Hitchens on Kissinger

From this interview.

Interviewer: Another member of your rose gallery is Henry Kissinger?

Hitchens: Of whose rose gallery is he not a member? Mark Twain said that if you give a man a reputation as an early riser, he can sleep until noon. Kissinger has somewhere or another along the way earned a reputation as a statesman, peacemaker, a negotiator, a miraculous deal maker, a bridge builder. I invite people in this piece to consider any instance in which he’s left a country or a cause or a problem better off than when he found it. And I also point to what I consider to be a record of crime in his past. He’s been complicit in the commissioning of assassinations and the covering up of mass murder. And I think actually there are some signs in his own memoirs and his behavior that he enjoys it. I think that he’s a very dangerous person, a war criminal. And I give the list of instances where I think that to be true… I don’t think he has any talent of introspection or humor or self doubt or self criticism whatsoever.

Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast: The Edge of Humanity with Yuval Harari

This was one of the best interviews I’ve ever heard. They cover the history and future of humanity, and the current transition between two different kinds of cultural conflict. In the past, humans fought oppressive tyrants who exploited them. In the future, humans face the new prospect of being completely irrelevant, while the tyrants saunter on as though nothing has changed.

Billionaires+AI are the new ruling aristocracy, further than ever from the reach of the average person. What can we do about it? What does it mean for democracy? What does a realistic future look like and how do we get there?

Check it out for yourself!

❤️ I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

This has been one of my favorite books since I was a child. When I heard the announcement that this year’s theme for Burning Man is going to be “I, Robot,” I decided to reread it. It’s still one of the best books I’ve ever read. I can not say this enough, THIS BOOK HAS ALMOST NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TERRIBLE WILL SMITH MOVIE BY THE SAME NAME.

This book was written nearly a century ago, and yet it deals with many of the issues we are starting to face today;

  • The rise of Artificial Intelligence and the reaction to it.
  • The realization that humans are not running the show anymore, and the assertion that this is a good thing.
  • The definition of what it means to be a person.
  • The alignment problem; “How do we know they want the same things we want.”

At just 253 pages, it goes by quick. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in artificial intelligence. It is also a great first step into the vast universe of the very prolific Asimov. I can’t wait until his dozens of books start being made into good movies. The Foundation series especially is going to be amazing.

Tim Ferriss – The 3 Critical Rules of Branding

What unique benefits does this company/product deliver and who are your 1,000 true fans? How can I turn my casual fans into die-hard fans?

“Focus on what fucking matters and let the rest follow.”

These are the fundamental questions he asks through his three rules of branding. This is a really great episode about differentiating and the value of ignoring branding. There is a lot of practical, tactical information.

I will revisit this episode many times.

Oddly, I was not able to find this episode on his website, but I did find it on Player.fm.

Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast – What Happened to Liberalism?

“The united front of the [American] left broke down over identity issues… There was a retreat to the universities… People on the left really abandoned electoral politics and instead develop this idea that all social change happens through social movements that are tied to identity. And we ended up with gender theory and race theory and we end up with maybe three generations of young people who’ve been brought up to think about politics in terms of group and their own individual identities rather than of the common good and a message that might bind us together as a nation… Blacks complained that most leaders were white, which was true. Feminists complained that most all were men, which was also true. Soon black women were complaining about both the sexism of radical black men and the implicit racism of white feminists—who themselves were being criticized by lesbians for presuming the naturalness of the heterosexual family. What all these groups wanted from politics was more than social justice and an end to the war… they wanted to feel at one with the social movements that mirrored the way they felt as individuals.”

“There’s an economy of victimhood where certain identities trump others… [trying to reach] the apex of grievance so that nothing you say can can be denied by anyone who doesn’t share your identity.”

“What we do fundamentally as liberals is protect minorities… You can not protect anyone if you don’t hold institutional power… If you are not competitive at the state and local level or the congressional level, you can not protect anybody. Now the only way to be successful at those levels is to have a message that reaches beyond your identity group. Therefore if you want to actually protect african americans, gays and lesbians, women who are being paid less than men… You have to find a new message not based on yourself and your feelings and your identity, but a message about certain principles that you hold… and that other people can also hold.”

“If you say to someone, you can not understand me because of who you are… you seal yourself off and fall in love with defeat.”

From “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics” by Mark Lilla and his interview with Sam Harris.

This Week in Startups – Casey Winters and Jason Calicanis talk about CAC and Planning Sustainable Growth

In this great episode, Casey and Jason go in depth on topics around customer acquisition cost and how to measure the sustainability of your product or service’s key actions.

This feeds into a great conversation about what steps to take before a growth phase to make sure you can survive it. This leads into a great discussion about what investors and venture capitalists look for when making decisions or considering a Series-A.

Crucially, they also get into the importance of using multiple customer acquisition channels in order to maximize growth. There is an especially interesting conversation about the differences between channels that have high or low customer acquisition costs and high or low lifetime value.

For example, paid search results advertising has lower lifetime value because the customer may not have been looking for you, whereas grub hub’s transit ads had comparatively high lifetime value because those people naturally formed a relationship with the product.

There are lots of great examples from real startups they each have worked with on these issues, and then there are questions from CEOs in the audience about how the concept applies to them.

I will revisit this episode next time I am at this point in a project!

❤️ Robert Greene – The 48 Laws of Power

This book was recommended by a friend. He said it reminded him of a shared favorite of ours, How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

It reminds me of The Game by Neil Strauss.  This book could be used for great evil, or for good. And like The Game, it will certainly be used against you whether or not the wielder even knows what they are doing. For that reason alone, everyone should be familiar with this subject.

In the preface, the author also references Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. Another book in the same vein which I intend to read soon. The 48 Laws of Power is a great read which I will certainly revisit many times and recommend to anyone I meet who aspires to power.

The feeling of having no power over people and events is generally unbearable to us — when we feel helpless we feel miserable. No one wants less power; everyone wants more. In the world today, however, it is dangerous to seem too power hungry, to be overt with your power moves. We have to seem fair and decent so we need to be subtle — congenial yet cunning, democratic yet devious.

Here is a summary of the list of laws which I will revisit on a regular basis to refresh my memory, like I do with Carnegie’s list.



Law 1: Never Outshine the Master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

Law 2: Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies

Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

Law 3: Conceal your Intentions

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life

Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once you slip, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

Law 6: Court Attention at all Cost

Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious, than the bland and timid masses.

Law 7: Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered. Never do yourself what others can do for you.

Law 8: Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary

When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control. It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process. Lure him with fabulous gains – then attack. You hold the cards.

Law 9: Win through your Actions, Never through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as disease. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

Law 11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You

To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim

One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will. A timely gift – a Trojan horse – will serve the same purpose.

Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude 

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

Law 15: Crush your Enemy Totally

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

Law 16: Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor

Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.

Law 17: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves. Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous

The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.

Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing with – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

There are many different kinds of people in the world, and you can never assume that everyone will react to your strategies in the same way. Deceive or outmaneuver some people and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are wolves in lambs’ clothing. Choose your victims and opponents carefully, then – never offend or deceive the wrong person.

Law 20: Do Not Commit to Anyone

It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others – playing people against one another, making them pursue you.

Law 21: Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark

No one likes feeling stupider than the next persons. The trick, is to make your victims feel smart – and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.

Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power

When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead. Surrender gives you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your conqueror, time to wait for his power to wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you – surrender first. By turning the other check you infuriate and unsettle him. Make surrender a tool of power.

Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces

Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another – intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.

Law 24: Play the Perfect Courtier

The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the mot oblique and graceful manner. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court.

Law 25: Re-Create Yourself

Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.

Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean

You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your hands are never soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds. Maintain such a spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.

Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following

People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking. Give your new disciples rituals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf. In the absence of organized religion and grand causes, your new belief system will bring you untold power.

Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End

The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others. By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.

Law 30: Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work – it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.

Law 31: Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal

The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.

Law 32: Play to People’s Fantasies

The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes for disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usual y an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

Law 34: Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated like one

The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated; In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown.

Law 35: Master the Art of Timing

Never seem to be in a hurry – hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually. Become a detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of the times, the trends that will carry you to power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.

Law 36: Disdain Things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best Revenge

By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility. The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and more visible when you try to fix it. It is sometimes best to leave things alone. If there is something you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles

Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power – everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.

Law 38: Think as you like but Behave like others

If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.

Law 39: Stir up Waters to Catch Fish

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance: Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.

Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch

What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

Law 41: Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.

Law 42: Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter

Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual – the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoned of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them – they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.

Law 43: Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others

Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. A person you have seduced becomes your loyal pawn. And the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses. Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear and what they fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you.

Law 44: Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of Mirror Effect.

Law 45: Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

Law 46: Never appear too Perfect

Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.

Law 47: Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for

In Victory, Learn when to Stop the moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.

Law 48: Assume Formlessness

By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.

How to Start a Business For Free (With Examples)

I gave this speech for a public speaking class. It included a self-evaluation assignment which I share here;


CJ Trowbridge


Sierra College Comms 1

Scott Kirchner

Demonstration Speech Self-Evaluation Assignment

In my speech, I demonstrated how to bootstrap a business. I gave examples from my experience bootstrapping a pizza business in Chico several years ago. I felt like the speech went very well. I shared the video online and received good feedback, and my peers seemed to feel that it went well based on their reactions during the speech and afterwards. (I used a special camera to record the speech which captures the audience as well as the speaker, so I was able to review their reactions.)

When I was composing the outline for the speech and rehearsing it, I tried to make it as relatable as possible. I made sure to include at least a few concrete examples whenever I discussed abstract ideas. I find this generally lacking in most entrepreneurial literature, so I think and hope that I improved on this frustrating trend. I feel like most people can relate to this topic if it is presented properly. For these reasons, I think the content was good.

My last-minute addition of a visual aid was also a really great touch. It was more than just the visual effect, or even the smell; it was visceral. I think it really grabbed attention, and it made the value-proposition of the content become a visceral feeling for the audience. Hunger is a limbic response, a deep emotional thing. It supersedes the prefrontal cortex and the trained analytic mind. This was a major underlying theme in my speech; take the product to the people who don’t know they want it, and make them want it. I demonstrated that without even talking about it. My clincher about how the audience could take the pizza into the quad right now and quadruple the money seemed to leave them with ideas about how they could implement the ideas I had discussed. Several audience members approached me about business ideas they had and how they might bootstrap them like I did. I think this part of the speech was very effective.

In general, I would say I was not very anxious about this speech. I have had a great deal of public speaking experience from a young age, BUT a big part of what little anxiety I did have was timing. I am not used to timed speeches. To alleviate this anxiety, I decided to include several quick stories in my concrete examples for each abstraction. Then, I could expand on the stories as required to get to the correct time. I think concrete examples were a good idea, but I think the stories went too long, and this was the one development opportunity identified by the professor, who said I “Squirrelled,” (or went on tangents or rabbit trails) in his remarks at the end of the speech. This had been a deliberate and strategic effort to fill time, but obviously it distracted from the content. I will try to expand on concrete details next time, or perhaps use a story as one of the major points, rather than trying to incorporate several into sub-points. Also, I should have defined the “unfamiliar” word bootstrap as soon as I first used it.

This implies a different structure would be better. Rather than enumerating abstractions and then providing concrete examples and stories, a better strategy might be to enumerate several abstractions and provide concrete examples only, then finish up with a brief story to tie everything together. This also means timing would be harder, and I will need a better strategy for making sure the time is correct. I think doing some sort of outline for the ending-story and then selectively condensing it would be a better strategy for getting the time correct.