Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Looks, presence and power

I am an Elizabeth Taylor fan.  Manohla Dargis summed it up:

"Ms. Taylor managed the role of sex object effortlessly as if it too were just part of the job. In contrast to so many other actresses, she seemed as desiring as desirous, with the gift of a thrillingly unladylike appetite. She was a great lover of food, of course, as her cruelly documented weight gains make evident. Yet the appetite that appeared to drive, at times even define her, exceeded mere food to include everything, and her consumption of men, booze, jewels and celebrity itself was an astonishment."

However contrived and improbable the stories, her performances in "Place in the Sun" and "Butterfield 8" conveyed a passion and humanity that were consistent with her later public discussions about a studio system that gave her 2 weeks off after the death of her husband Mike Todd, and her later support for AIDS activism. Who knows what really goes on in the lives of the impossibly rich and famous - not me for sure. But to the extent our lives are bombarded with celebrity-dom, I liked it that rich gorgeous Liz made it a believable part of part of her public persona to stick up for herself and for the socially excluded. So, a salute.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do You Have Sex? Do You Have Power?

Ellen Shaffer, Defend the Dream Rally, San Francisco, March 15, 2011

Robert Reich is an inspiration to all of us, and one of the country's truly great thinkers. There are a lot of very smart people over at UC Berkeley, where he teaches.
As Co-Director of the Center for Policy Analysis, I want to demonstrate to Professor Reich that we can hold our own over here in San Francisco, too. So I have some complicated math questions I want to ask you. Some of them are multiple choice. I want you to huddle up and get warm and stand with some other people you think are really smart and we'll see if we can figure out what the problem is around here.

Are you ready?

Ok here's the first question, tell me if you can answer it:

Do you have sex?

Let me repeat: Do you have sex?

Ok here's the next question, this one has multiple parts:

Have you ever had sex, do you plan to have sex in the future, do you have any friends or relatives who you have reason to believe have ever had sex?

If you said yes to any of these questions, think about this one:

Do you think it's any business of Congress' if you do or if you don't?

All right, now let's get into some really tricky stuff.

When you've had sex, how many of you were surprised at some point when you got pregnant?

Here's a fact: 50% of pregnancies in the US are unintended pregnancies.

And 30% of women have an abortion at some time in our lives.


Here's another little-known fact: some of those women are - Republicans!

Now let's see what else we can discover here today.
We hear there are deficits, at the state and federal levels. The federal deficit is a big one, $1.5 trillion.

So let's see whose fault that is.

Did you make $810 billion last year? Anyone?

The oil industry did.

Anyone here vote to spend $3 trillion fighting phantom weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, without any way to pay for it?

Fact: Corporate profits went up to $1.6 trillion in 2010. Over half of U.S. companies paid no federal taxes at some time in the last decade.

Anybody here make $1.6 trillion and not pay taxes?

Here in California we have seen some of the starkest financial tragedies, the tragic divide between rich and poor, entire communities devastated by the irresponsible, criminal negligence of banks and finance capital.

Now here's another question:

Do we have any power?

You bet we do. If we didn't have any power they wouldn't have to keep bopping us over the head to keep us down.

The right wing extremists in Congress are marching to the tune of the extremists in the corporate world.

In Congress, and in the states, the far right is going after us, all of us, with their guns drawn, literally and figuratively.

The Republican budget bill would slash funds to implement health care reform, slash Head Start early childhood programs, slash Pell grants to students, close down public radio, deregulate environmental polluters.

And to women, and to those of you who ever have had or ever will have sex, they would do this:

The would defund family planning, period. Defund Planned Parenthood, period - even the cancer screenings and preventive health services in poor neighborhoods that make up 97% of their budget. Remember, half of pregnancies are unintended; that percent would go straight up.

They would make it virtually impossible to get an abortion. Because many employers get a federal tax break for providing health insurance, extremists say this means you should not be able to use your private insurance to pay for an abortion, because there is a public dollar in there somewhere.

It gets worse than that. You've probably heard some of the proposals: defining the murder of abortion providers as justifiable homicide. Authorizing hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion even if the refusal would result in the death of the mother.

The number of reliable pro-choice Senators is now a bare 40.

The vast majority of Americans believe that we as individuals have the right to make our own decisions about how and when we're going to have children. The majority believe that abortion should be legal.

The Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign was formed so that the 80% of us who support individual choices about our reproductive health can be visible and vocal, and can take action.

We can exert tremendous influences over our life courses, as individuals.

But in many other ways, do as well as our communities do.

It is when we are united that we truly have power.

That is why we have to be smart.

They are throwing everything at us at the same time: trying to smash our unions, smash our democracy, smash our freedom of choice about when we're going to have kids, and with whom.

Because we are strongest when we are united, and we are weakest when they can pull us apart.

We are here today with Madison, we are here today with Ohio, we are here today with the LGBTQ community, with undocumented immigrants, with men and women - and for sure with all of us who have sex!

We are here with the people near the Fukushima Daichi reactor, where caretakers kept saying, don't worry, it's perfectly safe.

We're here with each other because we know that when we stand together that is when we have power.

Do we have power?

Do we have power?

Do we have power?

Now let's show our leaders what power is and what to do with it.

Thanks to Weslyan Uncut:

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Here is one of the most insidious and widespread myths about the application of the Affordable Care Act. In presenting about the law in remote areas, I've found that people who had heard nothing about any of the benefits of the ACA had heard this: if you sell your house you'll have to pay 3.8% in new taxes on the amount of the sale.
Here's what is wrong with this:

Sec. 1411 is below. It does impose a 3.8% tax generally on unearned income, a progressive feature of the law.
And the 3.8% tax does apply to the sale of certain property.
But all of the following must be true for the tax to apply to proceeds from the sale of your home:
1. Your annual income must be $200,000 or greater if you file taxes as a single person, or $250,000 if you file as a couple. This excludes about 98% of Americans right there.
2. The net gain from the sale of your home must be declarable as taxable income.
Now if you've sold a residence in the last 20 years you know that Congress is constantly finding ways to exclude home sale gains from taxable income. Right now you usually pay no tax on the sale for a variety of reasons. These change from time to time but right now include these conditions at least:
a. The first $250,000 in profit on the sale of a primary residence (or $500,000 in the case of a married couple) is excluded from taxable income already.
b. If you buy another home, you pay no tax.
Remember, you can make a million in taxable gains on the sale of your home and the new 3.8% tax will not apply unless you're also declaring taxable earnings over $200,000 a year.
You can find all this out in summary at
But I think you're better armed by knowing where to look in the law so here you are:

‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection (e)—

‘‘(1) APPLICATION TO INDIVIDUALS.—In the case of an individual,

there is hereby imposed (in addition to any other tax

imposed by this subtitle) for each taxable year a tax equal to

3.8 percent of the lesser of—

‘‘(A) net investment income for such taxable year, or

‘‘(B) the excess (if any) of—

‘‘(i) the modified adjusted gross income for such

taxable year, over

‘‘(ii) the threshold amount.


an estate or trust, there is hereby imposed (in addition to any

other tax imposed by this subtitle) for each taxable year a tax

of 3.8 percent of the lesser of—

‘‘(A) the undistributed net investment income for such

taxable year, or

‘‘(B) the excess (if any) of—

‘‘(i) the adjusted gross income (as defined in section

67(e)) for such taxable year, over

‘‘(ii) the dollar amount at which the highest tax

bracket in section 1(e) begins for such taxable year.

‘‘(b) THRESHOLD AMOUNT.—For purposes of this chapter, the

term ‘threshold amount’ means—

‘‘(1) in the case of a taxpayer making a joint return under

section 6013 or a surviving spouse (as defined in section 2(a)),


‘‘(2) in the case of a married taxpayer (as defined in section

7703) filing a separate return, 1⁄2 of the dollar amount determined

under paragraph (1), and

‘‘(3) in any other case, $200,000.

‘‘(c) NET INVESTMENT INCOME.—For purposes of this chapter—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘net investment income’ means

the excess (if any) of—

‘‘(A) the sum of—
‘‘(i) gross income from interest, dividends, annuities,

royalties, and rents, other than such income

which is derived in the ordinary course of a trade or

business not described in paragraph (2),

‘‘(ii) other gross income derived from a trade or

business described in paragraph (2), and

‘‘(iii) net gain (to the extent taken into account in

computing taxable income) attributable to the disposition

of property other than property held in a trade or

business not described in paragraph (2), over

‘‘(B) the deductions allowed by this subtitle which are

properly allocable to such gross income or net gain.


trade or business is described in this paragraph if such trade

or business is—

‘‘(A) a passive activity (within the meaning of section

469) with respect to the taxpayer, or

‘‘(B) a trade or business of trading in financial instruments

or commodities (as defined in section 475(e)(2)).


TO TAX.—A rule similar to the rule of section 469(e)(1)(B) shall

apply for purposes of this subsection.


AND S CORPORATIONS.—In the case of a disposition of

an interest in a partnership or S corporation—

‘‘(A) gain from such disposition shall be taken into account

under clause (iii) of paragraph (1)(A) only to the extent

of the net gain which would be so taken into account

by the transferor if all property of the partnership or S

corporation were sold for fair market value immediately

before the disposition of such interest, and

‘‘(B) a rule similar to the rule of subparagraph (A)

shall apply to a loss from such disposition.


PLANS.—The term ‘net investment income’ shall not include

any distribution from a plan or arrangement described in section

401(a), 403(a), 403(b), 408, 408A, or 457(b).

‘‘(6) SPECIAL RULE.—Net investment income shall not include

any item taken into account in determining self-employment

income for such taxable year on which a tax is imposed

by section 1401(b).

‘‘(d) MODIFIED ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME.—For purposes of this

chapter, the term ‘modified adjusted gross income’ means adjusted

gross income increased by the excess of—

‘‘(1) the amount excluded from gross income under section

911(a)(1), over

‘‘(2) the amount of any deductions (taken into account in

computing adjusted gross income) or exclusions disallowed

under section 911(d)(6) with respect to the amounts described

in paragraph (1).

‘‘(e) NONAPPLICATION OF SECTION.—This section shall not apply


‘‘(1) a nonresident alien, or
‘‘(2) a trust all of the unexpired interests in which are devoted

to one or more of the purposes described in section


(2) ESTIMATED TAXES.—Section 6654 of the Internal Revenue

Code of 1986 is amended—

(A) in subsection (a), by striking ‘‘and the tax under

chapter 2’’ and inserting ‘‘the tax under chapter 2, and the

tax under chapter 2A’’; and

(B) in subsection (f)—

(i) by striking ‘‘minus’’ at the end of paragraph (2)

and inserting ‘‘plus’’; and

(ii) by redesignating paragraph (3) as paragraph

(4) and inserting after paragraph (2) the following new


‘‘(3) the taxes imposed by chapter 2A, minus’’.

(3) CLERICAL AMENDMENT.—The table of chapters for subtitle

A of chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is

amended by inserting after the item relating to chapter 2 the

following new item:


(4) EFFECTIVE DATES.—The amendments made by this subsection

shall apply to taxable years beginning after December

31, 2012.



(A) FICA.—√łAmended section 3101(b)(2) of the IRC, as

added by section 9015 (and amended by section 10906) of

PPACA, including inserting a new subparagraph (B)¿

(B) SECA.—√łAmended section 1401(b)(2) of the IRC,

as added by section 9015 (and amended by section 10906)

of PPACA, including inserting a new clause (ii) in subparagraph


(2) ESTIMATED TAXES.—Section 6654 of the Internal Revenue

Code of 1986 is amended by redesignating subsection (m)

as subsection (n) and by inserting after subsection (l) the following

new subsection:

‘‘(m) SPECIAL RULE FOR MEDICARE TAX.—For purposes of this

section, the tax imposed under section 3101(b)(2) (to the extent not

withheld) shall be treated as a tax imposed under chapter 2.’’.

(3) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this subsection

shall apply with respect to remuneration received, and

taxable years beginning after, December 31, 2012.

Plus, if you've gotten this far, you can look up portions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) referred to above.