Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Let's put this puppy to bed.
Kopel's original 59 Deceits is here.
And here are parts one (Deceits 1-2), two (3-7), three (8-16), four (17-23), five (24-31), six (32-38), and seven (39-49).
Deceits 48a-59
Wait a minute... 48a? Yup; Kopel seems to have fudged his own numbering system. '48a' is a late addition (Kopel lists the last update to the page as July 17) based on the quoted news articles, and is, for no apparent reason, tacked onto his 'Big Lie' argument:

The family of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone was shocked to learn that video footage of the major's Arlington National Cemetery burial was included by Michael Moore in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." Maj. Stone was killed in March 2003 by a grenade that officials said was thrown into his tent by Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is on trial for murder. "It's been a big shock, and we are not very happy about it, to say the least," Kandi Gallagher, Maj. Stone's aunt and family spokeswoman, tells Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson. "We are furious that Greg was in that casket and cannot defend himself, and my sister, Greg's mother, is just beside herself," Miss Gallagher said. "She is furious. She called him a 'maggot that eats off the dead.'" The movie, described by critics as political propaganda during an election year, shows video footage of the funeral and Maj. Stone's fiancee, Tammie Eslinger, kissing her hand and placing it on his coffin. The family does not know how Mr. Moore obtained the video, and Miss Gallagher said they did not give permission and are considering legal recourse. She described her nephew as a "totally conservative Republican" and said he would have found the film to be "putrid." "I'm sure he would have some choice words for Michael Moore," she said. "Michael Moore would have a hard time asking our family for a glass of water if he were thirsty." -- John McCaslin, "Inside the Beltway," Washington Times, July 13, 2004.
Kopel also mentions an article quoting Jennifer Damon, the wife of Peter Damon (the soldier at Walter Reed Hospital who lost both arms in Iraq), saying that Peter hadn't given Moore permission to use the news footage of his interview with NBC.

Honestly, the legal questions I'm not qualified to answer (of course as a political blogger, that shouldn't stop me.) As far as the Peter Damon footage goes, I do find it interesting that the original piece was published in the Enterprise on July 15, and Damon himself offered a no comment until he'd seen the movie later that day. As yet, there's been no follow-up. Of course that in itself means nothing one way or the other. It's just... interesting.
In both cases though, without knowing the rights issues surrounding the footage, labeling either or both a 'deceit' is at this point wishful thinking on Kopel's part.
But wait! Here's deceit 49a, helpfully called a 'Bonus Deceit' by Kopel:
Long before Fahrenheit was released, Moore promised that he had videos of Iraqi prisoner abuse. Fahrenheit presents a video of making fun of a prostrate Iraqi. To the audience, it seems like another Abu Ghraib. Moore told an audience, "You saw this morning the first footage of abuse and humiliation of Iraqi detainees." Fahrenheit claims: "Immoral behavior breeds immoral behavior. When a President commits the immoral act of sending otherwise good kids into a war based on a lie, this is what you get."
Not really. As reported in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail:  "He revealed that a scene in which American soldiers appear to be desecrating a corpse beneath a blanket may be misleading. In fact, the soldiers had picked up an old man who had passed out drunk and they poked at his visible erection, covered by a blanket."

It's not very respectful to make fun of a drunk who has passed out on a street. But such teasing has nothing to do with the kind of bizarre sexual abuse perpetrated at Abu Ghraib. All over the world, law enforcement officers make fun of comatose drunks.
Such teasing is an abuse of power. (Although it's a relatively harmless abuse of power, since the only victim can't hear the disrespectful words.) Insulting a drunk who can't hear you is not like torturing a conscious victim.

Sigh. First, does the name 'Abu Ghraib' appear in the movie? No? Then why are we talking about it? 
Second, Moore's point is that abuse of power at the top has (to coin a phrase) a trickle-down effect. I'm not sure how footage of petty abuse of power at the bottom of the chain of command -- even if that's all there was -- refutes that, exactly.
Third, I guess the people standing around in ominous black hoods during that footage were on their way to a costume party... I really wonder if Kopel has even bothered to watch the movie he's trying to refute.
Bush “supported closing veterans hospitals” says Moore. The Bush Department of Veteran’s Affairs did propose closing seven hospitals in areas with declining populations where the hospitals were underutilized, and whose veterans could be served by other hospitals. Moore does not say that the Department also proposed building new hospitals in areas where needs were growing, and also building blind rehabilitation centers and spinal cord injury centers. (For more, see the Final Report of the independent commission on veterans hospitals, which agrees with some of the Bush proposals, and with some of the objections raised by critics.)

Let's quote that Final Report, shall we?

Successful implementation of CARES will rest in large part on VA's ability to effectively manage its vacant and underutilized space. Through CARES, VA expects to reduce its current vacant and underused space by 42 percent by 2022. VA will need to improve upon its ability to manage its capital assets in order to achieve this reduction.

"Manage its capital assets?" Wow, that sure sounds like bureaucratese for "closing hospitals." But maybe I'm just reading what I want into it.

The CARES Commission identified several key and interrelated areas where VA will need to improve management of capital assets. The ability to redirect savings to pay for direct care of veterans is a compelling incentive to improve. In view of the continuously rising cost of health care (providing care for a single veteran currently averages approximately $5,000/year), VA must take every opportunity for savings from reducing or eliminating maintenance of vacant or underused capital assets.

Hmmm. "Reducing or eliminating maintenance of vacant or underused capital assets." I'm sure I'm just reading too much into that.

Now, like Kopel, you can argue that those closings made the whole system more efficient, and allowed VA to open other, newer hospitals, and offer better and shinier care for all veterans. Anyone with any experience with bureaucratic 'efficiency' drives, and/or the similarly double-speak-disguised plant closings, would be skeptical of that claim though. Anyone who notes that 42% figure -- that's 42% more use of existing and surviving facilities, remember -- is going to be highly skeptical.

According to Moore, Bush “tried to double the prescription drug costs for veterans.” What Bush proposed was raising the prescription co-pay from $7 to $15, for veterans with incomes of over $24,000 a year. Prescription costs would have remained very heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Some, not all, veterans would have faced a doubling of their prescription co-pay, but only to a level which is common for many people with prescription insurance, and hardly a large enough increase to make a great difference in most cases.

Kopel says this doesn't count as a "deceit, although important context is missing." Why this one wouldn't count I have no idea. But speaking of important context, how about the fact that the jump from $7 to $15 isn't the first increase in the co-pay the Bush administration wanted? (When they took office it was $2). How about the fact that '1st party collections' (i.e., medical fees and deductibles paid directly by veterans) had increased from $231 million to $685 million over the first three years of the Bush administration, and was projected to grow to $1.335 billion by 2005 under the Bush budget plans? That enough context for ya, Dave?
Bush, announces Moore, “proposed cutting combat soldiers’ pay by 33%.” Not exactly. In addition to regular military salaries, soldiers in certain areas (not just combat zones) receive an “imminent danger” bonus of $150 a month. In April 2003, Congress retroactively enacted a special increase of $75, for the fiscal year of Oct. 1, 2002 through Sept. 30, 2003. At first, the Bush administration did not support renewing the special bonus, but then changed its position
Likewise, Congress had passed a special one-year increase in the family separation allowance (for service personnel stationed in places where their families cannot join them) from $100 to $250. Bush’s initial opposition to extending the special increase was presented by Moore as “cutting assistance to their families by 60%.” (Edward Epstein, “Pentagon reverses course, won’t cut troops’ pay,” San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 15, 2003.)

So Congress gave the soldiers a special raise, presumably because their job got a lot tougher in 2003, and wanted to extend that raise the following year, given that (again, presumably) the same conditions were in effect. Bush wanted to stop that extension. So from a budgetary perspective Kopel is correct -- Bush didn't want to cut pay, just prevent an increase.
Of course Moore doesn't take the budgetary perspective -- he takes the soldier's perspective. And from their perspective, if Bush had gotten his way they would have gotten less money than they had the year before. In the real world, that's called a cut.
Even if one characterizes not renewing a special bonus as a “cut,” Fahrenheit misleads the viewer into thinking that the cuts applied to total compensation, rather than only to pay supplements which constitute only a small percentage of a soldier’s income. An enlisted man with four months of experience receives an annual salary more than $27,000. (Rod Powers, “What the Recruiter Never Told You: Military Pay.” The figure includes the value of health care, housing, and so on.) So allowing the $75 per month supplemental bonus to expire would have amounted to a "cut" of only about 3 percent of total compensation, even at the lowest levels.

Kopel isn't above his own misleading figures. Base pay for an enlisted soldier in his first year of service would be just under $14,000 a year, about half what Kopel cites.
Kopel's mind-reading aside, Moore's actual statement can be read a few ways, one of which even fits with the numbers Kopel presents. Go figure.
Although Moore presents Bush as cutting military pay, Bush did the opposite: in 2003, Congress enacted a Bush administration proposal to raise all military salaries by 3.7%, with extra “targeted” pay increases for non-commissioned officers. NCOs are lower-ranking officers who typically join the military with lower levels of education than commissioned officers. (Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, “Defense Department Targets Military Pay Increases for 2004,” American Forces Press Service.)

By 'in 2003' what Kopel actually means is December 8, 2003, the date Congress passed the bill. Or maybe he means December 27, the day the president signed it into law. Whatever he means, no soldier actually saw a dime of that pay increase in 2003. I'm sure Kopel didn't really mean to leave his readers with a mistaken impression about that.
It does, though, cut against Moore's theme that the Bush administration pushed for a pay increase. So how about this: can we agree that this part of F9/11 is only slightly more accurate than any Bush campaign ad that mentions Kerry's Senate voting record, and on a par with Kopel's critique?
Early in this segment, Moore states that "out of the 535 members of Congress, only one had an enlisted son in Iraq."  The action of the segment consists of Moore accosting Congressmen to try to convince them to have their children enlist in the military. At the end, Moore declares, “Not a single member of Congress wanted to sacrifice their child for the war in Iraq.”
Moore’s second statement is technically true, but duplicitous. Of course no-one would want to “sacrifice” his child in any way. But the fact is, Moore's opening ("only one") and his conclusion ("not a single member") are both incorrect. Sergeant Brooks Johnson, the son of South Dakota Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, serves in the 101st Airborne Division and fought in Iraq in 2003. The son of California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter quit his job after September 11, and enlisted in the Marines; his artillery unit was deployed in the heart of insurgent territory in February 2004. Delaware Senator Joseph Biden's son Beau is on active duty; although Beau Biden has no control over where he is deployed, he has not been sent to Iraq, and therefore does not "count" for Moore's purposes.  Seven members of Congress have been confirmed to have children in the military.
How about Cabinet members? Fahrenheit never raises the issue, because the answer would not fit Moore’s thesis. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s son is serving on the U.S.S. McFaul in the Persian Gulf.

Kopel can parse this all he wants, but given the strings that got pulled on behalf of George W. Bush to keep him out of Vietnam, I think it's very relevant how many Congressional offspring are actually serving in Iraq, as opposed to serving elsewhere. The point isn't how many of their kids are in the military; the point is how many of them are in harm's way.
Lt. Beau Biden, incidentally, is a JAG; the fact that he isn't in Iraq opens the door to a whole 'nother can of worms, but that's already been dealt with here.
The editing of the Congressional scenes borders on the fraudulent: 

…Representative Kennedy (R-MN), one of the lawmakers accosted in Fahrenheit 9/11, was censored by Michael Moore. According to the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune, Kennedy, when asked if he would be willing to send his son to Iraq, responded by stating that he had a nephew who was en-route to Afghanistan. He went on to inform Moore that his son was thinking about a career in the navy and that two of his nephews had already served in the armed forces. Kennedy’s side of the conversation, however, was cut from the film, leaving him looking bewildered and defensive. What was Michael’s excuse for trimming the key segment? Kennedy’s remarks didn’t help his thesis: “He mentioned that he had a nephew that was going over to Afghanistan,” Moore recounted. “So then I said ‘No, no, that’s not our job here today. We want you to send your child to Iraq. Not a nephew.’ ” Kennedy lambasted Moore as a “master of the misleading” after viewing the interview in question. -- Fahrenheit Fact
George Stephanopoulos, of ABC News, asked Moore about the selective cuts in the Kennedy footage:

Stephanopoulos: You have a scene when you’re up on Capitol Hill encountering members of Congress, asking them if they would ask their sons and daughters to enlist … in the military. And one of those members of Congress who appears in the trailer, Mark Kennedy, said you left out what he told you, which is that he has two nephews serving in the military, one in Afghanistan. And he went on to say that, “Michael Moore doesn’t always give the whole truth. He’s a master of the misleading.”
Moore: Well, at the time, when we interviewed him, he didn’t have any family members in Afghanistan. And when he saw the trailer for this movie, he issued a report to the press saying that he said that he had a kid in—
Stephanopoulos: He said he told you he had two nephews.
Moore:… No, he didn’t. And we released the transcript and we put it on our Web site. This is what I mean by our war room. Any time a guy like this comes along and says, “I told him I had two nephews and one was going to Iraq and one was going to Afghanistan,” he’s lying. And I’ve got the raw footage and the transcript to prove it. So any time these Republicans come at me like this, this is exactly what they’re going to get. And people can go to my Web site and read the transcript and read the truth. What he just said there, what you just quoted, is not true. 

This Week followed up with the office of Rep. Kennedy. He did have two nephews in the military, but neither served in Iraq. Kennedy’s staff agrees that Moore’s Website is accurate but insists the movie version is misleading. In the film, Moore says, “Congressman, I’m trying to get members of Congress to get their kids to enlist in the Army and go over to Iraq.” But, from the transcript, here’s the rest:
Moore: Is there any way you could help me with that?
Kennedy: How would I help you?
Moore: Pass it out to other members of Congress.
Kennedy: I’d be happy to — especially those who voted for the war. I have a nephew on his way to Afghanistan. -- This Week, ABC News, June 20, 2004.

So while Fahrenheit pretended that Kennedy just stupidly looked at Moore, Kennedy agreed to help Moore.

'Censored'? 'Stupidly looked'? Kopel's dedication to the facts, as opposed to his own editorializing, is inspiring.

But again, look at Moore's 'misleading' editing. Moore tells Kennedy about why he's there, and immediately gets The Look. However you want to characterize it -- I'd say suspicious and maybe even a little calculating, but hardly 'bewildered' or 'stupid' -- it was Kennedy's gut reaction to Moore's line.

So what's more honest, that immediate reaction, or the subsequent verbiage by a politician who knows he's being filmed?

Aside from that, Moore already included footage of a politican 'agreeing to help', so showing Kennedy doing the same thing (although, without seeing the raw footage in question, neither Kopel nor I have any way of knowing whether Kennedy's offer was any more genuine) would serve no purpose.

Fahrenheit shows Moore calling out to Delaware Republican Michael Castle, who is talking on a cell phone and waves Moore off.  Castle is presented as one of the Congressmen who would not sacrifice his children. What the film omits is that Rep. Castle does not have any children.

Kopel is clearly unfamiliar with Moore's schtick. Castle is presented as someone in a position of power who won't give Moore the time of day, nothing more.

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