Category Archives: Politics

With SB 101 Signed, What Will Gen Con Do? Follow Salesforce?

Gen_Con_LetterOn Tuesday we brought you the news that Gen Con, the four day gaming convention (and one of my favorite conventions of the year) sent a letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence warning the convention may leave the state if SB 101, the supposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was singed into law. The convention, as many else also feel, felt the legislation is discriminatory, and would “allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees.”

The Governor is so proud of the bill, he signed it into law in a private ceremony. Indiana becomes the first state this year to enact such legislation out of the dozen or so states in which similar proposals have been introduced.

The fallout from the legislation signing was quick and fierce. Salesforce, on the the top software as a service companies out there, has decided to “dramatically reduce” their investment in Indiana. The CEO of the company Marc Benioff said in a series of Tweets:

gen-con-logoGen Con isn’t the only convention to take place in the state. Awesome Con expanded this year to host a convention in Indianapolis as well. We’ve reached out to both conventions for further comment as to their plans or reactions, but have not heard back as we went to press.

Geek conventions don’t have the best record when it comes to these things. In 2010, Arizona signed into law SB 1070 which some say unfairly targets Latinos, and is a violation of the civil rights of all Arizonans. Boycotts of the state due to the law cost the state over $141 million in 2010. Announced in 2010, but launched in 2011, the Amazing Arizona Comic Con was launched, though calls for boycotts were still in full effect. We questioned the choice of not just the convention, but those attending and supporting it. Companies who “champion” diversity and inclusion, and “pushing comics forward” have had no issues pumping money into the economy of a state which clearly cares little of these things. Though, in fairness, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill similar to the one Gov. Pence just signed into law. So, they just dislike people of darker skin there, but homosexuals are ok.

We’ll keep on this story as Gen Con has promised a follow up letter today. The convention in 2011 committed to stay in Indianapolis until 2020.

Pence released the below statement after signing the pill into law:

Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith.

The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.

One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.

Fortunately, in the 1990s Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—limiting government action that would infringe upon religion to only those that did not substantially burden free exercise of religion absent a compelling state interest and in the least restrictive means.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States upheld religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that act does not apply to individual states or local government action. At present, nineteen states—including our neighbors in Illinois and Kentucky—have adopted Religious Freedom Restoration statutes. And in eleven additional states, the courts have interpreted their constitutions to provide a heightened standard for reviewing government action.

In order to ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year our General Assembly joined those 30 states and the federal government to enshrine these principles in Indiana law, and I fully support that action.

This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.

Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance, and values of our people, and that will never change. Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.

And a Tweet by the Governor:

President Obama Talks Comics. Asks Your Origin.

In an email sent to supporters, “President Obama” (in quotes because it’s not like he sends these emails), talks about growing up and his enjoyment of comic books, citing Conan the Barbarian and Spider-Man, and that every character has an origin story.

The email goes on to ask individuals to write Organizing for Action about their “origin story.”

It’s very cool to see this in an email “from” the President, but it’s SPIDER-MAN people!!!!!

Read the email below, with identifying data scrubbed.

obama_comic_email

(HT BH)

Gen Con Threatens to Leave Indiana Over SB 101

This afternoon Gen Con, a four-day gaming convention, sent a letter to the Republican Governor of Indiana Mike Pence warning that if SB 101 becomes the law, the convention may leave the state. Gen Con LLC’s CEO and owner, Adrian Swartout, said in the letter (which you can read below) that passage of the bill “will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.” The convention focuses on gaming of all types including board, card, miniature, and role-playing.

Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention.

Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy.

Proponents of SB 101 would prevent state and local governments from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion unless the government can prove it has a compelling interest.

Opponents of the legislation says it gives a license for businesses to discriminate, particularly against gays and lesbians.

The legislation is being pushed by social conservatives.

The digest description of the legislation:

Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.

Some have said the legislation is similar to what led the Supreme Court to side with Hobby Lobby concerning contraception. This legislation could be interpreted much further allowing systemic and widespread discrimination by businesses, for example a bakery refusing to serve a gay couple.

The legislation passed the House in a 63-31 vote, and Senate a 40-10 vote.

As of this post, the convention has garnered support and positive feedback from their Facebook community. Some dissented feeling this is “social justice warriors” making their way into gaming.

According to Facebook demographics, 10% of the convention’s “likes” are “interested” in the same-sex.

The convention, which began in 1968 in Lake Geneva by D&D creator Gary Gygax, moved to the city in 2003. It’s the convention center’s largest annual convention, bringing in excess of $50 million in revenue for the city of Indianapolis every year.

Last year’s convention, held August 14-17, saw another year of record attendance numbers and unprecedented growth. That makes it the fourth consecutive year, Gen Con grew by more than 10%. The year saw 14% year-over-year growth with a weekend turnstile attendance of 184,699 and unique attendance of 56,614. 2013’s previous record was 49,530 unique attendees. Since 2009, Gen Con’s annual attendance has more than doubled.

The convention also does good, selecting a charity partner each year to raise money. Last year also saw a record year in donations. The convention raised more than $40,000 for Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana’s BackSacks program, which provides weekend food to children at-risk for hunger. This donation includes a $20,000 check provided by Mayfair Games’ Cones of Dunshire event, a charitable game played Saturday, August 16 on Georgia Street. This year’s partner is the Julian Center.

It is unknown how other conventions in the state have reacted to the legislation, but we have reached out for comments.

Gen Con 2015 returns to Indianapolis July 30 – August 2, 2015! And we’ll be there in full support.

Here is the letter for you to read:

 

Gen_Con_Letter

Cobra Commander Gets Keys to the City to Promote JoeCon

To help promote JoeCon, which will be held April 9-12, the Mayor of Springfield, Illinois J. Michael Houston gave a key to the city to Cobra Commander. The promotion is interesting, but they couldn’t have done this with another character? Maybe not go with the head of the evil terrorist organization?

The city does have a history within the G.I. Joe universe, and was part of the cartoon’s first season finale “There’s No Place Like Springfield” where it housed a Cobra base and the entire town was filled with Cobra agents.

In the comics, the man who would become Cobra Commander settled in a town called Springfield, and from there launched his organization recruiting many of the town’s disillusioned citizens. So I guess the Mayor was just honoring one of his former constituents who went on to bigger things?

Springfield Illinois mayor J. Michael Houston Cobra Commander

(via iO9)

Stephen J. Pasierb Named President & CEO of the U.S. Toy Industry Association

Toy Industry Association PasierbThe U.S. Toy Industry Association has announced that Stephen J. Pasierb will be joining them as President and CEO at the end of April. The organization is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses involved in creating and delivering toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. The 750 member organization accounts fro 90% of U.S. domestic toy sales.

Pasierb previously served as President & CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing substance abuse among adolescents by supporting families and engaging with teens. He also served in the Maryland Executive Department under Governor William Donald Schaefer as Manager of Marketing and Media Communications for the Governor’s Drug & Alcohol Abuse Commission. Before that, he worked as an Account Supervisor and New Business Development Director at Freed & Associates, a Baltimore-based advertising and public relations agency, and Vice President of Media Services at GNVC Communications, a business-to-business communications firm in Pittsburgh.

Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, to the Rescue on San Francisco Buses

For those not in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, or Washington, DC, the hate group, American Freedom Defense Initiative run by anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller, has been running ads on buses telling the “truth” about Islam. Really, it’s a lot of bigotry and hate. A federal court ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had to run the ads, and its not the first time that the MTA has had controversial ads run.

Graphic Policy Radio co-host Elana pointed out this awesome photo posted by the Muslim Community Network where we see Marvel‘s hit new hero Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, covering up the ads that are running in San Francisco and preaching to “stop the hate.”

Kamala stars in her own series Ms. Marvel published by Marvel comics, and is a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey. A brand new character, she’s broken out and one of the stand-out comic debuts of 2014. The comic is written by G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim herself, and is a prime example of the new diversity in comics. It helps that the comic is a fantastic read no matter you’re background.

This is an awesome example of culture jamming, using pop-culture to fight hate speech! Whomever is doing this, awesome job.

10417648_904498016268354_7196046278961532024_nUpdate: We had indicated these buses were in NYC, but in fact this is San Francisco.

Update 2: It looks like its street artists combating various injustices through art are behind it. We’ve reached out to the San Francisco transportation authority for further details.

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State of the Union a Mixed Bag for Gamers

President Obama and Spider-ManThe President’s State of the Union address was a dangerously mixed-bag for gamers Tuesday night. The plethora of recent high-profile data breaches and hacks, such as the Sony hack, has given the President the political cover to push a stringent agenda that offers more potential negatives for gamers than positives. Interestingly, even though the President talked about Internet issues extensively in three speeches leading up to the State of the Union, he spent relatively little time on the subject Tuesday night. Indeed, the word “Internet” only appears three times in his hour-long speech and is only used in broad ideas, not connected to specific policies. However, by looking at those earlier speeches and their associated legislative proposals, gamers can understand the President’s Internet priorities.

On the bright side of things, President Obama’s call to increase broadband Internet service through municipal networks could be good news for thousands of underserved gamers. Currently, nineteen states have laws in place that make it illegal for counties or cities to build and offer their own Internet service to residents. The President and the FCC argue the FCC has the authority to change that through rule-making. The FCC chairperson has been warning of this action since the summer and last week, the President gave a preview of the issue. Many Republicans believe that the FCC does not have the regulatory authority and that this issue is a legislative one.

Municipal broadband, when it works, generally offers great rates for very fast Internet connections. Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, has a system that offers 100 Mbps connections for $58 and 1 Gbps for $70 per month. However, in order for municipal broadband to be effective, you generally need relatively high density and/or centralized population to make the investment make sense. It is a plan that does not generally work in rural communities, meaning that the least served in America will remain so.

Also good news for gamers, one of the three mentions of the Internet in the State of the Union was his pledge “to protect a free and open Internet”. This is a clear signal that the President intends to continue his push for Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the idea that all traffic and devices on the Internet should be treated the same by carriers- ISPs cannot discriminate based on where this data originates or is headed. For gamers, Net Neutrality would ensure we do not have to pay more for our connections to Steam, Xbox Live, PSN, or any other gaming service nor would it cost us more to keep our speeds high.

More troubling for gamers is the President’s “tough” stance on cybersecurity issues. His proposals could lead to a murkier legal landscape when it comes to many of the activities in which gamers like to partake. There is a new data and intelligence sharing bill very similar to previous bills that the Internet rose up against with such responses as the Internet blackout of 2012. The new incarnation is CISPA and it has many of the same concerns as the earlier versions, but this time, apparently, it also has the President’s support.

For gamers, the language is especially troubling because it gives companies immunity for data breaches. PSN had a data breach in 2011 that led to the compromise of millions of users’ information. Sony settled a resultant class-action suit for $15 million dollars. That would not be an issue for them under the new law. Additionally, the law asks that information about “cyber-threats” be shared with the US government without adequately defining what that means. Theoretically, the government could know what you are doing on-line without a warrant because private companies are freely telling them in the name of information sharing.

The other very troubling change for gamers is a tightening of language and increase in punishments under the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act. The changes would further criminalize violations of terms of service. Do you let a friend share your gaming service log-in? Currently, that is a violation of the Terms of Service and can get your account suspended. If these proposed changes go into law, that act could be a felony. One would hope that federal prosecutors would have something better to do with their time, but as the Aaron Swartz case suggests this is sadly not always true.

So what can you, as a gamer, do to ensure your rights online stay strong? Contact your representatives and let them know your opinion. Let them know this is a priority issue for you, and let your voice be heard.

Charlie Hebdo’s First Cover After Last Week’s Attack

Charlie Hebdo‘s first cover after the attack on its newsroom will feature an image of the Prophet Mohammed, holding one of the “Je Suis Charlie” signs being used to show solidarity with the magazine. Above that depiction it states in French, “All is Forgiven.”

The magazine usually has a print run of about 60,000, but this issue will be into the million.

charlie

Comics Legend Art Spiegelman & Scholar Tariq Ramadan on Charlie Hebdo & the Power Dynamic of Satire

Democracy Now has a series of videos (haven’t checked out their other coverage) of their coverage of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo. The videos have actually been informative, fair, and pretty level-headed. Above is the comic creator Art Spiegelman, most known for his creation of the graphic novel Maus, and scholar Tariq Ramadan discussing the attacks. Very educational and worth watching.

Gore Verbinski Comments on the Cancellation of the film based on the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Pyongyang-Journey-In-North-Korea-Gore-Verbinski-CoverAfter theaters, and Sony’s decision to cancel the release of The Interview, ripples flooded out throughout the movie community. One of the casualties is the cancellation of the film based on Guy DeLisle‘s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. The graphic novel chronicles DeLisle’s time spent in the country overseeing an animation project and featured his observations on the elusive country. It was Lost in Translation in the DPRK. I loved the graphic novel, as much for its humor as its insight into a country most of us know little about.

A movie was being worked on based on the graphic novel. It was to star Steve Carell and be directed by Gore Verbinski. The film has been scrapped and Verbinski has put out a statement:

Re: Pyongyang

Getting the facts straight:
Yesterday, I was told by New Regency and Fox that Fox will no longer be distributing the film. Prior to that, the film was green lit and fully funded by New Regency with Fox distributing. I have been told in no uncertain words that based on the situation at Sony, Fox has now decided to not distribute the film. Without a distributor, New Regency was forced to shut the film down.

My thoughts:

I find it ironic that fear is eliminating the possibility to tell stories that depict our ability to overcome fear.

Gore Verbinski

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