08 December 2007

This Is War: Memories of Iraq

This Is War: Memories of IraqGuard Film Tells Soldiers' Stories

"We wanted to make a very non-political film that took someone who's never been to Iraq ... to show what it means to go into combat," said the film's director, Gary Mortensen. "We told it in a non-specific way so that it could represent Soldiers everywhere - we wanted to tell a tale that anyone who has been over there can identify with."
...
According to the site [link added], all sales of the film help support the Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, the National Combat History Archive, the Iraq/Afghanistan Oregon Memorial Fund and the Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit organization that helps injured servicemembers by providing programs and services to meet their unique needs.
Not According to Script
Hollywood gets shown up by pro-war YouTube videos and a didactic antiwar cat.
Some of the hottest videos on YouTube are of actual battles that have taken place in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is footage that often hasn't made its way onto the nightly news or CNN--although some of it has--but it's largely unadulterated film that shows American soldiers in action, bringing the full weight of American military might to bear against the enemy. And in most of these films, it's clear who the enemy is.

America's Army, Real Heroes, and Virtual Games

The America's Army video game has been in the news quite a bit recently for their Real Heroes expansion and collectible action figures. CNN had a segment on it just a couple of weeks ago: Real-life action hero (video, 2:51)

CNN's John Roberts looks at how a U.S. soldier became a video game character and action figure.

Now America's Army is back in the news with its availability on both Xbox and PCs ...

America's ArmyAmerica's Army Goes Xbox, Now PC

"America's Army: True Soldiers" hit the streets in November as an Xbox game. Now the game's creators are hoping to stir up excitement in the PC gaming world.

"Both the PC and Xbox 360 versions allow us to foster a large America's Army community where players can use teamwork and Army values to achieve success in their gameplay missions," Maj. Marty said. "These online communities extend beyond mere gameplay as players join in teams and use online forums to discuss their strategies and even the military in general."

The only experience I have with the "America's Army" game is when a buddy of mine developed the Advanced Wireless Simulation / Video Game Controller

The advanced game controller is a patent pending method developed by the Army for use in simulation and training environments. This technology uses a variety of sensors, a weapon replica and a head mounted display to allow the participant to interact with a computer through standard keyboard and mouse hardware connections. The player’s actions like running, jumping, crouching, and shooting control the first person game character. No separate keyboard or mouse inputs are required.

I have to admit, the controller was very cool and the gaming was a fun distraction!

06 December 2007

Ham Radio Heroes

Officials: Ham Radio Operators Are Storm's 'Unsung Heroes'

"One of the problems in this is always communication," Gov. Ted Kulongoski said after a visit Tuesday to Vernonia and a fly-over there and other affected areas. "I'm going to tell you who the heroes were from the very beginning of this...the ham radio operators. These people just came in and actually provided a tremendous communication link to us."

04 December 2007

Kudos to CBS!

CBS updated their methodology webpage concerning their report on veteran suicides. I found the updated page via a post on their blog, Primary Sources.

I have to admit that I'm practically giddy that CBS responded this way:

Since CBS News first aired our veteran suicide report on November 13, we have received several questions from viewers wanting more information. In order to provide as much information as possible and to fully answer all questions, this is a summary of the methodology and results of the data we presented.
The updated page is much, much better than the original one!

I had criticized CBS for not making the data publicly available. Here's their explanation:
Privacy Issues
Obtaining suicide data from the states involved more than just a basic public records request.

Initially, several states refused to provide the data to CBS News for privacy concerns. Here’s why: the suicide numbers in some categories are small enough that individuals could be identified, violating state privacy policies. For example, one state could have two non-white females between the ages of 30-34 committing suicide in 2004 who had served in the armed forces. Because of the small number in that category, those individuals could be identified and the cause of their death would then be made public.

Therefore, in order to get the data, CBS News had to give assurance to the states that we would keep the raw data confidential. Some states insisted upon written agreements to this effect. The data, however, can be obtained upon request from the files of each individual state. [my emphasis]
That's a pretty good explanation and I understand now why CBS would not provide the state-by-state cross-tabulation data. [UPDATE: It does not, however, get them off the hook from providing any data - see table below.] As a bonus for anyone wanting to recreate the data directly from the states, CBS also provides their cost ($3000) to reimburse the states for processing fees.

CBS provides this additional note:
Important Note: Suicide death rates that are publically available (by going to the CDC’s Wisquar’s website) are for the general U.S. population. The general population includes both veterans and non-veterans together. The rates CBS News presented will look nothing like those for the general population because we compared “veterans” to “non-veterans.” Comparing veteran suicides to the general population is misleading and an inaccurate analysis because, the general population includes veterans. Furthermore, the CDC general population suicide rates are age-adjusted only. The CBS analysis is adjusted for both age and gender. [my emphasis]
I agree with CBS that comparing only the veteran rates with the CDC general population rates is incorrect, for the reason they state: the general population includes veterans.

I emphasized the last two sentences because they directly apply to my basic analysis of their 2004 results. Earlier in their methodology, CBS says this:
The veteran population, for example, is mostly made up of older males, so the data had to be statistically adjusted state by state in order to accurately compare with the non-veteran populations.

Important Note: All of the rates of suicide that CBS News presented are adjusted. The overall rates are adjusted for age and gender in both the veteran and non-veteran populations. The male and female rates are age adjusted. And, the age breakdowns are adjusted for gender.
The question for me is: Does the explanation that the CBS data is gender adjusted account for the high female veteran and non-veteran populations in the overall 2004 rate, and the very high 20-24 age group veteran population?

The answer is ... maybe? To be sure, I would have to come up with a way to reverse engineer adjusting for age and gender on a state-by-state basis without the crude (raw) suicide data or state cohort population numbers.

I have to admit that given the updated methodology, I'm much more willing to trust CBS on this.

My previous questions to CBS based on the overall rate and 20-24 age group were:
  • Why would female non-veterans be represented at twice the rate of male non-veterans? Why wouldn't CBS tell us this or at least explain it?

  • Why is the veteran female population also twice the male veteran population?

  • How does CBS explain a 20-24 age group veteran population 10 to 20 times the Census/VA 1.5% population figure, if we use the CDC suicide rate as a substitute for their missing data?

  • Why would the veteran population in this 20-24 age group be more than two to three times the overall veteran population of 8.5% in the general population?

  • Why is the 20-24 veteran population a higher percentage than even the 12.1-19.5% veteran population calculated when using CBS and CDC data?
CBS also tells us that the male and female rates are age adjusted, which is comparable to the CDC data. My previous questions on these results were:
  • Why are both the male non-veteran rate and male veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for males in the general population?

  • Why are both the female non-veteran rate and female veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for females in the general population?
I think these questions are still valid. Did CBS limit the age range to 20+ years? Would that account for the higher rates?

It might help if CBS could (please?) provide a table, stratified by 5-year age group, with male and female columns for veterans and non-veterans. Something like this:



A table for the 2004 data and a table for the 2005 data would be very useful to calculate age and gender adjusted rates based on Veterans Administration and Census Bureau data.

Anyway, bottom line is this is an awesome response by CBS! Kudos!

Previous:
Questions for Keteyian
Astounding Arrogance at CBS
Seems right to me
Sensationalizing Suicide II
Sensationalizing Suicide

An Anthology of Journalism's Decline

Hutchins' Report: A Free And Responsible Press (1947)

Today our society needs, first, a truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day's events in a context which gives them meaning; second, a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism; third, a means of projecting the opinions and attitudes of the groups in the society to one another; fourth, a method of presenting and clarifying the goals and values of the society; and, fifth, a way of reaching every member of the society by the currents of information, thought, and feeling which the press supplies.
Objectivity as Strategic Ritual: An Examination of Newsmen's Notions of Objectivity (1972)
To journalists, like social scientists,2 the term "objectivity" stands as a bulwark between themselves and critics. Attacked for a controversial presentation of "facts," newspapermen invoke their objectivity almost the way a Mediterranean peasant might wear a clove of garlic around his neck to ward off evil spirits.
Untended Gates: The Mismanaged Press (1986)
The unprofessional gatekeeper system clearly has to be judged as being one of the root causes of the steady slide of public confidence in journalism.
Governing with the News: The News Media as a Political Institution (1998)
Instead, the news media share more with two other political institutions: the political parties, and the interest group system.
Uncertain Guardians: The News Media as a Political Institution (1999)
In this book I build on the work of Cater and his successors, Leon Sigal and Herbert Cans in particular, to explain why the news media effectively constitute a political institution and why this fact matters to students of American politics.
Snob Journalism: Elitism Versus Ethics for a Profession in Crisis (2003)
Most journalists don't know the history of their profession, have not read great works of their predecessors and have not read even the small number of major philosophical works produced by journalists.

When psychologist Bill Damon and his colleagues were researching their book "Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet," they found they had never studied a profession that did as poor a job as journalism of handing down the collected wisdom of one generation to another.
The State of the News Media: Public Attitudes (2007)
All that comes, of course, against a background of more than 20 years of growing skepticism about journalists, their companies and the news media as an institution. As we have noted in other reports,since the early 1980s, the public has come to view the news media as less professional, less accurate, less caring, less moral and more inclined to cover up rather than correct mistakes.

UPDATE: The above are, of course, supplements to Andy's required reading for journalists (pro-am and networked).

(Updated for 2010)

Previous:
Lippman-Dewey Blogosphere
Culture War: Institutions vs. Media

02 December 2007

Questions for Keteyian

UPDATE (5 Dec 2007): Kudos to CBS!

CBS updated their methodology webpage concerning their report on veteran suicides. I found the updated page via a post on their blog, Primary Sources.
...
Anyway, bottom line is this is an awesome response by CBS! Kudos!


Armen Keteyian responds to Fumento:
Contrary to Fumento's statement, the data, as well as the methodology used to collect and analyze it, have been available online for anyone to access.
Fumento fires back: CBS lies again on veteran suicide data

Keteyian's claim that the data are available online is -- at best -- misleading, and at worst dishonest.

It's also interesting that Keteyian chose to respond via letter to the NY Post instead of on CBS's Primary Sources blog. Maybe there'll be an update tomorrow.

I've already conducted a basic analysis of the results CBS provided. Here are my questions for CBS based on their 2004 results:
  • Why would female non-veterans be represented at twice the rate of male non-veterans? Why wouldn't CBS tell us this or at least explain it?

  • Why is the veteran female population also twice the male veteran population?

  • Why are both the male non-veteran rate and male veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for males in the general population?

  • Why are both the female non-veteran rate and female veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for females in the general population?

  • How does CBS explain a 20-24 age group veteran population 10 to 20 times the Census/VA 1.5% population figure, if we use the CDC suicide rate as a substitute for their missing data?

  • Why would the veteran population in this 20-24 age group be more than two to three times the overall veteran population of 8.5% in the general population?

  • Why is the 20-24 veteran population a higher percentage than even the 12.1-19.5% veteran population calculated when using CBS and CDC data?
If/When there is a new post at Primary Sources blog, I'll ask them to address these questions. Commenting has been closed there since 23 November 2007.

UPDATE: The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will be holding a hearing at 10:00AM December 12, 2007, in Room 345 of Cannon House Office Building. From the press release:
... The hearing will focus on recent statistical data from private sources as a platform to discuss comparative data from the VA on these issues.

... Witnesses invited will include members of the media, scholars from the mental health care profession and representatives from the VA. The hearing will take place in December.
Previous:
Astounding Arrogance at CBS
Seems right to me
Sensationalizing Suicide II
Sensationalizing Suicide