Category Archives: Media & Entertainment

Walmart “Working Man” ad: Rush sold out their fans. Big time. #WTF

Rush’s decision to license “Working Man” to a company that has declared war on American workers is one of the biggest betrayals of trust in Rock history.

Rush Sold OutYesterday I offered up a brief post wondering what the folks at Walmart were thinking when they chose to use Rush’s iconic “Working Man” as the soundtrack for their ad on investing more money in American manufacturers. Rush, in case you don’t know them, is Canadian, and that struck me as a tad … ironic. Maybe for a follow-up they can do something with Alanis Morissette. Or a Chinese band, if they want to be especially heavy-handed.

Today it’s time to ask WTF Rush was thinking when it decided to sell out to one of the most egregiously anti-working man corporations on the planet.

First off, let’s get some perspective on the claim. The ad says that in the next 10 years they’re “pledging $250 billion to products purchased from American factories.” That’s a lot of money. However, this is a company with 2013 revenues of nearly $470 billion, so the ad shouldn’t be construed as a commitment to go all-in on the American worker. Continue reading Walmart “Working Man” ad: Rush sold out their fans. Big time. #WTF

Fantasy reboots: What if David Lynch had directed Caddyshack?

It started innocently enough, as these things often do, with our boy Dan Ryan on Facebook wishing there was a video of the gopher from Caddyshack dancing to “Water of Love” by Dire Straits. Which, turns out, is actually a thing. That caused me, for some odd reason, to wonder what the movie would have been like if David Lynch had directed.

Then Jim Booth got involved, and it was all downhill from there.

So here it is, our best guess as to how Lynch would have cast the film, along with some plausible plot twists. Continue reading Fantasy reboots: What if David Lynch had directed Caddyshack?

The hoax is a hoax: Andy Kaufman is ALIVE! (You heard it here first.)

So, it’s been kind of a confusing story to follow, but Andy Kaufman’s brother announced that Andy faked his death to escape the spotlight, is still alive and living in hiding, and has a daughter. Then the daughter materializes. Then it’s revealed that she’s an actress and it’s all an elaborate hoax.

Or is it? Continue reading The hoax is a hoax: Andy Kaufman is ALIVE! (You heard it here first.)

The UNSHARE button: Can we all just step away from the propaganda?

Our social media activities would benefit from a dose of critical thinking.

A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on. – Terry Pratchett

I had an exchange with my sister earlier about something she had shared on Facebook. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the one alleging that 11 US states now have “More People on Welfare than they do Employed.” Hint number one: cluelessness regarding the mysteries of punctuation. And no, I won’t link to it. Continue reading The UNSHARE button: Can we all just step away from the propaganda?

Our psychopath Congress

Government shutdown, debt crisis reveal how much GOP has in common with other sociopaths…

Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil. Involuntary dilation of the iris?

I believe Philip K. Dick had it right in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Technology had, in that not-so-distant future, created androids that were nearly indistinguishable from humans. The one thing people had that the Nexus 6s didn’t, the quality that made them essentially human, was empathy. Continue reading Our psychopath Congress

Open letter to Sinéad O’Connor re: the Miley Cyrus controversy

miley
Not feminism.

Dear Sinéad,

Let me begin with a compliment. Your letter to Miley Cyrus the other day was spot on in its articulation of the corporate music machine dynamic and the way it uses people, especially, pretty women, to its own amoral ends. Your employ of words like “prostitute” and “pimp” was as accurate and appropriate as it was provocative. Continue reading Open letter to Sinéad O’Connor re: the Miley Cyrus controversy

RIP: David Frost and the rehabilitation of Richard Nixon

Frost NixonAdapted from a piece that originally ran in December 2011.

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When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. -Richard Nixon to David Frost

British television journalist David Frost is dead at 74. While it isn’t necessarily clear that a man who spent time as a comedian and game show host ought to have his visage chiseled into Journalism Rushmore, there is simply no way to ignore his substantive moments, which are headlined by his famous interview series with disgraced former president Richard Nixon.

This is more about Nixon, perhaps, but as we reflect upon Frost’s career and the public reception of the play and film about their encounter, it has become nearly impossible to think of him in any other context, at least on this side of the Atlantic. And if a media personality is to be judged on one moment, what better one than the events commencing on March 23, 1977?

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After a community theatre performance in late 2011 of Frost/Nixon, my companions and I found ourselves discussing a topic that has come to intrigue me a great deal: the curious rehabilitation of Richard Nixon. Continue reading RIP: David Frost and the rehabilitation of Richard Nixon

The New Constitution: comprehensive statement of principles (draft)

CATEGORY: The New ConstitutionThe original plan when we began this project was to offer the amendments individually, invite discussion, then produce a final document. The course of the process, though, has made a couple things clear. First, there needs to be a period to discuss the entire document in context, and second, while the original “Bill of Rights” approach perhaps had a certain formatic elegance about it, the project is better served by a less formalized articulation of general principles.

As a result, what follows is a restructured draft that accounts for the discussions so far and that also adds some new elements that have arisen since the process launched.

We will compile a final statement of principles out of this discussion.

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1)    Organization, Composition and Conduct of Government

a)     Proportional Representation

i)      No political party representing a significant minority of the electorate – and here we suggest five percent as a workable baseline – will be denied direct representation in the legislature.

ii)     All legislative bodies shall be comprised proportionally according to the populations represented and all elected officials should be selected by direct vote of the people.[1]

b)     Public Financing of Elections

i)      In order to eliminate the corrupting, anti-democratic influence of corporate and special interest money on the electoral process, all elections shall be publicly financed. No individual will be allowed to contribute more than a token sum to an official, candidate or political party (perhaps the cap could be in line with the current $2,000 limit for contributions to presidential candidates).

ii)     All corporate, commercial and other private or publicly held entities shall be forbidden from contributing directly to any official, candidate or political party.

iii)   All citizens and collective entities are free to designate a portion of their annual tax contributions to a general election fund.

iv)    No contributions to the electoral process shall be allowed by foreign interests, either individual or institutional.

v)     Election funds shall be administered on a non-partisan basis and no candidate or party demonstrating a reasonable expectation of electoral viability shall be denied access to funding.

c)     Secular Government

i)      The government of the people shall be expressly secular. No individual, religious or quasi-religious entity or collective engage or seek to influence the course of legislation or policy in accordance with theological creed.

ii)     No government edifice, document, collateral, communication, or other production, including currency, shall make reference to religious concepts, including “god.”

iii)   No one shall, in any legal context, including legal processes or oaths of office, swear upon a sacred text.

iv)    Oaths of office shall explicitly require officials to refrain from the use of religious language and dogma in the conduct of their duties.

v)     No government funds shall be spent to compensate employees who exist to serve religious functions. This includes, but is not limited to, the office of Chaplain in various military bodies.

vi)    No religious institution shall be eligible for tax exempt status.

d)     Oversight of Covert Activities

No governmental entity shall conduct secret or covert proceedings absent ongoing oversight by a multi-partisan body of popularly elected officials.[2]

e)     Federal Autonomy

No state or local government entity shall assert special privilege or exemption with respect to established rights granted by the Federal Constitution.

2)    Individual Freedoms

a)     Free Speech, Press and Religion

i)      No government, corporation, commercial or private entity shall abridge an individual’s legitimate exercise of free speech. This includes all political, social and civic speech activities, including those criticizing the government, corporations and business entities and other collective organizations.[3]

ii)     The right of the people peaceably to assemble, especially for purposes of protest, and to petition for a redress of grievances will not be infringed.

iii)   The health of the nation depends on a vital independent check against public and commercial power. As such, no government, corporation, commercial or private entity shall be allowed to abridge the rights of a free and unfettered press.

iv)    Congress will make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

b)     Equal Rights Under the Law

i)      No governmental, corporation or commercial interest, or other private organization shall deny to any enfranchised citizen the rights or privileges accorded to others.

ii)     The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

c)     Freedom from Surveillance

i)      All individuals shall enjoy the right to privacy and freedom from systemic surveillance by governmental entities in the absence of a legally obtained warrant articulating probable cause against the individual.

ii)     The right of the people to be secure in their persons, homes, papers, data, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

iii)   All individuals shall enjoy the right to privacy and freedom from systemic surveillance and data gathering by corporate, commercial or other private or public entities unless they have specifically opted into such programs.

d)     Basic Human Rights

All citizens shall enjoy the right to shelter, nourishment, healthcare and educational opportunity.

3)    Conduct of Business and Commercial Interests

a)     Legal Standing

No corporation, business interest or any other collective entity shall be accorded the rights and privileges attending citizenship, which are reserved expressly for individuals.[4]

b)     Public Interest Standard

No corporate, commercial or other private or governmental entity shall be licensed, accredited or incorporated absent a binding commitment to serve the public interest.[5]

c)     Lobbying Restrictions

i)      In order to further the public’s interest in a free and independent legislature, elected officials shall not be allowed petition the body in which they served, either on their own behalf or on behalf of the interests of a third party, for a significant period of time after the conclusion of their terms.[6]

ii)     No person shall be allowed to assume a position charged with regulatory oversight of an industry in which they have worked in the past five years.

iii)   No elected official shall be allowed to assume a position on any legislative committee charged with oversight or regulation of an industry in which they have worked or held financial interest for the past five years.

d)     Collective Bargaining

i)      All workers shall have the right to organize for purposes of collective representation and bargaining.

ii)     In any publicly held commercial interest where a significant percentage of the workforce is represented by a union, the workers shall be entitled to representation on the corporate board of directors.[7]

4)    Citizen Responsibilities and Service

a)     Mandatory Service

i)      All citizens will, upon attainment of their 18th birthdays, enroll in a two-year program of public service, which may be fulfilled with either civic programs or the armed forces.

ii)     Enfranchisement will be earned upon completion of the public service commitment and a demonstration of a basic understanding of principles informing the political and policy issues facing the nation and the world.

b)     Right to Arms

i)      The right of an individual who has completed a two-year military service commitment to keep and maintain firearms appropriate to the common defense should not be infringed. [8]

ii)     The Federal government will establish guidelines by which enfranchised citizens may obtain firearms for reasonable purposes of sport and self-defense.

5)    Justice System

a)     Due Process and Fair Trials

i)      No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against him or herself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

ii)     In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed five hundred dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

iii)   In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of professional, trained adjudicators sanctioned by the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; defendants shall have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in their favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for their defense.

b)     Punishment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


[1] This disposes of the Electoral College.

[2] An alternative might be to entrust the public court system with the decision. Make all documents automatically become public in N years (and make destruction a federal felony) but the government can petition a federal court to hold them as secret. Court uses a strict scrutiny standard to continue secrecy, advocates for release present arguments and can appeal a secrecy decision (no appeal on orders to release). (Submitted by Evan Robinson.)

[3] This does not prevent said entities from policing explicitly illegal behavior, such as theft of proprietary information or sexual harassment. (Suggested by Carole McNall.)

[4] This item overturns the Citizens United case.

[5] This item eliminates the narrow “interest of the shareholders” doctrine emerging originally from Dodge vs. Ford.

[6] It is suggested by multiple commenters that “a significant period of time after the conclusion of their terms” might best be changed to “forever.” This is a perspective with some merit. In truth, though, we’re discussing a body of people who possess expertise that can, in the right circumstances, be of benefit to the people. A term of five years, for instance, might serve to rid the system of revolving-door corruption without permanently eliminating the possibility that a highly qualified individual may be able to contribute to the public good.

[7] This practice is common in Europe and promotes an environment of collaboration, instead of confrontation, between management and labor.

[8] Weapons systems are constantly evolving and we are now perhaps within a generation of the point where lasers, thermal lances and other currently experimental man-portable devices might be viable. The term “firearms” in this document should not be construed as limited to the sorts of projectile weapons we’re familiar with, but should instead be taken in a broader context. (Suggested by Rho Holden.)

Acknowledgments

The New Constitution has been a long time in the making, and it would be the height of arrogance to suggest that I reached this point on my own. In truth, I’m an intensely social, extroverted and associative thinker, which means that if I have an interesting idea, it probably emerged from interactions with one or more other people. This is why I work so hard to surround myself my folks who are as smart as possible. If they’re brighter than me, as is often the case, that’s all the better because that means there’s more opportunity to learn.

Some of the people in the list below are known to readers of S&R and others aren’t. Some have played a very direct and active role in my political thinking in recent years, and others contributed less obviously in conversations, in grad school classes, in arguments and debates over beers, and so on. In fact, there are undoubtedly some on the list who will be surprised to see their names, but trust me, each and every one of them helped me arrive at the present intellectual moment. This doesn’t necessarily mean they all endorse the project or want their names attached to it, so if there are things that aggravate you, please direct those comments at me and me alone.

All that said, many thanks to:

Brian AnglissFrank BalsingerDr. Jim BoothDr. Will Bower

Dr. Robert Burr

Gavin Chait

Dr. Lynn Schofield Clark

Dr. Erika Doss

Dr. Andrea Frantz

John Hanchette

Sam Hill

Rho Holden

Dr. Stuart Hoover

Dr. Douglas Kellner

Alexi Koltowicz

Dr. John Lawrence

Dr. Polly McLean

Carole McNall

Stuart O’Steen

Alex Palombo

Dr. Michael Pecaut

Dr. Wendy Worrall RedalEvan RobinsonSara RobinsonKristina Ross

Dr. Willard Rowland

Dr. Geoffrey Rubinstein

Mike Sheehan

Dr. Greg Stene

Jeff Tiedrich

Dr. Michael Tracey

Dr. Robert Trager

Dr. Petr Vassiliev

Sue Vanstone

Angela Venturo

Dr. Frank Venturo

Pat Venturo

Russ Wellen

Cat White

Dr. Denny Wilkins

Lisa Wright

The New Constitution: Comment – on the appropriate specificity of amendment language

Over the past few days, the New Constitution series has generated some interesting discussion. Objections, defenses and counterpoints from myself and other readers, in some cases resulting in planned revisions to the document.

One particular issue, which I predicted in the prologue, has centered around the appropriate level of specificity employed in articulating the various rights and responsibilities. One of our regular commenters, rushmc, has taken the lead in arguing for greater specificity in general, and others have offered a similar critique with respect to particular amendments and clauses.

I thought it appropriate to haul that discussion out of the comment thread and address it as a separate issue this morning.

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As I’ve said before, I think some readers, perhaps understandably, want a level of detail and specificity here that isn’t appropriate for a Bill of Rights. They have seen wars over language in the original document and would like to be as clear as possible about intended meanings so as to fend off all the lawyering. Believe me, I sympathize.

I have made ample use of the original document in trying to hit the right notes, and I’m convinced that my version is at least as specific as the original. The nice thing about broader language is that it allows for flexibility and growth. We’re still using a pre-industrial constitution because the BoR’s refusal to get overly specific has allowed it to be reinterpreted (not always perfectly, to be sure) as the world changed around it.

I certainly understand why we’d want to make sure every word is nailed to the floor. We have both watched helplessly as generation after generation of lawyers, many of them employed by people as corrupt as the night is long, worked feverishly to undermine every positive impulse in our constitution. But if you get too specific at the BoR level, you actually create more opportunities for those people, not less.

Let me give you an example. The original gives us the term “freedom of the press.” Let’s say they were having the same battle over specificity that we are here. Critics say “what do you mean by freedom of the press?” and the guy writing says that I think we all know what that means. But no, we need to be very specific about what “freedom” means and what “the press” is.

You know what the press is, I argue. It’s people who write the news and opinions and publish them on their printing presses and sell them (or give them away) on street corners. Now, if we know the history of the time, then we’re well familiar with “journalists” who were as bad as (or worse than) FOX News is today. You didn’t need a brain or a soul to buy a printing press, just cash. So we might have wanted to be careful about affording those jackals too much “freedom” – they were as different from Ben Franklin as 2 Live Crew was Mozart and they served no observable social use at all.

When all is said and done, we wind up with a first amendment articulated so as to protect the rights of legitimate newsgatherers and commenters (and for the moment we’ll pretend that there isn’t an even larger argument to be had over “legitimate”) to investigate local, state, national and, insofar as is possible within the constraints of the laws of other sovereign nationalities, international events and to print and distribute the details of said events for distribution, either free or for profit.

We may have been able to screw it down even tighter for that, but for the sake of argument let’s say that we have done our best to take as much unhealthy fuzziness as possible out of the language. Ratified, and away we go.

Then some enterprising genius invents the radio. And not long after another one gives us television. And then, the gods help us, the Internet. But there’s a problem. The first amendment doesn’t apply to any of them since they aren’t printing and publishing.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that about 99% of what happens on radio, TV and the Internet isn’t worth an ounce of constitutional protection. But I hope you see where I’m going. At the level of legislation, intense, near-OCD specificity is a requirement, and if the world changes underneath it, well, the process exists to change laws quickly. But constitutions are another animal altogether and opening the doors to amending them is a process to be undertaken with caution. One wants to keep partisan hooliganism as far from the core statement of rights as possible, and the more tactical that document gets, the less likely it is that its integrity can be preserved against the whims of the moment.

One need on to look at the process by which various states amend their constitutions (think California or Colorado “ballot initiatives” here) to understand what a dumpster fire a constitution can become when it becomes a tactical/legislative document instead of a philosophical/strategic one.

Ho Lee Fuk: KTVU-TV demonstrates why getting it right is better than getting it first

If you haven’t see this video yet, strap in. Hilarity is a’fixin’ to ensue.

SFGate has the gory details here. The key, it seems, is this part:

KTVU Channel 2 News owned this breaking news story with a number of firsts!

– First on-air.
– First on-line.
– First with alerts to mobile devices.
– First on Twitter & Facebook.
– First with aerial shots from KTVU NewsChopper 2.
– First with a live reporter from the scene.
– First live interview with anyone connected to someone on the flight.

[KTVU news director Lee] Rosenthal is quoted in the promo: “Being first on air and on every platform in all aspects of our coverage was a great accomplishment, but being 100% accurate, effectively using our great sources and social media without putting a single piece of erroneous information on our air, is what we are most proud of as a newsroom.”

Yes. Especially that “without putting a single piece of erroneous information on our air” part.

Let’s be honest. We live in a society where the incentive isn’t for press agencies (and, for the heck of it, let’s include local broadcast outlets in that category) to get it right. The incentive is to get it first so they can use “first with breaking news” as part of their marketing. Ever since the first Gulf War we’ve been conditioned to value the scoop over everything else. After all, if you screw it up, you can always say “we’re now getting additional details” and thus you can cover up the fact that you got it completely fucking wrong with the “developing story” graphic.

In an-online apology, KTVU general manager Tom Raponi said “We are reviewing our procedures to ensure this type of error does not happen again.”

I wonder what those procedures will look like. Here’s a guess. This botch will have more or less zero impact on the station’s ratings, thereby ratifying their emphasis on first first first!!!

So the new procedure will probably look something like this:

Hey, guys, if a person in the story is named Rosie Palm, Anita Mann, Heywood Jablome, Dick Hertz, Jack Offenback, Eileen Dover, Pat Myckok, Phil Atio, Seymour Butts, Stacey Rhect, Titus Balsac, I.P. Freehly, Al Coholic, Oliver Clozoff, Jaques Strapp, Mike Rotch, Hugh Jass, Ivana Tinkle, Ollie Tabooger, Heywood U. Kuddulmee, Amanda Hugginkiss or Drew P. Wiener, get confirmation. Also, you know, Ho Lee Fuk.