Cold Takes

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more about it here.)

Happy Thanksgiving Eve. I’m scrambling to get a bunch of work (mainly email) done before the holiday so I can take the time to read, write, relax, and watch a ton of movies and football with family.

But I also have a ton of links saved up over the past several days, so wanted to get at least some of those out now. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Top of Mind

While I’m trying to take a breather from reading about/thinking about Donald Trump for a bit, I have gone down the rabbit hole of reading more about Steve Bannon, who of course was instrumental in getting Trump elected and will now be the chief strategist to the incoming president. Obviously a smart, cunning guy, with a troubling past, to say the least.

A few points from this profile by Michael Wolff stand out:

“The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f — ed over. If we deliver” — by “we” he means the Trump White House — “we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”

This last part is a shot at the world of tech, of course. And the point is taken. But I think this is actually the dumbest thing he says in the interview. It almost suggests that tech has not, is not, and will not continue to transform the world for everyone. I understand you can’t just speak to one industry, but the “employing nine people” quip undercuts his argument by making it seem as if they won’t take the industry seriously.

“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

Admittedly, this is probably the most fascinating aspect of this forthcoming presidency — if they actually execute on this plan. Impossible to know if it will work, as there will probably be opposition to all sorts of things from both sides of the aisle. But, if I’m being honest, I do appreciate the idea of trying to do something different in a very big way. I just hope it doesn’t involve re-building/re-starting coal power plants and the like. Let’s execute this plan for the 21st century, not the 20th.

And let’s try not to go bankrupt doing it. A certain incoming president has a history of playing a little too fast and loose with debt — and now that debt will be our nation’s debt… This is terrifying.

“I am,” he says, with relish, “Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.”

He does know what ended up happening to Cromwell, right?!

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Thomas Cromwellian?

5ish Links

Tom Warren reviews Microsoft’s new Surface Studio all-in-one giant touchscreen device. On the screen:

Even though it’s easy to adjust, you can still touch or draw at any angle as it has some resistance to being pushed back. I found myself bizarrely pulling the entire display toward me and angling it underneath me to read articles online or even when I was writing because the display is just great to have up close.

This reminds me of the lamp-like iMac. I used to love pulling the screen in closer…

Overall, this device definitely sounds interesting and appealing in many ways. I just wonder how many they’re actually going to sell. It’s very expensive and uses mainly older technology — cue the Apple jokes — but the main problem is that the core use cases seem pretty niche (designers, etc). So was the point just to prove Microsoft could out-Apple Apple? Maybe. But that seems an expensive point to make.

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Speaking of Apple and innovation, here’s Steven Levy on the new MacBook Pro with its Touch Bar:

Slipping a finger toward what used to be a function key row to choose a word screwed up my orientation to the standard part of the keyboard, and interrupted my typing flow. Ultimately, I got a little better at it. But then, I found that if I got into a mode of looking at the next word Apple suggested, I wound up making choices determined by the company’s machine learning algorithms as opposed to the supposedly clever original language I am paid to craft. (For instance, in the above paragraph, the word “powerful” popped up when I was mentally searching for the right adjective. Done!)

I’ve somehow never considered this, even though the suggest-a-word feature has been on iOS for a while. What if such technology does alter the way we write…

I’ll admit that when I first heard about this, I rolled my eyes. Another attempt for Firefox to break into mobile, really? But this is actually really well done. Previous attempts for Firefox on mobile were trying to do too much. This is the opposite. It’s a super lightweight private browser. In a way, it reminds me of when I started using Firefox in the first place, versus the horribly bloated Internet Explorer back in the day. This now gives me what I want: a browser that opens and lets you search for something immediately. Though I do wish you could use Google search by default…

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Leena Rao talks to Amazon about the change:

“Our guiding North Star is the minimization of packaging,” says Kara Hurst, Amazon’s director of worldwide sustainability and social responsibility. “Wrapping paper has no value.”

This actually seems like a pretty big change. I know I would use the service all the time in years past. But that’s mainly because I have absolutely no idea how to correctly wrap something.

Thinking about it a bit more, this makes sense: wrapping paper is silly and worse, wasteful. But I do wonder if it’s one of those anachronisms that is more vital than it may appear — especially around sentimental topics like gift-giving — and Amazon backtracks…

Just a fantastically well-written obituary for Leonard Cohen.

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500ish Words

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Rule By Sleight of Hand
After this, I think I’m done weighing in on politics for a while. The surreal nature of the past couple of weeks is slowly melting into sadness. And it’s honestly been hard to write about anything…

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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