Things from the past fortnight, I think you should be aware of…
Trump is speaking sense on geopolitics
I might lose some friends for posting this, but…
(Staying out of U.S. domestic issues, and looking strictly at most important geopolitical concerns) Trump is the only U.S. figure I’m aware of talking sense right now.
Trump obviously has major drawbacks.
But if you detest him, I challenge you to watch these videos.
Is he really mad?
On preventing nuclear war:
I encourage awareness of this April 8, 1984 New York Times interview, ‘The Expanding Empire of Donald Trump’ (https://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/08/magazine/the-expanding-empire-of-donald-trump.html):
What does it all mean when some wacko over in Syria can end the world with nuclear weapons?
He says that his concern for nuclear holocaust is not one that popped into his mind during any recent made-of-television movie. He says that it has been troubling him since his uncle, a nuclear physicist, began talking to him about it 15 years ago.
[This in 1984.]
His greatest dream is to personally do something about the problem and, characteristically, Donald Trump thinks he has an answer to nuclear armament: Let him negotiate arms agreements - he who can talk people into selling $100 million properties to him for $13 million. Negotiations is an art, he says and I have a gift for it.
On the Nord Stream pipelines:
I’ve been writing since before the Seymour Hersh piece that this was potentially the U.S. And thought Trump commendably diplomatic in the above clip – saying it, without saying it.
If you haven’t seen it, please watch the 2018 clip between him and Stolenberg – when Trump was actually trying to resolve this issue (uncomfortably, yet peacefully).
On deterrence that’s likely actually effective in Taiwan/Ukraine (50 seconds):
This is anecdotal, but the majority of people I’ve asked (who aren’t exactly Trump admirers) agree the chances Putin would have invaded Ukraine in the first place would have been much lesser had Trump been in the White House.
And the reality of how the war is now going…
And on the decline of the dollar – Trump at least acknowledging the possibility of this:
I don’t agree with Tucker Carlson’s summation that global warming etc are ‘non topics’, but why are other media outlets not seriously covering the above issues? And now Fox without Tucker Carlson, the trend worsens further.
Kai-Fu Lee on Western single-function companies
With Elon’s ambitions to make Twitter/X an ‘everything’ app – the WeChat of the West – this from Kai-Fu Lee is absolutely fascinating (~5 minutes):
Amazon is perhaps the only present Western exception to this.
(This interview is 4 years old, but I think the clip newly relevant with what Elon’s doing.)
Capturing territory... declare ‘complete victory’.
Sam Altman’s side hustle
I found this Tech Review article on Sam Altman’s personal investing interesting.
He says he’s emptied his bank account to fund two other very different but equally ambitious goals: limitless energy and extended life span.
One of those bets is on the fusion power startup Helion Energy, into which he’s poured more than $375 million, he told CNBC in 2021. The other is Retro, to which Altman cut checks totaling $180 million the same year.
“It’s a lot. I basically just took all my liquid net worth and put it into these two companies,” Altman says.
Altman does not appear on the Forbes billionaires list, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t extremely wealthy. His wide-ranging investments have included early stakes in companies like Stripe and Airbnb. [And reddit]
Altman says he initially invested around $10 million in Helion but then ramped up his bet as he “became super confident it is going to work.”
OpenAI is arguably shipping things in such a hasty way as to be unsafe (to humanity), but the number of levels at which Altman is individually operating is quite remarkable.
Retro’s staff file memos each week about what went well in the lab and what went poorly. Often, says Betts-LaCroix, he’ll call on the weekend to pass along highlights to Altman, who sometimes makes suggestions.
I also found this remarkable, from a 2014 EconTalk interview (@ 27.40 here):
‘I probably shouldn’t admit this, I’m on the board of a public company… I cannot read a balance sheet or income statement, or anything like that. I have to have someone explain it to me every board meeting. I don’t think any of the other [YC] partners can either... Maybe one guy can.’
I found this, from Bill Barr and Andrew Roberts, eye-opening on Mexican cartels.
How good Rishi is
I have a number of American friends subscribed to this, who in conversation now often ask me ‘What’s your new Prime Minister like?’
Here’s a recording of him this week, fielding questions for 45 minutes from a wide range of 250 business leaders.
No lectern. No notes. And he intimately knows the vast majority of them. (Take a random skim through the video.)
This is what a PM/President should be doing.
But can you imagine Biden doing this??
Bookmakers currently have the opposition party, Labour, led by its cardboard leader, Keir Starmer, at 88% likely to win the next General Election (which will take place next year).
This is because the public – quite understandably – are fed up with the present Conservative Party (which Rishi now leads, and which has been in power since 2010).
It thus feels a long-shot. No political party in British history has ever won five general elections in a row. But hopefully the tide can turn, and the British public see how immensely competent Rishi (personally) is versus anyone else we could have in the role.
Sir Paul Tucker with Niall Ferguson: we need more people who understand both monetary policy, and National Security. (60 seconds)
Dan Wang on Chinese citizens fleeing to the U.S. via the Mexican border.
Chris Miller: why hasn’t China retaliated to the semiconductor embargo? China hasn’t retaliated because they’re trying to slow down decoupling, because they believe decoupling will hurt them more than the West.
Though, great phrase from Steve Hsu on this: ‘Aggressive US action solved a coordination problem for PRC industry-govt.’
Thank you for reading. If you got something out of this, please share it with one person you know who might benefit from it.
I am impressed with Rishi, but I will say, all those questions seemed like they were pre-scripted with scripted answers. However, your point on the fact that he's pro-business and pro-growht is something the UK could absolutely benefit from right now