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Archive for the ‘Media Criticism’ Category

The War on Terror

In Afghanistan, Children and Youth, civil, Civil Liberties, class warfare, Culture of Corruption, Disaster Relief, Economic Justice, Election 2008, Environment, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, Housing, Immigration, International politics, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Misc., New York City, Progressive Politics, Terrorism, US Politics on March 21, 2013 at 11:36 am

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Growing up in Virginia, I have fond memories of the shooting range.  My father even gave me a turn with his .44 magnum which did in fact kick like a mule.  The violence followed me to New York with 9/11, and where I was fortunate to try to give blood and wait things out in my dorm, many others who I’d grown up with or befriended back in VA were suiting up to go and fight, first in Afghanistan, then to Iraq.  A couple days ago, I caught this letter on a friend’s Facebook Feed – which is starting to make the rounds – and at first, I couldn’t read it.  It had been comforting in a way to forget about Bush and the Axis of Evil, of all the squandered potential we poured into the sand.  But as we’re reminded so often in this endless war, we must never forget.  We cannot hide unpleasant things in the shadows.

And yet, for two years after the attack and ten more after our invasion – the two defining moments of our time – we seem content to do just that.  My relationship to guns came into focus in Millbrook, NY where – eating lunch with my band after playing our first funeral – we saw the horrors of gun violence laid bare on the diner’s TV screen.  CNN’s coverage of Sandy Hook still fresh,  our waitress remarking, “That’s a half-hour from here.”  A member of the jazz community in NYC lost their daughter and even Joe Biden says nothing will be the same.

Except it is.  Exactly the same.  After hearings and meetings and press conferences and statements, there will be no assault weapons ban, no reduction in the capacity of magazines, no new safegaurds against the armed-and-mentally ill.  21 children are dead for absolutely no reason, and for all our wails of grief and shock, no one is willing to really do anything about it.  The 1.4% of us who are NRA members must be fairly satisfied by this.

Immigration is looking a little more hopeful, with real-ish players talking about real-ish solutions – path to citizenship, guest worker visas, living wages?? – but if the current legislative process holds true, which it will, we can expect exactly none of these to make it to any real legislation, no leadership or dialogue will take place.  Just as we have come to expect, as we have chosen to remember.  So on we go with stopping people for their papers, exploiting them with unscrupulous employers and siphoning resources away from the state without putting any tax revenue into – or getting any real value from – the community they’re living in.

The current tally on this War on Terror is coming in to around $6 trillion, with about $4 trillion of that going towards the Iraq war, which I think is over at this point.    No further attacks have been made on the home front, and aside from a few pesky revolutions throughout the region, we haven’t had World War III yet, so, mission accomplished.  But this war isn’t being fought by “America,” it’s being fought by less than 1% of America.  The backlash and destruction caused by what we want is being felt by them, not by us, which makes it easier to saber rattle as the threats continue to pop up in far-flung places all over this hostile world.  It is easy to hide the unpleasantness of war, and that much better to remember all the glory and victory, when only a few have to bleed.

We were lied to.  We were lied to and believed in it so much that we lied to the world.  We remember the attack, the victimization we felt at that moment, but we choose to forget – every day – the reaction that has set us on this path.  Something horrible happens, but the real cause is too scary, too political, too much to bear, so we lie to each other, we lie to ourselves, and talk really loud about something else.  Something that makes us feel good, or empowered and that lasts just long enough for the next crisis to come, and the next cycle to start, and nothing, nothing, nothing is ever really done.

But this is politics, this is Washington, this is Gridlock and Sequester and Special Interests and this is out of our control.  It is also quite uncanny to a nervous breakdown.  As a country, we first experienced trauma then threw ourselves into deeper and deeper trauma’s with no discernible solution or responsibility, which eventually lead us to unearth, then ignore, all the skeletons we’ve amassed inside our closet.  Guns, war, immigrants, health care, economy, housing, the list goes on.

But you can’t make guns safer by talking by talking about “freedom.”  Nor can you keep healthcare prices low by invoking “liberty” or create jobs by claiming to be the victims of “class warfare.”  We can’t claim to be a “nation of immigrants” while installing xenophobic laws, nor can we claim to be “pro-life” and fight against affordable health care.  These are things both the right and left have been guilty of doing – or are at the very least both complicit in – and the apathy/isolation of the electorate has enabled these madmen to hijack trillions of dollars every year and immense power around the globe with little accountability.  We are lied to every day and believe the lie so much, we lie to each other, we lie to ourselves.

During the campaign in 2008, I was reading The Argument by Matt Bai and the quote I wrote with then still rings true now:

The story of modern politics was the story of popular movements molding their candidates, not the other way around. Roosevelt didn’t create progressive government; the progressives of the early twentieth century created him. Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy, while they despised eachother, both derived their essential arguments about social justice from the equality movements of the late fifties and early sixties. Ronald Regan would not have existed without the movement conservatives who offered him a philosophical anchor. These were great and preternaturally talented leaders, men who had the charisma and the intellect to synthesize the arguments that each of these movements had made, to persuade voters of their urgency, and to adapt them to the realm of policy making. But they were merely conduits for change, and they would never have emerged as public visionaries had others not laid the intellectual foundations for their arguments.

There is no magical elected official or working group someplace that will be able to fix all of this shit, but this does not divorce government – federal, state and local – from their responsibility in implementing solutions.  We have to decide, all of us, what the fuck we want, what the alternative is going to be.  We have to build it, prove it works, then demand, in no uncertain terms, that it be given to us better, faster and cheaper by those with the money and resources – e.g. government, business, that guy you know – to do so.  Occupy Wall Street accomplished exactly none of it’s goals, BECAUSE IT HAD NONE – and no, press coverage/raising awareness isn’t enough on the world stage.  We have to be able to confront all of those demons on that list, turn the lights on and get right with everything in honesty before we can expect respect from the dilettantes we’ve been ruled by.

Until then, the government will have no problem treating us the way in which we’ve grown accustomed, and we’ll have no problem taking it.  Never forget what we’ve been through.  Never forget that we deserved – and still deserve – so much better.

Arroz con McCain

In Election 2008, Global War On Terror, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Race, religion & politics, US Politics on February 14, 2008 at 1:36 am

From The Nation

Democrats who think it’s going to be a cakewalk into the White House next November had best remember one name: Condoleezza Rice.

John McCain is a formidable candidate in his own right, but if he has the political imagination to do it, he can cause the party of Jefferson and Jackson indescribable angst with Rice as his vice-presidential pick.

Besides being the greatest two-for in GOP history, Rice brings other huge pluses to the decorated Vietnam hero. Indeed, she may be enough to elect the venerable hero/naval aviator.

McCain’s troubles with the religious wing of his party could well evaporate with the churchgoing Rice at his side. She solidifies that part of his base overnight.

With Rice on the ticket, the GOP would have somebody to get enthusiastic about. The Secretary of State is immensely popular with Republicans. For a party that up to now has been clueless about how to run against either a woman or a person of color, Condoleezza Rice is pure political gold.

Woe to any Democrat who thinks taking her on in a debate is a sure thing. The woman is tough, fast on her feet and able to give better than she gets. Anyone who has seen her in action testifying in front of a hostile House or Senate committee knows that she will be able to wipe up the floor with a plodding, ordinary pol of a Democratic vice-presidential candidate. Take Rice lightly at your peril.

 
 
 
 

Thanks again, Dennis

In civil, Culture of Corruption, Election 2008, Freedom of Information, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Misc., Progressive Politics, Technology, US Politics on January 17, 2008 at 1:33 am

American politics is so dirty and that it is usually a downer, but every time Dennis Kucinich makes the news he gives us something to smile about. Not long ago, he introduced a proposal for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. More recently, he managed to see past himself enough to urge his supporters at the Iowa caucus to move to Obama’s corner if he didn’t make the 15% required to be counted in a dictrict. And a few days ago, he asked for a recount in New Hampshire. Now I’m not saying I think New Hampshire was miscalculated, stolen, etc. But in light of certain questionable electoral maneuvers over the past decade (i.e. 2000, florida and 2004, ohio), I have come to the conclusion that asking for a recount can only be a good thing, and that it should be done more often. Candidates have to pay a fee to have a recount done, and Kucinich has chosen to pay for it from his own pocket: beautiful. This, mind you, is a hand recount, meaning that even the votes taken by computerized voting machines will be counted by hand, from the vote printouts they produce.

From TheHill.com,

The lawmaker said he does not expect his own vote count to be significantly affected by such a recount but he added that it is “imperative that these questions be addressed in the interest of public confidence in the integrity of the election process and the election machinery.”

In his request for a recount, Kucinich alleges that there have been “unexplained disparities between hand-counted ballots and machine-counted ballots.” […]

“This is not about my candidacy or any other individual candidacy,” Kucinich said. “It is about the integrity of the election process.”

Let me just be one to say: Thanks again, Dennis!

Obama’s next Mistake

In Election 2008, Media Criticism, Misc., US Politics on January 9, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Quieting down the crowd that was cheering for him when he spoke after the primary in New Hampshire.

No other candidate has crowds react like that. The people were making a statement of their own, and he could have let them. The chanting O-BAM-A! might have itself become a contagious media event, picked up, circulated and discussed in the wake of the primary, to help give him some steam and offset an apparent loss to Clinton. The only way for the American public to see the excitement he stirs up in people is to let them make a statement of their own. Silencing a show of approval like that, from your own supporters, is passing up a powerful opportunity. It is “little” things like this that will win or lose an election.

Obama’s Mistake

In Culture of Corruption, Election 2008, Media Criticism, Progressive Politics, US Politics on January 9, 2008 at 1:00 am

Obama just lost the New Hampshire primary when he should have won it.

Why should he have won it? Because he has better policies, more charisma, and more intelligence than Clinton. Additionally, he has the benefit of having an opponent who is alternately nasty and sacharine, and that is never truly appealing.

In the last debate, though, he commited a fatal mistake. Clearly angry at Clinton for leveling unfair attacks at him, he defended himself artfully, with help from Edwards. Later, Gibson’s guest moderator referred to the “double team” Clinton had faced earlier, in which Edwards and Obama both suggested that Clinton represented the “status quo,” and was a force opposing change. Clinton responded oddly, and seemed to be looking for assurance. Here’s the exchange I’d like to highlight:

SPRADLING: My question to you is simply this: What can you say to the voters of New Hampshire on this stage tonight who see a resume and like it, but are hesitating on the likability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more?

CLINTON: Well, that hurts my feelings.

(LAUGHTER)

SPRADLING: I’m sorry, Senator. I’m sorry.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: But I’ll try to go on.

(LAUGHTER)

He’s very likable. I agree with that. I don’t think I’m that bad.

OBAMA: You’re likable enough, Hillary.

CLINTON: Thank you…

(LAUGHTER)

What Obama doesn’t get is that this is war. Hilary is treating it like one, and she has shown that she is not above getting nasty to win. Obama was not being called upon to speak at this moment, Clinton was floundering, and silence from his corner would have left her to respond without assurance. This is something Obama should have left her to.

By alleviating the gravity of the situation with this little utterance, Obama moved away from his own frustration, which would have provided a platform for some powerful statements towards the end of the debate.

You will say, “but this is so insignificant.” Yes, deceptively so. The real outlines of a situation between people are in these small gestures. Obama is trying to be all things to all people, even a friend to Hilary. That is fine, but I think there were some beefs to settle first, which Obama ignored in favor of social grace. By doing this, Obama gave Clinton a platform that she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

It is worth noting that Obama did not make a very strong showing towards the end of the debate, and Clinton seemed to find her voice a bit more.

For comparisons, see Kerry’s response to Bush’s aggression in the Town Hall debate in ’04, when Bush refused to let a question go when his time was up. Kerry replies to what Bush is saying, but skirts the more effective (and necessary) approach of taking Bush’s aggression head on and calling him out in it. Does anybody else see any parallels between the Obama-Clinton battle and the Bush-Kerry battle in ’04? I do.

Aggression tends to win the day in American politics, and Obama will have to learn not to lose sight of the realities of his opponent if he wants to win this race. Softening to create a contrast is not a good option here. The American public tends to prefer the aggressive side of that contrast. There is no need to be nice when the other guy would gladly bash you to kindgom come. That’s not to say he should go negative, but that he shouldn’t forget that Hilary has done so.  She is serious about it and will take every pawn left unprotected. This is not about friendship for her.

The Music Wars: Radiohead’s Rainbow Coalition

In Consumerism, Direct action, Freedom of Information, Media Criticism, Misc., Music, Technology on October 3, 2007 at 11:55 am

In yet another bold move against – or possibly for – the music industry, Radiohead, the hallmark of contemporary British Rock, has joined the likes of Prince and Nine Inch Nails in offering their next album – In Rainbows, their 7th – for “free”, and independent of their former record label, the languishing EMI. The entire album will be available for download directly from their website starting October 10, but unlike previous free releases, Radiohead, like always, is doing something a little different; they are allowing consumers to chose what they pay for the download. In addition to the mp3s, they are also offering a lavish “Disc Set” which will include 2 Vinyl records, 2 compact discs, and a hardcover book with lyrics and pictures, all at the low low price of 40 British pounds/$81.

Reaction is spreading far and wide, and most of it is positive, with many calling this the “future of the music industry”. Anyone who’s paid any kind of attention to the industry over the last couple of years has heard this phrase refer to any number of flash in the pan ideas, and I don’t think it’s completely accurate to depict this interesting move as any kind of bigger blueprint for a business that is as bankrupt on ideas as they are on revenue. There are few of my generation who have never heard the song “Creep” and this current innovation could never have been possible without their previous successes. For the album OK Computer, EMI was nice enough to provide the band a six-figure advance that allowed them to purchase a substantial amount of equipment and create arguably their finest presentation with complete artistic freedom. Bands like Radiohead and Prince can go ahead and burn the potential money they’d get from record sales because they already made have enough in the bank to sponsor their own African nation. The majority of musicians out there are hell and gone from this sort of lifestyle, and would still like to use their undersized profits to pay for things like food. A solution that solves only some people’s problems solves nothing.

What I hope comes from this, aside from another great album from one of my favorite bands, is that people remember that music not only costs something, but that its worth something. The British music rag, NME, has a posted comments of some fans who have gone through the pre-order process, and they are as interesting as they are encouraging, here’re some highlights:

Chris Rogers:
“I paid £10 for it. They deserve it. I’m just glad they’re back making music. It’s hard to put a price on it.”

Mike Wakelam, 27:
“For a normal CD the dealer price is around £9. The record company gets 25 percent, leaving £6.75. I’ve heard artists get 18 percent of that, which is £1.215. So I’ll pay £1.22.”

Jason, Sydney, Australia:
“What price do you put on happiness? For me, £7.99. Now let’s see how many cheapskates try and download it free.”

Lee, Bexhill-On-Sea:
“Anyone who thinkgs £2.50 is a fair price is taking the mickey. You have to pay for the water that comes into your home, you have to pay to watch TV, so why do people think they should be given music free?”

Radiohead is challenging us to do right by them, holding out the tip jar and putting the question of compensation out in the open, allowing others to scrutinize and be scrutinized by their choices. Napster and others made us think that free music is something to be expected, but they cost those who create it a great deal. I’ve been playing music for nearly 2 decades and I’ll tell you right now that things like rehearsal spaces, equipment, recording fees and CD duplication are not provided to us by nature of our craft, nor is rent, food or health insurance. And it’s not just the money we pay, it’s the sacrifices we make: pissing off your girlfriend to spend more time with your band, working shit jobs and forsaking better ones to have a flexible schedule and more time to play, spending 3 months in a van with 4 other guys who smell much worse than you do. Why do people think these things don’t matter when it comes down to the final product? The RIAA has led the charge against downloads and has hijacked the argument to ensure that their status quo of exploitation stays intact. But their excesses do not mean that artists aren’t deserving of something better.

The fact that these fans recognize this flies in the face of most business models over the last few years: endless parades of amateurs chasing a profitable way to give their product over for free. It’s not that people aren’t willing to pay for music, it’s that they don’t want to pay for crap. Mp3 quality for In Rainbows is also guaranteed since you’re getting the tunes straight from the source and they are also DRM free, so you can treat it just like anything else you buy: however the fuck you want. The disc set is also mad sexy, and makes me a little nostalgic for when albums where something you held in your hand and interacted with, not just something that you consumed. Countering the give-away mentality of mp3s with a fairly expensive – yet beautifully realized – physical product is something poetic in itself.

The big idea, to me at least, behind all of this is an affirmation that music belongs to the musicians. As a band and a business, Radiohead is in a place where they can afford to not be tied to the purse strings of a label in order to finance recording, manufacturing and distribution of their album, and as such have complete control of the process from start to finish. This is something we haven’t really seen since the Beatles, and by harnessing the warehouse-free Internet age, they are doing it cheaper, easier and faster than their predecessors. I stated before that most can’t do this, but perhaps we will see a decentralization of the business, allowing bands to be judged by their own standards instead of those provided by mega-stars. Smaller acts shouldn’t be expected to sell 500,000 units in a single quarter, they can now be the masters of their own destiny and find a place where they can be sustained with far less: targeted sales/tours to fans dedicated to their success instead of being rammed down the throat of an overwhelmed national audience. This allows bands to really connect with those they play for and grow organically as they make strides to increase their audience as they see fit. The sacrifice here is two-fold: their influence will never be as great, nor will they be able to fuck off and just play music. They will have to do the market research and fix their price-points; they will be the ones made to spearhead campaigns and generate profit and loss statements; they will be forced to do all the things they got into music to avoid, or at least know enough and be involved enough with those they pay to do so. Historically, the business swings back and forth between consolidation and the independent marketplace, but perhaps this time it will beget not only a creative revolution in musicians, but also an entrepreneurial one. The grunt work needed to support the business of an album won’t go away with the label, and if we want the independence, if we chose to forge out like Radiohead into a spectrum of possibilities, we must take the responsibility and do what is necessary to take care of ourselves and our fans.

 

 

Bill O’Reilly’s Blissfull Ignorance

In class warfare, Culture jamming, Media Criticism, Misc., New York City, Race, US Politics on September 26, 2007 at 12:33 pm

In one of the funnier stories of the last few months, the fair and balanced people at the Village Voice recently reported that after visiting the famous Harlem soul food eatery, Syliva’s, the pugnacious pundit, Bill O’Reilly, remarked at the amazing similarities between blacks and other people:

“I ‘couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship. It was the same,’ O’Reilly said on September 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program...

everybody was—it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”

I mean, come ON. He’s almost making it too easy for us. I wonder, with the first mention of the word “Harlem”, what exactly popped into that tiny, narrow mind of his? Was he expecting watermelon hanging from every iced-out grill, people shooting their “gats” up in the air like they just don’t care, booming voices alternating chants of “black power” and profanity-laced rants against “crackah-ass whitey”?

Obviously, Bill has a long way to go to make it into this century, and he has a looooooong list of making an ass out of himself in regards to race in general, but if I may, I’d like to propose something that will probably get me crucified by all seven people who read this blog. Though this statement is obviously as offensive as it is hilarious, I can’t help but think it’s just a little inspiring. Listening to the full excerpt helped give some perspective.

Firstly, he went up to Sylvia’s to take Al Sharpton out to dinner – could you imagine seeing those two walk in, sit down, and share some corn bread? And in the man’s defense, it was probably the first time he’d ever come to Harlem and actually gotten out the car. I doubt he’s ever experienced regular black folk up close and personal, just sittin around having dinner instead of in some music video, BET, or battling with him on his show or some other forum. I bet all he knows about these Americans is what he heard/read/saw in the conservative media he helps create. It doesn’t make it right that he says shit like this, obviously, but in the absence of experience and knowledge, is it surprising that ignorant, cliched and racist assumptions have been allowed to fester? No.

Behind the “culture wars” and the media machine that perpetuates it exist communities of regular people and I’m glad Billy got to get himself some meatloaf, chill the fuck out for an hour and hear Al tell some James Brown stories. For him to come away feeling good about Harlem, to be able to relate Sylvia’s to his own experiences in his most-likely gated community, that is a powerful thing.  Granted, this won’t bring him to Abyssinian Baptist chruch or the NAACP anytime soon, but it’s a step in the right directin.  If you’re never exposed to other people, you’ll inevitably harbor misconceptions about them. They obviously won’t be as wacked-out and crazy as O’Reilly’s, but one look at how most America has been treating racial issues of late – profiling of Muslims/anyone who looks like Muslims, immigration, etc. – it’s pretty obvious that eating dinner together every once in a while can’t hurt. O’Reilly has definitely been an enormous jackass as long as I can remember, but I’ll cut him some slack on this one, eventhough I doubt he’d do the same for us.

What??!

In Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War, Media Criticism on August 21, 2007 at 9:14 pm

Truly incredible, from Harper’s Weekly,

A 1994 interview with Dick Cheney regarding the first Gulf war was released to the web. Asked whether U.S. forces should have invaded Baghdad in an attempt to oust Saddam Hussein, Cheney said, “No . . . we would have been all alone . . . It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place?” Cheney described Iraq as a “quagmire,” predicting sectarian conflict and the pointless loss of American lives. “How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, uh, not very many, and I think we got it right.”

The Music Wars: Damning the Streams in the New Frontier

In Blogs we like, Civil Liberties, Consumerism, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Media Criticism, Misc., Music, Technology on April 20, 2007 at 12:34 pm

The accomplished Talking Heads frontman and activist, David Byrne, recently posted a blog about the insidious new licensing rates and policies being propogated by the Copyright Royalty Control Board, a government panel of appointees tasked with regulating ever more influential copyright issues. At the root of the new policies is a substantial increase in royalty rates – fees a broadcaster pays to the copyright owner for each time their composition is played – that will greatly impact the way business is done for thousands of independent webcasters. Not only are the rates retroactive, but they also happen to be in line with a proposal submitted by SoundExchange, basically the “non-profit” face of RIAA advocacy. You can read their press release here.

Considering that the RIAA’s lawyers have litigated the pants off those downloading free Mp3s and the services making them available, it seems only natural that they now turn their attention to purveyors of webstreams and podcasts. Instead of going head to head in court, though, they’re trying to circumvent the system and pre-emptivelty install legislation that works in their favor by increasing their revenue. Byrne breaks it down for us:

With the proposed changes the royalties [for Webcasting] can no longer be based on a percentage of revenue, but on a fee for each listening hour — how many folks are listening and for how long — and there will be a minimum fee per radio “channel”. Also, above a certain aggregate listening hour amount, non-profits have to pay the same per-listening hour rates as commercial broadcasters. So now there will be no distinction between a large-scale non-profit station (like KCRW or WXPN) and Z100.

These changes are estimated to increase average costs about 20% accross the board, taking money directly out of the pockets of webcasters and into the hands of the 4 remaining major labels. And as I said before, since the law is retroactive starting from 2006, there will be a ton of money “owed” to these multinationals in addition to their increased projections:

For NPR stations it is a different story as they have wider listenership than I and would pay the same royalty rates as commercial broadcasters. KCRW estimates roughly that as this ruling is retroactive they would owe $130,000 in additional fees for 2006 and $237,000 for 2007. WXPN in Philly estimates $1,000,000. In some worlds this is not a big deal but as one can imagine many of these stations barely eek by as it is, so this could very likely shut down the webcasting side of many of them. That would be a shame, as these stations are the only source of, well, good music, alternative sounds and innovative and informative programming in the U.S. It would be a loss for, well, democracy, as democracy depends on availability of many points of view untainted by commercial concerns and pressures. A truly informed populace, in other words. It points to another victory for the oligarchs — the big 5 record companies and the media companies that own them. Count one more for the big guys. The reasoning that it’s for the benefit of the artists rings a little hollow as most artists heard this argument re: cracking down on file sharing, and most never see money from their record companies anyway — so the line about “we’re doing it for you” is pretty suspect.

They don’t charge these kinds of rates to terrestrial broadcast radio, either. They can’t. Despite the homogeonzing effect Clear Channel has had on playlists through it’s absorption of radio stations, it is still nearly impossible for anyone to determine if an audience is listening. ASCAP and other performing rights organizations determine royalty payments via Billboard rankings, applying some assinine, archaic formula to determine who gets paid what in a given week. Internet radio is different in the fact that servers and ISPs keep exceptional records of everything associated with any web-based service, allowing for more accurate tracking of audiences, effectively allowing these companies to see exactly how much money they’re “losing” to internet radio.

This argument is – for lack of a better word – bullshit. Every major label record deal removes about 10%-15% of an artist’s sales revenue for what are called “Free” or “Promotional” materials; this includes T-shirts, posters and, of course, CDs given away to press, radio and other media outlets to promote the act. A considerable amount of money also goes to “marketing consultants” who basically bribe stations with fabulous cash and prizes to gaurantee radio play – termed “Payola”. So, I ask, what the hell’s the problem with factoring internet radio into this equation? Anyone with any kind of business acumen can see this makes a shit ton of sense. Not only are you reaching more consumers in new and fashionable ways, but you don’t have to produce any additional product or incur any further cost to do so. You can email MP3s to scores of stations for free, track the feedback far easier and more accurately than broadcast radio, and hone in that much more effectively on your key demographics, thereby streamlining your promotional schemes for similar artists in the future. The shit actually SAVES you money in the long run.

This is not about money, though, and don’t let the RIAA tell you different. Every case of piracy and royalty infringement in the past, and the future, is about access and control. The real power in the current music business structure does not come from producing content, but rather by regulating how that content is distributed and consumed. Radio, concerts and CDs are the conveyance of their property, and Labels charge tolls – be they concert tickets or retail prices – to access them. The internet represents a new frontier that is no longer controlled by the establishment, it is controlled by the people. There are no more dams or gates restricting the flow on content, and the only true regulation is quality – talented bands who work and tour to develop their own following are able reap the benefits of their work with the help of organic, grassroots support structures. True, this creates a far more decentralized business model that is harder to predict and difficult to conquer. But it also encourages smaller, more agile businesses – like local radio – who understand their niche audience and are genuinely engaged in satisfying their specific tastes, putting these lumbering multinational corporations at a marked disadvantage against their independent counterparts. Litigation for copyright infringement and the tripling of licensing rates represent the last ditch efforts by these majors to exert their only real advantage: money. Increase costs of starting and running an independent outlet, and more and more will go outta business forcing fans back into the mediocre mainstream. With access denied to their audiences, bands will have to fight even harder for increasingly rare and exploitative record contracts. The possibilities we should be given by this new age will be denied to us, but at least Universal’s stock can move up a couple of percentage points. For everyone out there who loves music, variety and choice, please get involved with the links below.

Future of Music Coalition

Save Net Radio

Brokaw Gets Hardcore

In Culture jamming, Media Criticism, Misc. on March 20, 2007 at 11:42 pm

The following article, posted on the Orlanda Sentinel blog, speaks for itself:

A television station in Mesa, Ariz. may have accidentally found a way to capture the prized 18-35 male demographic….show porn during news shows.

Read on:
From the Associated Press

Viewers of a news show broadcast on a Phoenix-area cable television station received a lot more than news — hard-core pornography started streaming into their living rooms, replacing a health show featuring former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.

The incident on KPPX-TV Monday night prompted a flood of calls to local news media outlets and cable provider Cox Communications, including one from Chandler resident Brenda Schodt, who said she was shocked to look up and see graphic sex acts on her television screen.

“Maybe five or 10 minutes into the show there was no volume,” Schodt said. “I thought it was the TV, but when I looked up, there were these images.”

Cox spokeswoman Andrea Katsenes said that the unexpected clips were a “source issue” with the broadcaster.

ION Television, which operates KPPX, called the problem “an act of human sabotage” at its station.

The company, based in West Palm Beach, declined to say if the pornography aired nationwide or only in the Phoenix market.

“We have launched a rigorous investigation, and any implicated employees will face strict disciplinary action and termination,” ION Media Networks spokeswoman Leslie Monreal said in a prepared statement.

Dime Bags of Viagra

In Civil Liberties, class warfare, Consumerism, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Misc., The War On Drugs on March 1, 2007 at 1:43 pm

It looks as though there has been a paradigm shift in drug use. According to the United Nations Drug Control Board, abuse of prescription drugs will surpass use of street drugs for the first time in history. An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette brings it home:

“Prescription drug abuse already has outstripped traditional illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy in parts of Europe, Africa and South Asia, the board said in its annual report for 2006.

In the United States alone, abuse of painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers and other prescription medications has gone beyond ‘practically all illicit drugs with the exception of cannabis,’ with users increasingly turning to them first, said the group, based in Vienna, Austria.”

For many, many years, we’ve been told that weed is the quintessential “gateway drug”. It has been the pillar of our narcotic education since the 80’s, but it looks like the herb’s gonna have to move over:

“The prescription and heroin addictions are often linked, Dr. Capretto noted, because abuse of OxyContin has led many addicts to heroin for economic reasons. While an 80-milligram OxyContin pill can sell for up to $80 on the street, a stamp bag of heroin has dropped to $10, even as purity levels have reached 90 percent.

‘Someone spending hundreds of dollars a day on OxyContin can buy heroin for one-third, one-fourth that amount now,’ he said. ‘You have suburban kids who never thought they’d stick a needle in their arm shooting up.’

Richard Goldberg, Allegheny County deputy district attorney in charge of the narcotics unit, agreed that OxyContin users are turning to heroin because dealers of both drugs are reacting to market forces of ‘supply and demand’ in a price war.”

It should be no surprise that “good” drugs and “bad” drugs are being dealt by the same people. Chemically speaking, Heroin and Oxy are both Opioids containing essentially the same active ingredients, though prescriptions are derived synthetically instead of from the evil Poppy plant. Prescriptions are far more potent than street drugs as well, so the risk of harm is usually much higher. This kind of frank discussion about drugs, though, has never and probably will never occur in this country, this “drug free” America where I can be locked up for 15 years for a bag of weed but can easily write away for a free sample of pills to enhance my genitals – not that they need enhancing, necessarily, but Pfizer wants me to know that it’s on the table. My father was an Anesthesiologist for decades, doling out the Dolodit and other high powered medications to needy patients, so I am well aware that they’re both needed and helpful. Drug companies – like gun makers – can’t really be held responsible for the misuse of their products. While watching TV the other weekend, though, my Dad was incensed by the countless advertisements for drugs clogging up the nightly news. “People shouldn’t be diagnosing themselves,” he said. And, as he likes to say, he was absolutely right.

It’s not that advertisements like these promote drug abuse, but they do soften the seriousness of drug use. It seems drug companies can no longer make back the hundreds of millions they pump into R&D by simply selling things people need, they have to cater to what they want: Getting to sleep, staying awake, paying attention, the aforementioned genital enhancement and a wide array of sexual assistance are just a few examples of unnecessary medication being pushed on us at every turn. The ambiguous ads are my favorite: “What is Xenoxoprol? Take it and find out!”. Because they don’t actually describe what the hell the thing does, they don’t have list the many ugly side-effects – “Gaseous Oily Discharge” – that you’ll most likely experience. Is this any different from getting your fix from a dude in the alley? No. But it’s more profitable to keep us all thinking that it is. It affords us billions of dollars for a misguided War on Drugs and keeps many English majors in the green by writing copy for Xanax.  These inequalities underline class issues as well.  Crack and cocaine are basically the same substance, but since one is bought by poor minorities and the other by rich socialites, we treat them differently.  Working poor don’t have the money to buy Vicodin, let alone the healthcare to get the prescriptions.  Lets see how often we see Anti-Drug campaigns for designer pills.

Drug abuse and addiction is a serious problem, but it won’t get better through legislation or prosecution. Until we change our perception of drugs that are “good” and “bad” by realligning them to reality, regulation in any form will fail. Interestingly, this story was not picked up by the NY Times or CNN, despite the fact that it affects the lives of millions of Americans. It looks like denial is still our opiate of choice.

‘Osama Hearts Obama’ – Part II: Wrath of RTurbo

In Blogs we like, Culture jamming, Election 2008, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, Media Criticism, Netroots, Progressive Politics, Race, religion & politics, US Politics on February 13, 2007 at 6:15 pm

In light of my posting earlier, a long-time ally pointed out a recent post on his blog Circling the Drain regarding John Howard’s uber-couth statement regarding al-Queda’s desire for Obama and the Ds to win next year:

Proving my long held suspicion that other countries are about two to three years behind the pop culture curve, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, pulled out the ol’ “vote for the other guy and the terrorists win” card in advance of his country’s upcoming elections.

Oh, silly Prime Minister, still stuck in 2004. What’s next? Claiming that global warming is caused by Janet Jackson’s breasts? I’ll admit it is nice to see that while most American exports are plummeting, there’s still a healthy market for our bullshit.

But at least John Howard is still gung-ho on Iraq, right? He’s seen the terrible price of war in blood and resources, he’s looked at the situation on the ground and he’s realized that the costs – while high – are worth it. Hasn’t he?

I mean, it hasn’t been easy going since his decision to send troops, right? They’ve taken a lot of deaths, after all. Not as many as the three thousand plus we’ve sustained but still a few, and every death is a tragedy, after all. Hey, how many Australian troops have died in Iraq, anyway? Oh, that’s right…ZERO. No Australian troops have been killed in Iraq. Let me put this into perspective for you with a quick chart:

Number of Australian troops killed in Iraq: 0
Number of prominent Australians killed by stingrays: 1

Bold stance, John Howard! This page applauds your courageous sacrifice of your sanity for the cause of freedom.

But, since Australia gave the world AC/DC, for which I am eternally grateful, I suppose we should cut them some slack. (But not before I point out the irony that AC/DC has had more deaths in their band than Australia has had in Iraq! You really are a son of a bitch, John Howard.)

I just wish Circling the Drain would, for once,  just tell us what he’s thinking. No hesitations.

Hit the link to read more about:

– Rudy G’s cousin marrying tendencies (“And even if they could forgive Rudy for all of that, the Smoking Gun document has something even more damning than cousin-sex, than social liberalism, than ‘a weirdness factor’… That’s right…in 1972, Rudy voted for McGovern!”);

– Mitt Romney’s presidential chances (“he’ll be the first Mormon president, making him the Jackie Robinson of rich, white Christians everywhere in Utah”); and,

– Our post-Anna Nicole Smith world (“Years from now, your children will ask you where you were on 2/8 when it happened. I certainly remember what I was doing. I was praying that our country would one day live in a post-Lindsay Lohan world.”)

FTC Let’s Industry Write The Rules (Sounds Like Bush’s Energy and Banking Regulators)

In Consumerism, Culture of Corruption, Economic Justice, Food Justice, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Public Health, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Misc., US Politics on February 12, 2007 at 10:21 am

Subject matter may be a bit odd to some, but it’s just another example of Bush Administration letting industry “self-police.” Banking and energy are two very clear parallels where the Administration has let industry police itself by turnig a collective blind eye to its own misgivings.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has written to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to ban cheese advertising during children’s TV shows… Cheddar cheese gets 73% of its calories from fat, the PCRM claims, and thus is not an acceptable food to be promoted to kids during the obesity epidemic… The PCRM wants the FTC to copy the United Kingdom, which has recently banned cheese and other fatty foods from British kids TV. Kellogg and Kraft in the U.S. in November became part of a coalition of food marketers who pledged to devote 50% of their advertising targeting kids to only healthful products… In a recent interview with Brandweek (Feb. 5), FTC chief Deborah Platt Majoras said she would rather see the industry regulate itself than force the FTC to act.

Domestic Spying: Errors Cloud Data Mining

In Civil Liberties, Culture of Corruption, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Netroots, Technology, Terrorism, US Politics on December 21, 2006 at 10:58 am

Every once in a while the Cato Institute makes an intelligent statement (from Washington Technology):

Data mining’s high error rate makes it wrong for fighting terrorism, according to a new report.

The report by Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, and Jeff Jonas, chief scientist with IBM Corp.’s Entity Analytic Solutions Group, said that data mining results in false positive rates of more than 90 percent. The error rate cannot be reduced substantially, they said, because the underlying analysis depends on the existence of terrorism patterns. These are nearly impossible to discern, because such a small amount of data is available.

“The statistical likelihood of false positives is so high that predictive data mining will inevitably waste resources and threaten civil liberties,” they wrote.

so, Senator, you WON’T be soft on terrorism?!?

In Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War, Laws & Regulation, Media Criticism, Progressive Politics, religion & politics, Terrorism, US Politics on December 20, 2006 at 10:43 am

You know you’re in rough shape when you slaughter the opposition in a general election and still have to combat framing like this “Key senator says Democrats will not be soft on terrorism.”

I’ll be Home for Christmas, If Only in My Dreams

In Culture jamming, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Misc., Music, US Politics on December 10, 2006 at 3:40 pm

I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.
So please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents on the tree.
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

Back at my parents’ house for the weekend dog-sitting, I ran into a kid I grew up with yesterday. Because of stupid crap that happens between kids in junior high, we hadn’t spoken for more than 12 years. He recently got back from Iraq, and as he was talking about his time in Fallujah as a Marine a passing thought I had a few weeks ago sunk back into my head.

I was being subjected to my father’s annual and earliest-yet addiction to Christmas music when”I’ll Be Home for Christmas” came on. It wasn’t until hearing the slow, methodical, depressing Frank Sinatra version of the song last December that I understood that this song is about a soldier fighting overseas, facing the Axis Powers, yearning to spend time with his family.

This thought in mind, while sharing a beer with my childhood friend yesterday, I came to wonder if an artist as popular as Bing Crosby, who had originally recorded the song, would be able to end a song on such a somber note if the song had been recorded today. Would it be distributed as widely? Would it be bashed on conservative talk radio as anti-American? Would it be said that the morale of the boys fighting for democracy overseas was being damaged by those detractors expressing a soldier’s desire to be, not fighting a war thousands of miles from home, but unwrapping presents with the ones he loves?

At the time, it seems, this was certainly not the case for the Irving Berlin song. The Patriotic Melodies project of the Library of Congress says:

Within about a month of its being copyrighted the song hit the music charts and remained there for eleven weeks, peaking at number three. The following year, the song reached number nineteen on the charts. It touched a tender place in the hearts of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, who were then in the depths of World War II, and it earned Crosby his fifth gold record. ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ became the most requested song at Christmas U.S.O. shows in both Europe and the Pacific and Yank, the GI magazine, said Crosby accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era.

In an era where “liberals” are too often accused of being paternalistic in the push for regulation of the markets, I can only imagine the backlash from stores like Wal-Mart, talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, or Judeo-Christo-fascists like Pat Robertson if an artist with Bing Crosby’s status tried to release a song for the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan that is as deeply moving as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” can be.

I have no doubt in my mind that these folks would drop the paternalistic anvil on the CD presses, in order to continue “supporting the troops” and to protect patriotic sentiment as much as possible. Nevermind they claim that it was Muhammed Atta, et al, who had showed disrespect even for their own lives by killing themselves in an attack on the US — if Americans, whether in the armed forces or not, express love of life and fear of death, these Americans would, I believe, be subjected to harsh accusations of being “anti-American” and “anti-troops.”

Discussing soldiers overseas, facing death, is, I suppose, simply too reality based. Are there songs discussing these isses, reaching those heights on the charts that I’ve missed?

Guilty of Independent Journalism; “Live, act — and report back — like them!”

In Brad Will, Civil Liberties, Consumerism, Culture of Corruption, Direct action, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Trade, Land rights, Media Criticism, Netroots, New York City, Progressive Politics, US Politics on November 26, 2006 at 6:49 pm

From SF Bay Guardian:

The pogrom against independent journalists who refuse to conform to corporate media definitions of what a reporter should be continues full throttle. The murder of Indymedia correspondent Brad Will on Oct. 27 on the barricades in Oaxaca by gunmen in the employ of that southern Mexican state’s bloodthirsty governor segues into the denial of the courts to release 24-year-old Josh Wolf from prison during the life of a federal grand jury…

Read the rest and as the author, John Ross, writes “Live, act — and report back — like them!”

Black Friday (narrated by Cool Calm Pete)

In Consumerism, Media Criticism, New York City, Sexuality, US Politics on November 25, 2006 at 2:54 pm

Since Black Friday was yesterday, I thought i’d post up this video by Queens based rapper Cool Calm Pete. It touches on topics of consumerism, politics, drugs (prescription and otherwise), sex, media, and America’s ADD, among other things. What a perfect compliment to holiday cheer, just like those department store stampedes! What’s even better is that all of the footage in the video is vintage tv shows and commercials. It sort of makes you think about how much things have and haven’t changed.

Support Press Freedom, Demand Justice

In Brad Will, Civil Liberties, class warfare, Direct action, Economic Justice, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, Media Criticism, Netroots, New York City on November 21, 2006 at 6:33 pm

I’ve posted a few things about the murder of Brad Will in Oaxaca, Mexico in late October. Here is something straight-forward that I implore readers to consider regarding both Brad’s murder and the way it was used by Mexico’s federal forces…

Sign on to the letter discussed below. I did and encourage you to do the same.

Keep plugged into NYC Indymedia, Zapagringo, and El Enimigo Comun to stay up-to-date with actions in Oaxaca and solidarity actions taking place up here. Also, be sure to stay on top of the heated developments in Atenco, Mexico.

Thanks again to Josh Breitbart for being one of the many taking the lead on this and laying out a solid argument on why to sign the letter. Below are excerpts from his post…

Brad Will’s death has been used as an excuse by Mexican President Vicente Fox to send thousands of federal troops to repress the political uprising in Oaxaca. US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza signalled his support for that move when he called for a return to “lawfulness and order.”

This is a very ugly precedent. As Al Giordano from Narco News told the Village Voice, “Anytime the local forces of repression can’t contain a rebellion in Mexico and want the feds to storm in, the recipe now exists: Kill a foreign journalist.”

Mexico was already ranked as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists by Reporters Without Borders. Since Brad’s death, violent attacks on journalists have greatly increased, especially in Oaxaca.

[…]

Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media has written an eloquent letter to Ambassador Garza emphasizing precisely this point:

All American citizens must be protected by the full power of our government wherever they travel in the world. This is especially the case when that citizen is a journalist attempting to report the truth in a dangerous situation. When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer…

Our government and mainstream press should feel the same outrage over this killing as over the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. If anything, reporters who give of their own resources and work under such dangerous circumstances are even more deserving of our respect and protection because of the great personal sacrifice they endure in the quest for the information we need to exist as a free people.

I’ve revised it and posted it to the Friends of Brad Will site to allow more people and organizations to sign on.

Many already have, including Free Press, New America Media, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Prometheus Radio Project, People’s Production House, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Media Alliance, as well as DeeDee Halleck (Deep Dish), Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Lisa Rudman (National Radio Project), Noelle Hanrahan (Prison Radio) and seven separate Indymedia centers (NYC, LA, AZ, Philly, Santa Cruz, Indybay, US).

The letter ends:

The undersigned implore the United States government to:

  1. Give full governmental protection throughout the world, in word and deed, to community-based journalists from the United States.
  2. Ask the Mexican Government to make a formal, federal inquiry into the killing of journalist Bradley Roland Will in Oaxaca on October 27, 2006.
  3. Ask that the Mexican Government bring his killer(s) to justice.
  4. Ask that the Mexican Government state clearly that it will not tolerate the targeting of journalists covering conflicts, no matter what their affiliations or nationalities.

If the tragic killing of Bradley Roland Will results in the strengthening of protections for independent journalists, then his death will not have been in vain. More importantly, we will have stood together as a nation against an attack on our free press and the many freedoms which are built upon it.

I encourage you to sign it. Encourage friends and allies to do the same.

Killed for the Truth, Paid for the Lies, and Impunity for the Murderers

In Blogs we like, Brad Will, class warfare, Culture jamming, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, International politics, International Public Health, International Trade, Labor, Media Criticism, Netroots, New York City, Progressive Politics, Urban Planning / Space, US Politics on November 2, 2006 at 12:57 pm

LiftWhileClimbing ally Josh Breitbart has just posted a quality boil-down of the situation.  Below is the first bit of it.

Here are two small but important details about Brad’s death:

He was wearing an Indymedia t-shirt when he was shot. One bullet must have gone right through the (((i))). Maybe that shouldn’t matter to me but it does. I have that t-shirt, as do many people I love.

Second, Brad lived for nearly an hour after he was shot. The initial photos made it seem like he died on the spot. Other reports suggest he died minutes later on the way to a hospital. In fact, protesters carried his body for a long distance, drove a car until it ran out of gas, unsuccessfully tried to wave down a couple of trucks – it started to rain – and then, about five blocks from the Red Cross station, he died. I don’t know if this should matter either, but it does.