Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Krugman calls for a firm stand by moderates against religious extremism

Paul Krugman writes:

What we need - and we aren't seeing - is a firm stand by moderates against religious extremism. Some people ask, with justification, Where are the Democrats? But an even better question is, Where are the doctors fiercely defending their professional integrity? I think the American Medical Association disapproves of politicians who second-guess medical diagnoses based on video images - but the association's statement on the Schiavo case is so timid that it's hard to be sure.

Right on, Paul!

This is essentially the same argument I made here in relation to programming policies at IMAX theatres.

We absolutely must stand up and be counted - no more, Mr Nice Guy!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Suggested rewording to Charleston, South Carolina IMAX's "education is our focus" policy

The Charleston, South Carolina IMAX claims that education is its focus.

In the interests of enlightenment, I have reworded their claim slightly to more accurately reflect their actual concerns.


The IMAX ® Theatre at Aquarium Wharf, with IMAX ® technology, offers students and teachers the chance to explore the world and its wonders. Our specially-designed 422 seat auditorium guarantees that every seat is the best seat in the house. Our state-of-the-art technology will take your group into the heart of the film's action, allowing them to live the adventure. With a screen five stories high, comfortable leather stadium seating, and 12,000 watts of digital surround sound, your group will share a unique experience.

Large-format films are designed to educate and enlighten, provided that "enlightenment" doesn't involve any theory of creation conceived any time after, ah, The Enlightenment, as much as they are to entertain. They offer educators, who wish to steer clear of controversial topics like evolution, a powerful teaching tool that is easily integrated into an existing evolutioncontent-free curriculum, providing students with unique and exciting opportunities to explore new worlds and new ideas consistent with our community's existing Faith.

The IMAX Theatre at Aquarium Wharf with IMAX and IMAX 3D technology offers students and teachers the chance to focus on a broad range of subjects including the ocean, the environment, nature, geography, the arts, technology and space exploration. In addition to meeting recognized educational standards (i.e. we won't show your children anything that even dares to mention evolution), large-format films and education programs are often produced in collaboration with prestigious organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution, NASA, National Geographic, WGBH/Nova and Discovery - except where those organizations make the mistake of including references to evolution in their films. By participating in a boycott of all content that discusses or promotes evolution, we are doing our bit to keep you, and millions of Americans like you, eternally in the dark - just like we know you like it.

On the Schiavo controversy

The Schiavo case strikes me as somewhat bizarre.

Here we have a chimpanzee who, as Governor of Texas, signed a law that permitted health-care providers to withdraw life support against the legal guardian's wishes, yet as the President of the United States, breaks his holiday to fly back to Washington to sign a another law aiming to prevent a health-care provider withdrawing life support even with the express consent of the legal guardian. And, we all know how much the Presidential chimp values his holidays, so he is obviously a very concerned, if ideologically confused, chimpanzee.

More surprisingly, Bush's terminator law is being utilized to kill people on life-support at the very same time that Republicans are wringing their hands about the abomination of the Schiavo case. Well, wringing their hands, and/or advocating take-no-prisoner style rescue attempts.

Apparently, in Bush's America, if you want to kill someone, you have to be a corporate entity with a financial interest in that person's death. As a mere legal guardian you should have no such rights.

I have been impressed that the US courts have refused to bow to political pressure and have acted according to the law as it stands. Bravo, for upholding the rule of law!

However, as far as this chimpanzee is concerned, it does strike me as strange that the parents don't have any rights in this case. Why they would want to prolong her life is somewhat beyond me, but they very clearly want to. It seems very sad that they are not allowed to, if that is their wish.

Still, they are getting old. Who would look after Terri Schiavo when they die? Perhaps the health-care provider. But then, if the logic of Bush's Texas law kicked in...

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Charleston, South Carolina IMAX - still burying its head in 6,000 year old sand

Apparently refusing to see the light (unlike her Texas contemporary Carol Murray), Liza Buzzelli of the Charleston, South Carolina IMAX has yet to alter her programming schedule to include screenings of "Volcanoes of The Deep Sea" - despite the windfall revenues she might earn in light of her controversial comments to the NYT reporter Cornelia Dean.

'We have definitely a lot more creation public than evolution public,'' said Lisa Buzzelli, who directs the Charleston Imax Theater in South Carolina, a commercial theater next to the Charleston Aquarium. Her theater had not ruled out ever showing ''Volcanoes,'' Ms. Buzzelli said, ''but being in the Bible Belt, the movie does have a lot to do with evolution, and we weigh that carefully.''

Apparently when it comes to the weighing the potential of controversy-inspired windfall revenues against the principle of caving into Creationist censorship pressure, Liza has chosen the latter.

This is a principled stand Liza, but what of your responsibility to your company's shareholders? Don't they deserve a slice of that revenue?

If you are a shareholder of the Charleston IMAX cinema or you happen to live in Charleston, South Carolina and don't mind the odd bit of Darwinist blasphemy, why not drop Liza a line.

Volcanoes of secular heat win through

In the NYT times article, Carol Murray, director of marketing for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, was reported as saying that:

...the museum decided not to offer the movie after showing it to a sample audience, a practice often followed by managers of Imax theaters. Ms. Murray said 137 people participated in the survey, and while some thought it was well done, ''some people said it was blasphemous.''


''If it's not going to draw a crowd and it is going to create controversy,'' she said, ''from a marketing standpoint I cannot make a recommendation'' to show it.

Apparently, though, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History have since had a change of heart - their website now proudly displays an advertisement for an upcoming season of screenings of "Volcanoes Of The Deep Sea".

It would seem that Ms. Murray doesn't mind a little controversy if it means standing up to rake in the cash as opposed to standing up to defend the ideals of secular society in opposition to Creationist demands for censorship.

update: The museum, if not Carol Murray, has issued a mea culpa which was reported in the Star-Telegram [ google cache ]. It does appear that someone in the museum (i.e. its board of directors) was prepared to standup for a matter of principle. Good on them!

FOX blocker

I don't even have cable, let alone the right wing filth, but I just gotta have one these.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

On IMAX Corp's response to concerns about theatre programming

IMAX has published the following statement on their website:

Recently, some articles have been written about a small number of IMAX® theatres in the USA and their decision not to exhibit certain science-based films due to their concern about offending constituents who may have religious objections to such films.

The IMAX theatres cited in the articles are independently owned and operated -- as are nearly all of the theatres in the worldwide IMAX theatre network. All of these theatres make their own independent programming choices. IMAX Corporation owns and/or operates only ten IMAX theatres, all of which are in North America, and all of which exhibit a wide range of programming, ranging from science and education films to Hollywood's biggest event films converted to IMAX's format. They are currently showing James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep and Robots: The IMAX Experience.

IMAX Corporation is committed to producing and encouraging others to develop a wide variety of film content for IMAX theatres to choose from. Over the last 30 years, more than 200 large format films have been produced for IMAX theatres, many of them covering numerous educational topics and many of them produced in association with major scientific institutions. IMAX Corporation is currently in production of two films that are both educational and entertaining. Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D, which chronicles the experiences of the 12 men who walked on the moon, will be released to IMAX theatres in Fall 2005, and Denizens of the Deep 3D (working title), which is an underwater adventure about symbiotic life at the bottom of the sea, will be released in Spring 2006.

[ref: IMAX FAQ, also the original NYT article about this issue ]

The statement is very careful not to make an assertion one way or the other about the particular film or films concerned. It states that that they are "committed to producing and encouraging others to develop a wide variety of content". Sounds good, except for what it doesn't say.

It specifically doesn't say that the IMAX Corporation is committed to resisting pressure to water-down films it produces to make them more friendly to a Creationist audience.

It is completely silent about which theatres banned which films on which dates because of what pressure. If you want to know that, consumer, you have to ask your local IMAX theatre operator - the IMAX Corporation doesn't know and/or doesn't care.

The IMAX Corporation thinks it can absolve itself of responsibility for its theatre operators. Maybe that is true in a strictly legal and contractual sense.

But there is something more at stake here than legal obligation. IMAX's brand is at stake. The IMAX Corporation may not make programming decisions at the theatres concerned but it certainly licenses the IMAX brand to these theatres and so it must wear the brand damage that the actions of these theatres wreak by caving into Creationist pressure.

By not taking a strong stand in defence of science, IMAX is diluting the strength of its brand. No longer can the parents of a secular family take their children to see a "scientific" film at an IMAX theatre and be assured that the film has not been watered down into Creationist pap so as not to offend Christian fundamentalists.

The IMAX brand offers no guarantee that your local IMAX theatre isn't subject to the censoring demands of a local religious group. It may well be that it does stand up to such intimidation, but how do you know? The IMAX Corporation doesn't care. Not their problem.

Another corporation tried to absolve itself of the actions of its business partners. Its name was Nike. Its business partners were third world contract labour companies. Problem is, it didn't work. Their mud was Nike's mud.

And so it is with IMAX.

If you are a consumer of science-based entertainment, treat the IMAX brand with the scepticism it deserves. Ask your local IMAX theatre operator what their programming policies are. If they don't have a policy that resists censorship of material that assumes or promotes evolutionary theory consider very carefully whether you are prepared to spend your consumer dollar at their theatre.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Call to arms - help form the secular resistance!

Today I heard news (originally reported in the NYT) that some IMAX theatres in the US are refusing to show the film "Volcanoes Of The Deep Sea" because it assumes the truth of evolutionary theory.

Apparently this doesn't go down well with the religiously conservative members of the American community.

For fuck's sake!!! This has gone too far.

If you care about the secular society, if you care about rationality, boycott these treacherous commercial organisations that give into boycotts by religious conservatives.

If you agree, please add a comment below and forward a link to this page to as many people as you feel comfortable doing so.

Also, please be sure to send IMAX an e-mail to indicate your intention to join a global secular boycott of their cinemas until they release a press statement apologising for their actions.

Don't let them get away with it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Can you believe your eyes?

Look at the images below. The discs on the left are black, those on the right are white, right?

Now look again - the actual discs are pixel for pixel identical.

Cool, huh?

Kudos to Barton Anderson @ UNSW for these images and the related research.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Logic of Withdrawing From Iraq

Norman Solomon puts forward what I think is a convincing case for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq.

The Sydney Protest Against The War

I attended the Sydney Palm Sunday rally in the North of Hyde Park this afternoon with 1-3,000 others (depending on who you believe). Several speakers (an Aboriginal activist, Shirley; Sister Susan Connelly; Kerry Nettle of the Greens, and a unionist whose name I can't remember) made rousing speeches, then it was time to do a short march around 4 blocks of Sydney real estate.

(C) Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The march headed out of the park and down Park St, right onto to George St, right into King St, right into Elizabeth St and then back into the park for some more speeches.

By the end of the march, "the mob" was in strong voice, shouting the chants: "End the occupation, Troops Out Now!" or "What do we want? Troops Out! When do we want it? Now!".

Once the march had finished there was a strong speech by John Pilger who lambasted the complicity of the media and the Australia Labor Party. Then Stephen Hopper and Mamdouh and Maha Habib appeared on stage to a long-lasting standing ovation by everyone present. Habib expressed his thanks for the people of Australia who had campaigned for his release and urged people to not forget the plight of David Hicks.

Stephen Hopper gave an interesting speech which took aim at the history of American imperialism and the appalling treatment meted out to people such as Habib. It was a curious speech for this kind of rally - it was more a lecture about US history than the typical rousing recital of anti-war rhetoric. His manner of speech was a little halting, but it was interesting to listen to and he left listeners in no doubt about what he thinks about the morality of the current US, UK and Australian governments.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A powerful essay against the war

At last an article that puts American deaths in Iraq into their proper context.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Sickening speculation about vote rigging in America

Here is some sickening speculation about vote rigging in America. How could the American people be so apathetic as to allow this kind of manipulation to occur? Why don't they have the spines to stand up and prevent their democracy being hijacked by the forces of pure evil?

Perhaps there is no truth at all to these reports. The fact that there is no paper trail means that there is no way you can prove these reports wrong -- even in principle. A paper trail would change that, at least in principle. Why don't the American people insist upon it?

Time to move on from MoveOn?

Norman Solomon argues that it is time to move on, from MoveOn. Where to? To the Progressive Democrats of America who are campaigning to end the funding for the war.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The absurdity of US gun laws

The New York Times reports:

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, who requested the study, plans to introduce legislation to address the problem in part by requiring federal officials to keep records of gun purchases by terror suspects for a minimum of 10 years. Such records must now be destroyed within 24 hours as a result of a change ordered by Congress last year. Mr. Lautenberg maintains that the new policy has hindered terrorism investigations by eliminating the paper trail on gun purchases.

"Destroying these records in 24 hours is senseless and will only help terrorists cover their tracks," Mr. Lautenberg said Monday. "It's an absurd policy."

He blamed what he called the Bush administration's "twisted allegiances" to the National Rifle Association for the situation.

The N.R.A. and gun rights supporters in Congress have fought - successfully, for the most part - to limit the use of the F.B.I.'s national gun-buying database as a tool for law enforcement investigators, saying the database would amount to an illegal registry of gun owners nationwide.

The legal debate over how gun records are used became particularly contentious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, when it was disclosed that the Justice Department and John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, had blocked the F.B.I. from using the gun-buying records to match against some 1,200 suspects who were detained as part of the Sept. 11 investigation. Mr. Ashcroft maintained that using the records in a criminal investigation would violate the federal law that created the system for instant background gun checks, but Justice Department lawyers who reviewed the issue said they saw no such prohibition.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Going to war with the Army you have

In an interesting twist on Rumsfeld's quote, Michael Schwartz argues that the American military is doomed in their fight against the Iraqi insurgency precisely because it is institutionally incapable of fighting a war against an enemy that does not have a substantial command and control structure...even to the extent that fictional command and control structures are invented so as to provide a "known" enemy to fight against.