Edward Branley's blog

The Movie Industry is committing suicide...

The movie industry needs to realize that it's not just hackers and teenagers telling them their business model is flawed. This article is from Forbes Magazine:

After SOPA and PIPA, Hollywood now looks like a dinosaur, and as out of touch as someone trying to kill the radio or home video cassettes. Venture capital firms are actually now actively looking to fund companies with the aim of dismantling the industry, as the current model of movie making seems outdated. The internet is producing a talented crop of filmmakers working on shoestring budgets, hungry to get themselves noticed.

But they won't listen. This is Western Union and the telegraph all over again.

How can educators ignore NINE teen suicides?

Anoka, Minnesota, is well and truly the face of evil in the United States. The school district has allowed conditions to fester to the point where nine middle- and high-school students have committed suicide in a two-year period. For folks in New Orleans, try to visualize NINE suicides from the student bodies of the boys' and girls' Catholic high schools in the metro area. One suicide at Mount Carmel or Archbishop Rummel, and you'd have concern and an increased awareness in counselors across town. Two and there would a major soul-searching. By the third, the "Catholic League" would be on red alert.

The Baptists of Anoka, MN, let the number in their town go to NINE. And they had a good idea what the source of the problem was:

There was another common thread: Four of the nine dead were either gay or perceived as such by other kids, and were reportedly bullied. The tragedies come at a national moment when bullying is on everyone's lips, and a devastating number of gay teens across the country are in the news for killing themselves. Suicide rates among gay and lesbian kids are frighteningly high, with attempt rates four times that of their straight counterparts; studies show that one-third of all gay youth have attempted suicide at some point (versus 13 percent of hetero kids), and that internalized homophobia contributes to suicide risk.

Anoka, MN, is part of CongressCritter Michele Bachmann's district. Bachmann, a religious zealot known for making incredibly bigoted (and incredibly stupid) remarks on the floor of the US House of Representatives and on the Republican presidential campaign trail, is only a bit-player in this story, though. The real evil here are the voters who elected that nutjob to Congress and spread their hate into their school district.

As a former high school teacher who taught several teens who had attempted suicide, I'm stunned by the lack of action taken by the teachers and administrators in this school district. Anoka has become the poster child for this trend of bullying being permitted as "religious speech." The district, at the urging of local evangelical Christian congregations, implemented an incredibly discriminatory policy:

The policy became unofficially known as "No Homo Promo" and passed unannounced to parents and unpublished in the policy handbooks; most teachers were told about it by their principals. Teachers say it had a chilling effect and they became concerned about mentioning gays in any context. Discussion of homosexuality gradually disappeared from classes. "If you can't talk about it in any context, which is how teachers interpret district policies, kids internalize that to mean that being gay must be so shameful and wrong," says Anoka High School teacher Mary Jo Merrick-Lockett. "And that has created a climate of fear and repression and harassment."

So, a teacher trying to counsel a student who has been bullied by Baptist Wahabbists in Anoka is not allowed to discuss the root of the problem: Teh Gay. The educators, placing their careers before the welfare of their students caved, causing incidents like these:

At Anoka Middle School for the Arts, after Kyle Rooker was urinated upon from above in a boys' bathroom stall, an associate principal told him, "It was probably water." Jackson Middle School seventh-grader Dylon Frei was passed notes saying, "Get out of this town, fag"; when a teacher intercepted one such note, she simply threw it away.

Educators who simply dismiss or ignore bullying like this should be consisidered accessories after the fact of the crime. Middle schools in particular are jungles of adolescent hormones and incredibly hurtful children. The misfit kid, the geek, and the gay kid have to be able to turn to the teachers and staff for protection. These educators let them down.

Did these professionals ignore their professional and moral responsibilities to these children because they support the bullying, or was it out of fear for their jobs? Either way, students were taking their lives as a result. It got to SEVEN and the power of the Christians was still holding sway:

Individual teachers quietly began taking small risks, overstepping the bounds of neutrality to offer solace to gay students in crisis. "My job is just a job; these children are losing their lives," says Fietek. "The story I hear repeatedly is 'Nobody else is like me, nobody else is going through what I'm going through.' That's the lie they've been fed, but they're buying into it based on the fear we have about open and honest conversations about sexual orientation."

Baby-steps by the faculty after SEVEN suicides! Sweet fuck, as I said earlier, three would have put the Catholic schools in New Orleans on full alert.

Bachmann's allies will argue that homosexuality is a mental disorder, and that's what brought on the suicides. There's no legitimate scientific data to support these claims. There's tons of support for the connection between kids who get the crap beaten out of them and suicide, however.

It wouldn't have been hard for the Anoka-Hennepin School District to take a strong, sexually neutral stance on bullying, but clearly, the Christians of the district support bullying as a way to rid their communities of Teh Gay.

The NINE suicides in this cluster sparked a federal lawsuit. The plaintiffs have the support of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC have a long and successful track record when it comes to dealing with Christian hate groups, and that's essentially what the Anoka-Hennepin School District has become. Like any school district under fire, they've circled the wagons and entered that period of denial/damage-control where nothing will get done unless a judge forces the issue.

Let's hope that happens before the Christians bully a tenth kid to take their own life.

Don't let extremists frame the debate!

Ezra has a good blog entry today about the forced-birther who is pushing the Komen people to a hard-line stance on abortion:

But there’s another woman who deserves equal credit: Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest. It’s her group that issued a report last fall, “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood,” that led to a probe by the Energy and Commerce Committee. And it’s that investigation that puts Planned Parenthood in violation of Komen’s new policy that bars funding of groups under investigation.

OK, so she's a wackjob. Her CV lists working for Tony Perkins, which means the six-degrees-of-separation test will put her into David Duke and the Klan by the fourth degree. But it's not like wackjobs like this are news. Here's the statement that is of concern:

“We’re so used to seeing Planned Parenthood succeed at defining themselves as the trendy place to be, and for Komen to make such a smart decision in recognizing the reality behind Planned Parenthood spin,” she adds. “As a breast cancer survivor, I was always troubled with this whole idea that the nation’s largest abortion provider was enmeshed in the breast cancer fight when they weren’t actually doing mammograms. I look at this as smart stewardship.”

This quote is a testament to how far and wide Newt the Gingrich's "frame the debate" strategy from his GOPAC days of 1990 to 1994 has come. Planned Parenthood spends 3% of its funds on abortion services, NONE of which is government money. Yet this forced-birther is allowed to characterize them as "nation’s largest abortion provider" unchallenged. Planned Parenthood is one of, if not the largest provider of healthcare to uninsured/poor women. 

She pulls the sympathy card: "As a breast cancer survivor..." Trust me, honey, there are others on all sides of the political spectrum who have seen their share of adversity. You don't have a monopoly on it.

Then there's the line about mammograms. Yoest believes that, since PP doesn't do mammograms, their usefulness in the fight against breast cancer is insignificant. This is a complete lie. When examined at a PP clinic, a woman will get a breast exam from a PP doctor. That's where most early detection takes place, just feeling for lumps in the breasts. If the doc doesn't like what s/he feels, then a mammogram can be scheduled.

Women who don't have health insurance can't afford the high-tech world of regular mammograms. They rely on the old-school technique of breast examination. It works, but Yoest and her ilk don't want you thinking about that. They want to control the debate on women's healthcare, thereby controlling women.

Drupal 7!

Continuing the migration to Drupal 7, the "flagship site" is now upgraded... :-)

Is the Komen split with Planned Parenthood really about pink bibles?

There's an article this morning on NPR about the Komen for the Cure meltdown. The piece leads with Brinker's video response that says no, it's really not a political thing. But the meat is a few grafs down:

The latest controversy appears to have begun last month. An evangelical Christian group called Lifeway was selling pink bibles for Komen. But Lifeway discovered Komen was giving Planned Parenthood money.

"As soon as people figured out the link between Komen and Planned Parenthood — that there was a funding link there — Lifeway pulled all the bibles off the shelves immediately," said Amy Black, a political scientist at Wheaton College outside Chicago who studies evangelical Christians. "This was the kind of thing that captured a lot of activists' attention."

Lifeway is a big player in Christian publishing, with both online and physical presences (NOLA folks: there's a Lifeway store in the old Gentilly Woods Shopping Center, next to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary). Ever look at what's for sale at a "Christian" bookstore? The quality of the merchandise is usually pretty horrid. A gimmick like pink bibles would mean a big boost in their sales. Given the political and religious connections Komen for the Cure has to right-wing politicians and businesses, this is no surprise.

So, Lifeway finds out Komen is hooked with Planned Parenthood and blows a gasket. Who will ever buy stuff from them again if they find out those pink bibles are killing babies?

Komen shows its kontempt as they join the forced-birth movement

Komen for the Cure decides to de-fund Planned Parenthood, showing the organizations extremist underbelly:

But three sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process told me that the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut-off Planned Parenthood. (Komen gives out grants to roughly 2,000 organizations, and the new "no-investigations" rule applies to only one so far.) The decision to create a rule that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, according to these sources, was driven by the organization's new senior vice-president for public policy, Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who is staunchly anti-abortion and who has said that since she is "pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood." (The Komen grants to Planned Parenthood did not pay for abortion or contraception services, only cancer detection, according to all parties involved.) I've tried to reach Handel for comment, and will update this post if I speak with her.

This may well turn out to be a scorched-earth strategy for KFTC, but they're so well-entrenched, people will still wear pink in October like this never happened.

Unless we remind them.

You'll see a banner above. It's from the Komen website last night, when hactivists got to it:

I've taken the liberty of cropping out the hack itself and turned it into a banner for this site, with a link back to Planned Parenthood. Please consider supporting them so poor women can still get breast exams.

Battle of New Orleans Day

Illustration from an article in Harper's Weekly in 1861 about the Battle of New Orleans

I hesitate to say "happy Battle of New Orleans Day" because such loss of life is not cause to be happy. Still, it's good we remember the day and the impact the battle had on our history. Here are the two articles I did on the battle for GoNOLA.com. The first is about the run-up to the battle, the second on the events of 8-January-1815.

How bad social media cost @earthsavers a customer - a cautionary tale

That bag contains three gift certificates to Lovejoy Day Spa in Metairie, valued at $319.  They're part of Mrs. YatPundit's Christmas pressie this year. The story of how she came to be a Lovejoy customer is a cautionary tale for those of you in the social media business.

In the fall of 2010, I was followed on Twitter by @earthsavers, the business account for Earthsavers, a spa and store with three locations in metro New Orleans. I followed them back, but then started to get "DM spam" from them. I didn't appreciate these unsolicited messages going to my twitter account (and, by extension, to my phone via SMS). They're widely unpopular and regarded as "spamming" by a vast number of twitter regulars. I called out the company on their bad social media habits and unfollowed the account.

After doing this, @earthsavers' "social media consultant" proceeded to get into a public argument with me, which ended by her telling me that I wasn't in the company's target market.

Strictly speaking, however, that's true, but Mrs. YatPundit is very much in their target market. And I buy Mrs. YatPundit's presents for Christmas, birthday, Mother's Day, etc. Earthsavers has a whole section of their website dedicated to gift card sales, so clearly the company doesn't share their consultant's assessment of my worth to them.

Not being all that excited about spending my money with a company that was rude, I voted with my wallet, crowdsourcing an alternative. A twitter-bud suggested Lovejoy. It's in the same retail strip as a coffee shop I like, so I went over to check it out. Looked good, came recommended, so I bought wife one of those all-day packages for about $220.

She used the gift certificate to have her all-day facial/massage/mani/pedi/etc, and absolutely loved it. She enjoyed it, but I knew she'd never take more than one day a year to do the whole experience, so I went back earlier today and broke out what I spent into three gift certificates. Now she can go at different times of the year.

So, to sum up: I was chased off from a spa much closer to our house because of bad behavior by that company on social media. Taking my business elsewhere resulted in my wife becoming a very satisfied customer of the alternative spa. Now she'll be a repeat customer of the alternative.

The bottom line here is simple and obvious. Don't be a dick on social media. If it's part of your personality to be argumentative and/or confrontational, don't argue with customes or potential customers. It will cost you in the long run.

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