ChuckB's blog

Florida 2000 Presidential Election recount

<UPDATE>Rochelle in a comment points to a site about the election that makes me think that I need to take another look at this issue before drawing a firm conclusion. Be advised of that as you read the following. I thank Rochelle for posting the link, and I welcome further information on the topic.</UPDATE>

From Newsday:

National Rifle Association history trivia

Here's a question most LISNews readers probably can't answer: When, and by whom, was the National Rifle Association founded? And why? Here's what says:

The NRA was founded shortly after the American Civil War by Union Army officers who were appalled by the lack of shooting skills among the Union soldiers during the war and determined to correct this problem by encouraging the shooting sports and marksmanship among the general population, including former slaves in the former slave states. This made the NRA very unpopular in the former slaves states and the NRA was considered an enemy by the Ku Klux Klan.
Union Army Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate are the officially listed founders of the NRA. They were granted a charter from the state of New York on November 17, 1871. The first NRA president was Ambrose E. Burnside, a commander of the Army of the Potomac. Former President Ulysses S. Grant was elected president of the National Rifle Association in 1883.

I find these facts interesting in part because I've read that Mr. Moore in his film Bowling for Columbine features an animated sequence,

... with the narrator talking rapidly, [equating] the NRA with the Klan, suggesting NRA was founded in 1871, "the same year that the Klan became an illegal terrorist organization." Bowling goes on to depict Klansmen becoming the NRA and an NRA character helping to light a burning cross. This sequence is intended to create the impression either that NRA and the Klan were parallel groups or that when the Klan was outlawed its members formed the NRA.

I'm calling on all fans of Bowling for Columbine, especially those who have seen the film several times and who know it well, to help me out. I don't want to accuse Mr. Moore of something he didn't do, so if you have seen the movie, please confirm or disconfirm that it contains the above scene, and that it did (or didn't) leave you with the impression that the NRA was and is connected with the Klan. Thanks!

And, by the way, I will see the movie at some point. It is definitely on my list, as are many others. Would you believe that I have still not seen a Chaplin movie?

Blogs: Third Superpower

Third Superpower is the blog of Michael Pate, who seems to be the same Michael Pate as operates I admire Mr. Pate's blogging style, as it is reflects library reference work almost perfectly: he researches his topic and then lets his sources do most of the talking for him. His entry of June 24 is a superb example of this approach.

Sniveling with the Republikan National Guard Snivelistas

Dude, I'm like, so busted! Fang-Face has me so totally pegged:

What deliciously appropriate timing for ChuckB to whine about us free speakers picking on the Republican National Guard of Amerika, since I've just finished another commentary about the Christian Taliban.

I'm so ashamed to be caught out whining like this that I'm almost tempted never to show my face here again.

Genetic fallacy

The genetic fallacy is not a flaw in one's DNA, but rather an invalid form of argumentation. It involves contending that an argument is false because of some negative characteristic attributed to the person, publication, or group advancing the argument. Philosophically, it is flawed because it doesn't address the substance of the argument it purports to rebut. Psychologically, it may be attributable to ignorance of correct argumentation, or to intellectual laziness (one doesn't want to take the trouble to deal with an argument properly), or to intellectual dishonesty (the person committing the fallacy understands perfectly well that they aren't presenting a cogent argument, but they realize that they can sway careless, ignorant readers and listeners through an appeal to non-rational impulses).

An AP provided an excellent example of the genetic fallacy in his/her reply to a response of mine in the AlterNet Movie Mix thread (see also my subsequent response). in another thread, slashgirl seems to have been concerned that her arguments concerning the truth of Christianity would be dismissed because of her beliefs when she said "But then what do I know, I'm only a pagan." I suspect she has good reason to fear that, because she has doubtless encountered Christians who have committed the genetic fallacy against her in precisely this way. While I'm persuaded that her objections could be more than amply met, it would be unthinkable for me to dismiss them simply because she is a pagan. She is entitled to answers that address the questions she has raised.

One substantial factor contributing to the polarization of today's political discourse is the shoddy reasoning (or unreasoning?) engaged in by so many on all sides, and the genetic fallacy has become a prince among fallacies, because it feeds our demonization of "the other side". And I'll be the first to concede that the right is as bad as the left on this score. The best that can be said for those who know better is that they are intellectually lazy. An inspired man once gave this instruction to those whom he was leading: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect". Note the emphasis on reason, gentleness, and respect. I trust that even those who don't agree with me that this man was inspired can see the merit in what he wrote.

One may, I think, consider the source of a fact that is presented in forming a tentative judgement about its likely correctness. A person may feel they have sufficient reason to doubt the accuracy of the NYT, The National Review, The Nation, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, etc. We don't always have the time or the means to chase down every important fact presented to us, and as long as we regard our judgement about the likely correctness of the fact as tentative, and as long as we are open to correction if we are shown to be wrong, I think we are within our rights in "considering the source". However, I think we are never within our rights in dismissing the argument of another simply because of who the other is who is advancing it. We may be silent; we may say "I need to think about this before I form an opinion about the correctness of this argument"; we may offer a tentative judgement about the argument in the form of an opinion; we may offer misgivings about those parts of the argument that are clear to us. But it is always wrong to dismiss an argument conclusively on any basis other than a reasoned consideration of its substance. We owe one another nothing less than to engage one another's arguments substantively. I hope I have always done this on LISNews. If I haven't, I welcome correction.

Moore &amp; the Dems: one last thing

(Following up on my comment in this thread)

One more telling bit from Terry Neal's WaPo column on Fahrenheit 9/11:

Captain Ed's advice to Michael Moore

Ralph Nader has written two open letters to Michael Moore, chastising him for having sold out to the Democrats (Hey, Michael, Where Were Your Friends? and Hey Dude Where's My Buddy!!!???).

Captain Ed notes that Nader is the pot calling the kettle black:

Blogs: The Belmont Club

Any blog that begins like this has my attention:

The primary function of the study of history is to foretell the future; and the kind of history we accept depends on the type of future we desire. Since the past itself is imperfectly grasped, we often stand on what we only imagine to reach what has not yet come to pass. The only consolation in this insane state of affairs is that this circular process sometimes works.

Jeff Jarvis on Fahrenheit 9/11: CNN tonight

Jeff Jarvis is, among other things, the creator of Entertainment Weekly and the Sunday Editor of The New York Daily News. I think he counts as a media expert. He has an extended review of Mikey's latest on his blog. You'll note from the bit I excerpt below that he is not a Bush voter. Thus, I don't think one may rationally discount him as a Republikan party hack. Nonetheless, his review makes it clear he finds many problems with the movie.

Jarvis will be on CNN tonight between 10:00 and 11:00 ET with Aaron Brown, discussing Fahrenheit 9/11.

Here's the quote:

Moore's assumption is venality. He assumes that President Bush and his confreres are venal, that their motives are black, that they are out to do no good, only bad, and that the only choices they make in life are between greed and power.

That's inevitably a bad analysis. It's the exact same analysis Bill Clinton's enemies made of him. If they were wrong about Clinton, well then, Michael Moore is wrong about Bush. Life is never that simple, never that obvious, unless you're a propagandist or one who believes propaganda. I especially can't buy that analysis when we are a under attack as a nation, when we need to decide who the "us" and "them" are. The war on us as well as the dialogue among my confreres here online has made me question that assumption of venality in American politics.

Oh, you can argue Bush is incompetent; sometimes I do wonder. You can disagree with his policies; I disagree with many. You can question his intelligence; jury's out still. I didn't vote for Bush the last time and don't plan to this time. But I don't buy Moore's Bush. To say that he's the dark force of the universe only leads to simple-minded over-generalizations and bilious caricatures.

Scroll down to the bottom of his posting: you'll find lotsa links to other discussions.

Headlines you'll never read

Lexington Green of ChicagoBoyz quotes Jim Bennett's analysis of U.S. coverage of the recent EU elections:

I just heard NPR describe the election results as "British voters punishing Blair over Iraq", echoing the Washington Post and NY Times. This has become the official line. Any sane editor would choose to lead with a headline grounded in actual factual analysis, such as:

Credit where credit is due

After citing Christopher Hitchens's hilarious takedown of Mikey's latest film, Sylvain Galineau of ChicagoBoyz does manage to say one nice thing about the man:

I must say I still give Moore credit for being a gifted capitalist and marketer. After identifying a growing demand for his product category - loony left political porn, age 13 and under - he set out to corner a significant and lucrative share in every key worldwide market. And that's how even in the anti-Americanism business - Mr Moore would not enjoy such a lifestyle if it wasn't a business - an American is in the lead.
[emphasis mine--ChuckB]

By the way, anyone who is interested in thinking critically about Fahrenheit 911 will profit from Hitchens's essay. He points out numerous implicit contradictions in Moore's point of view, and he shows that the film is as significant for what it hides as for what it shows. Hitchens is clearly a polemicist, but he is a very gifted one, and he does not use his rhetoric merely to obscure a lack of substance. Here's one sample:

I have already said that Moore's film has the staunch courage to mock Bush for his verbal infelicity. Yet it's much, much braver than that. From Fahrenheit 9/11 you can glean even more astounding and hidden disclosures, such as the capitalist nature of American society, the existence of Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex," and the use of "spin" in the presentation of our politicians. It's high time someone had the nerve to point this out. There's more. Poor people often volunteer to join the army, and some of them are duskier than others. Betcha didn't know that. Back in Flint, Mich., Moore feels on safe ground. There are no martyred rabbits this time. Instead, it's the poor and black who shoulder the packs and rifles and march away. I won't dwell on the fact that black Americans have fought for almost a century and a half, from insisting on their right to join the U.S. Army and fight in the Civil War to the right to have a desegregated Army that set the pace for post-1945 civil rights. I'll merely ask this: In the film, Moore says loudly and repeatedly that not enough troops were sent to garrison Afghanistan and Iraq. (This is now a favorite cleverness of those who were, in the first place, against sending any soldiers at all.) Well, where does he think those needful heroes and heroines would have come from? Does he favor a draft—the most statist and oppressive solution? Does he think that only hapless and gullible proles sign up for the Marines? Does he think—as he seems to suggest—that parents can "send" their children, as he stupidly asks elected members of Congress to do? Would he have abandoned Gettysburg because the Union allowed civilians to pay proxies to serve in their place? Would he have supported the antidraft (and very antiblack) riots against Lincoln in New York? After a point, one realizes that it's a waste of time asking him questions of this sort. It would be too much like taking him seriously. He'll just try anything once and see if it floats or flies or gets a cheer.


An AP commenting on pchuck's Operation Tiger Claw journal entry:

I don't know about spoiled but I did link and the guy is a Nazi. Check the link to ProtestWarrior. Just like I'd notify the US Attorney about Islamists I think they need to know about these guys. Nothing to do with free speech - these guys are dangerous.

Germaine Greer on women in Saudi Arabia

Germaine Greer applies her anthroplogical acumen to explaining why women aren't permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia:

Clinton claims raise eyebrows in NZ

Apparently, Bill Clinton claims in his autobiography that his wife was named for Sir Edmund Hillary, the now-famous New Zealand mountain-climber who scaled Mt. Everest.

The Australian news site detects an anachronism in this claim:

But the story has a fundamental problem: Edmund Hillary reached Everest's peak on May 29, 1953, nearly seven years after the infant Hillary arrived in the world.

Reagan &amp; the Cold War

As Ronald Reagan's legacy was being discussed recently after his death, I heard several opine that it is wrong to give him much, if any, credit for the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The argument is that the USSR was going to implode economically of its own accord, and that at best Reagan helped the process along a little bit. Even if one grants this argument, one must remember that this was not the prevailing wisdom on the Soviet Union at that time.


What? You don't read Spinsanity.Org? Shame on you! You go read it--right now!

Mikey's Mendacity

Did you see Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine? Did it leave you with the impression that Charlton Heston & the NRA held a large, defiant rally just days after the shootings at Columbine High School? If so, you aren't the only one:

Where it seemed that Charlton Heston and others rushed to Littleton to hold rallies and demonstrations directly after the tragedy, [Marilyn] Manson canceled the remainder of his tour immediately following Columbine, and did not return to Denver for two years following.

You might even believe that, at this rally, Heston hoisted a rifle over his head and proclaimed "From my cold, dead hands!" The height of shameful insensitivity it would seem. Except that it wasn't so:

Fact: The Denver event was not a demonstration relating to Columbine, but an annual meeting (see links below), whose place and date had been fixed years in advance.

Fact: At Denver, the NRA cancelled all events (normally several days of committee meetings, sporting events, dinners, and rallies) save the annual members' voting meeting -- that could not be cancelled because the state law governing nonprofits required that it be held. [No way to change location, since under NY law you have to give 10 days' advance notice of that to the members, there were upwards of 4,000,000 members -- and Columbine happened 11 days before the scheduled meeting.] [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

In fact, the website hosting article I quote also features a side-by-side comparison of Heston's words as edited for the film with the speech Heston actually gave. Moore's pastiche leaves the impression that Heston's words "Don't come here? We're already here" are a defiant assertion of the right of NRA members to travel to Denver despite the massacre ("we're already here, and there's nothing you can do about it, so there!"). When read in context, it is perfectly obvious that he is referring to the many NRA who live in Denver and hence are already there:

Don't come here. That's offensive. It's also absurd because we live here. There are thousands of NRA members in Denver, and tens upon tens of thousands in the state of Colorado.

NRA members labor in Denver's factories, they populate Denver's faculties, run Denver corporations, play on Colorado sports teams, work in media across the Front Range, parent and teach and coach Denver's children, attend Denver's churches and proudly represent Denver in uniform on the world's oceans and in the skies over Kosovo at this very moment.

NRA members are in city hall, Fort Carson, NORAD, the Air Force Academy and the Olympic Training Center. And yes, NRA members are surely among the police and fire and SWAT team heroes who risked their lives to rescue the students at Columbine.

Don't come here? We're already here. This community is our home. Every community in America is our home. We are a 128-year-old fixture of mainstream America. The Second Amendment ethic of lawful, responsible firearm ownership spans the broadest cross section of American life imaginable.

(And by the way, if you require proof that "lawful, responsible firearm ownership spans the broadest cross section of American life imaginable", pay the website of the Pink Pistols a visit.)

The article I quote above and the website of which it is a part documents numerous distortions and dissemblings of Mikey. Fortunately there are now many folks now who are comparing his splicings with reality (here's one linkfest; see also my upcoming post on Spinsanity.Org).

Remember how Mikey railed against the "fictitious President" when accepting his award for Best Documentary (!!!) from the Motion Picture Academy? Believe me, he was laughing all the way to the bank about that bit of irony.

Paul Krugman on Outsourcing

From Krugman's article "In Praise of Cheap Labor", originally published in 1997 in Slate:

Kerry on Democracy in the Middle East

Glenn Kessler writes in the Washington Post:

Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security.

Mikey has a fever of 911&deg; F

The Norwegian blogger at Secular Blasphemy alerted me to this article in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter on Ray Bradbury's reaction to Michael Moore's appropriation of the title of Bradbury's famous novel for Moore's new film. The Secular Blasphemer translates part of the article into English. Here I offer the whole thing to you in my own translation.

"Moore is a shit-boot [asshole]"

Ray Bradbury on the attack against Michael Moore. The title of Michael Moore's new film Fahrenheit 9/11 is taken from the novel Fahrenheit 451. DN's Mârten Blomkvist called up writer Ray Bradbury and asked him if he felt honored. He most definitely did not.

In the past months there has scarcely been a day without some news about Michael Moore's film titled Fahrenheit 9/11.

But one thing we didn't hear about: what does Ray Bradbury think about the matter?

It is after all the title of Bradbury's book Fahrenheit 451 that Moore alluded to when he christened his controversial anti-Bush film.

The 1953 book by Bradbury (who is 84 this year) is set in a future where books are forbidden. Firemen move out to burn up hidden books--Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper ignites.

Bradbury's book, which was filmed by François Truffaut in 1966, is an American "minor classic". Moore's parallel is clear: the 9/11 attacks are being used today like the flame-throwers of Guy Montag and his colleagues in Bradbury's novel.

So what does Bradbury think?

Michael Moore is a a fatheaded asshole [lit: corked shit-boot], that's what I think of the matter. He stole my title and changed the numbers without ever asking me for permission.

Have you spoken with him?
He is an awful person. An awful person.

Ray Bradbury thinks that Michael Moore can take his Palme d'Or and and shove it somewhere, this much was clear--even if Bradbury would never express himself in quite this way--when DN reached the writer at his home in Los Angeles. The interview went on for eight minutes. As far as Bradbury is concerned, the story of Moore's film begins and ends with the fact that the the director is a thief and a liar. Bradbury is not interested in discussing the possibility of artistic freedom to allude to well-known works.

One might imagine that you would feel some satisfaction that your [novel's] title is so famous that he wanted to use it, allude to it ...
That he wanted to steal it from me, yes.

You see it simply as theft?
People do this all the time. I discover them. I don't want him to do this.

Do you disagree with his view that ... That has nothing to do with this matter. He copied my title, that's what happend. This has nothing to do with political opinions.

Bradbury said that he had tried to discuss the matter with Moore, but that the director had avoided him.

I called his firm. They promised that he would call me the same afternoon, but that didn't happen.

When was that? A few months ago, when his plans for the film first became public.

Nevertheless, the conversation seemed to slip into politics when Bradbury asserted that Moore had ruined Wesley Clark's chances to be the Democratic presidential candidate. Bradbury believes, like several American commentators, that Moore's support for Clark was the kiss of death when Clark did not distance himself from Moore's assertion that President Bush dodged military service.

He slandered the President in front of General Clark, and Clark let him do that. Clark should have said "Don't say that. It isn't true." Clark lost his chance to be President that day.

I see. And you supported General Clark?
No, I support honesty.

According to Bradbury, others have asked him about Moore's re-use of the title, but "I don't want to cause a big uproar about it":

I detest all the paparazzi journalism that happens nowadays. If I could get him to change the title quietly, that would be best.

Do you think that is possible, I mean, the movie is now extremely well-known under this title?
Who cares? No one will see his film, it's as good as dead already. Forget about it, no one cares.

But it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes?
So what? I have won prices at different places and for the most part, they are meaningless. The people there hate us, so they gave him the Palme d'Or. It's a meaningless prize.

At about this point Bradbury considered that he had spoken clearly. Stolen is stolen. Under no circumstances can it be right to exploit a title that someone else invented:

I could write a novel tomorrow called "Gone With the Wind", right? But I woldn't do that, because it would be dishonest.

Nothing more needed to be said about the matter:

Just write that Michael Moore is dishonest and that I don't want to be associated with him in any way. That's sufficient.

Bradbury didn't answer as to whether he planned to take the matter further.

Mârten Blomkvist


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