Fortress to Frontier

What Can Best Improve Healthcare For All? The Fortress or the Frontier?

 

Thought y’all might be interested in checking out this new video from the Mercatus Center.  Bob Graboyes’s metaphor of the Frontier vs the Fortress is a really insightful tool to look at ANY heavily-regulated industry, not just healthcare.

In debates about ideology, left or right, what’s often missed by both sides is the narrative, the emotional and experiential realities of policy.  When we let fear of failure dominate our thinking, we are inexorably led to protecting ourselves and others from those failures.  We often miss the fact that this protection, which seems a costless benefit, keeps us locked in a kind of creative prison.  In order for creatives to use their imagination to solve problems and promote growth, opportunity and prosperity, we have to be ok with risk, and by virture of that risk, failure.  While that may seem dangerous in areas like healthcare, where failure can mean death, we have to hold in our minds that putting our society’s creative minds in a prison also leads to death.  As the FDA onerously tests drugs for years (saving people from bad drugs that could harm them), people suffering from conditions who are denied those drugs during the testing process experience harm and death while waiting.  The notion that the fortress protects us is an illusion.

While it may be difficult and seem dangerous, we have to believe in the human capacity for creative thought.  The innate human drive to the frontier, to exploration and achievement, is ultimately the only resource that can generate solutions that revolutionize life for all.

SouthPark Satan

Would You Call Yourself a Libertarian if Satan Said He Was One Too?

The chief philosophical sages of our age, obviously by that I refer to Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park, addressed this question somewhat in season 4 episode 7, Chef Goes Nanners. The relevant scene is at 7:44.

In this spoof of the state flag debates across the American South, in particular Georgia, Chef demands changes to the South Park flag because it is racist.  To leave no doubt in the minds of the viewers that Chef is spot on, the flag is discovered to show four white people lynching a black man.

And yet, Jimbo and Nedd, the resident hunter rednecks of South Park disagree, offering what amounts to the same argument relied upon by most southerners who oppose changing their state flags: The flag is a part of our history, our traditions.  While people in the past did racist things and perhaps some minority today holds racist views, the whole culture of the South was not built around racism, and the flag represents the whole culture, not just the sordid parts.

Now for a not so brief digression, I’m from Alabama.  I confess I very much identify with Jimbo’s position at least regarding the flags of the southern states.

(more…)

This Again? Defending Comics Against Censorship

Last week was the American Library Association’s annual “Banned Books Week”, which is always a good time to reflect on the state of literary censorship in America, but this year focused specifically on one of my favorite subjects: comic books.
unnamedReasonTV put out a great short interview with Charles Brownstein, the head of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund that they shot at the San Diego Comic Con. The whole interview is worth a look, but the key takeaway is that comic books are, today, just as they were in the early years of their existence, among the most censored and challenged forms of expression. Two comic book series, the bizarre and often hilarious fantasy “Bone” by Jeff Smith, and of all things, “Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey, which actually won a Disney Adventures Kid’s Choice award in 2006, are among theg the top 10 most challenged books.

To quote Mr. Brownstein, “The books kids are reading in their leisure hours are the objects of censorship.”
Sadly, this is hardly new.
Moralizing busybodies have been censoring expression and ruining everything good and fun in the world in the name of protecting “the children” for a long, long time. In America, all it took to shut down comic publishing was one lousy book by an unscrupulous psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham.
In the 1950s, superheroes weren’t what they are today, and the most popular comic books (and movies) were horror and crime titles that featured monsters and murder mystery detective stories. Wertham’s book, “Seduction of the Innocent,” published in 1954, claimed that the themes of violence, death, fantasy, and even (imagined) homosexuality in comic books were corrupting the good nature of America’s youth. In support of this theory, he trotted out evidence compiled from his own clinical research which was since found to have been likely falsified and misrepresented.
To quote the NY Times, following their write-up of the research paper that exposed Wertham’s deception:

“‘Seduction of the Innocent’ was released to a public already teeming with anti-comics sentiment, and Wertham was embraced by millions of citizens who feared for America’s moral sanctity; he even testified in televised hearings.

Yet according to Dr. [Carol L.] Tilley, he may have exaggerated the number of youths he worked with at the low-cost mental-health clinic he established in Harlem, who might have totaled in the hundreds instead of the ‘many thousands’ he claimed. Dr. Tilley said he misstated their ages, combined quotations taken from many children to appear as if they came from one speaker and attributed remarks said by a single speaker to larger groups.”

But, ironically perhaps, it was “Seduction of the Innocent” that had the truly profound impact on American culture, as it provided all the ammunition needed for petty tyrants and moral scolds who pushed the US Government to do something about all those pernicious comic books.
For the children, of course.
unnamed-1Facing a wave of attacks from the government, the comic book industry took a cue from the Motion Picture Association of America, and created its own preemptive censorship board known as the Comics Code Authority. The Comics Code established in 1954 laid out 19 criteria that comic books had to abide by. They include things like, “Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority,” and “Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.”
Naturally, this had a severe chilling effect on comic book publishing. Comic book sales plummeted. According to penciler/inker Joe Sinnott of Marvel Comics (Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Inhumans, The Avengers) by 1958, the industry had suffered so much that rates for the writers and artists had been cut in half. The hugely successful horror and mystery genre comics were gone, and what remained endured a period of creative stagnation while publishers figured out how to work within the new rules. Eventually, some independent publishers began ignoring the Code and produced some darker stories, but without the Comics Code Authority seal of approval, those books would never see the light of day on store shelves.
It wasn’t until 2001 that Marvel Comics finally abandoned the code, and DC continued to abide by it until just 4 years ago in 2010.
unnamed-2It’s important to understand here that while it was technically the industry “self-censoring”, it did so purely as a result of repeated threats from a government which had by that point a well-established history of censoring “undesireable” speech in numerous forms – a government, it should be remembered, that is legally constrained by the 1st Amendment, which expressly prohibits the creation of laws abridging the freedom of individual speech, or of the press.
Censorship is clearly alive and well in America. Even today, the United States is ranked a shocking 46th place on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, our public schools and libraries routinely ban books, and government-funded colleges severely limit speech on campus. Just a few years ago, we saw a hotly controversial Supreme Court case (“Citizens United”) to decide whether or not it was ok for the government to restrict the promotion and distribution of a documentary film simply because it was unfavorable to a prominent and powerful politician (Hillary Clinton) during an election year.
unnamed-3The restrictions on comic books, films, and other entertainment media are one small piece of a very scary picture where the government of the country which is supposed to be the beacon of freedom for the rest of the world is continually grabbing more and more authority to control what people say. A world where ideas and art cannot be shared if a vocal minority of nannies deems those ideas “unsuitable” is a world headed for collapse.
It’s good to know there are people like Charles Brownstein out there standing up for free speech.

7 Films for Jury Rights Day

For more than 20 years since founding it in 1991, the Fully Informed Jury Association has celebrated Jury Rights Day as our signature event on September 5 each year. Jury Rights Day commemorates the conscientious acquittal of William Penn, who stood trial in 1670 for violating England’s Conventicle Act by publicly preaching the Quaker religion. Although ordered to do so by the judge in the case and despite being imprisoned without food and water, jurors in this case steadfastly refused to convict Penn. A higher court later ruled with regard to this case that jurors could not be punished for their verdict.

This landmark case firmly grounded in English common law rights that were carried overseas by the colonists, including freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly, as well as the fundamental right of jurors to render a general verdict based on conscience, including setting aside the law when a just verdict requires it. This is most commonly known as jury nullification, and it is the right of all jurors in every court in our country to exercise it to uphold justice still today.

Our first Jury Rights Day was marked by activists across the country spending an hour outside their local courthouses distributing FIJA’s educational literature and answering questions to fully inform as many people as possible. This year we have 30 events taking place nationwide to help ensure that everyone has access to fully informed jurors when they need them. If you are not able to make it out to one of these outreach events, or perhaps after you attend one, why not invite a few friends over to celebrate with a movie night? Here are seven films that would be timely for a Jury Rights Day screening, wrapping up with the one that I will be watching this Jury Rights Day.

 

The Classics

Courageous Mr. Penn/Penn of Pennsylvania 

Originally titled Penn of Pennsylvania, this 1940s era black-and-white historical drama starring Clifford Evans and Deborah Kerr depicts the life of William Penn through the founding of the colony of Pennsylvania, including his famous 1670 trial, which is commemorated by Jury Rights Day. It is based on C.E. Vulliamy’s biography of Penn and reportedly was produced as a piece of British propaganda along with a series of other historical dramas to persuade the United States to join Britain in World War II.

I would like to be able to recommend this film wholeheartedly as the quintessential Jury Rights Day flick. But while it is adequate in covering the main points of Penn’s life, especially those related to Jury Rights Day, it falls rather short of what it could be, with characters who seem more like caricatures and a plot that plods along more as if churning out a stream of facts than telling a story. Nonetheless, it is rated 6.2 out of 10 by 65 IMDB users. It’s not unwatchable, and its plot is most apt for Jury Rights Day. If you don’t know the story of William Penn it will certainly be informative.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video.

 

 

Twelve Angry Men

Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, the classic 1957 film Twelve Angry Men is probably the most well known jury-related film. It consistently ranks on lists of the top films of all time. Lone holdout Juror 8, played by Henry Fonda, refuses to be rushed into rubber-stamping the prosecution of the defendant whose very life rests in the jury’s hands.

This film has some great lessons for potential jurors, including the intensity of the psychology and interpersonal dynamics during deliberations, the need to be skeptical of the prosecution’s case, the gravity of what is at stake for the defendant as compared to the minor inconveniences for jurors, and so on. The story told in this film is an excellent illustration of the message on FIJA’s home page that:
“The primary function of the independent juror is not, as many think, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by government.”

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and YouTube.

 

The Ox-Bow Incident

Make it a Henry Fonda double feature by pairing Twelve Angry Men with the Academy Award-nominated 1943 western The Ox-Bow Incident, a film adaptation of the Walter Van Tilberg Clark novel of the same name. There is no jury in this movie; rather, it is a film about just the opposite situation—the sort of “justice” that is delivered at the hands of an emotionally inflamed mob without the conscientious consideration of a jury. It makes a particularly stunning counterpoint shown back to back with Twelve Angry Men.

The film winds up with a stirring and timeless monologue on the law and conscience delivered by Henry Fonda. It is itself worth the price of admission and reads in part:
“Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out.  It’s everything people have ever found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity.”

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video.

 

The Modern Dramas

A Time to Kill

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sandra Bullock, this film adaptation of John Grisham’s first novel tells of the trial of a black man in Mississippi accused of murdering two white men who brutally raped and tried to kill his 10-year-old daughter. While some attempt is made by the defense to argue that the defendant was temporarily insane when he killed these men, it is presented more as something with which to give the jury an out rather than a defense that anyone actually believes. Rather, this is the story of a potential jury nullification case.

Usually when people think of jury nullification, they tend to envision the most obvious sorts of cases for conscientious acquittal—victimless offenses in which the state is trying to punish people who may have offended others’ sensibilities through their actions but who have not actually harmed anyone else or their property. In A Time to Kill, we are challenged to consider one of the tougher types of jury nullification cases in which the jury is asked to forgive someone who committed a real crime, but one with extenuating circumstances that might make strictly enforcing the law unjust.

Such cases are less common in real life, but are not unheard of. A few years ago, a jury acquitted a man who openly admitted to punching an elderly priest. In that case, the defendant said that he had only intended to confront the priest about sexual abuse he had inflicted on the man in his childhood, but things got heated and he lost control. A Time to Kill can open a conversation about the delicate balance between justice and mercy that jurors are asked to strike in unusual cases like these.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video and YouTube.

 

American Violet

American Violet is a 2009 dramatization of the real life story of Regina Kelly, winner of the ACLU’s Roger N. Baldwin Award for Liberty and one of scores of people arrested and charged in mass sweeps of poor neighborhoods, largely populated by people of color, in the town of Hearne, Texas. Falsely accused of being involved in drug trade, protagonist Dee Roberts is pressured to take a plea bargain even though she has done nothing wrong. Instead, she risks her freedom and her family and opts to fight back against the malicious and racist prosecutor’s office with the help of the ACLU not only in criminal court, but civil court as well.

This film is not so much about jury rights as it is a way to sensitize us all before we serve as jurors to the high pressure tactics used by prosecutors to get convictions, even against innocent people. When we sit on a criminal jury, we should have some idea of the dramatic odds against the defendant even being in the same room with us to begin with. More than 90% of criminal cases are settled without a jury, often with defendants pressured into plea bargains with threats ranging from more and more charges being piled up until they crack to the possibility of losing their kids forever. If they lose at trial, defendants may see prosecutors requesting particularly harsh penalties based in part on their assertion of their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to trial by jury, with the rationale that asking for a jury trial is evidence that they are not sufficiently remorseful about their offense to deserve mercy.

Jurors are often unhappy to be stuck in court being treated as herd animals and getting a pittance in compensation. Perhaps they were going on vacation this weekend. Or they don’t want to miss anymore work and have to catch up on it. Maybe there is a football game they want to get out of court in time to see. They may be in a hurry to do whatever it takes just to end the trial one way or another because it is an inconvenience. But I assure you that practically any inconvenience we face as jurors is NOTHING in comparison to the severe damage we can inflict in the lives of not only the defendant, but also the defendant’s loved ones and community if we do not give due consideration to our role in judging the facts of a case as well as the fairness of the law as it is applied in the case before us. American Violet helps illuminate just what is at stake.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video and YouTube.

 

The Documentaries

Bidder 70

In 2008 Tim DeChristopher disrupted a highly disputed Bureau of Land Management auction open only to certain corporate bidders for oil and gas leases, which the federal government itself would later invalidate as unlawful, of 116 parcels of public land in Utah’s red rock country. Outside the building where the auction was held, he felt that his efforts to stop it were insufficient so he ventured inside to see what more he could do. There he was invited to register as bidder 70 in the auction and won several parcels before the auction was shut down. Although it would later be invalidated as an illegal auction, DeChristopher would nonetheless be indicted for his conscientious act of civil disobedience. He pleaded Not Guilty to two victimless felony counts for violation of the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act and making false statements, choosing to take his case before a jury in hopes that they would consult their consciences and acquit him.

The term “kangaroo court” would not be too strong for this trial. The defense was:

-forbidden from arguing a necessity defense that DeChristopher was faced with choosing between two evils and that his actions resulted in the lesser of the two to avoid imminent harm where no legal alternative was available,

-forbidden from informing the jury that the lease auction itself was deemed unlawful,

-forbidden from informing the jury that DeChristopher had raised sufficient funds for an initial payment to the BLM (which the BLM refused to accept),

-forbidden from presenting a case to the jury that DeChristopher’s motives were grounded in his moral convictions, and

-forbidden from informing the jury about other cases in which bidders did not pay for pay for oil leases they won but were not prosecuted the way DeChristopher was selectively prosecuted.

Bidder 70 includes quite a bit of material explaining how and why the role of the independent jury was so shamelessly circumvented by the prosecutor and judge. Included on the DVD but not in any of the streaming versions I found is a post-theatrical opening question and answer session with DeChristopher. This is worth looking up on YouTube as DeChristopher gets into great detail on why the prosecutor was desperate to exclude jurors who might have been influenced by FIJA literature that was being distributed outside the courthouse. In Q&A DeChristopher makes the point that:
“I saw this huge power of conscience because at the same time I saw that any atrocity would be possible if people let go of their conscience, I also saw the U.S. attorney freaking out about this notion. He was representing the United States of America. He had the entire power of the United States behind him. That’s the power he represented, and he felt vulnerable to the power of citizens using their conscience. He felt like citizens exercising their conscience, when exercising their moral duties, that could undermine all the power that he represented. And so it was like these two extremes hinging on the power of conscience—that when people let go of their own moral agency, any atrocity was possible, but when people held onto their moral agency and had faith in the power of their conscience, that there was no power and no institution which couldn’t be affected by that.”

I often come across people who seem to want to have the courage to nullify unjust prosecutions, but who seem unwilling to do it without the government’s clear stamp of approval on jurors refusing to enforce the government’s own laws. To quote one of my favorite science fiction outlaws, Malcolm Reynolds, “That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.” There is just no incentive for government to give its subjects permission to disobey or refuse to enforce its laws. And that is why we have juries. They are to be an independent body that is not merely an agent of government but an outside arbiter of facts and law. There are many valuable words of wisdom in both the movie and the additional Q&A session about the need for jurors to act from conscience rather than abandoning their moral compass and mindlessly doing the bidding of the government.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and YouTube.

The Camden 28

“What do you do when a child’s on fire? We saw children on fire. What do you do when a child’s on fire in a war that was a mistake? What do you do? Like write a letter?” With these questions, Father Michael Doyle opens the documentary entitled The Camden 28. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan called this trial “one of the great trials of the 20th Century.” But have you heard of the 1973 trial of the Camden 28 Vietnam War protesters who broke into a draft office to destroy files of those being called up to fight in Vietnam? Most people have never heard of this remarkable case that began with every defendant openly affirming to their jury that they committed the acts of which they were accused and ended in mass acquittals on all charges against them.

This Anthony Giacchino film draws on historical documentation as well as modern day interviews of some of those involved in the Camden 28 trial to tell the story of the first anti-war trial of the Vietnam era to result in jury nullifications. Giacchino skillfully weaves together the intricate threads of this story from the planning and execution of this peace action, to its connections to other peace actions of the era such as the infamous Media, Pennsylvania burglary that exposed the FBI’s COINTELPRO agenda, to the mysterious informant who played a dramatic and surprising role in both their capture and the case in court.

The trial of the Camden 28 was remarkable not only in the overwhelming message sent by the jury through its Not Guilty verdicts, but also in the wide latitude allowed by the judge to tell the story as the jury needed to hear it in order to come to their verdicts. It is clear from motions in limine in modern day Plowshares trials of anti-war activists that prosecutors have studied the Camden 28 trial and know what information they must prevent the jury from having access to in order to secure convictions in these types of cases.

The Camden 28 is the film that I will be watching this Jury Rights Day. It is nothing short of a revelation of how our jury system was meant to work, and of how a healthy jury system operates. If you had told me a decade ago that I would one day be passionate about jury rights, I’d have thought you were off your rocker. But to see in action the extraordinary power of a few ordinary people to protect human rights and human life, to see their power to help steer the course of history away from a trajectory of great injustice, to know that we once had this and could have again practically overnight if we would each claim our right of conscience and exercise it—that is what makes me passionate about juries, and I hope that it does you as well.

Available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.

Kirsten C. Tynan is executive director of the Fully Informed Jury Association, a 501(c)3, non-profit, educational organization dedicated to fully informing everyone of jurors’ rights and responsibilities, including jurors’ traditional, legal authority to conscientiously acquit by jury nullification even though the law has technically been broken when a just verdict requires it.

 

The Reason Foundation is Hiring

logoThe Reason Foundation, at the forefront of liberty application in modern society, is now hiring in various fields of work. Open positions range from reporters and writers, to film and creative opportunities at Reason.tv, to policy analysts. The Foundation would provide an avenue for liberty-minded professionals and creatives to work in an environment that champions and cherishes the value of liberty. Those interested should click here for more information about the opportunities offered.

Taking Care of Business

For years, comedy has hit hardest in poking fun at the workplace. From catching a case of “The Mondays” in “Office Space” to the Jell-O based antic of Jim Halpert in “The Office,” there’s just something about poking fun at when our workplace is at its worst.

 

jim-the-officeBut for Great Work Cultures, it’s no laughing matter. This non-profit company noticed a recent Gallup poll stated that 70 percent of employees feel disengaged and planed to change the corporate mindset. They aspire to put a positive spin on the workplace by injecting it with a new norm of respectful workplace cultures to help boost worker effectiveness and happiness. And they’ve gotten some serious response.
This month, The Morning Star Packing Company became the lead supporting champion for Great Work Cultures. Morning Star, a tomato packing company, made it a point to practice a deeply respectful management system that caused them to be selected as the Management Innovator of the Year.

morningstar_large“As a Champion of Great Work Cultures, I hope to see business philosophies based on a bedrock of mutual respect go mainstream and maximize harmony and prosperity in the workplace,” stated Chris Rufer, Morning Star’s founder.

And Morning Star’s efforts have paid off. Last year one of their processing plants had a 100 percent return of their seasonal workers.

Rufer also says that they’ve made a commitment to values that allow for a self-managed workplace environment, or each colleague manages their mission absent directives from others.

“These values set the stage for working with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers, and industry participants within a framework of solid integrity and openness, in pursuit of voluntary and mutually beneficial transactions and relationships.,” he stated. “This is also something we encourage colleagues to adhere to in every other aspect of their lives. This pathway has been very rewarding for us as a company and as individuals.”

But Great Work Cultures also finds innovative ways to tackle the problem of the grueling work week. From utilizing work culture practices like Self-Management, High-Performance Work Places (HPWP), Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), and Holacracy (which Great Work Cultures is using for their governance structure) to using documentaries to show the reality of workplace practices.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out their website at http://www.greatworkcultures.org. And they’ll also be making an appearance at the World Workplace 2014, an expo for all things synergy that’ll be taking place in September.

Lights, Camera, Liberty, the Series: Part IV

This week we’re highlighting some work from the public interest legal organization the Pacific Legal Foundation based out of Sacramento, as we continue the Lights, Camera, Liberty series.

This particular video focuses on the recent legal battles of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a family farm who harvests organic oysters, providing local, sustainable good eats for Marin County, California. Check out the short video and commentary below to learn more about the case!


Albert Im, the media content producer for PLC, discusses his creative approach to telling this story,

We wanted to show the faces behind the people who are affected [by bad farming policy].

I really wanted to show the land and the different colors of the land since the case revolves around a nursery, and essentially, farmers.  These are people who works with their hands and have a feel for the earth.  I also wanted to them in action as they did their daily work.  

I tried to personalize the story and make it more universal so that people understand that this can happen to anyone and any business.  I wanted to tell the story about one family that’s fighting the government with the help of Pacific Legal Foundation, so that others out there who might be dealing with similar issues or problems don’t have to be afraid.

Lights, Camera, Liberty, the Series: Part III

Part three of our multi-part series (see here and here) comes from The Seasteading Institute. The San Francisco-based, Peter Thiel co-founded organization is doing exciting work in developing alternative, watery ways of living on earth. Seasteading has become an increasingly popular topic of intellectual discussion in recent years, and for those of you keeping up with HBO’s Silicon Valley, it has acquired a particular cultural je ne sais quoi.

In their words…

Seasteading is such a wide and deep subject it’s very difficult to sum up for people. The creation of this video is a lesson in how many complex technologies can be summed up by focusing on shared goals.

Joe Quirk, Director of Communications, on how the project came together:

Seasteaders gathered from all over the world at our Seasteading Conference in San Francisco in 2012. Even though I was a committed seasteader, I was astounded by the number of ideas from different industries for how to create floating civilizations on the seas. Nathan Green, who was charged with creating a video to capture the essence of seasteading, couldn’t see how he was going to make a video capturing two days of presentations on technical aspects of ocean law, ocean farming, maritime engineering, algal fuel, “bluegreen technologies,” and environmental cleanup. Then I gave a speech summing up what everybody was doing, and, Nathan said, “The video should be based on that speech.”

Then a truly collaborative process began among everybody at the Institute, as we worked to feature a dozen key speakers and their goals in less than three minutes. Working together, we created something that was more concise and elegant than 25 presentations by 25 experts.  We managed to sum up an effort we thought was impossible to [to do].

Lights, Camera, Liberty: A Series

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be posting videos submitted by participants in The Atlas Network’s “Lights, Camera, Liberty” program. Each member organization has been asked to share a short (in some cases, short-ish) video that they produced and best shows off their mission-in-action, as well as their filmmaking chops.

This week’s video comes from FIRE, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia.

 

 

Here’s FIRE discussing their video submission:

The mission of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

When Chris Morbitzer and his University of Cincinnati (UC) chapter of Young Americans for Liberty sought permission to gather signatures across UC’s campus for a time-sensitive, statewide ballot initiative, their request was denied. Morbitzer was told that if he and his group were seen gathering signatures outside of the school’s tiny and restrictive “free speech zone,” campus security would be called and they could be arrested.

“I think it is absurd that they were threatening to put me in jail for exercising what is a constitutional right,” says Morbitzer in FIRE’s latest video.

Dismayed that he might not be able to gather many signatures if he was confined to a free speech zone that comprised just 0.1% of campus, Morbitzer took a bold step: He sued his university.

“Me suing the university felt a lot like David versus Goliath,” says Morbitzer, “like, I stood no chance at all because, you know, I’m just a little student.”

On far too many campuses nationwide, universities unreasonably restrict students’ expressive activities to limited areas—so-called “free speech zones.” When challenged in the court of law and the court of public opinion, these zones routinely lose.

In this video, we chronicle Morbitzer and his student group’s fight against their school’s attempts to limit their speech. In the process, we examine the problem of restrictive free speech zone policies on and off campus—policies that exile would-be speakers to far off corners of their campuses or, in some cases, place protesters behind barbed-wire fences.

Puppycide: A New Documentary

 

Puppycide
Puppycide

Ozymandias Media has announced a new documentary that confronts a heartbreaking issue. Puppycide is a documentary currently under production that discusses a controversial piece of legislation that allows police officers to open fire on any canine they view as a potential threat. The law has led to countless cases of innocent and beloved pets being unjustifiably murdered.

The evidence is shocking, and the documentary is designed to inspire citizens to fight for legislative support. Some states have already developed legislation that requires officers to receive additional training in how to handle dogs deemed vicious or dangerous, but far too many still allow “puppycide” to run rampant.

A week ago, Inside Edition published a video investigating the issue. Reportedly, it is estimated that a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes. The statistic is appalling, and should cause each of us to question the validity of this law.

Below is the Puppycide trailer. We should warn you that it contains some graphic and shocking images. But it certainly makes us aware of just how cruel and common the act of puppycide really is.

Be sure to watch the entire documentary when it is released by Ozymandias Media.

The Flag Faux Pas

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican-American holiday designed to commemorate the causes of freedom and democracy. For most, it is simply another excuse to wear festive colors and drink tequila; but it has

Morgan Hill Protest
Morgan Hill Protest

become the cause of controversy and protest in Morgan Hill, CA. Today, some 30 protesters held American flags outside the doors of Live Oak High School in protest of a court decision made 4 years prior.

On Cinco de Mayo, 2010, four students were ordered to cover their shirts, which displayed American flags, in observance of the holiday. The demand led to a lawsuit, where an appellate court agreed with the school’s required observance. Today, several are still angered by the decision; feeling the ruling is in direct violation with their individual liberties (and, for that matter, the theme of “liberty” that is so fundamental to Cinco de Mayo itself).

It’s a sensitive issue, and we certainly hope that the raising of the American flag is in protest of the denial of personal freedoms, and not a protest to the celebration of Cinco de Mayo or Mexican culture. The incident is just another episode in the ongoing conflict between American liberties and political correctness/sensitivity.

Look to Your Left. Look to Your Right. Two of Those People are Copyright Criminals

It’s the digital revolution! Innovation is at an all time high because with every new piece of technology comes a new application to art, humor, literature, business, academia, and, yes, more technology. But Copyright-_all_rights_reservedin an age where so many old ideas are being revisited and improved, we face an interesting dilemma of personal property: the ever-controversial Copyright.

This week, George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, a prominent institution in market research, chimed in on the debate. Chapman University Law professor Tom W. Bell narrates a video that shows just how common copyright infringement really is.

Is the system in need of reform? As of now, it seems as though the law is applied on a case by case basis, which calls many of us to question its effectiveness. Most Americans are unaware of how often they violate the current Copyright system, which is why Bell and the Mercatus Center are calling for the law to be revisited. For more information on Bell and the Mercatus Center click here.

And for those of you who are wondering, yes, I did have permission to publish this piece.

Internships are great–but who can afford to take one?

Never work for free.”

This is (maybe) decent advice, which, in my own personal experience, has been most proffered by writers. Particularly successful writers. Writers who can demand not just a living wage for their work, but an enviable one. But most writers–or other creatives–looking to break into Hollywood are typically not in the position to demand any sort of monetary reward, decent or otherwise. (Unless you rent out your own sound equipment + time. Those guys are the unsung geniuses of Hollywood.)

Every year, a new crop of largely untested, unproven talent moves to Los Angeles with the hopes of making an impact on the industry. And every year, many–if not most–of them, hop from one lowly or unpaid gig from the other, telling themselves that what they’re getting in experience or exposure or connections more than makes up for their mounting credit card debt or unpaid student loans. It’s an incredibly burdensome gamble–one with merits, to be sure–made by those least in a position to do so. So why do they make it in the first place?

Hope. Dreams. Desire. For source material for a future tell-all ebook…. But also…

Because the establishment (which, for the purposes of this post includes agency mailroom workers and studio execs) tells them that this is how things work, and if you’re not willing to take that risk, there are 100 other people waiting to take your job–and they have the support of big media, too.

This is by no means a new attitude. Hollywood, like Washington, D.C., has run for years on the free labor of 20-something help. But the help is starting to fight back.

It’s an interesting tug-of-war, and some execs, frightened by recent lawsuits, have already started to adjust internship policies. I recently learned that the studio I once interned for (as part of a paid program) no longer admits people into their program unless they’re receiving college credit or have received funding from a sponsoring source. While I could still intern there, others that I met through the program–among which I count some good friends–would not. They’d be iced out. I, for one, never would have accepted my internship had I not been paid. I simply could not afford to turn down other work, in order to do script coverage and research for free. Regardless of the fact that it was for a great, successful studio.

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Plus, there are always opportunities to get an education in this town, and more and more, that means creating your own content and being your own boss. So I have to wonder how many other people, when faced with the choice to take a gamble on an unpaid position, ultimately miss out on what is still considered a great way to get your foot in the door.

So how do we change a clearly broken system?

Groups like Taliesin Nexus who sponsor internships, are, in my opinion, doing God’s work. They’re providing a third way that doesn’t trap people into making a professional Sophie’s Choice: my dreams, or my groceries? If you’re an executive in any sort of position to partner with programs that sponsor creatives, I urge you to consider the benefits of partnering with up and coming talent. After all, you get what you pay for.

Cronies Uber All of Us

A few weeks ago I traveled to DC.  I looked into renting a car but the prices that week were higher than usual for some reason.  So I decided to take a chance and for the first time (for me, anyway), use those ride-sharing services like  Uber or Lyft I’d been hearing so much about.  (I even used Wingz on the way to the airport.)

628x471Turned out I made the right choice.  Got to where I needed to throughout my visit, for less total cost than a rental or the same number of cab rides, and didn’t have to worry about parking.  Bonus:  I felt tantalizingly hip, in a Silicon Valley-nerd way.  (Which is a step or two below Hollywood-hip, but two steps above DC hip.)

Well, you can imagine how rental companies and, especially, cab drivers (who pay thousands for the right to drive in a given city) feel about these new services.  They’re busily doing their crony-capitalist best to limit, outlaw or garrote them through government regulation.  You can imagine which side cities, which earn millions every year from selling cab-driver privileges, come down on.

Enter Nate Chaffetz, a distinguished alumnus of Taliesin Nexus’s Filmmakers Workshop, who produced this short video on just such a political tussle in Seattle, where the city council is being arm-twisted by the cab industry into limiting the number of UberX drivers who can be on the road at the same time.

Watch as council members employ pretzel logic to explain why the cap they imposed on the number of Uber drivers is actually a good thing for Seattle consumers.

“This script needs more ObamaCare!”

That’s what Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s Senior Advisor, has basically been saying during her recent visit to Hollywood.  The president and his staff are attempting to get some marketing help from Hollywood with some good ol’ fashioned product placement. Because as a consumer, there’s nothing that makes me want a product even more than when it’s shoehorned into my favorite television shows!

Like any good citizen, I’ve come up with some of my own potential episode storylines. However, where Jarrett wants ObamaCare to be simply be mentioned positively, I think it’s a strong enough presence to be the primary focus of an A story on most shows.

Grey’s Anatomy

Due to the Affordable Care Act, Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital receives a surge in patients who would normally just “wait out” their illnesses.  Because the surgeons are all overbooked, none of them have time to sleep with each other and/or talk about personal problems all day.  This unrealized sexual and mental release takes a toll on the doctors, who all become hospitalized due to stress-induced illnesses.  Doesn’t sound like the end of the story, does it?  Yeah, because it’s the season finale cliffhanger. And there’s also like a nuclear bomb or something that’s going to explode inside the heart of a five-year old kid with Asperger’s.

The Big Bang Theory

THE BIG BANG THEORY
“We got bazinga’ed by ObamaCare!”

When Sheldon is diagnosed with a rare pre-existing condition known as “Sheldon Cooper Disease” his mother convinces him to register for ObamaCare.  Problem is the darn website just won’t work.  Sheldon takes it upon himself to redesign the whole website.  Unfortunately, the site is such a mess that it takes even a genius with 187 IQ too long to fix, and before he can figure out how to get it to work, he becomes the first to die from Sheldon Cooper Disease. (more…)

Brooklyn Boondoggle Saints

Remember how some New Yorkers got so upset about the Atlantic Yards Project, aka the Barclays Center, aka “Operation Relocate the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn Because Brooklyn is More Hip Than Jersey*,” that they decided to make a documentary about what would happen to the outer borough if the Project developers got their way?  And blah blah blah “eminent domain” / bold-faced illegal land grab / displaced persons–total snoooozfest. Because here’s what actually happened.

According to Deadspin:

In exchange for giving Forest City Ratner more than $300 million in public subsidies to build the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn (and that’s not counting additional tax breaks and below-market land), the developer promised to give back to the community, including affordable housing, and new railyards. Precisely none of that has materialized. The only tangible giveback to the community? A storage meditation room.

I honestly don’t know what Deadspin is whining about. A meditation room is the perfect place to come when you’re seeking refuge from record-shattering New York winters, or brainstorming where you and your family are going to live now that you’ve been kicked out of your home. Plus, there are only approximately 919 houses of worship in Brooklyn, so the meditation room was definitely needed.

Man, I love a happy ending. Now, will someone please get a security guard to unlock this room so I can rejoice (quietly, of course).

*As of this posting, the Brooklyn Nets are in second place in the weakest conference in the National Basketball Association. Which is still better than being in New Jersey, apparently.

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Homes used to go here. Now, more importantly, it’s where GQ has a barbershop.