Spotify’s “sponsored content”: payola by any other name…

by Amber Healy

SpotifyIt’s too soon to know whether the new “sponsored content” policy helps artists or harms them.

Payola is the practice—the illegal practice—of a record label paying a broadcaster to play a song or artist at a higher rate than other artists.

There was a massive scandal decades ago in which radio stations were found to accept bribes to favor this artist or that one. It brought down some of the biggest names in the then-fledgling industry, including Alan Freed, the man credited with coining the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll,” and Dick Clark.

But times have changed. Things are different. And there’s no law governing the use of cold hard cash to encourage streaming platforms to promote artists for the right price. It also indicates a change in practice for Spotify, which called for a halt to payola-type practices back in 2015. At that time, the Swedish company announced it would “explicitly prohibit” users from taking cash to include songs on its curated playlists, the Financial Times reported.

Tech Crunch first noted this week that there was a new opt-out feature on Spotify, titled “Sponsored Content.”

Continue reading

Score one for the First Amendment: The Slants win

by Amber Healy

In writing for the entire eight-member US Supreme Court Monday morning, Justice Samuel Alito told Simon Tam and his band, The Slants, that they were correct in their fight and justified for refusing to accept that their name was disparaging to Asian Americans and therefore ineligible for trademark protection.

“The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech. Because the ‘Free Speech Clause… does not regulate government speech’…the government is not required to maintain viewpoint neutrality on its own speech. This court exercises great caution in extending its government-speech precedents, for if private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.”

This was a case eight years in the process. Continue reading

US Supreme Court rules in favor of The Slants

The Slants

The Slants

by Amber Healy

In a unanimous decision Monday morning, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of The Slants, the Portland, Oregon-based band that’s been fighting for years for the right to trademark their name.

In a statement released by their publicist, bassist and band founder Simon Tam says that after the

“excruciating legal battle that has spanned nearly eight years, we’re beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Your opinion vs. mine: where are the facts we can agree on?

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. — Daniel Patrick Moynihan

But what about alternative facts? — 2017

CATEGORY: Democracy & Social Mediaby Carole McNall

I’m cruising my Facebook feed when I see an impassioned plea:

“If you disagree with my take on this [and I did], please back up your opinion with facts.”

Reasonable request. I reach toward my keyboard to find the sites I want to cite.

Then it hits me. I ask: “What sites can I reference that you and I will both accept as true?”

He never answers. Continue reading

Chris Cornell

A musician’s passing, and the passing of time …

by Amber Healy

Even the music that has comforted me, inspired me, brought sanity to a broken world time after time, kept me company, kicked my ass into gear, healed other wounds … even that is of little help now.

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

May 15, 2002, the day after graduating from college, the Dave Matthews Band cover of “In My Life” made me cry so hard I had to pull over on the side of the highway because I couldn’t see the rainy road through the sobs.

May 18, 2017, driving into work on an overcast Thursday morning, the tears came again, probably the second wave of the 90 minutes I’d been awake. One of the guiding voices of my life was gone, unexpectedly and without any kind of reason that made sense, and there was nothing to do but go to work and try to stay distracted for nine hours.

In the intervening 15 years, there were cross-country moves, more than a dozen jobs, two seriously broken hearts, the deaths of my beloved mentor and grandparents, the births of my seven (soon to be eight) nieces and nephews. Through it all, the music was there to keep me tethered.

2017 is becoming a complicated, delicate year.

Continue reading

Betrayal of trust: surviving sexual abuse in the age of Trump

Having that man as president is like having to face my attacker all over again. Every. Single. Day.

by Lea Booth

I read last week’s article here, and comments on it, about a pedophile who managed to hide within boundaries of what should be a safe environment. The man in question was a school teacher and coach at the junior high/middle school I attended. I’ve heard discussions of “why was I not chosen,” “how could I have trusted, even admired, this person” and “what if it had been me.”

There are even people who have expressed doubts about why the victims would wait 30 years to come forward. Such conjecture does what is often done with victims of abuse or rape – cast doubt on their accounts of what they endured. At a time when the focus on campus rape has, rightfully, increased, and people in power believe they can treat women as less than human, I’ve been having flashbacks and issues arising from being raped almost forty years ago. Continue reading

Republican President Trump

It’s Donald’s party now. Make sure no one is allowed to forget it.

by djerrid

A piece of advice for Democratic message makers: There is no “President Trump.” There is only “Republican President Trump.”

Those who represent the Democratic Party should literally not say his name without putting “Republican” in front of it. Tying Republican Trump to the Republican Party should be done now so that it becomes an entrenched symbol of his identity in the minds of the average American voter. It will send a clear and obvious message that a major strategy of the Democrats is to put their counterparts in the tight and suffocating embrace of “their” president. Continue reading

Potholes and the Law of Attraction

By Tamara Enz

Tom

It’s spring in Ashland, Oregon. Winter in the west has been long, cold, and snowy. Most people are over it.

pothole-damageWalking through town yesterday, I stopped to enjoy the magnolia blossoms that are about to explode. They have escaped their protective bracts, but are uncertain about fully opening to the tepid sun. A massive camellia tree stands next to the magnolia. Camellia flowers are a color never seen anywhere else, red and pink and raspberry, but none of these.

As I stood admiring the tree, a man walked up next to me and commented on the flowers. I responded, “They’re beautiful.” He impulsively reached over, snapped one off, and handed it to me. Continue reading

The Mature Society, pt 3: what would a better America look like?

Part 3 in a series.

by Dr. Michael Tracey

The problems of education, religion, critical thinking, a commitment to the truth, and holding ourselves to a higher standard: creating the mature society won’t be simple.

There is, then, a different question, driven by another thought which is that there is a certain sense of responsibility for the critic – if one is not to be nihilistic or utterly despondent – to suggest if not a way out then at least a sense of what something “better” might actually look like. In particular, here, to ask the question of just what a mature society might look like: what would be the texture of its culture, its mood, its ambition, its practices, its relationships, its preferences, its allegiances? What would it look like as a moral and ethical entity? What would there be about it that the dispassionate mind could admire?

A useful definition of mature would include: Continue reading

The Mature Society, pt 2: politics and leadership in the age of anti-science

Part 2 in a series.

by Dr. Michael Tracey

How stupid are Americans, anyway? And how much worse are our leaders?

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) explains climate change

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) explains climate change

Numerous events and curious beliefs – large and small – caught the eye, even before the election of 2008 and certainly beyond. Consider:

  • a CNN discussion on October 10, 2005, featuring the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, addressed the subject of whether recent climate events – the Christmas 2004 tsunami in Asia, hurricane Katrina in the late summer of 2005, an earthquake in Asia – actually presaged the end times, the Rapture and the second coming of Christ; Continue reading

The Mature Society, pt 1: 1984 vs Brave New World

Part 1 in a series.

by Dr. Michael Tracey

We live in a moment of hyper-consumerism, uber-war and insidious surveillance by a vast security apparatus. But what might it look like if Orwell and Huxley were both wrong.

“The age of maturity that past authors were hoping would come seems not to be the destiny of humankind… Humanity is condemned to seek truth rather than possess it… This would be the vocation of our species: to pick up the task of enlightenment with each new day, knowing that it is interminable.”- Tzvetan Todorov, “In Defence of the Enlightenment.”

In The Empire Strikes Back, young Luke Skywalker asks his Jedi master, Yoda, whether the dark side is stronger than the good? “No,” Yoda replies, “easier, quicker, more seductive.”

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh…” Philip Larkin, The Trees

This essay is, in the first instance, impelled by a deep sense of disappointment at the immense gulf between the grand promise of this country, the United States, and its objective contemporary condition, the sense one has looking out across the landscape with squinted eyes that there is, as Milton writes in Paradise Lost, “Demoniac frenzy, moping melancholy, / And moon-struck madness.” Continue reading

Elton John’s most perfect song

“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is nearly seven minutes of suspension, of holding back for maximum effect only to deliver more tension and release. An absolutely masterful composition, arrangement, performance and production.

by Adam Marsland

When the Adam Marsland Chaos Band did our Elton John shows we learned more than 70 of his songs, and I had a chance to really break down what was going on there. Some of those songs are compositionally, frankly, genius…Brian Wilson level. If you don’t believe me, work out “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” sometime (if you can). Notice how effortlessly the tonal shifts cascade, minors on the verse subtly shift to majors on the chorus, and then out of nowhere, a crashing key change to Db. It’s an incredible composition.

So what’s his best ever song? I’m gonna go there. It’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” Continue reading

“I know more about ISIS than the generals”

by Brandon Tutt

I’m scared. I’m shaken to the core.

trump-fists-upI don’t mean that figuratively. My hands are shaking and I have been pacing around ever since I’ve read this article: “U.S. military probing more possible civilian deaths in Yemen raid.” Here are the paragraphs that frighted me.

U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations. Continue reading

woMAN; Woe, man; Whoa! Man.

By Tamara Enz

CATEGORY: American CultureWhen I was in third grade, the elementary school principal came into our class to speak with the students. I don’t now remember what the primary reason was for his visit; what I remember is only a fragment of his lecture.

He stood at the chalkboard and wrote in large letters:

M A N

Stepping to the side so everyone in the class could see the letters, he said, “Without man,” he stepped back to the board and wrote “wo” before completing his sentence, “you cannot have woman.”

On the board was the word:

wo MAN

Almost 50 years later, I can still see this man saying these words, spewing ignorance and sexism across a new generation of children. Continue reading

A letter to my nieces, November 2016

By Amber Healy

CATEGORY: UnitedStatesIn the early afternoon of Election Day 2016, I traded messages with a good friend, heart swelling with hope.

“To think … maybe, just maybe, the kiddos we love who are little right now …they’ll never know a world where a person of color or a woman couldn’t be president.”

Within hours, I watched the country turn a deeper red, crimson spreading from coast to coast, revealing the true colors of the United States.

Despite winning two million fewer votes from the American people than his opponent, Donald Trump secured more than the required 270 Electoral College votes to secure the presidency, effective January 2017.

It was not supposed to be this way. Continue reading

Cthulhu Republicans

Col. Nathan R. Jessup and A Few Good Men: a Republican metaphor

We have seen the meltdown and await the denouement.

by djerrid

In the climax of A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character – Col. Nathan R. Jessup – was calm and cool on the witness stand while Tom Cruise’s Lt. Daniel Kaffee tried to needle him into showing his true colors. Finally, after being caught in a lie, Jessup yells those famous lines: “You can’t handle the truth!…Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You?”

Which brings us to Donald Trump, standing at his lectern enduring relentless provocation at the hands of Hillary Clinton. He can’t help snapping as he is humiliated and his ego threatened. This leads to his downfall, with his only excuse being that we need walls and guns and men to protect this country. And that Hillary isn’t “man” enough to do it. Continue reading

The Slants (and the Redskins): what’s in (an offensive) name?

SCOTUS takes on the First Amendment case of The Slants, a band crying foul over a U.S. patent office refusal to trademark its name

by Amber Healy

the-slants-2105-press-shot-b-1The Supreme Court of the United States will hear the case of The Slants, the Portland, Ore., pop band that has spent the better part of the past six years trying to trademark its name.

It’s unlikely the court will hear the case before 2017, with a decision to come without prior notice months later, but it’s a huge win for the band to make it this far.

If you’re late to this dance-pop party, here’s a little recap. Continue reading

Learning from the silence of elephants

by Tamara Enz

africa-5016

Our lives are full of noise. Endless beeps, twitters, and rings. Traffic, jets, refrigerators, air conditioners. Ubiquitous cell phones, microwaves, TVs, and tablets. Each pinging, humming, and demanding attention. Gratuitous noise, the TV or radio turned on and then ignored, or worse, talked over loudly, has long been a pet peeve. Car keys left in the ignition, leaf blowers (^%*^%$#$ leaf blowers), car alarms (see leaf blowers), and every cell phone/ATM/POS card reader with keyboards that indicate, by sound, every letter entered.

Every. Letter. Entered.

For some, like me, it’s exhausting. Continue reading

Dear Hillary: some unsolicited campaign speech ideas

by Djerrid

I’d like to thank everyone for coming.

This is a campaign rally. This is where candidates typically tout their accomplishments and stir up enthusiasm and take a few jabs at their opponents.

But this campaign is different. This election is different. This is about our shared vision for a better America, but it’s also about a person who is unfit to be a school board member, much less the president of the United States.

Donald J. Trump is notoriously well known for how thin his skin is. Continue reading

But WHY do black lives matter? S&R honors #BLM, part 3

Body Language

by Dasan Ahanu

black_lives_matter

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

There was a trial last night
Black angst took the stand
and pledged an oath on a bible
A symbol that truths
become more pertinent in red
Sorta like blood amidst chalk outlines
Our only forgotten sons

See angst was there to tell the whole truth
and nothing but the truth
so help a bullet riddled midnight
on it’s way to God Continue reading