Herd immunity may be the least worst option, but we won’t consider it

It seems that the world has a collective inability to think long-term about the COVID-19. Everybody seems to assume that after the first quarantine is lifted, that life will go back to normal, but that is not very likely. It will take 1 to 2 years to develop a vaccine and probably another year to mass produce it and vaccinate most people on the planet, so we are facing 2 to 3 years of dealing with the coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2.

A few countries have developed more effective strategies to deal with the coronavirus. South Korea is the only country which has managed to stop the number of COVID-19 cases from growing. It uses wide-spread testing, rapid response and contact tracing, which is expensive and requires an effective government to hunt down every case and test every person who came into contact with the infected. Japan has kept its number of cases low, through social norms based on cleaniness, hand washing, mask wearing and people following the rules when authorities impose quarantines in an area, but its number of cases is still growing. Singapore has imposes strict quarantine rules and contact tracing. Hong Kong has basically shut down, by closing the schools and imposing a strict quarantine, and closing the border with China. A number of countries like Taiwan and Vietnam have so far managed to keep the coronavirus out of their country by catching the cases at the border.

Nonetheless, I doubt that these tactics will contain the virus for the next 2 to 3 years. Once businesses start operating normally and social gatherings take place, it is likely that many of the countries that have been able to do rapid response and border catching will have to go into quarantine and start shutting down their economies just like other countries are doing.
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Bolivia’s total quarantine makes me question what is the long-term plan

Bolivia started a “total quarantine” today. No public or private automobiles are allowed on the road if not authorized. People between the ages of 18 and 65 are only allowed to go out one day per week to buy food between the hours of 7 and 12 am. The day of the week that people are allowed to go buy food is determined by the last digit of their ID card. People who are caught on the street when it isn’t their designated day of the week are arrested and held for 8 hours and also forced to pay a fine of 1000 bolivianos ($144). People under the age of 18 or older than 65 are never allowed to leave their homes, but the military is supposed to help people older than 65 get food.

It seems that Bolivia has little capacity to test or treat the coronavirus, so the only solution is to completely lock down the country. It is worth reading the decree issued by the Bolivian government about these new quarantine rules.
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Questions raised by a study finding that math isn’t important in learning to code

A recent study published by Nature by Chet et al. (2020) found that that reasoning ability, memory capacity and language ability were far more important factors than math skills when learning to program in Python.

The commentary in the popular press is that this study shows that learning foreign languages is better preparation to become a computer programmer than studying math. That certainly agrees with my own experience. I only took two math classes in college (Calculus 2 and statistics), whereas I took 7 language classes (Spanish and Latin) in college, before I taught myself C when I was 22 years old. I recalling thinking at the time that it was much easier to learn a computer language than a human language.

The question raised by the findings in Chet et al. (2020) is whether computer science programs should change their requirements for getting a degree. Computer science degrees typically require two calculus classes, plus a statistics or probability class, and some require a class on matrix mathematics as well. They typically do require a general English and/or writing class, but they don’t typically require any study of a foreign language, linguistics, philosophy or formal logic, which develop abilities that Chet et al. found to be more useful than math in learning Python. Continue reading

The bitter lot of the establishment Dems

Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the establishment Democrats! For aeons they have ruled their party, but now they see the horde coming. They are caught between a dragon and a smelly, unwashed horde. The dragon is detestable, but he is corrupt enough to be bribed and lazy and incompetent enough that he isn’t a real threat to their way of life. The horde, however, is filled with cries to take away their power and privilege, and they fear it more than anything.

They declaim the barbarian ruffians and their low-born ways, and rend their garments in dismay at what their beloved party has become.

They turn seeking a champion to fight off the horde, but alas, they find no champion to defend them from the ravages of the horde.

The blade of their former white knight has grown old and rusty. It is almost sad how much he has declined mentally, so he can barely take to the field any more.

Their savior in the wings turned out to be nearly as bad as the dragon that they need to defeat on the field of battle, but without any of the dragon’s populist appeal.

Their bright young page, so good looking and clean cut, turned out to be devious and untrustworthy. The upper crust of polite society liked him, but the unwashed masses, especially the browner folk, refused to give him the time of day.

Their stalwart, who was the backup to carry their standard when their white night fell, proved to be sharp tongued and quick witted in her public banter, but the browner folk barely paid her any mind.

They used to detest their final option, but she was far less of a threat than the horde that they see coming. They were ready to give her their blessing as a last ditch effort to prevent the horde from taking over. However, once her supporters figured out how little spine she had, they abandoned her and joined the horde.

Oh alas, oh dismay! How cruel to accept the bitter fate set before them. They must either join the horde or bow before the evil dragon. They will lie about it, but deep down they know that they have only themselves to blame for their bitter lot in life, so we cannot join them in their tears.

Whether you believe Bernie or Warren, this dispute harms the progressive cause

At this point, it is impossible for us to know exactly what was said in that private meeting between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in 2018, and it frankly shouldn’t matter, since it has nothing to do with the policies that either Sanders or Warren will try to enact as president.

My personal belief is that Bernie told Warren bluntly that Trump will employ sexism against her, and she interpreted that as meaning that no woman could win the US presidency. Given the fact that Bernie wanted Warren to run for president in 2015 and there are a number of indications that he would have chosen Warren as his VP if he had won the nomination in 2016, Bernie was probably trying to warn Warren, and she took that warning in a different light to mean that no woman could win.

I’m afraid that the current dispute between Bernie and Warren means that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is going to lose. My best guess is that Bernie will win Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and California, and Biden will win South Carolina and a bunch of Super Tuesday states, but it is unlikely that any of these will be run-away victories, so there will be no clear front runner. Warren, Yang, Buttigeig, Steyer and Bloomberg will have enough money to stay in the race till the bitter end, so it will be very hard for any candidate to get over 50% of the delegates before the convention. If Bernie is going to win, he needs Warren’s delegates, but I’m afraid that they have created a rift that will make if very difficult for Bernie to come to an agreement with Warren, such as offering her a position as his VP.

Likewise, there is the possibility that Bernie will need to throw his delegates to Warren in order to prevent Joe Biden or another establishment candidate from winning the nomination. In order for that to happen, Bernie will need Warren to commit to certain policies, but this dispute will make it harder for Bernie and Warren to come to any agreement at the convention.

Before this dispute, I was pretty sure that both Bernie and Warren would be willing to put personal considerations aside and act for the greater good of the progressive causes that they champion. However, if they can’t act as a united front in the convention, it becomes more likely that the establishment Democrats will consolidate their delegates around one candidate and win, which is why these recent events make me sick.

Whether you believe Bernie or Warren, this dispute helps no progressive. Many of Bernie’s working-class and minority voters are considering Biden and many of Warren’s white liberal supporters are considering Buttigeig, so if voters change their mind after watching this dispute, they are likely switching to establishment candidates. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, Bernie and Warren have the first and third highest favorability ratings among Democratic voters, respectively, and this dustup is likely to damage the reputations of both the progressive candidates in the race.

The real villain in this dispute in my opinion is CNN. According to Cenk Uygur, CNN sat on this story for months before releasing it right before the CNN debate, which seems like a transparent ploy to drive up its ratings, as Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone points out.

CNN didn’t even try to be objective in how it reported on the story or how it asked the questions during the debate. In my opinion, something Bernie said in a private conversation to Warren is not an appropriate topic in a debate, but if CNN decided to ask a question about it, the CNN moderator should have asked both candidates to tell us what words they recall from that meeting, rather than simply assuming that Warren’s telling was correct. CNN was clearly more interested in generating sensational sound bites and pushing its own political agenda during the debate, rather than trying to inform the public. The CNN commentators on the debate failed entirely to discuss what Nathan Robinson at Current Affairs calls Warren’s “credibility gap” and examine her “long history of saying untrue and distorted things for politically opportunistic reasons.”

Trump displays his utter ignorance about wind energy

Donald Trump is the kind of guy who doesn’t even bother to do his homework before he gets up on stage to demonstrate his ignorance to the world. It would be funny if he wasn’t the person in charge of making public policy for the nation. Even worse is the fact that his followers don’t even seem to care if their dear leader knows anything or not.

Trump put his ignorance on full display in a recent speech in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he made a series of ludicrous statements about wind turbines:

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Which search engine is the ethical choice?

I generally use Firefox’s default search engine, which is currently Google in most of the world, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China. I want to help generate revenue for the Mozilla Foundation, which does very important work in my opinion, and needs support.

However, I am now more concerned about supporting companies that provide ethical web services, but I can’t figure out which search company I should support. All of them say that they won’t keep profiles on me or track me or share my personal data, but they are all based on pay-per-click advertising revenue.

Qwant based in Paris, France and StartPage based in the Netherlands have better European laws to protect users than DuckDuckGo based in Pennsylvania, USA, but I’m more concerned with how each company operates.
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