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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
Follow me on Twitter. I won't censor your tweets at me.

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.

Descended From Apes, Acting Like Slime Molds: Nathan Myhrvold

Descended from Apes
Illustration by Todd St. John/Hunter Gatherer
  • About Nathan 
  • P Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief strategist and chief technology officer at Microsoft, is the founder of Intellectual Ventures, a company that funds, creates and commercializes inventions.
More about Nathan P Myhrvold
As we lurch from one high-stakes political drama to another, it is natural to wonder why societies aren’t better at avoiding self-inflicted crises. Here in the U.S. earlier this month, the government barely dodged default, even though economists reached consensus months ago on when the debt limit would need to be raised.
Meanwhile in Europe, one inadequate government response after another has all but assured that anxiety over the solvency of Greeceand the creditworthiness of Italy and Spain will continue to fester, roiling global markets and pushing the European Union to the brink of ruin.
Pundits have been referring to these spectacles as “train wrecks,” as if they happen at high speed. Hardly. These trains are moving at inches an hour; for years, we’ve seen the potential accident ahead. So why do we end up with the tangled mess?
It’s an important question because, looking down the track, it’s easy to spot other big trains on collision courses. In the U.S., our deeply flawed health-care system long ago lost its brakeman, and the Affordable Care Act, enacted last year, failed to fix the major causes of runaway costs. To the contrary, many argue that it exacerbated some of them. The problem of providing health care in the U.S. is not solved; we’re going to have to wait for some future crisis before it gets more attention.