Would Obama Kiss Justin Bieber to Promote Healthcare.gov?

Saturday Night Live parodied the lengths to which
President Barack Obama has gone to sell his signature health care
program, whose enrollment deadline is kinda/sorta this Monday. Cue
Kim Khardashian, Harry Styles, and Justin Bieber.

Watch as hilarity—or is it simply reality?—ensues.

Meanwhile, presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett is in Hollywood
trying to get creative types to put the wonders of mandatory
insurance into their sitcoms, movies, and dramas:

“That’s the cool thing,” a host said to the presidential
advisor. “You’ve been reaching out to people that are, you know,
outside of the norm of what the president might work with. Who else
are you working with? Like celebrities, personalities, things like

“You name it,” said Jarrett. “That’s part of why I’m in L.A. I’m
meeting with writers of various TV shows and movies to try to get
it into the scripts.” When Jarrett says “it into the scripts,”
she’s referring to getting references to Obamacare, the president’s
signature legislation, into the scripts of TV shows and movies.

More here

Anyone else remember the (righteous!) outrage over the White
House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) getting
involved in pushing drug-war
messaging in TV and movies

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Kickstarter’s (Oculus) Rift: Scam or Test Market?

Former Reason Editor in
Chief Virginia Postrel (Reason archive here) has
a great piece up at Bloomberg View
. It’s about how
“crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo represent a
classic entrepreneurial phenomenon: Once you roll out your great
idea, customers use it in ways you didn’t imagine, and you wind up
in a different business than you expected.”

Postrel argues that “neither intended their site to act as a
test market. But, as the rags-to-riches story of virtual-reality
firm Oculus shows, that’s what they have become.” When Oculus put
its virtual reality headset on Kickstarter, it ended up with 9,500
people shelling out well over $2 million to make it happen.

Now that Facebook has bought Oculus for $2
billion, critics (including another Bloomberg
writer) are calling Kickstarter a scam that cuts early
investors out of the proceeds that go to venture capitalists.

The backlash is largely Kickstarter’s fault. It may
not be running a scam, but it definitely sends mixed messages.
Unlike Indiegogo, which prides itself on operating a neutral
platform giving anybody’s idea a market test, Kickstarter hasn’t
embraced its de facto transformation. It strictly curates the
campaigns it hosts and, although it makes its biggest profits on
technology products, it still exudes an artistic sensibility
that isn’t entirely comfortable with disruptive
technology or large enterprises. It still talks as though it’s
PBS. “Kickstarter is not a store,” it declares.

Indiegogo, by contrast, proudly touts itself as testing
platform. “We allow entrepreneurs to prove themselves in a
merit-based way,” by discovering whether a venture can in fact
attract interest and money from potential customers, said
[Indiegogo founder Danae] Ringelmann. The site even allows
campaigns to swap in new perks or change the required giving
levels. “You can test your pricing. You can test your features,”
she said. That kind of blunt sales-oriented language would be
unheard of on Kickstarter.

Read the whole thing

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Sheldon Richman on Obama’s Iraqi Fairy Tale

Sheldon Richman reviews a speech President Obama
gave this week regarding Russia and America’s own international
mishaps. Richman writes that It is hard to believe that a
presidential speechwriter could manage to pack so many lies into so
few sentences. But the speechwriter could only compose the
sentences. Obama chose to deliver them, and for that, he should be
indicted for gross deception with malice aforethought.

View this article.

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Tap It: The NSA Slow Jam (featuring @goremy)

This past week, the
White House asked Congress to quickly
pass changes to the National Security Agency’s data collection

During the height of the NSA revelations, Reason TV and Remy set the surveillance scandal
to music. 

“Tap It: The NSA Slow Jam (featuring @goremy)” was
originally released on June 14, 2013. The original text is

Government surveillance never sounded so

Song written and performed by Remy. Video produced by
Meredith Bragg.

About 2:45 minutes.

To read Reason’s coverage on the NSA,
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Rep. Beto O’Rourke on “Constitution-free zones” at the Border; Plus Independents Re-Run Open Thread for “Rise of the Machines”!

There was a lot of quality content on The
this week, including an interview from the

Monday episode
with anti-prohibitionist border-district
Democrat Rep. Beto
 (El Paso):

From that same episode, Lowell Peterson, executive director of
the Writers Guild of America, East, tries to defend the
of tax breaks
to promote ethnic and gender diversity in TV
writing rooms:

At 7 p.m. ET tonight (4 p.m. PT), Fox Business Network is
presenting a re-airing of our Friday robot episode, “Rise
of the Machines
.” Re-live the Singularity magic on this open
thread with Katherine
, James
, Robin Hanson,
P.W. Singer, Marc
, Lori
, and some of your most beloved robots from the ’70s and

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Ex Cop: Everyone Behaves Better When They’re on Video

“Ex Cop: Everyone Behaves Better When They’re on Video,”
produced by Paul Detrick and Will Neff. About 5:45

Original release date was March 25, 2014. and the original text
is below. 

Civilians shoot and upload police encounters to the Internet
everyday using tiny cameras on their cell phones and other mobile
devices. In fact it may be easier than ever to keep the police
accountable with the technology we all carry around in our pockets.
But police are looking to keep civilians accountable too by wearing
cameras of their own. Reason TV sat down with former Seattle Police
officer Steve Ward, who left the force to start Vievu, a company
that makes body cameras for police officers.

“Everyone behaves better when they’re on video,” says Ward. “I
realized that dash cams only capture about five percent of what a
cop does. And I wanted to catch 100 percent of what a cop

The cameras are small, light, and clip to the clothing of a
police officer’s uniform. They turn on with a large switch on the
front of the camera and have a green circle that surrounds the lens
so that civilians know that the camera is recording.

But once the data is recorded, what stops an officer from
editing or manipulating the video? Ward says his cameras contain
software that stops officers from doing anything nefarious with it,
“Our software platform stops officers from altering, deleting,
copying, editing, uploading to YouTube, any of the videos that the
cops take.”

While body cameras present the strong benefit of keeping police
accountable, they also present a risk of invading civilians’
privacy. But in a
policy brief from October 2013
, the American Civil Liberties
Union argued that depending on how the body cameras were
implemented, the privacy concerns could be dealt with.

Although we generally take a dim view of the proliferation of
surveillance cameras in American life, police on-body cameras are
different because of their potential to serve as a check against
the abuse of power by police officers. Historically, there was no
documentary evidence of most encounters between police officers and
the public, and due to the volatile nature of those encounters,
this often resulted in radically divergent accounts of incidents.
Cameras have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the
public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping
protect police against false accusations of abuse.

In 2013, The
New York Times
 reported that the city of Rialto, Calif.,
was able to cut down on complaints against officers by 88 percent
over the previous year when it gave its officers body cameras.
 Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent.

Approximately 5:42.

Produced by Paul Detrick. Edited by Detrick and William Neff.
Shot by Alex Manning.

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The Co-Op Movement – A Decentralized Solution to Solving Inequality and Avoiding Serfdom?

Or take the right to vote. In principle, it is a great privilege. In practice, as recent history has repeatedly shown, the right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty. Therefore, if you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum, break up modern society’s merely functional collectives into self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups, capable of functioning outside the bureaucratic systems of Big Business and Big Government.

-Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World Revisited (1958) 

As readers of this website are well aware, the entrenched power structure has proven itself unwilling to address any of the extreme fraud, crony capitalism and corruption that plagues the U.S. economy. As such, it has become increasingly clear to myself and countless others that the solutions we need must be grassroots and decentralized. I have personally made it a point to encourage people to take matters into their own hands, using whatever tools they have available to make the communities in which they live better for their families and their neighbors.

Of course, in a world in which power is ever increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very unenlightened egomaniacal handful of oligarchs, this seems like a daunting and near impossible task to many. Because so many Americans are simply consumed with making ends meet and putting food on the table, the concept of changing the world appears entirely unrealistic if not downright impossible.

The message I want to convey is that this is not the case. Whether it be decentralized competing currency systems, states rights initiatives such as legalizing marijuana (some pot convictions can now be overturned in Colorado), neighborhood farms, independent energy systems, the path toward localized solutions is the one I firmly believe we must follow.

To that end, I want to highlight this encouraging article from the New York Times titled, Who Needs a Boss?, which explores possibilities worker co-ops provide for workers everywhere. Not only is the pay far better, not only is work engagement considerably more robust, but it restores a sense of community and power to those involved. I think this is a model we should greatly expand upon, rather than looking for centralized solutions, which are merely band-aids placed upon a cancer.

Here are some excerpts from the New York Times:

If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery. But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.

Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.

Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.

continue reading

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Kurt Loder Reviews Cheap Thrills

Cheap ThrillsCheap Thrills is a nasty little excursion
into the cesspool of human nature that easily lives down to its
title, writes Kurt Loder. It’s gross and bloody, but it has a
jaunty air. The movie looks a lot better than it needs to, and it’s
a lot more fun than its grisly specifics might suggest. Come for
the carnage, stay for the laughs. And don’t get too attached to the
little white dog.

View this article.

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Would Cesar Chavez Have Wanted Forced Unionization? UFW Says “Yes!”

A few weeks ago, Reason TV released the above video entitled,
“Forced to Unionize: Is this Cesar Chavez’s Legacy?” The United
Farm Workers’ (UFW) answer to that question seems to be a
resounding, “Hell yes!”

On the eve of the theatrical release of Cesar Chavez: An
American Hero
, the biopic starring Michael Peña, John
Malkovitch, and Rosario Dawson, UFW sent out a press
pushing a “fundraising screening” of the movie in
Hollywood. And the union singles out Gerawan Farms, the company
profiled in Reason TV’s video, as a villain that Chavez would’ve
wanted to vanquish:

The UFW continues Cesar Chavez’s legacy. The UFW fundraiser is
dedicated to the more than 5,000 farm workers in the Fresno,
California area battling against their employer’s stern strong
resistance to implement a UFW contract. The State’s Agricultural
Labor Relations Board ordered the mediated contract with Gerawan to
go into effect. State of California mediator at Gerawan Farming
orders this contract. Gerawan is one of America’s largest peach and
table grape growers. Gerawan resists implementing the UFW contract
and avoids paying its workers an estimated $2 million owed from
last July to January – and millions more over the duration of the

While you might want to skip the Chavez movie, which
boasts an underwhelming 39 percent critics’ rating at Rotten
, don’t miss out on Reason TV’s coverage of the issue
and decide for yourself whether or not UFW’s description of the
situation is fair.

Originally published on March 13, 2014. Original text is

“If Cesar were here today, he certainly wouldn’t be supporting
what’s being done now, which is a union trying to impose itself on
employees,” says Dan Gerawan, co-owner of Gerawan Farms, one of the nation’s
largest producers of peaches, plums, and nectarines and a major
employer of California farm workers. 

Gerawan Farms and some of its employees are in the midst of a
fight with the United Farm Workers
(UFW) union
, which claims to represent Gerawan’s workers,
despite not having collected dues or bargained on behalf of them
for more than two decades.

After years of failed efforts to unionize California’s migrant
farm workers, a
massive grape strike
started in the small farming town of
Delano sparked a movement leading to the eventual rise of the UFW
in 1966. The face of this movement was a man named Cesar Chavez, a
man revered by labor historians as the bringer of “peace in the
fields,” who has roads, schools, and even holidays
named after him. He’s also the subject of an upcoming biopic
starring Michael Peña.

But since then, much has changed in the agriculture industry and
in labor politics. The UFW, which once boasted more than 50,000
dues-paying members,
now claims fewer than 5,000.
Yet with unionization in the
industry on the decline, real wages have
steadily increased.
This might explain why many workers at
Gerawan Farms have begun to protest—not against their employer, but
against the union. 

Gerawan Farms employs more than 10,000 workers a year—more than
double the entire membership of UFW—and points to county employment
statistics to back up claims that
it’s an industry leader in employee compensation. UFW won an
election to represent Gerawan Farms’ workers in 1990. The company
and the union had a single bargaining session, and then UFW
disappeared from the scene, according to Dan Gerawan.

UFW refused to participate in the story and has not answered
questions about why they disappeared for more than two decades. The
truth is, they don’t have to answer such questions. Despite its
24-year absence, UFW is still the representative union of the
workers under California law. Two years ago, UFW initiated a
process called “mandatory
mediation and conciliation,
” which would force Gerawan Farms to
impose a union contract and terminate any employees not willing to
divert three percent of wages towards union dues. This did not sit
well with the workers.

Silvia Lopez has worked in Gerawan Farms’ fields for 14 years
and raised her two daughters on her salary from the job. She once
worked in a union shop and didn’t enjoy the experience, saying it
was like “having two bosses.”

“I never liked a company where they have [a] union,” says Lopez.
“I don’t see that I have to pay somebody to explain me my rights. I
know my rights.”

Silvia started a petition to hold an election to officially
decertify UFW. She collected more than 2,000 employee signatures
and submitted them to California’s Agricultural Labor Relations
Board (ALRB)
. Silas Shawver, ALRB General Counsel, rejected the

“There were some serious problems with signatures submitted that
appeared to be fraudulent,” says Shawver.

Lopez denies that there were a significant number of fake
signatures on the petition, but she nonetheless tried again,
collecting thousands of signatures for a second time. Shawver
rejected the petition again, citing allegations made by UFW that
Gerawan management was putting pressure on the employees to oppose
the union. ALRB, which acts as investigator, prosecutor, and judge
in these cases, is pursuing unfair labor practice charges against
Gerawan Farms in court in conjunction with UFW.

The appearance of collusion between the ALRB and the UFW
disturbed Gerawan management and infuriated many of the workers,
who staged a protest in front of the ALRB offices in Visalia. In a
move reminiscent of the famous Delano grape strike, some even
travelled to Sacramento hoping to have their voices heard by
Governor Jerry Brown, the very same governor who created the ALRB
while in office 38 years ago to create “peace in the fields” and
act as a neutral arbiter between companies, workers, and

“Often what our employees tell us is, they don’t trust the
ALRB,” says Gerawan. “They’ve cited Silas Shawver himself as
someone they don’t trust.”

Following the protests, the ALRB finally granted the workers
their election, to be overseen by ALRB and administered by Shawver.
Prior to the elections, Gerawan Farms granted ALRB access to their
facilities to conduct interviews and run private sessions to inform
workers of their voting and unionization rights.

What were the election results? We don’t know. Shawver has
impounded the votes in an office safe, pending further
investigation of the unfair labor practice allegations. He failed
to provide a timeline for this investigation.

“What does that mean, to have an election and not count the
votes?” asks Lopez. “Where is the right of the farm worker? Where
is it?”

Lopez and her co-workers have filed a class-action lawsuit
against the ALRB for failing to count their ballots. Gerawan Farms
is also suing, alleging that mandatory mediation is
unconstitutional. UFW continues to call for a contract to be
imposed and, alongside ALRB, alleges that Gerawan has engaged in
unfair labor practices.

“The main problem is in the ALRB office,” says Lopez. “They are
supposed to be neutral with us. But they are not. We can see that
they are favoring the UFW organization.”

Watch the above video for an inside look at this fight, and
scroll down for downloadable versions. Produced by Zach
Weissmueller. Camera by Sharif Matar and Weissmueller.
Approximately 8 minutes.

Scroll down for downloadable versions of this video, and
subscribe to Reason
TV’s YouTube Channel
for notifications when new material goes

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Baylen Linnekin on Hope for Raw Milk Fans and Food Freedom

this week, Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) introduced an important set
of bills that would loosen slightly the FDA’s stranglehold on the
interstate shipment and sale of raw milk, writes Baylen Linnekin.
In another welcome development, Massie said he intends to introduce
other “food freedom”-themed bills later this year.

“You should be able to control what goes into your own body,” he
says. “You should be able to control what your family eats.”

“It’s a great issue because it’s about freedom,” says

If people can agree on those principles across party lines, then
there may be hope for us after all.

View this article.

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