Whatever you think of our resident evil genius, he’s not really all that much of a genius. He’s been good at many things. And then as his wealth increased he began to behave more like the “meths” in Netflix’s Altered Carbon. The wealthy believe things like climate change, healthcare, war, famine, warming oceans, will not touch them, or I suppose their children and great great grand children. But here’s the rub: If the oceans go down, we’re all going down. No amount of cash could save the rich people who took an unsafe and expensive summer vacation to the wreckage of the Titanic. They all became bones of the wreckage. They became part of the destination (the wreckage and ghosts of the Titanic) they had $250k of fun-money each to go gawking at.
The billionaires are not going to save us. They think they can rise above it, and save themselves. They cannot. I think of the great line in the Sting song Russians, “If the Russians Love Their Children Too.” Let’s not get into Russia and Putin and Trump and Musk at this time. But there is some fantasy that the ultrawealthy are going to be able to shield themselves and their loved ones while the poor (first) and then the middle class, and then the nearly-wealthy class begin to die. They don’t care about others, they have a narcissistic view that they will be okay.
Musk (as much as he claims Mars as a goal) is more interested in fucking with the elections, via Twitter X (man, that was a dumb decision), via this grift on Tesla owners, and on and on. He can name the kid he fathered with a 20 year old musician X if he wants to. The kid will never work a day in his life. He probably will never see the inside of a grocery store, a public school, or a public gym. The kid is set. He’s not going to be the healthiest kid on the planet, but he won’t have money worries.
But if the oceans fail, and crops fail, and his dad tries to buy all the resources to keep him alive, he’s going to suffocate along with the rest of us. Well, unless Musk completes his Mars rocket and blasts off with a few New Earth settlers just as 99% of us are toasting on a planet that keeps getting warmer.
The rich believe they can save themselves with money. The members of the GOP and plenty of Democrats too, have so much money, their generational wealth will go on for 3 or 4 generations. So, they vote, lobby, and lean in with Big Oil, Big Energy, and Big Pharma. They revere Elon as much as fear him. But they are missing the point.
If we burn up our planet, we’re all going to die. And if Elon gets his Mars rocket off in time… Well, you’ve seen those dystopian movies. I don’t wish him well. I wish he would launch for Mars with his progeny and his entitled leadership of the “social meeting place” X. (If there’s a dumber name for a social media site, it’s X.COM. Add one or two more letters, XXX.com and you begin to see what the problem is.
And Musk and his newly minted CEO who didn’t seem to have any advance notice of the weekend murder of the bird, is telling us that X is going to be the most amazing app ever. Musk said over the weekend, that X would probably be responsible for 1/3 of the global financial transactions in the near future. Maybe he was on Rogan and smoking weed because that shit is bonkers.
Elon Musk lies a lot. He lies about being a “utopian socialist.” He lies about being a “free speech absolutist.” He lies about which companies he founded:
He lies about being the “chief engineer” of those companies:
He lies about really stupid stuff, like claiming that comsats that share the same spectrum will deliver steady broadband speeds as they add more users who each get a narrower slice of that spectrum:
The fundamental laws of physics don’t care about this bullshit, but people do. The comsat lie convinced a bunch of people that pulling fiber to all our homes is literally impossible – as though the electrical and phone lines that come to our homes now were installed by an ancient, lost civilization. Pulling new cabling isn’t a mysterious art, like embalming pharaohs. We do it all the time. One of the poorest places in America installed universal fiber with a *mule* named “Ole Bub”:
Previous tech barons had “reality distortion fields,” but Musk just blithely contradicts himself and pretends he isn’t doing so, like a budget Steve Jobs. There’s an entire site devoted to cataloging Musk’s public lies:
But while Musk lacks the charm of earlier Silicon Valley grifters, he’s much better than they ever were at running a long con. For years, he’s been promising “full self driving…next year.”
He’s hasn’t delivered, but he keeps *claiming* he has, making Teslas some of the deadliest cars on the road:
Tesla is a giant shell-game masquerading as a car company. The important thing about Tesla isn’t its cars, it’s Tesla’s business arrangement, the Tesla-Financial Complex:
Once you start unpacking Tesla’s balance sheets, you start to realize how much the company depends on government subsidies and tax-breaks, combined with selling carbon credits that make huge, planet-destroying SUVs possible, under the pretense that this is somehow good for the environment:
But even with all those financial shenanigans, Tesla’s got an absurdly high valuation, soaring at times to *1600x* its profitability:
That valuation represents a bet on Tesla’s ability to extract ever-higher rents from its customers. Take Tesla’s batteries: you pay for the battery when you buy your car, but you don’t *own* that battery. You have to rent the right to use its full capacity, with Tesla reserving the right to reduce how far you go on a charge based on your willingness to pay:
That’s just one of the many rent-a-features that Tesla drivers have to shell out for. You don’t own your car at all: when you sell it as a used vehicle, Tesla strips out these features you paid for and makes the next driver pay again, reducing the value of your used car and transfering it to Tesla’s shareholders:
To maintain this rent-extraction racket, Tesla uses DRM that makes it a felony to alter your own car’s software without Tesla’s permission. This is the root of all autoenshittification:
This is technofeudalism. Whereas capitalists are seek profits (income from selling things), feudalists seek rents (income from owning the things other people use). If Telsa’s were a capitalist enterprise, then entrepreneurs could enter the market and sell mods that let you unlock the functionality in your own car:
But because Tesla is a feudal enterprise, capitalists must first secure permission from the fief, Elon Musk, who decides which companies are allowed to compete with him, and how.
Once a company owns the right to decide which software you can run, there’s no limit to the ways it can extract rent from you. Blocking you from changing your device’s software lets a company run *overt* scams on you. For example, they can block you from getting your car independently repaired with third-party parts.
But they can also screw you in sneaky ways. Once a device has DRM on it, Section 1201 of the DMCA makes it a felony to bypass that DRM, even for legitimate purposes. That means that your DRM-locked device can spy on you, and because no one is allowed to explore how that surveillance works, the manufacturer can be incredibly sloppy with all the personal info they gather:
All kinds of hidden anti-features can lurk in your DRM-locked car, protected from discovery, analysis and criticism by the illegality of bypassing the DRM. For example, Teslas have a hidden feature that lets them lock out their owners and summon a repo man to drive them away if you have a dispute about a late payment:
DRM is a gun on the mantlepiece in Act I, and by Act III, it goes off, revealing some kind of ugly and often dangerous scam. Remember Dieselgate? Volkswagen created a line of demon-haunted cars: if they thought they were being scrutinized (by regulators measuring their emissions), they switched into a mode that traded performance for low emissions. But when they believed themselves to be unobserved, they reversed this, emitting deadly levels of NOX but delivering superior mileage.
The conversion of the VW diesel fleet into mobile gas-chambers wouldn’t have been possible without DRM. DRM adds a layer of serious criminal jeopardy to anyone attempting to reverse-engineer and study any device, from a phone to a car. DRM let Apple claim to be a champion of its users’ privacy even as it spied on them from asshole to appetite:
Now, Tesla is having its own Dieselgate scandal. A stunning investigation by Steve Stecklow and Norihiko Shirouzu for Reuters reveals how Tesla was able to create its own demon-haunted car, which systematically deceived drivers about its driving range, and the increasingly desperate measures the company turned to as customers discovered the ruse:
The root of the deception is very simple: Tesla mis-sells its cars by falsely claiming ranges that those cars can’t attain. Every person who ever bought a Tesla was defrauded.
But this fraud would be easy to detect. If you bought a Tesla rated for 353 miles on a charge, but the dashboard range predictor told you that your fully charged car could only go 150 miles, you’d immediately figure something was up. So your Telsa tells another lie: the range predictor tells you that you can go 353 miles.
But again, if the car continued to tell you it has 203 miles of range when it was about to run out of charge, you’d figure something was up pretty quick – like, the first time your car ran out of battery while the dashboard cheerily informed you that you had 203 miles of range left.
So Teslas tell a third lie: when the battery charge reached about 50%, the fake range is replaced with the real one. That way, drivers aren’t getting mass-stranded by the roadside, and the scam can continue.
But there’s a new problem: drivers whose cars are rated for 353 miles but can’t go anything *like* that far on a full charge naturally assume that something is wrong with their cars, so they start calling Tesla service and asking to have the car checked over.
This creates a problem for *Tesla*: those service calls can cost the company $1,000, and of course, there’s nothing wrong with the car. It’s performing exactly as designed. So Tesla created its boldest fraud yet: a boiler-room full of anti-salespeople charged with convincing people that their cars weren’t broken.
This new unit – the “diversion team” – was headquartered in a Nevada satellite office, which was equipped with a metal xylophone that would be rung in triumph every time a Tesla owner was successfully conned into thinking that their car wasn’t defrauding them.
When a Tesla owner called this boiler room, the diverter would run remote diagnostics on their car, then pronounce it fine, and chide the driver for having energy-hungry driving habits (shades of Steve Jobs’s “You’re holding it wrong”):
The drivers who called the Diversion Team weren’t just lied to, they were also punished. The Tesla app was silently altered so that anyone who filed a complaint about their car’s range was no longer able to book a service appointment for *any* reason. If their car malfunctioned, they’d have to request a callback, which could take several days.
Meanwhile, the diverters on the diversion team were instructed not to inform drivers if the remote diagnostics they performed detected any other defects in the cars.
The diversion team had a 750 complaint/week quota: to juke this stat, diverters would close the case for any driver who failed to answer the phone when they were evenutally called back. The center received 2,000+ calls every week. Diverters were ordered to keep calls to five minutes or less.
Eventually, diverters were ordered to cease performing *any* remote diagnostics on drivers’ cars: a source told Reuters that “Thousands of customers were told there is nothing wrong with their car” without any diagnostics being performed.
Predicting EV range is an inexact science as many factors can affect battery life, notably whether a journey is uphill or downhill. Every EV automaker has to come up with a figure that represents some kind of best guess under a mix of conditions. But while other manufacturers err on the side of caution, Tesla has the *most* inaccurate mileage estimates in the industry, double the industry average.
Other countries’ regulators have taken note. In Korea, Tesla was fined millions and Elon Musk was personally required to state that he had deceived Tesla buyers. The Korean regulator found that the true range of Teslas under normal winter conditions was less than *half* of the claimed range.
Now, many companies have been run by malignant narcissists who lied compulsively – think of Thomas Edison, archnemesis of Nikola Tesla himself. The difference here isn’t merely that Musk is a deeply unfit monster of a human being – but rather, that DRM allows him to defraud his customers behind a state-enforced opaque veil. The digital computers at the heart of a Tesla aren’t just demons haunting the car, changing its performance based on whether it believes it is being observed – they also allow Musk to invoke the power of the US government to felonize anyone who tries to peer into the black box where he commits his frauds.
Anyway, stay cool out there if you can, help others always, and look after your friends and family.
And VOTE BLUE before BIG BLUE becomes too hot for the human race.
Additional GoogleFu Posts:
- Why We Hate Spotify
- Social Media, Yeah… What Else You Got?
- Deleting Twitter – After Writing the Book on Why Twitter *Was* Great
Please check out a few of my books on AMAZON.