Monday 11 April, 2022

The ‘Wild Atlantic’ having a day off

Decades ago, some marketing genius in Bórd Fáilte the Irish Tourist Board, had the idea of branding the West Coast of Ireland, from Malin Head in Co Donegal to the Old Head of Kinsale in Co Cork, as “The Wild Atlantic Way”.

It’s billed as “the longest coastal drive in the world”, which I think is a bit of a stretch, but it’s clearly been very effective as a way of encouraging visitors to come to the West coast.

This picture was taken off Muckross Head in Co Donegal just over a week ago, when the Atlantic was unusually quiet.

Quote of the Day

“Had Putin been a better student of how Western democracies have responded to vital threats to their security, he would have understood why these assumptions were wrong. True, one lesson of the past century is that Western democracies have frequently ignored emerging security threats, as many of them did in the lead-up to the two world wars, the Korean War, and the September 11 attacks. As the U.S. diplomat and historian George Kennan once put it, democracies are like a prehistoric monster so indifferent to what is happening around him that “you practically have to whack off his tail to make him aware that his interests are being disturbed.” But an equally important lesson of the past century is that when their tails are whacked hard enough, Western democracies react with speed, determination, and strength. For the United States and its European allies, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—which in size and scope constitutes the largest use of military force on the European continent since 1945 and poses a direct threat to NATO territory—has provided just such a case.”

  • Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, Foreign Affairs, April 7, 2022

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Debussy: Suite bergamasque, L.75: III. Clair de lune | Lang Lang


One of our neighbours held a fundraising concert for Ukraine in their house yesterday afternoon, and one of their children played this. As a contrast with the savagery that’s being unleashed on the Ukrainians, it was moving and unforgettable.

When Elon Musk buys into Twitter, I don’t need a little bird to tell me something’s afoot

Yesterday’s Observer column

When the news broke last week that Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX and the world’s richest man, had paid $2.9bn (£2.3bn) for 9.2% of Twitter, the media world – old and new – briefly lost what might loosely be called its collective mind. What was Musk up to? (He’s always up to something, after all, even if it’s just trolling. And, with more than 80 million Twitter followers, he’s quite an effective troll.)

Since nobody knows what goes on inside Musk’s head, fevered speculation began. One camp thought that he had just done it “for the lulz” (fun, amusement, humour, schadenfreude). Indeed, if your net worth is $290bn, $2.9bn is effectively loose change. And it made him the biggest single shareholder in the company. Twitter then recognised the gravity of the situation and agreed to give him a seat on the board in a deal that supposedly prevents him from buying a majority stake in the business.

For what it’s worth, I don’t buy the lulz explanation…

Long Read of the Day

Scott Galloway on Musk and Twitter

Have you ever had the experience of coming on someone who has done something you have tried to do, only much better? Well, apropos my column about Musk buying his way into Twitter, this post by Scott Galloway does just that. Admittedly, he didn’t have to stick within the word-limit of a newspaper column, but he’s been thinking about this for much longer than I have, and he does a really great job. Which is why I think it’s well worth your time.

Here’s a sample:

We found out Elon was Twitter’s largest shareholder on Monday morning, because that’s when he disclosed his holdings to the SEC, as required of anyone who acquires more than 5% of a public company. Only Elon filed the wrong form, and he filed it nearly two weeks late. He filed the form for “passive” investors — and if you’ve been talking to the CEO for the past few weeks about joining the board and changing the product, you are not a “passive” investor.

Elon filed the correct form (Schedule 13D) the next day, but it requires more fulsome disclosures, which revealed he had crossed the 5% threshold on March 14. Meaning he’d been obligated to disclose his stake back on March 24. By illegally concealing his stake for 11 days, Musk was able to continue buying shares from sellers who didn’t know he was accumulating a huge position. Had he disclosed his shares properly on March 24, TWTR would have shot up 25% then, instead of on April 4, and the shares he bought subsequently would have garnered selling shareholders approximately $150 million more. That’s fraud, and while I have increasingly less confidence in the SEC, Congress has recently beefed up its power to seek disgorgement of ill-gotten gains for securities law violations. Shareholder lawsuits may also be in the offing.

Even if the SEC acts, $150 million is immaterial to Elon. On a relative basis, his entire $2.5 billion investment in Twitter is about the price of a MacBook for the average household. A $150 million fine is buying an extra charger. Takerists such as Elon are exempt from the law — they can buy their own…

Do read the whole thing.

Marina Hyde on Dishy Rishi’s local difficulties

Fabulous column. Here’s how it opens:

A debilitating week for Treasury-based luxury casualwear influencer Rishi Sunak. He used to seem invincible; now he’s the pocket Samson who’s just taken a massive haircut courtesy of his wife. I know Rishi wants to be prime minister and stuff, but it’s increasingly difficult to imagine how the mega-rich chancellor would persuade ordinary British people to do difficult things. Mate – you can’t even persuade your own wife to pay you tax.

But before I get accused of being a sexist by … hang on, let me get my lorgnette … James Cleverly, we’d better have a recap of developing events, which now include a US green card controversy. Initially believed to be watching his political oxidisation on Pacific time, the chancellor is in fact on these shores. I hear Lynton Crosby has banned Easter getaways, meaning Sunak will have to unwind in one of his houses in this country, as opposed to the high-end Santa Monica apartment he owns in a complex that includes a pet spa.

Anyway, he has granted a hotly defensive exclusive interview to the Sun, which runs under the apoplectic banner LAY OFF MY MISSUS. And I think you’ll agree that headline truly captures the way Rishi Sunak speaks. This, quite simply, is a guy who is as at-home screaming a warning out of a van window as he is indulging in a desultory browse of Mr Porter’s fine knits, his cursor hovering briefly over a £495 smoke-blue James Perse cashmere hoodie before the window is closed in listless pique. There are some injustices even a knitwear purchase can’t alleviate. Even so, I think the headline could have been punchier. I’d have gone with PAY TAX? IN THIS ECONOMY?!

It’s never a good career move to get on the wrong side of Ms Hyde.

My commonplace booklet

Nine Ways to imagine Jeff Bezos’ wealth


I particularly liked this one:

The average full-time Amazon employee made $37,930 in 2020. In order to accumulate as much money as Bezos ($172 billion)… an employee would have had to start working in the Pliocene Epoch (4.5 million years ago, when hominids had just started standing on two feet!).

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