Sunday, August 17, 2008

Forbes, Mural, Poverty and 7 Presidential Candidates

August 17, 2008, 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.

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Forbes and Ferentz

Forbes magazine has been ranking colleges and universities -- and their football coaches. Forbes is no friend of the University of Iowa. It ranks the University 331 out of the 569 ranked schools. Hana R. Alberts, Michael Noer and David M. Ewalt, eds., "America's Best Colleges," Forbes, August 13, 2008, 6:00 p.m.

And while "We're Number One!" "We're Number One!" in at least one category, we'll probably want to consider postponing any public celebrations of the honor.

Forbes ran a kind of comparative benefit-cost analysis of what every college football coach is being paid, and what they are producing for the money. The University of Iowa came in number one in the nation for "most overpaid coach."

Peter J. Schwartz, "The Business Of College Football; The Best (And Worst) College Football Coaches For The Buck," Forbes, August 13, 2008, 6:00 p.m. ET ("But the best bargain was Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, who scored a 122. Tressel has led the Buckeyes to the last two national championship games (losing to Florida in 2007 and Louisiana State in 2008) and was paid $2.6 million last season, less than eight of his peers. . . . The most overpaid coach is Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, who made $3.4 million last year despite lackluster results on the field, for a score of 71. Just how lopsided is Ferentz’s deal? During the last three years he’s pocketed $10 million, including a record $4.7 million in 2006, but has led the Hawkeyes to just a 19-18 record.").

If the Press-Citizen's Pat Harty is to be believed, it doesn't look all that much better for the 2008 football season. Pat Harty, "Lack of competition for starting jobs is alarming," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 17, 2008, in this morning's paper as, "Offense Up in the Air; Lack of Desire is Alarming," p. B1.

Of Mural and Money

Fungibles -- whether bushels of graded corn or cars -- have cost, market price, and based on their potential use by the owner, a "value." Lose one, or break one, and you can just buy another. "It's only money."

Irreplaceable natural resources, such as petroleum, are thought to have a "value," and price, that are merely equivalent to the cost of removing and consuming them (plus profits) -- not the millions of years it will take to replace them, or the billions of dollars it will take to find replacements for a fossil-fuel-based economy. It's "use it and lose it."

Paintings, or a multi-generation family Bible, likewise, have a cost (materials and artist's time) and market price. But their "value" is something that exits separate and apart from the economist's realm.

And so it is with the UI's Jackson Pollock painting. See, Nicholas Johnson, "Selling the Pollock" in "Floodplains, Art and Celebrities' Affairs," August 9, 2008, and . . .

Editorial, "True value of Iowa's art? Priceless," Des Moines Register, August 17, 2008 ("'Mural' belongs to the people of Iowa - those alive today and future generations. It's one of Iowa's gems, the same way public land, artifacts, monuments and rare documents are pieces of this state's history. . . . Iowa leaders should recognize the value of these items and places - beyond what they could bring at an auction.").

Pamela White, "What's the value of 'Mural'? Irreplaceable," Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 16, 2008 ("Museums have stringent standards regarding when it is appropriate to sell artwork from their collections. Donors give their art to museums in trust so future generations may enjoy and learn from them, and it is the duty of the museum to honor the donor's intention and to ensure that the art remains in public, not private, hands.").

Performance and Poverty

Richard Doak, who has had a long and distinguished journalistic career, including as an editor and columnist, is in fact one of Iowa's best sources of thoughtfully creative public policy analyzes. This morning he lays out a persuasive case for increasing educational performance by decreasing poverty. Richard Doak, "Best reform in education? End poverty," Des Moines Register, August 17, 2008 ("Poverty in itself does not produce low student achievement, but the conditions of life for children in poverty are not conducive to learning. . . . In the richest country in the world, a certain level of poverty seems to be increasingly intractable, chronically pushing down the average on test scores, among other social pathologies.

Finland, South Korea, Canada, Japan and other countries that outperform the United States in education are not as wealthy as America, but their gaps between rich and poor are not as wide. The wealth they do have is more evenly distributed. So is their student achievement.

We might not want to talk about it, but one of the most serious problems in contemporary America is the deep and widening chasm between rich and poor. There is a segment of the population . . . who are at risk of becoming members of a permanent underclass . . . in which poor and undereducated parents beget poor and undereducated children. . . .

[P]oliticians find it convenient to blame the schools, bash teachers and demand non-solutions such as vouchers. The political right chants a mantra that is uttered like one word: thefailingpublicschools.

Wrong. It is not the public schools that are failing. It is the larger American culture and economy.").

Look Who's Running for President

Jason Clayworth, "Seven presidential candidates on ballot," Des Moines Register, August 16, 2008,

"Iowans will have seven presidential candidates to choose from when they go to the polls in November," and here they are:

"PRESIDENT: (In addition to Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama) Bob Barr, Wayne A. Root for the Libertarian Party; James Harris, Alyson Kennedy for the Socialist Workers Party; Gloria La Riva, Robert Moses for the Socialism and Liberation Party; Cynthia McKinney, Wendy Barth for the Green Party; Ralph Nader, Matt Gonzalez for the Peace and Freedom Party."

. . . Knock, knock. Who's there? Shmoo. Shmoo who?

A high school friend who has been staying at our home just gave me what I guess is what we used to call a "house gift." It's called a "shmoo" (spelled by some as "schmoo").

In case shmoon (the plural) are unfamiliar to you, permit me to quote a line from the Wikipedia lengthy entry: "A shmoo (plural shmoon, also shmoos) is a fictional cartoon creature. It first appeared in Al Capp's newspaper comic strip Li'l Abner, on August 31, 1948."

In short, the Shmoo is coming up on his or her 60th birthday.

The only reason I mention this gift at all, thereby risking your judgment that I have finally totally fallen off the ledge, is because the donor is curious to know how many of you out there have any memory of these creatures -- or in fact actually have one of your own. I think it is social science research of some kind. Feel free to attach your comments to this blog entry and I'll pass them along to him.

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