Friday, January 30, 2015

How to Eat Sushi: You've Been Doing it Wrong

10 Facts That Republicans should Know

10 Facts That Will Blow Right-Wingers' Minds

1. The United States is not a Christian nation, and the Bible is not the cornerstone of our law.

Don’t take my word for it. Let these Founding Fathers speak for themselves:
John Adams: “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797)
Thomas Jefferson: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.” (Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814)
James Madison: “The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.” (Writings, 8:432, 1819)
George Washington: “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” (Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789)
You can find a multitude of similar quotes from these men and most others who signed the Declaration of Independence and/or formulated the United States Constitution. These are hardly the words of men who believed that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible, as a disturbingly growing number of Republicans like to claim.
2. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist.

The Pledge was written in 1892 for public school celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Its author was Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, Christian socialist and cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy. Christian socialism maintains, among other ideas, that capitalism is idolatrous and rooted in greed, and the underlying cause of much of the world’s social inequity. Definitely more “Occupy Wall Street” than “Grand Old Party” by anyone’s standard.
3. The first president to propose national health insurance was a Republican.

He was also a trust-busting, pro-labor, Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist. Is there any wonder why Theodore Roosevelt, who first proposed a system of national health insurance during his unsuccessful Progressive Party campaign to retake the White House from William Howard Taft in 1912, gets scarce mention at Republican National Conventions these days?
4. Ronald Reagan once signed a bill legalizing abortion.

The Ronald Reagan Republicans worship today is more myth than reality. Reagan was a conservative for sure, but also a practical politician who understood the necessities of compromise. In the spring of 1967, four months into his first term as governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that, among its other provisions, legalized abortion for the vaguely-defined “well being” of the mother. Reagan may have been personally pro-life, but in this instance he was willing to compromise in order to achieve other ends he considered more important. That he claimed later to regret signing the bill doesn’t change the fact that he did. As Casey Stengel liked to say, “You could look it up.”
5. Reagan raised federal taxes eleven times.

Okay, Ronald Reagan cut tax rates more than any other president – with a big asterisk. Sure, the top rate was reduced from 70% in 1980 all the way down to 28% in 1988, but while Republicans typically point to Reagan’s tax-cutting as the right approach to improving the economy, Reagan himself realized the resulting national debt from his revenue slashing was untenable, so he quietly raised other taxes on income – primarily Social Security and payroll taxes - no less than eleven times. Most of Reagan’s highly publicized tax cuts went to the usual Republican handout-takers in the top income brackets, while his stealth tax increases had their biggest impact on the middle class. These increases were well hidden inside such innocuous-sounding packages as the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987. Leave it to a seasoned actor to pull off such a masterful charade.
6. Roe v. Wade was a bipartisan ruling made by a predominantly Republican-appointed Supreme Court.

Technically, Roe v. Wade did not make abortion legal in the United States; the Supreme Court’s decision held only that individual states could not make abortion illegal. That being said, the landmark 1973 ruling that Republicans love to hate, was decided on a 7-2 vote that broke down like this:
Majority (for Roe): Chief Justice Warren Burger (conservative, appointed by Nixon), William O. Douglas (liberal, appointed by FDR), William J. Brennan (liberal, appointed by Eisenhower), Potter Stewart (moderate, appointed by Eisenhower), Thurgood Marshall (liberal, appointed by LBJ), Harry Blackmun (author of the majority opinion and a conservative who eventually turned liberal, appointed by Nixon), Lewis Powell (moderate, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 2 conservatives, 3 liberals, 2 moderates.
Dissenting (for Wade): Byron White (generally liberal/sometimes conservative, appointed by JFK), William Rehnquist (conservative, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 1 liberal, 1 conservative.
By ideological orientation, the decision was for Roe all the way: conservatives 2-1, liberals 3-1, moderates 2-0; by party of presidential appointment it was Republicans 5-1, Democrats 2-1. No one can rightly say that this was a leftist court forcing its liberal beliefs on America.
7. The Federal Reserve System was a Republican invention.

Republicans, and, truth be told, many Democrats, despise the Federal Reserve as an example of government interference in the free market. But hold everything: The Federal Reserve System was the brainchild of financial expert and Senate Republican leader Nelson Aldrich, grandfather of future Republican governor and vice president Nelson Rockefeller. Aldrich set up two commissions: one to study the American monetary system in depth and the other, headed by Aldrich himself, to study the European central banking systems. Aldrich went to Europe opposed to centralized banking, but after viewing Germany's monetary system he came away believing that a centralized bank was better than the government-issued bond system that he had previously supported. The Federal Reserve Act, developed around Senator Aldrich’s recommendations and - adding insult to injury in the minds of today’s Republicans - based on a European model, was signed into law in 1913.
8. The Environmental Protection Agency was, too.

The United States Environment Protection Agency, arch-enemy of polluters in particular and government regulation haters in general, was created by President Richard Nixon. In his 1970 State of the Union Address, Nixon proclaimed the new decade a period of environmental transformation. Shortly thereafter he presented Congress an unprecedented 37-point message on the environment, requesting billions for the improvement of water treatment facilities, asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions, and launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution. Nixon also ordered a clean-up of air- and water-polluting federal facilities, sought legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes, proposed a tax on lead additives in gasoline, and approved a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of petroleum spills. In July 1970 Nixon declared his intention to establish the Environmental Protection Agency, and that December the EPA opened for business. Hard to believe, but if it hadn’t been for Watergate, we might remember Richard Nixon today as the “environmental president”.
Oh, yes - Republicans might enjoy knowing Nixon was an advocate of national health insurance, too.
9. Obama has increased government spending less than any president in at least a generation.

Republican campaign strategists may lie, but the numbers don’t. Government spending, when adjusted for inflation, has increased during his administration (to date) by 1.4%.  Under George W. Bush, the increases were 7.3% (first term) and 8.1% (second term). Bill Clinton, in his two terms, comes in at 3.2% and 3.9%. George H. W. Bush increased government spending by 5.4%, while Ronald Reagan added 8.7% and 4.9% in his two terms.
Not only does Obama turn out to be the most thrifty president in recent memory, but the evidence shows that Republican administrations consistently increased government spending significantly more than any Democratic administration. Go figure.
10. President Obama was not only born in the United States, his roots run deeper in American history than most people know.

The argument that Barack Obama was born anywhere but at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, is not worth addressing; the evidence is indisputable by any rational human being. But not even irrational “birthers” can dispute Obama’s well-documented family tree on his mother’s side. By way of his Dunham lineage, President Obama has at least 11 direct ancestors who took up arms and fought for American independence in the Revolutionary War and two others cited as patriots by the Daughters of the American Revolution for furnishing supplies to the colonial army. This star-spangled heritage makes Obama eligible to join the Sons of the American Revolution, and his daughters the Daughters of the American Revolution. Not bad for someone 56% of Republicans still believe is a foreigner.

Beef Chili with Fifteen Spatulas - Honeysuckle

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

8 Logical Fallacies

8 Logical Fallacies That Fuel Anti-Science Sentiments

1. False Equivalence

Balanced reporting is important, no question. But that doesn't mean every single perspective on a contentious issue deserves equal air time or consideration. Such is the fallacy of false equivalence, the assertion that there's a logical equivalence between two opposing arguments when there is none. 
False equivalence is a logical fallacy which describes a situation where there is a logical and apparent equivalence, but when in fact there is none. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.[1] It would be the antonym of the mathematical concept of material equivalence.
False equivalence is occasionally claimed in politics, where one political party will accuse their opponents of having performed equally wrong actions.[2] Commentators may also accuse journalists of false equivalence in their reporting of political controversies if the stories are perceived to assign equal blame to multiple parties.[3] False Equivalence should not be confused with false balance – the media phenomenon of presenting two sides of an argument equally in disregard of the merit or evidence on a subject (a form of argument to moderation).

2. The Appeal to Nature & The Naturalistic Fallacy

Fewer things have done more to undermine scientists and their work than the appeal to nature and the naturalistic fallacy. The former is the belief that what is natural is "good" and "right" and the latter deducing "ought" from "is." Both have been used to argue that progress in science and technology represents a threat to the natural order of things. It's a line of argumentation that lauds the inherent wholesomeness of all things natural, while decrying the unhealthiness and unsavoriness of all things unnatural.

3. Observation Selection

Many critics of science deliberately (and sometimes unconsciously) select and share information that serves to undermine specific proclamations of science, while ignoring information that works to support credible hypotheses.

4. Appeal to Faith

I'm not interested in the evidence — I just have faith that what I believe is true.
Arguing about God is useless because God is beyond scientific reasons or arguments.
I refuse to believe in all this global warming doom-and-gloom. I have faith that God wouldn't let such a bad thing happen to us.
Sound familiar? These are common refrains repeated by people who have appealed to their faith when making an argument — a fallacy in which religious convictions are conflated with reason and evidence. But while many of these people believe they're acting rationally, the truth is of the matter is that the choice to believe in something is no substitute for science.

See also: the argument to uncertainty and the universal skepticism fallacy.
The "appeal to faith" is often used in a different way by theists - who claim that all forms of thought rest upon faith. This claim, which was created to undermine reason itself, is false. There is no need for a baseless belief when one has reasons to believe, be they axioms or pragmatism. See the quote under the Stolen Concept Fallacy for more on this.
Faith, by definition, relies on a belief that does not rest on logic or evidence. Faith depends on irrational thought (i.e., a desire) and produces intransigence. Faith has never been shown to be anything more than believing what you want to believe no matter the reality. Historically, people "of faith" have used the very next appeal that follows "to alter the opinions" of their opponents.

5. God of the Gaps

Science does not have all the answers, nor does it pretend to. We still don't know how consciousness works, we don't know what instigated the Big Bang, and there are still holes in our understanding of how certain traits emerged via natural selection. That's not to say these are intractable problems; it's quite possible we'll solve these some day. In the meantime, it's important to gather evidence, posit hypotheses, and assume the naturalistic paradigm (i.e. all phenomenon can be explained without having to invoke the actions of a divine force).

6. Appeal to Consequences

Appealing to consequences can be seen as a kind of precautionary principle, an injunction to not engage in activities or scientific endeavors that raise threats of harm (or undesirable outcomes) to human health or the environment on account of a unforeseen series of cascading events (which is related to another fallacy, the slippery slope). In many cases, however, anti-science folks intertwine the boundaries between their disputes of a particular scientific line of inquiry with alleged philosophical and moral consequences.
For example, there's a fear that belief in evolution will lead to genocide, or that it will lead to the opinion that humans are just another animal in the forest (i.e. the negation of human exceptionalism). Another common concern is that atheism/materialism will lead to an unfulfilled, immoral life.

7. Withholding of Consent

It's just a theory.
No, sometimes it's not just a theory. Okay, sure, scientific principles like natural selection and general relativity are theories, but there comes a point when explanations or models become so instructive and so damned useful that they graduate to the level of axioms — a statement or proposition that's so established, accepted, or self-evidently true that we should refrain from withholding our consent, because to do otherwise would be simply unreasonable.

8. Playing God

Think of this as the nonsecular corollary to the naturalistic fallacy. Though not a formal logical fallacy, it is an error in thinking — the idea that humanity should not tread on what is traditionally God's domain, and that by doing so, we're being hubristic, reckless, and irreverent.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ivy League’s meritocracy lie: How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the 1 percent

How Harvard and Yale cook the books for the 1 percent

"Now that is a correlation! This is what I refer to as the “Volvo effect.” In Crazy U, Ferguson talks about how the parents of his son’s friends and classmates were spending $30,000 to $35,000 to prepare their children for college. That isn’t the amount they had to pay for a premier boarding school mind you—that was the amount they paid to hire someone to tutor their child on the SAT and to help them write their “statement of interest” essays on their college applications. When these students get in to a particular college we say that this process reflects the fairness of the meritocracy, but really it only reflects the fact that the elite dominate the entry to higher education. These students aren’t smarter than the other students. Or to put it another way: they may be smart, but they are not necessarily those most likely to contribute to our society; they simply come from families that have more money to pay people to prepare them for the SAT, to test-prep them for their high school grades, and to pay for viola lessons so they can stand out more in the admissions process. The SAT’s most reliable value is its proxy for wealth. It is normed to white, upper-middle-class performance, as numerous studies have shown when the test is viewed through the lenses of race and class. The figures below, from 2013, show this in stark relief."

London's Guerrilla Gardeners

Throw It, Grow It: London's Guerrilla Gardeners by Kendra Wilson

" When Richard Reynolds moved into a tower block in central London's Elephant and Castle district, he was not intending to become a guerrilla gardener. He simply decided to take a DIY approach to the wasteland around him. One night, Reynolds went out after midnight to do some weeding, soil conditioning, and planting near the front door. He didn't own the land, but he enjoyed improving it. He began to do more and more, tackling traffic islands and roundabouts further afield. Tree pits seemed like the perfect place to grow flowers, in the dusty square surrounding the base of a tree. In 2004, he began Guerrilla Gardening, a blog that documents the beautifying effects of what he calls "illicit cultivation" by guerrilla gardeners around the world."

News From Nowhere

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Solar Bike Project

Solar Bike Project

"Our first search was to find an efficient electric drive motor and a way for it to drive the bike. Since we wanted to be able to go up hills at optimum efficiency, it was attractive to use a chain-driving motor or “mid drive” that allows for gear changing via the derailleur. The best of these is made by Ecospeed of Portland, Oregon, which we saw operating firsthand on one of Brent Bolton’s bikes. We took careful measurements of the motor’s size and from these Russell made a foamcore model, which we used to figure out where in the hell the thing would fit on our existing bike’s frame. An obvious spot was in the triangle behind the captain seat and in front of the rear crank. But would it fit? The foamcore model proved it would, so we mounted the EcoSpeed motor to a quarter-inch thick aluminum plate connected to the frame with four stout U-bolts. Ah, it worked.

Key to using both human power and an electric motor is to make the motor independent of the crank, so the riders wouldn’t have to spin their legs. Each power source needs a freewheel, so we found an oddball freewheel gadget once made for Vision tandem bikes. It was called the IPS or Independent Pedaling System, basically freewheels that made the chainrings for the captain and stoker independent of each other. Thus we could drive a chainring on the rear crank from the motor, and another chainring on the same crank with the pedals, and make them independent (the motor having its own freewheel). We had some problems keeping the chainline aligned at first with the new freewheel, but eventually using a chain tensioner and structural reinforcement we got it right.

Every solar vehicle needs batteries, and to choose the right type we carefully calculated the amp draw and distance requirements we’d need to make for an efficient system. We’d need batteries to store surplus solar power to keep us going during cloudy weather, in tunnels, or when shaded by trees. More to the point, we knew that hill-climbing would demand more energy per hour than our solar panels could produce, so we needed as large of a buffer as we could carry. That battery would have to be charged and discharged quickly, maybe 50 amps of current drain over some tens of minutes, so that narrowed the available (and affordable) battery chemistries.

In the end we settled on a new design of the old standard lead-acid battery. We began testing our system using two Optima yellow-top deep-discharge batteries, 55 amp-hour capacity. The batteries are heavy, at 42 pounds each, and they store only about 15 watt-hours per pound. But they’re just what we need – they will quickly accept a full charge in just two hours of morning sunlight and then charge up again in a couple of hours at the end of the day. In the meantime, we set about designing our system so that it would run almost-completely on solar power in the middle of each day."

Eggs Benedict with Crispy Parma Ham - Gordon Ramsay

Monday, January 05, 2015

Electric Velomobiles

Fast and Comfortable as Automobiles, but 80 times more Efficient

You would think that a vehicle that is 80 times more efficient than an electric car, and offers a similar speed and range, would be encouraged by governments worldwide. However, the opposite is true.

Edward A. Villarreal. Powered by Blogger.


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