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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Artist Don Gummer, Indiana native, subject of show in Massachusetts

Sculptor Don Gummer grew up in Indiana. He attended the John Herron School of Art Indianapolis.

ArtDaily.com has reported that the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams is sponsoring the exhibit.
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Massachusetts presents the exhibit Don Gummer Early Work throughout this summer. Don Gummer's monumental work, Primary Separation, stands outside the T. William Lewis Building on Marshall St. The work was first designed by Gummer in 1969, and has existed up to now only in maquette form: this is its first full-scale realization. In conjunction with the installation of this massive suspended granite boulder, MASS MoCA is featuring an exhibition of Gummer's early maquettes and drawings projects.

Don Gummer is an American sculptor. His early work concentrated on table top and wall-mounted sculpture, but in the mid 1980s he shifted his interest to large free-standing works, often in bronze. In the 1990s he added a variety of other materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum and stained glass. His interest in large outdoor works also led him to an interest in public art
Mr. Gummer's wife is also someone of some note in the performing arts. He is married to Meryl Streep.

Monday, July 17, 2006

If not Mellencamp, then Black Potatoe

Dan Quayle walked out of a John Mellencamp concert this weekend which was being held as part of the American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament in Stateline, Nevada.

The former Vice President might be interested to know that there was another musical event held in New Jersey this weekend that has some tie-in to him.

That is the Black Potatoe Music Festival which ran from last Thursday through Sunday. The Festival is now in its 10th year and is organized by the founders of the Black Potatoe music label.

How did it get its name?

Here is the explanation from Jim Beckerman at NorthJersey.com:
The Black Potatoe Music Festival in Clinton is a four-day celebration of roots music, named in honor of a root vegetable.

So far, so logical -- but what's with the extra "e" in potato?

[ ... ]

"We added the extra 'e' after Dan Quayle," says Black Potatoe founder Matt Angus, referring to the notorious incident in which the former vice president showed a classroom full of grade-schoolers how to spell America's favorite side dish.

"We said if Dan Quayle could be vice president of the United States, we could run a [festival]," Angus says.

But it's the music-industry bigwigs who really get his blood boiling -- the "pay-to-play" promoters who tell bands they need to sell 100 tickets to friends before they'll be allowed to open for a national act, or the festivals that aren't interested in musicians, however brilliant, unless they're signed to major labels.

That was the reason Angus, himself a musician, created the Black Potatoe Festival 10 years ago, as an offshoot of his Black Potatoe record label.

Editor's note: Know that Indiana Parley believes Mr. Quayle was unfairly maligned due to a misspelling on a card handed to him at a student spelling bee. His verbal miscue was not unlike that of other tired candidates. The difference is that then mainstream press gave it a disproportional amount of coverage compared to the coverage given the verbal missteps of other candidates.

Indy-based Angie's List in the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal's Steve Stecklow wrote an article published July 15 about one-line referrals for handyman services.

He mentioned Indianapolis-based Angie's List as one of the providers. Bill Oesterle, Mitch Daniels' campaign chairman, is chief executive of Angie's List.

Mr. Stecklow noted three notable online contractor referrals:
Finding a reliable home contractor has always been a dicey proposition. Horror stories of botched jobs and endless delays abound -- and they have fed a dramatic expansion of Web sites that promise to match customers with professionals recommended by ex-clients.

Angie's List, which began in 1995 with a single call center in Columbus, Ohio, now has e425,000 paying members, up from 250,000 six months ago. By early August, the site will list contractors in 60 U.S. cities, up from 27 at the end of last year. At ServiceMagic.com, visits now approach 2.5 million a month, 20% more than a year ago. Several other contractor-referral sites, including GetVendors.com, serve smaller geographical areas.

Mr. Stecklow then test-drove ServiceMagic.com. He hired a contractor based on the ratings on ServiceMagic.com to install two storm doors. He wasn't particularly pleased with the result. He's now hoping to get the job done through a contractor recommended by Angie's List. However, he's not so sure the pre-internet way of getting contractor referrals might not be best.
So this is where I stand. I now have two new storm doors, one upside-down in the front of my house, the other in the basement. I'm out $130 (although Ms. Taylor says another check from the contractor is in the mail). And, after more than a month, I'm back to the beginning -- I still need a contractor. I tried Angie's list on Monday, but the site was down. A spokesman says, "That's not typical." I'm now considering the prehistoric solution: asking my neighbors for recommendations.

Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising. The other day, I came across a message from a contractor in an online discussion group, alt.building.construction. He said he had tried several referral sites to get jobs with little success. "If you think about it, what kind of person looks for a contractor on the Internet?" he wrote. "Not the brightest bulb on the tree, that's for sure."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Specialized license plates aren't so special

Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star wrote about Indiana specialized motor vehicle license plates in a story published in the Monday, July 10th issue.

She wrote about various groups which have petitioned the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for approval of new plates but which have been turned down. Some of those groups are not pleased. As for the number of such license plates issued each year, Ms. Schneider wrote:
About 4.7 million standard license plates for cars and trucks were issued in Indiana last year. Only about 313,000 were specialty plates. But the plates can be an important source of money for the groups that get the state designation, raising thousands of dollars and in a few cases more than $1 million.

There are two ways to get the plates: through the legislature and by directly appealing to the bureau and the governor. Plates have a fee of up to $25, plus a $15 fee that is divided between the BMV and a state highway fund.
The weblog Taking Down Words noted the story in a post earlier today. I would like to add a few reflections on this topic.

The advent of the specialized license plate can really be traced back to the early 1980's. Prior to that, the Indiana State Police command was vigorous in advising the Indiana General Assembly to not establish a specialized plate program. After all, license plates are used to identify motor vehicles. A multiplicity of designs and numbering schemes makes it difficult to report the plate number on a vehicle that has been involved in a traffic violation or been used in the commission of a crime.

This was also the position of Governor Otis Bowen's administration. Governor Bowen was mindful of the public safety arguments advanced by the ISP. However, he was also mindful of how specialized plates would affect the Indiana legislature.

Governor Bowen had served as House Speaker from 1966 until his election as Governor in 1972 and was familiar with the pleas of legislators to allow legislation to create specialized plates. Doc Bowen was consistent in heading off those attempts as a distraction from dealing with the substantive problems of Indiana which were before the legislature.

Legislators could easily satisfy a constituent by sponsoring a specialized license plate bill. It was that rare sort of legislation. It didn't offend anyone (usually) and, since it was self-financed, didn't cost any tax money.

Governor Bowen knew that the first specialized plate would beget more specialized plate requests. Legislators who sponsored the first plates insisted that wouldn't be the case; but that "approval was important for ____________(insert name of special interest here). We won't approve any additional ones." Well, of course, the floodgates opened once the first ones were approved. In recent years, the number of requests got so numerous the legislature created an application and approval process which was centered in the BMV.

Even legislators realized the flood of requests was too much. The original idea that specialized plates were a way to satisfy constituents without giving offense gave way to the realization that the monster which had been created could never be sated. As the General Assembly began saying no to some groups, legislators found out that the specialized license plate effort could, indeed, make people mad.

The whole specialized license plate debate is a distraction and not a core function of government.

Governor Bowen had the right idea about the whole thing.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dan Quayle cited in story on buy-out firms

Former Vice-President Dan Quayle is Global Chairman of Cerberus Capital Management LP.

The Wall Street Journal has taken note of the dozen former high ranking governmental officials who have taken positions with a variety of buy-out firms. Former Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle is the most recent to join up. The article also cited Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and the Carlyle Group's history of hiring former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of State James Baker and former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci.

About Mr. Quayle, the Wall Street Journal's Tennille Tracy wrote:

Because former politicians hold so much influence within the Washington Beltway, it seems logical that private-equity firms also want them to act as de facto lobbyists on regulatory matters. Such a move would make sense because buyout firms, while holding increasingly high profiles, still lack a trade organization to represent them in government affairs. Venture-capital firms, on the other hand, have the Arlington, Va., National Venture Capital Association to speak on their behalf.

Most private-equity firms deny any suggestion that their politicians-turned-financiers serve in that capacity.

"The notion or suspicion that they are lobbying on behalf of their firms is completely false," Mr. Ullman said. "It's just not necessary, and they have reputations they want to uphold as well."

Despite such protestations, it's probably safe to assume that these hires engage in some activities that could be construed as lobbying. Former Vice President Dan Quayle, for example, now chairman of Cerberus Capital Management LP's advisory board, said on his official Web site that he meets regularly with "American politicians and regulators with respect to issues affecting Cerberus' investments." Neither Mr. Quayle nor his spokesman responded to requests for comment about these activities.

Regardless of whether they sign up former politicians, hire formal lobbyists or form a trade organization, private-equity firms have plenty of reasons to be involved in Washington's affairs these days. The Securities and Exchange Commission's attempts to regulate hedge funds are continuing. Also, Congress could always consider legislation concerning capital-gains taxes or Sarbanes-Oxley requirements that might affect their operations.

WSJ on the possible power shift in Statehouses

Reporter Chris Cooper, writing in today's Wall Street Journal, reported:
With several statehouses controlled by razor-thin edges, the potential for
swings in power may be greater at the state level than in Congress, where
the struggle for control gets more attention.

[ ... ]

Democrats appear to be in the better position [to gain legislative seats
nationwide]. With modest gains in a handful of states, they could take a
majority of legislative chambers. Republicans have prevailed since 2002,
when they won a slim majority for the first time since 1952.

Republicans control both houses in 20 state capitals, compared with 19 for
the Democrats. Nebraska's one-house legislature is nominally nonpartisan,
but dominated by Republicans. The two parties split chambers in 10
The Indiana House of Representatives is not specifically mentioned in the story. However, Democrats are hoping to eke out a majority. Indiana Republicans are beginning to feel more confident in holding their majority in the wake of the announcement that Honda has chosed Indiana as the site for a new assembly plant.

It may be that voter concerns over the Toll Road lease will cool by November as the lease has been okayed by the Supreme Court, the lease has been executed, and money from the lease begins to be allocated toward long-delayed transportation projects.