by Bryan

What we’re watching: Freakonomics: The Movie (2010)

April 22, 2012 in The People's [Censored] by Bryan

Occupy Baton Rouge

“In 2005, journalist Stephen Dubner partnered with rogue economist Steven Levitt to write a book that promised to explore the ‘hidden side of everything’. A surprise literary sensation, Freakonomics became a global phenomenon, selling more than 4 million copies and introducing readers to a new way to view the world.”

Freakonomics: The MovieIn 2010, enter Freakonomics: The Movie. Starting off with an explanation of a real estate agent’s interest in your home’s sale price and finishing it up with “Can You Bribe a 9th Grader to Succeed?”, Freakonomics covers a myriad of topics in between.

Ok, so maybe not a myriad, but more than a couple. Some, admittedly, more surprising (like links between legalized abortion and a reduction in crime rates) and some a bit more covert than others (such as corruption throughout the Sumo culture). But all the topics, ranging through cheating, real estate, parenting, incentives, and cause and effect, are sure to keep you interested.

The film mostly ends up being a series of documentary shorts used to further explain the two Ste(ph/v)en’s statistical worldviews. One of my favorite shorts was A Roshanda By Any Other Name, written by Morgan Spurlock—of Supersize Me fame—and Jeremy Chilnick. (Just a note for transparency’s sake, I happen to love Morgan Spurlock!) It covers all the connotations of a child’s name and the effects those names have on children’s life outcomes.

One of the most interesting comparisons is between historically white names as compared to the Afrocentric names that entered the scene starting with the black power movement of the late 1960s. One study involved the creation of 5000 resumes sent out in Boston and Chicago with half having names considered white and the other half having historically black names. The likelihood to receive an interview was about 33% less for those with African-American names, despite the resumes being identical. As the conductor of the study, Dr. Mullainathan puts it “It means that if a white person is searching for a job for 10 weeks, an equally skilled African-American will be searching for a job for 15 weeks. And those are 5 long weeks if you are unemployed.”

So if you want to know why there was a suspicion of polio being caused by ice cream, or have always wondered what percentage of crime reduction can be attributed to innovative policing tactics, put this one on your instant queue and learn a thing or two about Freakonomics!


Originally published in the People’s [Censored], Issue 2.

by Bryan

EXCLUSIVE!!!!!!!! For-profit, self-appointed “Independent Voice of South Louisiana” apparently has area monopoly on [censored]ing

April 22, 2012 in The People's [Censored] by Bryan


The People's [Censored]

The People’s [Censored] is in no way affiliated with the [Censored] or their corporate overlords Capital City Press.


Occupy Baton Rouge


On January 23, only one day after the release of the first issue of Occupy Baton Rouge’s monthly newsletter “The People’s [Censored],” the OBR email account received a message from the head editor of the [Censored]–the Baton Rouge daily newspaper, not the gay rights magazine (just so you’re not confused). An excerpt of his email:

“While I am flattered that you have copied The [Censored]’s banner and, to an extent, our standard front page design, I must ask you to come up with a new format for your newsletter. As currently presented, your newsletter could cause confusion among your readers that The [Censored] newspaper and the Occupy Baton Rouge movement are somehow connected. I believe it infringes on our copyright and trademark. While we support free speech and free press, we also must maintain our position as a publication that is not aligned with any particular group or movement.”

While it seemed almost impossible that anyone would confuse our online monthly newsletter with the Baton Rouge daily, one of our editors replied to their request, stating that though our independent paper was largely protected as parody, we would add a disclaimer to our front page. To be perfectly frank, we were a bit surprised the people at the [Censored] were still aware of our existence, let alone regularly checking our website and Facebook page for updates. Since our attempted “Move-In Day” last Black Friday, when half the Baton Rouge Police Department decided to use their holiday weekend and LSU-Arkansas game day to monitor the couple dozen protestors hanging out at Arsenal Park, there had been a considerable absence of coverage of our many actions in the [Censored].

This is sadly the way the goldfish-attention spanned mainstream media works, folks. Something is “In” for awhile—it’s fresh and exciting and new, and then suddenly The Next Big Thing comes along and whatever was so important three weeks ago is forgotten about and left by the wayside, continuity be damned. It’s a travesty, and it’s a phenomenon that unfortunately stretches far beyond the reaches of our friends at the [Censored].

While we were initially somewhat thrown off by the [Censored]’s complaints against our paper, we found being back on their radar for such a trivial technicality slightly flattering. Our newsletter, which hadn’t been up for more than a week, was already receiving threats from high places. The common consensus amongst our members was that we must be doing something right if our modest efforts were still pissing off the Old Guard.

Then, the following week, the [Censored] attacked again. Our email account received a letter from someone introducing himself as a lawyer for Capital City Press, the owners of the [Censored], and was accompanied by a formal demand letter. The three page letter was a threat addressed to one of our members specifically by name. The lawyers spent a lot of time defining “parody” (as well as condescendingly referring us to the Onion which, apparently, is the pinnacle of parody) and ended with the demand under legal threat that we do the following:

“(i) immediately and permanently terminating any further marketing, promotion and/or use of the term ‘The [Censored],’ including any and all confusingly similar or related derivations of the mark;

“(ii) immediately and permanently removing any and all references and/or use of the ‘The [Censored]’ trade name/trademark on your website located at, including all associated webpages, and/or elsewhere on the Internet;

“(iii) immediately and permanently terminating any and all further use, display, circulation or distribution of any promotions, advertisements, publications, content and/or marketing that includes any reference to ‘The [Censored]’;

“(iv) signifying your binding acceptance of these terms by signing and returning this consent agreement to undersigned counsel by no later than February 14, 2012

“And (v) agreeing to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees to Capital City Press if a court should subsequently find that you have breached your obligations and/or commitments to Capital City Press hereunder.”

One of the main ideas behind the “Occupy Movement” is to reclaim the public sphere. For longer than many of us have been alive, a war has been waged by the 1% on public property and public services. Private influences poison everything with money and the mainstream media has actively taken on the role of the hired nurse administering the toxins into the arms of our so-called democracy. As a people, we’ve been robbed of our future, and the media—the supposed watchdog for our democracy—has been a willing accomplice for this massive historical graft. A true democracy cannot function without a functioning media, and our media, which is driven by a will to power and profit, has thus made a mockery of us and our democracy.

Inspired by the Occupy movement, then, many individuals across the world took the initiative to create their own newspapers based on the idea of spreading free knowledge. Papers such as “The Occupied Wall Street Journal” popped up all across the nation, parodying their local newspaper and reporting on the news and stories that they saw as most important. Independent journalists from all over came together to report on what they saw was wrong in the world and to help [censored] for the change they want to see.

While we live in a country based on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, many of the parodied papers did not take kindly to being called out as the bloated protectors of the 1% that they are. The Occupied Chicago Tribune and the Occupied Oakland Tribune were the first to be threatened by their local “non-occupied” paper. Later came the Occupied Wisconsin State Journal, followed by us.

As an interesting side-note, Rupert Murdoch has yet to threaten the Occupied Wall Street Journal, which shows that though he doesn’t have enough sense to not hack into a dead girl’s phone, he’s at least smart enough to sniff out some bad PR moves in advance.

While Trademark Laws are written in such a way that some businesses are legally required to protect their Trademark lest they lose it, the odds that any reader of these publications would confuse the ad-soaked drivel of the 1% found in the mainstream news with our independently voiced not-for-profit paper is so minimal it’s beyond comprehension.

What is most likely happening here, at least in our case, is that the [Censored], a long established fixture of the Baton Rouge community, is flexing its muscles against any paper that threatens its status as expert on all matters Baton Rouge. While they would certainly not take steps to outright attack or censor our paper, the ambiguity of Trademark Law as well as the for-profit [Censored]’s significantly larger budget compared to ours, allowed for the perfect set-up for some good old fashioned bullying.

So, as a way of demonstrating how the mainstream media works–and how it doesn’t work–we at the People’s [Censored] have made several noticeable changes to our newsletter. Hopefully, this will both free us up to continue with our independent journalism, as well as free up the lawyers of the [Censored] to work on cases that are hopefully a bit more important. And while the name of our paper may be different, we see this as an excellent opportunity to continue on with the same mission as when we started out–giving voice to The People and not the 1%, unlike those [censored]ers who run the [Censored].

Originally published in Issue 2 of the People’s [Censored].

by Bryan

Bobby’s World

April 22, 2012 in The People's [Censored] by Bryan

Bobby's World

Occupy Baton Rouge

Originally printed in Issue 2 of the People’s [Censored].

When Piyush Jindal was four years old, he nicknamed himself “Bobby,” after his favorite character on the Brady Bunch. But, based on the way he would run his dictatorship over Louisiana, little Piyush should have probably chosen Jan–the bratty, self-centered middle-child–as his Brady Bunch model.

Like many politicians, Jindal has an enormous ego. And, like many politicians, Jindal is highly ambitious–his plans for the presidency in 2016 (or vice-presidency this winter) are no secret to anyone. Indeed, one could view Jindal’s entire tenure as governor as the ultimate exer-cise of self-promotion, his goal always being a seat in The White House. Even the title of his book Leadership and Crisis reeks of presidential ambition.

Jindal climbed to the top of Louisiana government on the backlash against the corruption and mismanagement which plagued post-Katrina Louisiana. The image he likes to present of himself is that of a capable and visionary leader, willing to take any course of action if it means doing What’s Right. Yet, the image of Jindal propped up by the media and his administration is far from that of the reasoned, well-thought out conservative figure he cuts himself out to be and more attuned to that of a young bully not used to not getting his own way.

Jindal takes his media ascribed status as future Republican frontrunner very seriously, and whatever he views as a threat to his future candidacy is not taken lightly. Time and time again, voices within his administration who publicly disagree with his politics are quietly shoved out the door, while those he cannot directly control (like the teachers who were prevented from testifying in mid-March) are just not given a voice at all. His almost-Stalinlike purge of anyone willing to speak out against him and his policies has created an environment of fearful silence within the halls of Louisiana state government. And, like most tyrants, this silence and fear to speak up are precisely what Jindal needs for his plans to succeed.

Jindal’s propensity for firing anyone who disagrees with his policies has become such a common phenomenon that it’s necessitated the creation of a word: Teague. The word comes from the story of Mr. and Mrs. Teague, a husband and wife duo who were both coincidentally fired not long after publicly criticizing Jindal’s policies. In late 2009, Melody Teague was a contract grants reviewer working within the Department of Social Services. In a public forum, Mrs. Teague spoke out against Jindal’s privatization plans for state services. The next day, she was fired. The reason given? For mishandling food stamps. Four years earlier. During Hurricane Katrina. Six months later, she was able to get her job back, but her husband was not so lucky.

In April 2011, Tommy Teague, then executive director of the Of-fice for Group Benefits, criticized Jindal’s privatization plans for his office. Under Tommy’s direction, the OGB, which provides health care to more than 250,000 state workers, retirees, and their dependents, had turned a 36 million dollar deficit into a half-billion dollar surplus. “The program is running very, very, very well,” Teague then told reporters at the Times-Picayune.

Jindal’s “raid” on the OGB was likely used to fill in the 1.6 billion dollar gap in the state budget. While the sale of the OGB would temporarily earn the state some money, like all of Jindal’s plans the goals are decidedly short term. Studies show that the privatized services would cost the state, its workers, and the taxpayers much, much more in the long run and would basically only be used to line the pockets of the wealthy, including banking giant Goldman Sachs, who helped broker the deal. Unlike his wife, Tommy Teague did not get his job back.

Jindal’s “Teague-ing” of state employees who stand in his way did not begin or end with the Teagues. As early in his administration as 2008, Jindal “Teagued” James Champagne, 12 year executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, after the two disagreed over the state’s motorcycle helmet safety law.

The most recent case of Jindal firing an employee over a disagreement was when the head of the Of-fice of Elderly Affairs criticized Jindal’s plans to merge her office with the Department of Health and Human Services. Ms. Martha Manuel, who had been appointed by Jindal in February 2011, spoke at a House Appropriations Committee hearing last March, saying that these plans would cut needed services for the elderly and would increase ineffective bureaucratization. As a Jindal spokesman said of the subject, Manuel and Jindal “decided to go in a different direction.” Obviously.

Looking through a list of all those who Jindal fired or asked to resign (like Tammie McDaniel, who was asked to resign from the BESE board after she disagreed with Jindal’s support of No Child Left Behind) is like reading a Who’s Who Guide to Jindal’s Corruption. But his doesn’t end there. The list of Jindal’s misdeeds is endless. His dictatorship over Louisiana oozes with corruption, the very subject which he was elected to expel, and the scariest part about it all is not that this is a man who has dedicated the majority of his adult life towards becoming the next president, but that the mainstream media and the Republican Establishment tout him as the same.

In his heart of hearts, Governor Jindal probably relishes the comparisons made between his administration and Huey Long’s. Yet, unlike the firebrand Long, Jindal is at best a bland, mediocre, small-minded bureaucrat.

One of the sources of Long’s controversial legacy was his convincing oratory skills and his championing of the causes for the lower classes. Governor Jindal—to say nothing about his wretched speaking ability— has no empathy for the poor and disenfranchised. While Long responded to the Great Depression by building schools, hospitals, roads and other public services to help those suffering most, Jindal responds to the current Recession by handing these same public services over to the highest bidder. Whereas Huey Long poetically described the hardships of the lower classes, Jin-dal mechanically drones on and on about the so-called “State Budget Deficit” and explains to us the necessity of again cutting taxes for the top 1%.

In other words, Long wanted to Share the Wealth–Jindal just wants to pocket his portion and give the rest to his friends.

Yet the strong brotherhood between the two remains in their reckless desire for unbridled power. Both men sought the White House, and were willing to crush anything in their path along the way. While Huey Long’s grab for power in the Thirties drew comparisons among his critics to the fascist movements rising concurrently in Europe, Jindal’s anti-democratic austerity measures and his pillaging of the public till at the behest of the 1% promises for Louisiana the destroyed public sectors seen today in Greece or Spain. As Hunter S. Thompson said in 1972:

“A career politician finally smelling the White House is not much different from a bull elk in the rut. He will stop at nothing, trashing anything that gets in his way; and anything he can’t handle personally he will hire out–or, failing that, make a deal. It is a difficult syndrome for most people to understand, because few of us ever come close to the kind of Ultimate Power and Achievement that the White House represents to a career politician.”

Dr. Thompson’s words were as true then as they are today. Jindal, like a mad beast in heat, is a man willing to do anything and screw over anybody, to get what he sees as rightfully his: The Presidency of The United States.

If you are a state classified worker who is afraid to speak up or sign the petition to recall Bobby Jindal, information on which can be found at <>, click here to read your rights when it comes to talking with lawmakers, testifying at legislative hearings, attending public rallies, and other-wise expressing your political views.