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Monday, February 21, 2011

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An American battle for the very life of American institutions

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he won't negotiate over his plan to strip most collective bargaining rights from nearly every public employee. Walker said at a news conference in his conference room in the Capitol on Monday afternoon that he won't accept any compromises. Democrats and the unions say they would accept an increase in the cost of benefits, but not removal of collective bargaining rights. Walker rejects that idea. Senate Democrats skipped town Thursday and say they won't return unless Walker is willing to make concessions.

Shaun of the Dead meets Aliens, film incentives, buyer for Blockbuster, and Randy Newman

MV5BMjI3NTg0ODEzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjE1MTAzNA@@._V1._SX640_SY352_ The latest comedy from British "Shaun of the Dead" co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is off to a strong start in their homeland. "Paul," which was was written by the pair and centers on two comic book geeks who have a run-in with an alien, collected $5.5 million this weekend in Britain and Ireland. Combined with the $3.7 million it grossed from earlier previews, the movie is now at a strong $9.2 million. That makes "Paul," produced by Working Title Films and distributed by its corporate parent Universal Pictures, the third-biggest British box-office opening this year behind "Tangled" and "The King's Speech." It took in just slightly less than the opening of 2007's "Hot Fuzz," which the two also acted in and Pegg co-wrote. "Hot Fuzz" went on to gross $41.2 million in Britain and Ireland. "Paul" opens in the U.S. on March 18.

The Academy Awards are this Sunday (February 27) in Hollywood. Ballots are due tomorrow. The race for Best Picture has 10 good films, despite fears that the Academy expanding the field to ten would water down and change the meaning of the award. The top two contenders are universally acclaimed and both made large dollars at the box office: "The King's Speech" and "Social Network."

The independent "Spirit Awards" will be given out on Saturday at the beach at Santa Monica. Even that awards show, designed to give credit to films for other than box office, has many of the Academy Award nominees this year.

Cuts in state incentives will cause a boom for California and Hollywood, however the continuation of International incentives in other countries may mitigate that somewhat. As Wisconsin strong arms the loss of bargaining rights for unions, leading a nation-wide charge by newly elected Republican governors, Michigan leads an growing strong list of states set to undo or weaken their film incentive packages, also under Republican governorships.

Home video chain Blockbuster Inc., in bankruptcy, has opted to put itself up for sale after creditors were unable to agree on a recapitalization plan. The Dallas-based company said Monday that it has submitted a plan for an auction process to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. A holding company formed by four if its largest creditors -- Monarch Alternative Capital, Owl Creek Asset Management, Stonehill Capital Management and Varde Partners -- has submitted an opening "stalking horse" bid of $290 million.

More from the LA Times Company Blog (click here) or KCRW's The Business, including an interview with Randy Newman (click here) who has had 20 Academy Award nomination, short of his uncle Malcolm's 40 nominations (11 wins)...

SAG supports Wisconsin Workers

As you may have heard, there is a proposal currently before the Wisconsin legislature that will strip most of the collective bargaining rights from that state’s public workers. If passed, this action could have lasting and damaging consequences for union rights across the country.

Since our founding in 1933, Screen Actors Guild has strongly supported the rights of entertainment industry workers and all workers to join together and collectively bargain with employers. Collective bargaining insures that unions and employers negotiate together in the best interests of the members. Many in the labor movement believe that this type of proposal may spread across the country and ultimately, to labor organizations like Screen Actors Guild, with potentially devastating results for our members and for the entertainment industry.

We are taking action to support our fellow union members in Wisconsin. SAG has reached out to our members in and around Wisconsin and many of them are already on the ground in Madison. We are also reaching out to our highly recognizable members and legislative committee leadership to travel, with our organizing staff, to Wisconsin this week.  We also ask that you take part in this effort by speaking your mind on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and by voicing your support for Wisconsin union members and the right of all workers to join together and collectively bargain.

David White
National Executive Director
Screen Actors Guild

Economy half empty or half full...Race may impact how you feel

New surveys indicate that, despite efforts to showcase the small minority who are not, the Tea Party Movement is solidly Caucasian and far older than the main population.

There are several possible explanations.

Whites tend toward the pessimistic and glass half empty full when compared to other ethnic or racial divisions, according to three separate and independent studies.

Older white Americans are more likely to see the nation as moving in the wrong direction, going down hill or on the path toward "socialism and ruin" than younger Americans and minorities.

Whites are far more likely than other groups to see the past as better than it is today, to have a vision of the past that is idyllic or at least better than the future. The Pew Trust and CBS news in separate studies indicate that older Americans who identify as Caucasian are more likely to look upon the period from the 1980's to early 2000 in a positive way and see the period as one of prosperity and where the future looked bright.

The same studies indicate that older Caucasians supported the Republican party and "conservative" causes in far larger numbers than two years prior, when Democrat Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Older Americans tended to continue to vote party lines in both the 2008 and 2010 election, however in rural areas those party lines among whites tend to be Republican. In addition, those who did not identify with a party or who say they misstrust most parties (White are four times more likely to fall this this category than ethnic, Hispanic of African Americans) were most likely to vote Republican, as reflected in the landslide of legislatures outside of California.

A Washington Post- Kaiser Family Foundation- Harvard University polls indicates that whites have a tendency to be less than optimistic about the future, for themselves and their families, and that as the sample gets older the pessimism increases. White tend to be more resentful of government and to see moves, such as the stimulus package and bailing out of banks and corporations, as unneeded socialism instead of emergency tactics to keep the nation from slipping into a more severe recession or even depression.

In a shift from previous decades, white are almost four times more likely than blacks and three times more likely than Hispanics to see things as getting worse instead of better, and to blame Washington DC for their problems instead of big business or other factors "out of their control."

White independents are abandoning what they see as institutions guilty of impeding on their freedoms and keeping them from returning to prosperity. The anti-union movement is just one example, as were anti-incumbent votes in the 2010 election and strong the groups increasingly strong anti-immigration sentiments.

Whites are far less likely than Hispanics or blacks to think that their children will be better off then themselves or that the economy will recover any time soon.

Whites are also more likely to see the changes as permanent.

Yet whites are more likely to be working, to have maintained some level of property value in relation to what they still owe the banks on their properties, to have health insurance and to have investments or savings.

Those with less or whose "prosperity" is relatively more recent, in historic terms, were more optimistic. These groups included the children of immigrants regardless of race affiliation, Hispanics and African Americans.

As for the make-up of the Tea Party Movement, which is actually diverse in its beliefs and priorities but tends toward conservative, audience photo analysis of cumulative events coast to coast indicate 97% Caucasian (which means 3 out of 100 were Hispanic or African American) with a mean age in the low 60's. Neither are unexpected as the age and ethnic groups most likely to be active in politics tend more likely White and older than the mean population.

Wisconsin Democratic Senators Vow To Stay In Illinois Until Gov. Walker Agrees To Negotiate

It's day four of exile for Wisconsin's Democratic state senators, who crossed state lines in order to stall the expedited passage of Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget proposal. Although many of the governor's supporters have called on them to come back to Madison, Democrats are ready to stick it out in Rockford, Ill. until Walker agrees to negotiate. "We'll be here until Gov. Walker decides that he wants to talk," said state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) in an interview with The Huffington Post on Saturday. He added that so far, the governor refuses to meet with them or even return the phone calls from members of the Democratic caucus.m  -Huffington Post

For a look at the history of unions in the public sector, how unions have been systemically underwritten by the National Right to Work Foundation and the Republican Party, how and why Republicans are taking a stand against unions in favor of "common sense reforms" and events in Wisconsin, listen to "To the Point" from KCRW FM (click here).