Archive for March, 2010


Tucker Carlson responds to RNC complaints about DC’s Michael Steele article

The complaints from the RNC about this morning’s Daily Caller article, “High Flyer: RNC Chairman Steele suggested buying private jet with RNC funds,” while loud, lack substance. Despite claims to the contrary, no one from the committee has ever explained the specific circumstances of any of the expenses listed in its most recent disclosure filings.

Our questions remain: Why did the committee spend more than $17,000 on private jets in the month of February? How and why was RNC business conducted in a bondage-themed nightclub, and how and why were the nearly $2,000 in charges that resulted approved by RNC staff?

To be clear: We did not claim that Michael Steele personally visited Voyeur West Hollywood. In fact, and unfortunately, we still know almost nothing about that trip, including its purpose. If the RNC provides details, we’ll put them on the site immediately.

The Daily Caller requested interviews with Michael Steele on Jan. 14, Jan. 15, Jan. 18, Feb. 10, Feb. 23 and again on March 23. All were denied. The story we ran today is accurate, as the RNC knows.


This New Nightspot’s a Real Beauty

Some people watch Eyes Wide Shut and decry the dark vision of depravity and alienation.

But you always thought the parties looked like a good time.

Behind dank casement windows salvaged from the original New York Times building, there awaits a dark lounge filled with corset-backed chairs and antique sofas made from bounced-against headboards. Lithe women fuss with their lingerie behind glass, maybe, or they really enjoy the sax from the stage. (You might also see a beauty doing stretches on the trapeze net above you—she must be hitting the gym later.)

Once settled at your table, they’ll happily mix your drinks tableside—in shot or martini form—with fresh juice concoctions like Watermelon-Jalapeno and White Peach-Sage. You probably already had dinner, but if you want to fuel up for the dance floor in the back, you can wave over some Crispy Shrimp Rolls and Fontina-Chorizo Grilled-Cheese Sandwiches.

And far in the back, past the photo booth, apothecary bar and walls plastered in contact sheets from an illicit Mexico photo shoot, there’s a private VIP room with a separate entrance and a giant chaise that could comfortably hold you and 10 beauties who appreciate furniture with well-placed handles…

And anybody else who likes to watch.

RNC Denies Steele Expensed Trip to X-Rated Club

Baltimore Sun

The Democratic National Committee is having a field day Monday at the expense of its cross-town rivals at the RNC–or the “Risque National Committee,” as the Dems put it in one of the blizzard of e-mailed releases they are sending out.

It started overnight when a politically themed blog, The Daily Caller, released the latest report about RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s spending habits and his affinity for flying private jets at party expense.

The story also said that Steele dropped more than $15,000 of committee money on a recent trip to the Los Angeles area.

Included in the RNC’s report for February spending was $1,946.25 for “meals” at Voyeur West Hollywood, which the online article said was a “bondage themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.”

The Daily Caller says the FEC filings “suggest” that “Steele travels in style.” From there it wasn’t much of a leap for the DNC to send out emails stating that “Yes, it appears that Michael Steele spent RNC money” at the nightclub.

No way to know, from the monthly RNC filing (all 2,500 pages), just who was there.

The line immediately above the expense in question in the FEC report provides a clue.

It contains a payment to Erik Brown, at an address in Orange, California, who was reimbursed for the $1,946.25.

Brown is a Republican direct mail consultant (his business address is the one on the FEC report). He did not immediately respond to a telephone call from The Baltimore Sun.

In a follow-up item, the Daily Caller reported that Brown appears to be close to Steele: In October, Brown wrote on Twitter, “Enjoying the football game with RNC Chairman Michael Steele. (Eagles vs Redskins at FedEx Field)”.

Read more

Doug Heye, the RNC’s chief spokesman, has issued the following statement:

“We are investigating the expenditure in question. The story willfully and erroneously suggests that the expenditure in question was one belonging to the Chairman. This was a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer. The Chairman was never at the location in question, he had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location at all acceptable. Good reporting would make that distinction crystal clear. The committee has requested that the monies be returned to the committee and that the story be corrected so that it is accurate.”

1. Steele’s spokesman, Doug Heye, did not deny that such discussions took place, responding that the RNC never had a “plan” to buy a plane. “I don’t know what somebody might have discussed or might not have discussed.” – This was during our off the record conversation Friday, yet the reporter included it on the record.

2. Steele’s office repeatedly refused to explain in specific terms the circumstances of the February charter flights. – This is factually inaccurate. I personally told the reporter on Friday about the specific flights.

3. Steele himself declined numerous interview requests. This is factually inaccurate, Steele himself never declined anything; I did.

4. The piece repeated talks about “Steele’s expenses,” when quite often they are finance/fundraising expenses and not just for the expenditure in question. Though I made a clear distinction with Jonathan, his story fails to do so.

The RNC said the Daily Caller story was “riddled with misleading information and inaccuracies.” According to the RNC, referring to specific passages in the story: The Daily Caller was founded in January by Tucker Carlson, a Fox News veteran, as a counter  to liberal online sites like the Huffington Post.

VOYEUR Lounge – West Hollywood: Are you a voyeur?

Hollywood has a new hot spot, and if you want to get past the velvet ropes, you need more than your good looks to get you on the inside; you need an inside connection. Welcome to VOYEUR. VOYEUR is the newest intimate lounge that draws guests into a provocative enclave where art, festivities, and entertainment converge in a sophisticated setting unlike any other.

Young entrepreneurs David Koral and Matt Bendik of Chosen Hospitality Group and nightlife veterans, Art and Allan Davis, unveiled VOYEUR in October 2009 in an infamous venue. VOYEUR’s location, formerly known as Peanuts, is the same setting which housed one of the city’s most legendary nightlife parties of the 90’s, “Grandville”. Now, this team seeks to re-introduce and elicit a similar avant-garde concept by pushing this seemingly innocent space and ambiance to the edge of corruption with a teasing combination of elegance and eroticism.

This luxury underground sanctuary features antique chairs and sofas with custom leather corset backs, metal sphere chandeliers, dark wood-paneled walls, risqué photography showcasing women in their lingerie, and a live performance that will titillate the senses, while still remaining classy and tasteful.

We haven’t yet had the pleasure to fully explore this 6000-square-foot West Hollywood luxury lounge; but one thing is sure, VOYEUR is ROCKING! The place has an enclosed glass booth area which is adjacent to the club’s dance floor. We love the private room with its own entrance and bar, perfect for when you want some privacy with few friends of yours. VOYEUR’s signature cocktail menu includes sugar-free, all organic creations, including watermelon jalapeno, blueberry mint, and cucumber olive shots. Guests will also enjoy simple, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres from Chef Micah Wexler (formerly from Craft), including smoked salmon, cucumber tea sandwiches, prime beef sliders, and their signature crispy shrimp cocktail…

Michael Steele’s Bondage Party Has an O.C. Connection

Red Country – By The Hammer

According to sources who were in attendance that night, the “official” part of the evening started with 50+ person dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel, then carried on throughout the evening, eventually ending up at Voyeur. While RNC employees, who were in town to recruit members to its “RNC Young Eagles” program, did participate throughout the entire evening and did find their way to the bondage-themed club, Michael Steele himself was “not in attendance” for any portion of the evening. Brown, by the way, is reportedly a “Young Eagle” himself, a fundraising sub-group of the RNC which targets larger donors based on age group.

Presumably, the Daily Caller (which broke this whole story on its website earlier today) is continuing to pour through RNC disclosure documents. If so, it will likely find significant sums spent by the RNC on services rendered by DMI; not only do local politicos report that Brown liked to brag about his ties to this and other state-wide and national organizations and campaigns, but it would seem consistent with someone who would think he could get away with running through such a large expense.

No word from The Monaco Group, a fierce local DMI competitor, but Vince Monaco is presumably enjoying this sideshow almost as much as the Huffington Post. And we’re reminded once again that Republicans like to party, too.

Erik Brown is Chief Executive Officer of DMI, Dynamic Marketing Inc. a direct marketing/media production company with offices in California and Washington DC. DMI provides services for corporations, political campaigns, issue advocacy groups, fundraising professionals, and various private concerns. Recipients of the prestigious AAPC Pollie Award in 2008, DMI’s portfolio includes work for notable candidates as well as a several prominent elected officials and public policy organizations.

A graduate of the University of California Irvine with a degree in Political Science, Erik has been an active member of The National Honor Society, Young Republicans, Friends of the NRA, Claremont Institute, and the Sheriff’s Advisory Council. Apart from a passion for politics and a driving commitment to advocate on behalf of founding principles, Erik is a sportsman and a mentor to young athletes. As an ice hockey coach for over 12 years, his teams have won acclaim as State, District, and National Champions.

Erik is married to Alison Brown, a graduate of Chapman University and an MBA student at UCI’s Merage School of business. Alison has served as President of the Illuminating Engineers Society of Southern California, a mainstay of her industry. A former director of the Sunday school, Alison and Erik reside in Las Flores, California and are actively involved in the ministries of their local church.

UPDATE

One Little Bar Tab Should Put Michael Steele at Risk

Red Country – By Chip Hanlon

“…After a follow-up Red County post reported exclusively on some of the details missing from that original DC piece, for the rest of the day I found myself in contact with a number of that night’s key attendees, some of whom I know personally.

After speaking with multiple sources I understand how the whole night went down but for the sake of putting the focus back where it belongs—the RNC—in my opinion there is only one moment from that night that matters.

Those charges ended up on Brown’s card for just one reason: because the RNC staffer’s credit card was declined at the end of the night.”

Think about that for a second: you now know Brown’s name, and his business has been literally decimated (more on that in a minute), because he happened to be nearby when the bill came due.

“Please help me out and I’ll be sure you are reimbursed right away by the RNC,” was the request—one most others in Brown’s spot would have answered— and there exists a follow-up email chain to prove it.

And it’s a good thing for him that there is such an email exchange because if not, the RNC might still be demanding that it be reimbursed for those charges, as it thundered in its first reply yesterday morning.

Now think about that one for even more than a second, because it represents the type of thing people hate about politicians in general: CYA and throw underlings to the wolves to protect the boss at all costs.

In this case, the first “underling” to be thrown under the bus was going to be an activist and donor, one who had merely gone to the trouble not only of contributing substantially to Republican causes himself, but of recruiting numerous other potential members of the RNC’s “Young Eagles” donor wing.

But what’s one little donor thrown to the wolves when you’re protecting the Chairman of the RNC, right?…]


Related Links:

Website:  VOYEUR

Voyeur Reviews

Jersey Shore reality stars Angelina Jolie Pivarnick, DJ Pauly D and Jenni JWoww Farley hit LA’s Voye…

Hot Air: Report: RNC event at “bondage-themed club” was after-party for young donors; Update: RNC issues statement

Zimbio: Brittny Gastineau Goes to Voyeur Lounge

LA Times: Look but don’t touch at Voyeur

CSM: GOP fires Allison Meyers as strip-club scandal taints party

The Hill: GOP leaders seek to distance themselves from Michael Steele

NPR: RNC Sex-Club Flap Only Tip Of Fundraising Iceberg

Politico: Fired staffer recruited young donors

Fox News: Growing ‘Frustration’ With Steele Inside RNC

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Families may soon claim bodies at Valle de los Caídos

The government finally knows how many people lie buried in Valle de los Caídos (The Valley of the Fallen), a massive memorial built by Franco north of Madrid to honor Nationalists who died during the Spanish Civil War.

A new census shows 33,833 registered bodies, of which 21,423 are identified, the Justice Ministry said. Many Republican fighters were also transferred from mass graves to Valle de los Caídos to fill the monumental space. Relatives of the dead will soon be able to claim the bodies to give them proper burial. NATALIA JUNQUERA – EL PAÍS


Richard Hamilton’s Las Meninas

23 March to 30 May 2010

Jerónimos Building – Room D

Until 30 May the Museo del Prado is offering a new viewpoint on Velázquez’s Las Meninas through this exhibition, which includes three of the most memorable interpretations of that great masterpiece, executed by Goya in 1778-1779, Picasso, and Richard Hamilton (born London, 1922).

For the first time in an exhibition, visitors can see the creative process behind the print that Richard Hamilton, one of the founding figures of Pop Art, produced in 1973 for the portfolio Hommage à Picasso as a tribute to the artist on his 90th birthday. The exhibition includes five preliminary and preparatory drawings and six proofs that culminate in the definitive print, which is Hamilton’s tribute to Picasso through his reinterpretation of Velázquez’s masterpiece.

This group of works is accompanied by a drawing and three proofs of 1778-1779 by Goya. They reveal the rigorous process through which the artist achieved perfection in his again highly personal interpretation of Las Meninas. The selection is completed with the first sketch produced by Picasso in 1957 for his series on Las Meninas, here presented as the link between Velázquez, Goya and Hamilton.

The exhibition offers visitors the chance to learn more about the process of reflection, experimentation and creation undertaken by three great artists who maintained their own creative freedom when interpreting one of the masterpieces of Spanish art.

Related Links:



The Blind Side

Oscar-winning Bullock is almost insufferable in this feelgood football movie that tackles the issues of the New South

Guardian – Philip French

The Blind Side, a feelgood movie about race, football and mom, brought her an Academy award. The prize was rapidly followed by her separation from what sounds like a low-life husband, giving rise to a new tabloid curse. Winning an Oscar, it’s said, inevitably precedes a divorce. So Bullock is something of a phenomenon.

I rather liked Bullock’s early pictures but I’ve lately found her almost insufferable, and most especially so in The Blind Side. It’s a true story of a familiar inspirational kind based on a book of the same title that links a crucial development in the strategy of American football to the career of a much publicised player who recently graduated from a leading southern college and signed up with a club in the National Football League. In a pre-credit sequence the writer-director John Lee Hancock, most of whose films have been set in Texas and the south, uses the role of a left tackle as an obscure metaphor for society and social strategies…

… Some time around 10 years ago at the age of 18 (the film is unclear about dates, though it’s evidently in the Bush era), he’s seen wandering the cold night streets of Memphis by a couple driving home in one of their BMWs from a church Thanksgiving service. They’re the rich, handsome Tuohys, Leigh Anne (Bullock) and Sean (Tim McGraw), whose teenage son and daughter attend the same school. Leigh Anne, a self-styled multi-tasker, is an interior decorator, Sean owns a chain of restaurants, and they live in a grand mansion to which they take Michael for Thanksgiving. The Touhys’s young son is dressed up as a Native American, there’s a Norman Rockwell picture of a Thanksgiving dinner in a book on the Tuohys’ coffee table, and here we have the family tendering the same hospitality to Mike that the Native Americans (later to be dispossessed) did to the Pilgrim Fathers in the 17th century…

… Leigh Anne never makes a false or tentative move. She wins over Mike’s mother, faces down a black bureaucrat in a federal office, shames up the members of her covertly mildly racist luncheon group, puts the fear of God into Mike’s menacing ex-friends from the hood (by claiming to attend the same church as the DA, pack a rod and belong to the NRA), lectures the football coach and takes over his job, gives a lesson to the teachers, instructs Mike in necessary violence when in protection of the family, and raises her kids to be kind and colour-blind. There are, however, certain giveaway lines about the new south and its politics. They reveal an eagerness to forget the past and suggest that there’s a touch of Sarah Palin, the new tea parties and a buried anti-Obama backlash here. Speaking of the special tutor helping Mike, Sean says: “Who’d have thought I’d have a black son before I’d met a Democrat?”…]



Screening for prostate cancer: a public health debate the ideological accents

Le Monde – By Michael Peyromaure (English Translation)

For the Western countries, prostate cancer poses a serious public health problem: it is the leading cancers in men and is the second leading cause of cancer death. The disease can be detected by clinical examination or a blood marker, PSA (prostate specific antigen). The PSA test is simple, inexpensive and more accurate than clinical examination for detection of cancer. Indeed, prostate cancer does not induce symptoms and is found in more than 80% of cases by a simple elevation of PSA.

The use of this marker has become widespread. In recent years, the proportion of prostate cancers diagnosed at an early stage has increased significantly. And the cancer discovered late stage metastatic non-curable, has significantly decreased.

It is logical to think that the routine measurement of PSA in men age of developing prostate cancer would be an improvement in public health. It’s the same principle-screened. However, unlike screening for breast cancer or cervical cancer in women, that of prostate cancer remains a highly controversial topic. And the High Authority of Health does not want, at least for now, to generalize the entire population.

A DEBATE ECONOMIC AND MEDICAL

On this issue, there is a disagreement between the French Association of Urology, which recommends annual screening with PSA assay from 50 years, and some public health actors. The reasons for the controversy are primarily medical and economic. You should know that some prostate cancers are aggressive and will shortly submit a slow evolution that not necessarily affect patient survival. The interest of detecting this type of cancer is discussed.

Until recently, there was a scientific vacuum on the real impact of screening, because no study had compared to large-scale fate of men undetected and that men routinely screened. In March 2009, two major studies have been published in a prestigious journal, the New England Journal of Medicine. One of them was conducted in the United States, one in Europe.

The first showed no benefit of screening, while the latter has clearly shown a reduction in mortality among men who had benefited. The screening was accompanied by higher rates of cancers of good prognosis, and especially a better survival rate. Both studies are still widely discussed. Far from deciding the issue, they have only increased the controversy because of their conflicting results.

The other major issue raised by the screening is economic. A PSA test is not expensive at the individual level (16 €), but applied to the entire male population would probably have a significant cost. Especially because of its indirect consequences. For a high value of this marker results in prostate biopsies.

And if they detect cancer, we must conduct additional tests before starting treatment. On the other hand, this extra cost would probably offset – in part or in full – by the reduction of advanced cancers. For metastatic disease requires monitoring and treatment particularly expensive (hormone therapy, chemotherapy, supportive care). The economic impact of screening for prostate cancer, as feared by our guardianship, is extremely difficult to understand and has never been seriously evaluated.

WHEN IDEOLOGY gets involved …

Recently, a real social phenomenon is aggravated the controversy: the demand of patients. In recent years, some of them publicly expressed their dissatisfaction after the treatment they received. A treatment can indeed induce sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence in particular. As this cancer presents no symptoms at diagnosis, these effects are most unfortunate and difficult to accept.

Thus, some question the value of seeking treatment. And they will try to convince others. Screening for prostate cancer is therefore an ideological connotation. Healing is not enough: it must not be any complications. And the best way to preserve them is not to detect cancer. A dangerous argument which nevertheless has resonance. Forums have been created on the Internet.

There are associations of patients and even doctors, including the curiously named “Do not touch my prostate!”. You will find testimonials from patients who say they maimed and even humiliated. All are in the same direction: the treatment of prostate cancer is unnecessary for this type of cancer does not develop, but also dangerous because it causes serious complications.

But many truths are good to remember. First, advances in treatment are constant and complications increasingly rare. Less than 10% of patients still had urinary leakage one year after a prostatectomy (prostate removal). And if leaks persist, various methods have been developed to recover a normal continence. Similarly, several treatments are now available in cases of sexual dysfunction. And some alternative techniques for prostatectomy, such as brachy therapy (implantation of radioactive seeds into the prostate), reduce the risk of urinary and sexual disorders.

Secondly, if prostate cancer is discovered at a late stage, when it causes symptoms, not only cure is no longer possible but the treatment at this stage will have side effects much more disabling.

Thirdly, patients cured of prostate cancer diagnosed early are overwhelmingly pleased to have been eligible for screening, including those who are affected negatively. Finally, never a screening or even treatment is imposed by a physician to a patient.

After being informed of the expected benefit and risk, it remains free to make decisions. It would therefore cease to convey the idea that patients are victims of urologists zealous and eager to operate. This new ideology should stop disturbing the debate on the widespread screening of prostate cancer, already difficult to deal with the real experts.

Professor Michael Peyromaure urologist is a surgeon at the Hospital Cochin in Paris.

Related: American Cancer Society Guideline for the Early Detection of Prostate Cancer: Update 2010



A mystery kept under wraps is revealed

Spanish researcher explains the origins and evolution of mummification in Ancient Egypt, and unveils what really happened to Tutankhamen’s penis

JACINTO ANTÓN – EL PAÍS

One of Spain’s leading Egyptologists, Dr. José Miguel Parra, has just published Momias: la derrota de la muerte en el Antiguo Egipto (Mummies: the defeat of death in Ancient Egypt), which reveals what happened to Tutankhamen’s penis, as well as why Rameses II once came back to life.

Parra, already known to Spanish-speaking Egyptophiles for his books on pyramids, along with a torrid study on the love lives of the pharaohs, has now turned his attention to mummies. His new book provides a rigorous yet accessible account of the process of desiccation and embalming, including its origins and its wider uses (on baboons and other animals, for example)…

… Mummies and the process of mummification had a great impact on Egyptians’ knowledge of the human body, says Parra.

“Ancient Egyptians believed that after life on earth there lay before them a journey to an afterlife. In order to arrive safely, the body had to be in a fit condition to house the person’s soul: to Egyptians the soul was not detachable from the body as is perceived by many modern religions. In order to enable this journey, Egyptians had to ensure that the bodies of the dead were treated with the utmost respect and kept as close to the original as possible.”

The body had to be preserved to reach the afterlife. Such was the strength of this belief that much time and energy was put into experimentation with preservation techniques, he says.

The body was cut open and the heart, lungs, liver and spleen removed. These were placed in canopic jars close to the coffin or sarcophagus. The brain was removed from the head by inserting a hook through the nostril and pulling it out through the nose. The brain was then thrown away. Some Egyptian physicians believed that the brain was responsible for pumping blood and that the heart was in charge of thought and emotion, hence its being discarded. The space left by the vital organs was stuffed and the body sewn back up.

The body would be left to dry and then coated in a sodium based chemical substance called natron, which acts as a preservative. After a drying-out period of around 60 days, the body was wrapped in cloth. This final procedure was the ‘mummification’ process. Each stage of the process was carefully managed by the priests…

… Parra then goes on to reveal that some bodies were eviscerated through the anus and the vagina. “The six royal wives of Mentuhotep were emptied out this way, particularly of their intestines. They probably used some kind of solvent. In the lower era they would stick a hook up inside to pull the guts out. It was cheaper: the hole was already there,” he explains.

While on the subject of royal genitalia, Parra brings up the issue of Tutankhamen’s missing penis, which was finally reunited with the boy king a few years ago.

“Yes, that was a very curious story. It was embalmed and placed in the erect position; that’s how it was when the mummy was first examined in the 1920s. But when the mummy was analyzed again in 1968, it was gone. Some very strange stories began to circulate about where it might be: some people said it had been stolen and was in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, with Rasputin’s penis. But in 2005, after the mummy was scanned, the missing member was found with other organs in a drawer,” explains Parra…

… The Ancient Egyptians didn’t just embalm humans, but also cats, falcons, ibises, crocodiles, monkeys, gazelles, bulls, dogs, shrews, and even lions and donkeys. There is even a case of an elephant being embalmed. The priests who ran the temples made a good living selling mummies of sacred animals.

Excavations led by archeologists from the University of Pisa at Medinet Madi unveiled a crocodile farm where the animals were bred, later to be mummified. Similar farms for rearing ibises were found in Saqqara.

Mummies eventually made their way into the myths of the Ancient Egyptians, says Parra. “One of the best-known sacred stories tells how Osiris, dead and mummified, makes love to Isis, who descends in the form of a bird onto his embalmed penis.”

Parra says that mummies command a certain respect, but not fear. “They don’t frighten me, and I have never had any scary experiences with them,” he says. “They are a treasure, time capsules, witnesses to great civilizations. It’s as though they were whispering to us through the ages, bringing us knowledge.”





Life chances (Lebenschancen in German) are the opportunities each individual has to improve his or her quality of life. The concept was introduced by German sociologist Max Weber. It is a probabilistic concept, describing how likely it is, given certain factors, that an individual’s life will turn out a certain way (Hughes 2003). Life chances are positively correlated with one’s social situation (Cockerham 2005, p. 12).

The opportunities mean the extent to which individuals have access to important societal resources, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. Quality of life comprises the individual’s ability to procure goods, have a career and obtain inner satisfaction; in other words, the ability to satisfy one’s needs.

Weberian life chances can be seen as an expansion on some of Karl Marx‘s ideas. Both Weber and Marx agreed that economic factors were important in determining one’s future, but Weber’s concepts of life chances are more complex; inspired by, but different from Marx’s views on social stratification and social class. Where for Marx the means of production were the most important factor, Weber introduced other factors, such as social mobility and social equality.

While some of those factors, like age, race or gender, are random, Weber stressed the link between life chances and the non-random elements of the three-component theory of stratification – how social class, social status and political affiliation impact each individual’s life. In other words, individuals in certain groups have in common a specific causal component of their life chances: they are in similar situation, which tends to imply a similar outcome to their actions.

Weber notes the importance of economic factors, how the power of those with property, compared to those without property, gives the former great advantages over the latter. Weber also noted that life chances are to certain extent subjective: what an individual thinks of one’s life chances will affect their actions, therefore if one feels that one can become a respected and valued member of society, then it is likely to become a reality and results in one having a higher social class than somebody without this conviction.

In social engineering, life chances may have to be balanced against other goals, such as eliminating poverty, ensuring personal freedom or ensuring equality at birth.

Source:  Wiki



What’s wrong with a little escapism in art?

Guardian – Jonathan Jones

Modern reality is all very well but why not let art lead you to other places and times – in the way an escapist novel or film might

Critics are always praising works of art for being urgent, challenging, disturbing, provocative and so forth. But is that what people actually want from the arts? Is it what I, personally, require?

Apparently not, or not always, because I’ve recently watched the following films: La Reine Margot, The New World, Jeanne la Pucelle and Lancelot du Lac. What they have in common is that they are escapist historical romances, far removed from 21st-century life. Like most people, I don’t want art to only rub my nose in modern reality. I want it to take me to other places and times, from the lurid Renaissance world of Queen Margot to the fabulous futures of science fiction.

This is also how people read novels: Hilary Mantel seems more the thing than Martin Amis. The other night I read The War of the Worlds by HG Wells. What a masterpiece – what a thrill ride.

But, of course, this is where the argument turns upside down. Is The War of the Worlds really escapist? Well, its vision of the Earth invaded by Martians is exciting and awe-inspiring, but its analysis of human behaviour in this sudden crisis is anything but cosy. London can’t take it; the entire population flees the capital. There are grisly details about refugees fighting each other for survival – far grislier than any filmed version of the story has dared to dramatise.

As for those films I’ve been watching, Queen Margot inhabits a world of religious hate, Machiavellian politics and macabre murder; and Joan of Arc … well, she didn’t have a happy ending. Even the myth of Arthur ends with everyone dead in a battle.

For art is complex, as human beings are complex, and only in a completely crass view of culture is the realistic necessarily real, the contemporary necessarily urgent, the historical or fantastic escapist. Art is an escape – but not a “mere” escape.





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Little-Known Health Care Law Provision Is a Budget Buster, Critics Say

FOX News – By William La Jeunesse, March 26, 2010

While Congress spent the last year debating how to provide health insurance for the uninsured, a little-known provision slipped into the heath care law that could cost some Americans upwards of $2,000 a year.

While Congress spent the last year debating how to provide health insurance for the uninsured, a little-known provision slipped into the heath care law that could cost some Americans upwards of $2,000 a year.

The Class Act, otherwise known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act, is the federal government’s first long-term care insurance program.

Under-reported and the under the radar of most lawmakers, the program will allow workers to have an average of roughly $150 or $240 a month, based on age and salary, automatically deducted from their paycheck to save for long-term care.

The Congressional Budget Office expects the government will collect $109 billion in premiums by 2019.

Supporters say the program will relieve pressure on Medicaid and should help keep us out of nursing homes by enabling Americans to save for something most will eventually need — assistance in eating, bathing or dressing in their old age.

Opponents say the provision is little more than a short-term revenue fix that will eventually add to the federal deficit.

“This is a scary proposition where the government passed a huge new entitlement program with gimmicks and tricks and the American people don’t know they will be automatically enrolled in it by their employer if they don’t watch out,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

Nunes says Republicans were blindsided by the provision because they were unable to see the final bill until the very end. But Democratic supporters say the provision, which was championed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, should not be controversial.

“It promotes independence and choice for people who need long-term care, and over time it will help millions stay where they want to, which is at home,” says Jim Firman, director of the National Council on Aging.

Scheduled to go into effect in January, actual deductions could take place in 2012.

Here’s how the program will work:

— The federal government will approach employers next year about alerting workers to the proposed deduction.

— The deduction will work on a sliding scale based on age. Younger workers will be charged less, older workers more. The Congressional Budget Office pegged the average monthly deduction at $146. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put it higher, at $240.

— After a five-year vesting period, enrollees who need help bathing, eating or dressing will be eligible to take out benefits, estimated to be around $75 a day for in-home care.

“Seventy-five dollars a day in flex cash will be enough for most people who are at home to stay at home, which is where they want to be,” Firman said. “We are convinced a cash benefit is the best way for consumer to get what they want.”

While the plan’s opponents don’t question the need for long-term care, they say the federal government should not be managing it, and they believe the program will eventually add to the deficit.

“This creates a whole new bureaucracy that is going to break this country,” Nunes said. “In the early years there will be money in it, but at the end of the day there won’t be enough money to cover the problems because there will be too many people in the program.”

The statute says the program is designed to be self-sustaining, with an advisory board to assure the fund remains solvent. But opponents say the fine print already tells another story. Unless modifications are made, according to a CBO analysis of the bill, “the program will add to future federal budget deficits in a large and growing fashion.”

Supporters and detractors admit much needs to be worked out, and eventually premiums will be based on how many Americans actually sign up for the insurance.


Caution: AARP Chart

Warning: AARP Chart

AARP Forget to mention the below Annuity Tax

A Hidden Tax on Annuities Lurks in the Health Care Reform Law


Congressional Budget Office Director’s Blog

CBO’s Analysis of a Proposed Federal Insurance Program for Long-Term Care

Yesterday CBO released a letter in response to a request for additional information regarding our analysis of provisions of the Affordable Health Choices Act that would establish a federal insurance program for long-term care. Those provisions are called the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (the CLASS Act) and are currently under consideration by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Enrollment in the program would be open to noninstitutionalized individuals who are either active workers or the nonworking spouse of an active worker. Premiums would vary according to the person’s age at enrollment. The average premium would be limited to $65 per month in 2011 and indexed for inflation in subsequent years.

The benefit would be at least $50 per day (indexed for inflation). To qualify for benefits, an enrollee would need to have paid premiums for at least five years and been actively working for at least three of those years; the enrollee also would have to be unable to perform at least two or three activities of daily living.

The legislation would provide considerable authority to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to adjust premiums and benefits to maintain the solvency of the program. The Secretary would be allowed to reduce all benefits to the daily minimum of $50 and, if that action was inadequate to avoid insolvency, to increase enrollees’ premiums.

CBO estimates that the proposal’s net effect on the federal budget would be to reduce the budget deficit by about $58 billion during the 2010–2019 period, including some effects on federal revenues and Medicaid spending. In CBO’s analysis, the real (inflation-adjusted) average monthly premium was assumed to be $65, and the real daily benefit was assumed to average about $75. The estimated reduction in the federal budget deficit over the next 10 years is chiefly the result of the five-year vesting requirement; the payout of benefits would not begin until 2016, five years after the initial enrollment in 2011.

Beyond the 10-year budget window, the effects of the program could be quite different, and CBO expects that the HHS Secretary would need to reduce benefit payments and increase premiums to maintain the program’s solvency. Assuming that the premiums and daily benefit amounts were $65 and $75, respectively, CBO estimates that benefit payments would exceed premium income within the first decade after 2019, leading to depletion of previously accumulated premium reserves (and accumulated interest on those reserves).

Although outcomes in the distant future are very uncertain, CBO expects that actions by the Secretary to reduce all benefits to the real daily minimum of $50 and raise the real average monthly premium for new enrollees to roughly $85 sometime during the first decade after 2019 would be adequate to ensure that the program could pay benefits through 2050.

Overall, CBO estimates, if the Secretary did not modify the program to ensure its actuarial soundness, the program would add to future federal budget deficits in a large and growing fashion beginning a few years beyond the 10-year budget window. If the Secretary did act to ensure the program’s solvency, the program and its effects on Medicaid spending and revenues might—or might not—add to future budget deficits, depending on the specific actions that were taken.


Some States Find Burdens in Health Law


ACLI Urges Congressional Leaders to Withdraw the CLASS Act from Health Care Reform Legislation.

Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), issued the following statement on the analysis by the Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act in health care reform legislation:

Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2009) — “The December 10 report on the Senate’s health care reform legislation by actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) presents further evidence that the proposed long-term care program known as the CLASS Act is a unsustainable program that will add to our nation’s deficit and do little to help most Americans address their long-term care needs.

“Despite assurances of actuarial soundness in the CLASS Act, the CMS report concludes that ‘in 2025 and later, the projected benefits exceed premium revenues, resulting in a net Federal cost in the longer term.’

“Moreover, the CMS report estimates ‘an initial average premium level of $240 per month’ and cites this high cost and ‘the availability of lower-priced private long-term care insurance for many’ among other factors that will result in a participation of only ‘2 percent of potential participants.’

“This latest report from CMS and additional analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, the American Academy of Actuaries, and the Concord Coalition present clear arguments for why the CLASS Act needs to be withdrawn from any final health care bill.

“Certainly the high and rising cost of long-term care threatens the financial and retirement security of all Americans. Helping Americans address this challenge is a necessary goal that requires sound public policy solutions but not a new government program that is doomed to failure.”

Read the CMS report online. Analysis of the CLASS Act starts on page 13. 

————————–

ACLI Encouages Congressional Leaders to Withdraw the CLASS Act from Health Care Reform Legislation

Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), issued the following statement on the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act in health care reform legislation:

Washington, D.C. (October 30, 2009) — “The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis of the House of Representative’s health care proposal includes a cost estimate of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. The CBO estimates that the program will generate a savings in the early years but by 2029, the CLASS Act will pay out more than it collects in premiums.

“The savings in the CBO analysis result from the fact that the program would not begin paying benefits until premiums have been collected for five years. It is clear that once the CLASS program begins paying benefits, the program would increase the deficit in the decades following the CBO’s 10- year budget window. CBO notes that ‘the bill would generate net receipts for the government in the initial years when total premiums would exceed total benefit payments, but it would eventually lead to net outlays when benefits exceed premiums… In the decade following 2029, the CLASS program would begin to increase budget deficits.’

“In reality, should the purported $72 billion in savings from the CLASS Act be diverted to help defray the cost of health care reform, the program could be in debt much sooner than 2029.

“The CLASS Act is intended to help people pay for the cost of receiving long-term care services at home. While well-intended, the program amounts to little more than an unfunded and financially unsound entitlement program.

“In addition to the CBO analysis, the non-partisan Concord Coalition said the CLASS Act would eventually require an infusion of government revenue to maintain its solvency. Meanwhile, a joint analysis by the American Academy of Actuaries and Society of Actuaries concluded that the program could be insolvent as early as 2021.

“The high rising cost of long-term care threatens the financial and retirement security of all Americans. Helping Americans address this challenge is a necessary goal that requires sound public policy solutions, not another entitlement program that is doomed to failure.

“There are more responsible ways to address Americans’ long-term care concerns that have broad, bipartisan support. These include increasing funding for education about the cost of long-term care; expanding the Long-Term Partnership Program, which helps ease state Medicaid burdens; and allowing workers to purchase long-term care insurance with pre-tax dollars. These are just some of the ideas that would do more to help those preparing for their long-term care needs than the inadequate, financially unsound CLASS Act.”


Caution: AARP Chart

(No Mention Of Grandma’s New Wheelchair Tax)


U.S. Congress Washington, DC  20515
November 25, 2009
Honorable Tom Harkin Chairman Committee on Health, Education,
Labor, and Pensions United States Senate Washington, DC 20510
Dear Mr. Chairman:
In response to several questions that CBO has received, this letter provides additional information on the budgetary effects of proposals to establish the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program.
H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, as passed by the House of Representatives, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act proposed by Senator Reid contain very similar proposals regarding a new federal program for long-term care insurance. Both proposals would establish a voluntary program for such insurance, termed the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program. The key difference between the two proposals is in the population eligible to enroll: H.R. 3962 would allow both active workers and nonworking spouses to enroll, while the Senate proposal would allow only active workers to participate. For both the House and Senate versions of CLASS, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the cash flows under the new program would generate budgetary savings (that is, a reduction in net federal outlays) for the 2010-2019 period and for the 10 years following 2019, followed by budgetary costs (an increase in net federal outlays) in subsequent decades.Because participation in the program would be voluntary, collections of insurance premiums under CLASS would be recorded as offsetting receipts (a credit against direct spending).
On balance, CBO estimates that the version of CLASS specified in H.R. 3962 would reduce deficits by $102 billion over the 2010-2019 period, while the version contained in the Senate proposal would reduce deficits by $72 billion over that period. The following discussion provides additional information on CBO’s estimates for those proposals, including information on their longer-term effects.
The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports proposals in H.R. 3962 and under consideration in the Senate would each establish a voluntary federal program for long-term care insurance that would be administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Under both proposals, individuals could purchase coverage that would provide specified future benefits, with premiums set so that the program would be in actuarial balance over 75 years. (Actuarial balance means that expected insurance premiums plus the interest earned on such premium income would equal or exceed the expected cash payments for future benefits and the administrative costs of operating the program.) Premiums would vary only according to the enrollee’s age when he or she enters the program. Once enrolled, an individual’s premium would generally remain the same for as long as that individual remained in the program. H.R. 3962 would allow active workers and their nonworking spouses to enroll, while the Senate proposal would allow only active workers to participate.
In general, enrollees would have to pay premiums for five years to be vested in the program (that is, eligible to receive benefits in the event they become functionally disabled). Vested enrollees who need assistance performing at least two or three common daily activities such as dressing, bathing, and eating would receive cash benefits to pay for support services in a community setting. Severely impaired enrollees could apply their benefit toward the cost of residential care in a nursing home facility. The benefit would be at least $50 per day (indexed for inflation); the Secretary of HHS would set benefit levels based on the extent of enrollees’ impairment. CBO assumed that the Secretary would initially establish an average daily benefit of about $75 (indexed for inflation). That figure includes an average benefit of $50 per day for impaired enrollees living in the community and larger amounts for enrollees who become institutionalized. Benefit payments made through the CLASS program would not be considered as income in determining an enrollee’s eligibility for Medicaid.
Both the House and Senate legislation would provide considerable authority to the Secretary to adjust premiums for both current and future enrollees and to reduce benefits to the daily minimum of $50 in order to maintain the solvency of the program.
Budgetary Effects Over the Next 10 Years
CBO’s estimates of the CLASS provisions in H.R. 3962 and in the Senate proposal differ because of the treatment of nonworking spouses in the two proposals. CBO estimates that the inclusion of nonworking spouses in the House proposal would increase expected future benefit payments (and would increase premiums correspondingly) because nonworking spouses who enroll in the program would be expected to be less healthy, on average, than active workers, and therefore more likely to become functionally impaired in later years and qualify for benefits.
H.R. 3962. CBO estimates that under the House-passed version of the CLASS program, the average monthly premium in 2011 would be about $146 (premiums for new enrollees would increase with inflation in later years). Expected enrollment in the program would reach slightly more than 10 million people by 2019 (or about 4 percent of the adult population). The estimated premiums are calculated to be adequate for the program to remain solvent for 75 years, taking into account the interest income that would be generated on unspent balances in the program’s trust fund. (Because most enrollees would not receive benefits for many years, the fund would accumulate significant balances in the early years of the program.)
Over the 2010-2019 period, CBO estimates that the House-passed version of the CLASS program would reduce federal budget outlays by about $102 billion (see Table 1). This deficit reduction would occur in part because no benefits would be paid out during the first five years the program was in operation. Premium receipts would total about $123 billion over the 10–year period, and benefit payments would amount to $20 billion, CBO estimates. For those 10 years, administrative costs associated with operating the program would be 3 percent of premiums, as specified in the legislation, or about $4 billion. The program would generate about $2 billion in savings (over the 2010-2019 period) in the Medicaid program because, once an individual became eligible to collect benefits under both the CLASS and Medicaid programs, a portion of the CLASS benefit would go toward offsetting Medicaid costs. Medicaid would continue to provide the full array of long-term care benefits—to the extent that the individual was eligible—but the CLASS program would defray some costs that Medicaid would have otherwise paid.
The Senate Proposal. CBO estimates that under the current Senate proposal for CLASS, the average monthly premium in 2011 would be about $123 (premiums for new enrollees would increase with inflation in later years), and enrollment in the program would be slightly less than 10 million people by 2019 (or about 3.5 percent of the adult population). The slightly lower enrollment expected under the Senate proposal stems from the exclusion of nonworking spouses (as would be allowed under H.R. 3962). However, a higher percentage of those eligible would be expected to enroll under the Senate proposal because of the lower estimated premium.
Over the 2010-2019 period, CBO estimates that the Senate version of CLASS would reduce federal outlays by about $72 billion (see Table 2). Premium receipts would total about $88 billion over the 10–year period, and benefit payments would amount to about $14 billion, CBO estimates. For that period, administrative costs associated with operating the program would be 3 percent of premiums, as specified in the legislation, or less than $3 billion. The program would generate almost $2 billion in savings in the Medicaid program over the next 10 years.
Projections of premium receipts and benefit payments beyond the 10-year budget window (2010-2019) are subject to more uncertainty than projections for the first 10 years, and detailed year-by-year projections of those amounts would not be meaningful. Among other factors, a wide range of changes could occur—in people’s health and disability status, in the evolution of private long-term care insurance, and in the delivery of medicine—that are likely to be significant but are very difficult to predict, both under current law and under the House and Senate proposals. As a result, CBO is only able to give a broad assessment of the potential budgetary outcomes in future decades, based on the underlying structure of the long-term care proposals.
CBO estimates that both the House and Senate versions of the CLASS program would reduce the federal budget deficit in the second decade following enactment of the legislation (2020-2029), but by smaller amounts than in the initial decade. By the third decade, the sum of benefit payments and administrative costs would probably exceed premium income and savings to the Medicaid program. Therefore, the programs would add to budget deficits in the third decade—and in succeeding decades—by amounts on the order of tens of billions of dollars for each 10-year period. The House-passed version of CLASS, which would reduce the federal budget deficit in the first 10 years by an estimated $30 billion more than would the Senate version, would likewise add somewhat more to the deficits in the third decade and beyond than would the Senate proposal. (That is, the greater participation and poorer health status of enrollees under the House version would lead to larger benefit payments in those later years.)
The CLASS program would add to budget deficits in future decades even though the proposals require the Secretary of HHS to set premiums to ensure the program’s solvency for 75 years. Because of the extended time horizon involved in long-term care insurance and the build-up of unspent premium receipts, income from interest on accumulated fund balances would play a large role in financing the program’s benefits. Typically, enrollees pay premiums for many years before some of them become disabled and qualify for benefits. Private issuers of long-term care insurance finance benefit payments from their reserve of accumulated premium receipts and the income they derive from investing those premiums. Similarly, the Secretary would invest CLASS program premium receipts in federal securities and would incorporate that expected income into calculations of appropriate premiums to charge. However, trust fund income from investments in federal securities would be an intragovernmental transfer within the federal budget. As a result, from a budget scorekeeping perspective, the CLASS program would inevitably add to future deficits (on a cash basis) by more than it reduces deficits in the near term, even though the premiums would be set to ensure solvency of the program.
Key Caveats. These estimated effects of the CLASS proposals are subject to considerable uncertainty, for several reasons. The budgetary impact would depend importantly on the number of people who would enroll in the program and the health status of those enrollees later in life. That would depend, in turn, on peoples’ perceptions about their need for long-term care insurance and their comparison of the premiums they would have to pay in the CLASS program with the value of the future benefits the program would provide. CBO’s estimate of the premiums that would be required to ensure the programs’ actuarial soundness over 75 years is based on projections of future trends in the prevalence of disabilities and in the ways that care for people with disabilities will be provided. Though some insight can be obtained from the experience of private-market insurance, both of those trends are subject to substantial uncertainty. Moreover, under the CLASS proposals, the Secretary of HHS would be given great latitude in administering the program, which adds to the uncertainty about the program’s cash flows because benefit and premium levels could be set at different levels than CBO has estimated and could be adjusted over time in a variety of ways.
The CLASS program could be subject to considerable financial risk in the future if it were unable to attract a sufficiently healthy group of enrollees. Relatively healthy enrollees would ensure that the program’s premiums and the interest on those premiums would be adequate to pay for future benefits. However, attracting healthy enrollees could be challenging for several reasons. One reason is that the administrative costs of the program are limited to 3 percent of premiums, which might mean that the Secretary would not have sufficient funds to effectively market the program to a large number of people. A relatively small enrollment would increase the risk of adverse selection and could undermine the long-run stability of the program. (On the other hand, by keeping administrative costs to a minimum, the CLASS program might attract relatively healthy enrollees because the resulting premiums could be lower than the premiums that would be charged for many private policies that have substantially higher administrative costs and devote a share of their premiums to profit.)
Another reason why attracting health enrollees could be a challenge is that the CLASS program would have to enroll all eligible people who apply, making it likely that some enrollees would be people who were unable to obtain coverage in the private market because of their poor health status. To avoid insuring people with a higher-than-average probability of eventually receiving benefits, private insurers employ extensive underwriting of policies sold in the individual market (that is, people are charged different premiums depending on their expected future need for care), and market coverage selectively in the employer market.
The program includes provisions that would allow employers, at their option, to automatically enroll employees in the CLASS program. That feature could help to boost participation in the program and thereby mitigate the risk of adverse selection. However, the proposals would not require employers to auto-enroll their employees, and employees would have the right to opt out of the coverage altogether, reducing the likely effects of auto-enrollment to stimulate participation in the program.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any questions, please contact me. The CBO staff contacts are Bruce Vavrichek and Stuart Hagen.
Sincerely,
Douglas W. Elmendorf Director
cc: Honorable Michael B. Enzi
Ranking Member Honorable Harry Reid  Majority Leader
Honorable Mitch McConnell  Republican LeaderHonorable Christopher J. Dodd

Identical letter sent to the Honorable George Miller.



end


UPDATE

R.I.P., Dennis Hopper

LA Times – May 29, 2010 | 10:57 am

Dennis Hopper died Saturday morning in Southern California at the age of 74. Hopper, who had been suffering from prostate cancer for some time, was of course a screen legend who had roles in numerous films including “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Blue Velvet,” and of course also directed, co-wrote and co-starred in the generation-defining “Easy Rider.”

He’ll also be heard on the big screen one more time, as he appears as one of the lead voices in Lionsgate’s animated “Alpha and Omega,” which comes out on September 17.

We were reminded of all of those roles, as well as his appearance receiving his star on the the Hollywood Walk of Fame, when we heard of his death. “Everything I learned in my life, I learned from you,” he told the assembled group of family and friends as he received the honor. Here’s The Times’ obituary of Hopper’s rich and at times complicated life, and, below, The Times’ video of the Walk of Fame ceremony.

–Steven Zeitchik

Looking gaunt and frail, actor Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Friday – and “Easy Rider” co-star Jack Nicholson was by his side. The 73-year-old arrived at the ceremony with a bandage on his forehead, the result of a fall.

His familiar grin was there, and his blue eyes lit up at the sight of young daughter Galen and granddaughter Violet horsing around. Hopper thanked Hollywood for being “my home and my schooling” and shook hands with David Lynch, who directed him in “Blue Velvet.”

NY Daily News



Ailing Actor Dennis Hopper to Receive Star on Walk of Fame

LA Times – KTLA News

Actor Dennis Hopper, who is said to be dying of cancer and too weak to participate in a deposition in his divorce case, is expected to make an appearance in Hollywood Friday to receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Hopper, who is battling prostate cancer, will receive the 2,403rd star along Hollywood Boulevard.

Hopper’s lawyer, Joseph Mannis, has said Hopper is terminally ill and too weak to be questioned by his wife’s divorce attorney.

A doctor approved the late-morning appearance, saying in court documents that it would likely be a positive experience.

The physician also wrote that Hopper, 73, weighs barely 100 pounds and is unable to carry on long conversations.

Actor Viggo Mortensen and film producer Mark Canton are scheduled to speak at the ceremony in front of the Egyptian Theatre.

Mortensen appeared with Hopper in the 1991 film “The Indian Runner,” and “Boiling Point” two years later. Canton produced the 2005 film “Land of The Dead,” in which Hopper appeared.

The ceremony also coincides with the seventh birthday of Hopper’s daughter, Galen.

Hopper and his wife, Victoria, have been locked in a bitter feud since the actor, director and artist filed to end the couple’s nearly 14-year marriage in January.

Both have agreed to stay 10 feet away from each other while the divorce is ongoing. Victoria has stated in court filings that Hopper filed for divorce to cut her out of her inheritance, a claim the actor has denied.

The case is scheduled for a court hearing on April 5.

Hopper began his film career in the classic 1955 tale of teenage rebellion, “Rebel Without a Cause,” developing a friendship with its star, James Dean. The two also appeared in “Giant.”

Hopper has appeared in more than 150 films including `Apocalypse Now,” “Blue Velvet” and “speed.”

Hopper received a best original screenplay Oscar nomination for co-writing the script of the 1969 counter-culture road movie “Easy Rider,” which he directed and starred in.

Hopper’s other Academy Award nomination came for best supporting actor for his role as an alcoholic father who becomes sober to be an assistant coach of his son’s high school basketball team in “Hoosiers.”…]














Related Links:

TMZ: Dennis Hopper: I’m Sick, I’m Broke

Wiki:  Dennis Hopper


end

“No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.”

The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx


If today was not a crooked highway,
If tonight was not a crooked trail,
If tomorrow wasn’t such a long time,
Then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all.
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’,
And if I could only hear her heart a-softly poundin’,
Yes and only if she was lyin’ by me,
Then I’d lie in my bed once again.

I can’t see my reflection in the water(s),
I can’t speak the sounds that show no pain,
I can’t hear the echo of my footsteps,
Or can’t remember the sound of my own name.
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’,
And if I could only hear her heart a-softly poundin’,
Yes and only if she was lyin’ by me,
Then I’d lie in my bed once again.

There’s beauty in the silver, singin’ river,
There’s beauty in the rainbow in the sky,
But no one and nothing else can touch the beauty
That I remember in my true love’s eyes.
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’,
And if I could only hear her heart a-softly poundin’,
Yes and only if she was lyin’ by me,
Then I’d lie in my bed once again.


Cuban leader applauds US health-care reform bill



Rage on the Right

The Year in Hate and Extremism

SPLC – By Mark Potok

The radical right caught fire last year, as broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.

Hate groups stayed at record levels — almost 1,000 — despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80%, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, so-called “Patriot” groups — militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose “one-world government” on liberty-loving Americans — came roaring back after years out of the limelight.

The anger seething across the American political landscape — over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as “socialist” or even “fascist” — goes beyond the radical right. The “tea parties” and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.

“We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history,” Chip Berlet, a veteran analyst of the American radical right, wrote earlier this year. “We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage.”

Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Just a quarter think the government can be trusted. And the anti-tax tea party movement is viewed in much more positive terms than either the Democratic or Republican parties, the poll found.

The signs of growing radicalization are everywhere. Armed men have come to Obama speeches bearing signs suggesting that the “tree of liberty” needs to be “watered” with “the blood of tyrants.” The Conservative Political Action Conference held this February was co-sponsored by groups like the John Birch Society, which believes President Eisenhower was a Communist agent, and Oath Keepers, a Patriot outfit formed last year that suggests, in thinly veiled language, that the government has secret plans to declare martial law and intern patriotic Americans in concentration camps. Politicians pandering to the antigovernment right in 37 states have introduced “Tenth Amendment Resolutions,” based on the constitutional provision keeping all powers not explicitly given to the federal government with the states. And, at the “A Well Regulated Militia” website, a recent discussion of how to build “clandestine safe houses” to stay clear of the federal government included a conversation about how mass murderers like Timothy McVeigh and Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph were supposedly betrayed at such houses…

But the most dramatic story by far has been with the antigovernment Patriots.

The militias and the larger Patriot movement first came to Americans’ attention in the mid-1990s, when they appeared as an angry reaction to what was seen as a tyrannical government bent on crushing all dissent. Sparked most dramatically by the death of 76 Branch Davidians during a 1993 law enforcement siege in Waco, Texas, those who joined the militias also railed against the Democratic Clinton Administration and initiatives like gun control and environmental regulation. Although the Patriot movement included people formerly associated with racially based hate groups, it was above all animated by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along with a fondness for antigovernment conspiracy theories. By early this decade, the groups had largely disappeared from public view.

But last year, as noted in the SPLC’s August report, “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” a dramatic resurgence in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing, the militias, began. Now, the latest SPLC count finds that an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) — a 244% jump.

That is cause for grave concern. Individuals associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead…



Should taxpayers subsidize underwater homeowners?

Keith Hennessey

This is shocking:

The Obama administration will announce a major new stock market initiative on Friday that will directly tackle the problem of the millions of Americans who lost money betting on stocks.  The government will buy loans from stock brokerage houses at the current value of the stocks in an investor’s portfolio, in an effort to stabilize the stock market, people briefed on the plan said. The government will also increase incentive payments to stock brokers who loaned on margin to their investing clients and now assume some of the losses of those clients. And it will require those stock brokers to cover some of the losses of unemployed investors for a minimum of three months.

OK, I made that up.  But how is it different from this, which is real?

The Obama administration will announce a major new housing initiative on Friday that will directly tackle the problem of the millions of Americans who owe more on their houses than they are worth. The government will buy loans from investors at the current value of the house in an effort to stabilize the market, people briefed on the plan said. The government will also increase incentive payments to lenders that cut the principal of borrowers in modification programs. And it will require lenders to cut the monthly payments of unemployed borrowers for a minimum of three months.

The Administration is using tax dollars to subsidize some homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages.  Today they are beefing up two housing programs with more money.

These programs are targeted at homeowners who could almost but not quite afford their mortgage.  The idea is that, with some taxpayer subsidy, their lender will agree to reduce or delay some mortgage payments.

Who is eligible?  Under one program, called HAMP, the Home Affordable Modification Program, you are eligible if you:

… live in an owner occupied principal residence, have a mortgage balance less than $729,750, owe monthly mortgage payments that are not affordable (greater than 31 percent of their income) and demonstrate a financial hardship. The new flexibilities for the modification initiative announced today continue to target this group of homeowners.

Excuse me?  We’re going to subsidize someone with a mortgage balance of $700,000?!

Let’s do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation.  Suppose you have a mortgage balance of $700K, with 28 years left on your 30-year mortgage at a fixed 5.25%.  Your monthly mortgage payments would be almost $4,000.  If that’s greater than 31% of your income, you make less than $155,000 per year.

Does it really make sense for the Administration to use taxpayer funds to subsidize someone making less than $155,000 per year to stay in a home with a $700,000 mortgage balance?!…]




Why Socialism?

by Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

… I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society.

But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate.

All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.

In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist.

The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society.

This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense.

In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence.

Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion.

A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society…


Socialist Party of America

The Socialist Party of America (SPA or SP) was a democratic socialist political party in the United States, formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party of America and disaffected elements of the Socialist Labor Party which had split from the main organization in 1899.

In the first decades of the 20th Century, it drew significant support from many different groups, including trade unionists, progressive social reformers, populist farmers, and immigrant communities. Its presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, won over 900,000 votes in 1912 and 1920, while the party also elected members of the United States House of Representatives (Victor L. Berger and Meyer London) and numerous state legislators and mayors. The party’s staunch opposition to American involvement in World War I, although welcomed by many, also led to prominent defections, official repression and vigilante persecution. The organization was further shattered by a factional war over how it should respond to Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the establishment of the Communist International in 1919.

After endorsing Robert LaFollette‘s presidential campaign in 1924, the Socialist Party returned to independent action and experienced modest growth in the early 1930s behind presidential candidate Norman Thomas. After the 1920s, however, the Party’s appeal was weakened by the popularity of Franklin Roosevelt‘s New Deal, the superior organization and tactical flexibility of the Communist Party under Earl Browder, and the resurgent labor movement’s need for friendly government policies. A divisive and ultimately-unsuccessful attempt to broaden the party by admitting followers of Leon Trotsky and Jay Lovestone caused the traditional “Old Guard” to leave and form the Social Democratic Federation. While the party was always strongly anti-Fascist, as well as anti-Stalinist, the SP’s ambivalent attitude towards World War II cost it both internal and external support.

The SP stopped running Presidential candidates after 1956, when its nominee Darlington Hoopes won fewer than 3,000 votes. In the party’s last decades, its members, many of them prominent in the labor, peace, civil rights and civil liberties movements, fundamentally disagreed about the socialist movement’s relationship to the Democratic Party domestically and how best to advance democracy abroad. In 1972–73, these strategic differences had become so acute that the Socialist Party shattered into three successor groups…

Source:  Wiki

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