Saturday, February 19, 2005

A New Look at Yankee Madmen

We've got a new look at Yankee Madmen - I've dropped the Google Ads, Election Timer, and Weatherbug because I'm having some trouble with JavaScript in the new template.

You can see the old format here in the Google Cache.

If you read our site, I welcome your feedback. Please comment or send us an e-mail here.

UPDATE: I've brought back the Google Ads. After checking the accounts, we're actually getting some hits on them too! It turns out all the Java applets with counting - the election timer and debt clock - were interfering with the pages. I've dropped them for now and I'm going to figure out a new way to display that functionality.

This is why voting and public opinion on some issues is worthless...

From The Gallup Organization:

"A recent Gallup Poll asking Americans to name, without prompting, the 'greatest United States president,' finds Americans most often mentioning Ronald Reagan."


Don't think this is just Democratic sour-grapes. Bill Clinton finished second. Bill-f**king-Clinton, give me a break!

This is just plain stupidity. I didn't realize American history isn't taught in schools anymore - I thought only music and art programs were in trouble.

I can't wait to send this to my sister, the history teacher - she'll blow a gasket as she spouts on about Madison, Jackson, J.Q. Adams, Van Buren and all the other forgotten presidents of the 19th century and generally bores the living heck out of me...

Oh no, a teenager might actually think about sex!

From the N & O:

"Wake officials say they believe in that goal, but they don't like some of the probing questions, particularly those about sex. The questions seem to assume that high school students are sexually active, they say, and that goes against the system's abstinence-only sex education curriculum.
...
Of particular concern, all said, were the sequencing and wording of questions. For example, the section about sexual activity, included only on the high school questionnaire, begins with the question: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse?"

But respondents, including those who answer "No," must read seven more questions about sex, including this one: "The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?" That question can be answered in one of three ways: "I have never had sexual intercourse," "Yes" or "No."

Those who objected to the survey say those who answered "no" to question one should be able to skip to the next section. The subsequent questions, they say, are too suggestive.

"We just didn't want to make kids read these questions over and over if the answer is 'no,' " said Kathryn Chontos, principal of Athens Drive High School and president of the Wake County Division of Principals."


A poorly worded survey? Potentially, but repeating of questions in a certain way can tease out information. For instance, if after asking a question about intercourse, one of the seven questions is about oral sex, a respondant may have answered no to the intercourse question but in the affirmative to oral sex, having drawn a distinction in their own mind between acts of sexual activity.

Wake County is one of the largest school systems in the country, and it's embarrassing they have an abstinence-only policy, but if that's the decision of the community, then it should be forced to stand the scrutiny of performance through surveys like this. Personally, I think they don't want their policy to face the harsh light of examination, especially given recent reports that this type of education is completely ineffectual.

The idea that these questions are suggestive is ludicrous, in an age of cable TV, Internet porno, and shock-jock radio.

In the Midst of Budget Decadence, a Leader Will Arise

From David Brooks in the NY Times:

"Before too long, some new sort of leader is going to arise, especially if we fail to reform Social Security this year. He's going to rail against a country that cannot control its appetites. He's going to rail against Republicans who promise to be virtuous - but not just yet. He's going to slam Democrats who loudly jeer at Republican deficits but whose own entitlement proposals would make the situation twice as bad. He's going to crusade against the interest groups who are so ferocious on behalf of their members that they sacrifice the future.

It won't be a green-eyeshade economic crusade this leader will be launching. It will be a moral crusade, and it'll be quite a show."


I sure hope he's right...

This is just stupid....

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"Under the new Pitt arrangement, season-ticket holders are contributing blindly. They don't know what it will take to give them the same seat they currently have or the same caliber of seat. They won't know where they stand until all contributions are in and all prospective season-ticket holders are ranked.

Furthermore, it's possible to make a contribution and not get a seat. The contribution, of course, is not refundable."


Guess what? Anyone who gives and doesn't get a ticket will never give again. They've just closed off a potential long-term revenue stream.

"Connecticut reseats the entire arena every year," he said. "Maryland does it every two years. Kansas has moved into reseating."


Both of these schools have won National Championships in recent memory. Pitt is a sellout in a new arena with a hot team. What happens if they fall on hard times? Sure, Fitzgerald Field House used to pack them in, but a lot of that was the size of the facility. The Pete's a lot larger.

The University should have "auctioned" off a select number of seats in a section to raise some large contributions and get a sense of willingness-to-pay. Once these seats were bought, the sections are divided into price classifications and people are charged "seat licensing" accordingly. The select seating is re-auctioned every couple of years to rotate the holders and re-index the willingness-to-pay and the section seating costs.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Random Musings on a Friday Evening

I went to lunch today with a friend from work. Since he's a vegetarian and I don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent, we decided to get out of our cafeteria because the options were quite limited for us today. We found an out-of-the-way Mexican restaurant and figured, rice, beans, cheese - we're bound to find something to eat here.

Walked in and asked the waitress for a table. She just stared at my friend. Eventually, she told him she couldn't speak English - in Spanish. My Spanish isn't too good, especially spoken, but I tried anyway. She got a guy from the kitchen who spoke a little English, and in the end, I was able to explain my friend is a vegetarian and he was able to get our order.

It was a pretty good lunch, but I realized today that if I'm going to stay in North Carolina, it wouldn't be a bad idea to improve my Spanish. I suspect that it could be quite useful here. I don't think this is the last time I'll have to use it.

Driving home in the twilight, one of my pet peeves was set off. Parking lights. To quote my friend, "there's lights, and there's not lights." Parking lights are useless. Plain and simple. If it's dark enough for parking lights, it's dark enough for lights. Heck, my old S-10 used to have daytime running lights!

There's no advantage to driving with parking lights. Light bulbs burn out from the heating and cooling of turning them on and off, not the time in service. If you're going to turn them on in 5-10 minutes, you're going to do the damage to the filament then, so you might as well turn them on earlier.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lunch with a Liberal

There's a write-in contest on the News-Talk 680 WPTF website - "Lunch with a Liberal". Bill LuMaye, the drive-time guy on this conservative talk-radio station, will take a liberal out to lunch each month based on their essay.

I've criticized LuMaye for some of his comments on the air, but a couple of Fridays ago, he said something that was pretty telling. A whole bunch of people had called to complain about this or that, and he basically said that it's not enough to call talk-radio, but if people want to affect change, they have to go to school board meetings, they have to run for office, they have to get involved.

That's a pretty good message. Of course, there are some things that I think are above pluralism - science curriculum being foremost among them, but a lot public activity needs debate. In the rush to privatize and individualize everything, we forget the importance of collective action in the public policy process. When citizens are individualized, it only gives more power to corporations and special interests because it becomes easier for them to activate people to an issue.

Anyhow, when he said that, I was pretty impressed. I'm not going to enter this because I work a long way from Raleigh everyday, but if you're a local liberal, he might not be a terrible guy to sit down with for an hour. You can get along with a conservative - L-Hack and I don't hate each other, despite throwing the invective around from time to time. I wouldn't try this Sean Hannity - I don't think I could keep my food down...

Besides, he's buying. :)

WeatherClown

From WRAL.com:

"Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel is convinced that a system will bring measurable snow or ice to RDU International by Feb. 28 or he will go in WRAL's fountain."


To which I say...

Big f**king deal

First of all, I'd rather that you had accurately predicted the snowfall last month that turned Raleigh into something out a cheesy disaster movie. (Interesting sidenote: When I was getting a haircut on Saturday, I heard the longest drive time yet: 11 hours, 25 minutes - Downtown Raleigh to Wake Forest. Ouch.)

Secondly, this is Eastern North Carolina, not Eastern Michigan. If it snows here one day, the very next day it could be 70 degrees. Yesterday - I would have gone in the fountain at WRAL.

Pitt to buy University Club's historic building

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"The University Club has agreed to sell its historic Oakland building for about $3.5 million to the University of Pittsburgh, according to sources familiar with the talks"


When I was a graduate student at Pitt, my sponsor was a University Club member. I always liked the "U-Club" and it's old-school charms. The library, the dining room where men had to wear a jacket (even at lunch!), the Pub Room on the main floor, and the rooftop deck. She was a big booster, always trying to get me to join - "the graduate student dues are quite reasonable!" Just a couple years ago, while back in the 'Burgh, I had a drink with my friend on the rooftop deck on an early summer night. I'm glad we had a chance to get back there.

The U-Club in 1960


I hope the University does right by the U-Club and I'm sure they will. There are a number of grand old buildings on the campus, renovated into collegiate use from their original use in the glory days of old Pittsburgh. One of these, the Hotel Schenley, was turned into the William Pitt Union. The ballroom, the Lillian Russell Suite, the "Red Room" and the "Blue Room" still have the grandeur of the original hotel.



The Schenley Hotel, as it is today - The William Pitt Union


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What do you know...

From today's Washington Post:

"Americans dislike deficits but dislike them less than the alternatives -- higher taxes or lower spending. There's a quiet clamor for hypocrisy and deception, and pragmatic politicians respond with massive borrowing schemes that seem to promise something for nothing. Please, spare us the truth. "


This is practically a restatement of what I wrote last night.

L-Hack, you seem to think the Democratic party is devoid of "ideas". As I mentioned before, in some cases, there is no problem. This applies mostly to social issues, where me and other like-minded people believe Republican "ideas" are more damaging than doing nothing. Think about most things that some Republicans want in schools: abstinence-only education, prayer, creationism as science...none of these is a "good" idea.

As for ideas to fix problems, Democrats have an idea to fix most things - raise taxes. You can say, "You need a new idea." Deficit spending isn't a new idea, but it seems to be the Republican idea for everything. Need a Medicare drug benefit - borrow from China, Need military funding - borrow from China, Need to fix Social Security, borrow from China...you get the point. Republicans don't actually have any "new ideas", and in fact, most are poor solutions to anything because they involve more borrowing on consumption.

The Democratic idea, "raise taxes" isn't just a solution, it's a good solution, because it's only one of two ways to solve almost any problem with the government. The other good solution, of course, is to actually cut spending, but neither party seems to want to do that. That would truly be a "new idea" and a good one too.

One final thought - I'm a bit of a deficit hawk, but I don't believe in "balanced budget". If the government wants to run up a lot of debt to build roads or schools, that's fine with me. It's an infrastructure investment - smart businesses do it all the time. Cyclical debt due to the business cycle is also fine. Funding consumption programs with debt is like buying groceries with a credit card - it's dumb and dangerous.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

L-Hack, I know you think professors are useless

Maybe not all professors, but certainly Leftist Wonk and I.1

Check out these pictures from Ann Althouse.

I don't know what the heck any of it means, but it sure looks complicated. I'm sure it's full of liberal bias and anti-American rhetoric.




1Disclaimer: I am not currently a practicing academic. I'm just in training.

It has very little to with ideas, it has to do with the agenda.

L-Hack takes the Democratic Party to task for not proposing "new ideas" and being the party of opposition. I'll agree with some of the argument, but it's not as clear-cut as the Republicans would like it to be.

First, on some issues, there is no "idea" besides "leave it alone." How do we deal with "abortion" problem in this country? There is no abortion problem in this country, so leave it alone. How do we deal with the "problem" of Syria and Iran. There is no "problem" with either of them, so leave it alone. Two "problems" that L-Hack proposes, "25+ countries might have nuclear weapons and Europe could be half-Muslim". Short of genocide, you can't really change the European Muslim thing, and as I've said before, it's not a "problem". Leave it alone. Nuclear weapons - that ship set sail in 1944. Once nuclear weapons were invented, you knew everyone was going to get them. Why do Western democracies have a monopoly on enlightenment? Aren't sovereign nations allowed to defend themselves? Again, it's not a "problem", it's just how things are.

The second type of issue, the "problem" which has solutions, is where I sort of agree with L-Hack. Some ideas are lacking from the Democrats, but a lot also has to do with the agenda. I would argue that Social Security is not the number one issue in this country right now, but the President wants to move it to the front of the agenda. While I can agree that there is no clearly articulated solution from the Democrats (there really isn't from Republicans either, because privatization isn't a solution), even if they did articulate a solution, they should oppose any action because this isn't a debate we should be having right now.

Reflexsive opposition is how the minority party changes the agenda to get topics they want to discuss. It's how you force the majority to keep cycling through issues until they come to one with enough interest on both sides of the aisle to build a coalition on something. The problem is, I'm not sure where they want to get to and what they want to do when they get there. There are some things I know what the plan is if they ever come up on the agenda, but you don't hear them articulated as much because they're not on the agenda.

Deficit Reduction - tax increase
Energy Policy - raise CAFE standards

Whether you like it or not, there is a Democratic Social Security plan too. Raise the contribution cap.

Most things in the world boil down to two decisions, carrot or stick; earn more or spend less. If you want deficit reduction - it's that simple - tax more or spend less. If you're worried about Chinese economic growth, provide selective incentives for companies to stay here, or punish them if they leave. If you want people to buy American products, give them an incentive or price everything else out of the market. If you want people to use less oil, prod them into buying more efficient cars or coerse them by making only efficient cars available.

Government ain't rocket science, the problem is, everybody's looking an "idea" where they can be good cop/good cop. Like Social Security - "Look at the personal ownership we're giving you", says the President. What about the debt burden you're laying on top of it? Democrats do the same thing with health insurance. "We'll give you universal coverage," they say. What about the tax hike to pay for it?

Dean offer’s up new ideas.

"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for," former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Okay maybe not so new, look 2 posts down.

With Howard Dean’s ascension to DNC Grand Poobah, the Democrats, once the party of ideas have been fully, if only temporarily, transformed to one of reflexive and strident opposition. What are the needs of the country and where are their constructive proposals to meet them?

For many years Democrats, more than Republicans, pointed to the need to reform Social Security. Save Social Security first, was the war cry when deciding what to do with the late 90’s budget surplus. The program was their baby and a cornerstone of the party's commitment to economic security. Yet, to counter the Bush reform initiative, many senior Democrats have chosen simply to deny the need for change. That is not a viable policy or political position. Democrats are within their rights to challenge the notion of partial privatization but they have an equal obligation to offer an alternative reform plan. Why not seize the opportunity the Bush initiative presents and move public opinion toward a Democratic alternative? I suspect Clinton's emphasis on short-term tactical politics and focus on his own political survival left the party without any coherent intellectual foundation.

What big problems are looming in the near future that neither party is talking about?
A few decades from now, China may have a larger economy than the U.S., 25+ countries might have nuclear weapons and Europe could be half-Muslim. Other countries in Asia are attempting to take the lead in broadband, robotics, and stem cell technologies. What is going to supply the energy as oil dries up in the next 40-50 years?

At least they’ve figured out who they hate.

Back to the Future - A Shaving Story

Shaving is a nightmarish ordeal for me, always has been. First, my ancestry is Italian and Eastern European, and I have thick coarse black hair that grows very quickly and it takes its toll on razor blades. Secondly, I don't exactly have the best skin in the world - when I was a teenager, I had a horrible case of acne, and I'm still prone to the occasional breakdown from time-to-time. My skin is a combination of oily & sensitive, so a razor is just about the worst thing I can inflict on it. My neck is a marble of red and white, and looks like a raw beef roast after I get done with it.

I've tried everything - different creams and gels, pre-treatments, post-treatments, shaving with cold water, shaving in the shower... There are only two things I hadn't tried - froo-froo, expensive skin or beauty aids because I'm not a metrosexual and believe it or not, a different razor.

Yes, for about 15 years I've struggled with this, but I never thought to change my razor. I tried an electric off and on, but never altered the traditional blade razor. Since it's release in 1990, I've used the Gillette Sensor - in fact, I've used the same Gillette Sensor handle the entire time too.

Sick of butchering my face, I thought a change might be necessary. For years I've been reading that these multi-blade razors are even worse for a face like mine, so I really wasn't excited about the prospect of the Mach 7000 or whatever 5+ blade razor is on the market today. In fact, I was thinking about going old school - the straight razor like my grandfather.

Being klutzy and hyperactive, a straight razor seemed like a good way to end up slicing my own throat, so I changed my mind. Plus, they seem like an awful lot of work. I remembered hearing that diuretic pills are still the best way to treat high blood pressure, despite all the fancy new medication on the market, so I figured, can the same hold true for disposable razor blades?

I went out and got me an Atra Plus, a slight modification of the original Gillette Atra released in 1972. I think the Atra Plus with lube strip came out sometime in the mid-80s. I used to use Atra blades to shave my head, because they work in the Headblade head razor. I was always happy about the nice job it did on my scalp - why not my chin?

I've got to tell you, after a couple of days, it feels great. No more swollen neck, no more pain and ordeal. It's not quite as close as I'd like, but I think that may cut down on the incidence of ingrown hair. Who would have thought a return to something out of the days of neon and Miami Vice would have been the way to go?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Why I hate the Christian Right...

Pretty much, it's why I hate the Right in general...

From the Daily Daily Kos:

"Simply put, the Republicans hate you.
...
To the Republican party, you are immoral, you are corrupt, you are evil. To the Republican party, simply by identifying yourself as a Democrat, you are just the latest incarnation of The Enemy. They'll say their enemy is Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Sadr, Khatami, Sistani, terrorism, drugs, immorality. Bullshit. If you want to see the enemy the Republicans most hate and fear, find a mirror. You are The Enemy, because you and you alone have the power to stop them.
...
The Republicans have turned American politics into a war. We didn't ask for it, we did not seek it out. But we must fight it now, because capitulation will essentially usher in the end of America's era of freedom and political pluralism. This requires some new understandings about our relationship. Simply put, there is no profit in cooperating with an adversary that ultimately wants to destroy you. There is no way to satisfactorily pursue bipartisanship when the goal of one party is the absolute suppression of the other.


It's all true.

Christian Revolt

From Dr. Robin Meyers, Senior Minister of the Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City (complements of the Maryland Connection)

"This country is bankrupt. The war is morally bankrupt. The claim of this administration to be Christian is bankrupt. And the only people who can turn things around are people like you -- young people who are just beginning to wake up to what is happening to them.It's your country to take back. It's your faith to take back. It's your future to take back."

Don't be afraid to speak out. Don't back down when your friends begin to tell you that the cause is righteous and that the flag should be wrapped around the cross, while the rest of us keep our mouths shut. Real Christians take chances for peace. So do real Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real Buddhists -- so do all the faith traditions of the world at their heart believe one thing: life is precious. Every human being is precious. Arrogance is the opposite of faith. Greed is the opposite of charity. And believing that one has never made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man of faith."


Read the whole speech here




Remember, Democrats are under siege in the Old Line State - vote NO on Ehrlich (Agnew) in '06.

With all the ads, I had to check this out...

About every two minutes, there's an ad for "Because of Winn-Dixie" on TV.

I knew it was based on a pretty popular kids' book, but there was something that seemed a little odd to me. Then it hit me:

From the Christian Examiner:

"Lasting impact is the blueprint of the Walden Media vision. Formed in 2001, Walden’s foundation is a film production team backed by billionaire entrepreneur Philip Anschutz, whose mantra has been to create family friendly films.
...
To get to that place, Flaherty said he is dependent on the recommendations of teachers and librarians. Many of the films have a message of faith, although it’s not a prerequisite to be a Walden film.
...
Flaherty said that last year’s “The Passion of the Christ,” helped to fuel interest in films that depict faith and present stories of enduring hope.

“I think it was heading in that direction, but that was definitely the lightning bolt,” he said.


There's something about this that seems vaguely hypocritical. If you're going to criticize what you call a subversive use of SpongeBob Square Pants to promote homosexuality, how can you use a kids' movie to subversively promote a Christian message?

Maybe I'm reading too much into this. I haven't read the book and I haven't seen the movie, but what is a film that depicts faith? What does that mean? I really like the television show American Dreams and religion is an important part of the story. I don't think about it being a "depiction of faith", maybe because the family is Northeastern and Catholic like me, where a Southern Baptist might see it in different way.

I'm sure it's a perfectly nice kids movie, and it's probably not a subversive conversion attempt, and if it has a message of faith, that's just fine - but it's also fine that SpongeBob tells people to be tolerant of homosexuals.




Interesting tidbit: this movie also stars Dave Matthews (yes, that Dave Matthews).

I think this about says it all...

Missile shield test fizzles out (but the program still has value)

From MSNBC:

"A test of the national missile defense system failed Monday when an interceptor missile did not launch from its island base in the Pacific Ocean, the military said. It was the second failure in months for the experimental program."


There are a lot of people that attack this program as a waste of money, a boondongle that will never work and useless exercise in the face of a diminished threat.

I am not one of those people.

"You're a liberal, how can justify this waste?", I am asked with shock and awe, "You've drank the Kool-Aid of the Neo-Cons."

First of all, missile defense, as a workable system, is probably never going to work in my lifetime. It's too complicated for us to develop right now - that's why even highly controlled tests fail miserably. Secondly, forget about Seattle, I'd be shocked if North Korea could successfully launch a missile at Seoul. It's value is somewhat limited in the final application.

With that being said, I still support this program, precisely because it is so complex it probably won't work. The scientific knowledge that we'll gain from this kind of project will be immeasurable in value. Look at NASA - going to the Moon has little value, but the science and technology developed out of the effort is what makes so much of lives possible today. Small electronics, computers, safety devices, etc...all a result of NASA effort.

The two best technology drivers in this country are funded by our government - sorry general commercial industry, but you don't hold a candle to the defense industry and universities. Lockheed Martin and the University of California System will do more to advance science and technology with defense contracts and NSF money this year than Ford & GM will do in this entire decade.

If we insist on having a high defense budget, better that it's INVESTED in product development and research than thrown away on consumption spending like paying for overseas bases.

Let's face it - the "market" isn't going to fix oil dependence issues, it's going to create a war for energy between rich and poor, U.S. and China. The path off of oil is going to come from the military, trying to figure out how to move armored divisions without relying so much on oil. Northrup Grumman, on the government's dime, will be asked to figure out how to move armour without oil, or at least get high mileage. The theory will come from a university physics or engineering department, the first practical application will be in defense, and Ford will use the technology in a passenger car.

Most things are like this - small business (or big business for that matter) didn't invent the Internet. Al Gore has a better claim to that because he was a government employee at the time of creation. Private industry didn't invent nuclear energy on their own. Heck, plastics technology advancement had more to do with WWII than the market ever did.

Maybe there's a better way to get more bang for the buck, but with a concern about quarterly profits, I don't expect business to give us much of anything in the way of R & D - the shareholders are too darn fickle. I don't care if missile defense ever works, but as an engine for innovation, it's fine by me. The government should keep on funding programs like this.