& Property Rights
"The modern conservative is engaged,in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
_________________________________John Kenneth Galbraith
Private property, which includes real estate, money and other material possessions is right up there with, or maybe even above, individual freedom in the conservative/right wing dogma. Well, at least as long as it is private property that is already owned by the aforementioned right wing/con - if it belongs to somebody else, not so much
This post won't be about the can of worms that is "eminent domain" and the power of the state to confiscate someone's home or business (or otherwise degrade its value ala Susan Heyes and the Cambie Street Merchants, the Delta residents and BC Transmission) or the Kelo v. City of New London (Connecticut)decision that transferred private property to another "private" interest supposedly in the public interest (that resulted in a big vacant area when the private project in the public interest had its voodoo financing fall through after going to the Supreme Court to win the right to tear down the homes of the residents). A brief summary of this case from Wikipedia follows:
Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another to further economic development. The case arose from the condemnation by New London, Connecticut, of privately owned real property so that it could be used as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan which promised 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues. The Court held in a 5–4 decision that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified such redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The City eventually agreed to move Kelo's house to a new location and to pay substantial additional compensation to other homeowners. The redeveloper was unable to obtain financing and had to abandon the redevelopment project, leaving the land as an empty lot.
Today I want to discuss the right wing inability to either understand or respect property rights as they apply to intellectual property beyond the idea that major corporations should control the rights to characters and stories hundreds of years old like Snow White or Pocahontas.
As a musician and occasional software developer/hacker of the white hat variety, I often think about the ongoing debate about copyright law in the modern age and how it can interface with new technology AND actual content creators and not just kow tow to the interests of the corporate media conglomerates. The issue was brought to the fore in Canada last week by the latest round of US style pre-election attack ads flooding the airwaves courtesy of the ever campaigning Harper Cons. The CBC took exception to the cavalier use of copyrighted CBC footage of Michael Ignatieff without even the semblence of asking permission. In a nutshell, according to the Globe and Mail:
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are not known for their love of the public broadcaster. So it should come as no surprise they will not comply with demands by the CBC to remove its footage from new Tory attack ads.
“We have received the CBC’s request and disagree with their interpretation,” Tory strategists say in a toughly-worded memo to supporters.
The response from the PMO shouldn't surprise anyone who has been paying attention for the last five years of rule by the Canadian Taliban. It should by now be obvious that Steven Harper will do whatever he wants to do, unless and until someone with big ones puts the cuffs on him and perp walks him out of the Pariliament Buildings. And this, if I do it, it is legal, attitude is with a minority government for which two thirds of Canadians have repeatedly expressed their distaste! If Harper should ever achieve his coveted majority (which the attack ads are designed to promote) he wouldn't even talk to the current CBC management as he would probably give the peoples broadcaster to Lenny Asper to make up for the broadcasting empire he drove into bankruptcy and had to give up.
But our triple A Canadian reich wingers are amateurs at appropriating intellectual property compared to their ideological heroes to the south, otherwise known as Republicans. It seems as if it is completely impossible for a serious Republican to even enter a primary race without stealing some musician's work without permission and often without even paying royalties due, for the use to which they have put it.
The idea of politicians appropriating popular songs as campaign themes isn't new and goes back about as far as both American politics and popular music. Frank Sinatra performed "High Hopes" in 1960 in SUPPORT of John F. Kennedy. Hillary Clinton used Canadian songbird Celine Dion's "You and I" in her primary run, BECAUSE Celine supported Ms. Clinton and wanted to support her effort to garner the nomination. Hillary had to scrounge for musical support though compared to Barrack Obama for whom musicians put together a political equivalent of "We Are the World" based on the hook - "Yes We Can," including musicians the calibre of Herbie Hancock. Milt Romney uses "A Little Less Conversation" by Elvis, and at least Elvis hasn't complained, not even when I ran into him at CostCo!
Republicans aren't so lucky, since the gene pool of successful musicians with recognizable tunes that willingly shill for RePuke candidates is limited to the likes of Ted "Michigan's Militia Man" Nugent, Kid Rock, Gene "KISS" Simmons, Donny Osmond and Wayne Newton.
The trend of "good" musicians getting shafted (and pissed off at) by ReThug politicos really got underway when Ronnie Raygun (perhaps absentmindedly) appropriated "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. At the time the Album and its title song were the biggest thing in American rock music. As the blog Jurisprude explains:
Back in 1984, Ronald Reagan famously interpreted Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” as being a “message of hope,” even though the song was more an attack against the treatment and prospects of Vietnam veterans upon their return to the USA. Reagan stated, “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts. It rests in the message of hope so many young people admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.’”
At the time, “Born in the USA” was the number one song in America, and Springsteen was clearly not in favor of his song being connected or interpreted in this manner:
“I think people have a need to feel good about the country they live in,” he later told Rolling Stone. “But what’s happening, I think, is that that need — which is a good thing — is getting manipulated and exploited. You see in the Reagan election ads on TV, you know, ‘It’s morning in America,’ and you say, ‘Well, it’s not morning in Pittsburgh.’ “
Ironically and, perhaps, shrewdly, this year the Democratic Party used “Born in the USA” as one of the main songs before Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the Democratic Convention (Springsteen supports Obama), although analysts say this time the song was used to promote its original message:
The fact that Republicans often demonstrate that they don't even understand the songs they inappropriately appropriate just goes to the old saw that "All conservatives aren't stupid, but most stupid people are conservative."
Years ago my respect for Merle Haggard, which was already immense, took a leap upward when he was invited to the White House by then President Nixon and refused to sing "Okie from Muskogee" when Mr. "I am not a crook" requested it, because Merle felt that he didn't get what Merle was saying in the lyrics - at all! Merle never intended to write an anthem to divisiveness or "wedge" politics, no matter how stupid conservatives who want to intepret it that way want to think so!
Other examples of the Right's tone deafness!
- Sarah Palin and the Wilson Sisters
- During the 2008 campaign Sarah Palin started using the Heart tune "Barracuda," apparently that being too difficult to resist as that was Caribou Barbie's nickname when she was an elbow wielding guard on her high school basketball team - which prompted a statement from Ann and Nancy Wilson:
“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late 70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The ‘barracuda’ represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”
- Daddy McShame and Jackson Browne
- In August of 2008, Jackson Browne, took exception to John McCain's use of his song "Running on Empty" (to attack Obama) and issued a law suit against
......the McCain campaign, the Republican Party, and the Ohio Republican Party alleging copyright infringement and a violation of Browne’s right of publicity:
Copyright infringement aside, Browne’s lawsuit also alleges that the song’s usage falsely suggests that he is a McCain supporter. Browne is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the use of the song, as well as undisclosed damages.
Other examples include:
Tom Scholz of Boston blasting Mike Huckabee for using his song "More than a Feeling." Scholz said that he supported Obama and resented his song being used by a candidate who was "the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for."
John "Cougar" Mellencamp who being from Indiana suffers the indignity of all kinds of whack jobs using "Pink Houses,"Our Country" and other songs from his ouvre.
Tom Petty took exception in 2000 to George Bush the Lesser using his "I Won't Back Down," and the lesser Bu$h actually quit using it, but still won (through questinable means) Petty's home state of Florida and thus stole the election of 2000!
Bush the Lesser also used Foo Fighter Dave Grohl's "Times Like These" in 2004, inspiring Mr. Grohl to campaign for John Kerry.
In the recent mid-terms, a California Senate Republican candidate poked perhaps the wrong songwriter by stealing and re-writing a couple songs by the any thing but mild mannered Don Henley, of Eagles fame. As Variety describes the sh*tstorm that candidate DeVore stepped into:
It seems that a right-wing candidate for the California Senate seat, Republican Chuck DeVore, borrowed two classic Don Henley songs, “Boys of Summer” and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance”, altered some of the lyrics himself and had his campaign strategist re-record some of the vocals to make attack spots on his opposing candidates– he then put the ads up on the internet. I’m not sure which part of this is actually the most egregious: the fact that a politician is now thinking he can write song lyrics, that he thinks he is a comedian, or that he considers his campaign strategist qualified to replace vocals by Don Henley. First there’s an action hero that wants to be governor, now there’s a politician who thinks he’s a co-writer with the guy who wrote “Hotel California”.
Of course, none of those concerns are the primary ones for Don Henley, who has a reputation for a healthy temper, an unwillingness to suffer fools, and a staunchly liberal political point of view. Henley and his co-writers, Mike Campbell (“Boys of Summer”) and Danny Kortchmar (“All She Wants To Do Is Dance”) reacted quickly and have already sued DeVore for copyright infringement in the US District Court, on the basis that the new versions implied that they were supporting DeVore’s candidacy, a prospect that Henley probably found more upsetting than a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.
So all you need to remember is - the Right Wing (by that I mean the BC LIEberals, the HarperCons, the US RePukelicans and whoever is currently running Alberta) worship at the altar of "PRIVATE PROPERTY" and really truly respect property rights - well as long as it is their property, or even yours, if they are done with it or just don't need it for anything.
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