Biden’s Tax and Regulation Plans Shift “Demonized” Silicon Valley Toward Trump

(p. B1) In 2021, David Sacks, a prominent venture capital investor and podcast host, said former President Donald J. Trump’s behavior around the Jan. 6 [2021] riot at the U.S. Capitol had disqualified him from being a future political candidate.

At a tech conference last week, Mr. Sacks said his view had changed.

“I have bigger disagreements with Biden than with Trump,” the investor said. Mr. Sacks said he and his podcast co-hosts were working on hosting a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump, which could include an interview for their “All In” show.  . . .

Such public support for Mr. Trump used to be taboo in Silicon Valley, which has long been seen as a liberal bastion. But frustration with Mr. Biden, Democrats and the state of the world has increasingly driven some of tech’s most prominent venture capitalists to the right.

. . .

(p. B5) Delian Asparouhov, an investor at Founders Fund, the investment firm founded by Mr. Thiel, recently marveled at how much the political winds had shifted. This month, Mr. Trump made a virtual appearance at a venture capital conference in Washington. There, he thanked attendees for “keeping your chin up” and said he looked forward to meeting them.

“Four years ago you had to issue an apology if you voted for him,” Mr. Asparouhov wrote on X.

Mr. Sacks, Mr. Palihapitiya and Founders Fund did not respond to a request for comment. Sequoia Capital declined to comment.

The comments and activity by the group of tech investors are particularly noticeable given Silicon Valley’s blue background.

. . .

The . . . “techlash” against Facebook and others caused some industry leaders to reassess their political views, a trend that continued through the social and political turmoil of the pandemic.

During that time, Democrats moved further to the left and demonized successful people who made a lot of money, further alienating some tech leaders, said Bradley Tusk, a venture capital investor and political strategist who supports Mr. Biden.

“If you keep telling someone over and over that they’re evil, they’re eventually not going to like that,” he said. “I see that in venture capital.”

That feeling has hardened under President Biden. Some investors said they were frustrated that his pick for chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, has aggressively moved to block acquisitions, one of the main ways venture capitalists make money. They said they were also unhappy that Mr. Biden’s pick for head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, had been hostile to cryptocurrency companies.

The start-up industry has also been in a downturn since 2022, with higher interest rates sending capital fleeing from risky bets and a dismal market for initial public offerings crimping opportunities for investors to cash in on their valuable investments.

Some also said they disliked Mr. Biden’s proposal in March [2024] to raise taxes, including a 25 percent “billionaire tax” on certain holdings that could include start-up stock, as well as a higher tax rate on profits from successful investments.

Mr. Sacks said at the tech conference last week that he thought such taxes could kill the start-up industry’s system of offering stock options to founders and employees. “It’s a good reason for Silicon Valley to think really hard about who it wants to vote for,” he said.

. . .

Mr. Andreessen, a founder of Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent Silicon Valley venture firm, said in a recent podcast that “there are real issues with the Biden administration.” Under Mr. Trump, he said, the S.E.C. and F.T.C. would be headed by “very different kinds of people.” But a Trump presidency would not necessarily be a “clean win” either, he added.

Last month, Mr. Sacks, Mr. Thiel, Elon Musk and other prominent investors attended an “anti-Biden” dinner in Hollywood, where attendees discussed fund-raising and ways to oppose Democrats, a person familiar with the situation said. The dinner was earlier reported by Puck.

For the full story see:

Erin Griffith. “Silicon Valley Notables Are Shifting to the Right.” The New York Times (Friday, May 24, 2024): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed years, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 22, 2024, and has the title “Some of Silicon Valley’s Most Prominent Investors Are Turning Against Biden.”)

SpaceX Embraces Fast Failures as the Best Path to Fast Fixes

(p. B1) SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft pulled off an extended flight through space on its third test mission, marking major progress for a vehicle that could one day transport astronauts to the moon and beyond.

Shortly after launching the nearly 400-foot-tall rocket Thursday [March 14, 2024], SpaceX successfully separated the booster from the spacecraft, which proceeded to fly for around an hour before it was lost while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, according to a company livestream.

The mission advanced much farther than the company’s previous two Starship test flights. It was a milestone for a vehicle that is a centerpiece of SpaceX’s commercial ambitions, NASA’s space exploration plans, and company founder Elon Musk’s goal of one day sending humans to Mars.

. . .

(p. B4) Current and former SpaceX leaders have said the company embraces failing fast to try to rapidly identify fixes and improve. The company took 63 corrective actions to address issues that emerged during the initial launch, and an additional 17 following the second, according to the FAA.

For the full story, see:

Micah Maidenberg. “SpaceX Starship’s Third Test Mission Marks Major Progress Before Explosion.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, March 15, 2024): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated March 14, 2024, and has the title “SpaceX’s Starship Makes Major Progress in Third Flight Test.”)

Musk Calls German Anti-Electric-Vehicle Ecoactivists “Dumber Than a Doorstop”

(p. B1) GRÜNHEIDE, Germany—When Tesla opened its first full-scale European factory in this sleepy community outside of Berlin, Elon Musk was feted as a hero, the chancellor gave a speech and workers cheered the rollout of new Model Ys.

On Wednesday [March 13, 2024], almost two years to the day later, Musk was back, this time to cheer up workers after an act of sabotage by suspected eco-activists shut down the plant for more than a week.

. . .

Tesla didn’t respond to requests for comment on the various incidents. In a post on his X social-media platform, Musk has called the eco-activists “dumber than a doorstop” for their criticism of electric vehicles.

As the plant’s managers and workers gathered in a tent on the factory grounds for a “team huddle” on Wednesday, Musk could be seen carrying his son. Hoisting the boy onto his shoulders amid calls of “Elon, Elon,” he shouted back: “They can’t stop us!” and “Ich liebe Dich!”—German for “I love you.”

As he left, reporters asked him whether he was still committed to expanding the plant and producing vehicles in Germany.

“Yes, absolutely,” he said. “Germany rocks!”

For the full story, see:

William Boston. “Tesla Faces Blowback in Germany.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, March 15, 2024): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 14, 2024, and has the title “Elon Musk’s Plans to Conquer Europe Collide With Germany’s Culture Wars.”)

Musk Fights for Right of Individuals in Sweden to Enter into Contracts

(p. A15) Sweden is the West’s most corporatist society. Powerful interest groups, often described as “social partners,” use collective bargaining to set rents for apartments and wages earned in labor markets.

This model is being challenged by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is refusing to enter into collective wage agreements with Swedish trade unions. The unions have responded with strikes and blockades on Tesla operations in the country.

. . .

Liberal democracy presupposes fundamental rights and freedoms. Some of these, such as the freedoms of opinion, press and expression, are enshrined in the Swedish constitution. But the right of the individual to enter into contracts isn’t similarly guaranteed.

. . .

Liberal democracy is being threatened globally by growing populist and illiberal movements. The government in Stockholm should counteract this threat by strengthening people’s individual rights and freedoms in the Swedish constitution. If this happens, Mr. Musk will have given Sweden a great gift.

For the full commentary, see:

Lars Jonung. “Musk Fights Sweden’s Unions.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 14, 2024): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date February 13, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Zuckerberg Praises Musk for Not Being Too Shy to Reduce Staff at X

(p. R3) At the beginning of the year, many were quick with predictions of X’s demise, in part because of the dramatic staff cuts made by Musk.

. . .

Perhaps the biggest impact of Musk’s staff reductions was provoking a broader conversation about staffing needs and overall productivity throughout Silicon Valley.

Even rival Mark Zuckerberg praised Musk for removing layers of management. “I also think that it was probably good for the industry that he made those changes because my sense is that there were a lot of other people who thought that those were good changes but who may have been a little shy about doing them,” the Facebook co-founder said.

For the full commentary, see:

Tim Higgins. “Elon Musk as Technoking? More Like DramaKing.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Dec. 18, 2023): R3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 16, 2023, and has the title “In the Year of a DramaKing: Elon Musk.”)

“Context Switching Is the Mindkiller”

(p. B7) “My mind often feels…like a very wild storm,” Musk said Wednesday in the same interview. “I’m a fountain of ideas. I mean I have more ideas than I could possibly execute. So I have no shortage of ideas. Innovation is not a problem, execution is a problem.”

He was speaking at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday [Nov. 29, 2023] in New York City, a high-profile event run by one of the media juggernauts he has been openly needling.

He was only there, Musk said, because of his friendship with the host, Andrew Ross Sorkin. Or, as Musk called him on stage, “Jonathan.”

“I’m Andrew,” Sorkin said.

. . .

“Context switching is the mindkiller,” he tweeted the day after Thanksgiving, a favorite axiom of his that mixes a quote from the sci-fi book “Dune” with computer lingo for multitasking.

In “Dune,” fear is the mindkiller—the idea that the primal reaction to fear is to recoil rather than go forward. In essence, fear is an obstacle to be overcome to reach success. For Musk, the challenge to overcome is being able to handle switching between rockets and tweets and cars and brain computers and drilling machines and superhuman artificial intelligence.

. . .

In the moment that ricocheted around the world, Musk told advertisers unhappy with him to go f— themselves, saying he was unwilling to pander to their “blackmail” and warned they threatened to bankrupt the social-media platform he acquired slightly more than a year ago. And if they were successful, he warned, “See how Earth responds to that.”

. . .

To Musk, the likes of Disney are trying to squelch his freedom of speech. To others, they are simply exercising their rights to walk away.

“Go. F—. Yourself,” Musk said on stage to a stunned audience. “Is that clear? I hope it is. Hey, Bob, if you’re in the audience.”

For the full commentary, see:

Tim Higgins. “Storm in Musk’s Mind Casts Shadow on Vehicle Launch.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Dec. 4, 2023): B7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 2, 2023, and has the title “The Storm Brewing Inside Elon Musk’s Mind Gets Out.” The 7th, 8th, and 9th sentences quoted above, appear in the online, but not in the print, version of the commentary. Also, the online version of the sentence on being able to handle switching, contains seven added words of detail.)

The science-fiction Dune book mentioned above is:

Herbert, Frank. Dune. Deluxe ed. New York: Ace, 2019 [1st ed. 1965].

Elon Musk Is Not Antisemitic; He Is Anti the Censorship of “a Specific Jewish Group, the Anti-Defamation League”

(p. A15) Major papers like the Journal, New York Times and Washington Post report that advertisers are again fleeing the service previously known as Twitter because, these papers explain, owner Elon Musk endorsed “an antisemitic post.”  . . .

. . .  A user @breakingbaht expressed a lack of sympathy for “Jewish communities” (emphasis added) that allegedly encouraged “the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them” while supporting immigration of “hordes of minorities.”

After Mr. Musk responded “You have said the actual truth,” the New York Times cited equally undefined “Jewish groups” as detecting in the original tweet a common antisemitic trope. In one Times account, the phrase “Jewish communities” was transmuted into “Jewish people.”

. . .

The Journal examined the context and suggested Mr. Musk was really exercised about a specific Jewish group, the Anti-Defamation League, which has largely adopted the identitarian and censorship agendas of the progressive left.

For the full commentary, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. “BUSINESS WORLD; How Elon Became an ‘Antisemite’.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipses added. In the original version, the phrase “Jewish communities” (but not the rest) is emphasized by italics.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated November 28, 2023, and has the title “BUSINESS WORLD; Opinion: How Elon Became an ‘Antisemite’.”)

Elon Musk Wants to Go to Mars, But He Wants Freedom Even More

The video clip above is embedded through YouTube’s “share” feature. It is a clip from the annual DealBook Summit of The New York Times. Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed Elon Musk on November 29, 2023 at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

A year earlier at the 2022 DealBook Summit, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings said: “Elon Musk is the bravest most creative person on the planet.”

Musk’s dream is for humanity to go to Mars. He is trying to privately fund his dream with billions of dollars he hoped to earn from Tesla. His investment of 44 billion dollars to buy Twitter may end his dream. But he bought Twitter to defend free speech, and free speech is required for the fast advance of science and technology. So if we ever make it to Mars we will owe much to Elon Musk. And even if we never make it to Mars we still will owe much to Elon Musk.

Temple Grandin Admires Elon Musk and Long Knew He Was on the Autism Spectrum

Professor Temple Grandin identifies as autistic and has written on what we can learn from the cognitively diverse. In the passages quoted below, she refers to the May 2021 Saturday Night Live hosted by Elon Musk in which he said he had Asperger’s syndrome.

(p. C7) I have always admired Elon Musk’s engineering of rockets and cars. I loved his cool space suits and how he made a rocket booster land upright. My must-read book is Walter Isaacson’s “Elon Musk.” Previously I had read Ashlee Vance’s book about Mr. Musk. It still has Post-it Notes stuck on it: I marked the pages that made me sure he was on the autism spectrum. I had to keep it to myself until he made his announcement on “Saturday Night Live.”

For the full review, see:

Temple Grandin. “12 Months of Reading: Temple Grandin.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, December 9, 2023): C7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2023, and has the title “Who Read What in 2023: Leaders in Business, Science and Technology: Temple Grandin.”)

The Elon Musk books Temple Grandin praises are:

Isaacson, Walter. Elon Musk. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2023.

Vance, Ashlee. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. New York: Ecco, 2015.

Four Entities Succeeded in Sending a Capsule to Orbit and Returning It to Earth: “the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk”

(p. A14) “In the history of space flight,” Scott Pelley intones in a “60 Minutes” segment, “only four entities have launched a space capsule into orbit and successfully brought it back to the Earth—the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk.”

For the full film review, see:

Joe Morgenstern. “‘Return to Space’: A Double Booster.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 8, 2022): A14.

(Note: the online version of the film review was updated April 7, 2022, and has the title “FILM REVIEW; ‘Return to Space’ Review: A Double Booster.”)

“Muskies, Muskites, Muskrats and Musketeers” Hail Musk as “Pretty Awesome . . . Genius” and “Modern-Day Da Vinci”

(p. B1) Cryptocurrency enthusiasts are cheering for a decentralized social network. Supporters of Donald J. Trump hope that the former president will return to tweeting. Some free speech advocates envision an end to censorship. And loyal fans of Elon Musk are betting that the billionaire will innovate.

. . .

. . ., Twitter has lodged itself into the fabric of society. The platform’s future under Mr. Musk has become a symbolic receptacle of people’s desires to push the world (p. B5) in the direction they want it to go.

Few tech executives elicit the kind of blind adoration that Mr. Musk does. His fans — known variously as Muskies, Muskites, Muskrats and Musketeers — defend even his most questionable moves. His deal to buy Twitter has had plenty of critics, including the company’s employees, some lawmakers and disinformation researchers. Many fear what he will do with the platform, over which he now has more or less absolute power as its owner. But on Musk-focused message boards, Discord servers, blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels, the deal is a triumph.

“Him buying Twitter is pretty awesome,” said Bryce Paul, the host of the podcast “Crypto 101.” Mr. Paul does not consider himself a Musk fanboy but believes the billionaire is a “genius” and a “modern-day da Vinci.”

For the full story, see:

Erin Griffith. “It’s All Musk’s and All Changing: It’s a Happy Day for the Millions of ‘Muskies,’ Who Are Anticipating Less Moderation and More Innovation.” The New York Times (Saturday, October 29, 2022): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 28, 2022, and has the title “For Many, Elon Musk’s Buying Twitter Is a Moment of Celebration.” In the print version, the title “It’s All Musk’s and All Changing” covered two separate articles that each had their own subtitle.)