inessential by Brent Simmons

January 2017

First Week Notes

It’s not Russian Roulette when there’s a bullet in every chamber — it’s just Russian.

* * *

It should be clear by now that Democrats in Congress should resist every single thing Trump attempts. Every nominee. Every law. Every single thing. Do not collaborate.

* * *

The next thing might be a “Religious Freedom” executive order that permits anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

* * *

Things move fast. History:

Jan 30, 1933: Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

Feb 27, 1933: Reichstag fire.

Mar 23, 1933: Enabling Act, which establishes the dictatorship.

Things move faster these days, seems like. The question is: what will be the equivalent of the Reichstag Fire?

It has to be an emergency where Trump can claim “temporary” expanded powers.

Would massive, continuous protests be enough? Quite possibly. (Which is not an argument against protests. I’m quite definitely in favor of protests.)

But don’t be surprised when those powers end protest, free speech, and the free press, in the name of national security and order.

You might think Trump isn’t historically aware enough to know the would-be dictator’s playbook. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. I don’t know.

But Bannon is.

Omni’s Roadmap and Scripting

Omni: Looking Back, Looking Ahead—2017 Edition:

In 2016 we scratched the surface with URL automation on iOS, but in 2017 we plan to roll out user automation on iOS in a big way across all our apps with a much richer set of capabilities. This automation support won’t be limited to a simple set of URL primitives; instead, we’re adding support for running JavaScript code: code that has the same level of deep support for manipulating the data in our apps as we’ve previously exposed to AppleScript…

Right before the holidays I approached Sal [Soghoian] to review the automation work we’ve been doing, and over the past weeks he’s been enthusiastically exploring the boundaries of what’s already possible as well as helping us see what else we need to build before shipping this.


Today wasn’t so bad. Sure, the enemies of democracy, the Constitution, rationality, compassion, national and international institutions, decency, competence, ethics, art, science, and truth itself — and of anyone who isn’t a white man — now darken the offices of power. But they haven’t done much yet. The bad days are still to come.

My loathing and contempt for President Trump feels complete — but it isn’t. It will continue to deepen.


Remember today, since we may spend the rest of our lives getting back to this point.

I hope to remember tomorrow as the first of many days where the American people said “fuck you” to the new President.

The Difference in the Vote

Had Hillary Clinton won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — states that normally go blue — she would have won an Electoral College majority and she would be President-elect.

She didn’t — despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes — and Donald Trump is President-elect.

Russia worked to influence the election. Did they succeed? Did their efforts matter?

I don’t know how you’d gauge that. But it’s interesting to note just how close it was.

Wisconsin: 1,405,284 - 1,382,536 = 22,748

Michigan: 2,279,543 - 2,268,839 = 10,704

Pennsylvania: 2,970,733 - 2,926,441 = 44,292

That adds up to Trump winning those states by 77,744 votes.

That’s a small number of votes. That’s 0.06% of the total votes cast (128,824,833) — or 0.82% in Wisconsin, 0.24% in Michigan, and 0.75% in Pennsylvania. Not even 1% in any one of those states.

If you grant that Russia’s efforts had a small effect — well, there’s the difference.

You may think otherwise: you may think their efforts had an even greater effect, or none at all, and I suspect what you think depends on which candidate you backed.

For me: I believe that everything mattered. Russia’s attack on our democracy isn’t the only issue of consequence. But, still, take away just this one thing, and I strongly suspect Clinton would have won.

PS In contrast, Clinton won the popular vote by 2,865,075 votes, which is 2.2% of the popular vote.

The Declassified Report

From the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:

We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.

(Via Talking Points Memo.)

OPML File Type on Macs

I was fixing a bug in OmniOutliner where it wouldn’t open a file with an uppercase .OPML suffix. I did some digging, and the fix was to register the app as handling the file type.

Which upset me. I’ll explain.

OPML — Outline Processor Markup Language — was invented in 2000 by Dave Winer at UserLand Software. It’s not Apple’s format, and the correct file type is org.opml.opml.

I was working for Dave at the time. Some time after Dave wrote the first OPML reading and writing code, I ported it to C. Later, when I was working on NetNewsWire, in 2002, I wrote what may have been the first Objective-C code for reading and writing OPML. And today I work on OmniOutliner, which supports OPML, and I’ve published an open source OPML parser.

So I know OPML. After Dave, I may have worked with this format more than anyone else in the world.

This file type redefinition not only created a bug that I had to figure out and fix, it also demonstrated disrespect. I suspect it was entirely thoughtless — but, well, that’s still bad.

Radar forthcoming.

Update: Bug filed: rdar://29888756.

‘The Devastation Is Very Important to Me’

During the Cold War, I was a kid, and then a teenager, and I often thought about the end of human life. Maybe an all-out nuclear war followed by nuclear winter would not have killed everybody, but maybe it would have.

I imagined a billion people vaporized. Then I imagined just one person vaporized a billion times.

I imagined one person dying in flames a billion times. I imagined one person coughing and sick and dying of radiation poisoning a billion times. I imagined one child dying of hunger, in the dark, a billion times.

Every single good thing a human hand ever did is wiped away. Every argument made meaningless. Spoken and written words all vanish — the very idea of words is gone.

The legs of every single table break, and not a single table stands to hold a vase of flowers. No windows hang on anywhere. Buildings subside, dams allow the water through, and airplanes sink into the ground.

Dogs, if they live, reshape back into wolves, over generations, and cats forget our warmth. Animals know things, but they don’t know they know things. If they feel love, they can’t name it.

The wind rushes over the poisoned ground, touching no one forever, and the sun shines for billions more years but never again on human consciousness. The sun illuminates no human grace or tenderness or mercy, because we are gone, and, in this terrible end, it would have been better had we never lived.

Nobody knows the nothingness or calls it nothingness.

* * *

So fuck anybody who says that more countries should have nuclear weapons, or that we should have more bombs, or that an arms race would be just fine.

Fuck fucking off.

Lindy West on Leaving Twitter

She writes:

On 29 December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “What’s the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017?” One user responded: “Comprehensive plan for getting rid of the Nazis.”

“We’ve been working on our policies and controls,” Dorsey replied. “What’s the next most critical thing?” Oh, what’s our second-highest priority after Nazis? I’d say No 2 is also Nazis. And No 3. In fact, you can just go ahead and slide “Nazis” into the top 100 spots. Get back to me when your website isn’t a roiling rat-king of Nazis. Nazis are bad, you see?

Style Guide Update: Agent of Russia

As we were updating the style guide for the new year, we came across an interesting question: do we refer to Donald Trump as:

  • President-elect Donald Trump, or
  • President-elect and Russian agent Donald Trump, or
  • President-elect and agent of Russia Donald Trump.

(Obviously, “President-elect” changes to “President” on January 20, unless God graces us with a stroke of luck.)

The first option was discarded as a disservice to our readers. So it really came down to this wording: “Russian agent” or “agent of Russia.”

The committee was divided, and arguments were intense and lengthy. But we finally decided that “Russian agent” could imply that he is on the books and takes direct orders from Russia, which we can’t prove right now.

However, “agent of Russia” simply says that he is working to effect change benefiting the interests of Russia before our own. Which is obvious, and objectionable only in the sense that we regret that it’s true.

So there you have it. Until something changes, we will refer to him as President-elect and agent of Russia Donald Trump.