Category Archives: Suppressed Evidence

I couldn’t help but think

People may have seen Hillary Clinton’s now much lampooned television advertisement.  She answers the phone at 3 AM, all ready for dealing with some  world crisis.  Some have seen a cause for concern.  Among them Harvard sociology Professor Orlando Patterson.  His op-ed contribution leaves much to be desired in the logic category.  We couldn’t help but think of two points.

First, the phrase "I couldn’t help but think of x" probably ought to be retired.  I don’t know when one can help but think of stuff.  The stuff I think of is mostly involuntary.  Well, here’s the phrase:

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and
slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent
sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of
mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t
help but think of
D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist
movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of
black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger
implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering
the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to
protect us from this threat.

Pointing out that you couldn’t help but think of something seems like an odd way to separate yourself from your thoughts (he does it twice in this piece).  I can’t help but think of a lot of things.  But I can help but write them.

Here’s the second point (this point has, by the way, already been made across the blogosphere.  See the Daily Howler for particularly acute analysis). I think Patterson’s reading of this advert is way of the mark, particularly when it comes to the empirical questions.  He writes, later:

Did the message get through? Well, consider this: people who voted
early went overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama; those who made up their minds
during the three days after the ad was broadcast voted heavily for Mrs.

Don’t know about the implication there.  Seems like there are many obvious countervailing factors that need to be considered before one can buy the inference that the racist ad–actually, not just the ad, the racism of the ad–seriously changed people’s minds.  There’s more:

It is significant that the Clinton campaign used its telephone ad in
Texas, where a Fox poll conducted Feb. 26 to 28 showed that whites
favored Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton 47 percent to 44 percent, and not
in Ohio, where she held a comfortable 16-point lead among whites. Exit
polls on March 4 showed the ad’s effect in Texas: a 12-point swing to
56 percent of white votes toward Mrs. Clinton. It is striking, too,
that during the same weekend the ad was broadcast, Mrs. Clinton refused
to state unambiguously that Mr. Obama is a Christian and has never been
a Muslim.

That last claim, I think, is dubious.  The poll reading, without question, leaves much to be desired.  I couldn’t help but think of that. 


It's hard to see what William Kristol brings to the discussion on anything.  Today he analogizes the Republican and Democratic parties to the ruling and opposition parties in Britain, via, get this, a George Orwell essay on Kipling.  Kristol writes:

“In a gifted writer,” Orwell remarks, “this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality.” Kipling “at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like.” For, Orwell explains, “The ruling power is always faced with the question, ‘In such and such circumstances, what would you do?’, whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions.” Furthermore, “where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly.”

If I may vulgarize the implications of Orwell’s argument a bit: substitute Republicans for Kipling and Democrats for the opposition, and you have a good synopsis of the current state of American politics.

The "vulgarization" overlooks the entirely unavoidable fact that the US government is designed with three branches.  If a party controls one of them–say, Congress–then that party isn't an opposition party.  Alright, so the premise of this piece is strained.  But what about the main point, someone may wonder.

Having controlled the executive branch for 28 of the last 40 years, Republicans tend to think of themselves as the governing party — with some of the arrogance and narrowness that implies, but also with a sense of real-world responsibility. Many Democrats, on the other hand, no long even try to imagine what action and responsibility are like. They do, however, enjoy the support of many refined people who snigger at the sometimes inept and ungraceful ways of the Republicans. (And, if I may say so, the quality of thought of the Democrats’ academic and media supporters — a permanent and, as it were, pensioned opposition — seems to me to have deteriorated as Orwell would have predicted.)

So this stuff Orwell–I can't believe he actually used Orwell–said about the opposition party was merely a means of saying the "quality of thought" of the "opposition" and its "academic and media supporters" has "deteriorated."  One would be curious to know how, in particular–or jeez even in general–the "quality of thought" of the academic and media supporters has "deteriorated."  Could Kristol at least give an example of this particular claim?

The freakish, yes freakish, thing about this article is that Kristol goes on to use this Orwellian premise to complain about the Democrats' obstruction of legislation aimed at protecting private companies from the legal consequences of their participation in   warrantless–and therefore illegal–surveillance:

But the Democratic House leadership balked — particularly at the notion of protecting from lawsuits companies that had cooperated with the government in surveillance efforts after Sept. 11. Director McConnell repeatedly explained that such private-sector cooperation is critical to antiterror efforts, in surveillance and other areas, and that it requires the assurance of immunity. “Your country is at risk if we can’t get the private sector to help us, and that is atrophying all the time,” he said. But for the House Democrats, sticking it to the phone companies — and to the Bush administration — seemed to outweigh erring on the side of safety in defending the country.

He should have worked Orwell into that paragraph.

Suppressed Will

Today George Will goes after the Democratic congress for failing to avoid his misleading sarcasm.  The first charge, earmarks:

Hellbent on driving its approval rating into single digits, Congress adjourned after passing an omnibus spending bill larded with at least 8,993 earmarks costing at least $7.4 billion — the precise number and amount will be unclear until implications of some obscure provisions are deciphered. The gusher of earmarks was a triumph of bipartisanship, which often is a synonym for kleptocracy.

That first clause has a kind of causal ring to it I think, as if the cause of The Congress' low approval ratings were earmarks, lots of them.  On that presumption, the approval ratings of Congress ought to be higher than before.  Earmarks, under the Democrats, are down:

Democrats in Congress with the encouragement of President Bush vowed this year to seek a 50% reduction in federal budget "earmarks" — projects and programs inserted into spending bills by members of Congress to benefit their states or districts.

As it turns out, they didn't quite get there. How far they got depends on whose accounting method is used.

Democrats say they cut earmarks by 43%, to $9.2 billion, but they don't count water and military construction projects in their calculations. Those are mostly merit-based and less controversial than others.

Watchdog groups such as Taxpayers for Common Sense say the reduction is closer to 25%, once all earmarks are counted. They count 11,144, for $15.3 billion.

The White House puts the reduction at a meager 13%. Its Office of Management and Budget said Tuesday that the final spending bill, which was passed by the House on Monday and won Senate approval Tuesday night, would bring the total spent on earmarks to $16.4 billion. That's 87% of the 2005 peak, according to OMB's figures.

And the rest of this mendacious (that's a word Will would use) piece continues along the same lines: (a) misrepresent (by leaving out crucial facts) some Democratic achievement, (b) make sarcastic remark about how it either (i) fails some kind of consistency test or (ii) fails some kind of test of basic rationality.

Someone said–maybe Digby–that we continue to believe that our political discourse has to be this way, as if this were the logical consequence of our democratic system.  I fail to see how it is the case that we need people like Will, who in addition to the habitual abuse of logic, simply misrepresent facts.  Can't the Post put a fact-checker between his column and print?  The same for everyone.  Opinion pieces, as we all know here, are composed of factual assertions.  Those have to be correct in order for the opinions to be worth reading.  It would be extra special if they had a logic checker–one thing at a time.

One final, unrelated point.  With so many silly posts on this website, would anyone mind telling me what their favorite one of the past year was?  Jon Swift seems to be having a kind of contest.

Sicut Philosophus docet in II Ethicorum

George Will, comedian:

>Explaining a simple proposal to help people squirrel away gold for their golden years, Hillary Clinton said that a person “should not require a PhD to save for retirement.” But can even PhDs understand liberalism’s arithmetic and logic?

This is funny. He says little about either arithmetic or logic, but a lot about the meanings of words:

>SCHIP is described as serving “poor children” or children of “the working poor.” Everyone agrees that it is for “low-income” people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president’s veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America’s median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?

The Stagirite offers again some simple and obvious instruction:

>How this is to happen we have stated already, but it will be made plain also by the following consideration of the specific nature of virtue. In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one and the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that which is neither too much nor too little- and this is not one, nor the same for all. For instance, if ten is many and two is few, six is the intermediate, taken in terms of the object; for it exceeds and is exceeded by an equal amount; this is intermediate according to arithmetical proportion. But the intermediate relatively to us is not to be taken so; if ten pounds are too much for a particular person to eat and two too little, it does not follow that the trainer will order six pounds; for this also is perhaps too much for the person who is to take it, or too little- too little for Milo, too much for the beginner in athletic exercises. The same is true of running and wrestling. Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this- the intermediate not in the object but relatively to us.

“Low income” is much like quantities of food for ancient Greek wrestlers: it’s relative to how big you are (your family that is) and where you live.

Kill The Poor

On Sunday’s “The Roundtable” portion of ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” the remorseless, but always dapper George F. Will dropped this precious nugget of compassionate conservativism in defending President Bush’s promised veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) Bill:
>COKIE ROBERTS (ABC NEWS): That’s right. Look, I think this is a really bad moment for George Bush. The truth is he came to Washington wanting to expand the Republican Party, because there aren’t enough white guys to go around just doing the math and so he wanted to attract Hispanics and women to the Republican Party and he succeeded partly because of September 11th in the 2004 election. Now, with the immigration bill which is not his fault but the Republicans have succeeded in driving away Hispanics and with this veto he’s going to succeed in driving away women because to talk about vetoing health care for children is going to resonate with women in a way that they will just be off of the Republican Party.

>GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Unless facts are allowed to intrude, in which case it will be pointed out that what the Democrats are doing is taking a program aimed at poor children and turning it into a huge ever-expanding middle class entitlement program for, if Governor Spitzer in New York has his way, people, children up to say 25 years old from households with incomes of $82,000. Now, the guy sitting next to you at the bar at the plaza with a mustache sipping a vodka martini may be on that program for poor children.

$82,000 sounds like an unusually specific number. I bet if you made $82,000 in New York City, and you had, say, a couple of children, you’d be as good as poor. But far be it from me prevent facts from intruding. There’s a deeper problem here, though, one that only serious folks like Will can perceive: middle class children may benefit as well! To steal a line from the man himself, Heaven forfend. The Ford forbid some middle class types should horn in on a health care plan meant for poor children. In fact, I’m sure this would be the very first government program that benefited more people than were intended. Unfortunately, the lamentations of the trop riche were not ended, as the inimitable, pink-shirted David Brooks chimed in to echo Will’s not even remotely compassionate conservativism:

>DAVID BROOKS (“THE NEW YORK TIMES”): It’s a tough political veto –


>DAVID BROOKS (“THE NEW YORK TIMES”): – for the reasons Cokie said. But I’m with George. On the substance we just cannot get buried under a wall of debt and Bush will be, on the substance he’ll be right to do it.

Ah, yes. Paying for health care for impoverished children will lead to rising taxes and/or increased debt. So the President should definitely veto this bill. I suppose it is impossible that tax increases and a growing national debt are byproducts of an increasingly expensive and seemingly endless war effort. Much easier to prattle on about middle class entitlements and dust off the Higher Taxes are Bad for Your Life chestnut. Sic probo, providing health care for impoverished children actually represents a wrong.

The Dead Kennedys were only kidding…I’m not so sure about George and Dave.

Three part invention

I can only be bothered to come up with three. There are many many more problems with this abysmal piece by George Will today. While it does make sense to adjust gas prices for inflation, the rest of his conclusions show a manifest ignorance about the nature of the energy problem and a reprehensible tendency to ridicule anyone who takes it seriously.

Here’s the first part:

>The next wave of stories about “soaring” gas prices will predictably trigger some politicians’ indignation about oil companies’ profits. The day after Exxon Mobil’s announcement that it earned $39.5 billion in 2006, Hillary Clinton said: “I want to take those profits, and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy, alternatives and technologies that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence.”

Here’s the second:

>Clinton’s “take” reveals her confiscatory itch. Her clunky “toward the direction of” suggests that she actually knows that independence is as chimerical a goal as Soviet grain production goals were.

The third:

>America produces about one-quarter of the 20.6 million barrels of oil it uses a day. Unfortunately, just as liberals love employees but not employers, they want energy independence but do not want to drill in the “pristine” (read: desolate) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ( potential yield: 10.4 billion barrels) and are reluctant to countenance drilling offshore.

Read the rest. There’s more.

So, a Straw Man walks into a bar

We have frequently pointed out how the desire to be funny is often at odds with the desire for logical rigor. This is nicely illustrated in Michael Kinsley’s opinion piece today in the Washington Post. Kinsley claims that there has been a tendency towards wishful thinking in dealing with the conflict created by the double-dealing Balfour Agreement.

>This tradition continues in the Iraq Study Group report, which declared: “There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts” as a small warm-up for tackling the problem of Iraq.

Rather than critique this proposal directly, Kinsely makes little of it with humor:

>What a good idea! And then we’ll cure cancer, to pave the way for health care reform. Why, of course all of humanity should put down its weapons and learn to live together in harmony and siblinghood — most especially in the Holy Land, birthplace of three great religions (so far). In fact it is downright inexplicable that peace and goodwill have not broken out spontaneously in the Middle East, even though this has never happened anywhere else either.

Of course, if we read the ISG’s sentence they merely claim that the U.S. should make a sustained commitment to this peace. But such an idea is absurd to Kinsley, so he foregoes any attempt to deal with it seriously.

The remainder of Kinsley’s piece involves a somewhat bizarre and forced attempt to deny President Carter’s suggestion that there is an analogy between South Africa’s Apartheid and certain Israeli policies on the basis of technical differences.

If we were to turn Kinsley’s tactic upon him, we might cast his argument as claiming that “Israel and South Africa had different tax codes so how could they be similar?”

See, it’s easy when you don’t think you need to treat the other’s argument seriously.

Stupid law

Capital punishment poses certain insurmountable barriers. The first among these is the fact that there are no mulligans (a) for executing the innocent or (b) executing people denied a fair trial for lack of competent legal representation or other equally justifiable matters. Among these last one one might include “improper jury instruction”. That’s what California’s famous or infamous Ninth Circuit did in Belmontes. Here is how George Will tells it:

>Reinhardt, writing for the 9th’s divided three-judge panel, overturned Belmontes’s death sentence because the trial judge “failed to instruct the jury that it was required to consider” what Reinhardt considered Belmontes’s “principal mitigation evidence” — his aptitude for prison life. On Monday the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 against the 9th.

That’s a fairly straightforward question of statute interpretation. But judicial restraint and literalism has its limits:

>Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, argued that there was a reasonable probability that the jury weighed Belmontes’s “future potential.” Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, dissented, arguing that because the trial judge never explicitly told the jury that it must consider Belmontes’s capacity to live satisfactorily in prison, there is a “reasonable likelihood” that the jury did not.

And it appears that in this particular case those limits are the ability of the five conservative justices of the SCOTUS divining the contents of a jury’s mind rather than strictly applying the law, as the minority justices and the Ninth Circuit argued. The article lampoons the Ninth and the minority justices on grounds usually reserved (by Will) for praising the majority.

Will’s entire case rests on this highlighted portion of the following:

>Belmontes’s attorney asked the trial judge to specifically instruct the jury to consider Belmontes’s ability to live acceptably in prison. Instead, the judge used California’s “catchall mitigation instruction,” which was declared constitutional in 1990. It tells a jury weighing capital punishment that it can consider many things (e.g., the use of force or violence, the defendant’s age, any extreme mental or emotional disturbance, prior felony convictions). Belmontes’s case turned on whether the jury understood one provision of the catchall instruction — to consider “[a]ny other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime” — to include the “forward-looking” consideration that life imprisonment might be a suitable punishment.

While that may be relevant, it does not appear (from Will’s piece) that the 1990 ruling is retroactive. If it is, perhaps he ought to explain how it applies or should apply to a case that probably happened earlier. While doing that, he can also explain whether that ruling encompasses all previous rulings on jury instruction (such as the one used in the Ninth Circuit’s decision). These things we are not told.

But here’s the kicker. The difficulty of quickly or fairly implementing the death penalty ought to cause one to re-evaluate whether or not we ought to try.

>There is something grotesque about an execution a quarter of a century after a crime. But there is something repellent about the jurisprudential hairsplitting that consumes decades, defeats the conclusions of juries’ deliberations and denies society the implementation of a punishment it has endorsed.

Yes. There is something grotesque about legal rights. But until we abandon the Constitution and its myriad protections, we’re stuck with the current system.


We pulled the following from the comments of Mr.Mayo. It's an analysis of Bush's speech mentioned here. Here’s what i caught: >“The issue on the economy is a big issue in any campaign. And I want the people of this district to know, plain and simple, that if Richard’s opponent wins, your taxes will go up. Make no mistake about it. The Democrat Party is anxious to get their hands on your money.” False cause with perhaps a little ad hominem abusive thrown in at the end. >“The key issue in this campaign is the security of the United States of America. You got to understand a lot of my thinking about the world changed on September the 11th, 2001. I make a lot of decisions on your behalf, and many of those decisions were affected by the fact that we lost nearly 3,000 of our citizens, 3,000 innocent lives on our soil on that fateful day. I vowed then, and I’ve vowed ever since, to use every national asset at my disposal to protect the American people.” Perhaps it’s a reach, but there seems to be bit of suppressed evidence here, namely that the war he is positing as protecting the American people has claimed more American lives than did September 11th. If he’s going to cite the loss of lives on 9/11 as the basis for his war, then he’s ignoring the fact that the war has cost more than 9/11, monetarily and in lives lost. >“You can’t negotiate with these people. You cannot hope that they will go away. I like to remind people, therapy isn’t going to work. The best way to deal with these folks is to bring them to justice before they hurt America again. “ Classic Bushman (can i coin that term in place of the strawman? he uses the thing so often maybe it should bear his name). Has anyone proposed negotiating with Al Queda? Or having a “therapy” session with Bush, Cheney, Osama, and Zawahiri down at Bob Newhart’s office? Do we need to be “reminded” of this? Does he seriously believe this?! He’s created a whole new genre of political discourse. Rather than distort the argument of his opponent, he creates a whole new opponent along with the argument. >“Our fellow citizens ought to listen to the words of Osama bin Laden, and Mr. Zawahiri, who is his number two in al Qaeda. They have clearly stated that Iraq is a central front in their war against us. “ Again, suppressing the evidence. Islamism was strictly nefas in Saddam’s Iraq; then we march in, guns blazing, Texas-style and turn it into a breeding ground for terrorism. Yet once again, he pretends there was no antecedent cause to Iraq’s becoming Osama’s recruiting poster. >“Al Qaeda’s leadership has told us loud and clear in their own words their ambitions are to develop new safe haven from which to launch attacks.” Now he’s Bushmanning Osama! They don’t want to create a “safe haven” in Iraq, for the simple reason that they already have a safe haven in the Afghnai/Pakistani borderlands, which was made possible at least in part because we couldn’t press our attack there because we were gearing up for an invasion of Iraq. They just want to point to Iraq and say to disenfranchised Muslim youth,”Look! We were right all along! They do want to come over here and take your land, your oil, and your religion.” >“The House Democrat Leader summed up her party’s approach to the midterm elections. She said this — and I quote — she said this election “should not be about national security.” I strongly disagree. The security of this country comes first, as far as I’m concerned. And this government, with supporters like Richard Pombo, will do everything we can to protect you. (Applause.) Of course, to give the Leader some credit, given her party’s record on national security, I can see why she feels that way. (Laughter.) I wouldn’t want to be talking about the record, either. “ Ad Hominem Circumstantial. Perhaps what Pelosi really meant is there might be other pertinent issues that should occupy the campaign slate, but then again, she’s just saying that because she’s a Democrat and they can’t talk national security, because their poor record in this area predisposes them to focus on other areas.

Subjunctive arguments

The political media we try to analyze need not be limited to the op-ed pages of the major dailies. Last weekend I watched the Gitmo: The New Rules of War, a 2005 documentary by Swedish filmmakers Erik Gandini and Tariq Saleh. Now, I wouldn’t want to say that a documentary can be exhaustively or perhaps even adequately analyzed by logic alone. Nevertheless, there are clearly inferences made or suggested that can and should be judged by logic.

The narrator states in the opening minutes of the film “We have come here because we want to know what is really going on in Guantanamo.” They discover (apparently to their surprise) that hidden cameras are not going to be possible and that they are not going to gain access to Camp Delta.

Their second route for information–a Swedish citizen named Mehdi Ghezali, held for two years–frustrated their intentions by refusing to say virtually anything to the press or to the filmmakers (though he has since written a book in Swedish).

At this point, the film makes the entirely reasonable criticism that the prisoners in Guantanamo are neither afforded the protections of the Geneva Convention as prisoners of war nor afforded the civil rights protection of civilian prisoner. This, they point out, results from the American interest in interrogating these detainees for extended periods of time–something that would not be possible if they were accorded either of these status (4th declension? or statuses?”).

But such a position would not make for an interesting documentary. Instead, the filmmakers attempt to link the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo with the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They suggest that the pictures of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib can be used to infer how prisoners are treated inside Camp Delta. Their case rests on the following claims:

  1. The change of the commandant at Camp Delta to General Miller, replacing Brig. General Rick Baccus–reputedly because he opposed the list of unconventional interrogation techniques. Baccus’ unwillingness to comment on these events, the filmmakers seem to suggest, is a result of some sort of pressure from the military.
  2. The memo that requests permission in October 2002 to use techniques such as forcing prisoners to stand naked, lengthen interrogation sessions (to 20 hours), take advantage of prisoner phobias. (They ignore the subsequent history of this issue–the techniques were at first approved by Secretary Rumsfeld and then approval was retracted for many after criticism of the policy by military lawyers.)
  3. The fact that the Major General Miller was later sent to Iraq in August 2002 to advise concerning interrogation techniques. (Though supposedly he presented the interrogation techniques from Guantano as an example of policy and indicated the difference in situations between Iraq (as an occupied territory) and Guantanamo).
  4. “Some say these methods originated in Guantanamo, but we just haven’t seen the pictures.” (The scene immediately following this quote, contains accusations that rap music, Fleetwood mac, and sex are used to crack prisoners at Guantanamo.)

Even granting the truth of all of these claims, this argument can at best only weakly suggest anything about how detainees were treated in Guantanamo. (I am certainly not denying that human rights abuse were or are committed in Camp Delta (there are documented and prosecuted cases) only that the evidence used by these filmmakers to suggest that it is likely that it is ocurring is not adequate. In each case, the filmmakers fail to appeal to any direct evidence of the treatment in Guantanamo, and they ignore the more detailed investigations of three major comissions (e.g. Schlesinger Commission).

The argument,such as it is, commits several fallacies I think–ignoring evidence, appeal to questionable authorities, and oversimplified cause. The abuses photographed at Abu Ghraib seem to have arisen in part because of peculiarities of the local situation (lack of adequate resources for example). Although there are undoubtedly similarities in interrogation techniques, the inference that the filmmakers want us to make seems inadequately justified by the argument presented.

Sometimes filmmakers claim that they are merely documenting the facts and leave it up to the viewer to make the inferences. This seems to me (in the abstract at least) either disingenuous or naive. Although the filmmakers prefer to couch their assertions in the subjunctive rather than the indicative mood, this doesn’t really allow them to escape–they must still show that the conclusions are rendered more likely than not by their evidence. Many viewers will probably find the film “biased” which may or may not be a failing in a documentary film. The problems, however, run deeper than this. The filmmakers fail to make the argument needed to persuade the viewer of the plausiblity of their subjunctive speculation.