Entrumpment FTW

Your humble correspondent finds it hard to explain the feelings arising from the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, one Donald J. Trump. This "Entrumpment" has acted like a lens focusing the most demented of opinions and acts, and truly it has been the most wondrous of spectacles. Watching the collective losing of excreta of the liberal media today has been non-stop entertainment.

In the Bay Area, much attention was focused yesterday on a proposed attempt to complete a human chain across the Golden Gate bridge. The target date was today and it didn't work out quite as well as the organisers might have liked:

Even though the actual hand holding only lasted for one minute, folks who took part in the human chain say the memory will last a lifetime. Bridge officials say there were some gaps across the span on the northern side, so couldn't give the group credit for the first successful human chain, but for participants, it didn't matter, history was still made.
So even on the most Democrat-Republican polarising day for many years, and in the most Democrat-friendly city of the most Democrat-friendly state, they couldn't get 3000 people organised to form a human bridge. It's almost as if the Trump opposition doesn't have the practical conviction of their opinions.


Scentrics finds that security is hard

Two years ago I wrote about Scentrics and their "Key Man" security proposal. I wondered idly what had happened there so did some Googling. Turns out that I'm the top two hits for [scentrics key man] which is heart-warming for me but suggests that their world-beating security patent might have sunk like a stone...

I went to their website www.scentrics.com and noted that it didn't redirect to https. I tried https://www.scentrics.com and lo! Chrome's Red "Not secure" Warning of Death appears. Seems that Scentrics can't even secure their website, which is not a little ironic when their home page trumpets "Secure with Scentrics".

All the pages on the site - even "Overview and Vision" and "Careers" - are hidden behind a sign-on box, declaring the website "invitation only" and inviting you to contact "admin@scentrics.com" if you'd like access. You can view headers, but that's about it. You wonder why they would be so sensitive about exposing information like that.

The 2016 news included a nugget from the Daily Telegraph in June:

Scentrics is poised to seek new funding that would value the company at more than $1 billion as it prepares to rollout its infrastructure for the first time.
"Poised", huh? I like that. I read that as "not yet ready". I also like the uncritical write-up of the company's pitch:
Individual messages and documents sent over the internet can be unlocked without compromising the overall security of the network, according to Scentrics's pitch to operators and governments.
Remember that this essentially involved encrypting one copy of a message with the recipient's public key, and another with a government/agency public key, and storing the latter to give the agency access on demand. The government and security agencies involved might not think that this "compromises" the overall security of the network, but as a consumer of the network's function I can assure them that I'd feel very differently. And of course for this to be effective all network users would have to use a very small ecosystem of only approved apps / browsers which implemented this dual encryption, and maintained the central repository of government-friendly encrypted messages. I'm sure there's no risk of systematic system compromise there by insiders at all.

Companies House shows three officers plus a secretarial company including our old friend Guruparan "Paran" Chandrasekaran. Looks like Sir Francis Mackay, David Rapoport and Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra resigned since 2014, which is interesting because the latter gent used to be the Prime Minister of Thailand, and Scentrics trumpted his role in the Telegraph piece, but as of 1 month ago he's out of his company role.

According to their June 2015 accounts they have about GBP4.2M in net assets, looks like they had an infusion of about GBP4.5M during the year. Going from this to a $1bn valuation seems... optimistic.

Update: Looks like Scentrics are diving into Singapore with advertisements for Project Manager and Devops roles there. This seems to be part of the Singapore government's "Smart Nation" project for a unified network in Singapore:

  • A Smart Nation is one where people are empowered by technology to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives.
  • A Smart Nation harnesses the power of networks, data and info-comm technologies to improve living, create economic opportunity and build a closer community.
  • A Smart Nation is built not by Government, but by all of us - citizens, companies, agencies. This website chronicles some of our endeavours and future directions.
Cutting through the marketing speak, Singaporeans will be using a government-provided network for all services including personal and business communication. With Scentrics playing a role, the benevolent semi-dictatorship of Singapore will be able to snoop on all its citizens' internal communications at will.

Scentrics seems to be very comfortable enabling a government's surveillance on its citizens. I wonder how this is going to work out for them long-term given the distinctly libertarian tilt of most software engineers.

[Disclaimer: no share position in Scentrics. Financially I don't care if they live or die. Personally, I'd incline towards the latter.]

Don't blame the tech industry for its "lack of diversity"

Tekla S. Perry, who's experienced enough in the technology world to know better, wrote a provocative piece in IEEE Spectrum this week titled "Why Isn't the Tech Industry Doing Better on Diversity? It's Google's and Facebook's Fault". This sprang from a discussion at "Inclusion In Silicon Valley" where Leslie Miley, Slack's director of engineering, excoriated Bay Area tech companies for their alleged lack of inclusion:

You come to Silicon Valley and you don't see people that look like me in positions of power [Miley is black]. If that's not hostile, what is?
You don't see Chinese Americans or Indian Americans in positions of power in the Federal government, despite 8 years of a black president. If that's not hostile to Chinese and Indian Americans, what is?

Leslie Miley is a mendacious asshole. There are many legitimate points to make about the disproportionately small number of black software engineers, and the horrendous educational and societal failings behind that - and let's be clear, prejudice against academically successful black engineers is a real thing from both the black and white communities - but Leslie's point is not one of those. He is jumping from "X is not happening" (observation) to "X must be being blocked by Y" (assumption). You'd think that a competent engineer would be better acquainted with logical reasoning. But looking at Miley's LinkedIn profile he's only spent a series of 2-3 year stints at a list of major tech companies (Google, Apple, Twitter) in engineering management roles; since you spend 3-6 months coming up to speed with a job like that, and assume you draw down effort in the 3 months looking for a replacement job before you leave, his actual engineering experience doesn't seem that great, and you wonder why he kept leaving each firm before his stock options started to vest in quantity... (This is of course the "play the man, not the ball" approach to argument, which is intellectually facile but no less well founded that Miley's approach to argument.)

I've said this before but let's say it again. The main reason that people of Afro-Caribbean descent are under-represented in the software engineering industry is because the dominant education requirement for that industry is a bachelor's degree in a numerical subject (STEM), and such people are correspondingly under-represented in that qualification bucket. Such under-representation is a major issue that needs fixing, but it's happening way before the Silicon Valley and other engineering companies get involved. There's a secondary issue that engineering companies in general should get better at finding bright numerate non-STEM-degree holders who will do well in software engineering with a small investment of training, but that's another blog post entirely - and in any case, Silicon Valley big firms do spend time and money looking in that general area.

It's not just Miley who's making dumb remarks at this diversity love-fest, of course:

The lack of diversity stems from hidden and systemic bias, believes Monique Woodard, a partner in 500 startups. "If you turned off the imported talent, would you look to Oakland and Atlanta? I'm not sure people would," she said.
This is bollocks on stilts, but not just for the reasons you think. Oakland is stuffed full of Bay Area tech workers, especially junior engineers. They live there because it is relatively cheap compared to San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, Milpitas etc. Tech companies recruit people from Oakland all the gosh-darn time. What Monique Woodard means is that she doesn't believe that tech companies will go looking for the black talent in Oakland and Atlanta. Why isn't she saying this explicitly? You be the judge.

"Changing the practices that perpetuate the overwhelmingly white and male character of the Silicon Valley workforce are not going to be easy"
Male: yep. White: nope. In Silicon Valley, Caucasians are actually under-represented per the general population; Chinese and Indians are significantly overrepresented. In my experience, people who openly identify as gay or transgender are also markedly over-represented. By many reasonable measures, Silicon Valley is one of the most diverse environments there is - there is a huge population of people whose national original is not the USA, and they aren't just Indians and Chinese: there are substantial Russian, Korean, Polish, Filipino, Vietnamese and other nationalities.

What Ms. Woodard is actually saying is: "there aren't enough engineers with dark skin - excluding Indians - in Silicon Valley." Well, Ms. Woodard, why is that? Is there a peculiar conspiracy in hiring where the recruiters and hiring deciders are wide open to all sorts of people except those who are of Afro-Caribbean extraction? Is that what you are saying, or is it such a ridiculous notion that you have to resort to camouflaging it behind the umbrella of "diversity"?

Behind Miley's comments, at least, there's a nugget of good sense. The competition for engineers in Silicon Valley and its environs, and to some extent other places like Seattle (Microsoft/Amazon) and New York (Big Finance) is intense. If big firms want to find a cheaper source of good engineers then they should look at other major cities, such as Atlanta, Dallas, Austin. This is something of a risk though: you need to start a new engineering office, which means recruiting many tens of new engineers in addition to migrating some of your existing senior engineers down there to help build and train the teams, reinforce company culture and keep strong communication with the root offices. Up until now, this has been more of a risk than just upping the game in recruiting from the Bay: I suspect soon the numbers will cross a threshold that makes new engineering offices sufficiently financially attractive to be worth a try.

Bringing in new engineers from Republican states such as Texas and Georgia is also excellent for increasing diversity in the heavily Democratic (and worse, Californian) engineering cohorts of Silicon Valley. Yet, why is it that I suspect that Miley, Woodard et al don't regard that kind of diversity as desirable?


neveragain.tech virtue signalling

In the past couple of days I've seen all manner of prompts to add my name to the petition at neveragain.tech, solemnly swearing to:

  1. refuse to participate in the creation of databases of identifying information for the United States government to target individuals based on race, religion, or national origin.
  2. advocate within our organizations:
    • to minimize the collection and retention of data that would facilitate ethnic or religious targeting.
    • to scale back existing datasets with unnecessary racial, ethnic, and national origin data.
    • to responsibly destroy high-risk datasets and backups.
    • to implement security and privacy best practices, in particular, for end-to-end encryption to be the default wherever possible. to demand appropriate legal process should the government request that we turn over user data collected by our organization, even in small amounts.
  3. if I discover misuse of data that I consider illegal or unethical in my organizations:
    • I will work with our colleagues and leaders to correct it.
    • If we cannot stop these practices, we will exercise our rights and responsibilities to speak out publicly and engage in responsible whistleblowing without endangering users.
    • If we have the authority to do so, we will use all available legal defenses to stop these practices.
    • If we do not have such authority, and our organizations force us to engage in such misuse, we will resign from our positions rather than comply.
  4. raise awareness and ask critical questions about the responsible and fair use of data and algorithms beyond my organization and our industry.

The more perceptive readers will be surprised at how closely this declaration follows the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA, and wonder why - following the past 8 years of progressive weaponization of the Federal government - the tech industry has suddenly decided that unlimited government power is A Bad Thing to be strenuously resisted.

OK, maybe it's not much of a mystery.

Seriously though, one has to wonder why so many tecchies - who are, on average, very intelligent and somewhat resistant to regular bullshit - are signing this petition. The classic excuse comes from the role of IBM's equipment in the Holocaust, used by the Nazis to process the data around selection and slaughter of Jews in Europe. IBM itself acknowledges its role:

It has been known for decades that the Nazis used Hollerith equipment and that IBM's German subsidiary during the 1930s -- Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen GmbH (Dehomag) -- supplied Hollerith equipment. As with hundreds of foreign-owned companies that did business in Germany at that time, Dehomag came under the control of Nazi authorities prior to and during World War II. It is also widely known that Thomas J. Watson, Sr., received and subsequently repudiated and returned a medal presented to him by the German government for his role in global economic relations.
It's a bit unfair to single out IBM here. The premise is that equipment from an IBM-owned subsidiary was instrumental to the Nazis being able to kill Jews more efficiently. Nowadays, how would we feel if Syria's Bashar Assad used an Excel spreadsheet or two to organise slaughter of non-Alawite citizens? I'm fairly sure that Microsoft's Excel developers couldn't realistically be held accountable for this. Even if a Microsoft sales rep sold a 1000-seat Excel license to the Syrian regime, it would be a bit of a stretch to blame them for any resulting massacre. After all, the regime could always use OpenOffice for a free-as-in-beer-and-freedom solution to programmatic pogrom.

As you might expect from a Silicon Valley initiative, this is primarily intended as strenuous virtue-signalling. "Look at me, how right-thinking I am and how willing to prevent persecution of minorities!" Really though, it will have zero effect. The US Government does not contract out to random Silicon Valley firms for immigration and related database work. They have their own information systems for this, developed at horrific expense and timescales by the Beltway Bandit consulting firms and government IT workers. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services department isn't going to ask Twitter or a San Francisco start-up to develop a new immigrant tracking system - even though I suspect they'd get one with 10% of the downtime and 20% of the cost of the one that the Bandits will develop for them.

The most plausible concern of the signatories is the existing social graph and personally identifiable information in systems like Facebook and Twitter. Religion and national origin isn't stored systematically, and visa status isn't stored at all, but from analysis of posts and relationship activities I can imagine that you could fairly reliably infer areas of the relationship graph that are likely to be e.g. Guatemalan in origin and using Latin American Spanish as their primary language, working in low-wage industries, and physically located in Southern California (checking in from IPs known to be in LA and its environment). If you wanted to identify a pool of likely illegal immigrants, that would be a good place to start. Since Facebook already has this data, and sells access to parts of their information to advertisers, I wonder what these signatories are going to do about it?

$20 says "not a damn thing." They like their jobs and status too much. They won't find other companies as accepting of their social activism and public posturing. They won't take on new jobs targeting minorities, but then no-one sane is going to ask them to take on that kind of work because the D.C. consulting firms want the money instead and have lobbyists ensuring that they'll get it.


Expensive integer overflows, part N+1

Now the European Space Agency has published its preliminary report into what happened with the Schiaparelli lander, it confirms what many had suspected:

As Schiaparelli descended under its parachute, its radar Doppler altimeter functioned correctly and the measurements were included in the guidance, navigation and control system. However, saturation – maximum measurement – of the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) had occurred shortly after the parachute deployment. The IMU measures the rotation rates of the vehicle. Its output was generally as predicted except for this event, which persisted for about one second – longer than would be expected. [My italics]
This is a classic software mistake - of which more later - where a stored value becomes too large for its storage slot. The lander was spinning faster than its programmers had estimated, and the measured rotation speed exceeded the maximum value which the control software was designed to store and process.
When merged into the navigation system, the erroneous information generated an estimated altitude that was negative – that is, below ground level.
The stream of estimated altitude reading would have looked something like "4.0km... 3.9km... 3.8km... -200km". Since the most recent value was below the "cut off parachute, you're about to land" altitude, the lander obligingly cut off its parachute, gave a brief fire of the braking thrusters, and completed the rest of its descent under Mars' gravitational acceleration of 3.8m/s^2. That's a lot weaker than Earth's, but 3.7km of freefall gave the lander plenty of time to accelerate; a back-of-the-envelope calculation (v^2 = 2as) suggests a terminal velocity of 167 m/s, minus effects of drag.

Well, there goes $250M down the drain. How did the excessive rotation speed cause all this to happen?

When dealing with signed integers, if - for instance - you are using 16 bits to store a value then the classic two's-complement representation can store values between -32768 and +32767 in those bits. If you add 1 to the stored value 32767 then the effect is that the stored value "wraps around" to -32768; sometimes this is what you actually want to happen, but most of the time it isn't. As a result, everyone writing software knows about integer overflow, and is supposed to take account of it while writing code. Some programming languages (e.g. C, Java, Go) require you to manually check that this won't happen; code for this might look like:

/* Will not work if b is negative */
if (INT16_MAX - b >= a) {
   /* a + b will fit */
   result = a + b
} else {
   /* a + b will overflow, return the biggest
    * positive value we can
   result = INT16_MAX
Other languages (e.g. Ada) allow you to trap this in a run-time exception, such as Constraint_Error. When this exception arises, you know you've hit an overflow and can have some additional logic to handle it appropriately. The key point is that you need to consider that this situation may arise, and plan to detect it and handle it appropriately. Simply hoping that the situation won't arise is not enough.

This is why the "longer than would be expected" line in the ESA report particularly annoys me - the software authors shouldn't have been "expecting" anything, they should have had an actual plan to handle out-of-expected-value sensors. They could have capped the value at its expected max, they could have rejected the use of that particular sensor and used a less accurate calculation omitting that sensor's value, they could have bounded the calculation's result based on the last known good altitude and velocity - there are many options. But they should have done something.

Reading the technical specs of the Schiaparelli Mars Lander, the interesting bit is the Guidance, Navigation and Control system (GNC). There are several instruments used to collect navigational data: inertial navigation systems, accelerometers and a radar altimeter. The signals from these instruments are collected, processed through analogue-to-digital conversion and then sent to the spacecraft. The spec proudly announces:

Overall, EDM's GNC system achieves an altitude error of under 0.7 meters
Apparently, the altitude error margin is a teeny bit larger than that if you don't process the data robustly.

What's particularly tragic is that arithmetic overflow has been well established as a failure mode for ESA space flight for more than 20 years. The canonical example is the Ariane 5 failure of 4th June 1996 where ESA's new Ariane 5 rocket went out of control shortly after launch and had to be destroyed, sending $500M of rocket and payload up in smoke. The root cause was an overflow while converting a 64 bit floating point number to a 16 bit integer. In that case, the software authors had actually explicitly identified the risk of overflow in 7 places of the code, but for some reason only added error handling code for 4 of them. One of the remaining cases was triggered, and "foom!"

It's always easy in hindsight to criticise a software design after an accident, but in the case of Schiaparelli it seems reasonable to have expected a certain amount of foresight from the developers.

ESA's David Parker notes "...we will have learned much from Schiaparelli that will directly contribute to the second ExoMars mission being developed with our international partners for launch in 2020." I hope that's true, because they don't seem to have learned very much from Ariane 5.


Journalist ecomonic understanding makes me cry

The megalopolis of San Jose, CA has approved a rise in the minimum wage to $15 by January 1 2019. The usual suspects are weighing in approvingly, but my eye was drawn in fascinated horror to the way that the journalist (or press release author) expressed the financial changes expected:

Mayor Liccardo launched the effort last fall to follow the lead of five other cities in Santa Clara County and to come up with a regional approach to raise minimum wage throughout Silicon Valley.
City statistics show it would mean a $300,000 raise for 115,000 workers.
To which I can only say huh? Assuming they're on $12/hour now, they're working 100,000 hours per year?

What the author means, one assumes, is that each worker is going to benefit by just under $3 per hour, but that's a horrible way of expressing that statistic. And of course, the statistic itself is misleading. The workers are going to pay a varying amount of tax on that additional money, other benefits they are currently paid may change, and of course that assumes that otherwise their salary would not have risen at all by January 2019 despite the extra 2 years of experience and possible promotion they would have achieved by then.

But let's look at what the author believes is the downside of this measure - because they're trying to be even-handed, yes?

Some small business owners and non-profits worry raising the minimum wage would reduce their share of the economic pie. The result could either mean service reduction for non profits or price increases for mainstay businesses.
Or, you know, firings left and right for any worker whose skills aren't valued at $15/hour (plus additional costs) by the business they work at. Or businesses closing down because they're no longer economically viable. Or employers cutting existing worker benefits to offset the new costs. Heck, ask workers and business owners in Seattle how their new $15/hour minimum is working out.

You can just taste the disdain for business owners in the expression "reduce their share of the economic pie". Why exactly does the author think the owners have put in all the work and risk to create the businesses that create the jobs for these good people in the first place?

Always consider what happens when the shoe switches feet

The recent panic from the LGBT+ / Black / Hispanic communities about increased violence in the wake of Trump's victory has caused a sharp uptick in blogs and forum posts from various West Coast people, notably those of the transgender persuasion, claiming a new fear for the personal safety of them and their families. This seems to be based around the assumption that a Trump presidency will embolden the less savoury side of society prone to gay-bashing to perpetrate physical violence on them. Let's say, for arguments' sake, this is true: what should they do about it?

Larry Correia, author of the "Monster Hunter Nation" and related high-output high-sales fantasy book series, penned "A Handy Guide For Liberals Who Are Suddenly Interested In Gun Ownership" which is as sympathetic to the political gripes of Hillary/Bernie supporters as the title suggests, but does provide a lot of good practical advice about how you can go about getting armed and trained in effective self-defence. Correia owned a gun store and did a lot of concealed-carry training before his literary career properly started, so seems to know what he's talking about.

What he really nails is the ever-increasing squeeze on firearms possession, gun ranges and ammo purchase that has been happening in Democrat-controlled states over the past few years, and why it's relevant now:

When the already super powerful government wants to make you even more powerless, that scares the crap out of regular Americans, but you guys have been all in favor of it. Take those nasty guns! Guns are scary and bad. Don't you stupid rednecks know what's good for you? The people should live at the whim of the state!
But now that the shoe is on the other foot, and somebody you distrust and fear is in charge for a change, the government having all sorts of unchecked power seems like a really bad idea, huh?

It's hard enough owning a gun in California anyway, but cities like San Francisco have taken it to extremes. They have used local law changes to force all the gun shops to close down. In last week's voting, there was a strong San Francisco representation pushing state Proposition 63 to make ammunition purchases harder and more expensive. The net effect is that you can guarantee that no-one in San Francisco is carrying a gun unless they're a law enforcement officer or a criminal.

Gay bashing is far from a new crime in San Francisco. Despite the city's image as gay-friendly, there are enough unreconstructed citizens who are not keen on public displays of homosexuality or trans people for there to be a significant risk of violence. Since these folk know that their victims won't be armed, they have no disincentive to engage in these attacks. But if there were a few well-publicised self-defence shootings in reaction to gay bashing attempts, you can bet that the rate of gay bashing attempts would decline rapidly.

For now, California citizens have to deal with the laws as they stand - and as Correia notes, those laws make it hard for law-abiding citizens to be armed effectively:

See, traditionally Democrats don't like the 2nd Amendment and historically have done everything in their power to screw with it. Your gun laws are going to vary dramatically based upon where you live. It might be really difficult and expensive for you to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights, or it might be relatively easy.
But you’re scared right now! Well, that's too bad. Because for the most part Democrats have tried to make it so that citizens have to abdicate their responsibilities and instead entrust that only [the] state can defend everyone... That doesn't seem like such a bright idea now that you don't trust who is running the state, huh?
Perhaps San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee could take time out from his crusade against the gun industry to ensure that his vulnerable constituents can defend themselves against the increasing violence in his city. I'm not holding my breath for this to happen, but if the LGBT+ community wants to be able to protect themselves then Ed might be a good target for their lobbying. "Mayor Lee, why don't you want the gay community to be safe in your city?". They could recommend that Lee work with past SF Democrat mayoral candidate Leland Yee to draw on the latter's expertise in firearms supply.


Silicon Valley in the Time of Trump

The past few days have given me a great view into how the famously liberal population of the Bay Area has taken the election of Donald Trump. "Not well" is fair, but a yuuuuge understatement.

Do you know what California's principal export is? Whine.

The Bay Area is probably the most pro-Clinton anti-Trump group outside the island of Manhattan, and the residents were never going to be entirely happy with a Trump victory. I predicted butthurt-ness, and was I ever right. However even I, with my jaundiced view of human nature, never expected the level of rage and opprobrium directed at Trump and his voting enablers. So far I've seen - not heard but actually seen written on group emails and forums - the following:

  • claims of suicidal feelings, particularly from trans and gender-fluid folks;
  • assertions that anyone voting for Trump needs to publicly denounce Trump's perceived opinions about Black Lives Matter, Hispanics, gays (wut?) and immigrants;
  • statements that anyone voting for Trump needs to go work for another company;
  • room-sized group hugs to support each other post-election; and
  • claims that Trump and Pence wanted to electrocute people who were gay or trans.
Thank goodness Trump has elephant-thick skin, because there's probably enough libel in every Bay Area tech company's emails to pay for the building of another Trump Tower.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me was a bundle of complaints around the theme:

"I was hoping to teach my girls that, if you work hard and dream big, you can be anything you want to be. I would like to thank 2016 for putting me right."
It seems that a large number of people were going to use "Hillary as first woman president" as the totem for their children to show that the glass ceiling had been shattered. While I'm all in favour of showing children role models, is Hillary really the model you want to use?

I actually found it inspiring, in a way. The lesson I took from the election was that if you are a woman, even if you are a revolting and corrupt human being, you can make it to within a gnat's chuff of being the President of the United States, and your party organisation will happily screw over men to help you get its nomination. It wouldn't have taken much of a vote change in one or two swing states for Hillary to be elected, at which point I guarantee that no-one on the Dems side would be talking about upsetting the electoral college applecart.

Hillary is (of course) not happy and blames FBI Director Comey for her narrow defeat:

But our analysis is that [FBI Director James B.] Comey's letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum,” she said. “We dropped, and we had to keep really pushing ahead to regain our advantage — which going into the last weekend, we had."
She's right, of course. Comey's letter was quite possibly enough to cause Hillary voters in key states to stay home on polling day.

On the other hand, there were many other what-ifs, any one of which was probably enough to get her elected:

  • what if she had actually achieved something of note as Secretary of State?
  • what if she and Bill hadn't gone around the world soliciting hundreds of millions of dollars from various dubious countries and individuals?
  • what if she were actually personally likeable?
  • what if she'd not blown her chance to land a kill-shot on The Donald in the debates?
  • what if she'd insisted that the DNC not put its thumb on the scales, and instead beat Bernie fairly in the nomination?
All these were in her control, so to blame solely Comey for her loss seems rather obtuse.

And on the flip side, what if Comey had taken the - apparently quite reasonable - step to indict her for her recklessness in running her own email server and exposing any amount of State classified material to any intelligence service worth its name? Isn't she grateful to him for not doing that, at least?


Trump triumphant

Blimey, he actually did it. Just how poor a candidate must Hillary have been, with all the media, technical, organisational and financial advantages she had, to go down so badly to Trump? I'm guessing that Hillary 2020 is not going to be a thing.

I continue to feel very comfortable in my prediction of an unprecedent wave of butthurt about to appear from the Guardian opinion pages (and indeed all other articles) and the BBC US correspondents.


2016 US election prediction

It's less than 24 hours before we'll have a good idea whether Hillary Clinton has made it to the 270 electoral college votes needed to secure the presidency to which she clearly believes she's entitled. At this stage, although I wouldn't write off Trump, I'd have to say that Hillary is likely to make it. Her Get-Out-The-Vote ground game is much better organised than Trump's, Wikileaks and the FBI haven't landed a killer blow on her, and the media have carried water faithfully enough to keep most of her followers following. I'm sure a lot of Bernie supporters are extremely unhappy with the revelations of past weeks, but I suspect most of them will hold their noses and vote Hillary nevertheless.

Should The Donald continue his trend of confounding predictions and actually pull off an upset - winning Florida, Pennsylvania and such other states as needed to break 270 - I confidently predict the most ear- splitting snit of all times from 95% of the US media. Hillary herself might actually evaporate in a toxic plume of rage. It would be quite something to watch.