Give give a damn

When I was a boy living in New York City I collected a few things  in a red circular Kodak film canister. I think it was made of aluminum. One of the things in this can was a cloth patch, white type against a black background, which read ‘Give a damn’.  I thought it was a pretty cool slogan so I kept it.

Now, many years later and with the advent of YouTube, I finally have learned what it meant. It was a social initiative in the 1960s trying to help impoverished people of color in New York City.   The commercial below is pretty provocative for its time and gets one thinking.   It might be nice to see such messages on our airwaves instead of the same car commercial repeated 40 times a day…

 

 

TMZ Exposed

Harvey  Tom Ashbrook had an interesting segment on his radio program On Point today featuring Nicholas Schmidle, the author of a New Yorker piece about TMZ, the TV show.  TMZ, a historic acronym for Thirty-mile Zone, was used to identify a 30-mile  radius from the intersection of  Beverly Blvd and La Cienega Blvd in L.A.  At one time this point was the headquarters of AMPTP, the negotiating body for many studio management dealings.  The term referred to The Industry’s desire to keep TV and movie productions within the ‘zone’ to keep expenses down.

TMZ is now widely known as the name of a TV program that specializes in celebrity reporting. Founded by Harvey Levine, the show features a group of ‘reporters’ talking with Levine about the day’s news – all of it pertaining to famous people, most of it embarrassing for the person being reported on.  TMZ made national news when it reported on Mel Gibson’s arrest in Malibu a number of years ago.

Because entertainment news is so damned interesting to so many Americans, the program has grown in popularity and influence.  Now being likened to a modern day FBI (which stems from former FBI head J. Edgar Hoover’s penchant for gathering dirt on his favorite targets to be used as blackmail) it is interesting to learn how Levine and his entourage encourage sources to spill on almost any topic (from haircuts to break ups).  Paying sources money is different from more traditional news sources and apparently helps to reveal some things that would ordinarily stay under wraps.

Schmidle, who researched his piece over two years, reports on the tactics and results that have evolved over the 11 years TMZ has been doing their thing.

Read his piece, entitled The Digital Dirt, here:  http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/22/inside-harvey-levins-tmz

 

 

 

 

 

WTF WSJ?

Perhaps you were entertained by reading Saturday’s editorial in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The piece castigated Ben and Jerry’s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the famous Vermont ice cream makers, for donating tubs of ice cream to Bernie Sanders’ campaign.  Comparing it to super PAC money and the likes of the Koch Industries (Texas brothers)  and Las Vegas’s Sheldon Adelson, the Journal  went on to lament that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and all regulations pertaining to political contributions should be removed.

The paper has long been known for somewhat extreme right wing political positions  but this piece made them look just plain silly.   I figure that the entire editorial board was on vacation  and that some GOP operative seized upon the opportunity to slam the Democrats.

A link to the piece below won’t do you much good unless you have a subscription:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/bernies-ice-cream-stand-1454026469?

 

 

 

 

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You’re going to carry that weight

imageToday’s LA Times has a good piece about Juan Romero, the 17-year-old bus boy who cradled Robert Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel  47 years ago.  Romero, has been haunted by The experience for decades having only recently emerge from a sense of responsibility he shouldn’t have had to bear.

Kennedy, who Ramiro had delivered room service to days earlier, helped to make the young Latino immigrant feel better about himself, which he tried to repay on that fateful day.

http://http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0830-lopez-romero-20150829-column.html

What the Hell?

It’s often advisable to watch the last few episodes of any successful series because they often contain memorable content (saving the best for last). To that end, I’ve been watching The Daily Show because this is the last few episodes that Jon Stewart will be host. After sixteen years, he is hanging up his spurs.

In short, I’ve not been particularly impressed with this week’s offerings. Two weeks ago he had the President – last night he had Dennis Leary.

Oh well.

One thing that did catch my attention was an ad from the Freedom of Religion Foundation. Although the ad is over one year old, most Americans have not seen it.  That changed a bit when it aired at the end of last night’s Daily Show. Featuring Ron Reagan Jr., son of President Ronald Reagan (The Great Communicator) it was striking in its directness.  I’ll let it speak for itself.

A Tipping Point?

I am CharlieThis week’s attack on the offices of the Paris based magazine Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the murder of 12 people, followed by the dramatic firefight that ended the lives of the two alleged murderers again pits mainstream Western culture v. radical Islam. On the one hand, freedom of speech allows anyone to say or write practically anything freely; on the other, a thinking that severely limits it.

The two orphaned brothers who plotted and executed the assault on Wednesday had traveled to and trained with Al Qaeda operatives who’s strategy is to seemingly wish to take society back to the dark ages. Any dissenters are eliminated.

This continues a disturbing trend where violence in many forms steals headlines nightly around the word: from two year old children accidentally shooting their mothers by reaching into a purse while in a shopping cart, to the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of of children in the Central African Republic to the beheading of people while on camera. The list goes on for miles…

What’s disturbing is that while humanity ambles it’s way forward, there a large tracts of people who wish to ‘get medieval’ upon those who disagree with their way of thinking. Where is the love and happiness that Marvin Gaye sang about a generation ago?

In last week’s issue of The Economist, a story entitled Bangers v. Bullets says that the Center for Disease Control reports that if recent trends continue, this year deaths by guns will overtake deaths on the road for those under 25 years of age.

The only possible positive result of all the death and suffering caused by violence worldwide is that it may, at some point, act as a catalyst for the vast majority of people to stand up and say enough is enough – violence is not acceptable in any form and we as a species must end it.  How is the larger question, when being less so.  Let’s say NOW to that.

The (Progressive ) Party’s over

SFBG cover

Today came the news that the San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly newspaper published its last edition. It’s yet another sign of a changing time.

Established in 1966 by Bruce Brugmann, who served as editor and Publisher for many years, it was one of the first and most authentic alternative weeklies to exist in North America.  Throughout the years, the SFBG was a champion of the people, fighting wrongdoing by politicians, corporations and the greedy.  It was also one of the reasons why I went into the newspaper business.

As a tadpole back in the 1980’s I remember sitting in the lobby of the Guardian waiting to meet Bruce – at the time I was in ad sales and was working with a group of others to develop a group network so that we could approach major and national accounts who needed multi-market solutions to their advertising needs.  After a short wait, Bruce walked out of the back offices with Senator Alan Cranston at his side – the two shook hands, slapped each other on the back and off the Senator went.  That  left an impression on me that lingers still.

Whether fighting PG&E on their plans to raise rates or degrade the environment or telling Willie Brown that he’s not always right, the Guardian told it like they saw it every week, irrespective of how it would affect their business.  They were in it for the readers.

Bruce Burgmann

For many years, Bruce had Tim Redmond, who was a pit bull of news in the Bay area, as the paper’s editor.  But Bruce, and his wife Jean Dibble (who was the operations maven of the newspaper) were more than involved in every aspect of the operation, they were committed.

They were sued and sued back many a foe, sometimes winning, sometimes losing (at least when it came to having to pay attorneys) but always with a positive, determined outlook.  They knew that what they did mattered.

 It was during a time when newspapers had swagger, Bruce loved his martinis and to chat about the news of the day.  He also used creativity to get his point across – the Read My Paper Damn It campaign a while back put Bruce’s face all over The City.

I’ll miss the paper, not in its recent anemic and pablumated form but in its historic incarnation, which was that of championing the rights of people and of causes that were important to the Bay Area.  The town won’t be the same without it.

 

Kick ’em when their down

Sterling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting cover story this past Sunday in The L.A. Times about Donald Sterling’s advertising campaigns, touting his foundation and the donations made to worthy causes. This story has been a long time in coming and begs the question as to why Times’ writers have not explored this before. The obvious reason: ad dollars.

One of the reasons why such donations are made is to keep in good graces with those who would normally air dirty laundry about Mr. Sterling and his enterprises. One of the reasons why such ads are placed is to keep the hounds of inquiry at bay who might normally be asking the tough questions about such purported philanthropic donations. “The most beautiful apartments in the world?”  Millions of dollars benefiting minorities, kids and others?

It appears that the Los Angeles Times either swallowed these hook, line and sinker, or was enamored of the significant ad dollars such ads generated to the point whereby such investigation would prove financially disadvantageous. Since being exposed, Mr. Sterling is unlikely to continue with such puffery in print, so now is the time to let the cat out of the bag. Better late than never I guess…

Agnotology – Sewing the seeds of ignorance

In Sunday’s L.A. Times, Michael Hiltzik writes about the ever evolving culture of ignorance, in the media, to win the hearts and minds for insidious reasons.  The piece cites Stanford professor Robert Proctor, a leader in the field of agnotology  (the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data).  Proctor, who has studied famous propagandists from the Nazi party to big tobacco, the attack on Obamacare to the immunization hysteria , shows how the message and the messenger can lead large swaths of people to believe the unbelievable, by design.  “You need to teach (children) that some people lie…And why do they lie?  Because some people are greedy.”

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” ~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan

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Shoot when the ducks are flying

Phil Robertson

There’s been quite a flap (pun intended) over the comments of Phil Robertson, senior beard on the A&E hit television show Duck Dynasty. It appears that Mr. Robertson said some bigoted and racist things, was reprimanded and temporarily suspended by the network for that, and was quickly reinstated once he apologized (and the network learned that the rest of the Robertson family would rather walk than go on without their beloved dad on TV with them).

How TV like this generates $80 million in ad sales revenue in nine months and more than $400 million the series has generated overall in merchandise sales is beyond me. Then again, I may give the public too much credit for their intelligence.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes a good piece is the Pasadena Weekly on the topic.
http://pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/search/?category=1

Lessons learned:
Many people still harbor racist/homophobic opinions, some are even willing to say so in public.
Money wins over correctness too often.
Controversy is good for some businesses.
You really don’t need an education to get ahead in life.

America, we can do better.

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