“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I used to be a Republican

For those who are used to posts with hypermiling, energy, or physics content, my apologies for the following political rant.

I consider myself to be conservative. I believe in conserving natural resources. I believe in conserving the rights affirmed in our Constitution and its amendments (in particular, the Bill of Rights). I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in living within my (and our) means. I believe in granting others the right to differing opinions and acknowledge that, while I can campaign and proselytize for my beliefs, I must grant that same right to those with different beliefs and compromise with them. I believe that, on occasion, I will not get what I want and that that's OK. I believe that a mature individual accepts this. To me, these beliefs represent true conservatism and used to be the positions represented by the Republican party.

But now, the Republican party is a party of extortionate thugs. In order to change an existing policy (with respect to FAA funding) to the liking of those in whose pocket they dwell, they are willing to hold thousands of people hostage economically and flush millions of dollars down the toilet. I might even agree with the owners of the pockets on the specific policy issue (it revolves around unionization) but I don't believe in scorching the Earth to get my way at the point of a metaphorical gun.

The Republican party is now the party of ignoring evidence. "If it doesn't fit with my belief system/philosophy, it doesn't exist. Don't confuse me with facts." This leads to the possibility of ignoramuses such as Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum, or Rick Perry  becoming the Republican nominee for President of the United States. These are people who reject science in the name of letting students decide and support a false balance between evidence based science and facts on the one hand and faith-based superstition on the other. Quoting Professor Steven Dutch of the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, "If your religion says something that conflicts with objective evidence, your religion is wrong." Governor Perry's response to the drought in his state? Pray for rain.

The best that they can come up with for the crying, aching, desperate need for a coherent, far-reaching energy policy is "drill baby drill." This shows all the depth of understanding of third graders. Worse yet, they may understand it all too well but venally sacrifice sound long-term policy for short term political gain.

Further, the Republican party has decided that, no matter what concessions are made by Obama and the Senate Democrats (for whom I have no love whatsoever), it's more important to pander to their so-called base than to honor the obligations of the United States. It grieves me that this is what has become of their vaunted "American exceptionalism," i.e., in their minds we are the exception to having to pay debts. To make this point, they are willing to create an unpredictable amount of turmoil.

I am no longer a Republican. It's saddens me that the party has chased me away. On the other hand, don't confuse me for a Democrat.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Embarrassed to be conservative guest post

I can't come close to the piquancy (great SAT word) of Baratunde Thurston's torpedoing of Michelle Bachmann's ludicrous signing of the FAMiLY LEADER pledge (the lower case i is, sadly, not a mistake).

Michelle Bachmann is running for president on a pro-slavery, anti-porn platform? - Blog - baratunde.com

My government loves me and only has my very best interests at heart

My government loves our Constitution, and its only goal is to Constitutionally protect my life, my liberty, and my pursuit of happiness. Of course, that's why they have prohibited me from playing poker for actual money online. I know that this can only be because their love and regard for me is so very high that they must do all in their power to prevent anyone, including me, from being able to engage in any activity that could conceivably cause me harm.

They are able to provide this desperately needed action of protecting me from myself by implementing the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, a document that is erroneously believed to have the purpose of limiting their powers. But such beliefs are foolish - it's clear that the Commerce Clause is applicable to stopping me from harming myself and others by playing poker online for money because there is no conceivable activity or lack of activity to which that Clause cannot be applied by our benevolent protectors in Congress.


Note: In my 218 posts, this is my first (and hopefully last) f-bomb.

New car, minimal carbon reduction

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been contemplating replacing my Land Rover LR3 HSE with a new vehicle - something much more fuel efficient (despite the fact that I've gotten about 28% better fuel economy than the EPA rating for the LR3). Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, my hand was forced.

In the post linked above, I contemplated the Chevy Volt and the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Which did I purchase? Neither. Instead, I drove away with a newcomer, the Lexus CT 200h. This is a well-appointed, VERY small hybrid. Its EPA ratings are 43 m.p.g. city, 40 m.p.g. highway, and 42 m.p.g. combined. This exceeds the Ford Fusion Hybrid and will enable me to save something like 575 gallons of fuel per year and $2,400 on fuel costs (the number is greater than simply gallons times price because the LR3 requires premium while the CT 200h needs only regular).

This is certainly happy news, so why has my family's carbon footprint not decreased significantly as a result of this change? The unfortunate circumstances referred to above involved the total loss of the vehicle my wife had been driving (thankfully, no injuries occurred to any of the involved parties). The decision was to take the insurance settlement and purchase the LR3 from my Company and make it my wife's vehicle. Now, she does absolutely no hypermiling and puts a spectacular number of miles on a vehicle (on the order of 60,000 per year). Her previous vehicle was no fuel miser at 14 m.p.g. city, 23 m.p.g. highway, and 17 m.p.g. combined but many of her miles are highway miles where she'll get about 18 m.p.g. by my estimate. Thus, she'll add about 500 gallons per year for a net reduction in fuel consumption for my family of a mere 75 gallons.

Now, moving on to the CT 200h, this is a vehicle that shares the drivetrain of the Toyota Prius and is thus amenable to some of the more exotic hypermiling techniques such as pulse and glide. I will certainly run through a few tank fulls of fuel prior to experimenting with that technique so that I have a baseline for comparison. Frankly, I'm not so sure that I want to work that hard to drive. And with respect to another technique - drafting - the CT 200h is very small and very low. Thus, the danger level is increased (not to mention not wanting to damage a new vehicle's finish by rocks being thrown).

I'll make another post at a later time with some specifics of the CT 200h (Cd, weight, engine and motor sizes and ratings, etc.)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Hierarchy of qualifications to evaluate research-like information

I habitually listen to Radio Paradise when working (or playing) at the computer. The station's web site is equipped with a comment facility for the music Bill Goldsmith plays, and with listener fora where all manner of topics are discussed. There's a denizen of the fora with screen name "nuggler" with whom I've exchanged barbs in the song comment areas. In the fora, nuggler is about as rabidly anti (Israel, "big Pharma," American military, Republican, "big oil," etc.) as anyone with whom I've ever interacted.

Nuggler is also fairly tin foil hat conspiracist with respect to HIV-AIDS, GMO crops, "allopathic" (i.e., done by actual doctors) or "Western" medicine as opposed to CAM (complimentary/alternative medicine), etc. He believes the strain of E Coli recently determined to be responsible for multiple deaths in Germany was genetically engineered. He had a long rant about one Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski who has supposedly developed an effective cancer cure involving "antineoplastons" that big Pharma and the FDA have brutally squelched.

So, I read a little bit about Dr. Burzynski and some of the material regarding him from his own site and from sites like Quackwatch and Science Based Medicine. I'm obviously ill-equipped to digest material from the primary medical literature both by background and by opportunity cost of time. So again, I have to decide whom to believe. I went into this a bit in a previous post regarding Anthropogenic Climate Disruption. Thus, it's back to a "who seems most credible" situation which is not at all easy (or at least it hadn't ought to be).

So I decided to propose a little hierarchy of how much confidence to have in one's ability to trust one's interpretation of research conclusions (especially conflicting conclusions) based on background and proximity to that research. This is what I came up with, I welcome suggestions and criticisms.

  1. I did the research.
  2. I am an expert in the specific subject area of the research and, though I didn't do the research, I have fully read and understood it.
  3. I have some specific knowledge in the particular area and deep knowledge in the general area of the research.
  4. I have a reasonable background in the general area of the research.
  5. I have done formal research, but not in any area related to that being evaluated.
  6. I have studied this area in depth, but not in any formal venue.
  7. I have completed a formal program of study though not one related to the topic at hand (this shows, at least, some ability to absorb and synthesize complex information).
  8. I have evaluated the coherence of the arguments propounded with respect to agreeing and disagreeing viewpoints.

These levels are not necessarily mutually exclusive. But, if I'm at any level less than this, the fact is that I simply should not allow myself to have an opinion. "It fits the way I'd like the world to work and believe it to be" simply will not suffice.

Wait... what? Fox News "poll"

This is a screen shot of the result (after I "voted") of a Fox News Poll. I find it confusing. The response gathering the most votes is "No, it's purely a scare tactic." The implication is that running into the so-called "Debt Ceiling" is not a real problem. But, if that is the case, then why would raising it be a big deal to the typical Fox News reader? That is, if not raising it would not have dire consequences, then what purpose is it serving? I suppose that it could be quibbled that "no, it's not the ceiling we're saying is merely a scare tactic, it's the date. We think it's really September 4, (or whatever)." Because, you know, the average Fox News reader is well-attuned to the details of when specific obligations will be unable to be met. Is this really the level to which political economic debate has sunk?