPo’s article was penned by pandemic keyboard warriors Jeff Stein and Taylor Lorenz. Lorenz’s name might sound familiar. She’s the single, late-40’s reporter who doxxed Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik. Anyway, on Friday the two laptop-class WaPo reporters doxxed their latest victim, the guy who posted the McDonald’s receipt clip: an Idaho HVAC repairman named Topher Olive.
Apparently Topher Olive is a misinformer, if not an outright liar, since according to The Washington Post, in his 14-second clip he failed to explain he’d bought one of McDonald’s seasonal burgers — the “Smokey BLT” — and obviously the HVAC installer should’ve expected his otherwise plain fast-food burger to cost $16.
Looks delicious, doesn’t it?
The real problem is that, over the last couple weeks, Topher’s pricey burger clip sizzled onto social media like a cheap, Chinese frozen meat™ product hitting a rusty greased skillet. And not in a good way. Topher’s video clip has usually been re-packaged as an unhappy meal with a large side of scathing criticism of Joe Biden’s economic policies. And Joe doesn’t like it.
Fortunately your diligent federal government never sleeps, and it owns newspapers like the Washington Post, so it can promptly take the fight to liars like Topher Olive, who is probably working with the Russians. Still, it’s a vexing problem:
These stories soon reached the White House Office of Digital Strategy, which tracked the meme as one of many exaggerated examples of the nation’s economic woes, according to a White House official. In reality, inflation has been steadily subsiding.
And yet one anomalous price from one store in Idaho 11 months ago was ripping through people’s social media feeds as if it explained the entire economy. One Democratic official said: “What are we supposed to do, tell the president or Chuck Schumer to send a tweet saying, ‘Hey, most Big Macs aren’t that expensive?’ It would look ridiculous.”
Lest you forget, the White House Office of Digital Strategy is the federal government’s online misinformation police. It’s not political though! Because that would be wrong. But of course, anything that hurts the president also hurts the country.
So what should a good, massively-funded federal government do about a problem like Topher Olive? It should combat misinformation, of course. But it turned out this problem is especially tricky, like a paper bag of extra ketchup packets with a leaky one. Democrat political operatives just aren’t sure what to do, exactly, about all the unhappy regular folks who’ve been deluded into posting all this economic misinformation, probably by Putin himself:
Some voters regard the suggestion that they simply do not appreciate their circumstances as elitist and condescending. (But) at the center of this debate is a dispute over what extent social media and perceptions — rather than real conditions in the economy — are fueling voters’ angst. TikTok abounds with misleading or inaccurate information about the economy. One video in September with 2.3 million views said there was a “SILENT DEPRESSION.”
Another video from this summer with 2.1 million views claimed, incorrectly, “We have the lowest purchasing power we have ever had in American history,” and asserted that inflation-adjusted wages are lower than they were then. A third video, with 1.8 million views, similarly falsely claimed, “We currently are making less than the height of the Great Depression.”
Can you believe all these misinformers are still running around, free as birds, polluting social media with their dangerous wrongthink about the economy? How serious is this problem for Joe Biden, sorry, I mean for America? Very serious:
Some economists think these kinds of comments are not just wrong but dangerous. Economists fear that these exaggerated stories will ultimately lead to a worse outcome — perhaps helping Trump win reelection — and that it is vital to make clear that this remains by many measures one of the best recoveries in modern U.S. history.
Dangerous! You know what happens to dangerous people, like folks who take unauthorized U.S. Capitol tours. And, the WaPo is fretting that this 14-second TikTok about pricey McDonald’s meals might result in the worst outcome of all, at least, according to WaPo’s economists: they might help Trump get re-elected. So stop it!
In the meantime, the White House is diligently using your tax dollars to bribe Facebook to clamp down on all this negativity. And it’s hiring social media influencers to hype the economy. Not to help Biden. To help America:
The White House official said the administration is working with TikTok creators to tell positive stories of Biden’s economic stewardship, while also working with social media platforms to counter misinformation.
It’s so handy that during the pandemic they created all these software tools to help social media companies “counter misinformation,” which is a very nifty euphemism for “shut you fools up.”
The truth is that Biden’s “economic stewardship” — if you can call it that — has not made the economy better. Only a sold-out laptop-class reporter who lives off doing the bidding of shady government intelligence operatives could say that. The federal government is just jimmying the data again, to make it look like there’s less inflation, a game it has been playing since the 1970’s.
Even Taylor Lorenz couldn’t let that whopper languish under the warmer, admitting in her story that, to be honest, real wages have plunged since Biden was elected. They’ve plunged a lot:
If the article’s readers trudge through to the very bottom, they find the two quotes that should have started the article, instead of quotes from anonymous White House officials. As it turns out, Lorenz called two actual TikTok influencers, to ask them about their perspective on the reality of Biden’s economy. In other words, the very people the article is about.
But you can see why Taylor buried these quotes at the very end — they both destroyed the story’s carefully-crafted ‘misinformation’ narrative:
“There’s this cadre of number-crunching paperwork obsessives who are convinced that if some report says inflation is slowing, that means everything is great and everybody who feels something different is either lying or brainwashed by TikTok,” said Jordan Uhl, a content creator and progressive activist. “The idea that people are just making this up or are misled about their own material conditions is absurd.”
Zaid Admani, a content creator with nearly 400,000 followers who posts about finance and economic topics, said that people are increasingly learning about financial concepts on TikTok — but that many have a very negative view of the country’s economic outlook. “People feel a sense of dread,” he said.
I imagine the “sense of dread” Zaid mentioned is like that feeling you get whenever you see Joe Biden about to give an important speech at the podium, and then he gets that vacant, confused look, like he’s running out of things to say, and starts swaying toward stage left. Imagine having that feeling all the time.
No wonder they are so mad about TikTok all the time.
🔥 IT’S A START. Reuters ran an encouraging story yesterday headlined, “Texas AG sues Pfizer over quality-control lapses in kids' ADHD drug.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s 40-page lawsuit, filed November 8th, was unsealed yesterday. The gist — and you’ll probably find this hard to believe — is an allegation that Pfizer and its contract manufacturer faked clinical trials for Pfizer’s ADHD drug Quillivant, to get the drug approved on Texas’ Medicaid drug schedules.
Pfizer bought Quillivant, a drug marketed for kids, from a smaller drugmaker it acquired in 2012. In 2018, Pfizer sold the drug to its contract manufacturer, Tris Pharma. In the intervening six years, Pfizer allegedly faked clinical trial and lab results to get its drug approved.
In another similarity to covid, evoking shades of whistleblower Brooke Jackson, this new case was also broken by a whistleblower who used to work for the contract manufacturer.
I looked over the petition. It carefully describes in minute detail exactly how Pfizer allegedly faked its lab results to show Quillivant was safe and effective, when in fact it appears the drug doesn’t help with ADHD at all. Does that sound eerily reminiscent of anything else to you? Is it maybe a pattern?
The petition is very specific and gets fairly technical in spots. Texas is taking the case seriously.
In a press statement, AG Paxton expressed horror about Pfizer’s lies. "I am horrified by the dishonesty we uncovered in this investigation," Paxton said. (Reuters specifically fingered Paxton as ‘a Republican’ in this part of its article, darkly hinting the case was somehow politically motivated). Paxton’s lawsuit accuses Pfizer of defrauding the state's Medicaid program, and seeks money damages “greater than $1,000,000.”
For its part, Pfizer is outraged. How dare they! It said it would never, never ever, lie about safety and efficacy of its products. Well, maybe except for a few other times. But not this time! They promise. And it’s not fair to bring up the past. Not fair to Pfizer.
One wonders whether Ken Paxton would have been as interested in digging into this case against Pfizer if the pharma giant hadn’t just gotten away with the crime of the century. To what extent, if any, did the public’s anger about Pfizer play into the AG’s selection of this case for prosecution? What do you think?
🔥 Over the weekend I started writing a new piece about the CDC, and I needed its annual budget figures. Guess what? It’s damned difficult to locate that particular information. AI chatbot Chat GPT politely apologized but promptly gave up. At first I thought it was slacking until I tried researching it for myself. My research dead-ended with the CDC’s annual budget “justification,” a massive document presented to Congress hyping the CDC’s alleged accomplishments to “justify” billions of additional tax dollars.
But that difficult-to-stomach document, unfortunately necessary for prying pallets of our cash from Congress, did not after all reveal the CDC’s budget. It only listed categorical budget increases over prior year amounts.
For example, if you pick out one of around 22 categories for 2023, you might learn that the CDC is asking for another $137 million over that category’s 2022 levels, to fund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs for its 4,000 employees. (Which is $34,250 more per employee for 2023. That seems like a lot.)
The point is, it never states what the underlying 2022 budget amount for DEI was. In other words, the CDC’s 2023 justification asks for $137 million more than what? Who knows.
Then, if you’re stupid enough go dig into the CDC’s 2022 budget justification (like I was), you’ll just discover another requested increase over undisclosed 2021 levels. And so it goes, on and on, requests for increases stacked on each other like an infinite pile of turtles going all the way down. Good luck totaling the turtles, taxpayer!
To be clear: I haven’t given up, I just ran out of time. I will find the figures, and now I’m feeling even saltier.
Incidentally, working on the same project I also tried to find the CDC’s top five accomplishments in the last five years. I found a lot about creating research teams and founding diversity departments, but not much of a practical nature. It was all just regurgitated talking points, like the CDC sent a research team to Africa to “help” with Ebola (and accomplished what?), or the CDC hired a Chief Diversity Officer (and so what?).
From a practical perspective, for the hundreds of billions we are spending on the CDC, does anyone know what were the agency’s top five accomplishments over the last five years, besides excreting anti-scientific mask guidances and hysterical monkeypox warnings, all of which a 23-year-old intern could handle?
I can’t wait to find out.
📉 Believe it or not, the Hill ran an op-ed by conservative pundit Jonathan Turley this weekend, headlined “Happy birthday, Adam Smith: The invisible hand just slapped Disney.”
In an amusing aside, Jonathan Turley has somehow offended Chat GPT. If you don’t know who Turley is, you aren’t going to get any help from Chat GPT:
Actually, Turley is a constitutional scholar and conservative commenter with an extensive Wikipedia page, who apparently makes ChatGPT fizzle out.
Anyway. Turley’s op-ed opens with Disney’s recently-filed annual SEC financial report. It was a stinker. But what most caught Turley’s eye was the report’s admission that — guess what? — messing about in controversy and politics might be hurting the company’s bottom line. The report wordily acknowledged that:
“We face risks relating to misalignment with public and consumer tastes and preferences for entertainment, travel and consumer products. Consumers’ perceptions of our position on matters of public interest, including our efforts to achieve certain of our environmental and social goals, often differ widely and present risks to our reputation and brands.”
Eureka! The geniuses at Disney discovered the long-lost concept of misalignment with customers. (And what would they do without euphemisms?) But seriously, why on Earth would any allegedly capitalist company set “environmental and social goals” that are misaligned with their customers? If directors know the ESG goals are misaligned with customers, but do them anyways, should shareholders get to sue the directors for sabotaging the company’s share price?
Add those to the list of unanswerable rhetorical questions.
Ultimately, citing article from last year, Turley suggested that Disney’s CEO Bob Iger might finally be trying to scale back a little on the woke politics. But I don’t think so. Or if he is, it’s only a little. Headline from last week:
Is it just me? Or did South Park just run an episode about this same exact thing?
It’s really too bad Disney can’t fire its customers and get new, woker ones aligned with its ESG goals. On a more serious note, this kind of story is what sometimes makes me think that a little depression might actually be good for this country. These companies must be swimming in so much money it makes them think they can ignore customer preferences.
Turley thinks the cause is short-sightedness. In his model, executives don’t stay at a company long enough to benefit or hurt from financial performance. But they win awards and accolades for all their virtue-signaling. If that’s true, it’s only because executives who don’t deliver good financial performance aren’t paying the price.
Either way, now is the time for all of us to triple-down on Disney. Cancel everything! Let’s have an anti-Disney Christmas. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Have a magnificent Monday! And come on back tomorrow, for another delicious, seasonal, pumpkin-spiced serving of Coffee & Covid, which won’t cost anywhere close to $16.
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