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Monday, February 27, 2012

Why I want to bite the head off anyone calling for the repeal of "Obamacare"

Sarah Palin HBO film will not impact elections because "Republicans don't watch HBO"

THR's The Live Feed: And according to his daughter, Meghan McCain, there's really nothing to worry about anyway. "Republican voters don’t watch HBO,” she says.
When it comes to HBO’s upcoming television movie, Game Change, John McCain is sticking to his guns and standing by his 2008 Vice-Presidential running mate Sarah Palin.

American Future Fund takes aim at Obama, irony

For a few years, the right has maintained a pretty consistent message when it comes to President Obama and Wall Street: the president is the financial industry's enemy.

Indeed, in most conservative circles, this is just taken as a given. Obama led the way on an onerous Wall Street reform package; he's said unkind things about "fat cats"; he wants to close the carried interest loophole that hedge fund managers are so fond of; and overall, the president has just been a big meanie when it comes to those poor folks in the financial industry.

With this in mind, it came as quite a surprise when the secretive American Future Fund launched this new attack ad yesterday, part of a $4 million ad campaign targeting nine swing states. In the commercial, AFF effectively says their own conservative allies have had it backwards all along: Obama isn't too mean to Wall Street; he's too cozy with Wall Street.

The minute-long spot doesn't lie, exactly, in making its case. The American Future Fund, which relies on undisclosed contributions from conservative donors, tells viewers that Obama has hired Wall Street veterans, supported the Bush/Cheney bank bailout, and has accepted campaign contributions from the financial industry. As attack ads go, these criticisms are fairly honest.

But it's the larger context that makes the ad so unintentionally amusing. For one thing, the ad contradicts three years of GOP talking points, which have gone to almost comical lengths to convince voters that the president has waged war on Wall Street's "wealth creators." For another, as Jon Chait noted, Mitt Romney's campaign is reportedly being bankrolled by the financial industry, and Romney has vowed repeatedly he'll remove safeguards and layers of accountability created after the 2008 crash, freeing Wall Street of its "burdens."

The underlying message the AFF is trying to get across is among the most ironic things we'll see this year: "Obama is too friendly with Wall Street, so vote for Republicans, who'll make things easier on Wall Street."

If it seems like these disjointed lines of attack keep coming up, there's a good reason for that. At different times over the last three years, Obama's detractors on the right have said he's a ruthless Chicago thug and a weak pushover. He's a bystander who goes golfing too much and an activist president who engages too much. He's sticking to the Bush/Cheney script on national security and he's putting us at risk by abandoning the Bush/Cheney national security agenda. He's cutting cherished entitlement programs like Medicare and he refuses to cut entitlement programs like Medicare.
If the right would just pick a caricature and stick with it, their criticisms would at least be more coherent.

Iran gloates over Oscar for film they criticised...

It's all Politics...The industry cannot be looked at as apolitical

On Monday night, the Iranian film A Separation won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It marks the Islamic Republic's first Academy Award, and earned a rare stamp of approval from the Iranian government, which called it a success over Israel. The Israeli film Footnote was also nominated in the category. Audie Cornish talks to The Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran about the reaction in Iran.


Sarah Palin HBO film, Asner-Harper oppose SAG-AFTRA merger, China is not an Hollywood market, Film Piracy should not be defended, and Filmaking in Brazil and Russia

Filmmaking in Brazil and Russia

We look at the film industries in Brazil and Russia through the very different success stories of two filmmakers. John Horn speaks with José Padilha, wrote and directed Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, a sequel to his 2007 film, Elite Squad. He distributed it himself -- out of his garage -- and the film went on to make $70 million in Brazil alone. It's that country's highest grossing movie. Now he's working with MGM to reboot the Robocop franchise. He says the concepts behind the re-boot is that much of it is no longer science fiction and social reality is moving in the direction depicted in the film.

We also talk with Russian filmmaker and TV producer Valery Todorovsky. He scored an unlikely box office hit by sending up the Stalinist era with his musical, Hipsters. That film was the first Russian musical made in 70 years. The musical takes a light heated look at the violent Stalinist era, but does so on a more contemporary way so that the message will be understood, and not lost in the dark history of the period.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is now available on DVD.

Hipsters opens at Cinema Village in New York City February 24, 2012 and in other cities after that. (See the official website for dates.)

Today's Banter Topics:
- Sarah Palin's aids accuse HBO of an unfair depiction in Game Change. Already Republicans feel that this show's Liberal Hollywood and that it is inaccurate. Those who have seen it and lived the even, including McCain staffers say it is accurate and the portrayal of Sarah is very accurate. The HBO film deals with the selection of Sarah as McCain's running mate and the politics and personalities behind it. It is billed as a work of fiction based on historic events.
- Actors threaten lawsuit to stop SAG/AFTRA merger. Over 160,000 members of SAG and AFTRA are voting this week whether to merge. The Mary Tyler Moore Show team of Ed Adner and Valarie Harper are taking the lead in opposing merger. The lawsuit, backed by those formerly known as the Performers Alliance or Membership First, is intended as a last ditch hope based on, among other things, that merger without the pension plan issue solved is illegal. Most legal experts say it is a nuisance suit a this point, with little substance
          - There is no defense for piracy, it keeps films from being made, harms the profits of those made  and stems the ability of filmmakers to say vital messages because of the increased money needed to make up for the millions to billions lost to "file sharing" and piracy. Even the studios must risk a make it break it on large budget films for fear of rapid piracy and the loss of momentum as well as funds that piracy creates. Unfortunately for Hollywood those who profit from and open Internet and on the uncompensated work of others now have almost unlimited social capital and the tools to defend what a decade ago would be held as a major violation of individual, corporate and social rights.
- China opens to more US movies. Only 14 non-Chinese movies will be allowed into China a year, bringing the total to 34. Big blockbuster movies make more money in China than in the US plus Europe, but only about 14% of the revenue is allowed to leave China. Content is important. In Mission Impossible III a scene with laundry hanging was deleted because it gave the wrong image of China, in Red Dawn the bad guys were digitally altered to be North Korean instead of the filmed Chinese, and no films that oversell individual freedoms are allowed. The dozen additional films must be available in 3D, IMAX 3D and 2D to be allowed to screen in what is now the world's largest potential movie market.

Banner image: (L-R) Seu Jorge, Director José Padilha in Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Santorum's Attacks on Higher Ed

From Inside Higher Ed (click here)
Scott Jaschik

FACT: the higher your education the higher your potential income.
FACT: the higher your education the higher your potential to understand what is happening.
FACT: the higher your education the more likely you will take action to correct wrongs.
FACT: the higher your education the more likely you are to vote.
Many Republicans have voiced views similar to those of President Obama on the importance of all Americans obtaining at least some higher education. And even if many Republicans have differed with the Obama administration on many student aid issues and how best to encourage higher educational attainment, few have cheered the idea of Americans stopping their education before the postsecondary level.

Rick Santorum, however, is doing so. As far back as December he was calling colleges "indoctrination centers" for the left, and he has questioned the idea that scientists know what they are talking about with regard to climate change. Starting a few weeks ago -- much to the amazement of many academics -- he started challenging the idea that more Americans should go to college. He has now repeated his criticisms, this time in front of cameras in an appearance Saturday in Troy, Mich. Santorum again called President Obama a "snob" for wanting all Americans to go to college. There are "good, decent men and women," Santorum said, who are proud of their skills that were "not taught by some liberal college professor." He added, comparing himself to President Obama: "He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his."

While Santorum's implication is that President Obama wants everyone to have a college education like his (a liberal arts degree followed by a law school, attending elite institutions), most of the Obama push for expanded higher education has been about community colleges and job-training programs.

He has spoken far more about the need to give working class people tools to advance their careers (through certificate and associate degree programs) than he has about four-year liberal arts degrees.
On Sunday, Santorum stood by his comments about higher education not being needed by many Americans. On ABC’s “This Week," he said that ”there are lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams that don’t include college. To sort of lay out there that somehow this is -- this is -- should be everybody’s goal, I think, devalues the tremendous work” of “people who, frankly, don’t go to college and don’t want to go to college.”

Click "read more" to continue reading.

'Space Chronicles': Why Exploring Space Still Matters

NPR Morning Edition
After decades of global dominance, America's space shuttle program ended last summer while countries like Russia, China and India continue to advance their programs. But astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of the new book Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, says America's space program is at a critical moment. He thinks it's time for America to invest heavily in space exploration and research.

"Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival," Tyson tells NPR's David Greene. "Not only does that get people interested in sciences and all the related fields, [but] it transforms the culture into one that values science and technology, and that's the culture that innovates," Tyson says. "And in the 21st century, innovations in science and technology are the foundations of tomorrow's economy."

He sees this "force of nature" firsthand when he goes to student classrooms. "I could stand in front of eighth-graders and say, 'Who wants to be an aerospace engineer so you can design an airplane 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the one your parents flew?' " Tyson says. "That doesn't usually work. But if I say, 'Who wants to be an aerospace engineer to design the airplane that will navigate the rarefied atmosphere of Mars?' because that's where we're going next, I'm getting the best students in the class. I'm looking for life on Mars? I'm getting the best biologist. I want to study the rocks on Mars? I'm getting the best geologists."

But spending for space programs isn't where Tyson would like it to be. In just one year, Tyson says, the expenditure of the U.S.'s military budget is equivalent to NASA's entire 50-year running budget.
"I think if you double [the budget], to a penny on the dollar, that's enough to take us in bold visions in a shorter time scale to Mars, visit asteroids, to study the status of all the planets," he says. On Venus, for example, scientists have observed a "runaway greenhouse effect," Tyson says. "I kind of want to know what happened there, because we're twirling knobs here on Earth without knowing the consequences of it."

Today, Mars is bone-dry; it once had running water. "Something bad happened there as well," he says. "Asteroids have us in our sight. The dinosaurs didn't have a space program, so they're not here to talk about this problem. We are, and we have the power to do something about it. I don't want to be the embarrassment of the galaxy, to have had the power to deflect an asteroid, and then not, and end up going extinct. We'd be the laughing stock of the aliens of the cosmos if that were the case."

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says valuing space exploration "transforms the culture into one that values science and technology."
AP Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says valuing space exploration "transforms the culture into one that values science and technology."

The possibility of asteroids hitting Earth is actually a reasonably serious problem that does need a solution, Tyson contends. The asteroid Apophis, named for the Egyptian god of death and darkness, has a very slim chance of striking Earth in 2036. Tyson says some researchers have advocated for blowing up the football stadium-sized object.

That could create a bigger problem, though: "If you blow it up and it becomes two pieces, and now one is aimed for each coast of the United States, it's just doubled the emergency status of that call," he says.

Another option is what he calls a "gravitational tractor beam." A space probe would be parked a fixed distance away from the asteroid. Gravity would tend to pull the objects together, but by firing rockets on the probe, the asteroid would actually be "towed" away.

Tyson admits that such a space tow truck would be a tough sell for a president asking for more money for NASA.

He proposes this tack: "What [the president] needs to say is, 'We need to double NASA's budget because not only is it the grandest epic adventure a human being can undertake, not only would the people who led this adventure be the ones we end up building statues to and naming high schools after and becoming the next generation's Mercury 7 as role models, not only will there be spinoff products from these discoveries, but what's more important than all of those, what's more practical than all of those, is that he will transform the economy into one that will lead the world once again rather than trail the world as we are inevitably going to be doing over the next decade.' "

More From Neil deGrasse Tyson On The Monkey See Blog


Snarking about the Oscars. Anyone want to buy TV Guide Channel? Netscape Espanol.

The Skinny: I went old school and watched the Oscars without tweeting. It really made the show drag. The reason social networking boosts ratings for big events is everyone wants to top each other's snarky remarks. Monday's headlines include lots of Oscar recaps, box office results and a new deal for Netflix.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest entertainment news.
Meryl Streep celebrates a win
Daily Dose: The Oscars attracts one of the biggest female audiences in television. With that in mind, one would have thought ABC would have used the opportunity to put together a promotional spot for Katie Couric's new talk show that will air on many of its stations. While it's true that Couric's afternoon talker won't debut until September, when is ABC going to have such a platform to build some buzz for it? Overall, ABC was fairly restrained in the self-promotion department, running only 10 spots in the 3-1/2-half hour snoozefest.

Tongue-tied. Silent movie "The Artist" took away the biggest trophies at the 84th annual Oscar awards Sunday night. That doesn't mean the show was not without some surprises -- the biggest being Meryl Streep's win for best actress in "The Iron Lady." It may seem silly to think of a Streep win as an upset. Still, with 17 nominations, it was only her third win. That stat is similar to Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow's less-than-stellar completion percentage. See if you can find anyone else today who compares  Streep to Tebow. Oscar recaps and analysis from the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Deadline Hollywood and Wrap.

Thumbs down. Watching Billy Crystal host the Oscars was a lot like watching Brett Favre in his final season. There were a few flashes of the old brilliance but overall his routine seemed tired and in the end he wasn't able to make make the clutch plays. I promise that's my  last football analogy. The New York Times said the "whole night looked like an AARP pep rally." I personally was distracted by Crystal's jet black hair and wrinkle-free face. I don't think young viewers are turned off by older people, but they are turned off older people trying to turn the clock back 30 years. It's not all Crystal's fault. Hosting the Oscars is a thankless task and Crystal was thrown in late because of the Eddie Murphy fiasco. The real issue is that the show is produced for the people in the theater, not the people watching at home. Reviews from the Los Angeles Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, New York Times and Deadline Hollywood.

It's Harvey time. Another big night for Harvey Weinstein as The Weinstein Co.'s "The Artist" cleaned up. Perhaps anticipating the success, Weinstein took a pre-show victory lap with the Daily Beast with columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. I only browsed the piece but it didn't look like she included Weinstein's habit of having super-powerful Hollywood attorney Bert Fields send letters to reporters who might be writing something the producer won't like. I've been thinking of having mine framed. It's sort of a rite of passage.

Valiant performance. "Act of Valor" finished in the top spot at the box office, taking in almost $25 million. Tyler Perry's "Good Deeds" opened to a respectable but not spectacular $16 million. "Wanderlust" and "Gone" will both be on Netflix pretty quick. Among the returning movies, "The Vow" and "Safe House" continued to post strong numbers. Box office recaps from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

Maybe I'll buy it. Lions Gate Entertainment is shopping the TV Guide Channel, a little-watched cable network that used to be just listings of shows but now carries reruns and reality fare. The New York Post said CBS and Discovery are interested. Of course, CBS and Discovery are among the usual suspects anytime a media property comes on the market so I'd take that with a small grain of salt. Not saying it couldn't be true, but they would naturally look at the books for the channel even if they had no interest at all.

Habla Espanol? Netflix is near a deal with Univision Communications to stream content from the Spanish broadcasting giant, according to Bloomberg. Hulu already has a similar deal in place with Univision.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: If you were stuck at home watching the Oscars, here's what you missed backstage at Hollywood's big night.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. I'm an influencer.

Photo: Meryl Streep. Credit: Joel Ryan/Associated Press.