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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Buying your vote through lies, half truths and propaganda...

Traditional candidate based advertising, with full disclosure of donors and regulations to make it clear that the ad comes from and is approved by the candidate and their organizations, may be going the way of the dinosaur.

They may become unimportant or even priced out of the market by highly financed, secretive and yet "socially friendly" sounding special interests groups, immune (thanks to the Supreme Court) from any campaign financing or message reforms passed over the past 110 years.

Attacks on incumbents, Republicans in the primary and Democrats in the general, are not being financed by "the people" or "grass roots America" but by political interests groups, increasingly using shadow organizations with well meaning sounding names, set up exclusively to attack the Obama Administration and influence people into thinking that they are the voice of the "people".

Meanwhile ads for Democratic, and even Republican incumbents, tend to be financed by the campaigns and by legitimate Political Action PACS (such as unions, community groups and so on). These groups, unlike their counterparts, must disclose donations and sources. 

This puts Republicans, Tea Party and special interests at a strong advantage this election year but not in the way that most people think. They money is not primarily form the political party or any open honest movement or group.

The material below is from NPR's Morning Edition.

Most of the ads are negative, sponsored by ambiguously named organizations like "Americans for Job Security" (with their benign sounding but strongly anti-worker and American Jobs stand at a web site titled and "The Commission on Hope Growth and Opportunity."  [While the funds are used entirely for the defeat of Democratic candidates and incumbents, the mission sounds very "safe" "welfare" and states that the group, spending millions on ads is not a political committee.}

Who are those groups?

They are Americans for Job Security and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both are 501(c)s, organized under the tax code as nonprofits.  Both must not pursue politics as their primary function? Both should not take money from foreign nationals for to promote foreign issues, by Federal law. Yet there is no donor disclosure required, not do they disclose the information in the one place where they are asked to disclose, the broadcast licence political advertising forms. Both spend nearily $100,000 per market in the US per week, millions in key states like Nevada
The law says they can't engage in politics as their primary purpose. It also says they can accept unlimited donations and don't have to report their donors. Couple that with the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, and you have a wide-open path for corporate money to flow into partisan politics.
That's what makes these ads different from those by party committees: Candidates and party committees have legal limits on the size of donations they can take from each donor, and they have to report the names and numbers of the donors and how much they gave. It gives context to the ad.

There's almost no context with the noncandidate, nonparty, supposedly nonpolitical groups. But they do have to disclose something — not to voters, but to the TV stations. And whatever they disclose to the TV stations, the stations must disclose to the public. It's the only way to track down how many ads these groups are running and just how much they are spending..

There are also many disclosure forms (see examples in box at NRP web Site) that give less than full disclosure; parts of the form are blank, and that's not atypical.

The group is required to fill in the name of the candidate that the ad is talking about, but it left the field blank. The ads it runs specifically mention the Democratic incumbents being attacked. The group is also supposed to declare whether the ad is talking about a national issue, and if it is, which candidates it names. Americans for Job Security left it blank.
Although the groups are filing their paperwork with stations, they are not taking it seriously. Some answer a few questions; most leave the important lines blank. It's an indication that TV stations can't act as a watchdog of these groups.
For most of these groups, there's almost nothing required in terms of donor disclosure. They can keep their funding sources comfortably hidden. But they are spending amounts of money that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
One group can easily spend $100,000 or more at one [small to medium market] station in a few weeks. Multiply that by four or five local stations in each area, and five or six groups spending at that level, and the amount of money flowing from secret sources to fund attack ads across the nation is easily in the hundreds of millions of dollars. [Look at Nevada, California and New York alone, where heated races have totaled close to or over 100 million in total expenditures by both sides].
The ads ...attacked candidates of both parties, but the ones attacking Republicans were all from Democratic candidates or party committees, groups that have to disclose their donors. Not one ad from the supposedly nonpolitical groups [with no disclosure requirements] attacked a Republican. All of those ads are aimed at Democrats.
This year, in the wake of Citizens United and other court decisions, corporations and rich donors can give as much cash as they like to these groups. But it's unclear who the groups are.
The series is on all week on National Public Radio news, with morning and afternoon separate stories and installments. The local Las Vegas NPR affiliate is KNPR 88-9 FM.

Thomas Friedman and 'How America Fell Behind'; why we refuse to acknowledge that our system is broken and must be fixed.

That Used To Be Us
How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back
Hardcover, 380 pages | purchase

Our system is broken, at doing what we invented, excelled at and lead the world at.
We posture for election, to collect the big money needed to run for office, rather than actually do the jobs we are charged with when we vote, work for a campaign or hold and office.
We point the finger at others rather than take actions needed to correct what needs to be corrected and do what needs to be done for change.
We think, live, vote and act as if it we were still in the 1970's.


‎"The moment you can visualize being free from the things that hold you back, you have indeed begun to set yourself free."---Unknown

Nevada’s boom and bust economy

From left -- Michael Landon as Little Joe, Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright and Dan Blocker as Hoss in the television series, "Bonanza." 1959-1973. Nevadans have been risk-takers, and sometimes losers, since the days of the Comstock Lode.

From Marketplace from American Public Media (click here). 

The north end of the Las Vegas Strip is full of unfinished projects that came to a halt during the housing bust and recession. The $4 billion Echelon Place was among them.
Las Vegas entrepreneur Andrew Donner is betting on a revival of the city's sketchy downtown. His company is bought the old city hall and is leasing it to Zappos.
A homeless man crosses Las Vegas Boulevard. The city's seen good times and bad times and is still struggling to recover from the recession.
Alex Epstein is executive manager of the 70-year-old El Cortez hotel and casino in Las Vegas. She and her family are investing in the downtown revitalization.

Kai Ryssdal: What I'm about to say probably isn't gonna go over too well inside the Washington beltway -- or, for that matter, in Florida today. But this year's presidential election isn't actually about the polls and the pundits and the horse race, and the who said what at which debate. It's about what matters most to you. How you're living, what your prospects are. What's happening in the real economy. So that'll be the crux of our election overage this year. We're gonna start by taking you to two states where the real economies are quite different -- differences that point out how big the challenge of getting the whole country healthy really is. We've picked Nebraska and Nevada. Nebraska because -- as you'll hear in a bit -- the recession passed almost unnoticed. And Nevada because dating back to the silver mines of the 1800s, it's no stranger to the cycle of booms and -- most recently -- busts.

Marketplace's Sarah Gardner starts us off in Las Vegas.

"Bonanza" TV clip: Hey Roy! Mr. Cartwright. Mr. Cartwright! Doggone it, you won’t have to worry about them critters of yours no more. The Thunderhead hit it big!
"Bonanza," now that was television. Ben Cartwright and his three rugged sons running the Ponderosa ranch, just a horse ride away from the rich Nevada silver mines, like the Thunderhead. Fictional Ben didn’t always trust the local mining barons. But in real life, those guys founded Nevada. Guys who gambled big on finding a bonanza of silver or gold.
Historian Bill Rowley says those men left a legacy of risk-taking here. It sounds bold and sexy, but it comes from desperation.
Bill Rowley: Because if you have a basically resourceless state, and you’re desperate, you’re going to probably take more risks than you would otherwise do.
Mix in a feisty libertarian streak and you’ve got a state full of people who like to gamble, and not just at the blackjack tables.
Las Vegas entrepreneur Andrew Donner is betting on a revival of the city’s old and, forgive me, sketchy downtown.
Andrew Donner: I’m really bullish on downtown.
Donner’s company just bought the old City Hall building here for $18 million. He’s going to rent the space to Zappos, the online shoe outfit. The idea? Get a hip company to move in -- and bam!
Donner: I really do believe that it’s almost impossible to move thousands of people downtown of the creative class and not have other things happen.
Nevada encourages this kind of chance-taking. No corporate income tax, no personal income tax. It’s easy to get politicians and other powerbrokers on the phone. Nevada business consultant Jeremy Aguero.
Jeremy Aguero: There’s also a regulatory environment that essentially allows a business owner the freedom to be a business owner with minimal interference from government.
Nevadans throw the word freedom around a lot, especially in Vegas where they happily sell the idea of "adult freedom" to tourists. And whether freedom leads you to lose a couple thousand bucks at the casino or buy a big house you really can’t afford, it’s all sort of tolerated. Some here even call it an addiction to risk.
Historian Michael Green.
Michael Green: You are taking the risk that you are going to find the gold. You are taking the risk that you are going to roll seven. And this reflects the economy today and what has gone right and now terribly wrong. The people who rolled the bones, so to speak, on a housing boom -- and it went bust.
That bust has left Nevada with the highest jobless and foreclosure rates in the country. And even though the tourists are back, they’re spending less. People got too greedy, folks here will tell you. They took on too much risk. But knowing how much is too much isn’t always clear, says entrepreneur Andrew Donner. Donner’s invested in casinos over the years, but doesn’t gamble. He saves that for business.
Donner: Well, you know casinos, you somewhat know the odds, and I think there’s something beautiful about being somewhat ignorant of your odds out in the business marketplace. You keep working and hopefully you win more than you lose.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.
"Bonanza" TV clip: Thunderhead’s up $80 a share! Yeah! Hey, $80 a share, pop! $80 a share. Now I’ve got some money of my own. Pa, I think he might be right.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.

From Marketplace from American Public Media (click here).  

Talking Twin Babies - PART 2 - OFFICIAL VIDEO

Faster Red Box at Higher Prices. Murdock taps Education Leader. Seacrest helps Clear Channel become Multi-Media Empire. Shake Up at X-Factor.Product Placement on Spanish Language Television.

RedboxFamilyFrom the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest industry news.
28 Day mandtoary Delay in DVD release ends. Warner Bros.' deal with Redbox has expired with the two companies still at odds over how long consumers should wait to rent DVDs for $1.20 a night.

As a result, kiosk rental company Redbox will have to buy Warner DVDs from retailers like Wal-Mart at a higher price but will no longer make customers wait 28 days after discs go on sale to rent them, as it did under a previous agreement with the studio.

The two sides were clashing earlier this month when Warner Bros. announced it would sell its DVDs and Blu-ray discs only to rental companies that agreed to wait until 56 days after they go on sale. Warner executives believe that the delay encourages consumers to buy DVDs and Blu-rays or rent movies via video-on-demand, both of which are more profitable transactions for the studio at a time when home entertainment revenue has been shrinking for years.

Two years ago, after a similar dispute, Redbox agreed to the 28-day delay in order to buy movies directly from Warner Bros. at a discount. But Redbox has concluded that 56 days is too long to make its consumers -- who often look for new releases in the red kiosks -- wait.

In a statement, Redbox senior vice president of marketing Gary Cohen said the company "will work to provide Warner Bros.' movies through alternate means." That will most likely mean buying the discs in bulk from retailers or other distributors who charge more than the studio when it sells directly.
A Warner Bros. spokesman fired back in a statement: "The consumer is best served by a windowing and pricing structure that ensures a healthy film business continuing to deliver quality movies. We hope to continue discussions with Redbox and reach a mutually agreed upon solution to this situation, but we fully intend to do what is best for our business, our consumers and the industry as a whole."
A person close to the matter but not authorized to speak publicly said the companies had continued talks in hopes of reaching a compromise throughout January. But the two sides could not find common ground and consequently don't currently plan on having more discussions.

Among other major retailers, Netflix agreed to abide by the 56-day delay, but Blockbuster has not, meaning it too will have to buy Warner discs from other sources.

Redbox currently has direct deals with all other Hollywood studios, but its agreement with Universal Pictures expires in April. Universal currently imposes a 28-day delay, and it's not yet known whether it will, like Warner, try to extend it longer.

The first Warner Bros. release that Redbox will have to acquire through "alternate means" is "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas," which comes out on DVD on Feb. 7.

Separately, Redbox announced Tuesday that it extended a deal to feature its kiosks at 3,700 Wal-Mart stores through January 2015.

From Schools to Media Mogul Empire. The director of communications for the New York City Department of Education has been tapped by News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch as the media mogul's chief of staff.

Natalie Ravitz will join News Corp. in about two weeks and report directly to Murdoch. Ravitz has close ties to Joel Klein, the former chief of education for New York City who joined News Corp. in 2010 as executive vice president and is a member of Murdoch's Office of the Chairman.

In an internal email to his staff, Murdoch said, Ravitz would help him "prioritize my commitments to align with key News Corp. initiatives."

The announcement comes just one day after News Corp. announced that Teri Everett, the head of corporate communications for News Corp., was resigning.

Everett's role is being filled by Julie Henderson, who had overseen West Coast communications for the media giant and is close to News Corp. president and chief operating officer Chase Carey. While Carey is based in New York, Henderson will split her time between Los Angeles and New York.

The appointment of Ravitz to a key post in Murdoch's inner circle shows the growing clout that Klein carries inside the corridors of the media company. Although Klein was hired to oversee News Corp.'s efforts to enter the education business, Murdoch has come to rely on his counsel on other matters, including the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.'s British newspaper division.

Before running the New York City public school system, Klein served as antitrust chief at the Justice Department and was previously chief executive of Bertelsmann Inc. Last year, Lon Jacobs, News Corp.'s longtime general counsel, left after bumping up against Klein. Earlier this month, News Corp. named Gerson Zweifach, a partner at the white-shoe law firm of Williams & Connolly, its new top lawyer.

Clear Channel gains Reality Show Mogul Ryan Seacrest. Ryan Seacrest and his radio show partner Clear Channel Communications are taking their relationship to the next level.

Not only have private equity funds controlled by Clear Channel's majority owners, Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL) and Bain Capital, have committed up to $300 million to acquire and develop propeties with Ryan Seacrest Media, the producer and television and radio personality's holding company, but Clear Channel is also taking a minority stake in Seacrest's production company.

“We aim to build Ryan Seacrest Media into a leading multimedia company with diversified assets and interests,” Seacrest said in a statement. Already the host of a radio show that airs on Clear Channel stations, Seacrest also hosts Fox's "American Idol and has a growing television production company whose credits include E!'s "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and ABC's "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.”

For Clear Channel, the investment in Ryan Seacrest Productions allows the radio giant, which wants to expand further into entertainment, to stay in business with the ubiquitous Seacrest even if the radio show eventually goes away. Seacrest has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Matt Lauer when the latter's contract is up on NBC's "Today" show. Such a gig would likely mean Seacrest either moving his radio show to afternoons or scrapping it.

“Ryan is an unmatched creative talent with success across more media platforms and involvement with a greater variety of programming and venues than anyone else in the industry,” said Bob Pittman, chief executive of Clear Channel.

Seacrest has also recently partnered with entrepreneur Mark Cuban and entertainment giant AEG on a new cable channel called AXS that will debut this year and focus primarily on covering the entertainment and music industries.
The X Factor is shaking things up
Photo: Pre-shakeup cast of "The X Factor." Credit: Nino Munoz / Fox  

Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Simon Cowell and the other producers of Fox's musical competition show "The X Factor" did some housecleaning Monday night. Officially gone from the show, which finished its first season without the spectacular ratings the network and Cowell expected, are host Steve Jones and judge Nicole Scherzinger. Unofficially gone is Paula Abdul, who of course worked with Cowell on the massive Fox hit "American Idol." Fox confirmed the exits of Jones and Scherzinger, but as of late Monday night not Abdul. The dirt from from Deadline Hollywood, which looks to have been first to say Abdul was toast along with Jones and Scherzinger. Additional coverage from the Hollywood Reporter.

The Daily Dose: Over the weekend, Sony Pictures unveiled plans to show fans advance footage from this summer's "The Amazing Spider-Man" in a very 21st century way, my colleague Ben Fritz informs us. Rather than "announcing" the screenings, which will take place in 13 cities worldwide on Feb. 6, the studio did their version of the Bat Signal and projected Spider-Man images in public locations, along with the address of a website where fans could order tickets (which sold out rapidly, natch). And for those wondering how Sony will differentiate July's reboot from the original "Spider-Man" movie just 10 years ago, the URL of the website selling the tickets shows that the studio is confronting that question head-on:

Oscar stunt. Jack Gill has pulled off a lot of big stunts in his career, but the biggest still eludes him. The veteran stuntman is trying to persuade the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to create an Oscar for the folks behind the big stunts in movies. "It's ridiculous that we're not honored," Gill, told the Los Angeles Times. "These films can't get made without stunt coordinators."

Do they get their own trailers too? Spanish-language network Univision is taking product placement to a new level in its new telenovela "El Talisman." Not only are Chevrolet products seen throughout the show, one even has a name, and another has its own website. More on how Chevy is driving "El Talisman" from Variety.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Patrick Goldstein on whether pro athletes are surpassing Hollywood stars in the eyes of the public. Concert promoters are optimistic about 2012.

-- Joe Flint and others

Follow me on Twitter. It makes me smile.
Photo: Pre-shakeup cast of "The X Factor." Credit: Nino Munoz / Fox

The end of privacy?

Free yourself

Whether you "are a PC" or a Mac geek, makes no difference. The slogan from Apple Computer should apply no matter what. Dare to think different, to disagree, to listen, to change, to grow, to experiment and create. Communication is organic and a key part of the process of feeing yourself by "thinking differently."


(students note that references in this posting are APA, which is the required reference source citation for the course sections I teach).

The Millennial Generation is the largest generation in history, with Baby Boomers leaving us as they age, and Millennials growing up into a significant political, economic and eventual power brokering generation. They may represent to their children the same obsticles that their parent sand grandparents represented to them, holding jobs and influencing power in ways that limit the voice of the next two generations that follow

Millennial students are now dominating college, universities, entry level jobs and much of the marketing target for the still youth centered media. They voted less in the 2010 election than 2008, are less likely to broadcast their politics and ideas (except on Facebook) and in many ways represent the largest shift in demographic make-up and power since the Eisenhower years gave birth to the Baby Boom.

To view the report and support material from other sources, plus a full reference list, click here.

Banner for this post is from PEW Trust...
Information form the PEW Research Center, click here.
Graphic below source, click here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The end of unions?

Thinking he was talking with a large Republican donor, Governor Walker of Wisconsin admitted that "we" now have "them" and that this will be the start the ball rolling across the nation to end collective bargaining and weaken unions. In doing so he revealed that it is an anti-union pro-big money bias and not the Wisconsin budget that is behind his move to take away collective bargaining rights from those union who did not endorse him for election (those that did are exempted the bill using a variety of "reasons). Union busting and not fiscal responsibility are at the core of moves to disenfranchise unions in a growing number of states.

In the wake of sweeping Republican victories across the country, the Grand Old Party is using its moment in the sun to gun down a traditional rival, unions. While economist consider collective bargaining, or the right of groups to form to counter the forces of wealth or corporations, a necessary part of capitalism, conservative Republicans see no such things, saying that the marketplace is best without any chains or limitations.

The concept of workers rights came out of repression, and the economic realization that workers are capital themselves, an asset worthy of protection and inclusion our capitalistic system. In the Internet age, and the age of high profits ad the control of wealth by an increasingly small percentage of the population (just as was the case when modern unions formed, sometimes with blood shed in the process), workers have become numbers and their incomes or benefits, a liability instead of an asset.

Now Indiana, Ohio and other states have very real challenges to the essential role of unions in a capitalistic democracy, launched by new Republican lawmakers who never studied economics or social history, nor do they seem to care as long as the money behind their election is satisfied.

To read more and to read a related story from the Wall Street Journal, click on "read more" below.

Gender Wars and why we avoid rich vs. poor class confrontations

Why do we love to start gender wars 
during recessions? 

Because we hate to talk about class.
Photo by Fouquier via Flickr.
Posted by 

Heather Gilligan

This post appeared on in June. A bit of news from recent Census Bureau numbers inspired me to repost it here now: "The large gender poverty gap that has persisted since poverty measurement began continued in 2010.  Adult women were twenty nine percent more likely to be poor than adult men in 2010, with a poverty rate of 14.5% compared to the 11.2% rate for men. 17.2 million adult women were poor, compared to 12.6 million adult men."  
George Hurstwood was a man in crisis. He’d lost his white-collar management job and couldn’t hold on to the blue-collar work he eventually found. As his savings dwindled, Hurstwood became dependent on his partner Carrie’s small income. Tension grew in their New York City apartment. One day, when Hurstwood was on a walk, Carrie moved out, leaving behind a good-bye note and enough cash to cover the grocery bill.
Hurstwood was seemingly swept up in a social phenomenon that’s been getting a lot of press lately: the end of men. Though his predicament might feel familiar to the men hardest hit by our current recession, George Hurstwood was produced in the first modern end-of-men scare more than a hundred years ago. He’s a character in Sister Carrie, the classic novel published in 1900 by American author Theodore Dreiser.
From Open Salon, click here for the post on
In the early 1900s, the number of women attending college and finding white-collar jobs was increasing, the start of a tidal wave that has gained momentum in fits and starts ever since. In the United States today, women’s educational and employment rates are overtaking those of men. Women earn almost 60 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees and, for the first time ever, account for slightly more than half of the workforce. As a result of the recent economic downturn, it might appear that women have done even better for themselves: Female-dominated sectors like nursing and teaching have grown, while typically male-dominated industries like manufacturing have sunk.

This growing employment disparity has disrupted family life, as changing gender roles threaten to drive men into the ground, argues Hanna Rosin in an article in The Atlantic: “The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all of the decisions.”

Let the corporations have their rights, role in government

By a former CSN Student of mine...Warren Hale

In the Daily Nebraskan, University of Nebraska (click here).

It would be interesting if corporations weren't people. But they are.'

To read this commentary, and you must read it to the end, click "read more" below.

Universal-Hasbro deal fizzles with departure of 'Stretch Armstrong'

Photo: A scene from "Battleship." Credit: Universal Pictures.

 From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for industry news.

With the departure of "Stretch Armstrong," Universal Pictures has no plans for any more movies based on Hasbro toys beyond this summer's release of "Battleship"--marking an inauspicious end to a much-hyped deal signed four years ago.

In February 2008, Universal struck an agreement with Hasbro to produce at least four films derived from seven games and toys: "Battleship," "Candy Land," "Clue," "Magic: The Gathering," "Monopoly" "Ouija," and "Stretch Armstrong."  The arrangement was touted as a significant one for Universal, which had fewer well-known franchises than rival studios.

At the time, the deal was widely mocked by some in the entertainment press as a sign of Hollywood's desperation to make movies based on games and toys with no story rather than betting on original ideas.

"Hasbro's portfolio of products...offer an exciting opportunity for us to develop tentpole movies with built-in global brand awareness," Universal then-Chairman Marc Shmuger said at the time.

Many of Universal's planned but since scrapped movie projects looked to be high-profile at the time. Ridley Scott was attached to direct "Monopoly," while McG was to helm "Ouija" and "Twilight" star Taylor Lautner was to play the title role in "Stretch Armstrong," with Brian Grazer producing.

But since former marketing and production presidents Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley were named chairman and co-chairman, respectively, of the studio in late 2009 (replacing Shmuger and partner David Linde), the Hasbro projects have slowly fallen by the wayside.

"Battleship" was the notable exception. The approximately $200-million production, which mixes naval warfare with an alien invasion, was directed by Pete Berg ("Hancock" and "Friday Night Lights") and opens in May.

Under the agreement, Hasbro paid all costs to develop the projects. But Universal had to pay the toy company a penalty of $5 million for the properties it did not turn into movies.

All of the remaining six projects are now being developed by Hasbro, which maintains an office on the Universal lot but essentially acts as an independent producer with the ability to set up movies at any studio.

"Our deal with Universal has evolved over time, but there's still a lot of interest in our projects out there," said Wayne Charness, senior vice president of corporate communications for Hasbro.
The toy company announced Monday that it has set up "Stretch Armstrong" with independent studio Relativity Media, which intends to release the movie in April of 2014. Lautner is no longer attached to star.

Hasbro already has two properties at Paramount Pictures that were set up before the Universal pact: "Transformers," which has become one of Hollywood's biggest movie franchises, and "G.I. Joe," for which a sequel will be released this June after the original did decent business in 2009.

 From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for industry news.

Health Care’s Uneven Road to a New Era


Consider what it would be like to have a health insurance plan that capped annual benefits at $2,000. For any medical care costing more than that, you would have to pay out of pocket
Examples of care that costs more than $2,000 — and often a lot more — include virtually any cancer treatment, any heart surgery, a year’s worth ofdiabetes treatment and care for many broken bones. Even a single M.R.I.exam can cost more than $2,000. A typical hospital stay runs thousands of dollars more.
So does this insurance plan sound like part of the solution for the country’s health care system — or part of the problem?
A $2,000 plan happens to be one of the main plans thatMcDonald’s offers its employees. It became big news last week, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was worried the plan would run afoul of a provision in the new health care law. In response to the provision, McDonald’s threatened to drop the coverage altogether, until the Obama administration signaled it would grant some exemptions.
This episode was only the latest disruption that the health law seems to be causing. Also last week, the Principal Financial Group said it was getting out of the health insurance business, while other insurers have said they might stop offering certain types of coverage. With each new disruption come loud claims — some from insurance executives — that the health overhaul is damaging American health care.
On the surface, these claims can sound credible. But when you dig a little deeper, you often discover the same lesson that the McDonald’s case provides: the real problem was the status quo.
American families spend almost twice as much on health care — through premiums, paycheck deductions and out-of-pocket expenses — as families in any other country. In exchange, we receive top-notch specialty care in many areas. Yet on the whole, we do not get much better care than countries that spend far less.

Christina Aguilera At Etta James Funeral

The Gray. Dreamworks has two hits but can they save the studio? Las Vegas's Kirkorian wants back into Hollywood. Will SAG and AFTRA Merge? The Actor goes to...

The Grey finished first
Photo: Liam Neeson in "The Grey." Credit: Open Road 

Note: From The LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for industry news.
'The Grey' brings in the green. Liam Neeson's "The Grey" became the actor's third action hit in a row, taking in $20 million and easily finishing first at the box office. Doing better than expected was Katherine Heigl's "One for the Money" while "Man on a Ledge" fell off and went splat. Box-office coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.

The Daily Dose: On Sunday, CBS' "60 Minutes" ran a profile of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. But anyone expecting a Troy Polamalu-like hit on the NFL's big boss by television's toughest news magazine was sadly disappointed. While it would be silly to expect one of the NFL's biggest customers to bite the hand that feeds it, the piece could have still raised some tough issues. For example, how about asking Goodell about how fewer fans can afford to go to games or whether he's worried about how rising television rights fees for his product leads to bigger cable bills for fans? Too close to home? Then how about whether he's comfortable with the league being in bed with so many beer companies?

Dilemma for DreamWorks. With its movies "The Help" and "War Horse" in the running for lots of Oscar love, the mood should be bright and confident at DreamWorks, the movie studio run by Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider. Instead, though, the production company finds itself facing questions about its financial future as their initial investment from backer Reliance Entertainment runs out. The New York Times looks at the challenges facing Spielberg & Co.

Hey DreamWorks, I solved your dilemma. While the New York Times writes about DreamWorks' potential money crunch, the Wall Street Journal says that 94-year-old billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who used to own MGM, again wants to be a player in Hollywood. While the WSJ didn't talk to Kerkorian (or even get a recent picture), Jay Rakow, one of his top aides, told the paper, "Our investment or investments could include a technology company with the potential to transform the entertainment industry to a studio or mini-major which can benefit from the infusion of cutting-edge technology." Perhaps Kirk can pick up the phone and call Steven Spielberg. Problem solved and my finder's fee is only 10%.

Too soon to tell? It's been a year since Comcast took over running NBC and the Financial Times says the move is paying off for the peacock network. The story notes all the money Comcast has pumped into NBC for programming and new leadership. It's true that NBC is spending a lot to develop new shows and beef up its local stations. However, the fact that Comcast is investing in NBC doesn't mean it is proving profitable for the cable giant. If the network rises out of last place and starts making more money, then Comcast brass can pop the champagne.

Wait, you mean that's wrong? The ethics scandal tearing through media giant News Corp.'s British tabloids picked up steam over the weekend when several reporters from the Sun were arrested as part of an investigation into illegal payoffs from the press to police. Details from the Los Angeles Times and BBC.

The lesson is report before reporting. Before legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno died, an erroneous report of his death was posted by a Penn State student website. Then CBS Sports picked up that wrong story and posted it as well, giving it legs. Now CBS Sports has canned the staffer guily of posting first and asking questions later. More from the Washington Post.

Will they do it this time? Over the weekend both the board of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artist voted to send a reforrendum to their memberships at the end of February to seek approval of a new union to be known as AFTRA-SAG. Details will be made available to members on a special web site starting this Friday. If the two performers unions merge they would form the largest single union in Hollywood.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: "The Help" was the big winner at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards.  Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman saw his pay package drop by about 50% to only $43 million. A look at NBC executive Paul Telegdy, who oversees late night and alternative programming for the network.

-- Joe Flint
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Childish Politics...You fix it!

Black Man in the CIA

An Open Letter To Newt Gingrich From A Black Kid Who Grew Up In A Poor Neighborhood

Dear Newt Gingrich,

I recently saw you stand up in front of a group of people and allow some of the most
idiotic, unfounded, racist, and ignorant words pass your lips that I’ve ever heard
from a member of a group of the most unqualified presidential candidates America
has ever seen.

To have the audacity to say that poor kids, and let’s be clear that’s republican speak
for black and brown kids, “have no habits of working and nobody around them who
works” is not only an insult to me as black man who grew up in one of those “really
poor” neighborhoods you spoke of, but it’s an insult to my mother. And it’s an insult to
many other black, brown and white children, adults, and hard working parents(often single
parents) who get up every single day to try to provide a better life for their children in
poor neighborhoods.

As a child who grew up in Compton in the early 90′s, one of the most dangerous
neighborhoods in America at that time, I watched my mother work tirelessly, sometimes juggling multiple jobs to provide for myself and my sister. Day in and day out like many other parents in poor neighborhoods, she did what she had to do in order to provide for us. You know what that turned into Mr. Gingrich?

A son who received academic and athletic scholarship offers from three Ivy League schools
and countless other universities, a son with a college degree in Criminal Justice who
graduated with honors from every school he attended, and a daughter who not only
attended a Gifted and Talented Education high school, but is one year away from
completing a degree at UCLA.

This is not just the case for my family. I know I speak for many other hard working
black, brown, and poor white families who have the same experiences in the poor
neighborhoods you look down upon from your elitist 1% out of touch pedestal. To say that
an entire community “literally has no habit of showing up on Monday” or “they have no
habit of staying all day” I say that is a load of shit.

Millions of poor children watch their parents show up Monday and many of them
sometimes have to suffer from the fact that their parents have to stay at work ALL DAY.
And lastly, you suggest that to remedy this “problem” as you so blindly see it is to make
poor kids assistant janitors and pay them to clean the restrooms? Your solution is child
labor. Degrading young children by suggesting they clean toilets while painting all union workers as lazy leeches. It’s a shame they don’t have the work ethic of hard working Americans like Kim Kardashian who worked so hard in her sex tape before we crowned her a role model for young girls and showered her with money and adoration or Paris Hilton who was forced to clean so many toilets as a teen to learn “work ethic” before her parents handed over the millions.

This not only echoes the depth of your ignorance, but just how truly unqualified
you are to ever be president of this country. Your assumption that poor people have no
ingrained work ethic and “have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s
illegal” is not only dangerously ignorant but it proves you have no connection with the
true heart of this country.

I believe I speak for most if not all of “poor” America when I say Mr. Gingrich you have
no habit of performing, thinking or speaking in a manner that warrants becoming the
leader of the free world and the 45th president of these United States of America. You
represent a party of greedy, selfish, out of touch, wealth protecting, non tax paying,
destroyers of the middle class. You know nothing about us. But your words in your
speech in Des Moines told us everything about you.

Which is why I hope you win your party’s nomination. So that poor and impoverished
families can at least experience four more years of a man working diligently to help
them and the communities they call home that you have proven to know nothing about.
president number 44.

Travon Free

About Travon Free

Stand-up comedian, actor, and writer. Ivy League brains with none of the student loan debt. This is the home of my opinion. Everything I love. Everything I Hate. This blog is about TRUTH and INSPIRATION.