Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Media Storm, Coming and Going as they Please?

The horrendous events and tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina truly boggle the mind.  I encourage everyone to donate to the National Red Cross to help the staggering number of victims out in this time of need.  Many of these people are uninsured, and many of those who are insured lack flood insurance in their policies, meaning they have lost everything.

I keep seeing the reports from the region, and I really have to voice one major gripe.  WHY DO THE EVENING NEWS ANCHORS HAVE TO BE LIVE ON-SITE ?  DO THEIR BROADCASTS HAVE TO ORIGINATE FROM THE HEART OF THE TRAGEDY?  This is utterly inexcusable.  There is almost total destruction in New Orleans, and yet there’s Brian Williams (and I’m sure his counterparts on all of the other network are there, as well)…broadcasting from a makeshift downtown newsdesk with his freshly-scrubbed face and earnest looks of concern using the decimated city as nothing more than a live scenic backdrop.  All roads in and out of the city are underwater, so when I think of the resources and logistics it must have taken to get him and his people in there, their trucks, their generators, their satellite uplinks, their support crew, their food, water, lighting not to mention a sizable security contingent (or even worse, diverting local police from search-and-rescue?)  to protect them from the lawlessness that seems to be taking over the region,  I want to scream at my television:  “You are in the middle of a mandatory evacuation from a major disaster area, people are still losing their lives all around you, the authorities are telling people they must leave and are still scrambling to save the thousands still trapped there—So what the hell business to YOU  have being there in the middle of all that—so you can sit behind a fucking desk?!!!  The people trapped in this city have no power, no drinkable water, no food, no toilets, no transportation, and yet you have the audacity and apparent ability to freely go IN and function normally while so many others are desperate to get OUT.  Since there is no place safe in New Orleans itself to stay, I’m assuming that he and his crew gets airlifted in and out to comfy lodgings well outside the area—using helicopters and other transportation resources that could have been much better-used to find survivors or deliver time-critical relief supplies.  What kind of message does this send?  Don’t take the evacuation talk seriously?  If you are a celebrity and part of a news organization, the rules don’t apply to you?  Let the poor folks below die in the toxic stew of contaminated water, but we’ll move heaven and earth if that’s what it takes to get our talent on the scene, We’ll be fine up here around the newsdesk.  How’s the background light?  “More San Pellegrino, Brian?”

I am not saying keep the journalists and camera people out—they are serving a vital function in communicating the extent of this national tragedy to the world, which helps direct relief efforts and donations, but in this situation why can’t the goddamn Network anchors broadcast from their regular location in NY or Washington and if they must, put a fucking picture of the destruction behind their desks instead of adding to the problem by being in the way and sucking up valuable resources from the region?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

When ID-iots Attack

Intelligent Design proponents, a.k.a. “ID folks” [Hey, can we call them ID-iots?  I swear I just thought that up, but it has probably been used plenty  –ed.]  jump on any gap in the data or currently-unexplained phenomenon and hold it up as proof of science’s failings, even though that which is unexplained is the driving force and the source of science’s ever-expanding quest for knowledge and understanding.  Scientists find themselves on the defensive and are starting to keep their mouths shut because any such admission of uncertainty of will be taken out of context and used to undermine their research, or at least suck them into some bogus notion that there is, in actuality, a “controversy”

In their efforts to appear bias-free, most of the media gingerly cover the Intelligent Design controversy (I won't dignify it by calling it a debate) and will rarely fail to call ID proponents to task on the incredibly-obvious tactics being used.  For one, they are not held to any standards at all and can thus attempt to discredit rock-solid Theories without offering any sort of competing theory of any merit.  Science has to stand up to rigorous, even ruthless peer-review on a continuous basis, so scientists should be well-equipped to handle genuine skepticism and use it to refine and hone theories as new data becomes available.  However, in an environment dominated by those who fail to live in or even grasp the most basic scientific principles of the so-called “reality-based” Universe, all bets are off.   If someone really believes that the surface of the moon is made of cheese, and angels on your bumper prevent accidents, can you really effectively disabuse them of that notion by showing them spectroscopic data or traffic fatality reports?

Even worse, since advanced theories by their very nature require more detailed, often complicated explanations (which some scientists are all-too-happy to provide, which quickly overwhelms the layperson), after which the ID-iots throw their hands up in a triumphant shrug—“Such complexity obviously has to have come from some “Designer.”  The anti-science coalition has struck gold with the Bush Administration in power.  Science that supports their rampant pro-Corporation/Right-wing religious values/anti-environmental policies are freely quoted, while that which goes against it merely disappears from government reports, websites etc. (and the people who did the latter science find themselves out of jobs alongside those who tried to publish it).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hunkered Down in Crawford, Divorced from Reality

As Bush continues his 5-week vacation, avoiding Cindy Sheehan and issuing ever-more clueless proclamations on the situation in Iraq, it occurs to me that this is the sort of behavior you'd expect from a man of limited intellectual capacity and no curiosity--a man who was reared in a life of privilege, buffered from any sort of reality from day one. His born-again redemption from his alcoholism surely super-charged his faith-based Jesus complex that he can alter reality by sheer force of will--the notion that believing something should be so actually makes it so in his universe. If you surround someone like this with a cadre of power-mad idealogues who have the unparalleled ability to shield him from any opposing viewpoint, it is hardly surprising that he ends up having little, if any grasp of reality.

This explains an awful lot. By keeping their vacationing frat-boy in the dark about the details of "his" policies and their consequences (or for that matter life beyond the compound at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and his Crawford non-ranch), Karl Rove and Co. can simply choose friendly venues or fundraising events, trot out a Bush who fervently believes in his faith-based constructs. He can therefore talk very passionately (albeit in a limited range) using his sound bites and talking points, unfettered by pesky things like contradictory facts, scientific evidence, government studies, opinion polls, etc. This is the source of his "plain-talkin'" style--he really doesn't have to act like he's telling the truth: he either believes it outright, is too ignorant to know better, or he thinks that by believing in it, it will be so in his universe. It's also why he often has that frustrated smirk/nervous laugh/handwaving thing when he's trying to explain things to a skeptical audience or reporters. In his black and white world, it really is so simple, but the questioners are out of touch and just don't get it. If they'd only listen to him recite his little soundbite one more time, it would all be clear to them. It may not even be arrogance--I think it is truly inconceivable to him that someone presented with the same (limited) facts he has access to could come to any other conclusions than his own. Ah, the balanced life of the willfully ignorant.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Bankrupt Morality

"We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. " - George W. Bush , August 22, 2005

Think about it for a second. If the latest and greatest reason to stay the course in Iraq is because we owe something to the fallen soldiers--despite the inconvenient fact that the original premises of starting the war were utterly false--then the door has swung wide open for an Orwellian tautology that will keep us mired in this misadventure forever. If dead soldiers become the justification for staying and putting more troops in harm's way, then it follows that as more troops killed, the more imperative it is to stay and send more troops, because now we "owe it" to an ever-growing pool of fallen soldiers. I, for one, think it is obscene to value the supposed wishes of the no-longer alive over the actual lives of still-breathing servicemen and women.

Since dead soldiers can no longer express their actual wishes, who is Bush to assert that "they" would desire to "stay the course" especially if it means untold growing numbers of their comrades will join them in death? The silence of the fallen troops makes them blank canvases--powerful, if morbid, allies of an administration who would paint such simple jingoistic slogans on them to rally an increasingly skeptical nation behind a war that has gone horribly wrong.

If people uncritically swallow this sort of logic, we already have our answer to the question--"How do you ask a soldier to be the last one killed in a mistake?" The answer: "Just never admit to any mistakes, and just keep on sending soldiers to be killed, using the last one killed to justify sending in the next."