Sunday, July 31, 2011

Climate change disasters

What is so scary about the freaky weather these days is how much damage is done in so short a time.  For example, last fall here in Minnesota, everything was setting up for a glorious harvest.  The corn was strong and mature and set to produce a record yield.  It was just drying out for the harvest when BOOM, a rainfall that broke records for one night sent the Minnesota River to above spring run-off flooding levels.  So the damaging storms associated with climate change may not always be a slow thing like a record drought but more often disasters that seemingly come out of nowhere and radically change things in a few hours.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Smiles of a Summer Night

On the fourth anniversary of the death of Ingmar Bergman

In the fall of 1967, I had just turned 18 and was a freshman at the University of Minnesota. This was a land-grant school with 45,000 students. I had lived virtually all of my childhood in villages smaller than 2000 people. I was nearly in a state of shock.  Literally.

It wasn’t merely the size. I was choirboy from a devout Lutheran parsonage. The only organization I joined that made complete sense to me was the university’s chorus. I knew nothing about popular culture--our family didn’t have television until I was a high school sophomore, we were not allowed to go to movies, and rock and roll music had never been played in the house.

The local campus movie house was showing the films that they thought all good folks should see. They were the works of the heavy hitters--François Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, and Ingmar Bergman. One night, a group from my dorm decided to attend a showing of Sjunde inseglet, Det (The Seventh Seal). I wasn’t so certain I should start going to movies until someone reassured me that Bergman was also a Lutheran preacher’s kid. So off I went.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Monetary theory in times of crises

There is a good reason why the subject of monetary theory attracts a lot of crackpots--the subject itself will drive anyone crazy.  Examples.

Money has traditionally been made out of something which satisfied the needs of most people to feel and touch something before they believe it exists.  These days, virtually all money is electronic information--how far am I from my credit card limit, etc.  Money isn't something found in Fort Knox.  Money is instructions to a memory unit somewhere.  When people discover this it usually makes them very angry.  This anger takes many forms but it usually sounds like "You mean I am supposed to shut down my government services (Greece, Spain, etc.) and sell my children into perpetual poverty (Ireland, etc) because some computer chip flipped out?"

The other big reason folks become enraged over the subject of money is the practice of fractional banking.  When someone goes for a loan, a moneylender is allowed to loan out multiples of his capitalized base.  What this means in practice is that the money a borrower must work to pay back--for 30 YEARS if a home mortgage--is created by a few keystrokes.  A banker spends a few minutes and a few cents worth of electricity to "create" the value you spend a significant fraction of your working life to create.

No wonder bankers can pay themselves billion dollar bonuses while the rest of us struggle to pay the rent.  No wonder banks own all the big buildings in town.  No wonder they think those of us who labor to keep the machinery of life running are not very smart and that they are true lords of the universe.  If you can pull off a scam like fractional banking and make the results stick, you probably ARE smarter than the fools who let you get away with it.

Anyway, my take on money was gathered from at least thirty years of listening to the various debates with a microfine bullshit detector in place at all times.  The debates about money pretty much defined political debate since before USA was USA.  The history of the debate alone just blows me away.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Building a solar economy

At a time when the bankster agenda of austerity combined with political corruption seems to dominate, discussions of what the real economy actually needs seem so idealistic.  Yet the "dreamers" here are actually the ones with the practical agenda and are dealing with practical problems.

Starting with costs.  For some reason, the technologically illiterates never stop trying to tell us that a switch renewable energy will be cheap and easy.  Well, no.  It will be very difficult and expensive and anyone who claims otherwise is blowing smoke.  In fact, the only reason why anyone should even contemplate a conversion to solar is that really, There Is No Alternative (TINA).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Real economics and the debt ceiling debate

Those of us who worry about the real economy are reduced to angry sputtering over the latest irrelevant "economic" debate that has gripped Washington and the corporate media.  Why?  Because if there was ever a perfect example of the Predator Classes run amok, this kabuki theater over the almost irrelevant technicality that is the debt ceiling is it.

Since the banksters who control virtually the entire agenda want the debt ceiling raised, the breathless "will they or won't they" coverage of this non-event is especially ludicrous.  The downside of not raising the ceiling is the destruction most everything they hold dear.  This does not mean, however, that the austerity ghouls won't attempt to extract the maximum concessions from a public terrified of another set of economic calamities brought to us by the economic terrorists who tell us they must be accommodated or they will blow up the global economy.

In real economic terms, the banksters are demonstrating once again that while they have the ability to wreck things, they have no power to make things better.  For example, the ability to actually address the problems caused by Peak Oil will be sharply diminished if the country caves to the austerity ghouls but raising the debt ceiling will not build a necessary new infrastructure that allows us to import less oil. As the old Populist saying went, "Any jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a carpenter to build one."

But since some of my readers have asked me to explain the debt ceiling debate, I am delighted I found an interview of Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism that does a pretty good job of it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

While watching Letterman last night

David Letterman has matured in his outlook over the years.  Oh, he can still do his grinning-fratboy-let's-throw-watermelons-off-the-roof act to perfection.  But since he became a father, he has shown moments of genuine wisdom and insight.

Last night, he had on Brian Williams of NBC News--one of those overpaid ignoramuses with network hair who are are hired to keep folks from ever asking a meaningful question.  I had actually seen him (heard mostly, I was making dinner) earlier that evening and had complained aloud that he gave roughly four times as much airtime to the death of Amy Winehouse (she of TWO albums) than to the coverage of the events in Norway.  I am sure that Norway is so happy to learn that on USA teevee, a minor musical act rates 4 times the coverage of the death of 70 of her most accomplished young people.  So when Williams shows up, I actually switch channels rather than have him annoy me again (it's why god invented the clicker, after all).

About 20 minutes later, I channel-surf by CBS and I catch Letterman asking Williams regarding the heat wave on the east coast, "It's 108 today in New Jersey.  What happens in five years when that temperature is 140?"  Rather than answer the question, Williams actually had the nerve to patronize him, "Now I know this is a big issue with you Dave, but..."  Like climate change is not THE universal issue.

Letterman asked a few more questions and made some pithy remarks before he abandoned any hope that Williams was going to answer them.  Dave's been on the teevee a long time--he knows that the lead spokesliar for NBC is under orders to maintain the fiction that there is still some debate over the existence of climate change.  But Letterman seemed to want to make it clear that he was on the record on climate change and Williams was weaseling out.

Doing it all wrong

President Obama went on television last night to outline his plan to hand whatever is left of the real economy to the banksters.  Obama is what economist Michael Hudson calls a Wall Street Democrat, or what we used to call a Republican.

Here Hudson explains things on YouTube in a piece called "Save the Gambling Bankers".  The transcript can be found here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Conspicuous waste

One of Thorstein Veblen's most famous insights was that waste on display makes you respectable.  The amazing thing is that he had this insight in time to get it printed in 1899.  One can only imagine what he would make of a society that broadcasts its conspicuous waste on television.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Energy and economics

Since 1970 when my most profound discovery from my first trip to Europe concerned the enormous impact fuel prices had on economic development, I have been dismayed at the trivialization of energy issues in economic discussions.  In USA, energy costs are not even counted in the major inflation indicators like CPI and anyone who brings up energy imports when the subject is the trade balance is treated like someone who cuts a loud smelly one at a fancy party.

Once ones eyes are opened to the energy questions, so much else becomes abundantly clear.  And economic forecasting becomes orders of magnitude easier to to do accurately.  I follow a lot of economic indicators but none is more accurate than the price of gasoline at the local filling station.

When I found this article the other day, I first dismissed it as a low-grade joke.  Did it REALLY require an economics history professor from Cambridge to tell us that the Industrial Revolution was really about lighting more fires in more clever ways?  Well Duh!  But then I remembered there was a time when I just thought of coal as a dirty rock and gasoline as a smelly liquid you didn't want to get on your clothes.  It turns out that if you don't have your arms around energy issues, essays like the following are required reading.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Norway's pain

It is almost impossible to grasp the shock the Norwegians are feeling today.  A country with a tiny population of less than five million people just lost at least 80 of its precious children.  They were participating in a summer camp organized by the Labor Party on an island near Oslo that had been purchased (in the 1950s when Norway was struggling to recover from the trauma of WW II) for the purpose of enriching the lives of Norway's poor.  In these days of ultra-rich Norway, it is sometimes easy to forget that for most of its history, MOST of its citizens were mired in grinding, subsistence-level poverty.  There has been so much poverty in Norway over the years that poverty has been the norm and it is the rich who are looked upon with great suspicion.  And so the Labor Party organized these facilities so that even poor children could have a summer-camp experience and THIS is where the massacre took place.

And if the accounts are to be believed, the gunman wasn't sharing in much of Norway's new-found prosperity.  He was 32 years old and still living with his mother.  He had tried to make a living farming--the last attempt at getting an income stream a poor Scandinavian will try--and failed at that.  And so he lashed out at a Labor Party that once would have been concerned about his needs but has, like most former leftist parties in Europe, become infatuated instead with the nasty combination of right-wing neoliberal economics and political correctness.

In the days ahead, we will probably read a lot about how a lone misfit with a bunch of psychological problems became a mass murderer.  What we probably won't read much about is how neoliberalism creates so many "losers" that even in arguably the most prosperous country on earth, a serious young man cannot figure out a way to have a normal life and steams away in anger until he explodes in madness.

So to all my grieving Norskie friends--I am sorry for your loss.  It must be so very painful.


I DID find this comment at The Local.  So there ARE folks--at least in Scandinavia, who seem to understand some of the issues involved here.
Does this man look like a neo-nazi or a skinhead to you people? No, he is a more dangerous and deadly kind. The kind that knows how to think and where to hurt. The kind that never bluff and never walk around and do anything stupid. The kind that been ignored, ridiculed and marginalized by the liberal media and the liberal ruling elites around Europe. It is time now for the European Governments to pay attention to how their people feel, pay attention to their people's grievances, and put an end to this madness, otherwise, this kind of tragedy will not end here. This is the wake up call for all people of Europe, a new dawn of Europe, because this man is an evil to many of us, but today he is an hero to some, and that is a scary thought!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The evil caused by bad ideas

The University of Chicago is a scary place.  An island of prosperity surround by a large moat of urban wasteland, it is appropriately paranoid about the world that surrounds it.  It's architecture with recurring details of narrow windows and crenellated walls reinforces the impression of being under attack.  Of course, it's really not paranoia if folks are out to get you and because of the track record of Chicago economists and their prescriptions that usually produce economic misery, this school has become arguably the most hated institution on planet earth.

Because Chicago is a private school that was originally funded by that vicious robber baron John D. Rockefeller, its reputation as the global center of crackpot right-wing economics was probably inevitable as the foundation stones were laid in 1892.  The guy who ordered the Ludlow Massacre would have been prouder-than-heck at the Chicago graduates who were such a major part of the military dictatorship of Chilean Augusto Pinochet.  These extreme right-wing economists even called themselves the Chicago Boys.  John D. invested well.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Watching empires collapse

Considering that I am old enough to have seen the Fall of Saigon and the collapse of the Soviet Union, I really should not be surprised to see a tinhorn dictator like Rupert Murdoch crash and burn as has happened recently in UK.  The bad guys always look invincible until suddenly, they are not.

Here RJ Eskow looks at the world's ultimate bad guys--the banksters--and speculates on whether their evil empires may also be in trouble.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Michael Hudson on Wall Street’s Euthanasia of Industry

This may be VERY long, but it is one of the most important explanations of the destructive course being followed by all parties in the budget debate charade: Obama, Democrats, Republicans. Every citizen of our republic should read this. Wall Street’s Euthanasia of Industry, by Michael Hudson.

Here are a few highlights from the interview of Hudson:

Arguing with arithmetic

Debts that cannot be repaid, will not be repaid.  But that sure as hell won't keep the creditor class from trying to collect.

The problem of creating prosperity with lending is that at some time, the lenders are going to try to get "their" money back.  The fact that the vast majority of the money lent was created out of thin air through the practices of fractional banking, or that much of the money was lent for useless, if not downright evil, purposes is conveniently forgotten when the enforcers are sent out to collect--or break some legs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting serious about solar

One of the ideas that always amused me was hippie belief that power companies didn't like solar because there was "no way to meter the sun."  I have even heard that nonsense from highly educated people.

Of course, by the time solar energy has been captured and transformed into the electrical current that can run your computer or television set, it is just as easy to meter as any electricity created by burning coal or using nuclear fission.  What the power companies really disliked about solar was its unreliability.  And that's what their customers weren't going to like about it either.

Without some major technological breakthroughs in energy storage, solar is going to be very unreliable indeed.  Powering one's life with solar without storage will be, at best, akin to sailing--which is a highly enjoyable sport but not something anyone does for a living anymore.  Just remember, when steam power came to sea transportation, the sailing fleets that were displaced included the clippers--the most magnificent sailing vessels ever built.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The war over the debt ceiling

The debt ceiling debate is simultaneously the most important and most absurd debate in memory.  On one hand, it is preposterous that a large and still important country should grind to a halt over what is a technicality that has passed through Congress virtually every session in my memory.  I particularly remember a ninth-grade social studies class where my teacher was explaining an article listing the accomplishments of the Senate, snorting "That's not much of an accomplishment!" when the list mentioned raising the debt limit.

Unfortunately, debt and the debates that surround it are anything BUT a mere technicality.  You don't have to be a right-wing Republican to hate debt.  The enslavement of being in debt even has the name "debt peonage" which when taken far enough, is as bad or worse than human slavery has ever been.  And countries can just as easily be as beholden to creditors as individuals.  Watching creditors trash the democracies of Greece or Ireland (or etc.) this spring has been particularly instructive of how little power sovereign governments have in the face of the demands of the bond-holding classes.

When an individual needs more money than he has at the moment, he can increase his income by taking on extra work or he can borrow.  Governments also have these two options but they also have another--they can create more money.  It is this third option that has caused so much debate over the years with monetary policy becoming the PRIME economic issue between the Producers and Predators.

If you are for private creditor-dominated "independent" central banks like the Federal Reserve, or the gold standard and high interest rates--you are most certainly a Predator!

If you are for democratic controls over money creation, paper money, and low interest rates--you are probably a Producer.  In Friday's post I included some of the best thinking on monetary policy from the Producer perspective.  I found especially interesting that Peter Cooper--perhaps USA's most important inventor when it came to steam power--was so passionate about the money issue he ran for President representing the Greenback Party (a Producer-Class organization if ever there was one.)
Peter Cooper (1791-1883) was one of America’s leading inventors and businessmen. He designed and built the first US locomotive in 1830, the “Tom Thumb.” Cooper was the first to introduce anthracite coal into iron production in 1845, resulting in the US’ first wrought iron beams for construction. In 1854, Cooper was a founder in the telegraph company that created the first trans-Atlantic cable. Peter Cooper was the Greenback Party candidate for President in 1876. 
At the core of the Producer argument is that the value of money is mostly tied to the economic value of whatever the Producer Classes are doing--money has value because of intelligent and hard work!  Therefore, we can increase our money supply as much as we are able to work hard and smart.

Instead of arguing that money is validated by Producer Energy, the few critics of the Federal Reserve these days, like Ron Paul, argue that modern economic problems all began when we went off the Gold Standard.  The big sin, according to Paul, is that now money is backed by "nothing."  He actually believes this shit and asks us to forget the economic devastation caused by folks who believe that money becomes valuable, not when it is backed by Producer Energy, but by being able to exchange it on demand with a soft and nearly worthless metal.  Going back on the Gold Standard is literally the only economic prescription guaranteed to make things worse than they already are.  It is NO surprise that Gold Bugs finance extreme right-wing lunatics like Glenn Beck.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Monetary Policy and the Problem of Oligarchy

During negotiations over the federal government's debt limit this past week, President Obama appears to have achieved a major tactical victory over the Republican ideologues. I use the term "tactical" because in my view, the fundamental economic problem confronting the country remains not only unsolved, but entirely unheeded: after a half century of "neo-liberal" economic reforms, a.k.a., conservative economic deregulation, the economy is now structurally skewed to benefit a new financial and corporatist oligarchy, at the expense of everyone else. What I have striven to do, in posts such as Wealth and Income Inequalities are Markers of Oligarchy, is to force the concept of oligarchy back into the national discourse. I cannot claim this as my idea: Simon Johnson's May 2009 article The Quiet Coup was a notable effort at forcing us to face up to the unpleasant fact of a new American oligarchy, and Michael Hudson has been ferocious in a number of recent posts: How Financial Oligarchy Replaces Democracy.

Bad alternative energy ideas

Hands down, the biggest problem we as people face when considering how to build a sustainable infrastructure is that we really don't know how to do it.  We have many good ideas but we're like the automobile industry in 1905 in that for every good idea there are probably at least 10 really lousy ones.

Crackpot ideas often come from academia because schools have a lot of really smart people who are under little or no pressure to make something actually work.  And of all the alternative energy ideas, the lousiest idea that will not die is the eggbeater wind turbine.  So now we see some new bogus claims being made by an aero professor from Cal Tech.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Taking back our lives

Of all the feelings that drive folks to fury, powerlessness must certainly rank close to the top.  And nothing quite causes a feeling of powerlessness like having someone you cannot even deal with directly wrecking your life.  Not surprisingly, in small ways and large, folks are discussing ways to take back some of their lost power.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Americans should care about what's happening to Greece

The argument that what is happening to Greece is a preview of what's coming in USA certainly has some merit.  One of the reasons that Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames see the criminality on Wall Street with such clarity is that they saw virtually the same crimes being pulled in Russia during the late 1990s.

However, those of us who have been watching the destruction of agriculture and industry in the Midwest since the late 1970s could argue that much of the neoliberal experiment was first tried out here in the good old USA.

Greece a Dress Rehearsal for United States

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The summer of economic denial

The Predator Classes are making a big push to snatch everything that isn't nailed down under the banner of "fiscal responsibility."  Anyone following the various economic calamities in Europe has to wonder in amazement how these crooks think they are going to get away these schemes but so far, they ARE succeeding.

The lack of a coherent pushback against the crooks is pathetic.  One wonders how folks can be so confused.  Of course, the real reason for the confusion is pretty simple--people with the power and money to confuse the economic issues are spending good money to ensure that confusion reigns.  But the crooks have a lot of help--especially in USA where the press hasn't covered a serious issue in decades, our schools seemed designed to produce historical illiterates, and our governments seemed FAR more interested in cultural issues than economic ones.

And then there is the little problem that some of the economic dilemmas this time around are without precedent.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The long road to energy efficiency

Energy efficiency has long been considered the safe spot for folks who want to build a sustainable future.  The argument goes something like this, "Of course we are going to have to find a substitute for oil someday, but that job will be a whole lot easier and we will have more time to accomplish it if we become more efficient with the energy we already use."  My take on this subject has become one of the more popular pages at the Elegant Technology website.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The economics profession isn't what it used to be

When I first encountered the economics profession in the late 1960s, it was a bunch of people who were amazingly self-satisfied.  And with cause.  They had developed a philosophy and a set of principles that had pulled the country out of the Great Depression, had fought a World War with only minor economic disruptions, and had put the country on a path of prosperity that has not been matched before or since.  A few years back, an NBC news reader by the name of Tom Brokaw wrote a sentimental account of the people who had survived and thrived during those days called The Greatest Generation.  So I wrote an account of the economists of the time called, The Greatest Generation--Economics Division.  It has been a steady hit on my website ever since.

Things have changed dramatically since then.  The economics profession is no longer filled with widely educated smart people who have figured out new and better ways to bring prosperity.  Now we have narrowly educated math nerds who use their skills in fast algebra to justify crushing the hopes of billions around the world.  No wonder their meetings must now be protected by armies of robocops.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The bankruptcy of economics

You could see this coming from miles away.  Increase the price for essentials without a corresponding increase in incomes and the money left over goes way down.  So now we have charts of the collapse of discretionary spending.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Another sad day for science in USA

Depending on the weather, today is likely the last time for a space shuttle launch.  Even though I have been something of a space junkie since that night in 1957 when we kids huddled outside on a cold autumn night to watch Sputnik cross the night sky, I view this event with mixed emotions.  On one hand, I never regained the excitement I had during the Apollo years when this country was actually figuring out how to go to the moon.  The Shuttle is a big space truck that delivered goods into low earth orbit--not exactly bouncing around on the surface of the moon in a high-tech moon buggy, huh?

On the other hand, this launch is another sign that the days when science can command the respect, imagination, and big budgets of the country are over.  And I, for one, am going to miss the days when the label "rocket scientist" was the ultimate synonym for a smart person.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Alternative energy by the numbers

It is far too easy for us alternative energy types to wiggle out of providing real numbers to the problem of replacing the energy infrastructure that exists.  I find myself doing it all the time.  Of course, when I am talking with someone who clearly doesn't understand the difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion, it becomes almost mandatory to revert to phrases like "imagine what could be accomplished if we paved over 10% of the Sahara with solar panels," or numbers like "this country uses 10,000 gallons of petroleum fuels every second."  At least I haven't succumbed to the temptation to use the word "ginormous".

But recently I have found some good numbers so it's time to post them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New energy hogs

Back when I was in college, I had an "Energy and Public Policy" professor who was on a not-so-private vendetta against folks who engaged in straight-line trend projections (for example: if energy use had grown at 5% per annum for 15 years, it should be safe to assume that energy consumption should grow at 5% for the next 15 years.)  This professor was easily the brightest guy I ever had for anything (he was a doctor, doctor, doctor, two Ph.Ds--Physics and Public Affairs--and an MD) so I tended to pay him a great deal of attention.

The reasons he had for being so dead set against using such trend projections is that they tended to cause over-building of electrical generation.  Not only did he think it was insane to predict continuous compound growth in anything, he claimed such mindlessness led to bad decision-making that favored investment in new power plants over investments in more energy efficient technologies.  While ridiculing a report that called for 250 new nukes in class one day he asked, "Who is going to use all that new power?"  To answer that question, he showed that someone had authored a paper that called for lighting every mile of the interstate highway system.

"Well," he mused, "Maybe we could just do without all those new power plants and use the headlights on our vehicles."

Since then, power companies HAVE come to rely on energy conservation to counter the effects of a major slow-down in the building of new generation capacity.  And you can still drive long stretches of the Interstate system where the only illumination occurs at the interchanges.  Yet power consumption still grows without such grandiose schemes.  It turns out that millions of stupid little decisions can easily substitute for a big dumb plan.  Behold the DVR.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The aesthetics of sustainability (part 2)

"Permanence is a function of design. Design as beauty is essential to permanence. Committees are rarely formed to save eyesores. Design as function can assist in the goal of permanence by making maintenance easier. Design as beauty is the easiest to explain because everyone can think of an example. Builders for centuries have known this trick. Design it to be beautiful and the powerful will insure access to premium materials and labor. Build with good design, premium materials, and skilled labor, and the result is the Acropolis in Athens, the Vatican, or the Eiffel Tower. Apply this principle to a city and you get Paris, Prague, or Copenhagen. The only reason to restate such an obvious notion is that one cure for industrial waste must be permanent structures. No law has been found that says a powerplant, or sewage treatment plant, or waste recovery center must be ugly. Humanity must arrive at the conclusion that this is the only planet for light-years in any direction that will support human life. Structures necessary for human survival will be with us for a very long time and we are going to have to look at them. They may as well be beautiful."

Elegant Technology pp. 121-122 (first written 1986)
Gropius' steel-and-glass factory joins World Heritage list

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Superior Visions

Some video of our trip to Lake Superior.  What an astonishingly beautiful part of the landscape.  Too bad the weather is miserable about 10 months a year and the mosquitoes are biting for the rest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Notes from up Nort'

One of the cannot miss places on Minnesota's north shore of Lake Superior is the Split Rock Light House.  I knew I was going there when I last posted.  I haven't seen it in many years and much has changed.  On the plus side, the site has undergone significant restoration efforts so things work, the buildings look set to withstand at least another 50 winters, and earnest young people in period costumes stand ready to explain the site and its historical importance.  The down side is that the Minnesota Historical Society now gets $8 a head for admission and the fun of climbing around unsupervised in ratty old buildings is gone.