Friday, June 25, 2004

The Culture: Fahrenheit 9/11

I have seen two Michael Moore documentaries; his 1989 “Roger & Me,” his examination of his hometown of Flint, Michigan after General Motors closed an auto-assembly plant, and his 2002 “Bowling for Columbine,” his take on the Littleton school massacre. After each, I felt the need to take a shower. I will not go to see Moore’s latest, “Fahrenheit 9/11.” I will not enrich this man any more then I already have.

Moore’s filmmaking gimmick is simple: ambush your opponent. Catch them off guard, throw them off balance, and then ask the awkward question. Ask the parking lot security guard for General Motors why is GM closing one of its plants. Ask a clerk at a department store why they are selling ammunition that is used to kill innocent children. Corner the CEO of a company on his way to a meeting and ask him about his firm’s layoffs. If you put people who are not used to cameras in an awkward spot, they will say something stupid. Use that footage; no principle of taking an opponent at their best case to limit you here.

Accordingly, Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” will show footage of Bush making verbal gaffs and talk about terrorism while golfing. It will show footage of Moore pestering members of Congress about why their children are not in the Army as they enter their office buildings. It will interview soldiers and the families of those killed in Iraq who disagree with the war. The Bush family is in oil, so is the Bin Laden family—so can’t you see, its all a conspiracy. It will portray people who agree with Moore’s position as thoughtful sages. All others will be shown to be laughable idiots—stupid white men who drag the rest of to the slaughter.

Frenchmen may give Moore twenty minute standing ovations, but there is no hiding that Moore is the Father Coughlin of the left, the artful propagandist. Moore does not confirm facts—every one of his films is riddled with factual errors and false claims. What Moore does is fuel emotions; bitter, hateful emotions targeted at businessmen, at freedoms he disagrees with, and at our nation itself. It is no wonder Hezbollah wants to help distribute Moore’s film in Lebanon—they speak a similar language.

It will be truly fighting if Moore succeeds in defining what 9/11 means to America. Moore has issued a challenge, better than any politician on the scene today. The question is will those who love their lives and their freedom be able to meet it.

UPDATE: Moore is planning an offensive against anyone who disagrees with him:

"We are not going to tolerate anyone trying to smear this film or the things that we're trying to say," the US filmmaker told ABC's "This Week."

[. . .]

Moore senses a conservative backlash and threatened to haul into court anyone who libels him.

"Listen, the right wing -- you got to give them credit -- they are incredible at organizing and attacking.

"And our side of the political fence, for way too many years, has just kind of rolled over and played dead. I'm someone on the liberal, left side of the fence who doesn't do that, and I'm not going to do that," he said. He plans to set up a "war room" of politicos on the ready to answer any attack. [AFP]
It gets even better: a conservative group called "Citizens United" has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission arguing Moore's documentary violates the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act. From what I understand, Citizens United is using its complaint to highlight both Moore and McCain-Feingold, which it considers to be bad law. Heheh. It would be interesting to see what Senators McCain and Feingold have to say about that.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The War: Paul Johnson, Rest in Peace

** Warning: Graphic content. ** Yet another savage beheading by the adherents of the religion of peace.

When I reflect upon the kind of mentality that would commit such an act, it makes me shudder. When I reflect on the mentality that will not answer such deeds with righteous, ruthless force, it makes me want to punch the wall.

Update: Novelist Ed Cline is punching his keyboard instead:

Dear President Bush:

It is necessary to point out, if only for the record, that your inaction to retaliate for the beheading of Nick Berg last month, has only emboldened terrorists to expand their range of operations from Iraq to Saudi Arabia, and to proceed to behead Americans and Westerners there, as well, combining those actions with murderous rampages. Yesterday, it was Paul M. Johnson, Jr.’s videotaped murder that was thrown back in our faces. Next week or next month it will be another American’s.

Briefly, the terrorists have taken your measure, and have concluded that your actions do not match your words. You call them “killers.” They already know they are, and do not mind being called killers. They are obeying the Koran, and killing for God, expecting to be rewarded in an afterlife. You profess that Islam is a “peaceful” religion. The terrorists know it is not. To the killers who wish to conquer the West, including America, you are a gullible infidel, a paper Crusader, worthy of contempt, all stance and no substance. Your willingness, for instance, to order our military to negotiate a “ceasefire” in Fallujah with armed gangs of killers, proves it. And encourages them.

Is it any wonder they think they can get away with murder?

May I ask what happened to the “axis of evil”? The WMD that the 9/11 commission is claiming did not exist, were secreted to underground bunkers in Syria. Pakistan, an alleged ally, is selling nuclear weapons technology to Iran, which is developing those weapons. China is also selling weapons technology to Iran, as well as to Zimbabwe, and building up its military to oppose the U.S. over Taiwan and the Pacific Rim. Yet, you do not even contradict the commission, which is accusing you of arbitrarily making war on Iraq for specious reasons, when Saddam’s intelligence and military organization was hosting Al-Qaida operatives connected to the 9/11 attacks.

Finally, you insist on keeping on schedule to hand over the reins of government on June 30th to a motley and “diversified” crew of religious firebrands and conformists, and expect it to stay in power, when their own police cannot protect themselves from attack. It beggars one’s imagination to think of what you consider to be “realistic.” Whatever it is, cannot, by your actions, be tied to the reality of the Islamafascist campaign against us.

One must also conclude that we have lost the war being waged against the West, because you will not fight it as it ought to be fought, as ruthlessly and uncompromisingly as we imposed governments on defeated Germany and Japan, and ordered our military to root out and exterminate the terrorists remnants of their fallen regimes.

If the situation in the Mideast seems an insoluble, no-win “quagmire,” you have only yourself to blame. Your “good intentions” are paving the way to more hell in America. The killers will be back; your policies have practically invited them to strike again.

You are not acting as a commander-in-chief should, but rather as a compromiser-in-chief. Your policies are guaranteeing our defeat.

Edward Cline

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Exam Week

Just an FYI, this is my exam and papers week, so as much as there are a lot of stories I'd like to comment on, bloging will be non-existent until Tuesday.

Wish me luck--this semester, I need it. :-P

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Culture: Food for Thought

Some kids are little more than savages:

WATERBURY, Conn. - A food fight that started with fruit cup turned into a mealtime melee, serving up a full plate of arrests and injuries.

Seven seventh-graders were arrested after a spat in a middle school cafeteria left two teachers and a detective with injuries Wednesday.

The incident began at West Side Middle School after a girl dumped a fruit cup over a boy's head, police said. The two started fighting, then other students joined in, some jumping on tables and throwing food, police said.

"What was described as a riot situation developed in the cafeteria," Sgt. Christopher Corbett said.

A detective and two teachers suffered minor injuries breaking up the melee. [AP]
Minor injuries? What kind of times do we live in that school children can get all the way to middle school and think that the behavior described in the article falls within the realm of the possible?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Culture: Faith and Profit

The Rev. Bill Johnson, chaplain for the "Financial Seminary," a group that aims to bring religion to people charged with managing money, says businessmen are too self-interested, and he blames Ayn Rand for it.

"It is significant in instances like Enron, WorldCom and HealthSouth that many of the leaders of those Bible Belt companies were well-respected professing Christians," Johnson said. "The professed Sunday ethic of love and responsible living was not carried over into the workplace."

"Thousands of investors were hurt significantly, while a few profited tremendously. That creates a huge crisis of confidence and lack of trust in leadership everywhere."

Moore blames the ethical morass on the philosophies of best-selling author Ayn Rand and economist Milton Friedman, whose theories have come to dominate much of corporate America since the 1980s.[Ocala Star-Banner]
If only.

Gary Hull gets some play in the story.

Gary Hull, Duke University's director of values and ethics in the marketplace and a passionate Rand follower, believes that the main reason Western civilization has prospered since the Age of Enlightenment is that it separated faith from reason.

"Once you reject reason for faith, you can justify anything," Hull said. "All that matters is God's will, which is completely open to interpretation."

[. . .]

Hull adds that Moore's criticism of Rand is a gross misinterpretation of the author's ideas.

"Rand does not condone sacrificing the interests of others to your own interest, or treating others as a means to your end," Hull said.

"You can't attain any goal, be it wealth or success, by cheating someone else, or taking credit for someone else's achievement or invention."

That's what the people at Enron did, he said.

"The path to happiness is through hard work, not by achieving riches in the quickest possible way or by faking it," Hull said.
The article goes on to quote Hull in more detail as he argues that, "[r]eligion is incompatible with the profit motive."

Bravo. As addled as the Financial Seminary's view of the ethics wealth creation is, it's a good sign that they see Objectivism as their main opponent.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The War: A chronology of horror

Historian John Lewis chronicles the Arab world's attacks against the West here.

While a work in progress, the list is nevertheless a chilling reminder of the longstanding hatred exhibited by the Arab world toward the West.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

International Affairs: Russia is officially lost

The ex-KGB officer-come-president has successfully turned Russia back toward authoritarianism.

One of Russia's most outspoken television broadcasters has been fired after he aired a program against the wishes of the government and then objected angrily when the broadcast was abruptly halted.

The firing of the broadcaster, Leonid Parfyonov, announced Tuesday night, appears to be the latest step by President Vladimir V. Putin in tightening control over the news media as well as other areas of public life.[NYT]
President Bush looked into Putin’s soul and saw a friend. I looked at Putin’s resume and saw a future dictator.

Politics: Another faith-based endeavor

The New York Times reports President Bush is seeking support from religious congregations in his reelection bid:

In the message, dated early Tuesday afternoon, Luke Bernstein, coalitions coordinator for the Bush campaign in Pennsylvania, wrote: "The Bush-Cheney '04 national headquarters in Virginia has asked us to identify 1,600 `Friendly Congregations' in Pennsylvania where voters friendly to President Bush might gather on a regular basis."

In each targeted "place of worship," Mr. Bernstein continued, without mentioning a specific religion or denomination, "we'd like to identify a volunteer who can help distribute general information to other supporters." He explained: "We plan to undertake activities such as distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation."
The article then goes on to cite critics of the President, saying his appeal to religious groups could endanger their tax-exempt status by engaging in electioneering. That objection is trivial; tax-exempt liberal groups have been electioneering for the left for years.

What bothers me more is that this is yet another indication that Bush’s core constituency is religious-based. The president has not made a secular argument for America that I find to be persuasive. He solicits support from religious groups because he knows they share his agenda and will continue to do so. No news there. Yet in the face of that, I still come across Objectivists who say they will support Bush this fall.

Why? I’d like to see the Objectivists who support Bush explain how Bush’s presidency serves us and how Bush’s continued reliance on faith-based arguments and his faith-based agenda serve our desire for a free, strong, secular America. If Objectivism is a method, why would we ever want to support a leader who time and time again rejects that method and its applications? It would be far better for Bush to know that he has lost our support, however small our numbers, then for us to continue to support him and pretend that all his failings as a leader do not exist. We do ourselves, nor the country we love any favors when we pander to the irrational.