Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Just What Do You Think You're Doing, Dave?

I've recently returned home after two weeks in Paris, the trip itself a quasi-homecoming of sorts. Our family spent the past couple of years living in la ville de lumière, and thus we decided to use summer holidays to visit our old haunts (and in the case of my wife and ten year old son, old friends).

Two days before I joined my family, who had gone to France in middle June, there was another terrible incident in the south of France - in Nice - where an individual, for reasons as yet not completely clear, drove a box truck into a crowd of people celebrating the Fête Nationale, killing scores and injuring a couple of hundred more.

(Aside - not sure that a real reason will ever be found. Turning to the wisdom of President Mufflin from Doctor Strangelove, - "there is nothing to figure out. This man is obviously psychotic.")

In the course of our time in Paris and then immediately thereafter, there has been a series of frightening events - the assassination of a handful of cartoonists, bombings in a theatre. Just a week or so ago, yet another incident, as a man with a knife savagely attacked and killed a priest saying mass in Normandy.

All of this has the French (understandably) at sixes and sevens trying to reckon out how to react. But one reaction in Europe (and I suppose, soon to debut in the US) is the omnipresence of closed circuit cameras. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that, in Paris, as soon as you step outside your door, you are being watched.  Well, maybe not you, and maybe not for long, but on buses, public streets, parks, there are signs warning:

"Souriez; vous êtes filmés!" (Smile, you are being filmed).

I'm not one given to paranoia; not casually anyways. But here on the cusp of Silicon Valley, we are reminded constantly of the power of "big data." Adverts call out of the marvels of the cloud and distributed computing. We are reminded of how much more number crunching and analysis (and storage) are available.

What is happening with all of the countless hours of faces and actions being "filmé" in Paris and elsewhere?

I read today that work progresses on facial recognition software. In Russia, allegedly, there is a new app called FindFace, which boasts the ability to identify, with 70 per cent accuracy, images of faces captured in a crowd. 

Think about that: use your iPhone. Snap a quick, surreptitious photo of anyone, anywhere. With better than a two in three chance, you can identify a complete stranger.

The number of places where we can hide are, indeed, shrinking.

I suspect that that 70% figure, with omnipresent mechanical eyes capturing faces round the clock, is going to grow. With additional data, additional resolution, additional, raw computing power, it has to.

Ironically, on one of the sunny afternoons, we decided to pass the time at Paris Plages, an event each summer run by the city, in which the beaches of the Côte d'Azur are trucked in to the banks of the Seine for those who cannot go to the sand. A friend who went with us was discussing how her computer had had a crash, wiping out several years of photographs. Hoping to recover what remained (no: she had not backed up her data, a mistake that we all have to make.  Once), she took her hard drive for an attempt to rescue what memories remained in the ashes of the meltdown.

To her astonishment, what had been 2,000 raw images captured with her iPhone, had, through what in my youth was described as "Wozniak Whimsy" - little, odd features that the real genius of the Apple dynamic duo created - magically become 6,000 files.

Odd, I asked.

The answer was that, apparently, amongst the "features" of your iPhone is a sort of facial isolation software. She explained that when the image software identifies what it thinks are faces in a picture, each is isolated and stored into a separate file. Now, I cannot corroborate this, but this individual has even less computer savvy than I do, so I find it unlikely that the story was made up whole cloth.

So, apparently, unbeknownst to many, these phantom images are being captured and stored.

I don't think that, necessarily, there is some malign plot - FaceBook, for example, can "identify" faces in images for you to help you "tag" friends. But the confluence of AI, facial recognition, and cameras almost literally everywhere?

It reminds me of the old maths problem. 

Q: What's the next item in this sequence?

A:  You don't want to know.

Friday, 15 July 2016

It's Just Another Day

The 14th of July is the Fête Nationale (National Day) in France. When we were living in Paris, it meant a day off from work, a magnificent parade two blocks away along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, a fly-over of old and new aircraft.  Later, a picnic along the Seine and then after dark, the fireworks by the Eiffel Tower.  We would gather around 9 PM to wait for the darkness - in Paris, the sun does not set in Summer until nearly 10.

Well, tonight one did not have to wait for the sun to disappear for the darkness to come. 

Darkness in France today came in the shape of a white box truck. It came in the form of people - young, old, families, small children - who had gathered on a somewhat cool summer evening in Nice along the French Riviera - having their lives cruelly extinguished by an evil man.  It appeared in an image of innocent people running in fear. 

It was a still photo of a doll next to a tiny, lifeless child under a blanket.

As of now, the French government are not really saying anything about just who loaded a truck with weapons - including grenades - and set out with murderous, evil intent.

Families went out tonight to celebrate the values of the French republic - famously, liberty, equality, and brotherhood.  They left their homes seeking a fun, relaxing evening. Maybe a glace from a vendor, to walk along the world-famous Promenade des Anglais.

The driver plainly had other plans.

So much for the "brotherhood" part. 

The French government are somewhat tight-lipped about just what happened, but to understand what is actually going on, one needs to look beyond what is said and pay attention to actions - President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have convened a terrorist crisis meeting at the Place Beauvau, seat of the French Minstry of the Interior, where domestic concerns are discussed.  Mr Valls had been the Minister of the Interior prior to his elevation to Prime Minister, and he has a history of tough talk and tough action against criminality.

This attack is the third horrific incident in France in the past 18 months. Social media - again - are trotting out bromides about 'praying for France' and how "love will conquer hate."

I am not so sure.

There is an old saw that it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, and I suppose that there is some comfort in that.  But with each drip drip drip, it grows more and more difficult to pretend that the darkness gathering around us is not growing.  In frequency and profundity. 

A recent conversation I heard on the radio following the assassination of five police officers in Dallas by another "lone wolf madman" was that we might need to get used to this situation. That this is the "new normal."

Immediately after the Charlie Hebdo massacre (we were still living in Paris at that time), the French responded by flooding the streets with police, including the CRS - the Compagnies Republicaines de Securite (national police), a paramilitary force trained in special, riot control tactics. 

I do not want to 'get used to' fear everywhere. To the senseless killing. To the excuses, frankly, that justify the violence.

The US president has, through a spokesman, offered his support to France. The problem is much larger than France. Today it was Nice, but tomorrow?  Mr Obama spoke of how these attacks are attacks against our 'universal values.'

Well, Mr Obama, it seems that these values are not so universal. At least one man did not share our values of liberty. Of brotherhood.

And today, that man got in a truck and killed at least 75 people who did.

At this point, I am running out of ideas. Frankly, I don't know what to do, or what to think, and I am tired.

In the past, we said, "I am Charlie." "I am Bataclan."  "I am Orlando."

Today, I am just fed up.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

If You Cannot Say it, You Cannot Do it

Reading many comments in the past couple of days about the slaughter in Orlando (and really, is there a more accurate word?) has brought to mind many issues. I agree that there needs to be a long, hard look at sensible gun regulation. It's WAY past time. The Republicans need to accep this and stop obstructing even reasonable proposals. But equally, the Democrats need to acknowledge that gun laws will not stop evil people, and that a big problem both in the US and elsewhere is the vile nature of radical Islamic terrorism. President Obama cannot even seem to say the words. Today, a terrible story has arrived from France, very close to where I used to work. about 50 km west of central Paris, a "French citizen" decided that he would add his little bit to jihad by killing two police officers. So, Larossi Abbala went to the Yvelines home of two married officers (Jean-Baptiste Salvaing, 42 and Jessiva Schneider, 35), waited outside, stabbed the husband, entered the home, killed the wife. All the while, the couple's three year old son sat, terrified, behind the killer as he broadcast his cartoonishly evil thoughts through YouTube and Twitter. The brave leaders of ISIS immediately praised this "soldier" for killing an unarmed man and woman in front of their terrified child. http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2016/06/14/01016-20160614ARTFIG00119-attaque-assaillant-enquete-les-faits-connus-sur-le-meurtre-de-deux-policiers.php?redirect_premium Like Orlando, news reports reveal that this killer was 'known to authorities.' Why, if these guys are "known to authorities," are they walking around? How do they obtain weapons? We can talk about 'free' college, or net neutrality, or any other government goodie. But a government that cannot fulfil its most basic responsibility - protecting people from predators - does not deserve to have even an ounce more responsibility given to it. Shockingly, idiots in Paris today (in addition to damaging Hopital Necker-Enfants malades, the leading children's hospitla in France) were marching chanting "tout le monde deteste la police" as these events unfolded. To add to the irony, among the worst of the violence occurred in front of the Hotel des Invalides - a historical hospital and retirement home for soldiers wounded defending France. The news are (again, like Orlando) quick to point out that the murderer was a citizen; I wonder - if asked, would this guy say he was French? Would Omar Mateen consider himself an American? A nation is more than a place to live and make money. What happened in Orlando Saturday and Paris today is not about "angry young men with easy access to guns." Not completely. There are lots of angry young men. Our leadership needs to find the courage to say out loud what is happening.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Pack Your Bags (eh!)

Just read that Lena Dunham, the "star" of the cable show "Girls" has joined the celebrity short bus that doubles as a political bandwagon by threatening to leave the US if Donald Trump is elected.

Quoting the very modestly talented, but very foul-mouthed actress:
I know a lot of people have been threatening to do this, but I really will, I know a lovely place in Vancouver and I can get my work done from there.

I've written about Dunham before, but suffice it to say, I've seen her show; I've seen her forays into pop politics before.  

It's hard to say which underwhelms me more.

But when I read this latest eructation, I was genuinely conflicted.

On the one hand, as a native-born Canadian, I would not wish Lena Dunham on the land of my birth.  Additionally, I have relatives in Vancouver, and they do not deserve this sort of punishment.  

On the other hand, as a current American, I see the up-side here.  

  1. Hillary Clinton not in power
  2. One less middling, big-mouthed, self-indulgent millenial taking up space here in California
  3. Four years of President Oompa Loompa
  4. We owe them for Justin Beiber.

That looks like a win-win-win-win to me.  That's a DOUBLE win-win.

So with apologies to my former mates, the Canadian half of my family, and my uncle Bob specifically, I am all in to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Red, White, and Blue Monday

News feed today listing events of this day (25th April) in history headlined the 40th anniversary of the famous "American Flag" incident.  It was 40 years ago to the day that Chicago Cubs' CF Rick Monday intervened when two individuals jumped the outfield fence at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and tried to set the American flag on fire.

Monday, who had spent time in the US Marine Corps Reserves, saw a man and his (believe it or not, 11-year old) son trying to burn the flag for reasons that have never been made clear, raced in and saved the day.  The miscreants received a $60 trespassing fine and probation.  Monday kept (and still, apparently has) the flag following the legal proceedings.

Rick Monday is the answer to the trivia question "Who was the first player ever chosen in the baseball amateur draft (1965)."  Though not a great player, he had a decent career, highlighted by the "Blue Monday" home run off Montreal ace Steve Rodgers in 1981, ending the Expos' sole post-season appearance and propelling the Dodgers, ultimately to the World Series' title.

But the former Athletic, Cub, and Dodger outfielder is probably best remembered for the play he made in shallow left field in April 40 years ago.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Left Glove Finally Comes Off

The US presidential election is coming into the home-stretch.  Much of the fun and games has been on the Republican side, as New York real estate mogul and pitchman Donald Trump has sucked up much of the oxygen with his quixotic bid for the nomination.  

On the Democratic side, it's been until recently a fairly staid affair - former New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the heavy favourite and presumptive nominee.  She had some token opposition from ex-Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, former senator Jim Webb, and current space cadet Lincoln Chaffee (hint: running on a platform that promises to bring the metric system to the US is generally not a good jumping-off point.)

O'Malley got burnt quickly, in part because of all of the violence ginned up by the so-called "Black Lives Matter" movement, who pointed to his time as the leader of Baltimore.  Webb flamed out because, well, frankly a somewhat conservative southerner belongs in the Democratic Party when a blended bass fish belong in a chocolate milkshake.  

It looked more a coronation than a contest, and the only speed bump for Herself was current Vermont senator Bernard Sanders.  And Sanders seemed too timid to actually hit Mrs Clinton on any of the various weak spots she presents.

Her fast and loose (and if we are being honest, stupid) use of an email server essentially located in her suburban NY closet to send high clearance documents was off the table.  Her mistakes in handling the emerging crisis in the middle east were not mentioned.  And even her possibly most vulnerable exposure - her cozy relationship with the big Wall Street banks was only talked about by Sanders in the hushest of tones.

I suspect that Sanders had no real fantasies about actually getting the nomination, and thus his real purpose to be in the primaries was to (a) try to make the Democrats actually talk about issues that the Democratic Party pretends to care about and (b) to provide a sparring partner for Hillary Clinton.

Well, fast forward to April 2016.  

Things are seldom what they seem.

There is an old aphorism about just what a dog would do if it actually caught the cars it chased.  Mr Sanders seems to be intent on forcing the issue.

Tuesday, the voters in New York go to the polls, and the race is far, far too close for comfort for the imperious senator for Goldman-Sachs.  She still leads Sanders by a comfortable margin in the delegate count, which is not to add the so-called "super delegates" - party apparatchiks who are not bound by such inconveniences as the voters - who are overwhelmingly siding with Hillary.

So recently, the gloves have, as they say, come off. At least the left glove.

And Mrs Clinton and, more to the point, her supporters, are crying foul.

As Senator Sanders has drawn closer, he and his backers are beginning to point out what has been obvious to most of us all along - that Hillary Clinton's putative fight "for the rest of us" against malign, powerful interests has more than a whiff of insincerity.

This past week, the Clinton Campaign held two fundraisers here in California - hosted by A-List actor George Clooney - in which donors, er, supporters, ponied up tens of thousands of dollars a plate to break bread with him and, of course, Hillary.  I suspect not one of those sitting down to nosh was a 'little guy.' 

Sanders backers gathered at the street and tossed dollar bills at Hillary's motorcade as it passed, ostensibly calling attention to just how coin-operated she is.  And that's being kind, since the money being thrown folded.

MSNBC to the rescue; a meme is making rounds on the web that this is some sort of misogynist act, and that those tossing dollars at her motorcade are insinuating that Hillary is in fact, some sort of pole dancer.

I had not thought of that, and I suspect, neither had the protesters, a fair number of whom were women.

And there is an equally shrill objection to calling Mrs Clinton a corporate "whore."

Now, the term "whore" is impolitic to be sure.  But calling a politician who takes big money donations a corporate whore is hardly novel.  Mitt Romney was accused famously of "whoring out Big Bird" in 2012.  

If calling someone a "whore" is beyond the pale (and if we are being honest, it's at the least nasty and unbecoming), that Hillary Clinton is a women should not innoculate her against an attack that probably could be traced to Pericles and his whoring Athens out to toga merchants.

I am surely not a liberal, and I am far, far from a Democrat, and thus I don't have a particular dog in this fight (note: a metaphor, not an attack on Mrs Clinton's appearance, so no need to comment.)  But I do take a certain schadenfrueude watching Mrs Clinton's flying monkeys squawk about how unfair it is for Sanders to talk about her cozy Wall Street relationship, or how hypocritical it is for Bernie Sanders to fly to the Vatican (with a massive carbon footprint) to talk about climate change.

I'll Get You, My Pretties!  And Your Little Dog, TOO!
All of the things that Hillary is complaining about are the sort of attacks she has dismissed as coming from a "vast right wing conspiracy" when used by Republicans.

I suspect that Hillary Clinton is still going to win the Democratic Party nomination.  I suspect that she is going to go on and defeat Donald Trump (or whomever Republicans, Inc. put in his place).

But these lame, whiny, entitled defences she offers are a bad omen.  

We've spent nearly eight years where virtually any complaint about President Obama is painted as a racist attack, no matter how valid.  Four (or God forbid, eight) years where it is impossible to criticise the president lest one be called a misogynist ain't good for the country. For a free society to function, it is necessary that the leadership be open to opposition and not react like an 8 year old screeching about "fairness."

Put simply, Mrs Clinton - if you want to be in the big chair, put on your big girl pantsuit.

Criticism goes with the job, I am afraid.  Even for a ruler with an army of flying monkeys.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Oh, (no) Canada!

The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs kicked off last night, which to a Toronto Maple Leafs' fan can only one thing.

It's time to start watching the Blue Jays next season of mediocrity.

The Leafs have not won the Cup since 1967 - the year my mother and father were married, and three years before I came to the world only a few blocks away Toronto General Hospital.  Even better, the team has not even made the finals in that span.

I live in San Jose, California these days, and cheer for the Sharks these days. Of course, the Sharks differ from the Leafs in that they get to round two of the playoffs before choking, rather than skipping the playoffs altogether.

This year, it's not just Maple Leaf fans who are shut out.

For the first time since 1970, no team from Canada has qualified for the playoffs.  Not once will a playoff puck be dropped in a Canadian city this year. 

Granted, more than two thirds of the teams now play in the US, and the population of Canada is roughly 10 per cent of its huge neighbour to the south. Canadian players still comprise the bulk of the guys who lace up each game, however. 

But even that is changing - the 2015-2016 season is the first time in the 98 years of the NHL, less than half of the players are Canadian.  According to TSN, 50.2% of the roster spots are made up of non-Canadian-born players.

Americans are the next-largest group (about 25%), but even their numbers have eroded slightly, with Swedes and Russians picking up the slack.

Oh well; here is a flashback to 1992, when the Blue Jays took the World Series.

"For we got your World Series trophy. And we might not be giving it back...."

Monday, 21 March 2016

The Smell of Fear

Sunday marked the official first day of spring on the calendar here in the northern hemisphere. It's also the beginning of Easter Week. Typically it's a time of hope. Of rebirth.

2016 is also an election year in the US, and this fall, Americans will elect a new president following eight decidedly mixed years under the Obama administration. We have spent the last few years living abroad in France, so this will be our first election here for a couple of cycles.

I would say that spring, 2016 is a time not of hope, but rather one of fear.  There is a lot of fear in the air. A lot of recrimination. A lot of anger.

Much of the fear and anger is swirling around Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Some of the noise of course comes from his likely opponents in the fall on the Democratic party side; this is of course not surprising. What is more unexpected has been the tone of the attacks, which have been less about policy differences between the Democrats and Republicans, and have instead focused on how Donald Trump is an existential threat to American values themselves; how Donald Trump is unfit to be president.  Indeed, on how Mr Trump is practically the verbum caro factum of racist, xenophobic, misogynistic ideas that previously have been confined to the darkest corners of the political zoo. 

Equally surprising, these cries have been joined from an increasingly panicked chorus from Trump's fellow Republicans.

Things have gotten even uglier, with "protestors" who have begun to show in numbers and strength at Trump rallies with a thinly-veiled agenda simply to make it impossible for him to speak.

Let me state in advance that 
  1. I voted for Mr Obama eight years ago during a similar time of chaos and fear, in part because he promised to be something of a uniter who would try to end the foreign wars
  2. I am not a supporter or fan of Donald Trump, who I think at the least lacks practical experience to be president (CEO of the country is not an entry-level job), and who has thus not articulated any sort of specific, workable plan
That said, looking at screaming protestors on the one hand who make it impossible for Trump to speak, and on the other, to the increasingly ridiculous, paranoid attacks on him and his supporters from the Democrats and Republicans, I'm left more with a set of questions rather than serious thoughts.

Trump's campaign was first greeted with incredulity and jokes - the New York Daily News ran cover stories with Trump caricatured in clown makeup, and his candidacy was mostly covered as a sort of running joke.

Which it was.

Well, the joke thus far has been on the leadership of the crumbling Republican party, who now face the real challenge of whether to accept the likelihood that Trump will be their party banner carrier in November or to continue the quixotic battle to unite behind Ted Cruz or John Kasich as the only two opponents left on the battlefield.

The current Republican leadership have only themselves to blame - the party fielded a pretty poor group of warmed-over candidates (Jeb Bush?), for years have said that tax cuts are the solution to every problem, have more or less ignored the problem of illegal immigration - which has been terrific for their big businesses backers - while talking tough about the border, and have supported a disastrous policy of invade the world/invite the world that has squandered billions of dollars on hopeless foreign wars.

Reince Priebus deserves Donald Trump.

In the end, it looks like it is going to be Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton; Hillary's backers, having survived the scare of Bernard Sanders, are turning their focus now on Trump.

Now, Trump has made some pretty risible claims about Mexican immigrants (whatever one thinks about illegal immigration, the idea that the bulk of illegals in the US are drug  mules or rapists is simply ridiculous); his plans to look at a ban of ALL immigration from Islamic countries is poorly considered.  His signature proposal to build a wall along the border is not practical.

But I suggest that if one looks at the facts, the anger and vitriol against Trump is misguided.

Mrs Clinton says she wants at the centre of her campaign to help the middle class and to level the economic playing field.  Inequality is the root of all evils.  

Mrs Clinton has late in life, apparently, discovered religion.

Donald Trump may not be the terrific businessman he clains, but I would ask, for the past 25 years, has it been Donald Trump who, first in the White House, then the Senate, who helped shape public policies that led to the 2008 financial crisis?  Was Donald Trump the Senator from New York who was taking millions of dollars from Wall Street firms?  

Who is to blame for the alleged inequality in our system?

Donald Trump is attacked because he says impolitic things about Muslims, and wants to ban them.  He's an Islamophobic bigot.

OK.  Which person - Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton - voted to support the war in Iraq?  

Trump doesn't like refugees, and would block their entry.  

OK.  Who - Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State - helped topple the government in Egypt, helped foment the civil war in Syria, and supported the efforts to overthrow Muamar Gaddafi?  Was it Donald Trump who read (and foolishly) believed stories about liberal-minded revolutionaries in the Arab Spring, believed to be "liberal" for the incredibly shallow reason that they used Twitter and Facebook?  

Donald Trump may speak poorly of refugees; Hillary Clinton through her policy choices creates refugees.

The popular press - most recently this weekend, the Los Angeles Time- have run editorials that claim Trump is unfit to be president. He may be. The Times think so, because of the tone of his words.

I suggest that because of the record of her choices, Hillary Clinton is unfit for public service. Period.

Trump says ugly things.  Clinton votes for to make them happen.

One of the most horrible images I've experienced is the infamous photo of little Alan Kurdi, a tiny three year old boy who lost his life on a Turkish beach in September, 2015. It's a horrifying image. A haunting one. A lifeless little body in a red tee shirt and tiny sneakers.

Donald Trump's words did not kill that little boy.  Hillary Clinton and Samantha Powers and other people in the US State department who pushed the Arab Spring lie on the world, I'm less convinced. Hillary, at the time describing the US intervention in Libya, quipped "We came, we saw he (Gaddafi) died."

Whatever Donald Trump's shortcomings, one simply must think of this incredibly shallow, callow statement alongside the images of little Alan Kurdi and ask is it Donald Trump who is unfit to be president?

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

People, Get Ready

But There's a Warning Sign on the Road Ahead....
Another day, another round of primaries. Yesterday, the big prize was the post-industrial state of Michigan.

Donald Trump, the quixotic leading contender for the Republican Party easily took the Wolverine State. But the real interest was on the Democratic side, where upstart Bernie Sanders topped rival Hillary Clinton, who had lead in polls by upwards of 20% prior to the actual vote.

Mrs Clinton still has a large lead, the support of her party leadership, a huge number of 'super delegates," and, most importantly in Democratic primaries, the overwhelming support of black voters.

Without the support of blacks, it is impossible for a Democrat to win his party's nomination, let alone the general election. This fact and this fact alone point to an eventual victory for the Senator from New York.


Hillary's failure to take Michigan has to be seen as a gathering storm for the Democratic Party. I'm reminded of the famous poem of Thomas Hardy about the sinking of the Titanic, entitled The Convergence of the Twain.

Well: while was fashioning 
This creature of cleaving wing, 
The imminent will that stirs and urges everything 
Prepared a sinister mate 
For her — so gaily great 
A shape of ice, for the time 
far and dissociate. 

And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue 
In shadowy silent distance 
grew the Iceberg too. 
Alien they seemed to be; 
No mortal eye could see 
The intimate welding of their later history

Michigan - like Ohio and Pennsylvania, are former industrial states that have seen key industries more or less wiped out due to competition from abroad, crushing regulation, and corporate greed and incompetence. 

These are voters who are less likely to overlook Mrs Clinton's cozy, Wall Street relations, her flip-flopping on the trans-Pacific trade agreement, or her casual flexibility on the Keystone Pipeline.

Mrs Clinton won all three in 2008, but eventually, she lost the race to Barack Obama. President Obama won all three states.

The popular press, the Democratic Party, and even the Republicans themselves have gone from laughing about Donald Trump to a mixture of fear and hostility. Trump right now seems very likely to get the nomination.

There is a very real possibility that Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton's iceberg. 

Trump's messages are resonating with down-market, blue collar voters who used to be the core of the Democratic party. And therein lies the threat to the good ship Clinton.

Much has been made over the months of how Trump is insulting Latinos and turning of Muslims.  This may be true. Recently, a lot of noise was made when David Duke, the former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan "endorsed" Trump, and Trump fumbled in repudiating Duke with sufficient speed.

There has been a lot of ink spilt writing about the growth of Latino power at the ballot box, but the simple fact is, Latinos punch way below their weight in federal elections. For one, despite their numbers as the second largest ethnic group in the US, because many are immigrants, they are not eligible to vote.  Latinos make up nearly 20% of the population, but less than 10% of the electorate.

Second, and more important, Latinos are heavily concentrated in states like California, Texas, and New York.  These states are all "safe" states - California and New York solidly blue; Texas, reliably red.  In the states of Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania - the big "swing" states - they are not 5% of the voting population in any one.

The Democrats' maths count in their column Michigan and Pennsylvania, and Ohio is perhaps the swing state.  Latino voters are likely to make up less than two per cent of the vote in each.  Their vote is unlikely to have any significant impact.

Which brings us back to last night.  Hillary Clinton failed to connect with Michiganders. It was close, but her exposed weakness with blue collar white voters should scare Democrats, and Trump's appeal should not be treated as a punchline for elitist jokes about the uneducated.

This is not to say that Donald Trump is going to win the nomination of his party -or- the general election.  But the unsinkable Hillary Clinton is showing signs of leaks.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

You. Are. A. Programmer.

Last night before bed, I took our dog out for a walk.  As I do almost every night.  I wish I had the card above, for I surely would have been a winner.  Now that Donald Trump is looking more and more like he is going to be the Republican nominee to run for Oompa Loompa in Chief, winning is important. Winning a lot.

Anyhow, as we made our way down the street, I came across a "hipster" who ticked most of the boxes above.

Note, I live in San Francisco, California, in the neighbourhood locally called "South Beach."  It - along with perhaps the Mission District - is close to the epi-centre of local hipsterism.  I'm surrounded by earnest young adults, the sort who frequent the notorious "Google Buses" and work for companies like Yo dot Com (motto: Twitter? Pffffft.  140 characters is too many).

Ridiculous, oversized-glasses?  Check.  Ill-fitting "slim fit" pants? Check.  Tee shirt sporting a product that has been defunct longer than the guy wearing it has been alive, trying too hard to be "ironic?"  Check.  Backpack with company logo prominently displayed?  Check.

What caught my attention was not his cadre of hipster tokens alerting the other members of the tribe that he belongs, but his earnest attempt to chat up the girl he was with.

About his work as a "coder."


Maybe I am getting old, but when did boasting about how you "code" (when did "code" become a verb?) become a strategy to attract the attention of women?  Add to the mix, he mentioned how his *mom* put him on the path to computer nirvana by signing him up for computer camp back in the early '00s.

That is the sort of thing that we would try to obscure from social interactions, right after not bragging about our comic book collection abd before our dedication to our level 8 druid in Dungeons and Dragons.

So this guy "codes" all day (and apparently, well into the night - it was 10.30 PM), fuelled by Red Bull in his skinny jeans and Tab tee.  He was (as many of these hipsters do) describing his thrilling life "disrupting the paradigm in the cloud," or something like that.

Some advice:

Dude; you don't "code."  You are a programmer.  You write computer programmes.  At least until your job finds itself in the way of Infosys consultants.

You have a degree in computer "science." An old friend commented once that any discipline that has to put the word "science" in its title probably isn't.  Chemists typically discuss their degrees in "chemistry," not "chemical science."  Adding "science" is the sort of bullshit neologism that years ago magically transformed garbage men into sanitation engineers faster than you could say Ed Norton.

There is nothing wrong with programming.  It's a useful, often productive job.  

But please.

Backpacks are for college students.  Wearing a faux vintage tee shirt doesn't make you Indiana Jones.

Put on your big boy pants and grow up.