This 60-year old short film is worth watching again today. #DontBeASucker

We must never let ourselves be divided by race, or color or religion, because in this country we all belong to minority groups. […] And you belong to other minority groups too. […] Your right to belong to these minorities is a precious thing. You have a right to be what you are and say what you think, because here we have personal freedom. We have liberty. And these are not just fancy words; this is a practical and priceless way of living. But we must work at it. We must guard everyone’s liberty, or we could lose our own. If we allow any minority to lose its freedom by persecution or prejudice, we are threatening our own freedom. And this is not simply an idea, this is good hard common sense.Continue reading →

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I Enjoyed Watching CitizenFour (The Documentary About Edward Snowden)

Edward Snowden (left) shows journalist Glenn Greenwald (right) how the encryption system works before sharing his leaked documents. Image via Spoilpolis.com.

Edward Snowden (left) shows journalist Glenn Greenwald (right) how the encryption system works before sharing his leaked documents.

I am probably quite late (the film was released in October 2014) but it just happens that I have seen CitizenFour tonight. “Citizenfour,” the codename that Snowden gave himself prior to getting public with the NSA spying scandal, is a very interesting documentary, impartial, objective, as any documentary should be, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary at this year’s 2015 Oscars. Continue reading →

Advertising Contests in the 1950s and 1960s (The Contest Era)

The book cover (left) and the movie poster (right)

The book cover from 2001 (left) and the movie poster from 2005 (right)

It’s easy to forget how long companies have been inviting ideas from ‘the crowd,’” says Julia Kirby in her HBR article Creative That Cracks the Code the Code. “If you’re in doubt, read The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, a memoir of 1950s America in which the author’s mother writes advertising jingles for contest after contest.” This excerpt caught my interest, and I rushed to Amazon to buy the book (2001) and the movie (2005). I’ve just finished both and learned an awful lot advertising contests in the 1950s and 1960s, decades of prosperity in which companies fueled consumption and promoted the American Way of Life with creative contests. Continue reading →

Prison Valley, ‘Prison-nomics’ in Cañon City, Colorado (web-documentary)

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It’s exam period at UWF and I am studying my various courses : Marketing Strategy, Information Sources for Business Decisions, International Business and Current Social Problems. In the course material of the two last ones, I read content that made me want to watch that documentary I had heard about a couple of times now : Prison Valley. While we extensivelly discusses the crime issue in our Current Social Problems-class, the part of our International Business-class about privatization of public services as a way of achieving growth in global service industries (like prison management) pushed me to type http://prisonvalley.arte.tv/ into my browser. Here’s what it’s about… and what I think about it.

In Cañon City, Colorado (36,000 inhabitants, 13 prisons), prisons are part of people’s daily lives. There’s even a sense of pride to being host-city of this industry : orange, the color of the inmates’ uniforms, is overrepresented on the streets. The Riviera Motel, in which David Dufresne and Philippe Brault, the two producers of the web-documentary, stayed during their journey, is all orange.

One in six employees of Colorado’s Department of Corrections works in the small Fremont County, the county of Cañon City. But the importance of the prison industry is not a local, nor a statewide specificity : it is a national issue. While in Germany there are 93 prisoners per 100,000 country residents and in France they are 103 per 100,000 people, in the United States they are 750 ! This is more than 1 in 100 adults… I see this as a social problem, and some of Canon City’s inhabitants share the same opinion, including the sheriff. However, this stream of prisoners brings jobs to this small city too, and they’re recession-proof jobs too.

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Colorado's State prisons manufacture license plates

But, with 13 prisons in a single county, there must be more than just philantropy towards the locals. In the county, public prisons are mixed to private, or for-profit prisons. Not that the State of Colorado stopped building prisons… in fact, there’s one new facility currently being finalized and supposed to open in August 2010 : Colorado State Penitentiary II. Lobbyists working for private companies have convinced the State the following deal : the private sector finances the construction of the facility, and the State provides a constant flow of inmates to be held in jail. Sounds crazy, but that’s basically how the system works. Of course, the longer the prisonners’ stay, the more money goes to the (private) prison-facility. And the documentary points out another side of the system : inmate labor. For example, all of Colorado’s license plates are manufactured in the State’s prisons. It’s one of the best paid jobs for inmates, they make 50$ a month stamping them. Some of the new state prison’s cells are also welded and assembled by inmates of the Fremont Correctional Facility, and that’s how the circle closes : prison inmates (employed by Unicor, which is the trade name of the Federal Prison Industries) provide cheap labor to build for-profit prisons ; in other words, the customer becomes the supplier, who provides labor at unbeatable prices.

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Cartoon by John Jonik

In Europe, prisoners work too, but outsourcing the whole prison management seems unthinkable to us Europeans. We might not have the best system either. In France, for instance, prisons are so overcrwded that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture calls in “inhuman and degrading treatment“. The web-documentary utilizes the potential of the web2.0 to educate us about the social problem of crime and, more specifically, emprisonment. You don’t have to visit every discussion forum that is proposed to you between the different parts of the movie, nor do you have to read one of the explanatory websites that give deeper insight into the movie’s subject. But it is definitelly worthwhile watching… just don’t grab a bowl of popcorn, because this web-documentary is designed to be (very) interactive.