Archive for February 2013
Stephen Colbert “We all know that when a Cardinal is elevated to the Papacy he becomes the heir of Saint Peter, and therefore chooses a new name. So, naturally, now that Benedict the 16th is leaving office, he has asked that we call him simply, Benedict the 16th. OK, OK, that’s understandable. He doesn’t want to get new towels and stuff. But folks, that’s not all. He says he’s still going to be Pope Emeritus, we’ll have to call him His Holiness, he’ll continue to wear the white robes, and live in the Vatican. Folks, that means there’s going to be two Pontiffs. We’re one Pope over the line, sweet Jesus, one Pope over the line.”
I almost did not make it to this show. With Steady Betty set to go on at 11:30, and having to work at 9 the next morning, the numbers were against me. Knowing the sheer talent in the band, and that they would play a style of music that is out of my comfort zone, left me conflicted. Joe Adler and Samara Lark were on before them, so that was a plus. I almost faded, after a long day at work, but pulled off a last minute rally and headed to Radio Bean.
I got there just as Hair Down down was getting set to play. With my hair was already down, I got a beer, then Joe Adler and Samara Lark started up. He played a plugged in acoustic and both sang. They caught a nice groove right off and sounded great. They played a bunch of covers, including a joyous Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. At one point Samara whistled along and was pitch perfect. They played an elegant version of Atlantic City. An acoustic treatment to ’80’s pop song Sweet Dreams was very cool, and Samara drove home the vocal. They did a very casual Burning Down the House with a fun jazz/blues ending. Hungry like the Wolf started relaxed, but soared when it hit the chorus. How can you not let loose when it’s playing?
While the covers were fun, it was Joe’s songs that stole the show. One song about twirling was pretty fun. The song about the wicked witch of the west is one I need to get to know. The closer, with the tag line let’s relax for a while, was a beautiful way to wrap up their set.
During the break, I chatted a bit with Jeff and Matt from Vedora, and with Johnnie Day Durand from Wee Folkestra. It’s so great when fellow band mates show up for support!
On time, or close to it, Steady Betty, if that is their name, took the stage. Their rocksteady music was a bit slow for my taste, but the playing was so precise and the vocals so large, that I really enjoyed them. Miriam Bernardo and Kat Wright handled most of the vocals, but at times Linda Bassick and Caroline O’Connor chimed in, and their combined voice filled the room. Caroline, on bass, seemed completely locked in with Sara Grace on drums. Linda kept the rhythm on guitar and Christine Mathias was precise on sax all night long. The Caribbean music was light and fun, contrasting with the poignant lyrics about justice.
The crowd mostly filled Radio Bean and Betty had us dancing for the whole set. I was pretty tired from the beginning, but stood as long as I could. At one point my beer was empty. I looked at the clock and it was 12:35, and I knew I had to go. I slipped out the Duino! (Duende) door, and took the slow walk home. I could hear them play for about a block or so, then it just faded away. I probably shouldn’t have gone out, but I’m so glad I did.
From the Feb. 25, 2013, edition of “Viewpoint.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the most senior Catholic official in Britain, is abruptly resigning amidst allegations of “inappropriate acts.” Now, when I heard that news the first thing I thought was, “Oh my God, not again.” At this point, letting your son be an altar boy is like letting your daughter date Chris Brown for the second time.
But it turns out, Cardinal O’Brien’s actually accused of making unwanted sexual advances towards fully grown adult priests. One seminarian claims O’Brien offered to give him a full tour of the rectory back in 1980.
At this point, it seems almost kind of quaint to hear of a priest hitting on someone old enough to shave. But O’Brien has also called homosexuality immoral, he’s against gay adoption, and says marriage equality is “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved.” As opposed to celibacy. Once again, a Catholic who says, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” is revealed to really hate the sinner but kind of dig the sin.
So, now O’Brien is out and this means he won’t be able to vote for the new pope at the papal conclave, also known as “Vatican Idol.” You know who does get to vote for the new pope, my friends? Cardinal Roger Mahony, who, like Benedict when still an archbishop, shielded pedophiles and moved them to new parishes.
Do you follow the logic here? Hit on some guy 30 years ago, no pope vote. Protect child rape, cast your ballots.
Add this to reports of widespread corruption within the Vatican — a secret cabal of gay priests, or as some call them, priests; claims the Vatican bank is laundering money for the Italian mob; the pope’s butler leaking documents in the Vatileaks scandal, doing time in the Vatican jail (they have a jail, by the way), then somehow being pardoned and now he’s allowed to live in the Vatican with his wife upon his release? After that? This is like an episode of “Vatican Abbey,” and it helps that many of these men already dress like Maggie Smith.
Plus, Connecticut Monsignor Kevin Wallin is accused of operating a meth ring and owning an adult entertainment store he used to launder his money. Yes, it seems almost wholesome at this point, from breaking bread to “Breaking Bad.”
Yet, the Vatican still thinks the church is going to be saved by a new pope, maybe someone from Africa or South America, but still a fundamentalist right-wing clone.
No, my friends. If you want to restore the church as the world leader in fighting poverty, war and social injustice, the next pope has got to be a nun. We need Sister Mary Pissed Off of the Immaculate Ass-Whuppin’ to come into the Vatican and clean up a man-made mess.
Of course, that won’t happen. The Vatican is on a one-way mission to being a third world church, and who called it? The famous Catholic whose birthday we’re celebrating today, George Harrison. In “Vatican P2 Blues,” he wrote about the pope selection process:
Now how come no one really noticed
Puff of white smoke knocked me out
The truth is hiding, lurking, banking
Things they do at night
It’s quite suspicious to say the least.
Thanks, George — talking to you, Rome. A female pope is your chance to man up and move into the 21st century. I know you don’t want to let go of the all-male clown car the Vatican has become, but as ex-Catholic George once said, all things must pass.
Fareed Zakaria “But, first, here’s my take. With big budget cuts looming, it might seem crazy to talk about new spending, but let me try anyway. Here is a plea for a tiny, but vital increase in federal spending.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed to expand early childhood education for children from poor families. This is an important idea that could begin to help redress a huge problem in America, the lack of economic mobility.
America has long been seen as the place where anyone can make it. And yet over studies from the past two decades all point to a different reality. Economic mobility in the U.S. is low compared with what it was in times past and with current levels in many European countries and Canada.
You hear all about rags-to-riches stories, but they are the exceptions. A comprehensive study by the Pew Economic Mobility Project documents that in the U.S. today, few poor people become even upper middle class.
Now some of the criticism of President Obama’s program has come from people who worry about the government’s track record in the area of early childhood education. They point to Head Start, the long- standing program that provides this education to disadvantaged children.
The Department of Health and Human Services released a study of Head Start in 2010, which was updated in 2012, which concludes that its positive effects begin to fade within a few years. This has led many to call the program a failure and urge the government not to throw good money after bad.
But people are jumping to conclusions about a very complicated subject without really understanding the study or the limitations of social- science research.
Three scholars from the University of Chicago and University of California at Davis, painstakingly explained why it is premature to reject Head Start. They note that many factors may have intervened to erode the early gains in test scores.
For example, there have been sharp rises in single-parent families, rises in non-English-speaking households and rises in severe health problems like childhood obesity and diabetes.
Most important, some studies show that though test scores level out, children who have been through early education do better in their professional lives.
The more we learn about neuroscience, the clearer it becomes that the human brain develops much sooner than we had believed so early stimulation and education can be highly effective.
Look at the data from the rest of the world. A 2012 report from the OECD studying data from 34 rich countries concludes that early- childhood education “improves children’s cognitive abilities, helps to create a foundation for lifelong learning, makes learning outcomes more equitable, reduces poverty and improves social mobility from generation to generation.”
In many rich countries, 90 percent of 3-year-olds get early childhood education. The average for 4-year-olds is 81 percent. In the U.S., it is only 69%, and those children tend to be from middle- and upper- middle-class families.
American government set the pace for education in the past 150 years. We’ve been the first country to offer mass education anywhere. That lead is now gone.
Obama’s proposals will help the U.S. start to catch up in the great struggle for high-quality human capital that is going to define the new century.”
Ezra Klein “Think back to July 2011. The problem was simple. Republicans wouldn’t agree to raise the debt ceiling without trillions of dollars in deficit reduction. Democrats wouldn’t agree to trillions of dollars in deficit reduction if it didn’t include significant tax increases. Republicans wouldn’t agree to significant tax increases. The political system was at an impasse, and in a few short days, that impasse would create a global financial crisis.
The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change.
There were two candidates to drive that change. The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.
The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.
The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.
In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.
Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they wanted the goalposts moved to.”
I just got home from seeing the mighty Vedora at Manhattan Pizza. They played a nice long set and then a shorter set, and rocked the place. At the end of both sets the audience was going with it, so they kept playing.
They opened the night with Basalt, which sounded sweet. The hard rocking trio played most of the first album, and a chunk of the second (as yet unrecorded????). They added an interesting selection of covers. The second set had Caroline O’Connor on sax for I’m on fire and Dancing in the Dark (and there wasn’t even a band on before them that played the same songs). They played a new instrumental, that I don’t think I’ver heard before. They played a Hank Williams song that I did not know and a Missy Bly song that I did not know, but who knows? I’ve seen Missy a couple of times over the years, so I might have.
A few songs into the first set, something seemed a bit less than it could be, but then they played Sober and locked in. Matthew Hastings killed it on guitar, as always. It has been ages since I’ve heard Once Upon, and I think tonight’s was my favorite band version. I got to know it as just Caroline on acoustic, and the band treatment hasn’t always found the right feel. Tonight it sounded sweet.
The drop from In the Pines into Chain was perfectly done. And, there’s that tiny part that I never write about that was cool. Come out to the show to see what I mean.
The Caroline on guitar set, contained epic versions of Ritual, To Send You and Solution. Picture Tim in a very happy place.
They Played for a long time, starting somewhere around 10, and it was 1:10 when I was walking up Church st. There was a break, probably 30 minutes or so. It’s hard to tell. I was chatting with Jeff LaBossiere about the Channel, Def Leppard and the Who. And after that, he got up, and the band picked up where they left it in the first set. They found a groove and people started dancing. The room seemed filled with fun. You know, a Vedora show.
When finished, I said a quick good night. The walk home was not as icy as advertised, and I found a great walking groove. Ringing through my head was, No More No Less.
Retailers are preparing for a triple whammy as the restoration of the payroll tax, surging gas prices, and stagnant employment and wages take a bite out of consumers’ disposable income, leaving them with less cash to spend on clothing, groceries, and eating out.
As a result, more than three years after the recession officially ended, American consumers might be preparing to downshift again, if only slightly, with low-income consumers hit the hardest. Sensing consumer trepidation, retailers are scrambling to adjust.
Retailers, restaurants, and consumer goods companies like Wal-Mart are lowering sales forecasts and adjusting marketing campaigns ahead of expectations that consumers will slash spending, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In a survey released Thursday, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said some 46 percent of consumers plan to spend less as a result of the payroll tax increase. One-third said they will reduce dining out and one-quarter will spend less on “little luxuries,” like manicures and trips to coffee shops.
“A smaller paycheck due to the fiscal cliff deal early last month, higher gas prices, low consumer confidence and ongoing uncertainty about our nation’s fiscal health is negatively impacting consumers and businesses across the country,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF, said in a statement.
Originally enacted in December 2010 to help taxpayers weather the recession and to spur economic activity, the payroll tax cut expired Jan. 1 of this year. The restoration of the tax effectively raised the rate from 4.2 percent in 2012 to 6.2 percent in 2013, shaving 2 percent from consumers’ take-home pay.
That means Americans making $50,000 a year will pay $83 more in taxes each month, almost $1,000 more each year. Those making $75,000 will pay $125 more each month, or $1,500 more each year. As retailers see it, that’s $1,500 less a consumer has to spend on groceries, household goods, and dining out.
Multiply that by 153.6 million people in the labor force and retailers start to panic. According to an estimate by Citigroup, the expiration of the payroll tax cut will move $110 billion out of consumers’ pockets.