CPAC staffer #2: ...well, we can make it look like a giant dick....
CPAC staffer #1: ....
CPAC staffer #2: It was a joke. I'm joking.
Later, at CPAC --
Screw it, I’m not waiting for the weekend. Gather around, for PeeGee has a funny story for you….
At the risk of stating the patently obvious, people at my regular job think I’m weird. I know, it sounds crazy, but I swear it’s true. Now, most just see me as an odd duck and that’s it.
However, there are a handful who see me not as someone just enjoying what he can of life, but as something being seriously wrong with him. And chief among them is this one woman. Let’s call her “Helen.” Helen likes taking cute little swipes at me when she can, for whatever she can. Am I dragging my feet? “Boy, I’ll be those boots are heavy, huh, Pete?” Wearing my Guardians Of The Galaxy shirt? “Comic books are for children. You are such a man-baby.”
Usually, I ignore her. She has a lot of pull with management. They know she’s a jerk, but she’s also good at her job, so they do what they can to placate her. Which means, if she gets upset with you, you need to apologize to her, even if you were in the right.
When lockdown started, management gave a wider berth for conflict because everyone was stressed, everyone was scared, and this couldn’t be helped. At lunch one time, there was a news report about studies that were heading towards a vaccine. I turned up the TV so I could hear.
Helen went on a rant about how this was a government plot to trick people into turning over their personal information and health records and such. It was why Trump was telling everyone The Virus was no big deal, because these rogue agencies were trying to control the populous.
I hit my limit. I told her Trump was full of shit and asked her if she had any idea what the science behind all this was.
“You read comic books. What do know about science?”
And where do you get your information from?
“From smart people!” She then pulled up an article on her phone and stuck it in my face.
An article by Alex Jones.
I grabbed the newspaper in front of me, buried myself in it, and said, “You’re too stupid to talk to.”
That got screaming at me. Management got involved. I refused to apologize. Eventually, I found out they told her I apologized and admitted I was wrong, which calmed her down and explained the smug look on her face every time I saw her. I didn’t get written up, as I hadn’t done anything they could really pin on me. But they made it clear they did not approve of my defiance.
Cut to Thursday. I got the vaccine. Everyone knew it, it was schedule in to my work day. The person who answered the phone was Helen, who promptly took a couple of swipes at me before hanging up. I did my best to calm down, and went to get the shot.
The process was quick and barely noticeable. Time to drive to work to finish the day. And on the way in, I had an idea.
An awful, AWFUL idea.
I stopped at Walgreens and grabbed myself a bag of Pop Rocks and a bottle of Sprite. I pre-opened the bag and smuggled them on my person until Helen was around. I already had the Sprite bottle out and open. I started talking with everyone about the shot. She, of course, made sure to make her opinion known. “Well, I’m not getting injected with that shit! You don’t know what it will do to you!” And started spouting all sorts of stuff.
During the break in the attention, I shoveled the Pop Rocks into my mouth. I then took a healthy drag on the Sprite.
For those that never did this as kids, let me explain how this works – Pop Rocks are basically sugar crystals with extra carbon dioxide trapped in the structures. Once liquid hits it, the sugar structures collapse and the carbon dioxide is released, creating a fizzy effect. Mixing the Pop Rocks with soda compounds the CO2 release in both elements, like a smaller scale version of the Diet Coke and Mentos thing. As kids, we would put Pop Rocks in our mouth, take a pull of soda, but not swallow. The challenge was to see how long you could hold it in your mouth before the gas release exploded from your mouth like a Kool-Aid commercial. It was fun, it was competitive, and it was a big, sticky, stinky mess. Perfect for kids. (We played this game because Chubby Bunny was for bitches.)
In the middle of Helen’s pontificating on the vaccine and people like me who were behaving like sheep, my cheeks started swelling up like Miles Davis in his prime. I made a noise. This got everyone’s attention, but especially hers. She was clearly wondering if I was just trying to act cute or if something was wrong.
At that point, I could feel the break starting. I dashed to a garbage can and spewed the whole thing right inside. And because I choose strawberry Pop Rocks, it had the most amazing color.
Helen. Fucking. LOST IT.
She started screaming about how the virus was manufactured by the Democrats and the Chinese to take down Trump. The vaccine was dangerous. The virus wasn’t dangerous. It was a media hoax. The vaccine was population control, meant to incapacitate or kill the population. And so on. And so on. And so on.
I had collapsed onto the floor. I was shaking. People might have thought I was having convulsions, but I was just trying to contain my laughter.
Helen immediately punched out for the day and went home as I “recovered.” I was asked if I wanted to go home, but I said I would be fine.
Only one other person, who knows me too well, seemed unconcerned. Once everyone else was gone, he asked, “Did you really have to do that?”
I simply said, You betcha.
Some people are impressed with their intelligence. Some are impressed with their creativity. I’m impressed with my bitchiness.
Somewhere, Holly Faraday is smiling at me….
The year was 1976. Ray Wagner was the CEO of Mattel toys, and made probably the biggest mistake of his life. He was asked if his company would be interested in producing a line of toys based on a movie that got greenlit as a tax dodge. He declined, and the toy rights went to competitor Kenner Toys, instead.
That movie? Star Wars. And we all know how that turned out.
Wagner spent the next several years with the market reminding him he’d blown it. As Kenner soared to new heights with action figures and play sets set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, Mattel attempted to launch several new toy lines to claw back lost marketshare. And they all bombed. Wagner needed something that would go over big.
The answer came from two people working at Mattel, Roger Sweet, a lead in the Preliminary Design Department, and Mark Taylor, a packaging designer. Taylor had done some drawings of a barbarian character in the mould of Conan that he called Torak. This got Sweet to thinking. In late 1980, Mattel had the Mattel Product Conference, where people could pitch new toy lines to Wagner. Sweet went all in — he took figures from another Mattel toy line called Big Jim and started covering them with clay and sculpting them into new characters. He had plaster casts made, and three new characters existed to show off. One was an axe-wielding barbarian, another a tank-headed soldier, and the third was a space soldier. Big manly men, although intended to be the same character. The idea was that this one character could be dropped into any environment and Big Manly Adventures could be had. The proposed line was called Lords Of Power, and the character was named He-Man.
Wagner decided the barbarian was the best character. He was worried how the Bible Belt would react to a name like Lords Of Power, and the name eventually became Masters Of The Universe. Sweet and Taylor became the touchstones of the project. Toy distributors were unsure of the concept — who is He-Man, and why would anyone care? Mattel marketing director Mark Ellis came up with an idea. Each toy would include a mini-comic laying out the lore and characters of the series. Mattel contacted DC Comics for the job, with Donald F. Glut writing the first ones. According to David Wharton’s article “15 Things You Didn’t Know About He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe,” Toys R Us wasn’t sold on this, saying “five-year-olds don’t read” (which, I have to say, is bullshit. I was reading at a fifth-grade level at that age). Ellis proposed an animated series, leading to a meeting with Lou Scheimer, the head of Filmation. And in 1982, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe was unleashed on the world, and became a pop culture phenomenon.
Now, you look at this and you think to yourself, “Wow, Mattel sure hit it out of the park! They own MOTU! They can really leverage that!”
And then, one of the guys I talk with online casually dropped a bomb on me — Universal owns the rights to MOTU, not Mattel. And Mattel loses the rights to make toys in 2023.
This blew my mind. The path of He-Man is pretty well documented, especially in Sweet’s book Mastering The Universe: He-Man And The Rise And Fall Of A Billion-Dollar Idea. Mattel has been adamant about ownership of anything MOTU related, including winning a court case against Glut back in 2011 over the mini-comics he wrote. If you search the US Patent and Trademark Office, it shows Mattel as “Owner” on the copyrights and most of the trademarks. But in 2017, a former brand manager at Mattel named Scott Neitlich flat out stated in an online forum, “And for the record, Mattel does not own MOTU. Universal does.” Among the shocked reactions was one from Emiliano Santalucia, who, based on his responses, works in Mattel’s packaging department, saying that Mattel still owned everything, citing the package indicia that says, “…owned and used under license from Mattel, Inc, (C) 2016 Mattel Inc. All Rights Reserved. Under license to Classic Media.” And yet, not only is it claimed that Universal is the actual rights holder, not only does Mattel lose what it has in 2023, but Mattel is gearing up new product lines that look like they are intended to replace MOTU.
So what the hell happened?
Neitlich has his own YouTube channel, Spector Creative. And he laid out a road map. And if any of this information is wrong, no one is saying. Especially Mattel, which has been oddly quiet about the whole thing. According to him, here’s how this played out:
Mattel was anxious to expand He-Man’s presence, giving rise to She-Ra and the MOTU movie from Cannon Films. They could do this because of Filmation’s animated series. When it comes to IP, there are different categories for what is being claimed. Because they were toys, Mattel had Physical Property IP rights. When Filmation created the series, this created a new category in the IP, Entertainment rights. Filmation didn’t get a lot of oversight from Mattel over what to do with the series, and a lot of the lore and ideas that were created were the results of Filmation’s work, not editorial edicts from Mattel. So Filmation had the Entertainment rights while Mattel still held the Physical Property rights. This also resulted in Filmation’s creation of She-Ra, Princess Of Power. So Filmation was basically treating the property as their own and doing what they thought they should do with it, basically getting themselves mixed up in the ownership of the Entertainment rights, and Mattel was happy to make toys based on it all. During this time, Mattel also granted live action movie rights to Cannon Films (I’m guessing Mattel wasn’t familiar with Cannon’s reputation. They should have talked to Marvel and the proposed Spider-Man movie Cannon was trying to make). That was the one that starred Dolph Lundgren and was directed by Gary Goddard from 1989 (with a pre-fame Courtney Cox in the cast). Fun fact — Cannon had a sequel ready, but they were in financial trouble and couldn’t afford the license fee to Mattel. They wound up reworking the movie into Cyborg with Jean Claude Van Damme and directed by Albert Pyun. Now, obviously, that license has now expired. I believe the rights to the film are held by Warner Bros. now, as they bought out Cannon when they went under. But that’s just the film itself. The live-action rights were available, and were picked up by Sony along with the rights to make a Barbie movie. As we know from the Sony e-mail hack, Sony spent a lot of money and had nothing to show for it, and Mattel eventually got those rights back. Sony did get He-Man back (last I heard, it was being written by the people who wrote Iron Man) while Barbie went elsewhere (I think Warner Bros, IIRC). And there is the Netflix series coming out.
Everybody still with me so far? That’s good!
So, that was the nice, steady, peaceful climb up the roller coaster. Now, here’s were we drop and go through twists and turns that make some people nauseous. Mattel eventually sold the Entertainment rights to Hallmark, the card company. Hallmark then sold the Entertainment rights to a company called Entertainment Rights. Entertainment Rights then sold the rights to Classic Media. According to Neitlich, at this point, Mattel was paying a royalty on each toy sold to Classic Media. He says he’s figuring the royalty is still being paid to whoever currently owns the rights. Then, Classic Media got acquired by DreamWorks, giving them the Entertainment rights to MOTU (DreamWorks made a deal with Netflix for new series, so now we know how Netflix got a She-Ra cartoon — it was part of the deal they made with DreamWorks, who held the rights to MOTU characters. It also explains the two upcoming Netflix series based on MOTU). And then DreamWorks famously went up for sale, and in the resulting bidding war (which is a story in itself), Universal Studios bought them. Which means Universal now owns MOTU.
So what about Mattel? Well, supposedly, the deal was that Mattel got Right Of First Refusal for MOTU toys. This meant that anyone who owned the property that wanted toys had to stop at Mattel first. If Mattel passed, they were free to shop around elsewhere. I would like to say that, if anyone tells you they want First Refusal, break off negotiations right away and never deal with them again. First Refusal does not guarantee it will get to the market. If they want to hold you hostage, all they have to do is say, “Yes, we want it,” but never release it. You now cannot shop whatever it is around because they already said they’d do it, even if they don’t actually do it. Unless you have clauses to have such things expire for non-use, you are putting your entire future in the hands of someone who can simply say, “Hey, I’m honoring the terms of the contract.” Walk away FAST. (I have already done this, in fact. A publisher that wanted to publish a book of mine. Things were all set and they sent me the contract. I don’t know if they just figured I’d be thrilled to be published and wouldn’t ask questions or if they just figured I wouldn’t go over the contract, but buried in there on page 37 was a First Refusal clause, which had never been mentioned at any point previously. I threw it out and cut all contact with them. I just didn’t trust that wording.)
However, the contract states that this is only until 2023. After that, ALL rights revert back to the IP holder. Which, according to Neitlich’s scenario, is Universal. There have been a lot of rumors of a partnership existing between Universal and Mattel’s chief rival, Hasbro. It is possible MOTU toys may soon be made by Hasbro before long. And won’t that make Mattel feel really sick. The only thing Universal does NOT have is the live action rights, which are currently held by Sony. Neitlich says that his information could be wrong, but he doubts it. As the theme from Monk goes, “I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so.”
One thing is for sure — if Neitlich is right, things are going to get real interesting for Mattel in 2023. And I’m very curious to see what happens next.
Trump was not convicted yesterday. His attempted coup was excused. Had he been convicted, he would not be able to run for President again in 2024. But his friends protected him, keeping him one vote away from that. One person online that I follow posted a picture of a scoreboard saying, and I quote, “Trump = 2, Libtards = 0.” And they’re already talking of Trump running again (despite him supposedly being sworn in on March 4, as QAnon continues its unholy union with the Sovereign Citizen movement). The whole point of this was to keep Trump from running again. And that just went splat.
So let’s talk turkey here.
The primary goal has been and always shall be to keep the 21st Century’s Benedict Arnold from even thinking about sullying public office again. And guess what? There’s a way. It needs a bit of work, which can be done while Biden has both chambers of Congress under his wing, but it can be done, and it has to be fast.
* rrrrriiiiiiinnnng! * Okay, class. Eyes up front. Today’s lesson — the 14th Amendment.
The 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868. Passed during the Reconstruction after the Civil War, it has had probably the greatest impact on American law of any Amendment outside the Bill Of Rights. It contains the Citizenship Clause, which kneecapped the Supreme Court ruling in the Dred Scott case, the Due Process Clause which prevents seizure without fair procedure, the Equal Protection Clause, which has formed the basis for cases such as Brown v Board Of Education in 1954, Roe v Wade in 1973, and Obergefell v Hodges in 2015, which legalized same sex marriages, and the Privileges And Immunities Clause. Most of the struggle to extend the rights of the Constitution to all American citizens instead of just the privileged few began right here, the Square One of civil reform.
So what does this have to do with Trump? Remember how this was done after a war where several states basically committed treason and sedition? Well, this addresses that. In Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, it explicitly states, and I quote, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
Enforcement at the start was confusing, but how to deal with it was solidified in 1870 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act (a.k.a. the Enforcement Act, a.k.a. the First Ku Klux Klan Act, because Sections 14 and 15 were intended to keep former Confeds out of public office during the Reconstruction). Section 15 of that act makes it a misdemeanor to run for office if you are ineligible to do so under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. You get up to a year in prison for that. It also allows a federal prosecutor to force someone from office.
Boy, that sounds lovely, doesn’t it? All the current Congress has to do is declare Trump is in violation of Section 3 if he runs in 2024, and all is well, right? But there’s a problem. Section 3 has not been given much of a judicial revue, and has never made it to the Supreme Court.
There are two prominent cases involving Section 3. The first is from 1871 in United States v Powell. Amos S.C. Powell ran for public office, and was indicted under Section 3 because he held “the office of constable” for the Confederacy. The court ruled that that position “rendered those who had held it … engaged in the Rebellion,” and Powell was “ineligible to any office now, by the provisions o the 3d section of the 14th amendment.”
The second case is also the last time Section 3 was actually invoked. It was 1919. Victor Berger was a card-carrying Socialist, and he ran for the House of Representatives. He won, becoming the first Socialist elected to Congress. The House referred him to a special investigative committed, which concluded that, not only had Berger opposed US participation in WWI, but he had also been prosecuted and convicted under the Espionage Act. The House used this to cite Section 3 and refused to seat him.
Here’s the key part of all this — how it gets implemented is vague at best. If Trump ran in 2024 and Congress hit him with Section 3, he could bring a civil lawsuit. It would definitely get before the Supreme Court, and the results are unpredictable. So Congress needs to take time, right now, to shore up the law for modern times to prevent an enemy of the state from becoming the state again.
If they are serious about healing America, this needs to be on their radar.