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What Did Back to the Future 2 Get Right About 2015?

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

backtothefuture2

A delightful video from the always-entertaining guys at Dark Corners breaks it down:

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Gay Mafia Takes Out Hit on TLC’s My Husband’s Not Gay

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Cinemablend reports on the backlash over TLC’s My Husband’s Not Gay, a special focusing on Mormon men, both married and single, “who are attracted to men but who cultivate relationships with women”:

Over at Change.org, former Christian Josh Sanders wrote about his experiences as a gay man whose church convinced him to undergo reparative therapy so that he would no longer be gay. His petition calls for TLC to “stop spreading such dangerous misinformation” by canceling My Husband’s Not Gay.

GLAAD also backs up the petition, and the organization’s President and CEO made a statement this morning calling My Husband’s Not Gay “downright irresponsible”. Here’s the whole statement:

“This show is downright irresponsible. No one can change who they love, and, more importantly, no one should have to. By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm’s way.”

The Cinemablend article expresses the bias made common by activist groups like GLAAD in their own explanation of the show’s premise:

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Should Kids Still Have to Say Thank You?

Monday, January 5th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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UK Guardian writer Peter Ormerod

tells NPR’s Arun Rath that he’s not at all against gratitude. His argument has more to do with the spirit of the thing. “It’s really because gratitude is so important to me. I don’t, however, think that forcing children to write what’s often quite formulaic letters — I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way of helping children develop gratitude.”

Instead, he thinks the emphasis should be on getting kids to feel and experience gratitude, rather than just make a show of it. And once they feel it, he says, they can express it in fun or creative ways, “ways that feel much less like a chore.” That could involve drawing pictures, taking photos or baking. Ormerod says he’s even written songs for people.

Ormerod tags thank you letter-writting as an “anachronism” and an “exercise in lying” designed to “maintain respectability” among parents because no one wants to have a child who is an “ingrate.” So, would you dear parents of America choose to let your child feel gratitude by baking cookies or Instagramming their gift? In this social media age, where we share photographs of our meals and ruminations on our work lives, would expressing thanks through a written message add much needed veracity to an otherwise seemingly meaningless milieu? Would a handwritten note express deeper, longer lasting emotion than a public message? Or is it better to follow Ormerod’s advice and simply have the kid do nothing at all?

If “nothing at all” is the answer, take a look at the statistics. Not saying “thank you” in a written note may cost you big time down the line. According to a recent survey conducted by the Royal Mail:

New research by Royal Mail has revealed the true cost of not saying thank you for Christmas presents. Of those people expecting thank you letters, over half (52 per cent) say they would reduce the cost of their gift by up to £10 next year if they did not receive a thank you letter.

A further 10 per cent said they would cut their budget from £25 to £21 if they were not thanked properly in writing.

The survey also found that 20 per cent would be so offended that they would not bother buying their loved one a gift again.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed said it was important for children to say thanks via a note, while over half of adults (53 per cent) think thank you letters are important too.

Note that for all of his heavy-handed philosophizing about parenting, Ormerod is childless and bases his theory in having to arduously write out thank you notes as a child. If you’re looking to exemplify “petulant” to your child, have them read his screed. They’ll thank you, if not now then definitely later.

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Are We Being Acculturated to Worship Sex?

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Over at Salon, the apparent temple of all things sex-worship, Tracy Clark-Flory chronicles “The Year In Sex Writing,” explaining in part:

I read about sex, constantly. At least five days a week, I do a Google News search for “sex.” It’s one of the first things I do each morning. …As I look back at the year in sex writing, these are the pieces that stand out, the pieces that most validated that daily sex-news slog. (I’m excluding myself and Salon in general from the list, because to do otherwise would be lame, wouldn’t it?)

Some of the less graphic stories highlighted include:

“The Japanese Firm Selling Videogames to Women, Using Sex” by Daniel Feit

Synopsis: A journalist reports on a Tokyo gaming convention, where women line up for the chance to interact with actors modeled after characters in hugely popular dating simulators.
Choice quote: “‘We’re basically hitting on them, without being too forward,’ said Kyle Card, an actor and model who lives in Tokyo. ‘A lot of the reactions are hands over the face, unable to speak, laughing to themselves. Lots of silence.’”

“For Women In Porn, The Personal Is Political And Profitable” by Susannah Breslin
Synopsis: A look at how women are faring in the new porn industry landscape.
Choice quote: ”‘Women control the industry,’ she opines. ‘They just don’t realize the power they have.’”

A growing number of pop culture outlets possess an evangelistic zeal for the act of sex. Whether it is through ever-more visible bodies on network television or full-fledged sexually oriented nudity on premium cable, shows like Californication and Masters of Sex now compete with basic cable’s Sex Sent Me to the E.R., Strange Sex and Let’s Talk About Sex. Sex was so prevalent this year that Slate declared 2014 to be a “banner year for sex on television.”

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Comcast: Crappy Service for You, Priority Service for Politicians

Monday, December 29th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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An article in The Washingtonian about the downfall of David Gregory at Meet the Press details how Comcast has become a major political player in Washington ahead of their proposed merger with Time Warner. The company hired legendary political fixer David L. Cohen, who previously worked as chief of staff to Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell. Cohen tripled the company’s Washington lobbying team and increased its lobbying spending more than five-fold between 2002 and 2009 when the merger was announced. And then there was this little gem:

Comcast also had an even more personal way of sucking up to Washington. Its government-affairs team carried around “We’ll make it right” cards stamped with “priority assistance” codes for fast-tracking help and handed them out to congressional staffers, journalists, and other influential Washingtonians who complained about their service.

A Comcast spokeswoman says this practice isn’t exclusive to DC; every Comcast employee receives the cards, which they can distribute to any customer with cable or internet trouble. Nevertheless, efforts like this one have surely helped Comcast boost its standing inside the Beltway and improve its chances of winning regulatory approval for its next big conquest: merging with the second-largest cable provider in the country, Time Warner Cable.

Since we have a representative democracy in the United States, let me suggest how this is perhaps supposed to work: Comcast is obviously acknowledging with these cards that their customer service is often really lousy (there’s a reason it’s one of the most hated companies in the country, after all). So when — not if — when you receive crappy customer service from the company, you’re supposed to call your congressman, who can then refer to the special code on his magic VIP “We’ll make it right” card. He can immediately call the “No-Wait Hotline” and  lobby Comcast directly on your behalf to implore them to give you something resembling adequate customer service. Maybe even get a premium channel or two thrown in for your trouble. He should at least have enough clout to get you out of their hellish customer service maze.

Or maybe Comcast could work on improving customer service company-wide instead of only for those with the lucky VIP cards.

 

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Brangelina Praises Their 8 Year Old Girl’s Decision to Be a Boy

Friday, December 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

According to Refinery 29, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s oldest biological child, Shiloh, has decided to identify as a male at the tender age of 8. The painfully politically correct story attempts to paint a picture of the child, who now refers to herself as “John” although born a girl, as gender-confused at an early age:

Jolie told Vanity Fair in a 2010 interview that John has been exploring their identity since the age of three. ”She wants to be a boy,” Jolie said. “So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

Here’s the actual quote in context:

“She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers. Shiloh, we feel, has Montenegro style. She dresses like a little dude. It’s how people dress there. She likes tracksuits, she likes [regular] suits. Shiloh’s hysterically funny, one of the goofiest, most playful people you’ll ever meet. Goofy and verbal, the early signs of a performer. I used to get dressed up in costumes and jump around,” the actress explains.

Stylists at the time balked at Jolie’s attempt to coin the term “Montenegro style” stating, “she was trying to say something intellectual or funny, and it just sounded dumb.” Probably about as dumb as the Advocate grasping at straws via the stale tale of Shiloh Pitt, who apparently has been dressed in boyswear and given boyishly short haircuts by her parents since she was a toddler. Four years later, why wouldn’t an 8-year-old girl think she ought to be called “John”? If anything she’s aiming for a more defined gender identity than her parents have yet to give her, either through her name, her hair, or her clothing, let alone the gender-neutral pronouns being used to identify her in the media. As the Advocate explains:

Editor’s note: This article uses “they” as a gender-neutral, singular pronoun in an effort to respect the young Jolie-Pitt’s gender identity, whatever that may end up being. 

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Entertainment Caucus Chair Asks Sony to Screen The Interview on Capitol Hill

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A California Democrat has formally invited Sony Pictures to screen The Interview on Capitol Hill.

Sony made a last-minute decision to offer limited release of the Seth Rogan and James Franco film that sparked a hack attack from North Korea. Rep. Brad Sherman told CNN yesterday that he may not get to see the movie on opening day, but thinks it should be screened at the White House and for Congress.

In a Monday letter to the studio, Sherman, who represents the San Fernando Valley and chairs the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus, said lawmakers should “stand in solidarity with Sony Pictures and the American film industry.”

“Threats from a dictator in North Korea should not stop Americans from seeing any movie. We have a responsibility to stand up against these attempts at intimidation,” Sherman wrote. “This is also about educating Members of Congress. Everyone is talking about The Interview. I think it’s important for Congress to know, and see, what we are talking about.”

Screening the film on Capitol Hill would “demonstrate the U.S. Congress’s support of the freedom of speech,” the congressman added. “This is about our right to live without fear, and knowing that our values will not be compromised by the idle threats of a despotic regime. Good or bad, Americans should not be deprived of the opportunity to see this movie.”

“It is now the responsibility of the U.S. government to allocate the necessary resources to ensure moviegoers’ safety. We must help Sony Pictures, movie theater owners, and moviegoers regain the confidence to go see The Interview.”

Sherman is advocating North Korea receive a “double dose of free speech” by doubling up Voice of America broadcasting to the reclusive communist country.

“Currently Radio Free Asia and Voice of America reach North Koreans eleven hours each night, at a cost to American taxpayers of $8 million annually (or roughly one tenth of what it cost Sony to make and advertise The Interview). We should ramp this up to $16 million,” Sherman said in a statement.

“Dictators like Kim Jong-un fear nothing as much as the truth and it is time to bring a maximum supply of truth both to the North Korean people, and to the elites which form the core of the regime’s support,” he said. “We also maintain websites aimed at North Korea, but we do not provide television broadcasts. Our web efforts should be aimed at undermining Kim Jong-un among these elites, who have internet access.”

A Dec. 8 report from the Broadcasting Board of Governors showed that current streaming falls short of the 12 hours per day goal, but Sherman said that goal should be 24 hours a day.

“The Broadcasting Board of Governors is seeking to construct its own medium wave transmitter in South Korea at a location optimally suited to reach the North Korean people. This effort should be funded and expedited,” Sherman added.

“We should explore using satellite television broadcasting. If television broadcasting into North Korea is practical, then later next year we should broadcast The Interview dubbed in Korean.”

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The Interview, Coming Your Way Soon?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

According to The Wrap, Sony is set to release its notorious depth bomb, The Interview, after all:

Sony Pictures is set to release the cancelled Seth Rogen comedy “The Interview” in theaters and on video on demand, TheWrap has learned. The plan is apparently to release the film simultaneously in participating theaters and via video on demand. The Plaza theater in Atlanta and a theater in Austin have now said they will distribute the film.

The studio is expected to announce the planned release on Tuesday, according to an individual with knowledge of the studio’s plans. Momentum has been growing across the country to reverse a decision to cancel the movie’s Christmas Day theatrical release after threats and a cyber-hack by North Korea

This has been either the most shameful episode in the history of motion pictures or the greatest marketing campaign in history.

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One HBO Star Dares to Criticize Feminism

Monday, December 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Not every HBO woman is one of Lena Dunham’s girls. Seventeen-year-old Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams made a brilliant observation about contemporary feminism in a recent interview:

We talk about actor Emma Watson’s recent UN speech, in which she talked about her reasons for becoming a feminist, and the need for men to be onside; Williams says she is impatient with this kind of “first-world feminism”. “A lot of what Emma Watson spoke about, I just think, ‘that doesn’t bother me’. I know things aren’t perfect for women in the UK and in America, but there are women in the rest of the world who have it far worse.”

That infuriated Salon‘s Jenny Kutner:

Self-identified feminist or not, Williams appears to have fallen into a trap of, well, totally taking for granted the gains western feminism has made. The assertion that the inequalities that persist in the UK and United States “don’t bother her” is a milder version of women against feminism rejecting the progress wrought by the women’s movement only as they bask in it.

Kutner then lists a series of first-world feminist issues that Williams and feminists everywhere are obviously required to care about: “pay inequality” (myth), “restricted reproductive healthcare access” (myth), “rape culture” (BIG myth, BIG – like Rolling Stone big) and “institutional sexism” (that creates a hostile environment for men as much, if not moreso, than women). She then  uses her own big, white, first-world feminist journo privilege to paint Williams’s honest observation about the inequalities within the women’s movement as an example of that ugly buzzword “privilege”:

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Feinstein: In Past 6 Years, ‘No Real Policy’ to Handle Sony-Style Attacks

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the hacking attack against Sony is part of a longer-running plot — and the administration has had “no real policy” to face such attacks.

“This is part of a much bigger picture. It really began in 2008 with robberies by cyber of both the Royal Bank of Scotland and Citibank, to the tune of about $8 million and $10 million, respectively. It has gone on and graduated to the point where most companies have been attacked one way or another. In the last two years, we have JPMorgan Chase, we have Home Depot, we have eBay and we have Target,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told CNN today.

“What’s different to me about this attack is the monumental size of it, and secondly, there is extortion involved with it. In other words, the North Koreans are saying, unless you do this, we will do that. And this is where it becomes extraordinarily dangerous.”

She added that “in the six years that have gone by, we have no real policy to handle this.”

“Now, right now, you can look at North Korea, taken off the terrorist list, you can see this attack is in a sense a terrorist attack. You could put them back on. You can levy financial sanctions against them,” Feinstein continued.

The State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism only includes four countries by this point — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — and the Obama administration is considering taking Cuba off the list. President George W. Bush took North Korea off the list in 2008.

“But the big problem is developing an international agreement with teeth to stop this kind of behavior because we’re going toward bloodshed, I believe, if we don’t solve it. We have tried to pass a cyber information-sharing bill,” the senator said. “…We’re getting into the arena of major attacks. Right now, it has to do a great deal with private industry. But the cost for private industry is now in the trillions of dollars. And it has to be stopped.”

President Obama said he wished Sony had consulted him before yanking the film from theaters, but Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN he did consult with the White House after the threats.

“This is a complicated matter. And there is the question of liability. If something were to happen, who is liable for the loss of life?” Feinstein said.

“Now, this attack took place almost a month ago. So, we’re 3 1/2 weeks into it and still going back and forth as to what might be done or who should have done what. And this can’t continue to happen, in my view. This is a problem that’s going to be with us for a very long time. And so, we have to get certain structures in place and the ability to handle it.”

Whatever the administration decides to do, the senator stressed, “I would hope that we can convince the North Koreans that this carries a very heavy price.”

“Certainly, we have attacks from China. We have attacks from Russia. We have attacks from Iran and we have attacks from within our own country. So, it has become a very sad way of life. And at some point, we face a disastrous attack. And this is what we must prevent.”

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And the World’s Sexiest Woman Is… Kate

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

Kate Upton, that is:

Mirror mirror on the wall, Kate Upton is the Sexiest Woman of all. So says People magazine.

The mag crowned the Sports Illustrated model, 22, with the title of “Sexiest Woman” on Thursday night during its first People Magazine Awards show in Beverly Hills. Hunky Eric Dane, no slouch in the sexy department himself, presented Upton with her award, saying, “There are a lot of reasons why Kate is sexy. Style, career, achievements, sense of humor, personality – oh and did I mention her … looks?”

Did somebody say looks?

Kate at work

Kate at work and in action

God Bless America.

Also read: 

Cameron Diaz or Kate Upton? 

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Obama Says Sony ‘Made a Mistake’: ‘I Wish They Had Spoken to Me First’

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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President Obama said at his year-end press conference that he would have told Sony not to cancel the Christmas release of The Interview, had the studio consulted him first.

“Sony’s a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced,” Obama said. “Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”

“In this interconnected digital world, there are going to be opportunities for attackers to engage in cyber assaults, both in the private sector and the public sector,” he continued. “Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.”

Obama said he long ago deployed a cyber-security interagency team “to look at everything that we could do at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks,” including “coordinating with the private sector.”

“But a lot more needs to be done. We’re not even close to where we need to be,” he said. “And, you know, one of the things in the new year that I hope Congress will is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.”

“But even as we get better, you know, the hackers are going to get better, too. Some of them are going to be state actors. Some of them are going to be non-state actors. All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage. We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”

Canceling the movie after a hack from North Korea, he said, is “not who we are. That’s not what America is about.”

“Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities and this and that and the other. I wish they had spoken to me first. I would’ve told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks,’” Obama said. “Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks. And is that what it takes for suddenly, you to pull the plug on something?”

“So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry, the private sector around these issues. We already have. We will continue to do so. But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this. They’re going to be costly. They’re going to be serious. We take them with the utmost seriousness. But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.”

The president was asked if he would watch The Interview in solidarity with the censored filmmakers.

“I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching,” Obama replied. “You know, I never release my full movie list. But let’s talk to the specifics of what we now know.”

“The FBI announced today that — and — and we confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack. I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco.”

That’s James Franco; Obama’s goof of the actor’s name sent “James Flacco” shooting to the top of Twitter trending topics.

“I love Seth. And I love — and I love James. But the notion that that was a threat to them, I think gives you some sense of — of the kind of regime we’re talking about here,” he continued. “They caused a lot of damage. And we will respond. We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.”

“More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates. Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.”

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George Clooney to Li’l Kim: Drop Dead

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

George Clooney gets it right. Via Deadline Hollywood:

The most powerful people in Hollywood were so fearful to place themselves in the cross hairs of hackers that they all refused to sign a simple petition of support that Clooney and his agent, CAA’s Bryan Lourd, circulated to the top people in film, TV, records and other areas. Not a single person would sign. Here, Clooney discusses the petition and how it is just part of many frightening ramifications that we are all just coming to grips with.

DEADLINE: I’ve been chasing the story of the petition you were circulating for a week now. Where is it, and how were these terrorists able to isolate Sony from the herd and make them so vulnerable?

CLOONEY: Here’s the brilliant thing they did. You embarrass them first, so that no one gets on your side. After the Obama joke, no one was going to get on the side of Amy, and so suddenly, everyone ran for the hills. Look, I can’t make an excuse for that joke, it is what it is, a terrible mistake. Having said that, it was used as a weapon of fear, not only for everyone to disassociate themselves from Amy but also to feel the fear themselves. They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they’re afraid.

Be sure to read the whole interview; this exchange is priceless:

DEADLINE: What kind of constraints will this put on storytellers that want to shine a critical light on a place like Russia, for instance, with something like a movie about the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB officer who left and became an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin?

CLOONEY: What’s going to happen is, you’re going to have trouble finding distribution. In general, when you’re doing films like that, the ones that are critical, those aren’t going to be studio films anyway. Most of the movies that got us in trouble, we started out by raising the money independently. But to distribute, you’ve got to go to a studio, because they’re the ones that distribute movies. The truth is, you’re going to have a much harder time finding distribution now. And that’s a chilling effect. We should be in the position right now of going on offense with this. I just talked to Amy an hour ago. She wants to put that movie out. What do I do? My partner Grant Heslov and I had the conversation with her this morning. Bryan and I had the conversation with her last night. Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people.

 

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What the Stats Really Say About Racially Motivated Cop Killings

Friday, December 19th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Larry Elder at Real Clear Politics breathes essential statistical insight into the ongoing fight over whether or not white cops have a predilection for shooting black men:

In 2012, according to the CDC, 140 blacks were killed by police. That same year 386 whites were killed by police. Over the 13-year period from 1999 to 2011, the CDC reports that 2,151 whites were killed by cops — and 1,130 blacks were killed by cops.

Police shootings, nationwide, are down dramatically from what they were 20 or 30 years ago. The CDC reported that in 1968, shootings by law enforcement — called “legal intervention” by the CDC — was the cause of death for 8.6 out of every million blacks. For whites the rate was was .9 deaths per million.

By 2011, law enforcement shootings caused 2.74 deaths for every million blacks, and 1.28 deaths for every million whites. While the death-by-cop rate for whites has held pretty steady over these last 45 years, hovering just above or below the one-in-a-million level, the rate for blacks has fallen. In 1981, black deaths by cop stood at four in a million, but since 2000 has remained just above or below two in a million.

So what’s driving this notion that there is now an “epidemic” of white cops shooting blacks when in the last several decades the numbers of blacks killed by cops are down nearly 75 percent?

As Elder points out, there was no mention of race or racial motivation in the cases of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, or Michael Brown. When questioned about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict, “several jurors later said that during jury deliberations ‘race never came up.’” Elder asserts

This white-cop-out-to-get-black-civilian narrative advances the interest of many. The media loves what Tom Wolfe called the “Great White Defendant” — a bad white guy everybody can agree to dislike. For the Democrats, it furthers their assertion that race remains a major problem in America, that Republicans/tea partiers/black conservatives are out to get them, and you must vote for us. For “activists” like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and local wannabes, it gives them continued relevance.

In reality, the facts provide a startling lack of evidence in support of the theory of racial motivation. At the same time, they do provide solid evidence that both the media and so-called community activists like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to promulgate the myth of ghetto culture in order to maintain power over an audience and presumed authority over an entire segment of the American population.

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Li’l Kim, We Hardly Knew Ye…

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

At the link, the New York Post has a clip of the death scene from the laff-riot, probably never to be shown publically, The Interview, aka the comedy bomb that destroyed a major studio:

Right on the heels of Sony’s announcement that the studio would be scrapping the Christmas Day release of “The Interview,” the film’s controversial climax has surfaced.

The scene features North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung-un (Randall Park), meeting a fiery end as a missile hits his helicopter. As the tyrant perishes from the explosion, the scene is dramatically slowed down to the sounds of Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

As for the fates of Seth Rogen and James Franco, well, that’s still T.B.D. — at least until “The Interview” hits V.O.D.

Well, that certainly could have cheesed off the sawed-off runt ruler of the Hermit Kingdom. Meanwhile, via Drudge, Roger Friedman has another theory:

One thing that Kim Jong Un may or may not have objected to in “The Interview”: after a night of debauchery, he’s seen shirtless in bed with James Franco’s also-shirtless Dave Skylark character and a bevy of beauties. In the screenwriter Dan Sterling’s 2012 original version, this is how the scene read:

INT. PRIVATE LOUNGE – DAY

Dave and Kim are in a bed naked, with the four women.

They’re all playing MORTAL KOMBAT

Right so you’re thinking, either lucky Kim, or he should be so lucky. It’s hard to say if North Korea’s fearless leader would feel the same way. Certainly, the original screenplay made it seem like quite a night had occurred. By this time, Franco’s Dave and President Kim have cried together, shared their love of puppies, and Katy Perry.

Don’t worry — it gets worse. Read on, if you dare. Who greenlighted this mess?

Meanwhile, if you thought you could have a laugh at the Norks’s expense with Team America, think again:

Forget those plans by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other theaters to run Team America: World Police in place of The Interview. The Austin-based chain says that Paramount has now decided not to offer South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 satire that focuses on Kim Jong-il, the late father of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Alamo says that the cancellation at its Dallas theater is “due to circumstances beyond our control” and says it will offer refunds to those who have already bought tickets. Cleveland’s Capitol Theater also tweeted that Team America “has been canceled by Paramount Pictures.”

 

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Hollywood Pulls More Movies in Dictator’s Wake

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

What Kimmy doesn’t want you to see.

Cinema Blend reports:

We might as well all pack up and go home, because at the moment the bad-guys are winning. The repercussions of Sony’s hacking are now starting to be felt around the movie industry, as New Regency has announced that work on Steve Carell’s potential new film set in North Korea had now been stopped.

At the time of its cancellation, the project was being developed for Gore Verbinski to direct with Steve Carell was going to play the lead. Steve Conrad, who has previously written The Weather ManThe Pursuit Of Happyness and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, had scribed what’s been described as a paranoid thriller. In fact, production had already been pencilled in for March. But the recent hacking of Sony and the consequent threats to any screening of The Interview has led New Regency to decide that there wasn’t any point in making the movie. According to Deadline, insiders from the studio explained to the website, “it just makes no sense to move forward.” This all apparently began internally, with the folks at Fox saying that they wouldn’t be distributing the film. Thus, the plug was pulled.

The plug might also impact a number of other Gore Verbinski films set to be released by the same studio, despite the fact that they have nothing to do whatsoever with North Korea.

Studios are now going to think twice about creating any movie that could lead to them being targeted. Now big, serious questions need to be asked. Why was Sony able to be hacked so easily? Where does cinema go from here? At the moment it feels like the movie industry is about to cave in on itself. Who would have thought that it would be all be because of a Seth Rogen movie?

In related news, the Kim Jong-un death scene (shown above) has been leaked:

Defamer first previewed the clip on Monday, but removed it shortly thereafter. They also explored the leaked emails between Rogen and Sony execs, in which the co-director and actor became exasperated with the studio’s repeated demands for a less graphic death scene.

And so this is the final product. The death scene that was apparently seen by the State Department and has effectively led to the movie being shelved altogether for fear of terrorism.

If Hollywood had any sense of history, they’d be asking WWCCD: What Would Charlie Chaplin Do? For those of you too young to get the joke, try this question: What would Hitler have done if he had the Internet? At least one Texas theater chain is fighting back against one of the most blatant violations of freedom of speech this side of the Pacific.

*Updated*: Another upload of video via Daily Caller.

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Jon Stewart Thinks Geraldo Shouldn’t Be So Quick to Give LeBron Fashion Advice

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

 

Jon Stewart reacted to Geraldo Rivera’s criticism of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who wore a a t-shirt emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe” to a recent game. Stewart said on Wednesday, “This should be a perfectly acceptable way to express one’s feelings about political issues.”

“Last time I checked, t-shirts don’t block traffic. They don’t prevent you from shopping at Macy’s,” Stewart said.

Geraldo Rivera said he wondered if LeBron should instead wear a shirt that said, “Be a better father to your son. Raise your children.”

Stewart said that LeBron (the father of three) actually lives that message. But added, “If he wants advice on shirts, I’m sure he’ll ask someone who wears one.”

Ooh. Ouch.

Pre-Christmas pro-tip: Don’t forget to talk to your kids — and parents — about responsible social media usage.

o-GERALDO-RIVERA-facebook

 

 

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Psaki: Kim Jong-un Comedy Totally Different from Mohammed Film Slammed by State Dept.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sony Pictures officially decided not to release The Interview on Dec. 25 as planned, citing the major theater chains that refused to show the movie after hackers made 9/11-style threats against screenings.

“We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers,” the Sony statement said.

“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

The Associated Press reported moments ago that federal investigators have connected the hacking to North Korea.

At the State Department earlier today, Jen Psaki said department officials did meet with studio executives during production, as revealed in leaked emails, but disputed reports that they OK’d the picture. “We’re not in the business of signing off on content of movies or things along those lines,” she said.

“I can confirm for you that [Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel] Russel did have a conversation with Sony executives, as he does routinely with a wide range of private groups and individuals, to discuss foreign policy in Asia,” Psaki said. “[Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues] Bob King, contrary to reports, did not view the movie and did not have any contact directly with Sony.”

“As we have — as we’ve noted before, entertainers are free to make movies of their choosing, and we are not involved in that,” she added.

Psaki said she wouldn’t compare the comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un to the Mohammed film initially blamed for the Benghazi attack, a movie heavily criticized by the State Department.

“I would not put them in the same category, which I’m sure does not surprise you,” Psaki said. “We don’t have — it’s a fiction movie. It’s not a documentary about our relationship with the United — with North Korea. It’s not something we backed, supported or necessarily have an opinion on from here.”

After violent reactions to Innocence of Muslims in 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

“We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of other,” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said back then.

While being asked questions about unilateral changes in Cuba policy today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest if they would relax sanctions on North Korea under the same theory.

“That if you open it up, that you put more pressure on them, maybe they’ll change their behavior?” a reporter asked.

“No. OK,” Earnest bluntly responded, drawing laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

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Studio Folds, Pulls ‘Interview’ – Norks Win, Sony ‘Saddened’

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

So there you have it:

With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of “The Interview.” In announcing the decision to cancel the holiday debut, Sony hit back at the hackers who threatened movie theaters and moviegoers and who have terrorized the studio and its employees for weeks.

“Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like,” the statement reads. “We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” it continues. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

That’s telling ‘em! Sony is ”saddened,” the way you might be at the death of a puppy. And they’re “standing by” the filmmakers, although there is that little matter of canceling the movie’s Christmas  opening.

Meanwhile, in other totally unsurprising news, CNN is reporting that, how about that, North Korea really is behind the cyber attack (which as Newt Gingrich notes, the U.S. just came out on the short end of):

The U.S. government is set to name North Korea as the source of the damaging cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, according to CNN Justice reporter Evan Perez. Anchor Wolf Blitzer announced the news break during a broadcast of The Situation Room. A news chyron on the cable channel read: “Sources: North Korean Leaders Ordered Attack On Sony.”

Following theater chains decision not to screen the film, Sony canceled the release of the North Korea themed assassination comedy on Wednesday.

Not that the U.S. is going to do anything about it, of course. About all that’s left to do now is await the inevitable regime change in Culver City,

 

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Team America: World Pussycat

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh

Looks like the Korean hackers have won:

The country’s top five theater circuits have decided not to play Sony’s The Interview, a knowledgeable source tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment have all decided against showing the film. Carmike Cinemas confirmed its decision to drop the film on Tuesday. The other chains did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sony also had no immediate comment.

Hackers raised the threat level directed at the movie on Dec. 16, but Sony refused to back down from its plans to release the film on Dec. 25. Instead, in discussions with exhibitors, it told the exhibitors it was up to them whether or not they played the movie and that Sony would support whatever decision they made.

What next? Will Team America: World Police have to go back for a recut?

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UPDATE: One Texas theater has decided to substitute Team America for the now-vanished Interview. Good for them.

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N. Korean Hackers Threaten ’9/11′ Attacks — Does the US Government Care?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 - by Michael Walsh
Bombs away

Bombs away

The dog in the night-time: somebody is making explicit threats against the United States of America over a silly movie but, unless I’ve missed it (other than the routine, obligatory FBI investigation) nobody in Washington seems to care. From Variety:

The Sony hackers have threatened a 9/11-like attack on movie theaters that screen Seth Rogen and James Franco’s North Korean comedy “The Interview,” substantially escalating the stakes surrounding the release of the movie.

“The world will be full of fear,” the message reads. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

One would like to think that the aces in Foggy Bottom would be all over this, sending quiet signals to North Korea that a “9/11″-style attack would be met with the strongest possible (i.e. incinerating) response, but Secretary Kerry is probably too busy trying to bring the Israelis to heel to worry about such things.

There have been suspicions that the attack may have been launched by North Korea in retaliation for “The Interview’s” depiction of an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un. The country has denied involvement but praised the attacks.

The note also threatens people who attend the premiere of “The Interview.” A New York premiere of the film is scheduled to take place Thursday at Sunshine Cinema and has already been scaled down, according to a report in the New York Post. A special screening of the film took place in Los Angeles last week without incident.

Memo to Washington: we in Hollywood will be very, very upset if the Norks nuke the Hollywood Sign.

UPDATE: According to the Daily Beast, Washington green-lighted the film’s ending:

The Daily Beast has unearthed several emails that reveal at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode—their blessing.

The claim that the State Department played an active role in the decision to include the film’s gruesome death scene is likely to cause fury in Pyongyang. Emails between the Sony Entertainment CEO and a security consultant even appear to suggest the U.S. government may support the notion that The Interview would be useful propaganda against the North Korean regime.

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Couldn’t Resist This Actual Headline: ‘Cows Remain at Large After Breakout at Idaho Meat Plant’

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

RENEGADES!

Cows were running free in Pocatello, Idaho, Tuesday, following in the hooves of a feisty heifer that escaped from a meat packing plant Friday. The pursuit of that cow made national headlines; five cows have now broken out of the plant in the past four days.

Two cows remain at large, part of a cohort of at least four animals that made a run for it Sunday. Their escape came two days after a 1,000-pound cow broke out by reportedly jumping a 6-foot fence.

As always, I blame Obamacare and progressives in academia for our runaway cow epidemic.

Also, admit it, you thought I was going to trick you and this was going to be a story about Lena Dunham, didn’t you?

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North Korea Threatens to Attack NYC Movie Premiere?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Apparently Kim Jong-un isn’t into Seth Rogen’s brand of humor.

While the North Korean dictator does not claim responsibility, he nonetheless praised a terrorist threat issued in advance of The Interview‘s Thursday night premiere in New York City:

Warning

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.

The world will be full of fear.

Remember the 11th of September 2001.

We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.

(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)

Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

All the world will denounce the SONY.

It has been widely suspected that North Korea is involved in the recent hacker attack on Sony performed by the “Guardians of Peace.” This email seems to confirm that suspicion:

The threat was included alongside the release of another set of emails, this time said to be those of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. Because the hackers post this information anonymously and are contacting reporters through reusable email addresses, it is possible that a separate party is behind this threat. However, that seems unlikely. The communications have been consistent, and it should be clear soon whether the leaked emails are genuine, confirming the authenticity of this note.

While Seth Rogen reportedly doesn’t regret making the film about two American TV boobs sent on a secret mission to assassinate the North Korean dictator, he and his co-star James Franco have cancelled all upcoming press appearances to promote the film. Meanwhile, the New York City police are busy ramping up for the now scaled-back screening.

The Interview is due out in theaters across the country on Christmas day.

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Men Who Like Spicy Food Are More Alpha

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

My chili is bigger than yours.

Alpha males tend to thrive in cutthroat offices—and restaurants that douse their food in hot sauce.

A study by researchers from the University of Grenoble found that men who preferred spicier foods also tended to have higher testosterone levels than men with milder tastes. In the study, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, 114 men from age 18 to 44 were polled on whether or not they liked spicy foods, and were later served a dish of mashed potatoes which they were allowed to season with however much hot sauce and salt they wanted.

The researchers found that men with higher testosterone levels tended to use more hot sauce and indicated a greater preference for it. There was no relationship between testosterone and the amount of salt used. High testosterone levels in men have long been linked to dominant and competitive traits.

The conundrum is that many deliciously spicy foods also leave one with breath that doesn’t go over well on a date.

Which is why I am a huge consumer of Altoids.

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Christmas Tradition Warms Children to Big Brother-Style Government

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Think the Elf on the Shelf is a cute little holiday tradition to keep your young one on their toes? Think again.

Laura Pinto, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology recently published a paper concluding that Santa’s little spy  “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

When children enter the play world of The Elf on the Shelf, they accept a series of practices and rules associated with the larger story. This, of course, is not unique to The Elf on the Shelf. Many children’s games, including board games and video games, require children to participate while following a prescribed set of rules. The difference, however, is that in other games, the child role-plays a character, or the child imagines herself within a play-world of the game, but the role play does not enter the child’s real world as part of the game. As well, in most games, the time of play is delineated (while the game goes on), and the play to which the rules apply typically does not overlap with the child’s real world.

“You’re teaching (kids) a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy,” she tells the Toronto Star.

She calls the elf “an external form of non-familial surveillance,” and says it’s potentially conditioning children to accept the state acting that way, too.

“If you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it’s cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government,” according to Pinto.

According to the report, some parent bloggers agree with Pinto’s conclusions. However, others think she’s gone overboard with a fun holiday tradition. Pinto also fails to criticize the Elf’s Jewish counterpart “Mensch on a Bench” for exhibiting the same surveillance state tendencies since the Mensch spends his nights watching the menorah, not the kiddies.

Is this another case of academia gone too far, or is there something to this notion of Big Brother Elf?

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Does Contemporary Feminism Need Campus Rape to Survive?

Monday, December 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The illustrious Mother Jones reports opinion contemporary feminists thrive on:

However, recent research shows that the broad contours of the environment described at UVA—where women report widespread sexual assault with no consequences for perpetrators—is not unique on America’s college campuses. As one expert told RS contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely, “the depressing reality is that UVA’s situation is likely the norm.”

Except for the fact that we now know the “UVA situation” was a lie. And if you’re worth your weight as a scientist or statistician, your “norm” can’t be based on a lie. Therefore, neither can your “depressing reality” no matter how “broad contours” you stroke into the picture you are painting. (“Pretty little contours,” Bob Ross instructs.) And when it comes to the 1 in 5 undergraduate women are sexually abused stat, you’re talking some of the broadest strokes imaginable in both execution and interpretation. (“Pretty little lies,” Bob Ross chimes in.)

Mother Jones uses the art of the infographic to cite disturbing statistics regarding campus rape. For instance, 57% of sexually abused undergraduate women are “under the influence of alcohol and drugs.” No comment is made comparing that stat with the next one that reads “4% of college women are given drugs without their knowledge.” In other words, 53% of undergraduate women who are sexually assaulted have had that assault occur after knowingly imbibing in drugs and alcohol. Out of those women, 85% “have previously seen or spoken with their assailant.”

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Beyonce Dons Niqab, Sexes Up Islam & Black Power Street Protests in New Video

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Yeah, it’s that creepy.

Radical Islamists (and probably fairly traditional mainstream ones, for that matter) are already offended at Beyonce’s attempt to sex-up Islamic headwear by pairing the face-veiling niqab with a bare midriff and peek-a-boo boobs. So much for vowing to Qaddafi’s son to respect sharia law.

Mark Tapson breaks down the well-timed offense, a re-release of  a nearly year-old video, over at FrontPage:

The dirge drags on as Beyoncé pouts, scowls, and growls. Her mob smashes car windows with baseball bats, hurls Molotov cocktails, and burns cop cars while Beyoncé sings: “The laws of the world never stopped us once/’Cause together we got plenty super power.” Except for the music and the ultrachic posturing, it suggests the real-life “sensitive urban zones” of Paris, where immigrant “youth” go on nightly, car-immolating rampages and challenge the police in territorial skirmishes.

As the song draws mercifully to a close, the privileged Beyoncé – having peeled off the niqab and donned a camouflage jacket that costs probably $3000 – faces off with her defiant, multicultural mob of chiseled cheekbones against a line of cops in riot gear. She stands next to a man in a balaclava reminiscent of her niqab. The two of them clasp hands Thelma and Louise-style in anticipation of the confrontation to come. The message: rioting, property destruction, anarchy, and attacking cops are cool – and nothing influences youth more than the aura of cool.

…The video was actually first released last December, long before the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Why would Beyoncé believe that this is an appropriate time to put it back in the public eye?

Ratings. Tapson’s right, incitement, too. Because as the mainstream media has taught us so well in Ferguson, incitement garners ratings. And when you’re a brand you will absolutely pursue violence and death in the name of topping the charts. Will Beyonce brand this violent form of radical Islam-meets-black power the way she has so successfully branded feminism? Let’s hope so, only because Beyonce’s “feminism” has inspired so many celebs to leave the fold, and so many women to re-think exactly what a movement about freedom and equality should really look like.

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Jimmy Fallon and Brian Williams Slow Jam a Lecture on Immigration Reform

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

Brian Williams celebrated his 10th anniversary as anchor of NBC Nightly News by joining Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show to “slow jam” the news.

You can watch the video if you want to see the sexuallythemed segment that includes a double entendre about the president masturbating — I’ll warn you that it’s pretty raunchy.

But let’s talk about the lines Brian Williams crossed as a “real” journalist, celebrating his big anniversary by defending the president’s executive action on amnesty and mocking Republicans for trying to stop him.

“President Obama has been firm in his position: ‘If you want me to stop taking executive action, you’ve gotta pass a bill,’” jammed Fallon.

Brian Williams shouted into the microphone: “My prez Obama don’t want none until you pass a bill, hon!”

“We’re going to need more compromise on Capitol Hill,” Williams said.

Fallon added, “The time has come! Together we’ll pass this bill!”

“The system is broken. The president’s spoken. There’s still no solution. Man, you must be jokin’. The American Dream ain’t just for the few,” Roots band member Black Thought rapped to end the segment.

Hilarious.

Aside from the 8th grade locker room humor that will appeal to snickering teenagers, is there anything remotely funny or entertaining about this? Do people really tune into the Tonight Show for a sanctimonious lecture about immigration reform? Besides, I thought these entertainrants were Jon Stewart’s turf.

Sure makes you miss Jay Leno, doesn’t it?

A while back I read a lengthy report about how Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have managed to create a fusion of entertainment and news so seamless that most Russians cannot distinguish between the two. It’s been a very effective propaganda tool for the Russian government — unprecedented because of the way they’ve been able to harness both reality TV and the power of new media to promote approved government messages.

Though I won’t go as far as to say the government is behind messages like Fallon’s immigration reform entertainrant, it’s fair to say that Americans are becoming increasingly comfortable with the lines being blurred between entertainment and news, between truth and make-believe.

And it’s a very dangerous trajectory.

Watch the video on the next page:

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This 1983 Clip of Star Wars Star Mark Hamill Is Just Creepy and Eerily Prescient

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

So here’s the setting. It’s 1983. Filming on Return of the Jedi has wrapped up that year and the film, the final in the original Star Wars trilogy, is a huge hit. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker is a global star.

There is already speculation that creator/director George Lucas is working on prequels and sequels to the trilogy that Jedi completed. The prequels waited a long while but debuted in 1999 with The Phantom Menace.

In the 1983 talk show clip below, Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker casually mentions a discussion that he had recently had with Lucas.

“He at one time said, ‘Would you consider playing an Obi-Wan type character handing Excalibur down to the next generation?’” Hamill says Lucas asked him.

“I said ‘When would that be?’ and at the time he said, ‘Oh, around 2011.’”

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Lucas was only about four years off. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens comes out a year from now. Hamill/Skywalker is in the film, but not in a starring role.

Disney announced the film just one year off from Lucas’ prediction, in October 2012.

More: 

What’s With That New Lightsaber in The Force Awakens Trailer?

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‘There has been an awakening…’

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens is destined to hit theaters in December 2015. It will be the first J.J. Abrams Star Wars launch, and the first full live-action SW movie made since Disney bought the franchise from creator George Lucas.

In case you missed it, over the weekend the official teaser trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was released. And here it is.

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It took less than 24 hours for that teaser to be turned out in Lego.

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I have to admit, the Lego troopers look pretty good.

The movie’s international teaser also rolled out, and here it is. One of its key moments: The off-screen voice of Han Solo asks if there’s “room in this battle for an old war horse?”

Of course there is.

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Harrison Ford was injured during the production of SW7. The “old war horse” broke his leg on the set, and filming had to be delayed while he recuperated.

This frame from the first teaser-trailer is causing an Internet uproar. What’s up with the little jets off to the side of the red Sith lightsaber blade?

sw7-saber

That thing appears to be the Star Wars version of a greatsword.

The teasers and trailers for The Force Awakens look amazing. But I’m approaching the new SW films from the perspective of an adult who was burned by great teasers for The Phantom Menace. Even though it’s a new era, and Lucas isn’t directing, cautious pessimism is the way to go.

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Where’s Our Mockingjay?

Monday, November 24th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 opened in theaters around the world over the weekend and earned a hefty $275 million. In a year where domestic box office has been down overall, the film also earned more money in its opening weekend than any other film in 2014. The popularity of the Hunger Games series can’t be disputed, and has prompted a handful of similar franchises like the Divergent series and this year’s The Maze Runner and The Giver.

With plucky rebellion against dystopian tyrannies all the rage, an opportunity exists to draw some comparisons between these popular fictions and the real world. Indeed, the film has become a touchstone for protestors in Thailand. Fox News reports:

“The Mockingjay movie reflects what’s happening in our society. … When people have been suppressed for some time, they would want to resist and fight for their rights,” Nachacha Kongudom, 21, one of [three students detained at a screening], told AP. “Going to the cinema is the basic rights of the people. I’m here today to call for and to protect my rights.”

On Wednesday, five university students were arrested in northeastern Thailand after giving the three-fingered salute [from the film] during a speech by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the coup [against the elected government] as army commander.

It’s easy to see parallels between the Hunger Games stories and reality when you live under a military dictatorship. Panem, the fictional nation where these tales are set, operates as a fascist state where the individual languishes under subjugation. Dissent is brutally put down, and the enslaved populace is forced to offer up their children in tribute to a capitol which pits them against each other in a vicious death match.

Life in the United States is far from that portrayed in Panem. However, when the root issues at stake in the Hunger Games saga are identified, it becomes clear that Americans have much worth rebelling against.

At the core of nearly every policy pursued by the current administration has been a profound subjugation of the individual to the will of the state. Young people stand particularly victimized, forced to sacrifice their present and future happiness to fund promises made to the sick or the old, promises which actually benefit those in power. How does the individual mandate in Obamacare differ fundamentally from the slave labor in Panem? Sure, instead of the lash, we have the IRS. But the effect proves the same, individuals forced to feed the state.

In these years between elections, the opportunity exists to define the stakes in such terms. Young people may be socially liberal, a fact not likely to change. But they retain a sense of individual liberty which fiction like The Hunger Games stokes into conviction. Let’s build on those themes to present a vision for the nation where the pursuit of happiness becomes sacrosanct again.

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Vaclav Havel Honored by ZZ Top in U.S. Capitol

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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The House honored late Czech President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday with the unveiling of a bust in Statuary Hall — and ZZ Top.

The ceremony was timed to also mark the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Havel, a playwright, poet and foe of communism, was the first president of the newly liberated Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic after the fall of the Soviet Union.

“It is a poetic but also paradoxical honor for a man who, in his own words, lived ‘a paradoxical life.’ Here was a writer who exposed the communists using one weapon they could not match: the truth. For this, he received three stays in prison, countless interrogations, and constant surveillance,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at the ceremony.

“But he kept on writing, hiding pages of his manuscripts throughout his home. Offered a chance to flee to the West, he’d refuse, saying, ‘I’m simply a Czech bumpkin through and through.’ Treated like a hero wherever he went, he’d beg off, saying, ‘I’m simply a playwright and it’s irrelevant whether I’m a dissident.’ When one of his friends joked that one day he’d lead a revolution and become president, he responded, ‘That would be the worst thing that could happen to me.’”

Boehner mused that one can “imagine what Havel would have said if told his bust would not only stand in the United States Capitol, but go right alongside the likes of Lincoln, Churchill, and Washington.”

He was also a fan of the blues, hence the performance from ZZ Top bandleader Billy Gibbons.

“Today we celebrate the struggle on the part of Havel and so many others in his time. In Poland, an electrician who climbed up on a crate in a shipyard, said to his fellow workers ‘you know me,’ and the Solidarity movement was born. And in East Germany, there was a priest who opened the doors of his 800-year old church every Monday for meetings that started out with no more than a dozen people and turned into the epicenter of a national protest,” Boehner said.

“It takes guts to do these things. Especially when you don’t know how long it will take or how it will end. These men and women proved that the thirst for liberty never dies and that, with drive and sacrifice, it can transform the fortunes of a whole continent.”

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The One Network to Air the Prez’s Speech: Univision

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Obama speaks on immigration via Univision in 2012.

The Big Four may not be airing the president’s infamous immigration speech tonight, but one channel sure is – Latino-geared Univision:

President Barack Obama will finally make public tomorrow night his plan to overhaul immigration. However, while his primetime speech will postpone part of Univision’s 15th annual Latin Grammysit will not be covered by the Big 4.

…Although Obama’s speech will be seen on cable news siblings Fox News and MSNBC, Fox and NBC are not carrying it live on their broadcast networks; CNN will show it live. A CBS News division spokesperson says the network will also not be showing Obama’s approximately 15-minute address on Thursday night. (UPDATE, 2:34 PM: An ABC spokesman “ABC is not carrying the president’s address on the television network —  it will be carried on all our ABC News digital platforms, including Apple TV, and radio.” Which means it is still Shondaland on ABC on Thursday.)

In the biz that’s called “target marketing.” In politics, it’s called playing to your demographic. In America, it’s called race-baiting.

Keep it classy, B.O.

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Montana KKK Says Gays, Blacks, Hispanics & Jews Need Apply

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Totally NSFW.

Dave Chappelle’s black white supremacist Clayton Bigsby was a blind man, but according to the Daily Mail, the Rocky Mountain Knights have taken their blinders off. The Montana chapter of the infamous white supremacist group has decided to “rebrand” and “stand for a strong America instead of irrational hatred.” Founder John Abarr hopes Jews, blacks, Hispanics and gays will be pounding down the doors for membership.

What inspired the attitude change? He met with the NAACP, of course. According to the report, “…some black people have apparently already expressed an interest in joining”.

“‘White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan. The KKK is for a strong America,’ said Mr Abarr.”

Not according to Imperial Wizard Bradley Jenkins. “That man’s going against everything the bylaws of the constitution of the KKK say. He’s trying to hide behind the KKK to further his political career.” According to Think Progress, “This is the same Abarr who in 2011 ran for Congress ’to draw attention to the fact that white people are becoming a minority and losing our political power and way of life.’”

The one thing that won’t change is the wardrobe. Members, regardless of race or sexual orientation, “…will still have to wear the white robes, masks and conical hats and take part in rituals.” The organization’s main goal: to fight against the “new world order”.

While it is unclear whether or not women are welcome into the Rocky Mountain Knights, Abarr is already taking a cue from the anti-feminist playbook: “Last week, he tweeted, ‘#notallklansmen,’ a hashtag based on the meme ‘#NotAllMen,’ which became popular on Twitter earlier this year to symbolize ‘mansplaining’ rebukes to feminist arguments.”

According to the New York Daily News, Abarr’s 15 minutes of fame may boil down to all talk and no action.

According to Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League, Abarr likely is the only member of the Rocky Mountain Knights.

The Ku Klux Klan has not officially existed since 1944, but anyone can create their own Klan group just by saying they created one, Pitcavage says. That’s exactly what Abarr did.

“He’s one guy, pretending to start a Klan group,” Pitcavage told the Daily News.

While the Klan is strongest in the South and Midwest, there are few people in the Western part of the U.S. with KKK views, Pitcavage says. Abarr’s only goal seems to be to draw attention to himself.

The only question is, which cable network will be pitching a reality show his way: TLC, looking to fill the vacancy created by Honey Boo Boo’s Mama June, or E!? I hear Kris Kardashian is dating again, and this guy is apparently very racially cool.

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Jon Stewart Skewers Obama’s ‘No Boots On the Ground to Fight ISIS’ Promise

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Since President Obama promised that there would be “no boots on the ground” to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq, he has ordered two major increases in the number of boots on the ground in Iraq. American forces’ numbers jumped up to 3,000 so-called “advisers” shortly after the mid-term elections.

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart has noticed. In a monologue Monday night, he ripped Obama from the anti-war left and called the president’s promises “bullsh*t.”

In the segment, Stewart plays clips of Obama promising not to put “boots on the ground” to fight ISIS, and juxtaposes them with announcements that more troops are being sent into Iraq to serve as “advisers” to the Iraqi military. Stewart then skewers that.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that was my mistake,” Stewart mocked. “I’m sorry. So it’s not 3,000 troops, it’s 3,000 advisers. Okay. Well, you know, that’s a lot of advisers. (laughter) I feel like after the first 2,000 give their input, it’s mostly going to be like ‘I just want to reiterate what Tony said.’”

At one point, Stewart jokes that at the rate Obama keeps increasing the number of U.S. “advisers” in Iraq, “By 2016, everyone on earth will be in Iraq fighting ISIS!”

Stewart’s angry comedic riff helps explain why Obama delayed announcing the troop increase until after the elections. Had it come before the elections, the Democrats’ base would have been infuriated, and the nationwide bloodbath that saw Republicans re-capture the Senate may have been even worse for the Obama Democrats.

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