Visual source: Newseum
If we careen over a cliff on Friday and the American government shuts down, hard-working federal workers will stop getting paychecks, but the members of Congress responsible for the shutdown are expected to be paid as usual.
That?s partly because Congressional pay is not subject to the regular appropriations process, and partly because of Constitutional concerns. The Senate passed a bill proposed by Barbara Boxer of California that would suspend Congressional paychecks in any government shutdown, but the Republican-controlled House has blocked it. House Republicans approved a similar pay suspension, but it was embedded in legislation that has zero chance of becoming law.
The upshot is that federal workers who do important work for the public ? cleaning up toxic waste, enrolling sick people into lifesaving medical trials, answering medical hot lines, running national parks, processing passport applications ? risk being sent home and going unpaid. But members of Congress would continue to receive $174,000 a year. As the humorist Andy Borowitz wrote in a Twitter message: ?That?s like eliminating the fire dept & sending checks to the arsonists.?
However the shutdown saga ends, the negotiating styles of the two sides ought to tell moderates that they can no longer pretend that the two ends of our politics are equally ?extreme.? No, conservatives are the ones who?ve been radicalized. The Ryan budget is definitive evidence of this.
It is conservatives who would transform our government from a very modestly compassionate instrument into a machine dedicated to expanding existing privileges while doing as little as possible for the marginalized and the aspiring ? those who, with a little help from government, might find it a bit easier to reach for better lives.
Moderation involves a balance between government and the private sector, between risk and security, between our respect for incentives and our desire for greater fairness. The war against moderation has begun. Will moderates join the battle?
Dana Milbank thinks we should all be praising Fox for finally getting rid of Glenn Beck. Oh, and he also wants you to know he wrote a "critical" book about Beck last year (hint, hint).
The employment discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart, which the Supreme Court heard last week, is the largest in American history. If the court rejects this suit, it will send a chilling message that some companies are too big to be held accountable.
A study by the Open Society Foundations, to be released Monday, reports in-depth interviews with 32 women who wear the full-face veil in France. All but two say they are the first members of their family to do so, and almost all insist this was a matter of free personal choice. Several chose to wear it against the initial resistance of husbands, fathers and mothers. (The families often feared hostility on the streets.)
These women often describe donning the niqab or burka as part of a spiritual journey. Some also explain it as a protest and defense against a highly sexualized, voyeuristic public space: "For us it's a way of saying that we are not a piece of meat in a stall, we are not a commodity." (Vivi, 39, South of France.)
We may not like their choice. We may find it disturbing and offensive. But it is, in its way, as much a form of free expression as cartoons of Mohammad, which these women, in turn, will find disturbing and offensive. And that's the deal in a free society: The burka wearer has to put up with the cartoons; the cartoonist has to put up with the burkas.
Americans should know by now that you can?t put a pill in your mouth without risk. Television is full of commercials for wonder drugs that will perk up your spirits, soothe your allergies or lower your cholesterol, improving life altogether except in the cases where they lead to vivid dreams, suicidal thoughts, hair loss, stabbing pains or sudden death.
As bombastic shorthand, however, "on steroids" fills an important niche. After all, we live in an era of sound bites and screamed opinions. For a message to be competitive in the race for airtime and blogospheric amplification it needs to be catchy and concise and not bogged down with wordy, tiresome substance. A sentence like "the violence in Libya has the potential to become a bloodier, larger-scale version of the Srebrenica massacre" not only lacks the ring of "Srebrenica on steroids," it takes too darn long to say!
So while libs can whine all they want about Obama's imperfections and so-called failures, the instant you turn it all around and look at the alternatives, and then hitch them to the current GOP-led House's plans to gut the budget and spew hate on women and gays, the arts and the poor, promote Islamophobia and kowtow to the rich, well, suddenly Obama shines all over again like the gleaming savior we all want him to be.
Suddenly all the complaining turns into nitpicking. Suddenly that vague dissatisfaction is instantly overshadowed by this shuddering, sour tang deep in the gut that just about screams OMFG, thank God Obama's there, how much worse off we'd be without him, how much good he's actually accomplished, how blessed his articulate intelligence, how proud we are every time he travels abroad -- please, please, please don't ever leave and sorry we complained in the first place and oh my God please don't leave.
Yes, it's moral and political relativism, writ large. Who cares? What else could it ever be? So count your presidential blessings, libs, for while they may be tattered and rashy and often pinch and ride up, they are, on the whole, still plentiful and hugely impressive and just shockingly better than any alternative you can name, much less vote for. And you know it.
As Mexicans protest, a new mass grave is found 'It seems that we are like animals that can be murdered with impunity,' says poet whose son was killedBy ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON MEXICO CITY - Fifty-nine bodies were found buried Wednesday in a series of pits[...]
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Even a Nobel Prize winner can succumb to the pull of Cat Blogging ...
TUESDAY's CHILDREN are Doris Lessing and Albert Einstein the Cats - Paul Krugman's kittehs.
I wonder what they think of Congressman Paul Ryan's budget plans ... well, in any case: why not stop in for a look at news items outside the headlines, in the arts and sciences; foreign news that generates little notice in the US media and ....well, just plain whimsy.....
ART NOTES - a collection of international health-related posters entitled Health for Sale is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through July 31st.
ROMANCE NOTES - this week, a Massachusetts couple married for 65 years will renew their wedding vows, despite the husband's failing health at age 97 and the wife's oncoming dementia. This is so that Everett Potter can present to his wife Betty ..... the diamond wedding ring he could not afford in 1946.
POLITICAL NOTES - in a distressing echo (in advance of the upcoming Canadian national elections) of what has happened in the US: more than 100 campaign signs for a Liberal Party candidate in Ontario were spray-painted with rifle-target symbols over his face.
FRIDAY's CHILD is Sir Oliver Heathcliff the Cat - a Texas kitteh who was named as pet of the week by "Hints from Heloise".
A RECENT CARTOON by Tom Tomorrow keeps us up-to-date on the musings of "Conservative Jones, Boy Detective".
SHADES OF MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - French president Nicolas Sarkozy has placed an order for several Kevlar-coated umbrellas - costing more than $10,000 apiece - designed to ward off rocks, knives, ice-pick blows and acid ... and which could, also, significantly reduce a bullet's effectiveness.
UNCLE-NEPHEW? - the late Irish actor Ray McAnally ("My Left Foot") and Charlie Sheen, whose acting career may be late.
ADVERTISING NOTES - although it is one of the most symbolic brands in Canada: consultants have suggested that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police de-emphasize its history - including the red tunic - in order to establish the image of a modern, accountable police force (as a result of some recent incidents that have tarnished the agency's image).
ART NOTES - the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City's first exhibition focusing solely on the printmaking aspect of Native American fine art is on display through May 8th.
CRIME NOTES - police in northern Austria have arrested a man who is suspected of robbing more than half a dozen banks wearing a Barack Obama mask.
WEDNESDAY's CHILD is Snowy the Cat - a Georgia kitteh who survived a building fire, and on the video had paramedics administering oxygen through a mask to him.
A PLAQUE has been dedicated in the southeastern Spanish city of Alicante - dedicated to the 724 people known to have been killed by the forces of Francisco Franco after the Spanish civil war.
SEPARATED at BIRTH - TV host Ellen Degeneres and magazine editor Tina Brown (Vanity Fair, Newsweek).
IN a PROFILE of Tina Fey it was noted that she has succeeded in the male-dominated world of comedy partly by not copying men, partly by not copying other female comics and yet not always challenging stereotypes head-on.
ART NOTES - a survey of 250 WW-I era German Expressionist works is at New York's Museum of Modern Art through July 11th.
SPORTING NOTES - the head of Kenya's Olympic committee - former gold medalist Kip Keino - noted the importance to that nation's economy of prize money won by its marathoners, who won 126 out of 156 international marathons in which they competed in.
BOOK NOTES - a Chicagoland teacher takes on the voice of Sammy in The Many Tales of Sammy the Cat - her debut children's book.
THURSDAY's CHILDREN want you to know about researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada who have developed a cat-allergy vaccine - which they believe is safe, effective and lasts longer than current treatments, which can also have serious side effects.
SOME SOUL-SEARCHING has begun in Canada, as crime has doubled in Nunavut since the Arctic territory was founded 12 years ago this week.
AS A RESULT of regulation and the success of anti-smoking campaigns continue in wealthy countries, and developing nations keen to protect local firms from Western cigarette-makers, Big Tobacco looks at South-East Asia as its most promising market.
SEPARATED at BIRTH - French film star Isabelle Carr? ("Anna M") and American film star Amy Adams ("Doubt", "The Fighter").
......and finally, for a song of the week ............... some musical groups are easier to profile than others - but The Drifters may be the most difficult of all. An unusual management structure ensured they would have the mother of all revolving-door personnel (65 members and the pay practices were a further deterrent to a consistent identity. Nonetheless, this is such a seminal band in the history of soul music - the link between 1950's R&B and 1960's soul music - they deserve to have their story told. Even if the story is so complex, all there is time to do here is sort out just what are The Drifters are in the first place.
The story begins in 1953 (at the dawn of the rock era) when the vocal group The Dominoes performed in New York without their lead singer Clyde McPhatter - who had recently quit the group.
In the audience was Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun - who searched all over town for McPhatter. When he did locate him, he offered McPhatter a contract if he could assemble a back-up group. The origin of the name Drifters is unclear (and Ertegun and Jerry Wexler thought it sounded like a country music name) ... but it proved to be an accurate name, as we shall see.
His first four choices (which included the brother of noted author James Baldwin) did not pan-out - but his next lineup did, and this might be referred to as the "Classic Drifters" (1st photo). It included tenor Gerhart Thrasher, baritone/bass singer Bill Pinkney - who was to play a role in soul music until 2007 - and guitarist Walter Adams, an uncommon instrument in R&B back in 1953.
They had a #1 R&B chart single in Money Honey - which later became a hit for Elvis Presley, and which is in the list of possible "first rock record" listings. Along with some personnel changes, the band had some other, lesser-known R&B hits before McPhatter decided to strike out on his own in the autumn of 1954.
And this led to a situation which would hamstring the group. Having been designated group leader by Ertegun at the start: McPhatter had incorporated the band as a 50-50 partnership between himself and his manager George Treadwell (who had been manager of Sarah Vaughn, his first wife). This he did to ensure that he would not be ripped-off (as he had been with his first band) but he had shared those earnings with his bandmates in the Drifters. In a decision he came later to regret: upon leaving the band, he sold his interest to Treadwell, who made all future members of The Drifters salaried employees (and poorly-paid ones, for all of the concerts and travelling required). This not only left his bandmates poorer, it ensured that future members with talent had no incentive to stay for long. And thus the revolving door of personnel began to spin (in some cases, due to death, substance abuse, auto accidents and the like).
Over the next few years the band had varying amounts of success, with the addition in late 1955 of tenor Johnny Moore - one of their most important additions. The song "Adorable" went on to be their second #1 hit on the R&B charts, yet they still had trouble breaking into the pop charts. The Atlantic songwriting team of Leiber & Stoller began to be their producers in late 1956, which ensured good material would be offered to them - only to see Johnny Moore receive his draft notice in early 1957. And when some bandmembers (including Bill Pinkney) objected to $100/week salaries, they were fired; not the last ones to meet that fate. Occasional album releases by Atlantic were never specific recordings: but assembled singles releases by various line-ups.
In 1958, Treadwell decided to fire all of the remaining bandmembers and purchase the contracts (I told you this was messy) of a vocal group known as the Five Crowns. For his money, Treadwell obtained in particular the services of tenor Charlie Thomas and baritone Benjamin E. Nelson - and this would prove to be the 2nd important Drifters line-up (2nd photo).
A 1959 recording session was to feature Charlie Thomas on lead but after a bout of nerves: Nelson took his place. And one song he had co-written was There Goes My Baby - the band's first major hit (#2) on the lucrative pop charts and the first rock-era song to include a string orchestra, another Atlantic Records innovation.
Nelson grew weary of the $100/week salary, and arranged to leave to pursue a solo career: but not before singing lead on two other hits with the band in 1960: This Magic Moment (#16 on the pop charts, and nine years later Jay and the Americans took it to #6) ...
... and Save the Last Dance for Me - the only Drifters tune to reach #1 on the pop charts.
Benjamin E. Nelson went on to a stellar solo career as Ben E. King - who continues to tour to this day.
After his departure, the band recruited Rudy Lewis to be an alternate lead singer along with Charlie Thomas, and over the next four years this "3rd" Drifters lineup (last photo) would be the most commercially successful in the group's history.
Rudy Lewis sang on two hits, "Some Kind of Wonderful" and Up on the Roof - which reached #5 on the charts.
In 1964 he was slated to sing a new Art Resnick/Kenny Young tune, but Rudy Lewis died the night before - under mysterious circumstances.
Former member Johnny Moore had re-joined the band the previous year, and it was he who sang lead on Under the Boardwalk - which reached #4 in the charts and was the group's last major hit. Johnny Moore performed the longest in the band over the years, in three different eras.
The death of manager George Treadwell in 1967 served to muddy the ownership of The Drifters, and two members of the original recording group (Bill Pinkney and Gerhart Thrasher) formed a touring group known as the Original Drifters - which continues to this day even though Bill Pinkney died in 2007.
Charlie Thomas formed a touring group named Charlie Thomas' Drifters - which still tours to this day.
In the 1990's, a court case resolved once and for all that George Treadwell's widow Faye owns the rights to the specific name The Drifters - which is now based in England, and if they come to your town, you'll see whomever happens to be in the line-up today. Got all that?
Suffice it to say, the heyday of the band was from 1953-1965 .... and if there had never been another line-up with that name, there was more than enough to earn their legacy as one of the finest soul music performers of all time. Rolling Stone included five Drifters tunes in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list: #113 was Up On the Roof ...
... at #182 was Save the Last Dance for Me ...
... at #193 was There Goes My Baby ...
... #252 was Money Honey ...
... and finally Under the Boardwalk came in at #487.
When it came time in 1988 to induct the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - whom to invite/remember in the induction/performance ceremonies? The Hall made a diplomatic decision to list seven members as emblematic of the group's history. They included four members from the band's first era, Clyde McPhatter (born 1932, died 1972), Bill Pinkney (1925-2007), Gerhart Thrasher (unsure of dates) and Johnny Moore (1934-1998). Two members were chosen from the second era: Ben E. King (born 1938) and Charlie Thomas (born 1937) and one from the third era: Rudy Lewis (1936-1964).
A 2-disc compilation album of their classic Atlantic recordings from 1953-1965 offers a nostalgia trip to remember.
Of all of their songs, my favorite remains one that Rudy Lewis sang in 1963: On Broadway ...
... by the husband-wife songwriting team of Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil - reached #9 on the charts.
George Benson's version fifteen years later in 1978 (with him emphasizing the "I can play this here guitar" line) made it all the way up to #7. And at this link you can listen to it.
They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway
They say there's always magic in the air
But when you're walking down that street
And you ain't had enough to eat
The glitter rubs right off and you're nowhere
They say that I won't last too long on Broadway
I'll catch a Greyhound bus for home, they all say
But oh, they're dead wrong - I know they are!
'Cause I can play this here guitar
And I won't quit till I'm a star on Broadway
Democrats are less liberal than Republicans are conservative because there are fewer self-identified liberals in America. Democrats rely more on the votes of moderates, and so they can’t afford to be as strident ideologically. – Adam[...]
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Was in Harris Teeter last night looking for sugar & noticed Domino has gone carbon-neutral with CarbonFund.org:
Going carbon-neutral definitely gets filed under genuinely green - other than switching to 100% renewable energy, I can't think of much that'd be higher on the green list.
And this seems like a great example of an opportunity to use a legit environmental effort to differentiate your product in a category where brand loyalty probably isn't very high. I mean, if Skippy peanut butter goes carbon-neutral & you're a Jif man, you might not want to give up the taste that reminds you of mom's kitchen. But I can't imagine anyone being like, "Screw you, Domino! I'll never leave Dixie Sugar! Do you hear me, Domino? Never!"
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A study of a progesterone gel in pregnant women has exciting results…
CHICAGO (Reuters) ? Treating high-risk pregnant women with the hormone progesterone cut their rate of premature delivery by 45 percent and helped lower the risk of breathing complications in their babies, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
The late-stage study of the vaginal gel made by Columbia Laboratories Inc and Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc raises hopes for a simple way to prevent premature birth in women with a short cervix.
“The study published today offers hope to women, families and children,” Dr. Roberto Romero, chief of the perinatology research branch of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.
“Worldwide, more than 12 million premature babies – 500,000 of them in this country – are born each year, and the results are often tragic. Our clinical study clearly shows that it is possible to identify women at risk and reduce the rate of preterm delivery by nearly half, simply by treating women who have a short cervix with a natural hormone – progesterone,” Romero said.
The Providence Journal ran an excellent series on the costs of prematurity, called ‘The Price of Miracles’. Most of us know a child or family who has been affected by the possibility, or actuality, of a premature birth.
It’s not clear from the article who funded the study, Columbia and Watson Pharmaceuticals would market the gel and Watson is up on the stock exchange following the study publication.
We’re an over-medicated society, but there’s times when you need a good drug, and this sounds like really good news. Progesterone has been used for decades, the effects are well known, it’s not expensive and a gel should be easy to use with low risk of med errors.
It took a little longer than many expected but in the end, they got there. So now there's Spain to start thinking about, though there's not enough cash around if that happens. The Guardian:
The dramatic decision came in the middle of a political crisis that has left the country in limbo and with spiralling interest rates on its debt.
"I want to inform the Portuguese that the government decided today to ask ... for financial help, to ensure financing for our country, for our financial system and for our economy," Sócrates said in a televised address. "This is an especially grave moment for our country," he added. "Things will only get worse if nothing's done."
Sócrates said that the bailout, which analysts said could be between ?70bn (£61bn) and ?80bn was "the last resort".
Television is an invention that permits you
to be entertained in your living room
by people you wouldn't have in your home.
Born April 7, 1939
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Muse in the MorningTime for a break from poetry...in order to create some art.I am moving deeper into my own brain.--Peter PorterEarly Spring 4 I know you have talent. ?What sometimes is forgotten is that being practical is a talent. ?I have a paucity[...]
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It's the issue that has confounded every state government: funding its share of Medicaid. Here in Kentucky, the hole Medicaid funding blew in the state budget forced the General Assembly into a special session to try to figure out how to close the gap.
But for those of us in the reality-based community who understand what is the proper purpose of the federal government, the answer is obvious.
Although Medicare is getting most of the attention today, Paul Ryan's budget proposal also contains big changes to Medicaid. But Suzy Khimm reports that cuts to Medicaid aren't much more popular than cuts to Medicare:But new polling from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation also suggests that Medicaid is more popular than Beltway insiders might assume. Though public support for Medicaid lags slightly behind support for Social Security and Medicare, it's still robust: According to the KFF poll, only 13 percent of the public was willing to support major cuts to Medicaid....[Drew] Altman explains that part of the support for Medicaid comes from the services it provides for the elderly and disabled: though the program's usually described as an entitlement for the poor, seniors and the disabled make up two-thirds of Medicaid costs.
For what it's worth, I think Ryan's Medicaid proposal is far worse than his Medicare proposal. Basically, he endorses the Republican party line, which is to turn Medicaid into block grants for states, and then give states the freedom to spend it any way they want. But this is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.
Here's the problem: states aren't allowed to run budget deficits, so when the economy turns bad they have to cut back on spending. But bad economic times are precisely when more Medicaid spending is needed. So unless Ryan is proposing to automatically increase those block grants whenever individual states or the country as a whole are in a recession - and he's not - this produces the worst possible dynamic you can imagine: a safety net that gets worse at exactly the times when it's needed most.
States have been experimenting with Medicaid for decades, and successes are few and far between. There just aren't any magic bullets here, and giving them more scope for experimentation isn't likely to produce any new miracles. A better bet would be to federalize Medicaid entirely. It's a huge burden to state budgets, and one that's especially burdensome during an economic downturn like the one we're in now. Ryan is right that there's really no good reason for Medicaid funding to be split between states and the federal government, but he's wrong about how to fix that. Medicaid shouldn't be a 100% state program, it should be a 100% federal program, one that's both a true safety net and a useful automatic stabilizer during recessions.