Why Nobody Likes Politicians

One of the Best Trump Political Cartoon

The New Yorker probably has the best political cartoon of Trump I’ve seen in a while. The only reason Trump hasn’t bashed the New Yorker it’s because the articles are too long for him to read.

“It lets you hold the President’s attention for a few extra seconds before he wants to change channels.”

Trump is reputed for watching a lot of TV and a very short attention span. Just think of the people he has attacked on Tweeter seconds after they said something he didn’t like on TV.

Refreshing Climate Talk from Exxxon’s New CEO

The first blog post by ExxonMobil’s new CEO and Chairman Darren Woods is refreshing. Mr. Woods advocates a nationwide carbon tax to discourage use of polluting fuels. Exxon also endorsed the Paris Agreement. Actually, former CEO and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wasn’t a climate denier unlike his predecessors. Rex Tillerson said that climate change is real, but downplayed humanity’s responsibility for raising the global thermostat. Tillerson was also favor of a carbon tax. The fact that Mr. Woods is repeating these commitments  is encouraging. He doesn’t want to start his term labelled a climate denier. 

Exxon and other energy companies are facing huge challenges. The Company needs to meet growing demand for energy while managing the risk of climate change. The neutral carbon tax would promote greater energy efficiency and the use of today’s lower-carbon options, avoid further burdening the economy, and also provide incentives for markets to develop additional low-carbon energy solutions for the future. Woods’ view continues the corporate policy implemented during Tillerson’s reign at Exxon.

I occasionally visit the East Coast, the Gaspé peninsula on the Atlantic ocean, where I’m from.  That region is a front row seat to climate change. Scientists’ warnings that the rise of the sea would eventually imperil the coastline is no longer theoretical. In Gaspé they are seeing increasing severity of extreme weather, floods and heavy rain in the summer. Because the Gulf doesn’t freeze as often it used too in the winter,  tidal floods increasingly inundate the roads that are too deep to drive through. Certain roads are disappearing beneath the sea several times a year. These things didn’t happen when I was a kid. Now its a few times a year.

It is a good sign that we are starting to move away from discussions about whether climate change is real, and talking about solutions. Let’s see if these nice words can translate into action.


Uber’s Pitch to Investors

Update: After publication I received a Tweet  suggesting an excellent article on Uber: Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part One – Understanding Uber’s Bleak Operating Economics posted Yves Smith. Hubert Horan did a thorough 6 part series on the company. The article includes financials from Uber.

A lot of people are asking how can I invest in Uber. They say things like “Uber is the next big thing, I can’t miss out on its IPO”…Every year we have a company that makes people dream. People want the next Microsoft. The fantasy of easy money makes people dream and they kind of lose their mind when it comes to rational investing.

Uber is what we call a “disruptor” business. Companies like Uber, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb and Amazon among others are “disrupting” the world we know with the aim of making it better. Along the way it creates winners (usually the consumers) and losers (taxi drivers, cable companies, hotels etc…) Uber is simply an taxi app on your phone that let’s book a ride. Uber didn’t reinvent the wheel here. They simply made an under-served service, cabing, much better.

Uber is a company that I admire. I like taking it and I believe they are not going anywhere no matter how many angry cabs drivers block the streets. Technology is not something bad or good, just like steel is not bad or good. It’s just that our laws are not up to date for these new an upcoming companies. Companies like Uber take on the establishment and left the old guard gritting their teeth. Fast growing companies like Uber constantly need money. Uber is still a private company and we don’t have access to financials. Various media have reported that Uber is burning over $500 million a quarter. It could be an exaggeration but it’s reasonable to think they are burning through a lot of cash since they are constantly looking for money. Uber is not profitable and probably won’t be for a long time. A company like Uber is still allowed to exist because the capital market let it exist. If the tide turned, like it did with the dotcom boom in 2000, it could become a bust.

Companies that you admire and love doesn’t necessarily make it a great investment. I like Twitter, it doesn’t mean it’s a great investment. You still need to focus on the fundamentals. You still need to ask how you are going to make a return on that investment. Especially if the company is burning through cash. Interesting fun companies doesn’t necessary = I will be rich. A company like Uber can’t pay a dividend or buyback shares. So you are entirely hoping that the next valuation round will be higher (and you are diluting your ownership too). It’s the greater fool theory. Now I’m not saying Uber is a bad investment. We barely know anything about its finances. It might turn out to a great investment. I don’t know.

I suggest you read the article, Banks Passed Up Uber Share Sale on Lack of Data from Bloomberg. Credits to François Denault,  an excellent value investor in Montreal for the find.

The articles says that at least two investment banks passed on selling shares of Uber to their high-net worth clients — shares eventually sold by other banks in January — because the ride-share company wasn’t willing to provide financial details about its business. The 290-page Uber prospectus Morgan Stanley sent to prospective investors before the January stock sale didn’t include Uber’s net income or annual revenue. The New York-based bank addressed the lack of data in its prospectus, and love that part, by saying “the development of insights and big ideas is valuable to the investment process, whereas obsession over incremental ‘information’ flow is not.” I just love how you can spin so much b.s. and still get the money you need. Good for them. But there’s a lot of suckers out there. We live in a weird era. Reminds me of Trump with his “alternative facts” and “we disagree about the facts”.

Who is buying shares of a company without having any clues about the financials? A lot of folks apparently.  It’s a dream for Uber and a potential disastor for investors. Reminds me of the dot-com mania. Now that we have the Dow at 20,000 points, there’s seems to be a mini euphoria going on.

Rationing Table at the Cuban Store

Below are pictures of what happened when you don’t focus on freedom, innovation, the search for wealth and prosperity. Socialism has never worked. The USSR, Cuba, China, and now Venezuela (among others) were failed states. Venezuela is in a full economic crisis. A country rich in natural resources is now a disaster. Good luck finding toilet paper.

Rationing table at a Cuban store. Source: mises.org
Source: mises.org
Not much to buy. Source: mises.org

What Ever Happened After This Round of Golf?


Here’s an interesting picture taken in 2008. In hindsight, there’s a lot going on here.

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of NY, is smiling and doesn’t look crazy. What happened to him? He tried to become President in 2008. Donald Trump was a democrat, pro-war, pro-choice and a Clinton supporter. Now he’s President-elect as a republican. Michael Bloomberg was the mayor of NY and hanging out with Donald Trump. He was considering an independent run to stop Donald Trump. Bill Clinton wasn’t a vegan. And then you have Joe Torre and Billy Crystal photo bombing. I wonder if that pic will ever be taken again.



Référendum de Percé

Below is a message I posted in French on my Facebook account. It’s my take on the referendum in my hometown. In short, the town just had its “Donald Trump” moment.

Premièrement je voudrais remercier André Boudreau, Doris Bourget et les autres conseiller qui ont servi la ville de Percé. Ce consacré au service de la population est extrêmement difficile. Ça demande beaucoup de courage et d’engagement. Et encore plus au niveau locale parce ce que tu vis avec gens qui sont impacté par tes décisions à tous les jours.
Continue reading “Référendum de Percé”

You Didn’t Get Punk’d

America you did it. You broke the glass ceiling. I’m not referring to electing a woman as your first President. No, not that. That would be too easy. I’m referring to the the bigger glass ceiling: Electing a reality TV star. The guy from The Apprentice is your next President. It has been over a week since Donald Trump is President elect and it still doesn’t feel real. Saying the phrase “President Trump” doesn’t roll easily. Where is Ashton Kutcher and his cameras? I’m still waiting for him to come out of no where to tell us we got pranked. For the last year and a half, Donald Trump occupied way too much of my brain power. It looks like it won’t stop. It’s obvious Trump won’t be a traditional President. I just can’t picture him fulfilling all the traditional Presidential duties. Try to picture Trump going to all these ceremonies because the customs demands so.

The elections were less about electing Donald Trump and his platform and more about giving a big F-You to the establishment, that is the anachronistic, arrogant, entitled, smug, conceited ruling elite and ruling paradigm. Just like Brexit, it wasn’t about racism or misogyny, but a fundamental shattering of an old paradigm. The vote was not so much for a particular vision of one man, but against a prevailing model of managing the world. The neoliberal world of the last 30 years got brought to its knees. White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. A lot of wealth and good happened in the last 30 to 40 years, but not everyone enjoyed the benefits and some people were left behind. Those people voted last week.

The Forgotten Man, by Jon McNaughton. depicts Obama trampling on the US Constitution, has been bought by Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, who plans to present it to Trump. I don't think Jon McNaughton’s painting won’t win any prizes for artistic merit or subtlety.
The Forgotten Man, by Jon McNaughton, depicts Obama trampling on the US Constitution, has been bought by Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, who plans to present it to Trump. I don’t think Jon McNaughton’s painting won’t win any prizes for artistic merit or subtlety.

I’m going to make a few predictions. So far my magic crystal ball has been way off and my forecasting skills can only improve from there. Here’s my big prediction: Donald Trump won’t finish his Presidential term. I have a feeling he’s looking for somekind of exit strategy. Somethin will happen along the lines of:

1) Trump will resign and go back to the life he enjoyed. He hates his new life and he will hate it more once he’s in Washington. There’s nothing wrong with that. Trump already said that his VP Mike Pence will be running the country anyway.
2) He will resign because he’s sick. He hates his new life so much that it made him sick. Remember that Trump jumped in the race as a publicity stunt to get a pay raise from NBC for his TV show. The stunt backfired badly and as a result he has damaged the Trump brand. Trump Hotel will use the name Scion for new hotels instead of Trump.
3) Trump will resign because of an impeachement process. He won’t need to abuse the office of the Presidency for that. He already has a bunch of legal problems pending that will eventually catch up to him. The Republicans will turn their back on Trump after he got them the keys to the castle. That is the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court. Remember this is politics folk. Just like he wish, that will be his way out and tell people that the system is corrupted to save face.
4) He will be assassinated but that the least probably scenario.

Hitler Quote, Propaganda, Trump

The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.

-Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, Volume One, Chapter Six: “War Propaganda”

Donald Trump is a marketing genius. Trump knows you have about 7 seconds of somebody’s attention. What did Trump do? For a year and a half he repeated the same things over and over and over and over. “Make American Great Again”, “drain the swamp”, “crooked politicians” and other sticky slogans were drilled in people’s mind. And yet we don’t have a single clue how he is going to make America great. Trump won the election with a vocabulary of about twenty words (Loser, winner, huge, rich etc…) Anger and emotions blinded the Americans.

Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton

Just to be clear. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m not even American so I can’t vote. But I did live in the U.S. for many years. I have many friends in the U.S. I invest in U.S. companies. I visit the country occasionally and I follow what’s happening in the country very closely. So I care about this. America has given people so many opportunities. It is not perfect but I believe it is a force for good in the world. A healthy strong America is better for the world.

If you are American,  you are probably sick and tired of both candidates and politics in general. It’s kind of frustrating that this is the best two candidates that America has to offer. But you have to make a choice. (And why, in 2016, are there still only two main political parties? But that’s a topic for another day). You are stuck between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I’ve look at third party options and they are not credible. Where do you vote if you are a moderate? Where are the normal candidates at?

Donald Trump is polling good numbers and as crazy as it sound it could become President. It doesn’t matter what he does or say, who he offends, how many women he sexually assaulted, or that he’s not qualified for the job, 40-45% of the population will vote for him. Facts don’t matter to Trump supporters, despite clear evidence that he had misrepresented or falsified key issues throughout the campaign. To understand why people will vote for Donald Trump, you need to put yourself in their shoes. I think it’s an exercise that more people should do. I’m not going to pretend that I understand what it is to be a Trump supporter, because I don’t, but I can try to understand their point of view. Despite all the dreadful things that Donald Trump said and did, he’s still polling around 40%. So that’s means there is a large segment of the population that support his views. People will vote for Donald Trump because they believe he will make their lives better. Most of Trump supporters are, and I’m generalizing 1)white male 2)less educated 3)and have lower income. In that ~40% you also have the republicans that only vote republicans and the Christian vote (it’s really an anti-abortion vote). A lot of people also hates Hillary Clinton. Even though stats have shown that the U.S.A. is doing well (GDP up, unemployment below 5%, stock market at record high etc…) they feel they “lost” they country. America has prospered a lot in the last few decades and even if it doesn’t feel like it, most Americans are better off than they were. However some people were left behind and as a result have fallen through the cracks of society. They will vote for Donald Trump because the political establishment of the last few decades has failed them, and Hillary Clinton is part of the “establishment” and Donald Trump is not.

Trump is not ready to assume the responsibilities that comes with being President of the U.S. He doesn’t have the knowledge, the experience, and the temperament to be President. The idea the he alone can “fix it” is absurd. He’s textbook egomaniac. He’s tapping into popular resentments and insecurities. I don’t think he has any idea what he got himself into. Getting things done in politics wasn’t suppose to be easy. When the founding fathers created the system, it was intentionally set up to have gridlock. Today we see it as a frustrating flaw, but the idea is that if you are going to change something you need a good majority. Donald Trump has trampled all over the unwritten rules of American democracy, violating his party and his country. He’s running the campaign like it’s so kind of reality TV show. It creates an ambiguity about how serious he is, and how seriously his audience needs to take him. There are too many signs that he’s unfit to be head of state. We never know what Trump will say next and that’s a huge problem. It represents massive uncertainty, and uncertainty can cause social unrest.

Now Hillary Clinton is not perfect. She has a long history in American politics. She represents the “establishment”. Hillary is bought and sold. She’s not credible and most American distrust her, with reason. She will say the scripted things to get votes.  If she was running against a more competent opponent she would probably lose. Look how hard it was to beat Bernie Sanders. Trump has pissed off every voting class possible except the angry broke white men. Trump can’t get the women vote, the Hispanic vote, the black vote, the Muslim vote, the educated vote, and he stills has a chance to beat Hillary.

Despite all of that, Hillary Clinton should be the next President of United-States. This is more than “she’s the lesser of the two evils.” She’s the most qualified and the most prepared. You are not going to like her. She doesn’t have the charisma of Obama or he husband. She’s not warm. You have put up with a manufactured smile and her boring speeches. But what really matters? You need the person to get the job done. When it comes to elections, instead of “hiring” the right person, you are voting for the right person. But when it comes to voting, people forgets the importance of the resume and it becomes a popularity contest. When it’s a popularity contest, people will say or do whatever is necessary to get votes and that’s when things get out of whack. You need to charm people. Charisma and great speeches is what got Obama elected twice despite his lack of experience and a tough first term. Hillary Clinton has a solid resume but struggle to be popular. Yes she has many flaws but I want the best person for the job, not the coolest. She knows the game better than anybody. She will work with legislators, even the ones that are determined to thwart her. That means less gridlock and getting things done. It’s not going to take her six months to get up to speed with the job. Plus Bill Clinton will be in the White House and I don’t think he’s there to choose the china set. Remember the 90s? I really think that if you vote for her, you will not regret your decision and America will be better off in four years.

Another thing that I look for when I vote is their potential cabinet, the people who surrounds and advice the President. Let’s face it, the President is not the real decision maker. He’s just there for PR.  What really matters is who is running Defence? Education? Treasury? Secretary of State? Even if Trump wins it won’t be the end of the world because he won’t do anything. His cabinet will tell him what to do and Congress or the Supreme Court will probably not pass any of his crazy idea. Hillary will be better surrounded. If she can keep Joe Biden or John Kerry that would be great. Trump will listen to Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, that’s not good. Plus Trump has pissed off too many credible Republicans that they won’t work with him. I don’t think Trump has the personality to attract top talent.

Here are my predictions: Hillary wins.

If Mr Trump loses, Mrs Clinton will begin her presidency with tens of millions of people believing that she ought to be in jail. Perhaps he will lose so comprehensively that he takes the Republican majorities in both chambers down with him. That would afford Mrs Clinton at least two years, before the next mid-term elections, during which she might push through an immigration reform, increase spending on infrastructure and change the balance on the Supreme Court. These would be big achievements, but something close to 40% of voters would feel they were being steamrollered by a hostile government. Then the Democrats will lose the mid-term election. Politics could become yet more polarized.