Category Archives: News

Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump


So no one told you life what gonna be this way…

Disclaimer: this post contains the word “fuck” multiple times. Also a lot of links.

Frantically refreshing Twitter at 4am, I thought to myself: “Is Florida going to do it again?”

Looked like it: 91% in and Trump was 100 000 votes ahead.

Crap cake! I woke up and the NYT’s headline was all: Trump Triumphs.

What the fuck happened?

What can we understand from that? how can we prevent such people to rise to the top in other countries? (I’m talking to you, chère France).

We’ll first get an overview of the situation by analysing how some people/institutions/ideas have changed in status. I’ll then try and summarise a few lessons and predictions for the future. Finally, I rounded up some interesting articles and very succinctly summarised them.


  • Women — a sexist can become President
  • minorities — a racist can become president
  • global warming — looks like coal is coming back, Tesla is going down
  • Anti-establishment — from the Tea Party in the US to Dieudonné in France, it looks like anti-establishment types do not realise they are a necessary part of the system and that they’re not substantially changing anything. An illusion, really. Radically changing things will require blood/violence and Trump/Brexit is not what they’re looking for (You Are Not So Smart)
  • the democratic party — Hillary was a bad candidate, at least badly timed; mired in scandals, a technocrat/establishment figure (I believe Bernie would have won, he was a guy and a populist)
  • liberal democracy — Fukuyama’s End of History… maybe one of the most tunnel-visioned idea of all time is now officially (and thankfully) dead; the FT still published a piece by Francis though
  • experts, pundits — they failed to predict Brexit,  Trump, the FARC vote in Colombia… what’s next?
  • pseudo-intellectuals — West Wing-watching, glasses-wearing, Sciences Po-attending people have lost a lot of political relevance (that includes me)
  • Good as in Good vs. Evil — thinking that Clinton was “good” and Trump “evil” is a very relative/ambiguous notion that has little substance. The world is a multifaceted gem and not a binary, black and white system.
  • Pollsters and Nate Silver — his model was flawed, see Nassim Taleb’s rebuttal (that I don’t understand but a lot of mathematicians seem to agree with him, including this blogger). Only 10% of people responded to polls. Polls are flawed.
  • the Truth — lying will not prevent you from getting elected, we truly live in a post-factual world + in the social media world, truth is irrelevant for filter bubbles rule over the content you consume (NiemanLab)


  • White rural voters — the most important demographic in US elections
  • Twitter — losing users and cash, yes but increasing in relevance (Slate)
  • Facebook — people are starting to realise that instead of being a reflection of the complex world we live in, Facebook serves opinions that reinforce your world view. The revelation will weaken Facebook in the short term but my guess is that we enjoy scrolling through the News Feed more than we dislike this fact (TechCrunch)
  • conservative politics — a Republican-controlled Congress is going to make things much less liberal
  • The Republican party — the media narrative was that the Republican party was undergoing a civil war, turns out it’s okay
  • the peculiar American democracy — so only 25.5% voted for Trump, 45.6% did not vote and 25.6% for Clinton… only in America the third most popular person can be elected. And that’s thanks to this beautiful thing named the electoral college
  • Peter Thiel — the Silicon Valley VC who supported Trump will be part of the transition team and help prioritise policies (Bloomberg)
  • Russia — to take with a pinch of salt for Putin said mending relations is going to be hard and long (Washington Post)
  • China — Trump’s purported isolationism could pave the way for a new hegemon
  • racists — a racist can become President
  • sexists — a sexist can become President

Lessons and predictions

Why Trump won, the succinct edition

Trump won thanks to his anti-establishment message that appealed to the most important demographic: white rural voters (an op-ed by Bernie Sanders in the NYT). Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were blue states in the past elections. Hillary didn’t even campaign in Wisconsin.

There is a growing (and now critical) discrepancy between said white rural voters and urbanites. The media reflects only the life of the latter. Globalisation and multiculturalism don’t sit that well for that key demographic. So take that, add increasing economic inequality and a clever electoral strategy and you have President Trump.

Trump did not want to be President 

Trump is fucking clueless as to what a President does. Actually, he didn’t want to be President. He doesn’t even want to live in the White House (NYT). And he suddenly loves Obama and longs for his wise counsel (CNN on Facebook).

Now, he has to become a politician.

Being anti-system is great for the campaign. But once you’re elected and they give you the CIA file thanks to your newly-acquired security/intelligence clearance, you realise that this whole shit is a bit more complicated than you originally thought.

(By the way, if you’re interested in America’s “deep secrets” with regards to intelligence, this piece casually published in the Washington Post probably won’t relax you (it’s a spine-chilling experience, how can they write that the CIA topples governments so shamelessly?)).

Will Trump aggressively pursue his campaign pledges? 

I don’t know but let’s venture some guesses for the fun of it.

Based on the transcript of his 60 Minutes interview (CBS News), Trump’s campaign persona is being replaced by a more subdued and serious discourse. He appears to be willing to compromise greatly (with regards to gay marriage or prosecuting Hillary for instance). To my eyes, it looks like he’s realising now what it means to be President and he naively feels like he wants to do well. He was saying all these fucked up things to get elected.

When he talked to Obama about the Middle East, he noticed the U.S. paid 6 trillion dollars in the last 10 years there. To Trump’s eyes, this is too much and he’s saying “look at our roads and our bridges”.

If by any chance, Trump decides to use this kind of money to rebuild America and stop militarily intervening across the world, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? Am I being too naive myself?

On the the other hand, Paul Ryan is now strengthened to carry out the Republican agenda. Who will impose his will on the other?

Also, Trump’s chief of staff will be Reince Priebus, the head of the RNC. An establishment figure who will probably soften some of the strongest Trump ideas. The Cabinet will set the tone for Trump’s administration and here’s the NYT’s shortlist. Since the NYT can’t predict shit, it’s a non-binding read.

So will he build the wall, repeal Obamacare or ban muslims from entering the United States? Very, very hard to say, despite all that we’ve read about that already and what Trump is saying right now. It’s not as if he could simply click on some buttons and watch the magic operate. My personal bet is that none of these dramatic things will take place, the institutional homeostasis being too strong (crash course on homeostasis).

The liberal reaction

There’s California wanting to secede from the Union (TechCrunch). An isolationist and privileged response coming from a supposedly open-minded community. Although the electoral college, two-party system is not particularly democratic, this ain’t either. Doing exactly what Texas wanted to do when Obama was reelected in 2012. They truly do live in a bubble.

Then you have people from major cities across the U.S who are protesting. Oddly enough, Trump won fair and square: did he cheat? He is a fucked up human being. A liar, a sexist, a racist. Protesting against him is an understandable short-term move but how will you prevent him from being reelected in 4 years? Why was he elected in the first place? Let us understand the problem and only then, we’ll find a solution.

Short-term problems

Short-term problems that may become long-term are the vindicated crazy, criminal people of the United States who are going to feel free to do whatever comes across their minds. Trump is their president and so they’re going to have the license to do all kinds of fucked up things to people they don’t like. You can check out Shaun King’s Facebook Timeline for info.

What can we do? 

A quick word about sharing news on Facebook. Please stop sharing “dramatic” news events on Facebook to voice your outrage. The more you share, the more media outlets will produce clickbait dramatic news for you to share. Anyway, the people who follow you on Facebook already have the same opinions as you! It’ll make you feel better but it’s a sterile, vicious cycle (Read Nicky Case‘s post about that, she’s got some great insight).

Instead: act politically. Volunteer. Experiment. Do something concrete.

Trump took advantage of the economic and cultural situation. The narrative must be reversed. There must be a way for a liberal platform to reach white people’s hearts and minds without sounding naive or weak. Sanders 2020?

The situation in France

Marine Le Pen has slimmer chances of being elected because of the nature of the French electorate as well as the political system. However, Hollande, Juppé, Macron and Valls are representative of the unease white rural voters feel. Quite cleverly indeed, Sarkozy positioned himself as the more legitimate candidate on the right. His anti-establishment message is inspired by Trump (whom he congratulated) and he’s not on the Front National so he’s a better choice than Marine for most French people. Marine will have the best macroeconomic timing imaginable so the political offer must be at least as appealing as she is. Today, it looks quite dire.

Further reading

My former professor shares some insights as to what lies have been demolished since Trump was elected: Sick Chickens.

Why pollsters were wrong [spoiler: low response rates]: Harvard Business Review.

Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit [favouring of the elite by institutions, accurately analysed by Glenn Greenwald]: The Intercept.

The media’s epic fail [Trump and Brexit as entertainment, the media chased clicks and gave him a lot of free coverage]: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Donald Trump Victory: how to tackle the new “nationalist international” [create a progressivist international]: Newsweek

Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there [American liberals are complacent and thought this was going to be an easy win/took the ethical “higher ground” that backfired]: The Guardian

Soylent halts sales of its powder as customers keep getting sick – LA Times

Paresh Dave for The LA Times

Backed by more than $20 million in venture capital, Soylent has emerged as one of several popular start-ups hoping to change what and how people eat. Meant to be mixed with water or other liquids, the powder has enough fats, carbohydrates and other nutrients to replace a traditional meal, according to the company. People looking for a quick fix, such as software programmers in Silicon Valley, have become devotees.

Eat real food people? 

The battle of Aleppo is creating a disgusting future for war

Not that war is pretty anyway…

Usually, I try to keep it chill on the Sundry Letter, but as history unfolds, one must take note. 

The Battle of Solferino that took place in June 1859 left 40 000 Italian, French and Austrian soldiers dead or wounded. Henry Dunant was there and he spent his time tending to the wounded. The reflections he wrote then led to the founding of the Red Cross.

Paul Mason for The Guardian

Solferino inspired the principle that hospitals and army medical personnel are not a legitimate target in war. Today, with the bombing of hospitals by the Russians in Syria, the Saudis in Yemen and the Americans in Afghanistan, those who provide medical aid in war believe that principle is in ruins.

Biz Stone on the future of search

Biz Stone cofounded Twitter about 10 years ago. Now, he’s building Jelly, some kind of mix between Google and Quora. There’s an interesting bit on this Josh Elman article from TechCrunch

The future of search lies with human conversations, not a list of links. Traditional web search excels at providing ranked search results, but results can be dated or only tangentially relevant, and search engines can’t answer subjective questions. Humans, in contrast, can provide direct and relevant answers to complicated questions. Biz believes that tapping into a network of people is the best way to find answers utilizing network intelligence to search and find the most pertinent and useful information.

And also a pro tip for entrepreneurs: 

In his pursuit of building Jelly, Biz learned the valuable lesson that every company should be prepared for massive viral growth. When he first launched Jelly, the response was overwhelmingly positive, and they had about a million downloads in a just few days. But his team wasn’t prepared for the influx of users — they had yet to generate enough helpful content and create an engagement loop to keep users coming back, which ultimately stagnated its growth. ‘If you do it right, then it’s great. If you don’t have the right stuff in place, you just blow it,’ shares Biz. ‘Don’t turn on the tools of the trade for growth until you have a system to capture and make use of that growth.’

Audi vehicles to talk to U.S. traffic signals in first for industry

Audi’s system allows the vehicle to display a countdown before a red light turns to green. Knowing how much time one has before the light changes to green will relieve much of the anxiety of waiting, Malhotra said.

The countdown will also appear on the dashboard if the vehicle determines it will not be able to make an approaching light before it turns red, to allow the driver to begin to brake.

While waiting for a red light to turn green, the display will disappear a few seconds before the light turns green, forcing drivers to pay attention to the intersection and determine when it is safe to proceed, said Malhotra.

The future is now. Here’s the link for the article on Reuters

What Germany and Belarus give to Olympics gold medalists

According to Fox Sports Australia, Croatia, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden are among nations that pay no financial incentive for winning gold, while other countries offer alternative bait — like military exemptions (South Korea), a lifetime supply of beer (Germany) and unlimited sausages (Belarus).

So, the four German gold medalists in Rio so far can wash down their $20,000 bonuses with a metric ton of Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbiers while making friends with potential Belarusian sausage kings.

Here’s the article on Yahoo! Sports

Elementary school homework is useless

Heather Shumaker, writing for Salon

Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age dependent.

For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best. By the time kids reach high school, homework provides academic benefit, but only in moderation. More than two hours per night is the limit. After that amount, the benefits taper off. ‘The research is very clear,’ agrees Etta Kralovec, education professor at the University of Arizona. ‘There’s no benefit at the elementary school level.’

Let the kids play, be free and break the cycle: 

Then there’s the damage to personal relationships. In thousands of homes across the country, families battle over homework nightly. Parents nag and cajole. Overtired children protest and cry. Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the “did you do your homework?” cycle.


The problem with food and exercise studies

In one study, some foods boost your immune system. In another, they weaken it. What’s going on? Apparently, we can’t measure people’s diet effectively and so the research is mostly irreproducible. This is a problem that plagues scientific research, too.

Gina Kolata writing for The Upshot:

Dozens of studies are publicized every week. But those studies hardly slake people’s thirst for answers to questions about how to eat or how much to exercise. Does exercise help you maintain your memory? What kind? Walking? Intense exercise? Does eating carbohydrates make you fat? Can you prevent breast cancer by exercising when you are young? Do vegetables protect you from heart disease?

The problem is one of signal to noise. You can’t discern the signal — a lower risk of dementia, or a longer life, or less obesity, or less cancer — because the noise, the enormous uncertainty in the measurement of such things as how much you exercise or what exactly you eat, is overwhelming. The signal is often weak, meaning if there is an effect of lifestyle it is minuscule, nothing like the link between smoking and lung cancer, for example.

A Japanese company equips elderly staff with exoskeletons

Sohail Rahman reporting for Al Jazeera:

A Japanese hauling company which employs many elderly people has invested in an exoskeleton to take the strain off its staff.


The exoskeleton helps employees to carry out their jobs, which include constantly loading, unloading, carrying and bending.

“The burden on my back and legs has been lessened by half,” Kenji Takemura, an employee at the company for more than 34 years, told Al Jazeera.

The future is now. 

Drones will begin delivering blood and medicine in the US

Amar Toor for The Verge

A startup that uses drones to deliver medicine and blood to remote areas of Rwanda is launching a similar program in the US. California-based Zipline will bring its drone delivery program to rural and remote communities in Maryland, Nevada, and Washington, including some Native American reservations. Zipline will announce its expansion at a White House workshop on unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) Tuesday morning.