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Published: Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2018 19:03:36 -0500


Soderbergh’s Messy Mosaic Jumps from App to HBO

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:00:00 -0500

Mosaic. HBO. Monday, January 22, 8 p.m. Mosaic's title is a bit of sly wordplay. Obviously it derives from the task presented by Steven Soderbergh's tale of murder in a small town—that is, to solve the crime. But something else needs to be pieced together here; namely, figuring out what the hell Mosaic is. A TV show? A video game? A digital version of one of those interactive dinner-theater murder mysteries? Though Mosaic is airing on TV for the first time next week, it's been around since last year as an app that allows viewers to direct the investigation themselves. Follow this clue or that. Pick the character whose perspective you wish the story to be told through. Check voicemails and emails between the suspects and the victim. Nothing you do will change the outcome—this isn't Clue, the 1985 board game movie that was shot with multiple endings—but it apparently alters a viewer's understanding of why things happened. I haven't used the Mosaic app myself. To me, the whole thing sounds like being invited to edit Soderbergh's rough cut without getting paid for it. Those who have tried the app mostly seem to regard it as an interesting experiment that ultimately fails, which is kind of what people thought about K Street, Soderbergh's 2003 HBO political drama shot with improvised dialogue rather than a script, except on that one, people used phrases like "utterly incomprehensible," "egregiously stupid," and "Soderbergh should be clubbed like a baby seal" in place of the word "interesting." As for Mosaic's merits as strictly a TV show—it airs five hours over three consecutive nights—they are mixed. Sharon Stone plays retired writer Olivia Lake, whose reputation and (dwindling) wealth rest on a single lucky punch thrown a quarter of a century ago: a children's book with multiple perspectives. It can be read as the story of a hunter trying to protect his family from a bear, or that of a bear trying to protect his family from a hunter. Advancing age has activated Olivia's cougar hormones, and she targets first a hunky young bartender (Garrett Hedlund, Unbroken) and then a charming corporate shark (Frederick Weller, Banshee) as romantic playthings. But it's not all clear who's zoomin' who. The bartender is a would-be artist looking for a patron; the suit, a bunco artist interested in separating Olivia from the deed to her mountainside estate. The multiple cons in Mosaic spin closer and closer, and a collision is inevitable. But when it comes, it's from an unexpected direction: Eric Neill, the corporate shark, declares his love for Olivia and confesses his scheming. Dominoes begin tumbling in all directions, some of them lethal. At times, Mosaic is a fascinating noir, especially when Stone is on screen. She hasn't always chosen roles wisely, but anybody who's seen her as the flighty mafia moll in Casino or the doomed woman on Death Row in Last Dance knows the extraordinary depth she can bring to the right film. It is on magnificent display in Mosaic. Some of the other members of the cast match match her, particularly Paul Reubens (yeah, that Paul Reubens) as Olivia's gay BFF and romantic strategist. Hedlund and Weller, on the other hand, offer flat and highly predictable performances that require the storyline to carry the show. Soderbergh's needless opacity—making viewers guess whether days, weeks or months have passed since the last scene is not mysterious, just confusing—sometimes renders that a difficult proposition. But a mosaic can't be judged until the last piece is in place. This one gains momentum as it moves along, and ultimately is an absorbing exploration of the complexity and incertitude of human relations. "I think kids' art is 100 percent a declaration of who they are," says Olivia of one of her philanthropic passions. "I think it's the last time we tell the truth." I don't know about kids, but don't expect the truth from anybody in Mosaic.[...]

America Shrugs at Trump Paying Porn Star to Keep Quiet About Old Affair

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:15:00 -0500

Americans have hardly seemed to care that the president probably had an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels and then paid her to keep quiet about it. Let's hope that keeps. "You're not crazy," tweeted The Takeaway host Todd Zwillich on Wednesday evening. "The married president of the United States had an affair with a porn star when his son was an infant, paid six figures for her silence, and in the final analysis, no one really cares." The lackadaisical outrage over these antics—which supposedly occurred in 2006, and were reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday—has spawned scoffing about how absurd our political frame has become. "Our government is so dysfunctional that we just learned the president probably paid thousands in hush money to cover up affairs with porn stars and it's, like, the 10th biggest news item," tweeted Vox Senior Reporter Zack Beauchamp, in another example of the genre. According to the Journal, porn actress Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 by Trump's lawyer in 2016 to keep quiet about a sexual relationship between Daniels and Trump in 2006—once he was already married to Melania and she had recently given birth to their son Barron. In Touch magazine subsequently reported that Daniels had talked to one of its reporters about the encounter back in 2011, but the story never made it to print. In a not-long-ago era, this story would have some striking potential and some sticking power. It would be weaponized against the president, and dominate cable news. It would require commentary from key federal foes and allies. People would care. People wouldn't let the opportunity go to waste. But compared to Trump's many more substantive sleights against American values and all propriety, and up against the many real and imagined ways his administration has perverted the democratic process, a consensual decade-old romp with a porn star hardly registers. Certainly, nobody is surprised. Maybe curious, but hardly scandalized. Bombshell allegations and and behavior that breaks all bounds of traditional presidential comportment are kind of Trump's thing. The idea that the Daniels story could fail to faze us can certainly be read as an indictment of Trump and his associates, even if one isn't specifically concerned about the sex or the settlement. But there's also something reassuring about our collective failure to be so scandalized here. Do we really want folks to be focusing more on this than the more ongoing and direct doings of Trump and his allies? Shouldn't it matter that Daniels (who had plenty of interested press) chose to accept settlement money rather than dish on her tryst with Trump? Isn't it nice not to have to endless news cycles devoted to something with ample prurient interest but little relevance to almost anyone's lives? Perhaps Americans have exactly the right level of not giving a damn about this.[...]

Why This Is TV's Golden Age!: Podcast

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:00:00 -0500

At the dawn of the TV era Americans could choose between one of three channels. Even cornball programs like "My Mother the Car" could command a percentage of viewership that would dwarf today's juggernauts on streaming video. Is America losing some of its unity as families quit watching the same Friday night lineups?"

"I think that's a lot of crap," says Glenn Garvin, a Miami Herald columnist and Reason's resident television critic. "…the explosion of television material that started with cable in the 1980s has been a grand thing. What if you don't want to watch "My Mother The Car," "The Rifleman," "The Beverly Hillbillies?"

Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Garvin about the future of television, and why we're living in its golden age. As viewership continues to fragment, the behemoth models of old are dying out, replaced by higher quality, bespoke programs. The future is long-tail.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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Are We Headed for a Government Shutdown over DACA?

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 13:40:00 -0500

(image) Today from 2-3:30 p.m. ET I will be guest-hosting on SiriusXM Insight channel 121's Tell Me Everything With John Fugelsang. In addition to talking up the latest in the Trump-media wars, I will interview the following guests about the following subjects:

* Slate Capitol Hill reporter Jim Newell, on the very latest with possible government shutdowns, negotiations over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), how Congress dislikes doing its job, and so forth. A recent headline from Newell: "The 'Crap Sandwich' Debate."

* Beloved skeptic Michael Shermer (Reason archive here), about his new book, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia.

* Daily Beast Senior Editor and consistent funny-person Erin Gloria Ryan, about the Great Ashleigh Banfield War of 2018, #MeToo agonizing, and maybe a bit of the ol' Stormy Daniels.

Please call in at any time to query the guests or heckle the host, at 877 974-7487.

Electric Dreams Is a Sci Fi Anthology Series That Warns Against Safe Spaces

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 08:30:00 -0500

Black Mirror got you down? Sci-fi enthusiasts should try out a similar yet less depressing new anthology series, Electric Dreams, which became available for streaming on Amazon Video last week. The series, based on the work of science fiction author Philip K. Dick and named after his famous novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is absolutely terrific. I've now watched all 10 episodes, each of which take on a separate and distinct sci-fi premise: a post-apocalyptic society, the breeding of artificial humans, an alien invasion, virtual reality, etc. The usual technology-is-going-to-kill-us-all themes pervade Electric Dreams, inviting comparisons with Black Mirror, an extremely popular British anthology series known for its deeply cynical treatment of mankind's reliance upon machines. But Electric Dreams restrains itself somewhat. Two of the episodes, "Autofac" and "Impossible Planet," introduce robots with seemingly sinister intentions, then complicate or outright betray those expectations by the stories' ends. And as far as humanity is concerned, the show's creators "have a lot more faith in the people" than Black Mirror does, observes The Verge's Noel Murray. Stories about corporations and governments harnessing powerful new technologies often invite libertarian questions, and Electric Dreams is no different. Most notably, the final episode, "Kill All Others," levels an obvious and timely criticism at the creeping totalitarianism of a government that loudly eliminates dissent while an apathetic populace shrugs and changes the channel. Another episode, "Safe and Sound," has a bunch of specifically libertarian axes to grind. (Minor spoilers to follow.) It stars Maura Tierney (The Affair) as Irene Lee, a political activist who leaves her home in a self-governed "bubble" within a futuristic United States to spend a year as an ambassador of sorts to a purportedly terrorism-prone major city. That no actual terrorist attacks have occurred is something widely known to bubble denizens, but people within the city receive a constant barrage of government-filtered news about barely thwarted attacks and threats of violence. Irene's daughter Foster accompanies her to the city, but finds it difficult to adjust to a new school, where outsiders are bullied for being potential terrorists. In a stroke of genius, the episode's writers make the school a metaphor for the absurdity of safe spaces. The students are surrounded by invasive and unnecessary security measures designed to make them feel both comfortable and protected from threats that aren't actually real. One student even complains that Foster's presence makes her feel unsafe. Later, when Foster begs Irene to buy her a "dex," a kind of iPad that doubles as a government tracking device—it would help her fit-in at school—mom objects on grounds that "I really don't want you to surrender what little freedom they allow you to have." Foster counters, "It's not a surrender, it's security. People need to know I'm safe." The villain of the episode is even a "so-called consumer rights advocate"; instead of warning customers that the dex is a threat to their privacy, the advocate is not-so-secretly working to making its use mandatory. The safe-space criticisms may have been too on the nose for some reviewers—Vulture's critic calls it "one of the most sneakily offensive episodes of television I've ever seen" for committing essentially two crimes: casting the mistreated outsiders (Irene and Foster) as white people, thus erasing the minority experience, and stoking a "kind of false-flag paranoia nonsense that's best left to Infowars." But that's a bad take. There isn't anything wrong with occasionally consuming a little fiction in which the people pushing safety are gullible, misguided, or outright evil. Episodes ranked, from best to worst: "The Commuter," "Safe and Sound," "Autofac," "Kill All Others," "Human Is," "The Father Thing," "Real Life," "Impossible Planet," "The Hoo[...]

The Handmaid’s Tale Author Margaret Atwood Accused of Crimes Against Feminism for Defending Due Process

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 13:10:00 -0500

In the first year of the Trump presidency, the Hulu television series The Handmaid's Tale—which concerns a dystopian future U.S. where totalitarian religious authorities subjugate women—became essential #Resistance viewing. Many saw parallels between the treatment of women within the universe of the show and President Trump's alleged history of abusive behavior. One might expect, Margaret Atwood, the author of the source material—the 1985 novel of the same name—would be considered something of a feminist hero. But now Atwood must counter charges that she is actually a "bad feminist," because she thinks the University of British Columbia denied due process to a male professor accused of sexual misconduct. "And now, it seems, I am conducting a War on Women, like the misogynistic, rape-enabling Bad Feminist that I am," wrote Atwood in an op-ed for The Globe and Mail. In 2016, Atwood joined dozens of other writers in signing a petition that called on UBC to release the records of its investigation into Steven Galloway, an author and chair of the university's creative writing program. Galloway was accused of sexual misconduct, but the details were fuzzy, and UBC's procedures for handling the complaint lacked even a semblance of transparency. Atwood has not taken a position on Galloway's guilt or innocence; rather, she believes the university was unfair to everyone involved in the dispute, and has made it impossible to determine the truth. (Galloway also lost his job.) As Atwood wrote: ...after an inquiry by a judge that went on for months, with multiple witnesses and interviews, the judge said there had been no sexual assault, according to a statement released by Mr. Galloway through his lawyer. The employee got fired anyway. Everyone was surprised, including me. His faculty association launched a grievance, which is continuing, and until it is over, the public still cannot have access to the judge's report or her reasoning from the evidence presented. The not-guilty verdict displeased some people. They continued to attack. It was at this point that details of UBC's flawed process began to circulate, and the UBC Accountable letter came into being. A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other. The signatories of the UBC Accountable letter have always taken this position. My critics have not, because they have already made up their minds. Are these Good Feminists fair-minded people? If not, they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world. Several prominent signatories recently removed their names from the petition because they didn't want to appear like they are on the wrong side of the #MeToo movement. Author Carmen Aguirre, a spokesperson for the petition's signatories, told The Globe and Mail that "for those of us who have chosen to keep our names on, I get the sense that we feel stronger than ever about the content of the letter, which for us was always about due process and never about questioning the claims." It's deeply unfortunate that due process has become synonymous with rape denial in the minds of some feminists. As Atwood made abundantly clear in her op-ed, due process is vital specifically because women deserve the same rights and status as men: I believe that in order to have civil and human rights for women there have to be civil and human rights, period, including the right to fundamental justice, just as for women to have the vote, there has to be a vote. Do Good Feminists believe that only women should have such rights? Surely not. That would be to flip the coin on the old state of affairs in which only men had such rights. Atwood [...]

American Crime Story Takes on Versace’s Murder

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 15:00:00 -0500

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. FX. Wednesday, January 17, 10 p.m. It doesn't take long for The Assassination of Gianni Versace to get to the point. When the neo-couture designer is shot in the face outside his Miami Beach mansion, perhaps five minutes into the show, one riff-raff-ista snaps a quick Polaroid of his dying body, then begins soliciting business at the top of his voice: "I have the only photo of Versace! The bidding starts at 30 thousand!" A few feet away, tourists are soaking napkins in his puddled blood, then sealing them in plastic bags, artifacts of the True Cross for the 20th century's most heartfelt religion, the cult of celebrity. If Federico Fellini had ever visited South Beach, the result might have been something like The Assassination Of Gianni Versace—a long, horrified gaze at the corrupting effect of celebrity, not just on those who possess it, but on the culture in which they dwell. Scarcely a moment this nine-episode miniseries—the second installment of Executive Producer Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story anthology drama—goes by fixing on images of the garish and grotesque: A psycho gay hustler dances around the soon-to-be-corpse of one of his tricks, smothering under a hood of duct tape bound around his head in what he expected to be a playful S&M ritual; wizened old men, pale pork bellies hanging over their speedo bathing trunks, wander the streets, peering into the seedy clubs where writhing bodies are wreathed in clouds of amyl nitrite. And in scene after scene—the hospital, the morgue, the mortuary—the stiffening cadaver of Versace lies omnipresently by, gaping bullet wound in each cheek, awaiting repair with mortician's foundation, the final artifice of a life dedicated to the artful concealment of fashion. The last season of American Crime Story, which retold with stunning acuity the story of O.J. Simpson's murder trial, also focused in part on the corrosive effect of celebrity, but mostly in the context of the criminal justice system. This time around, Murphy and his screenwriter Tom Rob Smith (who in 2011 was a literary sensation with his Child 44 trilogy of novels about a homicide detective in Stalinist Russia) have taken square aim at celebrity and the cozenage it almost inevitably breeds. The 1997 Versace murder is a perfect vehicle for their exploration. Both the Italian-born Versace and Andrew Cunanan, the spree killer who shot him, inhabited a sybaritic club world where sex was easy, drugs cheap and image the coin for both. Versace used his status as a fashion icon to attract a steady parade of awed young men to his mansion. Cunanan, with no real accomplishments to his name ("Nothing, I've done nothing my whole life," he admits in a rare moment of candor) but possessing an excess of easy charm backed by a superlative talent for lying, pursues his own quarry: older men with money and a fearful indisposition to resist Cunanan's violent streak. A chance encounter between the two in San Francisco is seemingly uneventful, but in time it sets them on an inexorable collision course. Murphy, as usual, has accumulated an excellent cast, including Penelope Cruz as Versace's dour sister Donatella, a weathered Ricky Martin as his weary party-boy lover D'Amico, and Judith Light (Amazon's Transparent) as the tightly wound wife of one of Cunanan's deeply closeted tricks. And Versace himself is capably played by Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez in his first major English-speaking role after a decade or so of bit parts. But this show is ultimately the loot in a strong-arm robbery by Darren Criss as the murderous Cunanan. Criss, who played an amiably handsome prep school boy in Murphy's high-school-musical series Glee, brings a terrifying intensity to his role as the preening, dissembling Cunanan. Whether he's befuddling random club acquaintances with blather about his spectacular (and entirely notio[...]

Matt Taibbi on Misogyny, the Left vs. Free Speech, and the Killing of Eric Garner

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 08:51:00 -0500

Few journalists have tossed more hand grenades or built more of a reputation for themselves than Matt Taibbi, who covers politics and culture for Rolling Stone when not writing bestselling books, such as Griftopia, Insane Clown President, and most recently I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street, a powerful account of the death of Eric Garner, who died in police custody after being arrested for selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island. In 2008, Taibbi won a National Magazine Award for his columns and commentary at Rolling Stone. With fame comes controversy. A 2005 piece for the defunct free weekly The New York Press was titled "The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope." It was denounced by everyone from Hillary Clinton to Matt Drudge to Michael Bloomberg to that paragon of good taste, Anthony Weiner. With the publication of I Can't Breathe last fall, Taibbi has come under attack in a wide array of places ranging from Twitter to Facebook to The Washington Post for work that critics say is flat out misogynistic and sexist. Taibbi has published at least two apologies about past work (much of which appeared in The eXile), but the firestorm has barely abated. He says that his support for Bernie Sanders throughout the 2016 campaign—even after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination—is part of what's motivating the attacks on him, and is leading to something approaching a media blackout on his book about Eric Garner. Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Taibbi about his new book, free speech and the left, the recent negative attention that his work has received, and issues on which progressives and libertarians overlap in powerful, if always uneasy, ways. Interview contents: 1:48 - I Can't Breathe and the Eric Garner case 9:55 - Cell phone videos and their effect on criminal justice reform 11:43 - New York City and the origin of "stop and frisk" policing 18:37 - George Kelling and the origin of "broken windows" policing 22:44 - Crime reduction since the 90s 32:15 - Erica Garner's activism and death 34:56 - How libertarians and progressives can work together 37:29 - Journalism and "the new anti-speech movement on the left" 44:04 - Political tribalism and third party candidates 48:23 - Russian politics and U.S. election interference 51:49 - The sexual harassment allegations against Taibbi and his view of #MeToo 1:00:35 - How to promote heterodox, independent thinking Edited by Justin Monticello and Todd Krainin. Camera by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton. "Blammo" by Podington Bear used under a Creative Commons license. Erica Garner, credit: Raffe Lazarian/ZUMA Press/Newscom George Kelling Photo, credit: David Swanson/MCT/Newscom DIEGO OGAVE Notimex/Newscom George Kelling Photo, credit: David Swanson/MCT/Newscom Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: So let's start with I Can't Breathe, which is immensely moving, powerful, and comprehensively reported account of the various social, cultural, legal, and law enforcement forces that left Eric Garner dead at the hands of the police in July 2014. Remind us of who Eric Garner was and why he was being hassled by the police on the day he died. Matt Taibbi: Eric Garner was this really interesting guy. He was an ex-con who was known in the neighborhood in Staten Island, not far from here, a place called Tompkinsville. He was a little bit older. He was 43 years old. He had a number of children, and he was for a living selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. Obviously, we have the highest consumption taxes in the universe- Gillespie: This is part of Bloomberg, right? Taibbi: Yeah, exactly. Gillespie: Bloomberg's legacy of 'I hate smoking, I'm going to raise taxes.' And Garner was part of a large group of people w[...]

The Chi Inverts The Wire to Excellent Effect

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 15:00:00 -0500

The Chi. Showtime. Sunday, January 7, 10 p.m. One detective is explaining the South Chicago facts of life—or death—to a naive colleague: Its criminal gangs function as a self-cleansing oven that hums along at maximum efficiency when left alone. "They'll eventually kill who needs to be killed, and we'll file the paperwork," the cop declares breezily. The Chi's goal is the subversion of that concept, and it's a mission gloriously accomplished. Full of characters who are neither gun-crazy gangbangers nor ruthless narcotraffickers, The Chi is a reminder that even in war zones, human life continues in all its giddy wonder. Created and largely written by Chicago native Lena Waithe (whose Emmy for an episode of Netflix's Master of None was the first ever award to a black woman for comedy writing), The Chi and its pockmarked urban environment at first glance seem a skillful imitation of The Wire. But instead of chronicling a drug gang and the way it molds a neighborhood into its image, as The Wire did with Baltimore, The Chi takes the opposite tack. It follows the stories of a handful of residents dodging and feinting their way between the gangbangers and cops, accepting the realities of their world without embracing them as they pursue something resembling normal life. At the center of The Chi's large and immensely talented ensemble class is Jason Mitchell (Mudbound) playing Brandon, a chef who daydreams about opening a restaurant of his own with girlfriend Jerrika (Tiffany Boone, The Following) while trying to slow the steady slide of his mother Laverne (Sonja Sohn, The Wire) in alcoholism. Ronnie (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Treme) is a scuffling drifter, caught between the worsening medical problems of his elderly grandmother and the emotional collapse of a girlfriend who lost a son in another inexplicable skirmish in the war on drugs. The profligacy of randy teenager Emmett (Jacob Latimore, Survivor's Remorse) has finally caught up to him, and he's doing an inner-city version of Dustin Hoffman's stormy Kramer vs. Kramer voyage of discovery through the perils of single fatherhood. And Kevin (Alex Hibbert, Moonlight), a kid intent on winning a role in a middle-school play, is learning that avoiding being drawn into the neighborhood's adult problems is a considerably more difficult task. The meandering paths of these characters mostly have little to do with narco guignol, and some of the most affecting scenes in The Chi could, with some different set-dressing, be dropped into any number of television dramas: Kevin's first, tentative flirtation with girl at his school; Ronnie's bleakly hilarious inability to corral his foul-mouthed mother; the kid at Kevin's school who keeps insisting to his disdainful friends that, "I'm husky, not fat." But if Southside Chicago's violence is not the central reality in The Chi, it's still a fact of life—and when it erupts, it does so with a terrifying suddenness whose effects linger and rebound. For all its sweetly mundane moments, The Chi's narrative is ultimately driven by a seemingly senseless murder that ricochets through the neighborhood, breaking bodies and lives. If the show is a declaration that life abides, it's also a reminder that evil compounds. When the neighborhood's toxins splash into the lives of Bandon and his girlfriend, she pleads: "I really need to know you're not gonna do some stupid-ass 'hood shit." But The Chi, there are no promises.[...]

Warning: The President Wants to Censor 'Fake News'! The President of France

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 13:45:00 -0500

President Donald Trump is commanding a lot of attention for his lawyers' attempts to scare Michael Wolff and Wolff's publisher out of releasing Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. This attempt to censor the press definitely deserves our attention and condemnation. But if their threats against Wolff stand out, it's not because there's something new about politically powerful people trying to suppress reports that make them look bad. The only norm Trump is breaking here is the one that says not to be so openly self-serving about it. If Trump had the sense to act as though his calls for censorship were about "preserving democracy," he'd be in much better shape. That's exactly what's happening in France. French President Emmanuel Macron, like Trump, is not happy about "fake news." Like Trump, he wants to stop it. But unlike Trump (so far), he's trying to use his power as president to actually censor the internet. Macron claims that he merely wants to protect the people from "fake news" during elections. The Guardian reports: In his new year's speech to journalists at the Élysée palace, Macron said he would shortly present the new law in order to fight the spread of fake news, which he said threatened liberal democracies. New legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Under the new law, websites would have to say who is financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped. For fake news published during election seasons, an emergency legal action could allow authorities to remove that content or even block the website, Macron said. "If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules," he added. Is it really liberal democracies that Macron wants to protect? The Guardian notes that Macron faced fake news stories during his presidential campaign that accused him of hiding funds in offshore accounts. Like many Hillary Clinton supporters in America, he claims that Russia-linked outlets spread propaganda to harm him. All this suggests that what Macron really wants to censor is "fake news" that threatens his political fortunes. Fake claims during political campaigns are hardly new. They're less a "threat" to liberal democracies than they are a natural, albeit frustrating, side effect of having campaigns in the first place. Meanwhile, there's not much evidence that "fake news" has had much of an impact on election outcomes. A new report from a trio of political scientists found that in the run-up to the presidential election in America, one out of four people who participated in their study had visited a site with fake news stories. But only a much smaller number, 10 percent, were regular consumers of fake news—mostly older, more conservative voters who weren't likely to vote for Hillary Clinton in the first place. While the report was not able to determine whether people actually believe the fake news the read, what did seem to be clear is that people's exposure to fake news seemed to track their desire to consume news about the candidate they already supported. The fake news was a complement to the rest of their news consumption. The fake news told them what they already wanted to hear, which probably tracks the experiences of anybody who has had a Facebook friend post a link to a report that was obviously false. There's something particularly reprehensible about trying to connect the preservation of democracy with the censorship of speech that makes a candidate look bad, regardless of whether that speech is true or false. Given the absence of evidence that fake news stories have been tipping elections, Macron's actions have the same whiff of self-preservation as Trump's. Macron is hardly alone. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has threatened to use her position as a lawmaker to forc[...]

Regulations at 'Lowest Count Since Records Began Being Kept in the Mid-1970s'

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 13:15:00 -0500

As the economy and stock market continue to chug along nicely, many analysts and presidents are giving at least partial credit to the Trump administration's aggressive regulatory reform efforts. Dow just crashes through 25,000. Congrats! Big cuts in unnecessary regulations continuing. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018 Unsurprisingly, this is driving some commentators insane. "Trump's Deregulatory Binge Makes the Bush Years Look Like Stalinist Russia," runs the headline in The Daily Banter, a website that was "started in 2007 when Editor in Chief Ben Cohen got fed up with watching the corporate news not doing its job properly," and that further claims "not do viral content" or "trick readers with misleading headlines." (Cohen's misleading subhed, by the way, begins: "The Bush years were characterized by a deregulatory binge that saw deep cuts to virtually all aspects of government with little to no reasoning behind them," despite the fact that people who actually study this stuff will inform you that Bush increased the reach, budget, and staffing of the administrative state—including on financial regulation—at a far greater clip than his Democratic predecessor, while overseeing an eight-year government spending bender.) An infinitely better reported, yet ultimately even more unintentionally amusing effort came in Monday's New York Times, which contained plenty of now-hold-on-there sentences like "The evidence is weak that regulation actually reduces economic activity or that deregulation stimulates it," and "There is little historical evidence tying regulation levels to growth," and "Regulatory proponents say, in fact, that those rules can have positive economic effects in the long run, saving companies from violations that could cost them both financially and reputationally." Why is that funny? Because much of the rest of the article is composed of quotes and data from actual business humans about why they're investing so much more money during the Trump presidency. Stuff like, "That [regulatory] burden has slowed down economic growth, it's slowed down investment in infrastructure [in the past]. And what we've seen over the last year is a big deregulatory environment." The preponderance of feel-good evidence is such that the Times headlined the piece "The Trump Effect," and began it with these two almost startlingly upbeat paragraphs: A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly. While business leaders are eager for the tax cuts that take effect this year, the newfound confidence was initially inspired by the Trump administration's regulatory pullback, not so much because deregulation is saving companies money but because the administration has instilled a faith in business executives that new regulations are not coming. As you can imagine, this conclusion by the Gray Lady could not stand. "The front-page story is so egregious," thundered Think Progress, "that one of the the paper's leading columnists, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, eviscerated it in a series of tweets on Tuesday morning." You should always take bold assertions of political cause and economic effect with massive grains of salt, particularly at a time when almost the entire global economy is doing pretty well in unison. You can, however, make at least some preliminary measures of Trump's regulatory reform activities. And what you see there will indeed make a progressive recoil and a libertarian smile. As the year closed out last week, the deregulators over at the Competitive Enterprise Institute took a look at the final page- and r[...]

Black-ish Spinoff Grown-ish Really More of a Rip-off

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 15:00:00 -0500

Grown-ish. Freeform. Wednesday, January 3, 8 p.m. After nearly two decades of journeyman work on mostly forgettable TV shows—literally; does anyone remember I Hate My Teenage Daughter, canceled after two episodes in 2012?—Kenya Barris suddenly stood the industry on its head in 2014 with Black-ish, a sitcom about an upscale black family in which race is not ignored but actually acquires the status of a character as the family struggles with the question of whether being bougie is compatible with being black. Since then, everybody has been waiting to see if Barris had another big idea. And with the debut of the spinoff Grown-ish, we have the answer: Yes—to steal The Breakfast Club, lock, stock, and teen-angst barrel. In 1985, director John Hughes' The Breakfast Club was the latest of an emerging genre of what might be termed intra-generational rap films, in which the members of various age cohorts whined to one another that life was disappointing them. The Big Chill had the slouching-toward-middle-age Baby Boomers and their first intimations of mortality; St. Elmo's Fire, the front edge of the Gen Xers and their first intimations of working for a living. The Breakfast Club was for teenagers. It featured five archetypal kids—a pampered princess, a jock, a nerd, a rebel, and an outcast—marooned together in a Saturday-morning detention, little by little realizing that they're all concealing secrets and vulnerabilities under their labels. "We're all pretty bizarre," observes one. "Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all." In Grown-ish, the high school kids have turned into first- and second-year college students, including Zoey, the eldest daughter in Black-ish (played by Yara Shahidi). The detention hall is now a class that runs from midnight to 2 a.m., taught by a mostly absentee adjunct professor with an erotic fixation on drones and attended almost exclusively by whores and methheads. And the kids' secrets reflect that three decades have passed; overbearing dads have been replaced by drug-dealing and manipulative moms by closeted bisexuality. Other than that, Grown-ish is a cell-by-cell clone of The Breakfast Club and its celebration of sophomoric melodrama, where cynical wisecracks inevitably give way to mock profundities, shouting matches to hyperemotive tears, and clichés to stereotypes. (Or maybe that one is the other way around.) The wholesale piracy is so blatant that Grown-ish even tries to make a joke or two about it. But the admission that you're stealing somebody else's work doesn't make it any less larcenous. Making a doppelganger of an endearing if adolescent movie, however pathetic from a creative standpoint, might at least make the cash registers jingle-jangle satisfactorily, especially when it airs on ABC's Freeform, a cable net pitched to high-school and college-aged audiences who are about as likely to have watched a 1985 film as they are to have read Plutarch in the original Greek. But a kleptomaniacal heart isn't the only or even the main problem with Grown-ish. Unlike its progenitor Black-ish, which sparkles with anarchic wit, Grown-ish feels forced, populated by stock characters reading lines delivered on a sweatshop assembly line. A more talented cast would have stabbed itself in the collective eye before speaking aloud sentences like, "The one thing I didn't know about college—that I'd never admit to my dad or anybody else—was that in all actuality, I would soon discover that I didn't know anything." Instead, these actors embrace another part of the script: "The more we cried, the more we realized why we stumbled into this crazy class." Yeah, the paycheck.[...]

Reason Passes 100 MILLION Plays at YouTube; Come See What You're Missing!

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 11:10:00 -0500

I'm ecstatic to announce that Reason TV, the video platform of Reason, has surpassed 100 million views on YouTube. To be exact, as of this writing, we're at 100,370,709 views (and 285,498 subscribers). Thanks to all of the incredible video producers who make the content and thanks even more to all of you who watch our documentaries, interviews, viral videos, and song parodies. One of our main goals with our videos is to reach new and younger viewers, so I'm happy to report that fully 57 percent of our YouTube audience is below the age of 35 and that we've pulled 23.3 million views in 2017 so far, up from 15 million views in 2016. When we first launched Reason TV in October 2007, we had no idea of what the future held in terms of online video. To be fair, neither did anyone else, a reality that persists to this very day. Over the past year, a number of highly touted sites made a conscious "pivot to video" that accomplished nothing more than driving down the audiences for publications such as Mic, Mashable, and Buzzfeed. The idea of a video platform at came about when TV and comedy legend Drew Carey, a longtime reader, approached us with the idea. Our print mag and online articles were great stuff, he said, but didn't always connect emotionally, viscerally, and visually with readers. The price of the tech needed to make great-looking stuff had dropped so much that video was no longer the province of giant media corporations with deep pockets, explained Drew. Nearly free distribution via the web gave us a potentially global audience, he continued, so let's put on our show. We trained up a staff basically from scratch and debuted "The Drew Carey Project," a series of short-form documentaries reporting on topics from legalizing pot to selling human organs to the wonders of online worlds such as Second Life. "We need Reason to help fight the stupid drug laws, the stupid immigration laws, and stupid big government in general," Drew told The New York Times during the launch of Reason TV. The very first Drew Carey doc, "Congestion," showed proven ways to fix traffic congestion in Los Angeles and other big cities and features a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride for a lucky commuter. Eventually, there was "Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey: How To Fix the Mistake on the Lake and Other Once-Great American Cities," which was nominated for a digital National Magazine Award, inspired a special issue of Reason magazine, and generated an invite for Drew to address his hometown's city council (see episode 10 in the playlist below). src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> Over the years, our most-popular videos cover issues as varied and eclectic as the regulations killing the "tiny house" movement, the Transportation Security Administration's insane list of banned travel items (avocado good, guacamole strictly forbidden), and the most unbelievable border patrol checkpoint ever captured on film. Go here to check out our archive of over 2,500 videos, listed from most-watched to least-watched (that would be this 2008 interview I did with the editor of the great publication The Week). For most of that time, the video platform has been in the capable hands of Managing Editor Meredith Bragg, who not only helps write, shoot, and produce our insanely funny and popular parodies of Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and other shows, and collaborates with our in-house superstar Remy, he also created our second National Magazine Award finalist video, "UPS vs. FedEx: Ultimate Whiteboard Remix": src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" f[...]

Glenn Garvin’s Best Television Shows of 2017*

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 15:00:00 -0500

Yeah, the fall TV season was an utter dog in which Delta Force clones killing Muslims were indistinguishable from SWAT teams shooting teenage mutants, and the new sitcoms, to draw on the scathing critical zeitgeist of my childhood. were all about as funny as a stop sign in a polio ward. And Roger Smith and Adam West died. But there were salutary developments, too, none so thrilling as the news that Netflix is developing interactive series in which the viewer gets to change the plot line as he pleases. So far they've only tried it in cartoons, and I'm dubious it will go much further—reshooting each scene five or six times to accommodate the whims of different viewers will make slow production to a crawl and make shows insanely expensive even by Netflix standards. (We'll get to that in a minute.) Imagine an episode of Homeland where half of America is watching Carrie break open an ISIS cell led by Barack Hussein Obama, while in the other half ISIS has morphed into a KGB station run by Donald Trumpski? Why should Facebook get all the fun of setting us at one another's throats? Other proclamations of seasonal glee, though, may be premature. Lots of programmers (who want to keep the supply of TV shows down in order to force Nielsen ratings—which are mostly expressed inside the business in terms of audience share—to rise) and critics (whose supposed power as gatekeepers is threatened if there are too many shows for them to keep track of) are insisting that 2017 is the year that television imploded under the weight of the vast supply of shows generated by cable TV and streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. The increase in shows is real enough. Discarding children's programming and unscripted reality and competition shows, about 500 original series were available on TV this year, more than three times the norm of 100 to 150 just a few years back. And overall ratings are down by some measures, though the dip may have more to do with imperfect Nielsen technology in tracking cord-cutters, viewers who watch streaming services rather than cable or broadcast. But the most-employed argument that the TV programming bubble has burst is Netflix's cancellation of two of its highest-profile shows, Sense8 and The Get Down. Yet those shows died mostly because of their gaudy production costs: $12 million an episode for The Get Down, $9 million for Sense8. No television business ecosystem, past or present, can support those kinds of budgets. "A big expensive show for a huge audience is great," said Netflix programming boss Ted Sarandos at an industry conference earlier this year. "A big, expensive show for a tiny audience, it's hard even in our model to make that work very long." At some point, when human beings have evolved past eating, drinking, and having sex and do nothing but lie on their couches like giant bloated ticks watching television, TV programming will at last reach a saturation point, because there are only so many hours in a day. But there's no evidence we're anywhere near that point yet. And even if we were, you could still watch my choices for the year's 10 best shows: (tie) The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Lucifer (Fox) and Preacher (AMC). Disaffected geeks continue to resentfully refer to The Big Bang Theory as abusive "nerdface." But until somebody identifies an actual Cal Tech physicist with a wife who looks like Kaley Cuoco, I'll continue to believe it deserves a National Association for the Social Advancement of Nerds Image Award. Lucifer's theological change of focus this season, portraying God and his angels as a dysfunctional family of superpowers, kept it funny and original, while Preacher suffered slightly—but only slightly—at being reset from a hardscrabble L[...]

#MeToo + Trump-centric Partisanship = Smear Job

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 16:36:00 -0500

Take a close look at this Daily Caller tweet, particularly the stock photo used to illustrate the article: Editor Who Bashed The GOP Just Got Fired For Alleged Sexual Harassment — The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) December 20, 2017 The casual reader can be forgiven for inferring that the editor in question put his mitts on a gal's sensitive bits without her permission. And yet, as Shikha Dalmia has laid out here in her infuriating piece on fired Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson, the alleged sexual harassment in question—which was only investigated after a loose allegation from a pissed-off supporter not of Donald Trump but of disgraced Democratic congressional lifer John Conyers—did not involve any physical contact whatsoever, according to what we know so far: The Freep's fishing expedition eventually turned up two interactions that HR decided were inappropriate. Both occurred in social situations outside of the workplace. One involved a "sexually themed" conversation and another an interaction with someone who was his co-equal in another department. We don't know much more besides that. And while obviously some graphic or threatening "sexually themed" conversations with colleagues would indeed be grounds for termination, that really shouldn't be the case here. After all, neither woman, according to Henderson, ever filed a complaint against him or even wanted the company to take any action, a version of events that Freep and its parent company, Gannett, has not disputed….WDET [a local public TV station where Henderson also works] has conducted its own investigation and come up empty, and is therefore not nixing Henderson's show. Henderson characterized that second interaction thusly: "a co-worker who was a manager in another department reported two rejected advances that she said made her uncomfortable." That's his version, granted, but it sure doesn't sound like a grope. Weaponizing something as potent as the #MeToo movement is inevitable. (The Conyers ally who first accused Henderson, Rev. W.J. Rideout III, also pointed the finger at local WXYZ-TV anchors Steven Clark and Malcom Maddox, the latter of whom has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Rideout himself was then suspended indefinitely by 910 AM Superstation, where he has a show, for making unsubstantiated allegations.) The motives for weaponizing will be varied—ranging from a pure desire to right wrongs, shield future victims, and create a better workplace culture, to an impure attempt to punish rivals, remove expensive employees, and secure financial gain. The best way for the rest of us to avoid advancing particularly the latter phenomena is to pay close heed to the quality of evidence, respect due process when it applies, and avoid letting our own priors govern reaction. Alas, with the state of our Trump-centric politics and polarization, resisting that temptation may prove too arduous. Hence grossly inaccurate sexual-assault art in the Daily Caller, and headlines like this, from the American Thinker: "Vicious anti-Trump, anti-conservative Pulitzer-winning columnist and editor fired." Meanwhile, as former Reason editor Virginia Postrel illustrated Tuesday in a terrific and subtle Bloomberg View column keying off the resignation of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge (and libertarian legal favorite) Alex Kozinski after serial accusations of sexualized workplace impropriety, the rapid changes in workplace norms, however positive they might be, will inevitably produce victims who intended no harm. Excerpt: [A] hang-loose norm that tolerates pornography, bawdy talk and sexu[...]