(Image credit: Katie Carey)
You’d never confuse them for the Rockefellers. But you also wouldn’t have curling without ’em.
1. THE ROSENWACHS
Power: Hydrating Wall Street, Broadway, and the media
(Image credit: Flickr user Colin Poellot)
Look up in New York City and you’ll no doubt see a wooden water tower topping a roof. Resembling rustic grain silos, the towers are an iconic part of the cityscape and quietly keep millions of people alive. (Normal pipes can’t pump water more than six stories, and these barrels help hydrate higher floors.) The whole industry is run by just three families, but the Rosenwachs reign supreme. They made their first barrel in 1894 and have built more than 10,000 since. The technology hasn’t changed much: Each tank lasts 30 to 35 years, at which point it will be replaced … likely by a Rosenwach.
2. THE KAYS
Power: Keeping the World Stoned
(Image credit: Felix)
An uninhabited 240-acre slab Keats once called an “ocean-pyramid,” Ailsa Craig in Scotland is the only known source of common green and blue hone granite, the crucial ingredients for Olympic curling stones. The granites’ molecular structure sits in a Goldilocks zone: Water can’t soak in, but a hint of elasticity stops the stones from cracking when they bump on the rink. Thanks to a 200-year-old agreement, the Kay family has exclusive rights to quarry these magical rocks, making them the world’s largest—and nearly only—supplier of curling stones.
3. THE FRELINGHUYSENS
Power: New Jersey Politicking
Forget the Kennedys and Roosevelts: This is America’s real political dynasty. In 1775, Frederick Frelinghuysen joined the New Jersey Provincial Congress and later served in the Senate. Every generation of Frelinghuysens has produced a politician since, including a secretary of state (in Chester Arthur’s cabinet), a vice-presidential candidate (remember 1844’s Clay-Frelinghuysen vs. Polk-Dallas?), and four more senators. Today, Rodney Frelinghuysen—Frederick’s great-great-great-great-grandson—
4. THE KONGOS
Shigemitsu Kongō was commissioned to build Japan’s first Buddhist temple in 593, even though almost nobody there practiced the religion. (Most Japanese were Shintoists.) But as Buddhism spread, Kongō’s family acted as the country’s default temple architects, building nearly every major temple for the next 1400 years. After 40 generations of keeping it in the family, the business went under in 2006. However, the Kongōs’ influence on Japan’s architecture—and its 45 million Buddhists—remains unshakable.
5. THE BROOKES
Power: Designing Wartime Fashion
John Brooke & Sons (and sons and sons … ) specialized in military uniforms, with 15 generations making wool outfits for the British army and navy, the French army, and even the Russian army. British troops kept warm in their wool while fighting everybody from Napoleon to Hitler. At the dawn of the Cold War, even Soviet military police wore John Brooke & Sons overcoats—proof the two sides could agree on at least one thing: fashion.
6. THE HOFFMANNS
Power: Making the People Cough-Free
In 1898, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche invented an effective over-the-counter cough syrup. To make it drinkable, he flavored it with orange, the way he took his cognac. And to help it move off shelves, he partnered with makers of “saint cards.” The baseball cards of their day, the collectibles depicted a saint—and an ad for “Roche’s Syrup.” Somehow the marketing scheme worked, and the saints have been looking out for the family ever since. He used the booming sales to branch out; Bloomberg recently valued the health care juggernaut at $35 billion.
7. THE CHRISTIANSENS
Power:Building Budding Engineers
Put aside the fact that there are 86 Legos for every human on the planet, or the fact that your grandpa’s blocks will snap into ones made in 2016. The Lego company—a family business started by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932—helps build the world. At MIT, a project called Lifelong Kindergarten partners with Lego to teach kids how to create robots, assemble jets, and master principles like torque. And Lego’s Architecture Studio, a monochrome kit of 1200 pieces with a 272-page book from architecture firms, unlocks secrets behind structures like Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. (Assembly required.)
8. THE MALTAS
Power:Ringing Praise for Church and High School Music Programs
(Image credit: Flickr user Felex Liu)
Biggie vs. Tupac. Jobs vs. Gates. Hooli vs. Pied Piper. They have nothing on the Handbell Wars. In 1973, Jake Malta, a star engineer for the handbell company Schulmerich, quit to start his own business, Malmark, just 10 miles down the road. After traveling Europe to study the science of bells, he designed a new handbell that he insisted was purer than all the bells before it—perfection, really. Lawsuits followed. A legal war raged for 30 years, one case almost reaching the Supreme Court in 1992. As NPR reported, though, the titans finally reached peace. “The enemy is the 300 million people out there who don’t ring handbells,” Schulmerich’s Jonathan Goldstein said.
9. THE MOGIS
Power:Bolstering the Wisconsin Economy
Every bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce you buy in the United States comes not from Japan, but Wisconsin. The Mogi family began making soy sauce in Japan in 1630. But in 1972, under the leadership of Yuzaburo Mogi, Kikkoman opened a factory near the abundant soy fields of Walworth, Wisconsin. The factory now churns out 29 million gallons a year, making it the single biggest soy sauce factory on the planet.
10. THE HALLS
Power: Dictating Schmaltz
When Joyce C. Hall was a broke teenager, he earned extra cash by selling postcards. In 1910, he moved to Kansas City with a shoebox full of wares and began selling them out of a YMCA. His brothers joined in, and the company grew as demand to send cards to troops rose over the two world wars. Today, the company pumps out 10,000 products every year and has seemingly touched every American’s birthday, wedding, and funeral. You know it as Hallmark.
The article above by Jeff Wilser appeared in the May-June 2016 issue of mental_floss magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.
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President Trump’s visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was long on rhetoric and optics but short on substance, particularly regarding the peace process. Trump is clearly determined to prioritize the Israeli-Palestinian issue and link it with broader regional concerns. But it’s impossible to judge whether we are headed in the right direction or charging headlong down the same old dead end. That’s because at this stage, a great start that ultimately produces tangible results and a false start that produces quixotic flailing at best or real harm at worst would both look much the same—and much like what we’ve been seeing.
On the positive side, Trump has salvaged the Israeli-Palestinian issue from the diplomatic dumpster of recent years. He’s owning the project, designating his son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner, as the nominal point-person, and his longtime attorney, Jason Greenblatt, as negotiator. Because this is now a White House undertaking closely associated with his own reputation, when the time comes, he might well be willing to leverage his personal and institutional credibility to pressure parties. That can’t be overestimated. Barack Obama’s second term shows what can happen when an American president walks away.
Moreover, both Trump and Greenblatt have established warm relations, not only with Israel, but also with the Palestinian leadership. That’s especially significant because it’s so unexpected. Many observers, particularly on the Israeli ultra-right, gathered from Trump’s campaign that he would embrace the Israeli settlement agenda, abandoning decades of international law and U.S. policy.
Nothing of the kind has happened. The campaign pledge, which continued into the interregnum before the inauguration, to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, has been shelved. Trump has somewhat adjusted the (already attenuated) American position on Israeli settlements; he’s gone from saying that they are “unhelpful” to saying that they are “not good for peace.” And he’s urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold off” on more settlements. The administration seems to have reached a tacit understanding with Israel roughly similar to one George W. Bush developed with Netanyahu on settlements, agreeing that they can be built “up but not out.” This means Israel can add housing units to existing settlements, but not expand them territorially or create new ones, especially in highly strategic areas that alter the political equation and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state.
On several other crucial issues, Trump has maintained longstanding American policies based on international law, and has been willing to irk Israel in the process. His advisers made it clear that, when Trump visited occupied East Jerusalem, Netanyahu was not welcome to accompany him because it is “not your territory, it is part of the West Bank,” despite Israel’s claims to have annexed East Jerusalem and insistence that all of Jerusalem is its “eternal and undivided capital.” Israelis have been making much hay recently about payments by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to the families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, including those accused of terrorism. Trump may have alluded to the issue, very obliquely, during his press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday, and reportedly raised the subject, but without much emphasis, during their meetings at the White House and in Bethlehem.
Greenblatt is reportedly working on a series of economic initiatives to improve living conditions for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, which should also help stabilize the Palestinian political situation. It’s no substitute for an actual peace process, but it’s an important step forward under difficult circumstances. And the political credibility of Abbas has been greatly enhanced by Trump’s embrace of his leadership, the Palestinian role in the process, and the resurrection of the issue. None of that will survive indefinitely in a diplomatic vacuum, but it’s all very helpful.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is bending over backwards to shower praise on Trump, who, in turn, seems to have really won over most Jewish Israelis by heaping his own accolades on their country. And the biggest lovefest of all is taking place between Trump and Gulf Arab leaders, particularly those of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Trump wants to bring them and other Arab countries into the mix by adding a regional component to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He is hoping that these countries can add an additional incentive to Israel through greater regional legitimacy and recognition, and forging a common front against Iran’s aggressive regional agenda (particularly with an eye to the expiration of the nuclear agreement). Saudi Arabia and the UAE seem willing, as demonstrated by a draft “discussion document” outlining proposed stronger ties to Israel in exchange for Israeli curbs on settlement activities and easing restrictions on Palestinians.
These personal relationships, and the accumulation of political credibility, can play a crucial role, but, history suggests, only in a limited way and at key moments in a process. Political considerations and national security imperatives are more likely to shape the choices leaders on all sides make. And that’s where grounds for doubt become daunting indeed.
Trump confronts in Netanyahu an Israeli leader whose instincts are risk-averse, who is extremely skeptical that an agreement with the Palestinians, however limited, is either achievable or desirable, and who is apparently convinced that regional instability makes significant compromises with the Palestinians out of the question. Moreover, in order to even make minimal concessions, he would almost certainly have to reshuffle his cabinet, most likely jettisoning the ultra-right-wing Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett and replacing him with Labor Party leaders. That would open a very vulnerable flank on Netanyahu’s political extreme right, particularly given that the whole point of such a move would be to make some gestures toward the Palestinians in order to reach out to the Arabs, as Trump is urging.
The Arab leaders face an analogous conundrum. They, too, would like to forge a closer working relationship with Israel, mainly to form a united front against Iran, and, indeed, have already taken some significant, but very low-key, steps in that direction. But going further, especially more openly, would be exceptionally difficult for them unless there is a functional peace process that seems to be keeping the prospects of a two-state solution alive, if not leading directly to an end to the occupation. Without progress on the Palestinians, they can’t go much further toward Israel than they already have, which isn’t really all that far.
The Palestinians are in the weakest and most exposed position of all. They have almost no way of leveraging the Israelis, and, while they can always say no to any proposition, their national, economic, and political circumstances are so dire that there would be a serious temptation to consider almost any offer, as long as it’s not packaged as an “end of conflict and end of claims” final status agreement. Yet even while Abbas and company would probably want to take advantage of any opportunity to improve Palestinian lives, even modestly advance their national goals, and enhance their own political position, they would face massive opposition. Hamas surely would reject almost anything the PLO agrees to, but so might dissident factions within Fatah, who are currently jockeying for position to succeed the 82-year-old, ailing Abbas. So, even if it logically makes no sense for Palestinians to reject confidence-building measures, they still might feel constrained to do so politically.
The big danger is that Trump is raising expectations only to see them dashed because he lacks a real plan. This is a very dangerous game in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Even with the best of intentions, miscalculations can cause enormous harm. During his first term, Obama, following the Roadmap of the Middle East Quartet, tried to secure a settlement freeze from Israel. Israel agreed to a temporary “freeze” with so many restrictions and caveats that actual settlement construction never really slowed. Then Israel refused an astonishingly generous package asking for a mere three-month extension of the agreement (which, at that point, would have seriously slowed settlement building). Obama walked away from the issue, leaving the Palestinians holding the settlement-freeze bag. Since then, we haven’t had any real negotiations, and Palestinians are still trying to figure out what to do with Obama’s unwelcome present.
Since Trump casts himself as the anti-Obama, he would do well to study this very carefully. In diplomacy in general, as in medicine, the starting point must be to first do no harm. Nowhere is this truer than between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
By paying close attention to the issue and injecting a novel and potentially fruitful regional approach into the mix, Trump may counterintuitively prove to be just the iconoclastic and innovative force that can shake up this moribund process and get it moving again, finally. Alternatively, this may be just another Trumpian boondoggle, a baseless and reckless gamble at everybody else’s expense. The problem is, under the current circumstances, no one can be sure which it is, because at this stage they’d both look pretty much like what we are currently seeing. Yes, in the Middle East, pessimists are usually proven right. But they never solve anything, and solutions are ultimately required.
I think my favourite character was the corpse (no, really), but it was a close run thing between him and the stage-hand-who-ends-up-getting-roped-
The recalcitrant set, of course, is a character in it's own right. Whoever designed it is a genius. Bits alternately fall off or unexpectedly don't fall off; doors swing open or fail to open, depending on what they are not supposed to do, etc. The timing of all these things is vital, and it was absolutely spot on every time, right down to the ( small spoiler ) at the end.
The po-faced actor/director-playing-the-inspector's ( small spoiler ) He reminded me of nothing so much as my English teacher at school, who used to sweat blood pushing recalcitrant children into the school play, and inevitably things went wrong as they do in these situations.
The one note of caution I would sound is that it doesn't pass Bechdel. There are two female characters, but they don't talk to each other at all (although at one point they talk over each other and ( small spoiler )). There's no real reason why the Butler, or the Sound Engineer, or even the Inspector couldn't be women, they just... aren't. This is a bit of a contrast from the Agatha Christie plays which this is clearly riffing off, which are always scrupulously gender balanced...
That was the only thing that really bothered me, though. Otherwise I had an excellent time, the performances were good, the stage set was excellent, and the comic timing was first rate. If you get the chance, go see this, particularly if you've already seen and are familiar with The Mousetrap, to which there are many many refernces. Also, you need to get in there ten minutes or so early. No spoilers, but it's worth it.
(My friend and I are having dinner in a fairly up-scale restaurant. She is a transgender woman, but her transition was almost twenty years ago. Although she is about six feet tall, there is nothing about her that looks particularly masculine in my opinion. She has long hair and is wearing a tank top and skirt. When the server brings our food, this exchange occurs:)
Server: Would you like another drink, sir?
Friend: No thank you.
(After he leaves)
Me: Did he just call you “sir”?
Friend: Welcome to my life.
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(I go to a school with very small classes, so all teachers and students end up getting the sort of relationship where they tease and joke with each other. I have just hit the age where I’m grouchy at everything and generally try to rebel in little ways, also the age where just about anything embarrases me.)
Teacher: Come on, [My Name], time to go.
Me: *sticks out tongue*
Teacher: What a long tongue! You’ll probably be a great kisser!
(I promptly covered my mouth and sulked off, cherry red. She sure knew how to shut me up.)
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Despite its size, California has become little more than a fundraising stop in national elections because it has grown so reliably Democratic over the past two decades. But the razor-thin vote in the House of Representatives earlier this month to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has moved the state into an unaccustomed position: ground zero in next year’s battle for control of Congress.
Even before the vote, the state began registering on the 2018 radar because seven of its House Republicans represent districts that backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump last November. That’s nearly one-third of all Clinton-district Republicans in the lower chamber, and the largest concentration in any state.
But when all seven unexpectedly voted for the GOP health-care bill, California suddenly moved to the very center of Democratic efforts to capture the 24 seats the party needs to regain a House majority. “If they get back the House, they are going to have to take a big chunk of these seats,” said Bill Carrick, a longtime Southern California-based Democratic strategist. “If you don’t win seats here … then you have to chase Southern seats and rural Midwestern seats.”
The unanimous support from the “California Seven” for the deeply controversial repeal bill was stunning in two respects. First, it clearly distinguished them from the 16 other Republicans in Clinton districts: Outside of California, more of those representatives opposed (nine) than supported (seven) the bill. Instead, their “yes” votes aligned them with the seven California Republicans from districts Trump carried. (That unanimity, California Republicans say, may have partly reflected personal loyalty to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.)
Even more striking, those repeal votes came even though California has arguably benefited more than any other state from the ACA. Nearly 4 million of its residents have gained coverage under the law, more than double any other state. California adults are now far less likely than people in demographically similar Texas and Florida to report difficulty paying medical bills or delaying needed care because of cost.
The California Seven represent two broad geographic areas. Five of them hold seats in Southern California: Ed Royce, Mimi Walters, and Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County; Darrell Issa in a district that straddles Orange and San Diego counties; and Steve Knight in the northern Los Angeles exurbs. Jeff Denham and David Valadao represent seats in the agricultural Central Valley.
Privately, Democrats acknowledge that allowing all seven to survive in 2016 was a missed opportunity. With Trump’s insular nationalism deeply unpopular in diverse, global-facing California, Clinton won the state by more than any Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936—and became the first party nominee since FDR’s run that year to carry Orange County, a onetime conservative bastion now being reshaped by growing racial diversity and rising education levels. Crowded with the white-collar voters who recoiled from Trump, the SoCal districts held by Walters, Issa, Rohrabacher, and Royce were among the 30 nationwide where the president’s performance deteriorated most from Mitt Romney’s in 2012. Clinton also routed Trump by over 15 points in Valadao’s district and beat him soundly in Knight’s. (She carried Denham’s seat only narrowly.)
Yet Democrats last year mounted serious, well-funded challenges only against Knight, Issa, and Denham, and came close to ousting just the latter two. Operatives in both parties acknowledge Democrats should be able to recruit more consistently strong candidates for 2018 because the state filing deadline for last year’s election, in March, fell before it was clear Trump would win the GOP nomination. And, especially after the health-care vote, these races are guaranteed to draw more local and national media and fundraising attention than they did in 2016. Democrats are aggressively recruiting candidates even in the seats where credible 2016 challengers Douglas Applegate and Bryan Caforio are seeking rematches with Issa and Knight, respectively.
With California trending so Democratic, the Republican mantra in these seven seats has been to localize the races. And even Democrats acknowledge that several of the Republicans have effectively connected themselves to their districts. That’s especially true for Valadao and Denham, whose districts have voted Democratic in all three presidential races since 2008. Knight and Issa also tried to establish distance from Trump by supporting an independent counsel on Russian election meddling before the Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
But maintaining separation from Trump will grow more difficult for the California Seven as they cast votes on Trump priorities, like the deeply conservative budget he released Tuesday. “In ’16, polling showed voters separated Republican candidates from Trump and that helped all of these incumbents,” said Kevin Spillane, a California GOP consultant. “Now Trump [will] be a central factor in these campaigns.”
The California Seven will benefit in 2018 if turnout among strongly Democratic minorities and young people continues its usual falloff from presidential elections. But Census figures show that in almost all of these seats, the shares of minorities and college-educated whites—two groups persistently hostile to Trump—are growing: Minorities now represent over half the population in the Valadao, Denham, Royce, and Knight seats; just under half in Walters’s; and around two-fifths in Issa’s and Rohrabacher’s. “These districts aren’t the districts most of them got elected in,” Carrick noted. The state’s open primary system adds another complication: In next year’s gubernatorial race, the two finalists both may be Democrats, potentially depressing GOP turnout and hurting these incumbents.
From its voters through its elected officials, no state has expressed more vehement opposition to Trump than California. And now, unexpectedly, no state has a greater opportunity to empower Democrats to hobble his agenda by winning back the House of Representatives.
According to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest score of the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill, 23 million people would lose health insurance by 2026 if the bill were to become law.
That much is known. But much of what each individual’s insurance options and costs would look like depends on decisions their states make about what kinds of services to cover. In doing so, the bill, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this month, demonstrates a dramatically different philosophy toward health insurance than the one taken by the Obama administration through the Affordable Care Act. Instead of a single, nationwide system of taxes and benefits designed to extend the same kind of insurance to each American, under the GOP bill, health insurance would be all about location, location, location. And waivers.
Under Obamacare, insurers must cover a set of “essential health benefits”—things like maternity care and mental-health treatment—and they have to charge everyone the same amount, no matter how sick people are. But the Republican bill, the American Health Care Act, allows states to apply for waivers from both of those provisions.
The CBO can’t know exactly which states would apply for these waivers, but here’s what it predicted:
- About half the population, the CBO estimates, lives in states that won't request either of those waivers. There, premiums would be about 4 percent lower on average than under Obamacare, but older people would have to pay significantly more than younger people would.
- Another third lives in states that would make some moderate changes to the current rules for insurance coverage, and insurance in those states would get about 20 percent cheaper in 10 years. But that’s mostly because insurance wouldn’t cover as many treatments and services. And for treatments that are no longer considered essential, insurers could once again impose annual and lifetime limits on how much they pay for a certain drug or treatment.
- The final option looks very similar to the health-care system before 2009. The CBO estimates that about a sixth of Americans—roughly 50 million people—live in states that would waive both those provisions. In those states, healthy people with few medical expenses could purchase cheap, skimpy plans. That would leave only very expensive plans for people who do have chronic or expensive medical conditions. “Over time,” the CBO writes, “it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly.” The agency couldn’t even put forth a guess as to how much premiums would change in those states, since so much would depend on how healthy the individual was.
Also, the CBO predicts that a shadow market of sorts would emerge in some states: Brokers would sell insurance plans that closely matched the amount of the new tax credits included in the Republican bill. The agency notes that those plans, while affordable, won’t provide enough financial protection to be “considered insurance.”
Compared to Obamacare, premiums would get much more expensive for older people under the Republicans’ bill, even in states that didn’t apply for waivers, because insurers would be able to charge them five times more than they charge younger people. Meanwhile, especially in states that request a waiver change, premiums would go down for younger, wealthier people (as the CBO illustrates with a rather far-fetched example of 21-year-olds who make $68,200):
So will people move to greener pastures, to a state that covers their unique medical condition or that has slightly lower premiums? If the example of Medicaid is a guide, no. Under Obamacare, some states expanded Medicaid to cover more of the working poor, and others didn’t. But research showed people didn’t move from one state to another just to obtain benefits.
Then again, the Senate is reportedly going to rewrite the bill, anyway. It remains to be seen whether their revised version would hew to the same basic ideology as the AHCA: a lot more state discretion in health care, for better or worse.
I work in a Computer Repair shop which also sells stationery. We also have a few branded giftware items for [educational establishment] which we inherited when [nearby shop] changed hands.
An elderly lady rings up enquiring about said branded items, and we have the following conversation.
Customer: Hi I would like to speak to the person in charge of ordering clothing.
Me: I’m afraid the manager isn’t here at the moment, can I help at all?
Customer: I would like to complain about the lack of scarves in [establishment].
Me: … Um, ok… Well this is a computer shop and we only have a few items available.
Customer: Well surely the first thing that students want when arriving at [educational establishment] is a scarf.
*The students typically arrive in August/September, so even in Wales, the weather is usually OK, and definitely not scarf weather! I’m not sure whether the customer is serious or not but I assume she is*
Me: I do apologise, but as I mentioned, this is a computer shop – we only have a few giftware items left.
Customer: Well when will you be getting new stock in?
Me: We won’t be. [Shop across the way] may have some.
Customer: Well I think it’s ridiculous that students could catch a cold because of this.
Me: Well I’m sorry that I can’t help, you can try [other shop]
Customer: Can you put me through please?
*I can’t remember their number and they’re not on the internal pone *
Me: They’re on a different phone system I’m afraid, you’ll have to ring them.
Customer: But I don’t know their number.
Me: You could look it up on Google.
Me: Ok I’ll do it.
*Google only has the number for the other company’s main branch in town…! I inform customer about this.
Customer: Oh I expect the manager’s hiding the number after all these people are complaining about the scarf situation.
Me: (To co-worker) Wow..
I later found out from the manager of the other shop that she had rung him and complained. They didn’t have any either so she wrote a strongly worded letter to the Vice-Chancellor of [establishment]. Over some scarves…
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Back round 1970, when the school bus pulled up to the high school to let everyone out, a current hit song, “Green-eye Lady” was on the AM radio. With the bus stopped we could hear it better. When nobody got up to get off the bus, the driver (who we thought of as an old geezer, which wasn’t far off), turned up the radio. When the song ended we all got off. But the moment is still with me all these years later.
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The closely watched Montana special election on Thursday has been highly anticipated as a potential referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency and a test of whether Democrats can win back congressional seats in conservative and rural parts of the country.
But the race was thrown into turmoil Wednesday evening into early Thursday morning, when a Montana sheriff’s office cited GOP candidate Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault, after journalist Ben Jacobs accused Gianforte of “body slamming” him after he asked the Montana Republican about the recently passed GOP health-care bill.
The Sheriff’s Office in Gallatin County, which opened up an investigation into the allegations on Wednesday, announced early Thursday morning that it had found “probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault” and that Gianforte must appear in Gallatin County Justice Court prior to June 7, 2017.
In a statement, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said “The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.”
Earlier in the night, the Gianforte campaign released a statement saying that Jacobs “grabbed Greg’s wrist” and pushed both men “to the ground.” The campaign’s description of events did not match an audio recording released by The Guardian or witness accounts at the scene. A Fox News reporter who was in the room at the time stated in a write-up of the incident that “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Gianforte to “immediately withdraw” from the race Wednesday evening. The Missoulian and The Billings Gazette, both rescinded endorsements of Gianforte in response to the incident.
Yet despite the gravity of the situation, and the social-media uproar it caused, the incident may have only limited impact on the race. Roughly two-thirds of early votes have likely already been cast, according to election analysts tracking the race for Montana’s lone congressional seat. As a result, “whatever effect this may have may be somewhat muted,” Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said in an e-mail.
On Thursday, Gianforte, a wealthy tech executive, faces off against Democrat Rob Quist, a folk singer turned politician. Montana isn’t solidly Republican or Democratic. But Trump won the state by double digits, and the congressional seat was formerly held by Ryan Zinke, a Republican who left the House in March to become Trump’s interior secretary. That puts Republicans on the defense.
Both parties have a lot at stake in Montana. Democrats have so far failed to score outright victories in special elections in Kansas and Georgia to fill congressional seats vacated by Republicans tapped to serve in the Trump administration, though Democrats in both races have improved on Hillary Clinton’s performance in each district.
Both parties have looked to Montana to send a message, with Republicans hoping to throw cold water on the idea that Democrats are poised for a resurgence after losing the White House, and Democrats hoping to prove that voter energy can translate into actual electoral wins in traditionally conservative districts in the Trump era.
The outcome of the Montana election could also complicate Republican plans to push a conservative policy agenda through Congress. Republican leaders cobbled together the votes to pass the American Health Care Act in the House earlier this month, but a GOP health-care bill has yet to come together in the Senate. One Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the AHCA would result in 23 million Americans being uninsured by 2026, compared to the law as is.
If it does, the House may need to vote again on some kind of compromise legislation. Moderate Republicans facing reelection in swing districts may be more reluctant to support the legislation the next time around if they see a Democratic upset in Montana or Georgia, where a runoff election in a traditionally GOP district is set for June.
Gianforte had been considered the favorite to win prior to the allegations he now faces. One poll released this week showed the Republican candidate with a 14-point lead, though polling earlier in the month suggested the race had grown increasingly competitive in its closing stretch.
National Republican groups invested early on and heavily in the race. In total, GOP outside groups and the Republican National Committee have poured more than $5 million into Montana. The National Republican Congressional Committee, a group run by House Republicans, has spent more than $1.8 million on the race, while its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spent only roughly $600,000.
“The reality is we have more to lose in these [special elections] since they’re Republican seats than the Democrats do, Republican Representative Tom Cole, a former NRCC chair, said in an interview in the Capitol a day before the incident between Gianforte and the reporter took place. “I think there’s probably an effort to walk the extra mile, and leave no stone unturned.”
That investment from GOP outside groups is the clearest indication that Republicans think an upset is possible.
“The race is competitive, and whenever a race is competitive we’re going to be there to help our members or Republican challengers by providing them with the financial support necessary to win,” Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the NRCC said in a statement prior to the allegations surfacing. The NRCC declined to comment on Wednesday night’s incident, directing reporters to the Gianforte campaign statement instead.
Both the Republican and Democratic candidates have pitched themselves as populists. Taking a page out of the Trump playbook, Gianforte has promised to “drain the swamp,” while Quist has said that Congress shouldn’t be a “millionaires’ club.”
Special elections don’t have a consistent track record of predicting what will happen in subsequent midterm elections, and no matter who wins the Montana race, Republicans will retain a majority in the House.
Even so, the party that controls the White House historically loses seats in midterm elections, and if the GOP loses in either Montana or Georgia it could become harder for the party to recruit high-quality candidates. It could also result in vulnerable congressional Republicans opting to retire rather than face reelection if they believe the national environment is hostile to the GOP in the Trump era.
For Democrats, a win Thursday would provide tangible evidence that the party can take back House seats in conservative and rural parts of the country. A loss, on the other hand, would be sure to disappoint voters who have watched the congressional special elections closely in the hopes that they will show signs of a grassroots revival for the party.
AGE: Closing in on 30
INTERESTS & HOBBIES: Reading (I'm challenging myself to read at least one non-fiction book a month this year), music, art, crafts (I crochet, knit a little and I've recently started teaching myself to make clothes), technology (I'm a freelance web developer and I'm starting to dip my toe into game development)
LOOKING FOR: Potential new friends. We don't need to have a whole lot in common, just be able to have fun talking to each other.
ANYTHING ELSE?: My dreamwidth is new but I was an on-again off-again livejournaller for years. I started up again because I missed getting to know people through their journals.