Saturday, August 27, 2005

Where do the Children Left Behind end up? The Hawaii State Legislature.

I'm not sure one can correctly characterize the Hawaii state cap on wholesale gas prices as "their most recent idiocy" because they actually did it awhile back, but it is now taking effect. Malia Zimmerman, President of Hawaii Reporter, Inc., has the story in OpinionJournal :
Made up primarily of liberal Democrats with no economics training, no business background, an open disdain for the free market, and a lust for price caps (except on state taxes), lawmakers say they have to "do something" about the high price of gasoline.
Yep: drive it up higher, and if possible just plain make it unavailable. The Hawaii legislative types are just that: a type.
Despite extensive studies pointing out why caps wouldn't lower prices, the bill was enthusiastically signed into law in 2002 by then-Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, a Democrat who focused much of his energy on bad-mouthing Chevron and the business climate during his 28 years in government. Gov. Cayetano worked years to earn Hawaii the distinction of being the most costly, the most business-unfriendly, and the most taxed state in the union.
Zimmerman's conclusion: "Living in Hawaii often feels like being part of a bad social experiment."

I have an exceedingly low opinion of the federalization of education, but for generations the ppl of Hawaii have been electing what may be the most economicly ignorant legislature in America. Will No Child Left Behind help correct that....or will NCLB spread Hawaii-type legislators across America?

Thanks to GS for the tip.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"We would have loved to have a quorum today"

I'll bet.

The Milwaukee Public Museum continues to make negative news. Dave Umhoefer has the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The promised release this week of a long-overdue internal Milwaukee Public Museum audit - expected to show a much larger 2004 deficit than previously disclosed - was delayed Thursday as transition problems dogged the institution.

An audit committee of the museum board failed to get a quorum, and a top official balked at signing off on the audit amid concern about taking responsibility for the acts of previous administrators.
So, it may be a $5.4 million drop in assets instead of a $2 million drop, but a couple of the Audit & Finance Committee members had other commitments, so we still don't know.

This does not sound like a routine meeting for Audit & Finance Committee members to skip. They undoubtedly had good reasons, but I continue unimpressed with the Board. Should the Milwaukee Public Museum find Board members who are committed to having fewer commitments?

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The Great Satan of The Bell Curve takes on the...

...Larry Summers Affair at Harvard. Charles Murray shares his opinions on it all, in Commentary magazine.
Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong....

Much technical literature documents the hormonal basis of personality differences that bear on sex differences in extreme and venturesome effort, and hence in extremes of accomplishment—and that bear as well on the male propensity to produce an overwhelming proportion of the world’s crime and approximately 100 percent of its wars. But this is just one more of the ways in which science is demonstrating that men and women are really and truly different, a fact so obvious that only intellectuals could ever have thought otherwise.
I am not competent to have an opinion on most of his assertions, but this one seems reasonable enuf: Talk.
What good can come of raising this divisive topic? The honest answer is that no one knows for sure. What we do know is that the taboo has crippled our ability to explore almost any topic that involves the different ways in which groups of people respond to the world around them—which means almost every political, social, or economic topic of any complexity.

Thus my modest recommendation, requiring no change in laws or regulations, just a little more gumption. Let us start talking about group differences openly—all sorts of group differences, from the visuospatial skills of men and women to the vivaciousness of Italians and Scots. Let us talk about the nature of the manly versus the womanly virtues. About differences between Russians and Chinese that might affect their adoption of capitalism. About differences between Arabs and Europeans that might affect the assimilation of Arab immigrants into European democracies. About differences between the poor and non-poor that could inform policy for reducing poverty.

Even to begin listing the topics that could be enriched by an inquiry into the nature of group differences is to reveal how stifled today’s conversation is. Besides liberating that conversation, an open and undefensive discussion would puncture the irrational fear of the male-female and black-white differences I have surveyed here. We would be free to talk about other sexual and racial differences as well, many of which favor women and blacks, and none of which is large enough to frighten anyone who looks at them dispassionately.
Warning: this is a long essay, altho over half consists of notes and bibliography.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The New York Times put a curious spin on what looks like a positive story

Colonel Thomas Spoehr is the director of materiel for the Army staff, and he has quite a different take from New York Times reporter Michael Moss on procuring new body armor for the troops in Iraq.

Jack Kelly reports in Jewish World Review.

Given the differences, how does a reasonably informed reader decide which version is more accurate? On any issue, not just this one.

Gas Prices Adjusted for Inflation 1979-2005

This guy has had way too much time on his hands, but he made an interesting chart of prices he paid for gas over the last 26 years.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the lead.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

You could put a lot of winos at a bar...

I'm at a loss for words

Animal rightist Johnny, however, was not:
"This is the most fantastic day of my life.

"It's a victory for the animals and it's a fundamental victory for the animal rights movement. I feel so unbelievably proud to be part of the movement."
Public flogging is too good for these ppl.

The Telegraph has the story: Click here: Telegraph News Grave robbers force farm to stop breeding guinea pigs

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Saparmurat Niyazov sounds like a guy...

...Saddam Hussein could admire. UPI has the story :
Niyazov, (Turkmenistan's) president for life, banned gold tooth caps, long hair and beards on young men.

He has also banned car radios, closed all hospitals except those in the capital and renamed calendar months after his relatives.
He also has banned recorded music.

BBC has a slightly different take on naming the months, but adds this:
Mr Niyazov already has several schools, cities, airports and even a meteorite named after him.
Thanks to the Volokh Conspiracy for the tip.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Unique or merely significant?

"In the long run, we suspect tourists are more likely to plan a visit to see something unique rather than something that is significant, but that can be seen in greater quantities elsewhere." Charity Governance.

Which would you more likely travel to see?

Charity Governance has some comments on the proposed gift of $25 million worth of Rodin sculptures to the North Carolina Museum of Art (It appears that the gift to NC would cost another $115 million or so), then segues briefly into the finances of the Milwaukee Public Museum.

The writer for Charity Governance seems to think that raising taxes for culture is an economic benefit, an idea I find highly questionable. I think free money is a bad idea: it permits disfunctional behavior to continue without cost to the recipient. Welfare for the culturati is bad for those very culturati. They just don't understand that. Raising taxes is also a bad idea in itself: it discourages businesses from locating or expanding there. Discouraging business is hardly a tool for economic development.

The Milwaukee Public Museum has quite a few unusual collections which it could highlight in exhibits, and those collections could be all the better if they made commitments to those collections, hired interested and qualified curators to build those collections (and allowed them to do so- no, make that "required" them to do so- rather than the current "make it damn near impossible to do so"), and marketed the results both within the area and to the seriously interested public around the country- or even the world.

Reaching the seriously interested would result in trivial additional visitors, but after the interested realized that the museum has a track record of interest, it would be far easier to get donations of money and objects from those very people who have much of the best stuff in their own collections.

How often do serious collectors give their favorite material to institutions with a demonstrated lack of interest? The shame is that it does happen from time to time. Perhaps more accurately, collectors give to museums which briefly profess interest, then a curator leaves and the institutional lack of commitment emerges as the dominant force. Over the years collectors realize that, and refuse to support the institution. That happens all the time with museums with a poor mission focus.

I don't know what the Milwaukee Public Museum should focus on, and it isn't my responsibility to decide. They have plenty of interesting collections to choose from, tho: antique typewriters and business machines, guns- with considerable strengths in ignition systems and 19th century American military firearms, glass- especially Victorian glass, waterfowl decoys, clocks, posters, Northwest Coast Indian material including the third biggest collection of NW Coast masks in the US, postage stamps of the world, costumes (clothes). The Milwaukee Public Museum has all sorts of interesting things which it demonstrates a long term lack of interest in.

I don't believe that any serious collector who knows the situation would consider giving them anything significant. If there is one I'd love to hear from him or her about why they would do so. The museum does little with what it has. Why give them more to ignore?

Back to that opening statement from Charity Governance: I think one must distinguish between the local/regional market and the long distance traveler who is deciding where to go to see collections. The latter is a very small group. Most of the locals may be too uninterested to know or care that a collection is lousy: look at the pleasure people show in the gun room at House on the Rock . Last time I was there (only time, for that matter) I guessed that 99+% of the "antique" guns were very low quality modern reproductions. So far as I could tell, I was the only one there who knew that, much less cared.

Their market was happy with stuff I think wasn't real much less good. Maybe they thought the "antique" guns were "unique" rather than significant. ("Unusual" may be a better term here than "unique", tho.) One might make similar comments about nearly everything at House on the Rock: everything is unusual, but little is good or significant. Result: The place packs them in, half a million of them a year at $15 a head. The Milwaukee Public Museum may be very lucky that House on the Rock isn't across the street.

Why is it so difficult for a museum with resources like those of MPM to focus itself and market itself? Why can't it make a commitment to being excellent at something? Why does it waste interesting collections? Why does it waste good curators?

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Grant McCracken on messy homeyness.

Virginia Postrel posts on McCracken's book "Culture and Consumption II". I guess my general style is homey.

"Since when do we feel badly about the...

...fall of monarchs?" Rich Lowry asks in National Review. He is not in favor of the Akaka Bill, which would accord sovereignty to people of native Hawaiian descent.