Archive for category Social Issues

COVID-19: On Wearing Masks

There’s a lot of misinformation going around that spreading the idea that wearing a mask is pointless because it doesn’t significantly reduce your chance of avoiding the disease.

That idea doesn’t address the primary benefit of wearing a mask at all.

Here’s the important thing to understand: One of COVID-19′s major vectors for infecting others is via virus carried on moisture exhaled by infected individuals.

Even a simple mask considerably reduces the range and load you deliver when you breathe out if you have COVID-19. After you’re infected, usually there are 3 to 14 days before you become symptomatic. Not everyone is symptomatic, either; there may be no indication to you that you are infected. When someone is infected, wearing a mask can benefit many, many others while you are infectious and unaware of it, depending on your social interactions, distances, etc. over the course of those asymptomatic days.

If you continue going into situations where others could be exposed after you’re symptomatic and obviously still infectious, masks and social distancing will reduce the rates and severity of infection for others in that circumstance as well. Not that anyone should be out and about when symptomatic if it is in any way avoidable.

The rate of infections is a very important consideration: what we really don’t want is for someone to end up with severe symptoms when the healthcare facilities are operating at maximum capacity as has happened several times already due to people taking insufficient precautions such as masks, social distancing, washing hands, etc. If you need a ventilator, for instance, and they’re all in use, now you are at much higher risk of severe problems consequent to your breathing issue.

Even if everyone will eventually get COVID-19 and have to deal with it, it’s still eminently worthwhile to keep the rate down so those who need care can be certain they will get it.

On the other side of the coin, the higher the load in a healthcare facility, the more at risk the healthcare professionals are; that’s a cycle that even further reduces the facility’s ability to deal with additional cases. Every healthcare professional that cannot work reduces the ability of the facility to care for patients.

Everyone should be wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing. Both significantly reduce exposure of others when COVID-19 is present, and both work to reduce concurrent loading of healthcare facilities. As a bonus, these things also work to reduce the chances of spreading other diseases, such as the flu.

There’s another side to this as well. Although it is true that a simple mask does not reduce the chances of infection for the person wearing it by much, any reduction at all is a very good thing; for instance, if every infected person on average infects one other, and that is reduced to .95, then the disease will slowly recede. That’s enough reason to wear a mask all by itself. Likewise, if every infected person, on average, infects two others, and that can be reduced to 1.95, the load on healthcare facilities drops, which becomes very important when critically ill people need treatment — and that’s true no matter if you have COVID-19 or need your gall bladder removed. There are only so many beds in any one hospital.

  • Always wear a mask when others are present in public
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others as much as possible
  • Wash your hands / use hand sanitizer, break “touching-face” habits
  • Don’t spread misinformation

Comparative Mortality

COVID-19 deaths / year: 219,000 and still counting [As of October 18th, 2020]

FLU deaths / year: around 40,000 to 50,000

What is actually causing these deaths?

The critical question to answer here is “What does death from X” mean?

It means if you hadn’t had the primary infection — flu, COVID-19, etc. — you would not have died from whatever actually killed you.

For instance, you may encounter the argument that “people aren’t dying from the flu, they’re dying from pneumonia.” However, when the pneumonia is a consequence of respiratory difficulties brought on by the flu — that’s when it is accurate to say that it was the flu that caused the death. The same is true for COVID-19.

Trying to distinguish a consequent fatal pneumonia from the flu (or COVID-19) and then saying there’s nothing to worry about is as absurd as saying “jumping off the cliff didn’t kill someone, it was hitting the rocks below, so don’t worry about jumping off a cliff.”

The jump was the primary cause of death; without it, the rocks would not have killed the jumper. You should definitely avoid such a jump.

The flu and COVID-19 are both exactly this kind of killer; if someone becomes infected and dies, then a directly related follow-on effect is very likely going to be what killed them, just as the rocks killed the jumper, but if the flu or COVID-19 is avoided, then there will be no consequent pneumonia to die from, either.

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Some answers on Climate Change

Someone asked some questions on climate change elsewhere, and I took some time to answer them. I’m cross-posting the questions and my responses here for the benefit of any of my visitors who might have similar questions:


Why should I support fighting climate change?

Do you have kids? Are there any kids in your near family, or do friends have kids you care about, or (reaching, but) do you care about kids in general? Because if this isn’t stopped, they’re going to be at least miserable, and possibly much worse.

What action should I take to help reduce climate change?

Change, if it’s coming at all, must come from both the top and the bottom.
Starting with your own actions… drive less, set your home to warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter, keep appliances off that don’t need to be on. Do this even if you’re in an area with hydro or other non-stank power, because power you don’t use can be shared to other areas that may not be hydro or other relatively clean power. Unless you’re 100% power independent, for instance, if you run your own isolated solar installation.

How much money is it going to cost me?

Your own actions will probably save you money, potentially quite a bit, but how much depends on your present circumstances. Next is getting your representatives — senators, congresscritters, the president — to take political action, which can be much more effective, but is comparably much more difficult to achieve. They can fund the science and technology that will be needed to counter the effects, and they can set emissions regulations that can slow the onset of the more serious problems somewhat, thus providing more time for the science and tech folk to create and implement remedial counters.

What will happen if I do nothing?

In the nearer term… food shortages as crops have to be moved to more northern temperate bands into the hands of farmers who are unfamiliar with them, and as ocean acidification increases and blows out the balance of life there, resulting in changes that may in fact turn out to be catastrophic — a lot of the world depends upon the ocean as a food source. If it’s unavailable to them, they’re going to want the other foodstuffs, and that will change the market price and availability — not in a good way. Violence is definitely possible over this issue. Harsher weather, generally speaking warmer and carrying more intense storms. In the longer term, some ocean rise, which will cause people in low-lying coastal areas to relocate, which will (a) reduce the available real estate people can live on, and (b) destroy or very seriously inconvenience all businesses that are presently operating in those locations.

End game… probably this will get solved, IMHO, but it may be well into some of the above problems before it is if our politicians and citizens don’t get after it. If it isn’t solved… might be pretty much apocalyptic within a few hundred years. Worst case… runaway warming… ever look at the climate of Venus?

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Some observations about the news

I think it’s important to keep in mind that $$$-based journalism tends to have built-in mechanisms for all kinds of spin and/or information hiding. This is useful when considering not just what we are reading, but how and why it managed to get in front of our eyes. The following list, while not complete, serves to highlight some of the filtering going on:

  • The advertisers extend yea/nay force directly to the owner / publisher / board with $$$
  • The owner / publisher / board extends yea/nay force downwards to the editors and reporters
  • The editors extend yea/nay force downward to the reporters and the stories
  • The reporters extend yea/nay force to the choice of stories
  • The editors apply tone force to the stories
  • The reporters apply tone force to the stories
  • The reader’s reactions apply force upwards and this will slowly but strongly moderate the tone of the stories as the nature of the audience makes itself clear to the journalistic enterprise.
  • In some enterprises, the political correctness of a story will affect selection and tone
  • In other enterprises, backing agendas will affect selection and tone
  • The nature of the story – for example, “if it bleeds, it leads” can force other stories out, because drama=$$$ and there’s only X amount of time/energy to cover this or that, and advertisers primarily pay for eyes, and journalism, unfortunately, almost always devolves to a $$$-counting undertaking.

Long story short, the news that reaches us may not be the news that is most important to us, the coverage that highlights the details we should really know, or even remotely even-handed. All those pressures and factors are there almost all of the time, in almost all of the news.

On top of this, we may harbor various biases that are based on misinformation, social indoctrination (the long resistance to LGBT is one example of a source of this, as is the so-called “drug war”), and dogma from from various sources.

IMHO, much thinking is called for. My observation is that there isn’t nearly enough thinking being done by many. :/

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Why Farenheit is better for people

Scale 25º 50º 75º 100º
Celsius Cold Warm Dead Dead Dead
Fahrenheit Really Cold Cold Meh Warm Really Hot
Kelvin Dead Dead Dead Dead Dead
Rankine Dead Dead Dead Dead Dead
Réaumur Cold Warm Dead Dead Dead

Also, look. At -40ºC, it’s actually -40ºF. Isn’t that cute? Celsius trying to be reasonable, and all. Sorry, Celsius. Too low, too late. Back across the pond with you.

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On Civil Disobedience

Today, the Guardian published remarks by Michael Hayden, former director of the US National Security Agency, with regard to Edward Snowden’s actions in revealing our government’s immoral actions against its own citizens. Here’s what Hayden said:

If Snowden really claims that his actions amounted to genuine civil disobedience, he should go to some English language bookstore in Moscow and get a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Thoreau points out clearly that civil disobedience gets its moral authority by the willingness to suffer the penalties from disobeying a law, even if you think that law is unjust.

Here’s the problem with the whole “it’s the law and must be obeyed or suffered” paradigm:

The law said slavery was okay and provided for punishment for trying to escape slavery. The law said repressing women’s right to vote was okay, and provided punishment for women who tried to vote. The law said informed, consensual personal choice of sexuality was not okay, and punished people for such choices in the bedroom and elsewhere.

First, none of those things are actually okay. Those laws were (and remain) immoral and wrong; and more to the point, anyone who charged anyone under those laws was immoral and wrong, anyone who advocated punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong, and of course, anyone who applied punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong.

Second, with regard to Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, which (essentially) says that the moral authority for civil disobedience comes only from being willing to suffer the slings and arrows of an unjust law’s unjust punishment, not only no, but hell no.

The moral authority for civil disobedience comes directly and inevitably from the fact that the law is morally wrong.

There is no moral authority in advocating, creating, obeying or enforcing a law that is wrong, nor in simply declaring “it’s the law” as a rationalization for an imaginary duty to obey that law. Only moral failure.

For instance, when a law is made that says (or supports the idea that) involuntary slavery is ok, there is nothing that can make that law moral. There is nothing that can make enforcing that law moral. There is nothing that can make obeying that law moral. There is nothing that can make disobeying that law immoral. The only moral path available to the individuals subject to that law is to outright disobey the law. Anything else is immoral.

If you want the law to have moral authority, the only way you can achieve that is to create moral laws.

The very first step in that is to make absolutely certain the law is not trampling on any individual’s informed consent, or allowing one individual to trample on another’s informed consent. If the law can’t pass that bar, it is not a moral law. Anything else is tyranny.

Our central problem in this regard is that our politicians and a very large number of the people they have appointed are, in fact, immoral individuals acting contrary to the interest of the public at large and every individual they are supposed to be working in service of. Not to mention breakers of the oaths they took that give them the moral right to hold the offices they sit. They don’t deserve to be supported in any such undertaking. They deserve to be kicked in the shin. Hard.

Now, yes, it is true that in fighting immoral government acts, you may indeed suffer at its hands. That is the core nature of immoral law; it does wrong. But that is a far cry from any legitimacy for the conception that says you should so suffer. Thoreau was flat-out wrong. So is Hayden, acting as an echo chamber for Thoreau. And just so we’re perfectly clear on the issue of the day: Snowden was, and remains, right.

If you would like to take away a money quote about law that is moral in its characterization of law, rather than the sophist nonsense Thoreau was (and Hayden is) peddling, I’m delighted to oblige (emphasis within the quote mine):

…in so far as [law] deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.

Thomas Aquinas

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Real Change is Coming

We are facing a brand-new set of oncoming challenges. There’s never been a situation previously where a significant (and likely unlimited and continuously, and rapidly, growing) wave of higher-qualified workers who did not require wages entered the workforce.

LDNLS vs. AI


I discuss LDNLS vs. AI over in this other post. These things are affecting the job market now. There’s no remaining time to feel or act complacent.

Increasingly sophisticated LDNLS Workers that never cheat, never steal, are never late, very rarely “sick”, have no unions, no wages, no insurance, no internecine or even trivial conflict, don’t get pregnant, who never have to stay home with sick kids or spouse, don’t need or want a cafeteria, a gym, breaks, a lunch hour, tips, or stock options; are unfailingly polite, even sympathetic, immune to office romance, gossip, corporate espionage, complaints of mistreatment; have no interest in and do not require promotion, will never misuse company time, and are replaceable the very moment something more effective is available without any consequences to social security charges, unemployment tithing, legal costs, or need for security personnel to walk the previous “employee” to the door.
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Trump Will Not Win

Trump has no chance at all of winning the presidency.

 

Not as a Republican, and not as an Independent. I will explain why in detail. It won’t take long.
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Introducing the SJW language

Mellow greetings, special butterflies
 

Today (not to disrespect those on the other side of the national dateline – when I say today, I mean everyone’s today!) I (with full credit to everyone everywhere, of course) would like (this is not a statement of exclusion for things I don’t like) to introduce SJW, the language you can share without fear (not that fear is wrong, of course.)

SJW:

• No insert() function: Instead, we have crafted a flawless nomeansno() function
• Fully complementary yesmeansno() and maybemeansno() functions
• No try:, because every function generates an exception!
exit() has been replaced with aloha().
• Procedure calls have been replaced with the respectful request paradigm, which obey the global mood settings
• 100% private internal assumption for all functions; offering data requires guessing if the function will take it or crash (exceptions guaranteed)
• Every access from within a function to another function must be embedded in a call to politewrapper()
politewrapper() implements infinite recursion by use of counters instead of ever returning up a level
• Every function ends with a sequence of calls to apologize(), cleanup() and washreturnvalue()
• All programs will be created equal: all code is treated exactly the same and does exactly the same thing, which is apologize for running.
• All programs are required to check their privileges before running.


Apology

I apologize for saying “national dateline” when clearly I should have said “international dateline.” I am sorry for any consternation caused to nationalists, internationalists, jingoists, and timekeepers. I also apologize to Hawaiians for the cultural appropriation of “aloha.” In addition, I apologize to anyone I failed to mention. I will now enter into a voluntary two-week exclusion from mentioning time in any form. I also apologize for violating that two week exclusion with the previous sentence. Also, as “previous” is a timewise reference, I also apologize for that. I’m sorry. Truly sorry. Which is not to offend those of you who are more sorry about other things. I fully respect that, I swear. Not in an offensive way, of course.


A Cautionary Wail

First they came for the aggressors, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an aggressor.

Then they came for the micro-aggressors, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a micro-aggressor.

Then they came for the nano-aggressors, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a nano-aggressor.

Then they came for me—and I meekly submitted.

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