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Facebook’s Fucked Up Algorithms

It happens every couple of days. One of my friends posts something about how they weren’t allowed to post something on Facebook, accompanied quite often by a screenshot of the piece that got blocked, and I have a mix of feelings about that. For one, it looks like they did get to post it, because I’m looking at it. I’m aware, though, that Facebook made them take a couple of extra steps to do that, one which somebody less computer adept wouldn’t know how to take, and so it is suppression. Sometimes I can kind of see Facebook’s point. There’s a painting, I think it’s called “Birth of the World” and it’s a legit piece of art hanging in a museum somewhere, but it’s also a big, hairy vagina right in your face. Every so often, I’ll see that posted, accompanied by the message “Facebook won’t let me post this!” More often, I don’t get Facebook’s point at all. Sometimes, it makes me feel a bit jealous, which is irrational. I post political shit all the time, some of which probably offends some people, but I’ve never been banned. Am I that insignificant? Well, maybe so. Facebook’s a big place and we’re all spitting in the ocean.
This morning, it was a friend who posted a comment saying that the Pan-American highway is not contiguous, you have to get around the Panama Canal by some other means of transport which, I’m pretty sure, is true unless they’ve built a bridge or tunnel when I wasn’t looking. Facebook said it was spam, which I suspect is bullshit. Spam is something that’s sent out to millions of people at once. Spam is something that is sent over and over again. Spam is generated by a machine, and I happen to know for a fact that this particular friend is not a machine. He has some other faults, but he is most definitely not a machine.
So, Facebook got it wrong, which they often do. They either need to fix those algorithms, hire some human beings, establish an appeals process, or some combination of all three. As the traffic warden of the information highway, Zuckerberg is doing a seriously poor job.

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Drake Equation v. Fermi Paradox

I am one of those people who wants to think aliens exist, because that would be super cool, we could learn so much from them and it would be fascinating to talk to a sentient being who is not human. It would give you a vastly different perspective of the universe, more even than LSD.
The Drake equation, which I maintain is not an equation at all, more of a checklist, would seem to indicate that they do. Number of stars in the galaxy/ percentage of those with planets/ percentage of those planets with water and inside the Goldilocks zone/ percentage of those planets where life has evolved/ percentage of those planets where intelligent life has evolved, i.e. technological societies/ percent of those who’ve developed space travel/ duration of those societies before extinction, and maybe a couple of factors I missed. The thing is, at the time Drake, who was no doubt some famous astronomer, wrote this ‘equation’ we didn’t know quite how many stars there are in the galaxy, or whether any of them at all have planets, and whether any of those planets have water. Since then we’ve discovered that the answers are a. a whole shit ton, b. most of them, seems like, and c. quite a few of them and it turns out water is super common throughout the universe, not rare at all.
So, there should be lots of aliens out there just itching to make contact with us. Then, there’s the Fermi paradox, which says if life throughout the universe is so damn likely, how come they’ve never made contact with us? It’s a good question.
For the purposes of this blog, I’m going with the Star Trek origin story hypothesis. The Vulcans came to Earth and made official contact as soon as Zephram Cochrane invented the warp drive. It seems logical that there might be some kind of threshold, upon which space-faring alien would sit up and take notice of us. I’ve heard it suggested that the increase of UFO sightings in modern times began with the first use of nuclear weapons, back in the 1940s. But, if so, they still haven’t made contact and it’s easy to see why. Not exactly putting our best foot forward.
So, here’s what I propose, since we have no way of knowing what that threshold will be. Let’s establish a colony on Mars. Maybe that’s the threshold but, if not, it will give us a hell of a deep space observatory and prepare us for the next step.
Or maybe they are looking more to see if we can create a stable, sustainable society within a stable, sustainable environment, and once we’ve created a planetary utopia, they will judge us mature enough to join their Federation of Planets. Let’s do that, too.
If that doesn’t bring them, we’ll go to the next stage, which is interplanetary travel.
And if that doesn’t cross the Cochrane Threshold and encourage them to make contact, then maybe we truly are alone in the universe, which would also be kind of awesome because it would mean there are billions and billions of planets out there ripe for the colonizing, and when our great great great great great great great great grandchildren meet intelligent space-faring aliens, they will still be human, just from other planets. And that would be pretty awesome, too.

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How Many More?

While debating the guilt of Kim Potter, I made the comment that what it would take to solve the problem is one or two police officers getting sent to jail for the appropriate amount of time, which is life. The rest, I said, would stop killing people.
My gun loving, generally cop supporting nephew said I was being optimistic. Perhaps.
Ridiculously disproportionate sentences for possession of marijuana do not discourage people from smoking marijuana, at least not very much. A couple of million deaths is not enough to convince everybody to wear masks. The ‘it can’t happen to me’ belief is strong, and it applies to police officers as well as other human beings.
Nonetheless, if every time a police officer murdered someone they had to go to trial for it, and some of those trials resulted in convictions and long sentences, it would make the news. Some officers might think twice before popping somebody in the head. At least, look around for a second or two to make sure there are no cameras around, all of the other officers have their body cams turned off, and a quick glance up at the sky to make sure there are no drones, and that instant of hesitation might be enough for their murderous rage to pass.
If 15 or 20 of those trials resulted in guilty verdicts or long sentences, some of them might entirely get over their life long dream of killing a black person (Racist officers do not grow on trees. They come from racist families, in racist communities. There are most definitely conversations where all the adults talk and laugh about how much they’d like to kill black people. I’ve heard them.)
If it takes a couple of hundred officers going to jail (which unfortunately would mean hundreds more victims), then it’s still best we start now. It is very important that Derek Chauvin, the officers who stood and watched Derek Chauvin, Kim Potter, and whichever one of that rabid band of Chicago’s “finest” (quotes indicate sarcasm) pulled the trigger that shot the bullet that killed Adam Toledo, should all stand trial and should all go to jail.
Partly because they are guilty as fuck. Partly though, also, as a warning to others. An example needs to be made of them.

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More on Daunte Wright

Officer Kim Potter has been charged with manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright, because she claims that she thought she was holding a taser when she fired a bullet point blank into his head. That’s bullshit.
First, the position on the belt. To draw the wrong one, you would pretty much have to be confusing your left hand with your right. People are different, she may be somewhat ambidextrous, but very few people are ambidextrous to the degree that they don’t differentiate between their two hands at all. Then, the appearance. They aren’t even the same damned color, not even close. Even a dog can differentiate between bright yellow and dull gray. To believe officer Potter’s story, you have to assume that at no time during the encounter did she actually see the weapon she was holding in her hand, right in front of her eyes.Third, the weight. I believe the prosecuting attorney, as evidence, should bring in two small weights. One weighing 8 ounces (a tad over 200 grams) and the other weighing 2 pounds (nearly a kilo). Ask each of the jurors to close their eyes, one by one. Place the objects in either hand and ask them which is heavier. Out of twelve jurors, I would be surprised if you got less than 12 correct answers. Sure, both are significantly lighter than lifting a refrigerator, but one is four times heavier than the other. To not feel the difference would imply neurological damage.So, let’s say she gets through all that – confuses left with right, fails to notice that the object she’s holding is not bright yellow, fails to notice that it’s four times the weight of the object she thought she was holding, and fires. Why was the safety of her gun released? Does that not require some human agency? A flick of the thumb? Well, some people will say, heat of the moment, mass confusion, everything’s a blur, trained to react instantly, adrenaline pumping, etc… But why was the moment heated, why would her adrenaline have been pumping? It was a routine traffic stop, broad daylight, and the police on the scene outnumbered the people in the car.Sure, she shouted “Taser! Taser! Taser!” and the police and the defenders of the police are using that as evidence that she actually thought she was holding a taser.It could also be, and in my opinion was, a flat out lie. She knew she was holding a gun, she had every intention of killing Daunte Wright, and she was just shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!” to base her defense in court around it. She had seen, over the past few years, many, many police officers murder black people and get away with it. She envied them and wanted to join the fraternity. She wanted her trophy kill, her scalp, her badge of racist honor. She should be charged with premeditated murder and sent to jail for the rest of her misbegotten life. Not manslaughter.

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The Likelihood of Statehood

Everybody’s still talking about Daunte Wright, as well they should be, but my opinion hasn’t changed since yesterday’s blog (Taser! Taser! Taser! my butt, she knew she was holding a gun), so I’ll write about something else. I’m sure there will be more to write about that later.
I’ve seen a few people suggest that Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. should be granted statehood, and that would give the Democrats an unassailable Senate majority.
I’m certainly in favor of them being given statehood, especially Puerto Rico. I think it would really be cool to have one state where the dominant language was other than English. Also, change is good, shakes things up a bit. The U.S. has had 50 states for as long as I can remember – almost literally. Hawaii became a state when I was 5 years and a couple of months old, and that’s about as far back as I remember.
As far as D.C. is concerned, the goal of giving the people representation could be easily accomplished just by returning the land to Maryland, of which it was a part up until 1790 something. By itself, I really don’t think D.C. is big enough to justify statehood. It’s more of a national park, where some people actually live.
As a power play, however, I love the idea. But I don’t expect it to happen any time soon. There have been many opportunities, over the past decades, for Democrats to do exactly that, and they haven’t. And they won’t.
Because the last thing they want is an unassailable majority. Then, people would expect them to get stuff done.

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