Saturday, October 27, 2007

Crisis Management =
Perception Management
FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, vice admiral Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing. Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices, and questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shaking The Tree
"The real story of Jena and the Jena 6 is quite different from what the national media presented. It's time to set the record straight."

From the Christian Science Monitor, this report by Jena Times Assistant Editor Craig Franklin:

"By now, almost everyone in America has heard of Jena, La., because they've all heard the story of the 'Jena 6.' White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests – the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.

"There's just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice."

In light of recent research on the difficulty of countering false information in the news media, it should be interesting to see how this develops.
Harold and Maude Trailer
Featuring Cat Stevens'
"If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out"
The Psychology of Believing News Reports

Conventional response to myths and urban legends is to counter bad information with accurate information. But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths.

This phenomenon may help explain why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in planning the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi.

While these beliefs likely arose because Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, the experiments suggest that intelligence reports and other efforts to debunk this account may in fact help keep it alive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Black Balled
"The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity. It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science. To question this is not to give in to racism."
So says Nobel Prize-winning DNA pioneer James Watson, seeking to clarify remarks that eventually earned him a suspension from his research institution, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, NY.
In a recent (London) Times interview, Dr. Watson was quoted as saying that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really."
The remarks drew sharp criticism, and following the suspension, he stated: "This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers."
Measles, Schmeasles.
I've Got A God To Please.
An Associated Press examination of states' vaccination records and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many states are seeing increases in the rate of religious exemptions claimed for kindergartners.
The number of exemptions is extremely small in percentage terms and represents just a few thousand of the 3.7 million children entering kindergarten in 2005, the most recent figure available.
But public health officials say it takes only a few people to cause an outbreak that can put large numbers of lives at risk.
One Vote Under God:
The Role of Faith in the 2008 Election Campaigns

Abortion. Education. Religious extremism and its ties to terrorism. All of these are central to life in today's America, and all -- or nearly all -- of the candidates have been forthright in their opinions on these issues and, in many cases, how they relate to their faith.
One Vote Under God is an incredibly useful interactive database that tracks the 2008 presidential candidates on topics ranging from their strategies for targeting 'values voters' to their stances on issues typically informed by faith. An invaluable tool to evaluate candidates' positions on a wide variety of key subjects, One Vote Under God is just a small part of the fascinating website based on the "Faces of Faith In America" Journalism Initiative of the Carnegie and Knight Foundations.
Text edited from the One Vote Under God website

Monday, October 15, 2007

Doctor No

To paraphrase something George Carlin once said: Somewhere on the planet is the world's worst doctor... And someone has an appointment with him tomorrow.

Carlin's observation came to mind when we read the following, from the London Times:

"Some Muslim medical students are refusing to attend lectures or answer exam questions on alcohol-related or sexually transmitted diseases because they claim it offends their religious beliefs. Some trainee doctors say learning to treat the diseases conflicts with their faith, which states that Muslims should not drink alcohol and rejects sexual promiscuity. A small number of Muslim medical students have even refused to treat patients of the opposite sex. One male student was prepared to fail his final exams rather than carry out a basic examination of a female patient."

The (London) Times' Daniel Foggo and Abul Taher report
New Hope for Intelligent Design!
Texas Opens The Back Door for ID, Bitch Slaps Dover, PA
Texas' new "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination" law requires every public school in the state to adopt a policy guaranteeing students' right to religious expression. It mandates that schools create "limited public forums" for religious and other types of speech.
One of the drafters of the law, a Houston attorney named Kelly J. Coghlan, urges students to lead their peers in prayer before the beginning of the school day as well as before football games, graduation ceremonies and other school events. A student could, for example, read the morning announcements over a loudspeaker and then lapse into a prayer or mini-sermon.
"This law is fundamentally at odds with the principle of religious freedom," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based group that opposes the machinations of the Religious Right. "It will force public school students to participate in public events that promote religious views -- through prayer or even proselytizing -- that they and their families may not share or may even find deeply offensive. So rather than protecting religious freedom, this law represents a grave threat to it."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Anthony Balch's "Bizarre"

Try to imagine The Twilight Zone – or better yet, Night Gallery – filtered through copious amounts of acid and Spanish fly. You might get something like the Anthony Balch film "Bizarre."
In surveying the online reviews, it seems that even some of the most jaded cult film connoisseurs walk away from "Bizarre" at an utter loss for words to describe what they’ve just experienced. Watch this 12-minute clip, and you may understand why.
We first came across "Bizarre" during our search for the short films that Balch made with William S. Burroughs. For a while, the only place you could find their collaborations "Towers Open Fire" and "The Cut Ups" was as bonus material on the "Bizarre" DVD.

Though these 'bonuses' are completely incongruous next to a movie like "Bizarre," they do help provide some perspective: Take the art-house sense of the Balch/Burroughs shorts, and combine it with a grindhouse sensibility... What you get is indeed bizarre.
The clip contains sexual situations that will probably not be safe to watch at your cubby farm.