Category Archives: Politics

White Nationalism is the Issue. Video Games and Media Don’t Cause Violence

video games controller

With recent tragedies on everyone’s minds, some people are looking for a cause and culprit other than the shooters and perpetrators of the recent terrorist attacks in Dayton and El Paso. Unfortunately, some are blaming media, including video games, for violent behavior in individuals. We know this isn’t the case; banning or regulating media content, even more, won’t solve the issue.

Christopher J. Ferguson, the chair of the Texas A&M International University’s department of psychology and communication, among others including federally funded studies, have shown there’s no link between violent video games and real-world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression. There’s no need for more federal studies, when there’s been federal studies completed. Past research has been mixed, at best, and often weakened by substantial methodological flaws.

It’s clear that real-world statistics don’t back up the coordinated rhetoric championed by the Republican party and elected officials. It’s a coordinated deflection from the true cause of attacks, white nationalism, and loose gun laws. That’s the true threat to America, not video games.

The facts also back up no connection. While video game sales have increased, according to the FBI’s own statistics, violent crime has been steadily decreasing. In 2011, violent crimes nationwide decreased by 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, it’s decreased by 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales. Other nations play the same video games and don’t see the violence and shooting that we see here in the United States.

While Trump also blames mental health, video games have been shown they can be used in therapy including for treating mental health issues.

The reality is President Trump’s own rhetoric fuels the violence and terrorist attacks. When an individual joked about shooting immigrants at a rally, Trump laughed. Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes. Both Trump and the El Paso White Nationalist used the term “invasion” when describing immigrants.

Hate crimes in the country increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, marking the third straight year of a spike in hate crimes, according to an FBI report released last November.

At the same time, federal courts – including the Supreme Court – have routinely held that government regulation of media, including video games, is unconstitutional.  Funding more studies – or passing laws that then get fought out in courts – costs taxpayers millions of dollars. That’s money better spent on treating the mentally ill or shoring up and improving background checks for weapons purchases.

We’ve seen these same conversations before. In the 1950s comic books were blamed for truancy, violence, and homosexuality in youth. This lead to hearings in the United States Senate. We look back on this piece of history and laugh out how ludicrous this claim was then. It’s just as ludicrous today when the conversation turns to video games and their effects.

There’s no easy solution to prevent violence like these events. But focusing on the wrong things isn’t the answer. Make your voice heard today.

A St. Louis Police Union Rallies Around the Punisher Logo to Show Support for Cops Under Investigation

An investigation is underway by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police department regarding officers who published “concerning” images and statements on social media. A police union has asked its members to post the “blue lives Punisher logo” to show support for those officers.

The Punisher logo has been embraced by law enforcement as a symbol of “the war against those who hate law enforcement” according to Ed Clark, the president of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association.

Clark seems to ignore the fact the Punisher is a vigilante who works outside of law enforcement and unlike police officers tries not to kill innocent individuals. In the comics, the character is a vet whose family is killed by the mob for witnessing a crime. He then seeks revenge in a one man war against crime.

The St. Louis Police Police Chief John Hayden released a memo that indicates he has a better understanding of the character. In it, he states the logo “does not coincide” with the department’s “mission to protect life and property and achieve a peaceful society.”

A project cross-referenced police officers with their social media posts uncovering racist and anti-Muslim posts implicating 22 officers. The city’s chief prosecutor has added those officers to a list the officer won’t take cases from.

The Punisher’s creator Gerry Conway has spoken out on the subject:

Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.

The Punisher himself addressed the issue in a recent comic:

Marvel has been silent over the use of their intellectual property.

North Carolina Denies the Lack of Grant Rebates are the Cause of Swamp Thing’s Cancellation

DC Universe's Swamp Thing

Early this week we ran a story that DC Universe‘s Swamp Thing‘s cancellation was possibly due in part of issues arising from tax grants in North Carolina.

Speculation ran rampant that the production was promised $40 million but only received a fraction of that, a claim that was easily debunked and we did exactly that.

We originally wrote:

The show is eligible for up to $12 million. That money has been set aside until an audit is completed. They had originally requested $16.3 million for the 13-episode season.

In reality, the production received what it requested, $12 million for the season (the maximum amount one can receive) and $4.9 for the pilot episode. We were correct on the $12 million and misunderstood the $4.9 million part. Pilot episodes are counted as their own series, hence the separate amounts. Closer to reality than any other reporting.

Since the budget for the grant program for the year is $31 million and a production can get up to 25% back, the speculated $40 million funding other sites reported wasn’t in any reality or close to it.

Guy Gaster, the Director of the North Carolina Film Office released a statement concerning the situation:

The production team for Swamp Thing knew before production began that North Carolina would offer up to $4.9M in rebates for their pilot episode and $12M for the remainder of season one. They accepted said offer and even signed a contract with the state with those figures. Per state legislation, the NC Film and Entertainment grant can only award up to $12M per season for a series. Per the program’s guidelines, pilot episodes are counted as their own series. In total, the program only receives $31M annually.

But, what Gaster doesn’t address is the still murky future of tax grants in North Carolina which is what our reporting was really focused on and a possible reason for the show’s initial cancellation. Rumors are it’s being shopped around to channels such as The CW and HBO.

From our original article:

In the 2019-2020 state budget, $31 million was to be removed from the fund due to it having a little over $67 million remaining. That money though was already promised. The future of the fund remains up in the air.

Elected officials seem to be disagreeing as to whether the incentives should exist at all. While the money has been restored in the budget proposed by the House, it hasn’t made it in to the Senate’s proposed budget. Budget negotiations are ongoing ahead of the fiscal year’s close on June 30.

This confusion by elected officials has likely lead to miscommunication and disruption and most likely made production not worth it and a logistical issue. The unknown nature of future incentives also makes planning for future production difficult.

Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) wrote in a post:

Because of miscommunication with the State Commerce Department, the chief House Appropriation Chairs were led to believe that there was $67,380,519 of unused funds in the Film Grant Fund, so an additional $31,000,000 was not necessary in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This resulted in that amount being cut from the proposed Budget for the upcoming fiscal and was to be used for other things.

As explained above, due to a misunderstanding the 2019 budget in the North Carolina House and Senate removed future funding for their film and television grant program. The program currently has money available but that money is already promised. $31 million in future funding was in doubt, and still is.

The funding was replaced in the House budget proposal. Reconciliation between the House and Senate, and a possible veto from the Governor for the overall budget, future funding is still up in the air.

Wilmington Biz agrees with the assessment that film officials and studios are waiting to see how this allocation plays out for future budgets before making decisions and committing to film in the state.

Film officials and studios are waiting to see how film incentive allocations for fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21 fare in the budget reconciliation process.

Since production planning for a second season would begin relatively soon it’d be silly to continue if you don’t know if 20% of your budget won’t be present for future seasons. The amateur egg on face removal of the funding from proposed initial budget, plus a questionable future, is enough for a production to pull out, especially one with a budget around $85 million. The grant application form for Swamp Thing, filed with the N.C. Department of Commerce, estimates the production’s spending at $65 million in the state. Another $20 million was spent on its pilot. Crew numbers were estimated at 597.

So, while this year’s commitment was paid it’s the future of funding for the industry that’s up in the air.

Swamp Thing Cancelled After One Season, Possibly Due to North Carolina’s Broken Promises

DC Universe Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing debuted on DC Universe last week, and after one episode, the series will not be getting a second. The remainder of the show’s run will play out as normal on the streaming service but won’t return after that.

The season was cut short going from 13 episodes to 10 episodes and while some have said it was due to creative differences or a shift in Warner‘s streaming plans, but the reason might be much simpler, money.

It seems North Carolina is a bit confused on their promised millions of dollars in film grants and future funding for such grants are up in the air. The show is eligible for up to $12 million. That money has been set aside until an audit is completed. They had originally requested $16.3 million for the 13-episode season.

Tax rebates and grants are a way for states to draw production to them and $12 million is a good chunk of the season’s reported $85 million budget. Productions are eligible for up to 25% rebate on qualifying expenses. The money is paid out after production is completed and an audit happens. This can take up to three years after production.

In the 2019-2020 state budget, $31 million was to be removed from the fund due to it having a little over $67 million remaining. That money though was already promised. The future of the fund remains up in the air.

Elected officials seem to be disagreeing as to whether the incentives should exist at all. While the money has been restored in the budget proposed by the House, it hasn’t made it in to the Senate’s proposed budget. Budget negotiations are ongoing ahead of the fiscal year’s close on June 30.

This confusion by elected officials has likely lead to miscommunication and disruption and most likely made production not worth it and a logistical issue. The unknown nature of future incentives also makes planning for future production difficult.

The state had a tax rebate program which was then switched to a grant program. Legislation has been put forth to reinstate the tax incentive program.

Swamp Thing and the film Uncle Frank generated $75 million in in-state spending and created over 1,500 jobs.

Since all entertainment in the end is a spreadsheet, the likely reason for the cancellation is that the series wasn’t worth producing without these tax incentives and the overall cost to produce was too high to justify going forward.

U.S. Senate Candidate Jaime Harrison Embraces Comics in His First Campaign Video

Jaime Harrison is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in South Carolina. In his first campaign video entitled “Character” Harrison talks about comics and uses panel visuals to tell his story.

In the 3 minute video, he recounts how comics were how he learned to read before going in to his “origin story.”

The video uses comic panels, and other visual styles, to tell his personal history and then go after his possible opponent Senator Lindsay Graham.

It’s an amazing use of comic visuals to tell a personal story.

Has a California Law Rewritten the Comic Industry’s Employment?

California Capitol

The gig economy is booming and allowing corporations to take advantage of workers and get around costs by considering “employees” as “independent contractors.” That distinction allows businesses to get around state and federal labor laws as well as not provide some benefits.

The California state Assembly has passed AB5 which now does to the state Senate. It impacts thousands of “independent contracts like Uber and Amazon drivers, tech companies, and possibly comic creators.

The legislation expands upon a California Supreme Court case decision last month known as Dynamex Operations West v Superior Court. The ruling, and the bill, instruct businesses to use the “ABC test” to figure out if a worker is an employee.

To hire an independent contractor, the worker must not meet all three of these conditions.

(a) is free from the company’s control,
(b) is doing work that isn’t central to the company’s business, and
(c) has an independent business in that industry.

If all three aren’t met, they have to be classified as an employee.

Comic creators aren’t always clear from the company’s control. They are absolutely central to the company’s business, but many have independent businesses in the industry. One of these conditions is not met. It fails the court, and legislative, mandate. One has to look closer at the languageof the legislation and its exemptions. An example are professionals who rent space like a Doctor or Hair Stylist.

The legislation does exempt “those performing work under a contract for professional services”. There would likely not be impact to the industry as comic creators would likely fall under this exemption. Publishers will need clarification. Due to the court’s ruling they should seek it out anyways.

It’s all in the contract and working relationship between the two. That will be a tight line those in charge will have to walk.

This legislation and decision is stricter than federal guidelines which has ever changing guides and opinions.

If a company is found to violate this, they would be liable to reimburse local agencies and school districts for mandated costs.

Trump’s Tariff War with China is Already Impacting Comic Creators

shipping container boat

We spoke about Trump’s trade war with China and the raising of tariffs to 25% of items from the country in our second episode of Graphic Policy Weekly. Tariffs are a way to “even out” the cost of foreign goods so they’re on par with domestic goods.

While President Trump claims that the foreign government pays the tariff, that’s incorrect. In reality the importer does and that cost is passed along to the consumer in the retail cost of the goods. It’s a tax on consumers.

Much of the comic, game, and toy industry’s production is in foreign countries, especially China, and thus this policy is directly impacting our hobbies.

John Fleskes has spoken out about the impact of the tariff on his company, Flesk Publications. Flesk Publications is a high end art book publisher of which many art books highlight the talents of comic artists. You can read his full post below.

As he points out, this policy also include Hong Kong where his books are printed. He has checked on working conditions, which he describes as “stellar,” and has verified that the paper and materials have been sourced in an environmentally and sustainable way. The facility is “clean” and a “professional environment.” This directly disputes the narrative of “slave labor” producing our goods.

As he describes in his post, this policy decision directly impacts his company making it go from a “good year” to a possible “negative year” and that hiring a new employee won’t happen and bonuses provided to employees won’t happen. Prices up books will also go up while production will be on hold for future books.

Read his full post below while another good read about the reality of book production can be found here.

We have been notified by our shipper today that by the end of June there will be an implementation of the 25% duty tax that will effect books manufactured and imported from China. This includes Hong Kong (where we have our printing done).
At the moment, we have Ballpoint Beauties by Frank Cho, the new Terry Dodson sketchbook, Bombs Away, and the new Art of Gary Gianni for George R.R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms in transit with an arrival date in the US port at the end of June. If our books arrived a week or two earlier, we would have avoided the duty tax. (Update: This is up in the air at the moment.)
As a small publisher, this is how a sudden duty tax will affect us.
We plan our book releases anywhere form 8-12 months in advance. At that time, we set our cover prices, then promote and advertise the book, as well as list it with our distributor. We sign contracts with the printer so that we can secure a quote, then they order the paper and place us into their production schedule. Unlike just about every other item you find in a store, the cover price is printed on books. So, if a publisher is hit with a sudden tax or unexpected expense, we can not adjust the cover price to compensate. The discounts with the distributor have already been negotiated. I cannot charge the distributors more to compensate. The duty tax comes straight out of our narrow profit margin.
In essence, because of this duty tax, I am preparing for the following. Due to the direct loss to our profits:
1. We will not be able to hire the new employee that we planned in securing this summer.
2. We already signed our printer contract and set the pricing for Spectrum 26. Due to the duty tax, our profits for this book will be greatly reduced. Our 6 months of work on this title will break even, at most.
3. We will not be able to provide the bonuses that we normally provide to our employees.
4. Any funds that we planned on saving for the future are greatly compromised.
5. All of our plans for growth are on standby since we have no idea how this duty tax will be implemented.
6. All books in development are currently being produced, but are on hold as we learn how this will impact us further.
7. All book prices will go up to make up for the duty taxes. How much? We can’t tell yet.
We are going from having a good year, to having a possible negative year due the trade wars.
We need a full year notice if new duty taxes are going to be implemented. That would give us time to plan and make changes. Unfortunately, using printers in the US is not an option. They charge upwards of three times the costs, even after shipping, than China or Hong Kong printers do. Also, the facilities and printers who can print deluxe hardbound books simply do not exist in the US. It would take years for someone to invest in the creation of a premium US art book printer, and it would be a risk since if the duty tax was to be removed in the future it would put them out of business. Creating incentives for US companies to grow manufacturing here, instead of penalizing us for going outside of the US for manufacturing, would make more sense in my opinion. The infrastructure simply does not exist in the US for us to print here. We have no choice but to go overseas.
This will be a tough year for us. We’ll get through it. We’re strong, yet we wish we didn’t have to be.
I’m saddened though. Saddened that I can not take care of my family and employees like I had hoped this year. I’m saddened that much of the slim profits that we make will be taken away from us by a trade war. Publishing is my passion. Making books is my great love. Not even a duty tax will stop us, as much as it may try. But it will be one hell of a speed bump to drive over.

Graphic Policy Weekly Episode 2: Elections Matter

Welcome to the second episode of Graphic Policy Weekly, our new weekly show going over the biggest comic news out there.

On this episode:
Last week and this week’s comics!
Marvel’s X-Line Gets Another Revamp
Read More
Atlas Comics is back!
Read More
Square Enix gets in to publishing in the US
Read more

Main story:
Elections and the policy spinning out of them impacts us every day but this past week has seen two big stories that impacts comics, games, toys, tv, and movies specifically. We talk about the Georgia abortion ban and the trade war with China.

Two Production Companies Take a Stand Against Georgia’s Abortion Law

Keep Abortion Safe and Legal

David Simon‘s Blown Deadline Productions and Killer Films CEO Christine Vachon have both pledged to no longer shoot in Georgia so long as their “heartbeat bill” aka abortion ban stands as legislation.

The legislation was signed in to law on Tuesday by Republican Gov. Bill Kemp and bans abortion after a heartbeat is detected which can be as early as six weeks. There are exceptions to save the life of the mother or for rape and incest but only if a woman files a police report. Most don’t. The law goes in to effect in January.

Some have threatened to pull production from the state if the bill was signed in to law and at least two in Hollywood are standing by their word.

The MPAA isn’t taking much of a stand as they have said they are watching the courts to see what the final outcome is. A similar law in North Dakota in 2016 was overturned by the Supreme Court but with a right-wing shift of the court, it’s unknown if that decision may change if it goes before the court again

Georgia has tax incentives of up to 30 percent back which brought in 455 productions to the state last year with $2.7 billion in direct spending. There’s about 92,000 jobs in Georgia for film and production.

The Walking Dead, Ozark, and Stranger Things all shoot there and Marvel has used Pinewood Studios in Atlanta for some of their film productions.

AbleGamers Foundation and NY State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud Partner for G.A.M.E. Day

The AbleGamers Foundation has announces that they have partnered with New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud to present Game Accessibility Means Equality (G.A.M.E.) Day on May 16, 2019. The event will be hosted at Brookdale University Hospital Cafeteria in Brooklyn, New York, and will feature hands-on demonstrations of the latest accessibility technologies and discussions featuring Senator Persaud and AbleGamers leadership about issues affecting those with disabilities — and how video games can be a central part of their solution. 

New technological advancements — many created in partnership with The AbleGamers Foundation — allow people to enjoy video games despite their physical limitations. As part of G.A.M.E. Day, media and members of the public are invited to enjoy demonstrations of some of the latest video game related assistive technologies — including the Xbox Adaptive Controller — and to meet the accessibility experts making dreams come true for people with disabilities.

New York Senator Roxanne J. Persaud

New York Senator Roxanne J. Persaud is a renowned advocate for women’s rights and a fierce champion in the pursuit of the many challenging social issues affecting New Yorkers. For this event, Senator Persaud has partnered with the AbleGamers Foundation to highlight the significantly positive role video games can play in the lives of those with disabilities and to celebrate advancements in accessibility throughout interactive entertainment. 

AbleGamers and Senator Persaud will be at Brookdale University Hospital Cafeteria in Brooklyn, New York, from 4 to 6 PM EDT on May 16, 2019. Advanced registration is required. Those interested in attending can register by calling 1-518-455-2788.

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