Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

Tom Coburn and Chuck Schumer Join Hands Against--Us

As I hope I've made clear, I'm a skeptic in the matter of governmental support of the arts. That does not mean, however, that I'm a skeptic in the matter of whether artists work for a living--many of them work very hard for very little. So when Josh Marshall of Talking Points Media posted the Tom Coburn amendment referred to below--he was especially piqued by language forbidding "rotating pastel lights" that apparently had its roots in a beautification project at the Center for Disease Control--I thought about reprinting it here. And now comes the letter I've copied, which comes to me from world-class freelance musicologist Ned Sublette, who's ordinarily way too left-wing for such trivia. Coburn's ridiculous amendment just passed big-time with support from the likes of Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar, and Russ Feingold. I would advise residents of New York, California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to remind their oh so liberal senators that artists do in fact work for a living. I agree with Obama--the essential should not be sacrificed to the perfect. Nevertheless, this sucks.

Our voices need to be heard. Please read below and act. You can also go to, sign and press send! Details after the jump . . .

February 6, 2009

Breaking News

This afternoon the U.S. Senate, during their consideration of the economic recovery bill, approved an egregious amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that stated "None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project." Unfortunately, the amendment passed by a wide vote margin of 73-24, and surprisingly included support from many high profile Senators including Chuck Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and several other Democratic and Republican Senators.

If the Coburn amendment language is included in the final conference version of this legislation, many arts groups will be prevented from receiving economic recovery funds from any portion of this specific stimulus bill. It is clear that there is still much work to be done in the Senate and in the media about the role that nonprofit arts organizations and artists play in the nation's economy and workforce.

Plan of Action

Arts advocates need to quickly contact Senators who voted for the Coburn Amendment and express your extreme disappointment with their vote. We need these Senators to know that their vote would detrimentally impact nonprofit arts organizations and the jobs they support in their state. We have crafted a customized message for you to send to your Senators based on their vote on the Coburn Amendment. The correct letter, customized to each of your Senators will appear when you enter your zip code. If your Senator voted for this funding prohibition, you can send them a message expressing your disappointment and ask them to work to delete this language in the final conference bill with the House. If your Senator voted against the Coburn Amendment, you can thank them for their support of the arts.

We need as many news articles as possible this coming week to publish stories about the economic impact of the nonprofit arts industry and how the recession is negatively affecting arts groups across the country. Please click here to customize an opinion editorial to your local media. We have provided you with easy-to-use talking points.

Next week, Americans for the Arts will be sending you another action alert that targets the White House and the soon-to-be-named Senators and Representatives who will serve as conferees to the final economic recovery bill. Please be prepared to take action on this alert as well.

Americans for the Arts itself is submitting op-eds to several national newspapers and online blogs. We are enlisting high profile leaders to co-sign these letters as well.

Americans for the Arts is purchasing full-page ads titled "The Arts = Jobs" in Washington's top political newspapers in Roll Call, Politico and The Hill on Monday and Tuesday of next week. We encourage you to post the ad on your social network sites. Please help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund. Play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today -- it's free and simple.

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------ End of Forwarded Message

February 6, 2009, 2:30 pm

Senate Passes 'Mob Museum' Prohibition in Stimulus

Patrick Yoest reports on the stimulus debate.

The Senate passed an amendment Friday aimed at barring the use of stimulus spending on wasteful projects -- and specifically, to stop the use of federal funds for a museum devoted to the history of organized crime.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) prohibits the use of funds from the roughly $935 billion Senate stimulus bill for a range of projects. But it was inspired by the remarks of Las Vegas, Nev., Mayor Oscar Goodman, who in a speech proposed the use of federal stimulus funds for $50 million "mob museum."

The amendment passed by a 73-24 vote.

The planned Las Vegas museum has become a punching bag for Senate Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) who have sought to make it a symbol of wasteful spending in the stimulus plan. The current stimulus bill does not specifically allocate funds for the museum, and the Coburn amendment would keep the federal government from steering any funds toward the museum and a number of other potential projects.

Coburn's amendment specifically prohibits the use of stimulus funds for items including a "casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project."

Goodman may get the last laugh, however. He and other museum proponents recently told the Las Vegas Sun that the recent controversy surrounded the museum have probably resulted $7 million in free publicity.

1 Comment

By David Schweitzer on February 12, 2009 6:57 AM

Thanks for the tip, Bob -- I hadn't heard about this bill. I was even angrier about the "community parks" part. In my experience and observation, local parks are used more by people in inverse proportion to the size of their backyards. And I remember 3rd grade -- "FORD TO NY: DROP DEAD" era, Whitestone Queens. The principal had to lock the gate between the public playground and the schoolyard so we couldn't slide and swing after lunch anymore -- because the city stopped paying someone to pick up the broken glass. They build schools without yards now, so this is just one more case of adults pretending that recreation isn't part of education, too. Which brings us back to museums and art centers.

Articles, Feb. 8, 2009

Call for Young Folks Live Blogging the Grammys