An Invocation

In the name of the Vanishing Corals and the Vanishing Bees;
In the name of the Dragonfly, Horsefly, and Firefly;
In the name of the Hummingbird, Robin, and Sparrow;
In the name of the Orangutan, Chimpanzee, and Bonobo;
In the name of the Frog, Turtle, and Beetle;
In the name of the Valleys, Rivers, and Streams;
In the name of Air, Wind, and Water;
In the name of the Dandelion and the Oak;
In the name of the Constellations and the Oceans;
In the name of the Destitute, the Immigrant, and the Refugee;
In the name of the Widow, the Orphan, and the Stranger;

I call upon Humanity to Awaken to its Best Self;
To Forever Abandon Hatred;
To Forever Abandon Cruelty;
To Forever Abandon Torture;
To Forever Abandon Greed;
To Forever Abandon Evil;
To Forever Abandon Mistrust and Paranoia;
To Forever Abandon Deceit;
To Forever Abandon Poison;
To Forever Abandon Prejudice;
To Forever Abandon Sexism;
To Forever Abandon Violence, against Self or Other;
To Forever Abandon Evil;
To Forever Abandon War;

To Abandon its Suicidal Path;
To Abandon its Self-Destruction and Self-Immolation;

And to Embrace its Destiny;
To Embrace Love;
To Embrace Oneness;
To Embrace Joy;
To Embrace Abundance;
To Embrace Celebration;
To Embrace Wisdom;
To Embrace Fellowship;
To Embrace Togetherness;
To Embrace Peace;
To Embrace Fun;
To Embrace Play;
To Embrace Healing;
To Embrace Freedom;
To Embrace Beauty;
To Embrace Truth;
To Embrace Creation;
To Embrace G-d;

To Treat each other with Respect;
To Treat each other with Dignity;
To Treat each other with Love;
To Treat each other with Care;

To Treat the Earth with Respect;
To Treat the Earth with Dignity;
To Treat the Earth with Love;
To Treat the Earth with Care;

Never Harm a Child;
Never Harm a Woman;
Never Harm a Man;
Never Harm an Animal;
Never Harm the Earth;

For the Earth is Your Home;
G-d’s Gift to You;
Do Not Forsake Your Home;
Do Not Forsake G-d’s Gift.

This Truth I share;
In a Dark Time of His and Herstory, of Ourstory,
Of Love’s Story.

Do Not let Love’s Story end.
Do Not allow hatred and fear to overcome You.
G-d’s Love is here today, Now, if you want it.
The Messiah is here today, Now, if you wish it.

“Return to Me, and I will Return to You, so Sayeth the L-rd.”

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We Are Losing Our Country To Fascism

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

So said Mr. Trump at his Inauguration on January 21, 2017. Like so many things he has said before and since, it was a lie. This morning, at 6:55AM, Mr. Trump tweeted: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

The news in question was related to Rex Tillerson’s response to Mr. Trump’s reported desire to multiply the U.S. nuclear stockpile tenfold.

Coming from the President of the United States, whose Twitter account has about 40 million followers, a comment such as Mr. Trump’s is not a hypothetical or rhetorical question: it is a threat (like his infamous and ugly “Second Amendment People” comment during the debates). He is endorsing and advocating shutting down a major news network for reporting an important story, and it is clear he would have no qualms about doing so.

This attack on the Freedom of the Press is a nasty violation of his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and is hardly the first instance: in fact, it is only the tip of the iceberg, and it is perfectly fair to say that Mr. Trump has nothing but contempt for the Constitution of the United States. His political methodology is authoritarian, undemocratic, and literally and unquestionably textbook Fascism.

In fact, the charge of “Fake News”, or “Lügenpresse” was incorporated by the Nazis as an attack on Jewish, Communist, and foreign newspapers (use of this term is not limited to Nazis, of course, but it’s telling) leading up to and during World War II.

Mr. Trump’s infamous attack on NFL players who choose to protest by not standing for the national anthem at games is mirrored in the Phillipines, under dictator Rodrigo Duterte, where “the country’s House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring members of the public to sing the country’s national anthem, Lupang Hinirang, ‘with fervor’ whenever it is played publicly.” Duterte has praised Mr. Trump, and vice versa.

Mr. Trump has engaged in voter suppression, and his so-called “Commission on Election Integrity” (Executive Order 13799) is a figleaf to rig elections in the United States to keep him and his cronies in power. Those who are focusing on the 2018 Congressional Elections as the means to weaken Mr. Trump’s fascist policies wrongly assume that Mr. Trump will permit this to happen. Anticipating a loss in 2016, he already tried to discredit the electoral process, and when he was running for president, he called for his supporters to “monitor” polling places, which many interpreted as an invitation to violence.

Mr. Trump will absolutely use every means in his power to prevent fair elections in 2018, and he has a lot of time to do it. Ultimately, it is his party that is in power, controlling all three branches of government, and to think that the Party of Trump will play fair is simply naive.

Mr. Trump is also engaged in targeting Free Speech online:

Trump administration lawyers are demanding the private account information of potentially thousands of Facebook users in three separate search warrants served on the social media giant, according to court documents obtained by CNN.

The warrants specifically target the accounts of three Facebook users who are described by their attorneys as “anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration’s policies.”

In other words, Mr. Trump is seeking to suppress those who dare criticize him or organize to oppose his policies online. This is another gross violation of the First Amendment, and a hallmark of Fascism.

It is time for Americans everywhere, in both parties, to take this threat seriously: anyone who values the freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment, the freedom to worship as one pleases (or not to), the freedom to express oneself politically, and to disagree with those in power, and the freedom to report the news as it happens: these freedoms are under unprecedented attack by Mr. Trump.

There is already ample legal basis to impeach Mr. Trump. An opinion piece in the Boston Globe made a compelling case that Mr. Trump could already be impeached for Obstruction of Justice and violation of the Emoluments Clause, which forbids “federal officials, including the president, from receiving anything of value from foreign governments and their agents”.

All of this is sufficient cause for genuine alarm without touching on the even bigger elephant in the room, Mr. Trump’s illegal collusion with Russia leading up to the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump is leading this country, and the world, into a very dark future, and every day that Mr. Trump is allowed to remain in power is another dangerous step towards disaster.


jQuery + Redux

I was having a discussion about Javascript frameworks recently, and it occurred to me that it should be possible to use Redux with jQuery to create a much cleaner application.  This would be appropriate for legacy applications, or for simpler pages that simply don’t need the overhead of React/Angular/ES2015 etc.  Take a look!

http://danieltsadok.net/redux-jquery/


Introducing GerryMonsters

GerryMonsters, or Gerrymandered Monsters, is the latest monster craze to hit the youth scene. The first GerryMonster battle is between “Slope Rex”, or New York State District 21, and a pack of “Bridge Bugs”, or New York State District 26.  Will Rex’s raw power be enough to fight off the Bugs’ barracuda-like swarm?  Stay tuned to find out…

 

Thank you to Ballotpedia for the source material!


The Truth Is In There

Recently, particularly since the shocking results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, and the scourge of fake news and other lies that supported those results, there has been much speculation as to whether we are in some sort of “Post-Truth” era.

This is sheer nonsense. “The truth” consists of mental, psychological, and presentational fidelity to reality, or what Jacques Lacan refers to as “the Real”. We have some influence on reality through our speech and actions, but otherwise reality is non-negotiable (including the reality of our own speech and actions). The idea that we are in a “Post-Truth” era, therefore, is equivalent to believing that we are in a “Post-Reality” one. Ultimately, as Lacan, along with so many others, point out, this reality will always trump whatever mental gymnastics we humans employ in the process of divorcing ourselves from it.

It is true, as Sigmund Freud and others have pointed out, that we are incapable of fully grasping reality, and therefore our truth, that is, our best and most accurate model of reality, is always an approximation. It is simply impossible to separate our ego, preferences, perspective, and senses in any sort of objective way from our perception of it, so in that sense, truth is subjective. However, it is possible to identify when truth, or fidelity to reality, is being distorted, either deliberately or not, through that egocentric medium.

In other words, people can lie, and those lies have the quality of being lies: fabrications, or constructions, that exist solely in the mental plane, with no other connection to reality. The truth is what is left when those artificial mental constructions are eliminated.

“The truth has not to be achieved. It cannot be achieved: it is already the case. Only the lie has to be dropped.”
Osho

Freud’s genius was to see that many, if not most, psychological problems, including a variety of neuroses, were the result of a disconnect between one’s situation and one’s perception of the situation. In other words, one deviates from the truth at the risk of their own mental health. From this perspective, at the core of “Post Truth” is nothing other than schizophrenia.

“Truth shall sprout out of the earth, and righteousness looks down from Heaven.”
Psalms 85:11


Not-So-Smart Contracts

So-called “Smart Contracts” are a nightmare waiting to happen. Based on Bitcoin, Smart Contracts are essentially software-based legal contracts that programmatically execute financial transactions when certain conditions are met. For example, a smart contract could be written for a loan such that if borrower misses a payment, the lender could deduct the loan payment, as well as a hefty late fee, from the borrower’s account, automatically, with no recourse available. Interest rates could fluctuate literally with the weather (simply by tying the conditions of the Smart Contract to a weather API), or even be based on a random number. Connecting Smart Contracts to the even more dystopian “Internet of Things” means that if a person is thirty seconds late to work, they can be docked pay automatically, as soon as they walk in.

Smart Contracts have two major flaws. The first is that they couple personal finances, transactions, arbitration, and enforcement in one terrifying monolith. This means that instead of parties in dispute going to small claims court (arbitration), say, and seeking a judgment (enforcement) against the other, so that they can receive a payment (finances) from them, the Smart Contract combines all of these steps into one algorithm. The theory justifying this dangerous approach is that people are inherently untrustworthy, and presumably, that software is not. Ethereum, the most prominent organization developing Smart Contracts technology, brags that it “allows people to safely interact trustlessly”, and the original Bitcoin whitepaper talks about “the inherent weaknesses of the trust based model”, and calls for “cryptographic proof instead of trust”.

From this perspective, the second flaw is even worse. Ethereum uses an object-oriented language called Solidity to write Smart Contracts. From their documentation, “Solidity supports multiple inheritance by copying code including polymorphism.”.  Object-oriented programming has all sorts of complexity problems, but one of the worst is multiple inheritance.

Multiple inheritance is its own disaster waiting to happen: it introduces the possibility of something that Bob Martin calls the “deadly diamond of death” that creates ambiguities that are problematic in interface software, and potentially disastrous in financial applications.

Meanwhile, this is a “simple Smart Contract” from the Ethereum documentation (the word “simple” appears many times in this document):

pragma solidity ^0.4.0;

contract Coin {
    // The keyword "public" makes those variables
    // readable from outside.
    address public minter;
    mapping (address => uint) public balances;

    // Events allow light clients to react on
    // changes efficiently.
    event Sent(address from, address to, uint amount);

    // This is the constructor whose code is
    // run only when the contract is created.
    function Coin() {
        minter = msg.sender;
    }

    function mint(address receiver, uint amount) {
        if (msg.sender != minter) return;
        balances[receiver] += amount;
    }

    function send(address receiver, uint amount) {
        if (balances[msg.sender] < amount) return;
        balances[msg.sender] -= amount;
        balances[receiver] += amount;
        Sent(msg.sender, receiver, amount);
    }
}

Got it? Will your technolawyer get it? This is “the simplest form of a cryptocurrency” (their words). Here is another contract that I wrote, using inheritance:

contract my_mortgage is a_great_mortgage {}
contract a_great_mortgage is a_subprime_variable_interest_rate_mortgage_that_is_enforced_automatically_and_will_ruin_your_life {}

(Hint: read it out loud)

Imagine the worst legalese you’ve ever seen, and now imagine it as computer code, obfuscated by multiple inheritance, connected directly to your bank account, with no possibility of appeal in court, based on protections afforded by law, as that would presume a “trusted third party” for arbitration. Software inevitably has bugs, and I am not encouraged that the primary language for Smart Contracts will reduce their number. In fact, it is painfully easy to see much bad software being written with Solidity.  Ethereum argues that “one of the many advantages of having a robot run your organization is that it is immune to any outside influence as it’s guaranteed to execute only what it was programmed to.”  We are supposed to trust these “neutral” systems over each other.

The companies and institutions promoting Smart Contracts are nothing if not ambitious.  CoinPrism encourages you to “store your house on the Bitcoin blockchain” (I do not). What will this mean if you agree (voluntarily or otherwise) to a buggy and/or malicious contract that happens to have access to ownership of your house?  I don’t doubt the intentions of the authors of Solidity et al, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Perhaps the “trust-based model” needs to be reconsidered.


Reset: Endings & Beginnings

We in the United States are in a position where the President and his associates are currently under investigation by the FBI for collusion with a (non-democratic) foreign power, which is now suspected with tampering in the French electoral process as well.  According to ongoing reporting by the thankfully still free & independent press, which the President has relentlessly attacked in true dictatorial style, undoubtedly because he understands the truth is a threat, many members of his inner circle may be violating the law by maintaining massive financial conflicts of interest.  Meanwhile, the President’s hideous budget calls for cuts to or the elimination of virtually every service that vulnerable Americans depend on, up to and including Meals on Wheels, a simple, effective program that feeds the elderly who are unable to feed themselves.  All this is happening after one of the ugliest and most poisonous elections in the country’s history.

The hateful, racist alt-right, which sees in Trump’s rise a resurgence of white nationalism, is mirrored by an increasingly angry, militant, and grim new Left, whose calls for resistance and revolution are becoming surprisingly mainstream. Stuck in the middle are millions of anxious, confused, & befuddled people who simply want this whole nightmare to blow over, and for things to go back to the way they were. They won’t. We have not yet reached 100 days of Trump’s administration, and we already seem to be increasingly at risk of nuclear war (!) with North Korea. If we manage to avoid that, the reality of climate change, which is, incredibly, being exacerbated by the administration’s policies, will inevitably bring misery and suffering to millions. We are engaged in high-stakes gambling with the future of the planet, and history suggests we are unlikely to win.

The political instability this country is facing is not the cause, but a symptom of deep trauma & malaise, fundamentally ethical, and also the symptom of a damaged national psyche whose origin dates at least to the Vietnam War and probably before.

“We don’t win wars anymore,” said Mr. Trump on the campaign trail. But who’s counting? Does it even matter? Who could “win” in Iraq or Afghanistan? Only for-profit military contractors that scored big no-bid contracts. Not the employees, per se, but certainly their shareholders (likely including Trump nominee Betsy DeVos).

The Iraq War was not necessarily about oil, and obviously not about weapons of mass destruction. It was really just about war, for its own sake: a way to stimulate the economy, create “jobs”, privatize socialized property (including oil), and manufacture and test new weapons. There was nothing to “win”, and no real reason to. In war for its own sake, there need be no victor: destruction and production are enough. “Nation building” means digging a hole, then filling it. Rinse and repeat.

That the whole botched “Shock and Awe” disaster has resulted in a new virulent religious death cult that is plaguing the world today simply creates another business opportunity to invest in: increasingly intrusive “security”, which Americans have been the “early adopters” of ever since. In the public sector, the increased demand for security has resulted in an increasingly militarized police.

So Mr. Trump obviously misses the point when he talks about “winning wars”, apparently thinking that they are about international contests rather than free enterprise. His even more hideous vision of war, that of white nationalistic conquest, in which black and brown people are forced into their “place” in a fictional, invented, endlessly disproven fantasy of racial hierarchy (a fantasy which, if it did not necessarily win Mr. Trump the election, obviously did not cost it for him), can only result in a literal Hell on Earth: something genuinely apocalyptic, for whites as well as everyone else, as implementing his vision would result in the suppression of all diversity and dissent, and likely any kind of individuality whatsoever. It requires everyone to be a square peg in a square hole, and Heaven help those who cannot or refuse to fit. This is Fascism at its core: conformity to an racial ideal is impossible for anyone (no matter how close they seem to be), and ultimately pointless anyway. It’s easier and much more fun to be yourself.

In any case, his awful agenda involves sawing off the branch on which we all sit, by detaining, deporting, and harassing massive and critical segments of the U.S. workforce, and pissing in the well from which we all drink, by gutting any semblance of environmental protection (of course, those are only the two of the more disturbing parts of his platform, and ignore his attacks on health care, education, the arts…).

Our world is already on the cusp of climate disaster. The seasons are being eradicated, and the weather is increasingly chaos. Temperatures vary by twenty, thirty, or more degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of hours (this is typical of a particular kind of climate region: the desert). All this in addition to the usual widespread toxic pollution that does not necessarily affect the climate, merely human health. The current administration’s literally suicidal approach is not only to do less to prevent all this, but to accelerate towards oblivion with maniacal abandon. And there were already attempts by the administration to stifle scientific reporting before Mr. Trump even took office. True, there are profits to be made by razing rainforests to produce disposable paper cups and palm oil, but at a certain point, we run out not only of ancient forests to destroy, but also of clean water to pour into the paper cup (of course, privatizing water is big business as well: the workings of supply & demand here are painfully obvious). The opposite of “Sustainability” is “Death”. We must choose Life!

The film “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a tragic, beautiful, & horrific vision of our world one click away from oblivion. The world is desert, overrun with violent gangs racing to the bottom, competing over what little food & fuel is left in the world. Humanity is ravaged with disease, and extinction seems almost preferable to the degenerate, illiterate, brutish, and miserable life the few remaining survivors lead. Few in the audience would trade places with even the “elite” of that deranged world.

This essay is primarily a prayer that we avoid that ruinous path. When the results of the election was announced, I personally plunged into an emotional darkness that I know many others across the country felt. It seemed that the bottom had fallen out, and the hell-world of “Fury Road” was just one of the possible fates looming far below that we risked plummeting towards, in free fall. It is no small miracle that we haven’t, largely because a collective “NO” has reverberated from so many corners of the country and the world. Whatever the outcome, this “NO” has shook the world.

“Now what?” is the daily/weekly/monthly question that has been asked since the election. Now what, indeed? Will the genie go back into the bottle? Will our economy continue to be based on disposable cups/plates/towels/napkins/clothing/furniture/phones/cameras/cars and virtually everything else? Are we going to continue to demonize the poor even as our systems demoralize and destroy them? Are we going to continue to try and quantify and measure every aspect of every human being as “Big Data” in order to rank them and classify them according to some misguided and asinine formula or algorithm, in a manner akin to phrenology? Are we going to continue to strip any semblance of privacy & dignity from every person while normalizing the sick fiction that the virtual world is a healthy place to maintain our social lives? Are we going to continue to treat art & culture as nothing more than a commodity to be bought and sold? Are we going to continue to hate, fear, & denigrate the “Other” as we excuse and ignore the most heinous acts from “our team”?

Or will we finally, finally, finally, halt our madness with the simplest of attitudes: one of prudence, humility, non-violence, & respect, and perhaps, eventually, trust?