Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Deaf, Blind and Dumb

Apparently you can’t even pay TV networks to cover genocide.

BeAWitness.org, the organization devoted to helping bring media attention to the genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan created a clever and very pointed television commercial about the lack of major network coverage of the crisis.

This hard hitting ad really hits NBC, ABC and the other networks where it hurts. It's a great commercial and you can see it at this link:

With a very tiny budget, Be A Witness could only afford a small buy in Washington, D.C. It was supposed to start this week.

But, what started as network neglect has now turned into network cowardice. In the last few days, all three Washington DC network television affiliates, NBC-4, CBS-9, and ABC-7, refused to air the ad.

Since the major networks have a full docket featuring stories like Natalee Holloway and the Runaway Bride, the Be A Witness ad attempts to do what the media won’t: shine a spotlight on media neglect of the Darfur genocide.

Here are a few frightening facts from the Be A Witness website.

ABC News broadcast just 18 minutes of Darfur coverage in its nightly newscasts in all of 2004.

NBC News featured 5 minutes.

CBS News totaled only 3 minutes.

Now they won’t even allow the Be A Witness folks to pay for 30 seconds to urge better coverage of the genocide.

Once again, here's the link where you can view the ad: http://www.beawitness.org/splash/

It is one tough ad. The networks have every reason to be ashamed.

the WiZARD............

P.S. Would you like to send an email message directly to the television stations involved? Just follow this link and Be A Witness.org will make it easy: http://action.beawitness.org/action.jsp

An Open Letter to FOX, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC

While the major news media here in the United States continues its almost total blackout of stories about the genocide and starvation of millions of people in the Darfur region of the Sudan, the blogosphere continues to be both a source of information and hope.

Making the news today was a curious alignment of two opposing political blogs to create a unified voice about the ongoing tragedy in Darfur. The story of how a Northern liberal and a Southern conservative engaging in a war of words over judicial nominations eventually found common ground is profiled today in
The Sudan Tribune.

Last March the two political rivals joined with many other bloggers to form the
Coalition for Darfur. Today that blog is one of the most valuable resources for information on the genocide in the Sudan.

Through the Coalition for Darfur website, I've become acquainted with another great web resource, "Be A Witness." This organization carefully monitors the coverage of the crisis in Darfur by the major US Televison networks. As I stated above, that coverage is nearly nonexistent.

Using the wonderful services of "Be A Witness" http://www.beawitness.org/ I have written a letter to each of the major US news networks. Using a form on their website you can send one letter to each network automatically. They even have a template you can follow if you wish.

Here is my "open letter to FOX, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC. It follows closely the letter I have sent to the networks through the "Be A Witness" website.

I am writing concerning your coverage of the horror in the Darfur region of Sudan.
While many world leaders have called the killing, rape and starvation in Darfur "genocide," we see almost no coverage of the events in any of your news broadcasts.

Genocide is the ultimate crime against humanity. Why are you missing in action?

The tragic story of Natalee Holloway has captured the attention of all news anchors and newsroom editors. CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS have devoted entire shows to the missing teen. On one recent night I personally watched over 5 hours devoted to Natalee. But there wasn't even a mention of the genocide in Darfur. Not one word!

On that night there was not one single new piece of evidence or news out of Aruba. None the less, we still got 5 mind numbing hours of coverage. Two networks actually hosted their shows from Aruba.

That same day it's estimated that over 300 people died in Darfur. That's 300 women, children, teenagers, mothers, fathers, and babies. Couldn't you have devoted 30 seconds to their deaths?

Many in the world hate Americans. One of the reasons (and there are many) is we are so self centered. Your news programs reflect this aspect of America at its very worst. Your coverage clearly shows the world that we believe that one missing Alabama teenager is much more important than the lives of 300 Africans. The world can see America has her priorities straight.

Today, your coverage is watched around the world. And most Americans rely on cable television as their primary source of information. For many, if an event is not reported on television, it does not happen.

Just a small increase in the amount of time you devote to what is arguably the most important story in the entire world today could spur the action required to stop this devastating crime against humanity.

At the very lease, increased coverage will raise public awareness and put pressure on our government to help accelerate the deployment of the African Union forces to the region. There is no doubt that increased television coverage of the genocide in Darfur will save thousands of lives.

Next time you decide to send a reporter to Aruba, please consider redirecting those resources into Darfur. Of course that assignment won't be as much fun. There are no hotels, no casinos, no nightclubs and no legal prostitution.

But you will be reporting the biggest and most important story of our time.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you.

I respectfully ask that each of you join me is writing your own letter. I will post any replies I receive in this column.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tiananmen Ranch?

Here are just a very few quotes from a torrent of blogs in The Huffington Post over the last few days. Almost every post is about Cindy Sheehan, the mother holding vigil outside the President's Crawford Ranch.

Cindy Sheehan is my hero. She is the hero of all Americans who make up the 62% of us who oppose this war.

No wonder Bush is intimidated. No wonder he can't even walk down his driveway to speak with her. He is scared shitless.

Whether he acknowledges it or not -- whether his aides try to insulate him from the truth or not -- his hands are covered in the blood of Cindy Sheehan's son. They are dripping with the blood of all who have died there.

Christine Lahti in her article Cindy Sheehan is My Hero permalink here

How many American mothers and fathers and families are going through what Cindy Sheehan is experiencing? This war was a mistake. Our country needs to admit it and get our sons and daughters out of there -- out of harm's way. We need to do it now.

Dal LaMagna in his article What is One Life Worth permalink here

"I met Cindy Sheehan this time last year when she was trying to decide
what to do about the loss of her son. We were strangers when we spoke on the phone but she was as honest as she was angry. Before a news conference at the National Press Club, she stood in an anteroom holding a large color poster of her smiling boy and she ran her fingertips over his mouth as though he were alive and could feel this affection. In that moment, I hated my president. And I hate having to hate anyone or anything."

James Moore in his article Tiananmen Ranch permalink here

Like every parent, my heart simply bleeds for Cindy Sheehan. But when Cindy turned up as the subject of almost every single blog in the Huffington Post, it caused me to examine the issues being raised by Mrs. Sheehan and her newfound celebrity supporters. I found the unified left wing support of Sheehan raised many more questions than it answered.

The tirades are escalating over at Huffington. The Hollywood Left is feeding on themselves. The tone is shrill and the cause is increasingly self delusional.

It's not that important. I originally wasn't even going to write a post about the circus at Crawford. It was simply interesting to watch.

But, as someone who deeply cares about Human Rights and the rights of women and minorities, it's very sad.

The only explanation is pure, blind hatred of George Bush. It's caused otherwise bright, sensitive, caring people to lose all perspective, all sense of balance or fairness.

Several different posts, including Mr. Moore's above, compare the "standoff" at Crawford Ranch to Tiananmen Square. They are the few brave Freedom Fighters standing against overwhelming odds against the mightily dictatorship and its huge war machine. They will stand up against the tanks.

The tragedy is that there really are people in the world who are fighting that brave fight. These people literally put their lives on the line every day.

Let's be honest. What is the worst thing that can happen to the bloggers and reporters at Crawford ranch? Sunburn?

But if you are one of the elected Iraqis working to write a constitution you are actually in grave danger. Attempts will be made on your life. You are a marked man or woman. You run the risk of being kidnapped, tortured and murdered everytime you leave your home.

You'll notice there are no protestors camped outside of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's house. There are no gaggle of reporters documenting his every move. Christine Lahti has never written a blog about the blood on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's hands. The great legion of Huffington bloggers aren't calling for al-Zarqawi's head or even going so far as to call him a war criminal. That label is reserved for George Bush alone.

When the US and Iraqi troops regained control of Falluja last year they uncovered dozens of makeshift prisons and torture chambers. Inside they found literally stacks and stacks of human bodies, tortured and killer by al-Zarqawi's troops. Many men had their legs cut off below the knees while still alive. They found dozens of women who had been beheaded. The few prisoners found alive told of torture that actually did make Abu Ghraib look like a school prank.

So as the left wing blogosphere praises the bravery of Cindy Sheehan and call for her to run for president, take a few minutes to remember people who genuinely face real danger each and every day. And do remember her son who died trying to protect these people.

Remember all those who are fighting for all the rights and protections that the Hollywood left takes for granted each day as they bask in the Texas sun in the Tiananmen Square known as Crawford Ranch.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why Can't God Follow the Rules?

Intelligent Design? George Bush certainly didn't start this debate. It began a long time before the delegate fight in Florida.

And the Scopes Monkey Trial didn't start the debate either. And it certainly didn't end it. And neither did the great Spencer Tracey in "Inherit the Wind."

In fact Charles Darwin didn't start the debate. If you don't believe me, just ask Galileo. Or Copernicus.

The debate didn't even begin with the birth of Jesus. It raged long before then. The debate began even before the Greek and Roman gods were born.

My guess is that the great debate started when the first human pondered the meaning of life and the certainty of death. That first man's mistake was that he told his neighbor about his observations. The debate has been raging ever since.

Intelligent Design versus Darwin's "theory" of evolution is just the latest skirmish in the debate. And it's a pretty minor skirmish at that.

Charles Darwin's mistake wasn't that he made detailed observations and applied scientific principles to his observations. And his mistake wasn't that he discovered what every farmer and every livestock breeder of his day already knew. His mistake was that he wrote a book. He told his neighbor.

You see Darwin's neighbor already had a book, the Bible. And he already had good crops and healthy livestock. And he had faith.

Plus, the neighbor had already lost a whole series of debates. He lost the debate about the "theory" that the Earth wasn't flat. And he lost the debate about the "theory" that the Earth wasn't the center of the Universe. He lost the debate about that crazy "theory" that Earth revolved around the sun.

He sure as heck wasn't going to lose a debate about a "theory" that creatures adapted to their environment. After all, it was God's will that his cows were bigger and gave more milk.

Creationists, like the great William Jennings Bryan, like to compare the the Earth to a fine pocket watch. With all its small gears and tiny cogs fitting and working perfectly together, a watch couldn't possible just evolve. That's just silly.

The problem with Creationists is that they think too small. You see God has made lots of laws, not to mention a lot of gears.

God didn't just make big laws like the Ten Commandments. There are lots of little laws too, like the Law of Gravity.

Compared to a watch the universe is very large and the cogs are very small . Many are so tiny they can't be seen, not even with the best microscope. Yet ever gear and ever cog works perfectly. Every movement of every gear is covered by many laws. Physics books are full of them. Science hasn't even scratched the surface yet.

If God made every rule, every particle, and every proton and electron, it had to be one great job. A simple watch is no comparison to the complexity of the universe.

If God went to all this trouble, why would God not use the magnificent machine he (or she) created? Why go to all the trouble to make all the rules if you're simply going to break them?

No, I believe God follows the rules. It's simple really. If you're going to build a wondrous Universe, why not let the Universe do it's job? It's so well designed, it's bound to get the job done.

In other words, why would God build such a wonderful watch and then not use it to tell time?

William Jennings Bryan, you were on the right track. You just didn't give God enough credit.

Personally I'm glad God made our rules, like the Ten Commandments, rather easy to understand. I think he recognized out limitations.

So let scientists work on understanding the other laws God created. They will never understand them all. Every time a scientist uncovers a new law, we should all be amazed in it's wonder, complexity and beauty. The debate between science and faith is meaningless.

I was blessed to attend a church is a small southern town many years ago when a great minister, Reverend Renfro, preached, "It's science's job to tell us where and when, it's religion's job to tell us who and why."

Once you know who and why there's really no need to debate where and when.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Just How Bad Can Television Really Be?

If you are one of the many who believe television is a vast wasteland and that cable television simply increased the acreage of waste, today's column is not for you, although it certainly will confirm your already well established opinion.

But as for me, I love television! I find much of today's television to be creative, relevant, entertaining and informative. And I'm absolutely thrilled with the nearly monthly unveiling of new cable networks. I can view over 150 stations now at the touch of a remote and am excited by each new discovery.

So I was really pleased to read the publicity about the newest and, perhaps, boldest television network yet, Current TV. Current TV promised to be television for the Interent Generation. Fast paced, informative, inventive, young and hip! I tuned in at midnight, just to catch the first seconds of this innovative new venture.

And I watched for a really painful two hours, but it wasn't easy. This may well be the worst two hours in the entire history of television. One could only pray for the return of Milton Berle.

I've watched for several hours over several succeeding days. It only got worse, much worse. Who could possibly believe this is compelling.... or interesting... or original... or even fast paced?

Each story, cleverly called pods, is mind numbingly worse that the one that precedes it. Has someone created a rule that each three to seven minute pod contain only 30 seconds of information, then padded with fuzzy, out of focus, camera shots, fast forwarded motion shots and inserted, odd, film artifacts?

I have never seen so much out of focus footage in my entire life. Most of the pods are worse than the worst home movies you've ever seen. And much less interesting.

Introduced by VJ's on MTV like sets, the segments are virtually never "current." They are hopelessly out of date and out of touch. And if, quite by accident, they touch a subject of interest, they leave the viewers wanting more information. Well, actually you find yourself wanting almost any information.

One of the first stories covered a young woman who has become the pastor of a Baptist Church. We did learn she was a Harvard graduate. And we got to see her do endless handstands in her robes (actually, it was the same shot shown over and over again). And we saw minutes upon endless minutes of poor, out of focus, color suppressed, images of her walking out of her church. And announcer mentioned that there aren't many women pastors in the Baptist Church.

I would have loved to know more. How did she chose this path? How is she being accepted in the larger denomination? Has the local church received any repercussions in choosing a women? Alas, that was not going to happen. So I went to the website in hope, like the really great NPR website, one could learn more. Fat chance.

The website for Current TV is really slick. And of course you've got to love the URL
http://www.current.tv/ You can see what just ended and what's coming up. Cute, with absolutely no information of any value.

NO LINKS!!! How can you possible claim to be television for the Internet generation, and not provide links to those wanting more information. And, not only that, Current TV is affiliated with Google. They show a list of supposedly current list of search terms every thirty minutes. Do you think those are on the web site. Nope. The web site turns out to be as empty and useless as the network.

I can't imagine anyone watching. Not for thirty minutes. Not ever. Thirty seconds and you've got to go back to MTV. They know how to do it right.