December 2008
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Month December 2008

Happy New Year / 2009 Resolutions Open Thread

Have at it!

Californians May Get IOUs, not Tax Refunds

Come 2009, California, the [formerly?] seventh largest economy in the world, will likely be paying legislators and refunding taxpayers with IOUs.  Being bigger than Lehman Bros. & Bear Stearns, isn’t CA “too big to be allowed to fail”? Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger, who “wants to act immediately” on a budget fix, is vacationing at the family pad in Idaho. Just bear this in mind as you evaluate Gov. Patrick’s efforts to balance the MA budget.  It could be worse.  At least Patrick is trying.

Something to help people save some money or just enjoy some tunes for free.

Another non-political post but maybe helpful. Since it is New Year’s Eve I thought I would point out something non-controversial and pretty cool. Many of you may already know about this but my daughter is home from Law School and tuned me into It is a FREE web site which allows you to define your music likes and dislikes and it will feed you non-stop commercial free listening of those songs based on genre, lyrics or “songs that sound like this song” type of queries. I piped it into my sound system (out of my computer) and got great sound on songs and artists I like for no money with no commercials. Check it out and maybe save some cash on satellite radio.

Just seat Burris and be done with it

Well, the Democrats, both in Illinois and DC, have screwed this one up to a fare-thee-well.  They’ve been outmaneuvered by perhaps the least popular politician in the country (that would be Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich), and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it.  They now find themselves in an impossible situation with no good options.  A fine way to start out the new era of change that has come to America.

How did they get themselves here?  Let us count the ways.

20% Chance of an Openly Gay U.S. Senator?

The New York Times reports that NY Governor Paterson has been interviewing candidates for the appointment to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate seat, should she vacate it. Two candidates, NY Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell and president of the United Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, are openly gay.  O’Donnell was recently interviewed by Paterson, and is the focus of the NYT article.  Weingarten threw her hat in the ring a few weeks ago.  If either is appointed, they would be the first openly gay person to serve in the U.S. Senate.

A New Year’s Prayer + Poem

We elected a President who’s white and black, I pray the Lord to have have his back. In a world that is fraught with peril, and an economy that’s looking sterile. May divided houses open doors, And clean waters wash over shores. May God’s light shine over our nation, And may peace reign over all His creation. As we depart a year full of despair, We pray that hope can fill the air. Amen. Offered up in the year of the Lord, 2008. I hope everyone has a safe and joy-filled New Year, and remember to keep those who are not in a position to be joyful tonight in your New Year’s prayers.  

Helping struggling arts organizations help themselves

Big ol’ disclosure: I am a professional singer, and therefore I receive income from a number of non-profit arts organizations.  In addition, my wife and I both sit on the (unpaid) boards of non-profit arts organizations. Arts organizations are in trouble.  Around these parts, the word today is that the North Shore Music Theatre, one of our best local theatre companies, has laid off 57 employees and will have to close unless it can find $4 million fast.  Elsewhere, two major regional opera companies (Opera Pacific and Baltimore Opera) have canceled their seasons and may be gone for good, and many others arts organizations here and around the country are facing staff reductions, cancellations, and other serious problems. This matters for a lot of reasons.  First, needless to say, I think the arts are important on their own merits, and I think that if local arts organizations start failing in significant numbers, this will become a much less attractive place to live.  But without getting into a big discussion of art for art’s sake, let’s just focus on numbers.  A 2006 report (pdf) on New England’s “non-profit arts, cultural, and humanities industry” by the New England Foundation for the Arts […]

Incoming: Another billion plus in cuts including midyear cuts to “local aid”

Here is the link:… When do we collectively say “enough”, and protect the most vulnerable by raising revenue instead of cutting services to the vulnerable and letting our infrastructure degrade to third world status? Here is an example of what I mean by cutting services to those with no voice or clout – and no way to recover, either, if you remember this post:… I assure you, if agency budgets are cut, it won’t be management that feels the heat, it will be programs for adolescents at risk, the dependent wards of the state, special education, mental health services [which are already being dangerously slashed when they had never recovered from the loss of the Community Mental Health System "privatized' under Weld]. You think crime and incarceration are extreme now?  Just wait.  When the only way to get a roof over your head, if you are a legal orphan thrown on the street at 18 when you age out of foster care is to get arrested or go into prostitution, what do you THINK will happen???  Hello!  Hello!  Anyone listening out there?  Does anyone care?

Blagojevich Appointing Roland Burris to Obama’s Senate Seat

The latest here.  Apparently there is to be a news conference this afternoon. UPDATE: TPM summarizes the Blagojevich/Burris press conference.  Ouch! Blagojevich forcefully said that the people of Illinois should not be without full representation in the Senate, and urged people to not hold any cloud over Burris: “Please don’t allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man.” Burris had an awkward moment when he was asked about his past donations to Blagojevich’s campaign. Burris expressed surprise at the dollar amount listed. “We didn’t have that much money to give to the governor,” he said in a jocular tone — not exactly the sort of remark that would inspire confidence. Burris also backed away sharply from his prior statements that he was only seeking to be a caretaker. When asked whether he would run in 2010, Burris responded: “We have to determine that when we get to that point.” Finally, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) made an appearance at the podium and stated in forceful terms that the Senate must not reject the appointment of a black Senator, going so far as to tell everyone to not “hang or lynch the appointee as you try to ruin […]

Don’t Let NS Music Theatre Close

Horrible news. I love North Shore Music Theatre. I go to see one or two shows there a year, on average. They put on fantastic productions that are really top notch. The best show I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen my fair share – was their production of Aida a few years back. I loved Singing in the Rain there – and their yearly showings of A Christmas Carol is a perennial favorite. Their theatre is absolutely unique, there’s only two or three like it in the entire country, yet it really works and ensures that every seat in the house is a good seat.

It would be horrible for the community if NSMT is forced to close its doors. It sells out many of its shows; it’s another case of debt that’s hurting them, amid a bad climate. The debt didn’t come from them making bad decisions as a nonprofit corporation, though: it came from a fire that caused millions upon millions of damage, only some of which was covered by insurance.

Operating since 1955, North Shore Music Theatre has evolved from a summer stock house into the largest nonprofit theater in New England, with 350,000 patrons annually. The theater has been recognized by the Boston Business Journal as the second-largest performing arts organization in the state based on audience size (after the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops combined). It has received multiple Elliot Norton Awards and this season presented seven musicals, five children’s shows, and several celebrity musical and comedy concerts, in addition to hosting a large educational program. This year, the company’s annual budget was $13 million.

Can we really let this theatre go under? It’s a huge part of Massachusetts and is absolutely irreplaceable. They’re asking people to go to their website and donate funds – or, better yet, buy a ticket to their current show, Disney’s High School Musical 2, which would be a fantastic post-Christmas present for any kid or teen. Youth tickets are just $25. If they sell out the show, they’ll raise enough for the short term, to give them time to raise the rest over the long haul. But if you’re not interested in the show, send them $100, 50 or 25 bucks. It’s as worthy a cause as there is to be found.

This economy is a killer. We must protect our important institutions, nonprofits and favorite local stores by making sure we don’t forget about them in our attempts to cut costs. Yes, our funds are low too, but we can’t let them go out, because it wipes off years of hard work and success right off the books – and that’s not always replaceable, at least not for decades. So, please, do what you can – buy a ticket to the show or send them a few dollars so they can raise what they need for now in this perilous economy.

Below the fold: some youtube vidoes of shows done at NSMT.