Debate Predictions

With the Democratic party debates just a bit over a week away, I suppose it’s time to make some predictions.  We’ll see how I do.
With 20 candidates participating, the odds are high that somebody will totally screw the pooch.  I think it likely it will be Andrew Yang.  It won’t be Bernie, because Bernie will just stick to his talking points.  Since he always says the same things, it’s unlikely that he’ll slip up.  If it’s Delaney, or Hickenlooper, or one of the other unknown candidates, it will make no difference.  If it’s Biden, the press will call it a gaffe and sweep it under the rug as soon as possible.  Ditto with Warren, Harris, or Buttigieg.
I predict that Rachel Maddow will at least seem to be taking her job seriously.  Most of the questions will be policy related.  However, they will be softballs.  For all candidates except Bernie and Tulsi.  Doesn’t matter.  Bernie and Tulsi are the only two who are used to dealing with hostile interviewers.  They will shine.
There will not be nearly enough questions about the environment, just enough so they can later say they don’t need to have a separate debate dedicated to it.
Of course, as with any debate, the reaction to it will be as important as the debate itself.  The media will try to announce that Biden won, or Warren.  Some will believe them.  Some won’t.
Bottom line:  I don’t think the first debate is going to dramatically change anything.

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The Underlying Problem of Site Moderation

A friend of mine has been having some problems with Facebook censorship and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen this happen.
I understand that there has to be some kind of moderation policy.  Whenever you see a site that doesn’t have one, it descends into an insane level of trollery, almost immediately.  On the other hand, people will always object when it’s their stuff that’s being censored.
I think a large part of the problem is that Zuckerberg, who is worth tens of billions of dollars, is too cheap to hire the amount of human beings it would take to properly monitor all the traffic, and therefore it’s left up to algorithms, which may know the meanings of all the words but don’t have any concept of context, and may easily mistake a picture of a rock for a nude figure, because they can’t actually differentiate between a rock and a human being.  The difference between art and porn isn’t even the real problem.
Even if he were to hire human beings, it wouldn’t entirely solve the problems.  Maybe the people hired would turn out to be fascist dickheads, or total prudes, or something.
The problem goes deeper, and it is a bit of a sticky problem, because we obviously want a healthy social media scene, where lots of ideas are exchanged, and yet we don’t want to have some AI program becoming a dictator of the world.
The problem is that people who have success in the computer world, the Mark Zuckerbergs and Jeff Bezoses of the world, are computer people.  They are good with numbers, and electronics, and think in binary, ones and zeroes.  They see things in terms of black and white and don’t tend to be people people at all.
I’d lov

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Ignorance and Gullibility

I’ve been seeing an ad over and over again the past couple of days, and usually it’s the kind of thing I click on.  Planets whirling in space, hints of ancient magic, something something Gaia, that kind of thing.
Then I read the blurb. (At least until I saw the blue letters that said ‘more.’  By that point, I didn’t need to read any more.) The basic premise was that the sun we see in the skies today is not the same sun that we had 10,000 years ago, because ancient writing referred to “a shining stone, standing still in the sky.”
Well, they can’t expect anybody to take that seriously, can they?  I mean, if we’d somehow swapped suns, we’d have either been torn apart by the competing gravitation of two suns, or frozen to death had our atmosphere sucked out into space as we drifted, alone in the darkness, in search of a distant solar system to attach ourselves to.
But, obviously, they do expect a certain percentage of people to believe it.  They are counting on a certain percentage of the population to know nothing of the distance between, or the size and power of stars, nor of the delicate balance of the ecosystem on Earth.  I blame our educational system.
People should know what a solar system is.  That’s a basic.  People should know how many meters are in a kilometer.  How to multiply two digit numbers, at least.  That whales are not fish.  That kangaroos are not native to Africa.  Who Galileo was.
The thing is, since none of these things automatically comes up in a standard conversation, you can know somebody and not realize they don’t know these things. They walk among us.  And they still vote.

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Good Abides

In a world of gloom and doom, of environmental destruction, war, famine, disease and injustice, it is easy to get depressed, and feel hopeless.  But, it’s illusory.  For the most part, life is pretty good.  At least, in my privileged, white, middle class corner of the world life is pretty good.

The sun shines and the birds sing in the trees.  99% of the time the world works within acceptable parameters. Millions of cars move down the roads without crashing into each other, most airline passengers don’t suddenly stab the person sitting next to them, and very few people plunge to their deaths from high balconies. It’s only when someone breaks out of that paradigm, accidentally or intentionally, that it gets anybody’s attention.
It’s kind of a paradox, or a conundrum, or a self fulfilling prophecy, or something like that.  We are hard wired to look for bad news.  That’s because a million or so years ago, those people who didn’t notice lions skulking in the bushes, they are not our ancestors. So, we’ve got this filter that shows us only the most negative stuff.

Of course some might say “That’s just the news,” and that’s true, but the news gives the people more or less what they want, i.e. endless violence and horror.

Still, while most of us watch, we don’t generally act that badly in public.  Keep on the sunny side.

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The Debate Lineup

I’ve got no particular beef with the line up for the Democratic debates and, unlike many of my fellow Berners, I’ve no particular beef with Rachel Maddow as a moderator.  Sure, she’s never exactly been pro-Bernie, and she’s sort of a mouthpiece for the corporate state, but aren’t they all?
She is the designated pitcher at a softball tournament.  She will lob softballs at everybody except Bernie, who will accept any pitch and knock it out of the park anyway, because that is what he does.
Sure, I’m a bit bothered not to see Mike Gravel in there, but that is partisanship on my part because I’m not at all upset that such luminaries as Wayne Messam and Seth Moulton did not make the cut.  Personally, I think the whole idea of limiting the numbers was politically foolish, and the basing it on donations basically made it a pay-to-play game, which is wrong, and that the whole thing should have been done more like the early rounds of American Idol, but that’s all over now and we’re not debating that.

UBI computer whackadoodle Andrew Yang will be there, as will self-help guru Marianne Williamson, so there is a chance some interesting new ideas will be presented, someone will come out of nowhere to be a serious contender.
I don’t see any bias or rigging in the draw.  I’m sure the DNC discussed it, but it doesn’t matter what bracket they put anybody in, good answers will win the day.  Bernie will be on the same night as Biden, which is fine.  They’ll each have to answer their own questions anyway.  It’s not as if these debates are actually debates or anything.
Tulsi Gabbard and Elizabeth Warren will be on the first night, and pretty much nobody else of consequence.  Again, Maddow will be lobbing the softballs to Liz, but Liz might well whiff it anyway.  If Rachel asks her about Medicare for All, for instance.  Or why she used to be a Republican.

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Heat

It is hot.  Hot and stuffy, the kind of day when you think it’s going to rain and sweet, blessed relief is going to pour down from the sky but it doesn’t.  The kind of day when you start to sweat just by walking a couple of blocks outside, at least if you are fat like me.  The kind of day when you will cross the street just to walk in the shade.  “Hotter than the inside of a baker’s oven on a July night in New Orleans” was the line, I believe it was from one of Kerouac’s books, but that line has always stuck in my head as an example of great writing because you read it and you think “Damn, that is hot.”
Of course, this is Prague, moderate, calm, unextreme Prague, with lots of trees and a river meandering through it.  We say “Dang, it’s hot.  Maybe let’s go swimming this weekend.”

There are a lot of places that are hotter.  There’s a rather largish section of India where the temperatures have reached dangerous, like fatally dangerous levels.  People have died.
Imagine that.  You’re just sitting there in your darkened home, trying to keep cool, and you die because the air around you is so hot it sets fire to your lungs when you breathe it in.  Maybe that’s not literally what happens, but the result is the same.  Just by being in that place, your life is endangered.  You could be baked alive.
That is not normal.  That is not O.K.  And we need to do something about it.

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Biden’s Bullshit

I remember a time, not long ago when a careless comment could ruin a politician’s career.  Remember how Al Gore was mocked for saying that he was influential in the development of the internet (even though it’s actually true, he was very influential)?  Remember Howard Dean’s scream (which really wasn’t that big of a deal)?  Remember Dukakis in a tank?  Remember Ed Muskie shedding a tear in New Hampshire?  Maybe I’m dating myself with that one, I’m sure very few people under 60 remember Ed Muskie.
But today, Joe Biden said if elected he would find a cure for cancer.  It will probably get some well-deserved mockery on social media, but I doubt very much if it will totally cripple his run.
There’s just so much wrong with this statement.  First, if he’s got some idea of how to cure cancer, maybe he should tell people what it is.  Secondly, he’s not exactly fighting for Medicare for All, which would allow everybody to get regular check-ups, and a lot of cancers might be caught earlier if that were the case.  Third, a lot of cancers are environmental, and Joe Biden is not exactly a champion of green causes, or a particular enemy of the oil industry.  Fourth, Joe is adamantly opposed to the legalization of marijuana, and there’s lots of evidence that marijuana, and some more pill looking things that are marijuana based, can cure some cancers.

So, he’s not as anti-cancer as he presents.

Undoubtedly Biden fans (which includes almost all of American media, apparently) will write this off as a bit of over enthusiasm, a noble goal rather than an actual plan.  I see something darker (which might be just because I hate Biden, so readers are allowed to take this with a grain of salt.  Just a grain, mind you)
It seems to me that Biden may be the one candidate in the race who has paid attention to Trump’s electoral success.  Trump says “I’m a genius,” and his followers love him for it, so Biden says “I can cure cancer.”  He has realized that saying extremely stupid things at least gets you headlines, and there’s no downside.
Certainly, the press is not going to hold him accountable.

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