BBC Dialogues: The Dangers of Donald Trump

BBC Dialogues: The Dangers of Donald Trump

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This evening, I dashed up to Stanford University to take part in a live discussion on the BBC World Service about last night’s Presidential Election Debate. I intended to recount the cautionary tale of Brexit, when all the pollsters got it wrong; and the many reasons why Trump would be a dangerous president, and bad for women and minorities. But in the end, technical difficulties prevented me from joining the show immediately. My fellow panelist, Madhavan Narayanan, an editor and columnist from New Delhi, India contributed this powerful insight, “It’s not Trump vs Clinton, it’s Trump vs Democracy.”

When we did eventually connect on the ISDN line, I had about 30 seconds to share my thoughts, so I just had to cut to the chase. As it turned out, my remarks were echoed by President Obama, just seconds later. How validating is that?

Listen to the podcast at the BBC’s Business Matters. My contribution starts at 10:10

Here’s a transcript of this segment, edited for length and clarity”

BBC Host, Roger Hearing: Alison, are you with us?  We were about to pass on to the news headlines, but I must get your thoughts on the debate last night…where do you think it all leaves the election?

Alison van Diggelen: I think Donald Trump is basically threatening anarchy. He’s just whipping up his supporters and they’re face down in his Kool-Aid. It’s very dangerous. He’s a dangerous candidate and he’s stirring up division and xenophobia.

Roger Hearing: It looks as if the election – some say now – is almost in the bag for Hillary.  We’ll see if that actually happens. It’s still almost three weeks to go. Let’s get up to date with the latest headlines with Eileen McEwan

Ilene McEwan: President Obama has described claims by Donald Trump that the US Election is being rigged as dangerous and corrosive to democracy. Mr Obama accused the Republican candidate of sewing the seeds of doubt about the legitimacy of the election without a shred of evidence of electoral fraud….

Live from Las Vegas

To hear an excellent report about the debate – and the Brexit angle –  by the BBC’s North American Editor, Jon Sopel, listen to the podcast at 27:00

Are we going to Mars to be useful?

We also discussed the case for space exploration, Elon Musk’s mission to Mars and the technical breakthroughs that the public and private race to space  has produced. Listen at 47:00

NB: As with all my BBC Dialogues and Reports at Fresh Dialogues, the copyright of this audio report remains with the BBC.

Michael Lewis: Moneyball Prequel Arrives December 2016

Michael Lewis: Moneyball Prequel Arrives December 2016

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting the talented and influential author, Michael Lewis. You probably know he wrote Moneyball, The Big Short and The Blind Side and has been compared favorably to literary genius, Tom Wolfe. Lewis revealed that he’s almost finished a prequel to his huge bestseller, Moneyball and it will be published in December 2016. Although his publishing schedule precluded him from accepting an in-depth interview with me last night, he did agree to one in December. So, not a strike out, just a delay in play.

Details of the prequel are under tight wraps, but I did learn this: it’s been eight years in the making, and he’s completed about 45,000 words (about 150 pages). He’ll send his trusty editor at Norton the remaining chunks every six weeks and is on schedule for a September completion. He says “once it’s on track, it’s like a freight train.

The topic? It’s about sports (possibly just football) and analyzes the distribution of pay across teams. As with most of his books, it’s a character driven story, featuring people who surprised him and are in a situation that forces them to reveal their true character. The only other clue he shared was that he had access to the “brain trust” of the San Francisco 49ers.

Here are highlights from the evening’s onstage conversation with Brian Adams at Foothill College Celebrity Forum Series:

On The Big Short Movie: Lewis described it as “a relief” to see how good the movie was and praised the talent and craftsmanship of the production team. He called out Christian Bale for his exceptional performance as Michael Burry, the Silicon Valley financial whiz, whose character “led us through the jungle of complexity.”  Lewis explained that Bale spent a day with Burry and was able to channel his breathing and his awkward mannerisms with incredible accuracy throughout the movie.

Lewis also praised the straight to camera moments, especially Margot Robbie in the bathtub and lamented the production limitations of being a mere writer. He didn’t feel ownership of the movie as he’d sold the rights, and didn’t sit on the set since he considered it “a pointless exercise.” He was, however, involved in promoting the movie with the cast and says they’re really “not that good looking,” with the exception of (gorgeous) Brad Pitt. In Lewis’s opinion, their star appeal is more to do with their force of personality and talent. He added, “I’m not a good judge of male beauty.” That got a huge laugh from the audience.

Michael Lewis with Barack Obama, Photo credit: Vanity Fair On Politics: Lewis considers Donald Trump a bully and that the race would now be between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, if Trump hadn’t bullied him so hard during the early Republican debates. He thinks that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be candidates today without the financial crisis of 2008 and mass outrage that followed, with the widespread feeling that the financial system is rigged. He asks: “Is this the beginning of something or the end of something?

It’s a very good question indeed. He even alluded to a dystopian future where fame rules supreme and the Kardashians become viable leaders of the modern world. A true horror indeed.

Lewis doesn’t like to make predictions, but when pushed, he admits that he thinks Trump will get the Republican nomination and he’ll lose spectacularly to Hillary because “he does dumb things.

On the Panama Papers: Lewis thinks the biggest leak of the century won’t have big reverberations in the US. He added, “You can go to Delaware to hide money…wait for the Delaware Papers!”

On Upcoming Projects: Lewis is working on a screenplay pilot re Wall Street in the 20’s; a book on President Obama that explores how leaders make decisions (based on the fabulously insightful Vanity Fair profile); and a book for kids about money: how to make it, use it, and the “social power of money.”

Do check back here in December for my interview with Michael Lewis!

Many thanks to Celebrity Forum founder, Dick Henning for the kind invitation backstage.

Update: This afternoon, I’ve been invited to join the BBC World Service show Business Matters to discuss my Michael Lewis encounter. Check back soon at Fresh Dialogues for more news on that.

GM’s Dan Akerson: The Future of the Volt

GM’s Dan Akerson: The Future of the Volt

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Dan Akerson, CEO of General Motors spoke with Fresh Dialogues last night in San Francisco about the five week suspension of Chevy Volt production; the future of what he described as GM’s “statement car” and his surprisingly candid views on climate change.

Arguing that GM matches production to inventory, he said, “It’s foolhardy to produce beyond demand.” As of February 2012, Volt inventory was 6,300 units, enough to last at least 5 months at current sales volumes. Last month 1,023 Volts were sold, up from 603 units in January, making the 2012 goal of 45,000 sales appear a huge stretch.  Akerson complained about the media’s laser focus on the Chevy Volt. Despite it being less than half of one percent of GM’s annual car production, it gets all the attention. He noted that no one batted an eye when production of the Chevy Cruze (GM’s top selling car) was halted for two weeks.

So what’s the future of the Volt? A spring relaunch will feature new generation Volts, with improved emissions levels, which now qualify for HOV lane stickers in California – a key factor, since one in four Volts are sold in the Golden State. He believes that this will help stimulate demand and quoted a recent study that found the average commuter saves 36 minutes a day by using carpools. Time is money. But is it worth $40,000? He confirmed that small shipments of the new Volt had already been made and the car will be available soon in California showrooms.

Akerson also described the new ad campaign which will be, in his words “more interesting.”

And his definition of “more interesting”?

It will feature “the facts.” Facts like the car’s safety rating, a pivotal factor as it recovers from its burning reputation last year.  Facts like testimonials from Volt drivers. “Real people (like Jay Leno) not actors” Akerson hastened to add.

And the facts about Global Warming? Fresh Dialogues had to ask.

“We’re doing the right thing for the company at the right time. We will leave it up to the consumer how they interpret that.” Akerson said.

But his position on climate change is clear. During a Commonwealth Club interview, he confessed that he “believes” in Global Warming, adding “Several GM executives say ‘you don’t say that in public.’ Well, this may surprise you but my underwear doesn’t have GM stamped on it…I am an individual and I do have my own convictions.”

Good to know.

Here’s the amusing video segment from the Commonwealth Club



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Khosla’s Andrew Chung: The Post Solyndra Era

Khosla’s Andrew Chung: The Post Solyndra Era

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

One day after Steven Chu defends his department’s handling of the DoE loan guarantee to Solyndra, we look at the impact of Solyndra on the venture capital industry.  In this exclusive interview, Andrew Chung, the newest member of the Khosla Ventures investment team, shares his views on the Post Solyndra era. Will the failure of Solyndra have a significant impact on cleantech investment? How does Chung respond to critics who say that cleantech investment is a disaster?

The downside

“Downstream, there are other investors who are a bit more skittish about investing in following rounds…”

The upside

“In the past twelve months, we have three companies that have gone public and generated over $1.1B in profits for the firm. ..It’s possible to make money in cleantech and drive a lot of change and drive significant returns.”

The future
“It’s still relatively early…we are in the second inning of an extra inning game, in the development of this industry.”

“(At Khosla Ventures) we continue to be incredibly excited about the cleantech opportunity…we just raised a $1.1B fund, half of it is going to be in cleantech.”

Check back soon for more highlights from our interview with Chung:

On America’s comparative advantage vis a vis China

On what we can learn from China’s cleantech policies

On Chung’s motivations for investing in cleantech

The interview was recorded at the Cleantech Open in Silicon Valley, November 15, 2011. 

Check out another 2014 exclusive interview with Andrew Chung: Why does he  consider himself a kindred spirit of Elon Musk? And why is he still bullish about cleantech changing the world? 
Read more, see transcripts, photos and check out other exclusive interviews with Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, Vinod Khosla and many other experts at Fresh Dialogues Archives and join the conversation at the Fresh Dialogues Facebook Page
Google’s Green Dream

Google’s Green Dream

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Google’s infamous Don’t Be Evil mantra has inspired some remarkable projects, including the newly launched Google Ideas, but it’s Google’s Green Dream that caught my attention this week.


On Friday, I sat down with Parag Chokshi, Clean Energy Public Affairs Manager, at Google’s Mountain View Headquarters. We discussed Google’s recently published report, The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation which paints a picture of green nirvana in the US economy and energy market –  if green investment and government incentives spur rapid innovation. And it’s a big IF, based on some rather optimistic assumptions, that’s why we’re calling it Google’s Green Dream.


Among the report’s predictions… By 2030, clean energy innovation will:

– boost US economic growth by $155-$244 Billion in GDP/year

– create over one million new jobs

– help electric vehicles command a 90% market share (small cars and trucks)

– save households almost $1000/year in energy bills

– reduce US oil consumption by over 1 B barrels/ year and greenhouse gases by 13-20%

The report concludes that if investment and incentives are delayed five years, the opportunity cost will be $2-3 Trillion.

Is this a realistic Green Dream by Google’s Green Czar Bill Weihl and his team? Or naive wishful thinking? Chokshi acknowledges that Google is examining some “aggressive scenarios” but underlines that the report’s purpose is to stimulate debate on how to get to this Green Dream; and to spur more investment by both the public and private sector. In this Fresh Dialogues VIDEO, Chokshi outlines the dramatic improvements in battery technology that are crucial to increasing the adoption of electric vehicles, but declined to confirm whether Google is investing its considerable financial and engineering muscle in the already crowded race to build a better EV battery. We can only speculate.

Check out the VIDEO below and read the TRANSCRIPT.

Coming soon: more Google interview segments on:

Google’s $700 M green spending spree – How Google chooses green investments

Green@Google – A day in the life of a Googler

The interview was recorded on July 8, 2011 in the Nairobi Conference Room, Building 43, Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.

For more videos and interviews check out Fresh Dialogues policy archives and Fresh Dialogues YouTube Channel.

KR Sridhar: Bloom Energy Technology – Video exclusive

KR Sridhar: Bloom Energy Technology – Video exclusive

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Bloom Energy CEO KR Sridhar is a man with a mission to change the world. His fuel cell company is already powering Google, so that should make any skeptic take note. Check out  Fresh Dialogues YouTube Channel to see this exclusive interview. VIDEO LINK 

A former NASA advisor who developed technologies to sustain life on Mars, this earnest scientist is now harnessing his visionary skills and a large team of engineers to solve the energy crisis. His ambitious goal? To revolutionize the energy industry, just like cell phones revolutionized the communications industry. His team is developing  high efficiency fuel cells to provide a global distributed system of electricity supply at low cost and a low (and ultimately zero) carbon footprint. Clients include Google, eBay, Fedex and Walmart. Not too shabby.

The company has been in stealth mode for the last eight years and industry speculation has been rife about its future plans. Thanks to a CBS 60 Minutes Report by Lesley Stahl on February 21st, and the official Bloom Energy unveiling, many more details are now available of this potentially revolutionary product.

Even before opening his doors to 60 Minutes, KR agreed to discuss Bloom Energy’s progress in this exclusive and detailed Fresh Dialogues interview, recorded in 2009. To read the interview transcript click here

Download or listen to this lively Fresh Dialogues interview


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Why is energy the focus of KR Sridhar’s mission?

“Energy is a passport to a better living. For the rest of the world that doesn’t have access to power, to electricity; to give them that is empowering them to a better life. If your solution works and you make it affordable and you distribute it all over the world, then you have definitely changed the world….You give power to the people.”

What’s in the Bloom Box?

“It takes the chemical energy from the fuel and converts that to electrons with no in between conversion. So you are changing your currency only once. It’s an electro-chemical a battery…but the big difference is it’s a power generator so you keep supplying the fuel in and you’ll keep getting the electrons out – most importantly without combustion. It’s a one step conversion… high efficiency…you burn less fuel – less greenhouse gases -and eliminate all the combustion related polluting gases.”

What’s the link with transportation?

“Transportation can potentially go in two directions in the future. One is a hydrogen infrastructure for the car, the other one is an electrical infrastructure for the car…plug-in hybrids…Our device can either produce the electricity that’ll charge the car or provide you hydrogen if the transportation becomes hydrogen based. So we’ve sort of become the gas station for the transportation industry.”

There are still many unanswered questions about Bloom Energy, but here are some more clues.

To check out more Fresh Dialogues VIDEO interview segments click here and check  for other Fresh Dialogues video interview segments with lots more PRODUCT AND BUSINESS PLAN DETAIL about Bloom Energy.