Club 2030 Action Team

Tonight was the kick-off for the Club 2030 Action Team.  This is the grassroots marketing effort by the SPCO to reach 20-39 year olds, the folks eligible for Club 2030

The great thing about this idea is that using the passion of Club 2030 members who want to support the SPCO and help them expand their audience.  Really tapping into fact that we know we have a great deal and appreciate (and want to share it widely).

The people in attendance were a nice mix of people.  Gender wise pretty evenly matched.  There were a number of SPCO staff, many from marketing, participating.  In the introductions there were a number of people that seemed to be employed in the marketing field (maybe be a little professional development).  They also had Bernhard Scully, principal horn involved, not just for the introduction, but for the whole process, which was nice to see.

Overall this was a good process.  There were a lot of great ideas.  The group will get together in late August, to work on action, not just ideas.  They will be meeting four times a year.  If you want to get involved with this, post a comment and I will connect you with the staff.

I still feel that Club 2030 is the best deal in town for classical music, free to sign up (so click here and just do it), can get best seats available (up to $50+ tickets) for only $10 each for Ordway or Ted Mann concerts.  There are some other programs with Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Opera that cost money to join and give you more of an experience.  But you can make your own experience with the saved money from the great Club 2030 deals, maybe dinner at POP!! before hand and great appetizer deals at Kincaid’s bar after the show (on nights when the MN Wild didn’t play at the Xcel).  Plus there were ideas to make it more of an experience, we will have to wait and see what ideas they might incorporate into the Club 2030 program in the future.  Don’t worry, I will share more as it happens.



I don’t get the U’s complaint

On Monday we saw another complaint from the U about the route of the Central Corridor and its impact on labs in a Strib commentary.

Now this commentary comes from Tim Mulcahy VP for Research at the U.

What gives us pause about this important development is the harm it poses to our critical research mission unless appropriate measures are deployed to protect our research facilities and equipment from harmful vibrations and electromagnetic interference (EMI) associated with the constant passage of 195-foot trains, each weighing 265,000 pounds.

You may remember that the U prefered a route through Dinkytown, not on Washington Ave.  But for the Washington Ave route, they preferred a tunnel.  Looking at this archive from a Pioneer Press article in February 2008, we can verify that.

 The U gave up on hopes for a tunnel beneath Washington Avenue on the East Bank campus.

 Now, I am not a VP for Research, but I have sat in the Cumberland theater adjacent to the Bloor subway line in Toronto, and a tunnel does not mean vibration free.  So my question is why all these complaints when their 2nd choice, a tunnel, was acceptable.  Maybe EMI would be more manageable as there was more solids between the power lines and the equipment, that makes sense to me and I can buy that.  But vibrations, a tunnel would have had the same problem.

Not only that, but the timing seems off, after all they accepted this compromise in February 2008, but there Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) was issued on June 13, 2008.  Wouldn’t you want that demand met before you made the compromise in June 2008.

Later in the commentary we see this, comparing to the situation in Seattle and the University of Washington:

Seattle’s decision to heed its university’s concerns provides a precedent confirming the legitimacy of the same issues raised here and, more important, demonstrates that it is possible to manage such issues to mutual benefit — if only there is a willingness to do so. For the university to throw its support behind the Central Corridor project, we must be reassured that our concerns have been adequately addressed — we need the same consideration that our sister institution in Washington state received when confronting the same challenges. To allow construction on the Central Corridor to move forward before the U’s concerns about the impact on its research enterprise are resolved would be a risky, unnecessary gamble and would place the public’s enormous investment in the university in jeopardy.

So when you accepted the compromise in February 2008, did you do that without assurances, and if so, why did you agree to it?  That would be very stupid.  If the Met Council did agree to things and are now backing out of it, then air the promises.

To try and claim that this instance as precedent is nice, but I wonder if the Met Council could find an example where the University’s demands were not met.  We all want to use an example that tries to make the other party seem less reasonable and your own demands more reasonable.  But with the timeline, and the supposed compromise that the University entered into without the apparent assurances, you have to wonder if this some belated demands or not.

Now I am fan of both science and mass transit, but in case like this we need to figure out what is reasonable.  Right now, based on the facts at hand, I think that the U is not being reasonable.

Now if the U wants to present the dates of their solutions as they list them here, and there better be ones pre-dating the February 2008 compromise, then I open to re-evaluating who is being reasonable.

The university has shared these concerns — along with some proposed solutions — with the Metropolitan Council, the governmental unit responsible for the Central Corridor project, on numerous occasions and in four official document filings.


Can’t wait for the new season of the SPCO

I just received my season tickets for the 2009-2010 for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Some of the highlights for the season.

  • New world premiere commissioned for soprano Dawn Upshaw – Nov 7
  • Stravinsky Festival – Jan 8-24
  • Cantus – May 20-23
  • Joshua Bell – May 27-39

I am a bit disappointed that the Nov 7 concert is one night only.  The Stravinsky Festival will be nice to see, and I think is the first time they will play with the Minnesota Orchestra since Britten’s War Requiem a few years back.  Cantus is a great choral ensemble, and worth seeing.  Former SPCO artistic partner Joshua Bell is back after performing a recital with the Schubert Club in 2008 and Minnesota Orchestra earlier this year.

Looking at the program for the six chamber music series, which is really blind faith for subscription as they are rarely programmed at renewal time, I am pretty happy.  Not only that, but I am very glad that I increased my subscription to two tickets on Friday nights.

Here is the program.  Dates are Friday nights at 8 PM and Sunday afternoon at 2 PM.

Oct 2/4 – Haydn String Quartet

  • Program to include:
  • Haydn: String Quartet in G
  • Kodaly: Serenade for Two Violins and Viola

Oct 23/25 – SPCO Winds

  • Villa-Lobos: Bachianas brasileras No. 6 for Flute and Basson
  • Piston: Three Pieces for Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon
  • Beethoven: Wind Sextet
  • Enesco: Dixtour for Wind Instruments
  • Wilder: Woodwind Quintet No. 2

Dec 11/13 – Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto

  • Bach/Sitkovetsky: Goldberg Variations
  • Bach: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 4 and 5

Feb 5/7 – Boccherini, Leclair, and Borodin

  • Boccherini: String Quintet in C
  • Leclair: Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 3, No. 4
  • Borodin: String Quartet No. 2 in D

Feb 19/21 – Dvorak and a World Premiere

  • Telemann: Quartet in A Minor
  • Telemann: Trio Sonata in A Minor
  • David Evan Thomas: New Work for Recorder, Oboe, Bassoon, Violin, and Harpsichord
  • Dvorak: String Quintet in E-flat, The American

May 14/16 – Mozart, Beethoven and More

  • Dohnanyi: Serenade in C for Violin, Viola and Cello
  • Beethoven: Sextet in E-flat for Two Horns and String Quartet
  • Mozart: Horn Quintet in E-flat
  • Martinu: Nonet for Winds and Strings

The only regret with the programming is that I wish they were doing all six Brandenburg Concertos in one evening like they did in the 2007-2008 season.


Time to take Kent Conrad off Budget

Senator Kent Conrad, chair of the Budget Committee just said, there is not enough votes to do this with just Democrats. He said this to explain why he feels compromise is necessary to get Republican votes.

But the reality is that with 60 Senators caucussing with the Democrats (counting Independent Senators Sanders and Lieberman) they can get cloture in the Senate and they have a majority in the House.

Now if he said that compromise is need to bring moderate or fiscally conservative Democrats on board, he would be more accurate.

But he is wrong on the numbers, and I don’t want some one who can’t do simple math chairing the Budget Committee.


Screw bipartisanship

It is way over-rated.  It is something that the corporate media tries to impose on the Democrats to stiffle truly progressive legislation that the American people want, not the power brokers that represent monied (corporate)interests.

As this Washington Post editorial demonstrates, their desire for bipartisanship is at the expense of the only reform that matters, the public option.

Second, Democrats continued their insistence on a public option — a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers — as essential to effective health reform. Mr. Obama issued what amounted to a public rebuke of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, for the apparently heretical act of suggesting openness to an alternative: having a “trigger” mechanism under which a public plan would be established if the private insurance market fails to provide enough competition. The president, from Moscow, restated his support for a public plan, though, thankfully, he continued to avoid drawing a line in the sand. As we have said before, it would be tragic if this issue were to drag down health reform or make it impossible to secure Republican votes. Restructuring the health-care system is risky enough that Democrats would be wise not to try to accomplish it entirely on their own.

So they are saying that including a public option will drive away every Republican vote.  If they want to subvert the will of the people and vote against, then they are going to cement their role as a minority party.  After all this CBS/NY Times poll shows:

A clear majority of Americans — 72 percent — support a government-sponsored health care plan to compete with private insurers, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds. Most also think the government would do a better job than private industry at keeping down costs and believe that the government should guarantee health care for all Americans.

CBS deserves a little bit of smackdown on this, a clear majority?  55 percent is a clear majority, 72% is almost 3 in 4 people.  You know they call the 60 votes need for cloture in the Senate (which is 60%)?  A super majority.  To get an amendment out of Congress it needs 2/3 thirds votes in each chamber, that is only 67%, this is higher.  Okay back on topic!

From the actual poll (pdf) this gem comes out about the public option that 72% of Americans support.

Even 50% of Republicans favor that.

So I say include the plan that Americans want, that includes a public option.  Remember corporations do not vote, oh we know they give money in the form of campaign contributions that our politicians are constantly chasing after.  But they can give all the money they want, we can vote them out.  And if I were a Republican, I would be wary of putting off that 50% of my party voters, because most current Repbulicans in Congress have little chance of picking up the Reagan Democrats.  Especially Senators Snowe and Collins, you vote against cloture on public option, and I hope that you are voting yourself out of office.

Has the Washington Post ever called on Republicans to be bipartisan on legislation when they were in power?  If you find an example, I would welcome it, but I am not going to search for it because I doubt exists.

So back on track again, in theory the members of Congress are our representatives, and we want a public health option.  I disagree with the editorial that it should be not be line in the sand as away to try and sway Republican votes.  They ruled the country and left a mess, it is time to try some good old fashioned progressive policies to get the country on the right (not poltically) course.

Public option is the line in the sand.  The Democrats in the Senate started this process with a handicap when Senator Baucus wouldn’t even discuss Single Payer in his committee when talking about health care reform.  That is the ideal, but I am willing to settle for public option, but when public option is the far left position on the table (and would be the center-left position if single payer were still on the table) and makes for a weaker negotiating position. 

But here is the beauty part, if Harry Reid could find his spine, and get his Senators to vote for cloture, we have the 60 votes, we don’t need any Republicans in the Senate for this vote.  

And if the Republicans require a cloture vote, don’t just do the vote, and don’t run (as he has in the past) if you are not sure you have 60 votes.   Spend days of debate on the topic.  Put your most progressive Senators out there making the case for the public option.  Make the Obstructionist Republican Party defend their position of opposing a public option.  Get the news cameras in, get in on the record, and get footage of their corporate arguments that can be used in ads against them in the next election.  And if any of the Democrats are waffling, we will get the calls into their offices to swamp, to make them think twice about their chances of re-election if they go against the will of the people.

The time to leave policy in the hands of members of Congress and the talking heads in the corporate media is over.  It is time for Americans to take back our politicians, to make them serve our interests.  So screw the bipartisanship that the editors at the Washington Post think is critical!  Americans don’t need bipartisanship, Americans need an affordable health care system that serves the needs of the people, of the patients!


A whole different world

As more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet, or if they are doing okay, saving money in case their situation worsens, they are looking at the cost of items.

Some are looking at cutting back on costs, maybe renting movies, or using Netflix, then going to a movie theater.  Maybe looking at store brands versus name brands.  Those are small, but significant savings over time that many Americans are looking at these days.

That is average Americans, what about those with a little more wealth available to them?  Well it looks like the Ensign clan has paid $96,000 to Cynthia Hampton’s family.  You may remember that she had an affair with Senator John Ensign.

In April 2008, Senator John Ensign’s parents each made gifts to Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton, and two of their children in the form of a check totaling $96,000. Each gift was limited to $12,000. The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts.

The first thing that struck me was that his parent’s paid his mistress, but then I realized that they probably paid the gifts to shield Senator Ensign from scrutiny.

So back to the cost of things, well in Nevada a family of four is consider to be at the federal poverty level if they make $22,050 a year.  Yet this family of four received gifts that totalled $96,000 or 435% of the poverty level, not bad for a gift.  That isn’t counting any work that either parent did during the year, that was just a gift!

This brings me back to American families of more average means, you know the ones that can’t afford to throw almost 6 figures to a family who you committed adultery with, so I am going to look at autoworkers.  Why, well Senator Ensign thinks the UAW (unions=bad) workers made too much.

As Ensign sees it, the root of the problem with the Big Three lies in the labor contracts that prevent the companies from being competitive with the foreign companies that build cars in the United States with nonunion labor.

Ensign repeatedly points to the $70 hourly labor costs at the Big Three, compared with $30 paid by companies that do not use unionized labor.

According to CBS it isn’t really $70/hour, but  $28/hour or about $60,000 for working on a line for a year.

Let’s start with the fact that it’s not $70 per hour in wages. According to Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automative Research–who was my primary source for the figures you are about to read–average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007. That works out to a little less than $60,000 a year in gross income–hardly outrageous, particularly when you consider the physical demands of automobile assembly work and the skills most workers must acquire over the course of their careers.

So not only does he get his facts wrong, after all union busting is the real purpose of his efforts to oppose the bailout.  But really, even if it was $70/hour, or about $150,000 a year, that is for working for a year, not a gift to cover up a marital dalliance. 

Now you may ask yourself what also costs $96,000, not just paying off your mistress’ family, but something that most of us could understand a little better (that isn’t a house purchase which is closest most of us will get to that price tag).  Well we learned that Norm Coleman’s campaign had to pay some of Senator Al Franken’s costs in the contested Senate battle and the amount worked out to be about the same.

In the last chapter of a stinging loss to now-Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota’s Republican Party has sent the Democrat almost $96,000 to cover lawsuit costs.

Now if you want to be crude, you could say that both Ensign and Coleman got screwed, but Ensign got to have intimate relations with someone in the process, and kept his Senate seat.  So maybe he had the better deal of it.