Saturday, July 10, 2004

21 deceits to go... let's see if I can polish this puppy off before I leave for Vegas tomorrow morning.

Here's Kopel's original.

Previous installments: part one (Deceits 1-2); two (Deceits 3-7); three (Deceits 8-16); four (Deceits 17-23); five (Deceits 24-31); six (Deceits 32-38).

Deceits 39-49

Defending the USA PATRIOT Act, Representative Porter Goss says that he has an “800 number” for people to call to report problems with the Act. Fahrenheit shoots back with a caption "He's lying." The ordinary telephone number (area code 202) for Goss’s office is then flashed on the screen.

You’d never know by watching Fahrenheit, but Rep. Goss does have a toll-free number to which USA PATRIOT Act complaints can be reported. The number belongs to the Committee which Goss chairs, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The number is (877) 858-9040.

While the House Select Committee on Intelligence does have a toll free number, I can find no indication whatsoever that it was set up specifically to receive Patriot Act abuses. It simply seems to be the Committee's usual number. A Google search for 'USA patriot act hotline' turns up nothing obviously relevant.

So who's being deceptive -- Moore, or Goss?

There are several scenes involving Oregon State Troopers who patrol coastal areas in the state. The Troopers are presented as underfunded and spread far too thinly.

But this has nothing to do with Fahrenheit's claim that the Bush administration is not sincerely interested in homeland security. The Oregon State Trooper are paid by the Oregon state government (which has been suffering from a budget crisis). Whatever the problems with Trooper funding, the problems are the responsibility of the Oregon state government, not the federal government. Moore's point makes no more sense than blaming the Oregon state government for shortages of FBI personnel in Eugene.

So then what, exactly, is the point of the Department of Homeland Security, if not to cover these sorts of holes? It may not be Bush's fault that the Oregon State Troopers are so underfunded, but there obviously hasn't been any action taken to correct the problem either.

Fahrenheit asserts that Saddam’s Iraq was a nation that “had never attacked the United States. A nation that had never threatened to attack the United States. A nation that had never murdered a single American citizen.”

Jake Tapper (ABC News): You declare in the film that Hussein’s regime had never killed an American…

Moore: That isn’t what I said. Quote the movie directly.

Tapper: What is the quote exactly?

Moore: “Murdered.” The government of Iraq did not commit a premeditated murder on an American citizen. I’d like you to point out one.

Tapper: If the government of Iraq permitted a terrorist named Abu Nidal who is certainly responsible for killing Americans to have Iraq as a safe haven; if Saddam Hussein funded suicide bombers in Israel who did kill Americans; if the Iraqi police—now this is not a murder but it’s a plan to murder—to assassinate President Bush which at the time merited airstrikes from President Clinton once that plot was discovered; does that not belie your claim that the Iraqi government never murdered an American or never had a hand in murdering an American?

Moore: No, because nothing you just said is proof that the Iraqi government ever murdered an American citizen. And I am still waiting for you to present that proof.

You’re talking about, they provide safe haven for Abu Nidal after the committed these murders, uh, Iraq helps or supports suicide bombers in Israel. I mean the support, you remember the telethon that the Saudis were having? It’s our allies, the Saudis, that have been providing help and aid to the suicide bombers in Israel. That’s the story you should be covering. Why don’t you cover that story? Why don’t you cover it?

Note Moore’s extremely careful phrasing of the lines which appear to exonerate Saddam, and Moore’s hyper-legal response to Tapper. In fact, Saddam provided refuge to notorious terrorists who had murdered Americans. Saddam provided a safe haven for Abu Abbas (leader of the hijacking of the ship Achille Lauro and the murder of the elderly American passenger Leon Klinghoffer), for Abu Nidal, and for the 1993 World Trade Center bombmaker, Abdul Rahman Yasin. By law, Saddam therefore was an accessory to the murders. Saddam order his police to murder former American President George Bush when he visited Kuwait City in 1993; they attempted to do so, but failed. In 1991, he ordered his agents to murder the American Ambassador to the Philippines and, separately, to murder the employees of the U.S. Information Service in Manila; they tried, but failed. Yet none of these aggressions against the United States “count” for Moore, because he has carefully framed his verbs and verb tenses to exclude them.

According to Laurie Mylroie, a former Harvard professor who served as Bill Clinton's Iraq advisor during the 1992 campaign (during which Vice-Presidential candidate Gore repeatedly castigated incumbent President George H.W. Bush for inaction against Saddam), the ringleader of the World Trade Center bombings, Ramzi Yousef, was working for the Iraqi intelligence service. Laurie Mylroie, The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2d rev. ed. 2001.)

First: the 'Saddam tried to assassinate Bush' story was discredited by Sy Hersh in 1993. He described the case as "seriously flawed."

Second: anyone who dismisses Moore as a conspiracy theorist, and then cites Laurie Mylroie as a credible source, needs to have their head examined. That's not hypocrisy, that's madness.

Having said that, Kopel misses the point, of course. Compared to bin Laden, whatever legal responsibility Saddam might have for, say, Nidal's crimes, is nothing compared to bin Laden's responsibility for his own.

Defenders of the Iraq invasion always want to look at Saddam in isolation, i.e. "Aren't we better off with him deposed? Aren't the Iraqi people better off?" But the decision was not made in isolation. Going after Saddam necessarily meant taking the hounds off bin Laden's trail, and Moore's narration seems pretty clearly designed to highlight the comparison between the two.

But even with Moore’s clever phrasing designed to elide Saddam’s culpability in the murders and attempted murders of Americans, Tapper still catches him with an irrefutable point: Saddam did perpetrate the premeditated murder of Americans. Every victim of every Palestinian terrorist bomber who was funded by Saddam Hussein was the victim of premeditated murder—including the American victims.

Kopel completely forgets the truth behind the rhetoric. Saddam's "funding of Palestinian terrorist bombers" has always been after the fact, in the form of financial support for their families. Kopel's 'clever phrasing' would make it seem like Saddam was buying the bombs and belts up front.

Moore’s pro-Saddam allegation that Saddam “never threatened to attack the United States” is true in the narrow sense that Saddam never gave a speech in which he threatened to, for example, send the Iraqi navy and army to conduct an amphibious invasion of Florida. But although Saddam never threatened the territorial integrity of America, he repeatedly threatened Americans. For example, on November 15, 1997, the main propaganda organ for the Saddam regime, the newspaper Babel (which was run by Saddam Hussein's son Uday) ordered: "American and British interests, embassies, and naval ships in the Arab region should be the targets of military operations and commando attacks by Arab political forces." (Stephen Hayes, The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2004), p. 94.)

So, umm, Moore's corrrect then? Saddam, unlike Osama, never threatened to attack the United States? Gotcha.

Moore declares that George Bush completely fabricated an Iraq/al Qaeda connection in order to deflect attention from his Saudi masters.

Kopel can't produce a quote from the film to back that up, because one doesn't exist. Moore declares no such thing.

Of course Kopel thinks the actual deception here is Moore's claim that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda:

But consider the facts presented in Stephen F. Hayes's book, The Connection : How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America (N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2004)...

Al Qaeda had as much connection to Saddam Hussein as Donald Rumsfeld does. After all, we know for a fact that Rumsfeld met with Saddam on numerous occasions, and that Rumsfeld facilitated the purchase of arms by Saddam.

Fahrenheit shows Condoleezza Rice saying, “Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11.” The audience laughs derisively. Here is what Rice really said on the CBS Early Show, Nov. 28, 2003:

Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11. It’s not that Saddam Hussein was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9/11, but, if you think about what caused 9/11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York. This is a great terrorist, international terrorist network that is determined to defeat freedom. It has perverted Islam from a peaceful religion into one in which they call on it for violence. And they're all linked. And Iraq is a central front because, if and when, and we will, we change the nature of Iraq to a place that is peaceful and democratic and prosperous in the heart of the Middle East, you will begin to change the Middle East....

Moore deceptively cut the Rice quote to fool the audience into thinking she was making a particular claim, even though she was pointedly not making such a claim. And since Rice spoke in November 2003, her quote had nothing to do with building up American fears before the March 2003 invasion, although Moore implies otherwise.

Well, I'd argue that Moore cut the quote to illustrate the deceptive nature of the Bush administration's rhetoric with regard to Saddam, but to each his own I suppose. Moore does it more effectively later in F9/11 anyway, with the 'Saddam/al Qaeda' montage, which I can't believe hasn't been turned into a dance mix yet.

Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it’s a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes. When he exploits and lingers on the tears of a mother who lost her soldier-son in Iraq, and she wails, “Why did you have to take him?” Moore does not cut to images of the murderers/terrorists (pardon me, “insurgents”) in Iraq… or even to God; he cuts to George Bush. When the soldier’s father says the young man died and “for what?”, Moore doesn’t show liberated Iraqis to reply, he cuts instead to an image of Halliburton. -- Jeff Jarvis, "Watching Michael Moore," Buzz Machine weblog, June 24, 2004.

Yes, how dare Michael Moore show that average Iraqi citizens were just like average American citizens? How dare he portray Iraqis as human beings?

Where's the deception here? Is Kopel claiming that Iraq hadn't yet discovered kite technology?

Consider the double standard here too: Moore's critics on Bowling for Columbine spent no small amount of time on the 'Wonderful World' montage and how 'unfair' that was. You can't show US government misdeeds, but you must show Saddam's.

According to the footage that ensues, our pilots seem to have hit nothing but women and children. -- Labash, Weekly Standard.

Then—wham! From the night sky come the terror weapons of American imperialism. Watching the clips Moore uses, and recalling them well, I can recognize various Saddam palaces and military and police centers getting the treatment…I remember asking Moore at Telluride if he was or was not a pacifist. He would not give a straight answer then, and he doesn’t now, either. I’ll just say that the “insurgent” side is presented in this film as justifiably outraged, whereas the 30-year record of Baathist war crimes and repression and aggression is not mentioned once. (Actually, that’s not quite right. It is briefly mentioned but only, and smarmily, because of the bad period when Washington preferred Saddam to the likewise unmentioned Ayatollah Khomeini.) -- Hitchens, Slate.

Amazingly, these two quotes are presented without comment as two deceits. Apparently Kopel thinks it's self-evident that no Iraqi civilians were harmed in the making of this war.

Q: You mock the “coalition of the willing” by only showing the tiny countries that have voiced support. But you leave out England, Spain, Italy and Poland. Why?

Moore: “This film exists as a counterbalance to what you see on cable news about the coalition. I’m trying to counter the Orwellian nature of the Big Lie, as if when you hear that term, the ‘coalition,’ that the whole world is behind us.” -- Patrick Goldstein, “Truth teller or story stretcher?” Los Angeles Times, June 22, 2000.

If it is a “Big Lie” to mention only the powerful and important members of the Coalition (such as the United Kingdom and Australia), then it is an equally “Big Lie” to mention only the small and insignificant members of the Coalition.

This reminds me (in inverse) of the argument that Miranda warnings are obsolete, because everyone who's ever seen a cop show or movie has heard them to death already, and thus doesn't need to be advised of them.

If Kopel can produce witnesses who saw F9/11 and had no idea that Britain was also part of the coalition, I might take this one a little more seriously.

In very selectively edited clips, Moore poses the absurd notion that the main news anchors—Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Ted Koppel—wholeheartedly support Bush and the War in Iraq….Has Moore forgotten the hour-long Saddam softball interview Rather did just prior to the war, [or] Jennings’ condescending coverage…? -- Schlussel.

Jennings is shown delivering a broadcast in which he says, “Iraqi opposition has faded in the face of American power.” But Jennings was simply stating an undeniable fact, as he stood next to a map showing that Saddam’s army had collapsed everywhere, and all Iraqi cities were in Coalition hands. Despite what Moore implies, Jennings strongly opposed the liberation of Iraq. (Tim Graham, “Peter’s Peace Platoon. ABC’s Crusade Against ‘Arrogant’ American Power,” Media Research Center, March 18, 2003.)

Impressions are a funny thing, aren't they? What I got from the Jennings footage was the obvious inaccuracy of the statement -- given the way things stand today, clearly the Iraqi opposition did not simply fade away. From my perspective, Moore was slamming the media's uncritical handling of everything the administration fed them, not their 'support' for the war or lack thereof.

But then that's the real deceit, and arrogance, of Kopel's list. He assumes that what he gets from the film, everyone gets, and that his impressions are the only possible impressions.
Bush to NAACP: I'm rubber and you're glue.

I mean come on. "You've heard the rhetoric and the names they've called me." Poor Li'l Georgie! Those mean scary people called him bad names. Someone give him a lollipop to make him feel better.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Part six! Part six! Part six!

Here's Dave Kopel's thoroughly misnamed 59 Deceits in Fahrenheit 911.

And here's my retorts:

Part one (Deceits 1-2)
Part two (Deceits 3-7)
Part three (Deceits 8-16)
Part four (Deceits 17-23)
Part five (Deceits 24-31)

Deceits 32-38

Moore also tries to paint Bush as sympathetic to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until its overthrow by U.S.-led forces shortly after Sept. 11. Moore shows a March 2001 visit to the United States by a Taliban envoy, saying the Bush administration “welcomed” the official, Sayed Hashemi, “to tour the United States to help improve the image of the Taliban.”

Yet Hashemi’s reception at the State Department was hardly welcoming. The administration rejected his claim that the Taliban had complied with U.S. requests to isolate Osama bin Laden and affirmed its nonrecognition of the Taliban.

“We don’t recognize any government in Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on the day of the visit. -- Frank, Newsday

Just wondering -- if the Bush administration didn't recognize any government in Afghanistan, who was getting the $160 million in pre-9/11 aid we were handing out?

We were the only country giving that kind of money to the Taliban -- ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, and to encourage the destruction of the Afghan opium crop. But the money went to the Taliban, to do with as they will, and there were no UN opium inspectors checking up on their progress.

Fahrenheit 9/11 attempts in every way possible to link Osama bin Laden to George Bush. Moore even claims that Bush deliberately gave bin Laden “a two month head start” by not putting sufficient forces into Afghanistan soon enough. (On HBO, Moore explicitly claimed that the U.S. is protecting bin Laden in order to please the Saudis.) However, Moore has not always been so fierce demanding that the Afghanistan War be prosecuted with maximal power in order to get bin Laden:

In late 2002, almost a year after the al-Qaida assault on American society, I had an onstage debate with Michael Moore at the Telluride Film Festival... -- Hitchens, Slate.

Yep, it's another one of those deceits in the film that has nothing to do with the film.

It amounts to this: in F9/11 Moore says we didn't use enough force in Afghanistan, but prior to the film Moore said we shouldn't invade at all.

Now at no point does Moore say anything remotely close to 'Osama is innocent', which Hitch tries to imply, or 'Osama is a nice fellow'. Kopel quotes a Moore newsletter which calls bi Laden "one sick evil f---wad of a guy". Moore has never shown any sympathy for bin Laden.

But Kopel tries to imply that Moore's outrage at mass bloodshed somehow invalidates his criticism of the Bush administration's botched handling (or, as Moore suggested to Bob Costas, willful negligence motivated by political concerns) of the hunt for bin Laden. In Kopel's world, once you've said "Don't pick up that dish, it's hot!", you're not entitled to follow it up with, "Well, if you are going to pick it up, at least wear these oven mitts."

Kopel also outright lies when he claims that "the only reason which Fahrenheit offers for opposing the war is the claim that not enough force was used in the early stages." It contradicts his own idea, for instance, that Moore says the reason for the war was to set the stage for the Unocal pipeline -- claiming that the war had a profit motive isn't a reason to oppose it? It also contradicts other actual statements in the film itself, namely the 'Afghanistan was just a smokescreen to set up the Iraq invasion' theory that Kopel avoids discussing at all costs.

[When] we turn to the facts that are deliberately left out, we discover that there is an emerging Afghan army, that the country is now a joint NATO responsibility and thus under the protection of the broadest military alliance in history, that it has a new constitution and is preparing against hellish odds to hold a general election, and that at least a million and a half of its former refugees have opted to return….[A] highway from Kabul to Kandahar—an insurance against warlordism and a condition of nation-building—is nearing completion with infinite labor and risk. We also discover that the parties of the Afghan secular left—like the parties of the Iraqi secular left—are strongly in favor of the regime change. But this is not the sort of irony in which Moore chooses to deal. -- Hitchens, Slate.

But Moore didn't talk about all the good things that have happened in Afghanistan! No fair!

This is pure butt-covering by Hitch, though, not a critique of Moore. Notice his 'hellish odds'. If democracy doesn't take root in Afghanistan despite Hitch's insistance it was a good idea, well, clearly it's not the fault of the Bush administration because at least they, y'know, tried and stuff.

Had the resources which were thrown at Iraq been used in Afghanistan, 'The Land of No Good Targets', instead, there likely would be no debate over whether democracy had a chance in Afghanistan, and the trial about to begin might be bin Laden's.

Actually, scratch that. The Bush administration would have been just as incompetent in Kabul as they were in Baghdad. In the long run, Afghanistan is probably better off being mostly ignored.

The second part of the quoted dialogue, however, is deceptive. The sequencing makes it appear that Kean was rebutting Bush's claim of extraordinary cooperation. In fact, Kean complained on July 9, 2003, that several "government agencies" (Justice and Defense) were not being cooperative.

On February 8, 2004, Bush told MSNBC that his administration had given extraordinary cooperation. So rather than rebutting Bush's claim, Kean's complaint helped spur the administration to, belatedly, fulfill the Committee's requests. Kean stated that the Commission had been given "unprecedented" access to records. -- Frank, Newsday.

The Bush administration's recalcitrance towards the 9/11 commission was well-documented. And given the nature of the investigation, just about any access was going to be 'unprecedented'.

But yes, Moore does show the clips out of chronological order. That doesn't change the fact that all through the process, the 9/11 commissioners had a different view of how "co-operative" the White House was than the White House itself did.

Moore mocks Attorney General John Ashcroft by pointing out that Ashcroft once lost a Senate race in Missouri to a man who had died three weeks earlier. “Voters preferred the dead guy,” Moore says, delivering one of the film’s biggest laugh lines.

It’s a cheap shot. When voters in Missouri cast their ballots for the dead man, Mel Carnahan, they knew they were really voting for Carnahan’s very much alive widow, Jean. The Democratic governor of Missouri had vowed to appoint Jean to the job if Mel won.

Jean Carnahan's political experience prior to being appointed to the Senate? Exactly zero. Somehow that doesn't really make Ashcroft look any better -- not that anything could after watching him sing.

Much worse than Moore's petty slam of Senate candidate Ashcroft is Moore's false charge that Attorney General Ashcroft ignored warnings about the September 11 attacks

No, there were no specific warnings for Ashcroft to ignore (the "Condi" defense.) But which part of "I don't want to hear any more about al Qaeda" does Kopel have trouble understanding?

[A]fter suggesting that Ashcroft was unconcerned about terrorism before September 11, Moore uses phrasing that exaggerates how widespread knowledge of the Al Qaeda plot was before the attacks inside the FBI and Justice Department:

[Ashcroft's] own FBI knew that summer that there were Al Qaeda members in the US and that Bin Laden was sending his agents to flight schools around the country. But Ashcroft's Justice Department turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.

This implies far more prior knowledge about flight school activity than actually existed. As the 9/11 Commission found in a staff statement (72K Adobe PDF), the so-called "Phoenix memo" from an FBI agent in Arizona suggesting a possible effort by Bin Laden to send agents to flight schools was not widely circulated within the FBI and did not reach Ashcroft's desk: -- Brendan Nyhan, "Fahrenheit 9/11: The temperature at which Michael Moore's pants burn," Spinsanity.org, July 2, 2004.

This is a debate that extends far beyond F9/11. What has become clear through the 9/11 hearings is that enough information existed within the intelligence community to possibly have put the pieces together and thwarted 9/11. Ashcroft's attitude, at the very least, was a roadblock to doing so. The fact that the Phoenix memo did not reach Ashcroft's desk doesn't change the fact that it should have.

But Ashcroft didn't want to hear about it.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Another day, another fistful of deceits to puncture...

Here's Dave Kopel's original.

And here are parts one (Deceits 1-2), two (Deceits 3-7), three (Deceits 8-16) and four (Deceits 17-23).

Deceits 24-31

Moore asks Craig Unger: “How much money do the Saudis have invested in America, roughly?”

Unger replies “Uh, I've heard figures as high as $860 billion dollars.”

Instead of relying on unsourced figures that someone says he “heard,” let’s look at the available data. According to the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (a pro-Saudi think tank which tries to emphasize the importance of Saudi money to the United States), in February 2003 total worldwide Saudi investment was at least $700 billion. Sixty percent of the Saudi investments were in the United States, so the Saudis had about 420 billion dollars invested in the U.S.—a large amount, but less than half of the amount that Moore’s source claims he “heard.” (Tanya C. Hsu , “The United States Must Not Neglect Saudi Arabian Investment” Sept. 23, 2003.)

As high as. Kopel cites one source that comes in lower than the number described as the upper limit. Go figure.

Notice also that Kopel drops the 'at least' from his number when it gets reduced from $700 billion to $420 billion.

To quote Kopel's own source, the "conservative estimate" would be $420 billion.

Moore shows himself filming the movie near the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C.:

Moore as narrator: Even though we were nowhere near the White House, for some reason the Secret Service had shown up to ask us what we were doing standing across the street from the Saudi embassy...

Officer: That’s fine. Just wanted to get some information on what was going on.

Moore on camera: Yeah yeah yeah, I didn’t realize the Secret Service guards foreign embassies.

Officer: Uh, not usually, no sir.

But in fact:

Any tourist to Washington, DC, will see plenty of Secret Service Police guarding all of the other foreign embassies which request such protection. Other than guarding the White House and some federal buildings, it’s the largest use of personnel by the Secret Service’s Uniformed Division. -- Debbie Schlussel, “FAKEN-heit 9-11: Michael Moore’s Latest Fiction,” June 25, 2004.

Brilliantly stupid, for two reasons. Moore didn't drag the "not usually" comment from the Secret Service officer, it was completely voluntary. So this isn't even an attack on Moore's credibility. It's an attack on the credibility of the Secret Service officer in the film.

Unfortunately, it's an attack that fails. Read the Schlussel quote again: "...which request such protection." How many embassies are in DC? How many request protection? Does that percentage make it 'usual' or 'unusual' for the Secret Service to be guarding one?

I think I'll take the word of an active Secret Service officer on that score.

Moore asks, “Is it rude to suggest that when the Bush family wakes up in the morning they might be thinking about what's best for the Saudis instead of what's best for you?” But his Bush/Saudi conspiracy theory is contradicted by very obvious facts: ...why did Moore’s evil Saudis not join “the Coalition of the Willing”? Why instead did they force the United States to switch its regional military headquarters to Qatar? If the Bush family and the al-Saud dynasty live in each other’s pockets…then how come the most reactionary regime in the region has been powerless to stop Bush from demolishing its clone in Kabul and its buffer regime in Baghdad? The Saudis hate, as they did in 1991, the idea that Iraq’s recuperated oil industry might challenge their near-monopoly. They fear the liberation of the Shiite Muslims they so despise. To make these elementary points is to collapse the whole pathetic edifice of the film’s “theory.” -- Hitchens, Slate.

Is it rude to suggest that Hitch pours hooch on his corn flakes in the morning instead of milk?

Hitch can see all the conspiracy theories (and, for all I know, dancing pixies and pink elephants) he wants in the film, but even Kopel admits "the wishes and interests of the Saudi rulers play too large a role in American foreign policy--especially in the U.S. State Department, which has been notoriously supportive of pro-U.S. Arab dictatorships for many decades. I would much prefer that the State Department and other American foreign policymakers spent less time worrying about friendly relations with the governments of Saudi Arabia, China, and other dictatorships, and more time supporting the aspirations of people who want to free themselves from dictatorship."

The point is made, very explicitly once again, in F9/11: It's about making lots of money. None of Hitch's geopolitical 'facts' get in the way of that money-making relationship, and thus don't get in the way of F9/11.

Kopel also goes on to try and drop hints of anti-Semitism about Moore here, but I'm not even going to bother with that. As even Kopel admits, it's not in the film, and so has no place here.

This segment is introduced with the question, "Or was the war in Afghanistan really about something else?" The "something else" is shown to be a Unocal pipeline.

Moore mentions that the Taliban visited Texas while Bush was governor, over a possible pipeline deal with Unocal. But Moore doesn’t say that they never actually met with Bush or that the deal went bust in 1998 and had been supported by the Clinton administration. -- Labash, Weekly Standard.

Etc. etc. Deceits 27-31 are all about the pipeline, but Kopel doesn't clearly indicate what the five deceits are. I'll hazard a guess:

27) Moore implies that the Taliban met with Bush about the Unocal pipeline, which they didn't.
28) The Unocal pipeline was the reason we invaded Afghanistan, but it was in fact a dead issue by 1998.
29) The pipeline agreement signed by Karzai was not the same project advocated by Unocal.
30) Karzai was never a Unocal consultant.
31) I have no idea... probably something to do with Clinton.

Taking them in that order:

27) The Taliban did visit Texas when Bush was governor. This is what Moore says in the film, and all he says. More mind-reading from Kopel's round table.

28-29) The elephant in this particular living room -- and the name Kopel studiously avoids mentioning -- is a big one: Enron.

Enron had major energy interests in India, and Unocal's pipeline was designed to hook into Enron's projects. In fact Enron was trying to work it so that no matter which pipeline project got moving, Unocal's or anyone else's, Enron would benefit.

Now, Moore himself barely mentions Enron in F9/11. There's likely a very good reason for that, namely the lack of evidence of Enron involvement compared to what was available of Unocal involvement. And it was Unocal, after all, who invited the Taliban to Houston.

Just to drive the point home, as Moore makes clear the pipeline project is still alive, even if Unocal (or even Enron) is no longer involved, and a number of people Unocal hired as advisors and consultants on their version of the project have been installed in the interim Afghani government by the Bush administration. Whether Unocal itself is still involved or not is just a red herring. The pipeline itself is still very much alive.

One final point. Nowhere in F9/11, of course, does Moore make any statement remotely close to "we invaded Afghanistan to set up a pipeline". He suggests that the pipeline was a hidden agenda, something that Friends of Bush might benefit from, but if Moore offers any theory as to 'why' we invaded Afghanistan it was to use it as PR cover for the eventual invasion of Iraq. That, however, is one inference that Kopel doesn't touch with a ten foot pole...

30) I'd need to see a transcript of the film to be sure, but I believe Moore said that Karzai was an advisor, not a consultant, for Unocal -- which is true. If Moore did say consultant and not advisor, then it was a minor semantic slip, nothing more.

31) Clenis! Clenis! Look, it's the Clenis!

The fact that the Bush administration may have continued policies supported by the Clinton administration is irrelevant to a film about the Bush administration. That should be obvious to anyone not blinded by ideological hatred of a certain randy former president.
Huh. With Wolf Blitzer missing from CNN's noon show, his replacement Carol Lin actually has the balls to (sort-of) ask CNN's White House correspondant whether the latest terror warning was motivated by campaign concerns.

Holy crap, now she's asking whether Ridge's "al Qaeda might target the conventions" statement was even credible. Is this really CNN? Have I slipped into some sort of parallel universe?

UPDATE: OK, now this is just bizarre. To discuss whether the Pubs politicized this latest terror announcement, CNN brings on a Republican pollster, and a New Republic editor, essentially forcing Lin herself to be the contrary voice, especially with Conway (the pollster).

Lin even does a good job of catching Conway in a huge logical flaw -- first Conway talks about the Madrid bombing as a precedent that al Qaeda can influence elections, then Conway says that another terrorist attack would probably scare people into not wanting to rock the boat. (Although sadly, Lin doesn't pounce on it.)

Me am in Bizarro World!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

It's time for the next installment in my seemingly sisyphian task of debunking Dave Kopel.

Part one (Deceits 1-2) is here.
Part two (Deceits 3-7) is here.
Part three (Deceits 8-16) is here.

Deceits 17-23

Moore mentions that Bush’s old National Guard buddy and personal friend James Bath had become the money manager for the bin Laden family, saying, [that after the bin Ladens invested in James Bath,] "James Bath himself in turn invested in George W. Bush." The implication is that Bath invested the bin Laden family’s money in Bush’s failed energy company, Arbusto. He doesn’t mention that Bath has said that he had invested his own money, not the bin Ladens’, in Bush’s company. -- Matt Labash, "Un-Moored from Reality," Weekly Standard, July 5, 2004. See also: Frank, Newsday; Michael Isikoff & Mark Hosenball, "More Distortions From Michael Moore. Some of the main points in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ really aren’t very fair at all," MSNBC.com, June 30, 2004.

Kopel's cuts it so fine he slices off his own thumb here. Look at the Moore quote: "James Bath himself in turn invested in George W. Bush." If Moore wanted to say that Bath had invested bin Laden money in Arbusto, he would have.

More to the point, Kopel offers no reason or evidence to support Bath's side of the story. Nor, for that matter, does he offer an explanation for this:

"In conflicting statements, Bush at first denied ever knowing Bath, then acknowledged his stake in Arbusto and that he was aware Bath represented Saudi interests."

If it truly were Bath's own money, I don't think Bush would have flinched so noticably when asked about him.

Moore makes a big point about the name of James Bath being blacked out from Bush National Guard records which were released by the White House. The blackout might appear less sinister if Moore revealed that federal law required the Alabama National Guard to black out the names any Guardsmen whose medical information was on the same pages as the records which the Alabama Guard released regarding George Bush's health records. So what Moore presents as a sinister effort to conceal the identity of James Bath was in fact the legally-required compliance with federal law.

Really? If that's the case, then why wasn't Bath's name redacted (the correct term, Mr. Nitpicky Kopel) on Moore's copies? Is Kopel suggesting that Moore obtained them illegally?

The documents Moore shows on screen during the movie, of course, contain no medical information about Bath anyway.

Moore points out the distressingly close relationship between Saudi Arabia’s ambassador, Prince Bandar, and the Bush family. But Moore does not explain that Bandar has been a bipartisan Washington power broker for decades, and that Bill Clinton repeatedly relied on Bandar to advance Clinton’s own Middle East agenda. (Elsa Walsh, "The Prince. How the Saudi Ambassador became Washington’s indispensable operator," The New Yorker, Mar. 24, 2003.)

And the Clinton family nickname for Bandar was...? Oh.

President Clinton’s former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Wyche Fowler, has been earning a lucrative living as a Saudi apologist and serving as Chairman of the Middle East Institute—a research organization heavily funded by Saudi Arabia. (Joel Mowbray, "Feeding at the Saudi Trough," Townhall.com, Oct. 1, 2003.)

I am not suggesting that Mr. Fowler is in any way corrupt; I’m sure that he is sincere (although, in my view, mistaken) in his strongly pro-Saudi viewpoint. What is misleading is for Moore to look at the web of Saudi influence in Washington only in regard to the Republican Bushes, and to ignore the fact that Saudi influence and money are widespread in both parties.

Kopel would have a point, if Clinton -- or any other president -- had invaded a country other than Saudi Arabia after 15 Saudis attacked America. Or if Hillary had gone to work for the Carlyle Group instead of running for the Senate.

Actually now that I think about it, he wouldn't have a point, since Moore makes explicit (again -- there's that difference between what Moore's opponents try to read between the lines, and what the lines themselves say) that the Saudis own a sizable chunk of America, and that this isn't a recent development.

Bush once served on the Board of Directors of the Harken Energy Company. According to Fahrenheit:

Moore: Yes, it helps to be the President’s son. Especially when you’re being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

TV reporter: In 1990 when M. Bush was a director of Harken Energy he received this memo from company lawyers warning directors not to sell stock if they had unfavorable information about the company. One week later he sold $848,000 worth of Harken stock. Two months later, Harken announced losses of more than $23 million dollars.

Moore:...Bush beat the rap from the SEC...

What Moore left out: Bush sold the stock long after he checked with those same 'company lawyers' who had provided the cautionary memo, and they told him that the sale was all right. Almost all of the information that caused Harken’s large quarterly loss developed only after Bush had sold the stock.

Despite Moore’s pejorative that Bush "beat the rap," no-one has ever found any evidence suggesting that he engaged in illegal insider trading.

Almost all? Meaning that there was some information related to the loss that Bush could have known before he sold off the stock?

Sounds like "beating the rap" to me...

Moore’s film suggests that Bush has close family ties to the bin Laden family—principally through Bush’s father’s relationship with the Carlyle Group, a private investment firm. The president’s father, George H.W. Bush, was a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group’s Asian affiliate until recently; members of the bin Laden family—who own one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest construction firms—had invested $2 million in a Carlyle Group fund. Bush Sr. and the bin Ladens have since severed ties with the Carlyle Group, which in any case has a bipartisan roster of partners, including Bill Clinton’s former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt. The movie quotes author Dan Briody claiming that the Carlyle Group "gained" from September 11 because it owned United Defense, a military contractor. Carlyle Group spokesman Chris Ullman notes that United Defense holds a special distinction among U.S. defense contractors that is not mentioned in Moore’s movie: the firm’s $11 billion Crusader artillery rocket system developed for the U.S. Army is one of the only weapons systems canceled by the Bush administration. -- Michael Isikoff, "Under the Hot Lights. Moore’s movie will make waves. But it’s a fine line between fact and fanaticism. Deconstructing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.'" Newsweek, June 28, 2004.

Amazing how often Bill Clinton's name comes up in these deceits, isn't it?

Nice use of quotes around gained, too. Is Kopel suggesting that Carlyle lost money from United Defense's IPO?

Moore claims that refusing to mention the Crusader cancellation was alright because the cancellation came after the United Defense IPO. But the cancellation had a serious negative financial impact on Carlyle, since Carlyle still owns 47% of United Defense.

The day Rumsfeld cancelled Crusader, United was handed a contract by the DoD for an extremely similar project under a different name. So no, I doubt that the cancellation had much impact on Carlyle's bottom line at all.

Moore tells us that when Carlyle took United Defense public, they made a one-day profit of $237 million, but under all the public scrutiny, the bin Laden family eventually had to withdraw (Moore doesn’t tell us that they withdrew before the public offering, not after it). -- Labash, Weekly Standard.

I have to admit, this is as close as Kopel has come to making something stick, but given that we are 22 points in I'd prefer a little more detail before I concede the point. Kopel's track record ain't so good, so far. So what, and when, did the bin Ladens withdraw, exactly?

There is another famous investor in Carlyle whom Moore does not reveal: George Soros. (Oliver Burkeman & Julian Borger, “The Ex-Presidents’ Club,” The Guardian (London), Oct. 31, 2000.) But the fact that the anti-Bush billionaire has invested in Carlyle would detract from Moore’s simplistic conspiracy theory.

And there it is -- the first explicit reference to Moore's 'conspiracy theories', the ulitmate dismissal of a political opponent.

The problem is, there are no 'conspiracy theories' in F9/11, no matter how much Kopel would like there to be. Moore makes the point that the Bush family does too much business with the Saudis to be objective about them. If that qualifies as a 'conspiracy theory', then the phrase has lost all meaning.

Moore alleges that the Saudis have given 1.4 billion dollars to the Bushes and their associates.

Moore derives the $1.4 billion figure from journalist Craig Unger’s book, “House of Bush, House of Saud.” Nearly 90 percent of that amount, $1.18 billion, comes from just one source: contracts in the early to mid-1990’s that the Saudi Arabian government awarded to a U.S. defense contractor, BDM, for training the country’s military and National Guard. What’s the significance of BDM? The firm at the time was owned by the Carlyle Group, the powerhouse private-equity firm whose Asian-affiliate advisory board has included the president’s father, George H.W. Bush.

...The main problem with this figure, according to Carlyle spokesman Chris Ullman, is that former president Bush didn’t join the Carlyle advisory board until April, 1998—five months after Carlyle had already sold BDM to another defense firm. -- Isikoff & Hosenball, MSNBC.com.

Sadly for Kopel, James A. Baker was on Carlyle's board when BDM got that $1.18 billion deal. Oops.

Does it really matter, though? Kopel is desperately trying to discredit an 'I scratch your back, you don't invade my country' relationship between the Bushes and the Saudis, when Moore claimed no such relationship. It's purely an oil-soaked strawman.
I think Tom Hanks might be the most over-rated actor of his generation, but he has eeeeeevil political instincts.
Ding ding! Time for round three in my bout with Dave Kopel.

(Part one, Deceits 1-2, is here.)
(Part two, Deceits 3-7, is here.)

Deceits 8-16

Like several of the other deceits identified in this report, the September 11 deceit is not part of the film itself.

Hopefully you didn't just spit-take on your keyboard.

Here Kopel is criticizing Moore for something Ed Koch claims he said, off-mic of course, at a panel discussion a couple of years ago, post-9/11 but pre-F9/11.

Sort of brings home exactly what the point of all this is, doesn't it? The 59 Deceits aren't designed to highlight inconsistencies in the film; they are designed to marginalize and discredit Moore himself.

Given one of the main themes of Bowling For Columbine -- that media-driven fear and paranoia are more to blame for gun deaths than the guns are -- do you think maybe Moore meant something different than "Eh, 9/11 wasn't a big deal" when he compared terrorism death rates to lightning strike death rates?

Not that Kopel cares. Maybe he should ask John Derbyshire how unimpeachable a source Koch is.

Fahrenheit mocks President Bush for continuing to read a story to a classroom of elementary school children after he was told about the September 11 attacks.

What Moore did not tell you:

Gwendolyn Tose-Rigell, the principal of Emma E. Booker Elementary School, praised Bush’s action: "I don’t think anyone could have handled it better." "What would it have served if he had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?"...

She said the video doesn’t convey all that was going on in the classroom, but Bush’s presence had a calming effect and "helped us get through a very difficult day."

'Sarasota principal defends Bush from ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ portrayal,' Associated Press, June 24, 2004.

The basic premise of #9: who you gonna believe, an elementary school principal, or your lyin' eyes?

Ms. Tose-Rigell seems to think it more important to calm a classroom full of small tykes, than to lead the country in the initial moments of a national crisis.

Maybe it's me, but I'd think that would be a task Bush could have delegated to someone like, I don't know, Ms. Tose-Rigell, while he maybe did something -- anything -- to defend the country. But that's just me. Clearly Kopel feels differently.

Castigating the allegedly lazy President, Moore says, "Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001 that said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes."

Moore supplies no evidence for his assertion that President Bush did not read the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief. Moore’s assertion appears to be a complete fabrication.

Well gee, got to give Kopel his due here. Moore cannot definitively prove a negative, that Bush didn't read the PDB.

Of course, Kopel can't prove Bush did read it, either.

Bush's actions subsequent to August 6 don't really help Kopel's case, though.

Moore smirks that perhaps President Bush did not read the Briefing because its title was so vague. Moore then cuts to Condoleezza Rice announcing the title of the Briefing: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

However, no-one (except Moore) has ever claimed that Bush did not read the Briefing... because the title was vague.

(Yes, that gets it own separate deceit. Kopel's already forced to start padding his total, and we aren't even into the teens yet!)

Again, more snark from Moore being treated as though it were a legal brief presented to the Supreme Court. I find Kopel's lack of humor... disturbing.

The content of the Briefing... refutes Moore’s assertion that the Briefing "said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes." The actual Briefing was highly equivocal:

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

So Kopel's point here seems to be that the PDB didn't say bin Laden was planning hijackings, it said that bin Laden's minions were engaged in activity consistent with preparations for hijackings. I feel badly for the hair Kopel just split in twain.

Kopel fails to mention the first line of the PDB: 'Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US.'

I guess in Kopel's world, that's "wanted" in the sense of, "I want to be locked in the Ritz-Carlton's honeymoon suite with Angelina Jolie for the weekend", rather than "I want to take these steps to advance my careerbloody jihad."

Moore is guilty of a classic game of saying one thing and implying another when he describes how members of the Saudi elite were flown out of the United States shortly after 9/11.

If you listen only to what Moore says during this segment of the movie—and take careful notes in the dark—you’ll find he’s got his facts right. He and others in the film state that 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country after Sept. 13.

The date—Sept. 13—is crucial because that is when a national ban on air traffic, for security purposes, was eased

But nonetheless, many viewers will leave the movie theater with the impression that the Saudis, thanks to special treatment from the White House, were permitted to fly away when all other planes were still grounded... -- McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times.

It's amazing to me that the opposition to Moore seems to know exactly what 'viewers' or 'the viewer' will think after watching a particular segment. Could be arrogance, I suppose, or maybe they're just able to bend the ear of some really experienced propaganda experts.

I guess noticing the date '09/13' flashed over and over in giant letters is supposed to require taking careful notes in the dark, for the average American. I take back the propaganda shot -- it's just arrogance.

What Moore says, and implies, is that the Saudis got special treatment, and were shipped out of the country ASAP. I suppose if you got Hitchensed on Johnnie Walker or something before seeing the movie, you might read more -- or less -- into that than what's in the film.

Tapper: [Y]our film showcases former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, using him as a critic of the Bush administration. Yet in another part of the film, one that appears in your previews, you criticize members of the Bush administration for permitting members of the bin Laden family to fly out of the country almost immediately after 9/11. What the film does not mention is that Richard Clarke says that he OK’d those flights. Is it fair to not mention that?

Moore: Actually I do, I put up The New York Times article and it’s blown up 40 foot on the screen, you can see Richard Clarke’s name right there saying that he approved the flights based on the information the FBI gave him. It’s right there, right up on the screen. I don’t agree with Clarke on this point. Just because I think he’s good on a lot of things doesn’t mean I agree with him on everything. -- Jake Tapper interview with Michael Moore, ABC News, June 25, 2004.

Again, Moore is misleading. His film includes a brief shot of a Sept. 4, 2003, New York Times article headlined "White House Approved Departures of Saudis after Sept. 11, Ex-Aide Says." The camera pans over the article far too quickly for any ordinary viewer to spot and read the words in which Clarke states that he approved the flights.

Why should he need to? Moore's statement in the film is that the White House approved the flights. Did Richard Clarke act without Bush's approval? If not, then what's the point here? To discredit Richard Clarke?

From the 9/11 Commission staff report -- The Saudi flights were screened by law enforcement officials, primarily the FBI, to ensure that people on these flights did not pose a threat to national security, and that nobody of interest to the FBI with regard to the 9/11 investigation was allowed to leave the country. Thirty of the 142 people on these flights were interviewed by the FBI, including 22 of the 26 people (23 passengers and 3 private security guards) on the Bin Ladin flight. Many were asked detailed questions. None of the passengers stated that they had any recent contact with Usama Bin Ladin or knew anything about terrorist activity.

Deceit #16 (more on this in a second) is that Moore failed to note that the 9/11 Commission said the fleeing Saudis were actually interviewed. It is noted in the film, however, by Moore himself: "So, check the passport, little interview, that's it?" (I may be paraphrasing there, but that's the substance of the quote.) Maybe it wasn't emphasized strongly enough for Kopel -- is he actually a frustated film editor or something? That would explain a lot.

This whole 13-16 section is very muddled. It concludes with

Finally, Moore's line, "But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens," happens to be a personal lie. Stranded in California on September 11, Michael Moore ended up driving home to New York City. On September 14, he wrote to his fans "Our daughter is fine, mostly frightened by my desire to fly home to her rather than drive." Moore acceded to the wishes of his wife and daughter, and drove back to New York.

I don't count this as a deceit, because it is relatively minor. But it is pretty hypocritical for Moore to slam the Saudis (who had very legitimate fears of being attacked by angry people) just because they wanted to fly home, at the same time when Moore himself wanted to fly home.

Kopel's willing to drag in Ed Koch's hearsay, but not this? I can think of other people who wanted to fly at that time too -- Bush, for one, tooling around until Pappy Cheney said it was safe to come home.

In fact to not count this one, Kopel is forced to count Moore's 'omission' of Clarke's role in approving the flights as one deceit, and Moore's 'lying' about it during a press junket interview after the film was already in theaters as another.

I guess Kopel was too lazy to go back and re-number this thing? Otherwise, that's just too bizarre for words.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Rob Corddry: If anything, this cements Kerry's reputation as a flip-flopper. First he doesn't have a running mate, then he does have a running mate. Make up your mind, man!
Oh, for the love... fine.

1. Astaire
2. (Pass -- dislike 'em both)
3. Duke
4. Cats
5. Picasso
6. Eliot
7. Keaton
8. (Pass)
9. Casablanca
10. (Pass)
11. The Who
12. (Pass)
13. Dickens
14. Billie
15. Tolstoy
16. (Pass)
17. (Pass)
18. Hamburgers, not that I can eat them really
19. Letterman
20. Cat Power
21. Verdi
22. Grace
23. Johnny
24. Martin
25. Mitchum, for Night of the Hunter
26. (Pass)
27. Rembrandt. Vermeer's too trendy. ;)
28. Chopin
29. (Pass)
30. Oscar
31. High Fidelity
32. Shostakovich
33. Nureyev
34. (Pass)
35. The Searchers
36. Comedy
37. Spring
38. (Pass)
39. Simpsons, and you'll know I'm right in ten years
40. Gershwin
41. James -- I loathe Conrad
42. Sunrise
43. Mercer
44. Mac
45. NYC
46. (Pass)
47. Motown
48. Van Gogh
49. Elvis
50. Blog
51. Olivier
52. Only the Lonely
53. Chinatown
54. Ghost World
55. Minimalism
56. Bugs
57. P-M
58. Bats
59. Emmylou
60. (Pass)
61. (Pass)
62. Dick van Dyke
63. (Pass)
64. Double Indemnity
65. Don Giovanni
66. Blue
67. Midsummer Night's Dream
68. Ballet
69. Film
70. Electric
71. Vertigo
72. (Pass)
73. Naipaul
74. Music Man
75. Yes to the sushi
76. (Pass)
77. Albee
78. (Pass)
79. (Pass)
80. Wright
81. (Pass -- ugh to both)
82. Pastel
83. Subway
84. Stravinsky
85. Smooth
86. Dreiser
87. Mozart
88. Twenties
89. Huck Finn
90. Joyce
91. Hawkins
92. Whitman
93. Churchill
94. Liz
95. Italian
96. Harpsichord
97. No
98. (Pass -- silly question)
99. Bebop
100. Last Judgement

That's 36/80, or 45/100. If you care. No thought went into the answers whatsoever, which is probably the point.
Back to Kopel... here's part one (Deceits 1-2) of my take on his 59 Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Deceits 3-7

...Michael Moore shows a clip of CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin saying that if ballots had been recounted in Florida after the 2000 presidential vote, "under every scenario Gore won the election."

What Moore doesn’t show is that a six-month study in 2001 by news organizations including The New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN found just the opposite. Even if the Supreme Court had not stopped a statewide recount, or if a more limited recount of four heavily Democratic counties had taken place, Bush still would have won Florida and the election.

Actually, both Toobin and Kopel are wrong.

This is still the most illuminating example of the current partisan atmosphere. The results of the big follow-up vote recount was very, very clear:

If the votes had been recounted using the limited methods advocated by Gore, Bush still wins.

If the votes had been recounted using the Bush method (i.e. not), Bush of course wins.

If all the votes had been recounted, using any method (individual standards in each county, or uniform standards in all counties), Gore wins.

The Dems can't admit they botched the post-election fight. The Pubs can't admit their boy didn't actually win. Both sides look like losers, if Big Media would only tell the truth.

According to Fahrenheit, Bush cronies hired Data Base Technologies to purge Florida voters who might vote for Gore, and these potential voters were purged from the voting rolls on the basis of race. ("Second, make sure the chairman of your campaign is also the vote count woman. And that her state has hired a company that's gonna knock voters off the rolls who aren't likely to vote for you. You can usually tell 'em by the color of their skin.") As explained by the Palm Beach Post, Moore's claim is extremely incomplete, and on at least one fact, plainly false.


Regardless, Moore's claim that the purge was conducted on the basis of race was indisputably false.

Oh please. Moore's claim? It's called snark. Black voters were disproportionately stricken from the rolls, and black voters are more likely to vote Dem. Period.

The Florida election was an absolute mess of conflict of interest and probably fraud. Kopel's speculation that "the net result of the 2000 purge fiasco harmed Bush" is frankly laughable, relying as it does on John Lott's dancing rate stats, and not the raw numbers of disenfranchised voters.

Number five I'll reprint in its entirety:

The movie lauds an anti-Bush riot that took place in Washington, D.C., on the day of Bush’s inauguration. Moore continues: "No President had ever witnessed such a thing on his inauguration day. And for the next eight months it didn’t get any better for George W. Bush. He couldn’t get his judges appointed; he had trouble getting his legislation passed; and he lost Republican control of the Senate. His approval ratings in the polls began to sink."

Part of this is true. Once Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican party, Democrats controlled the Senate, and stalled the confirmation (not "appointment") of some of the judges whom Bush had nominated for the federal courts.

Congress did enact the top item on Bush’s agenda: a large tax cut. During the summer, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives easily passed many of Bush’s other agenda items, including the bill whose numbering reflected the President’s top priority: H.R. 1, the Bush "No Child Left Behind" education bill. The fate of the Bush bills in the Democratic-controlled Senate, as of August 2001, was uncertain. The Senate later did pass No Child Left Behind, but some other Bush proposals did not pass.

Umm, where's the deceit? Which part is untrue? Were judicial confirmations held up? Kopel says yes. Did Bush have trouble getting legislation passed? Kopel admits bills were stalled in the Senate. Did the Pubs lose control of the Senate? Kopel says yes. Did Bush's approval ratings sink? This will come up later, but for now Kopel offers no denial.

Where's the deceit?

Fahrenheit 911 states, "In his first eight months in office before September 11th, George W. Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time."

Shortly before 9/11, the Post calculated that Bush had spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route, including all or part of 54 days at his ranch. That calculation, however, includes weekends, which Moore failed to mention. -- Tom McNamee, Just the facts on ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, Chicago Sun-Times, June 28, 2004.

'Cause Presidents don't work on weekends...? Do they get overtime pay if they do? This is pathetic.

[T]he shot of him "relaxing at Camp David" shows him side by side with Tony Blair. I say "shows," even though this photograph is on-screen so briefly that if you sneeze or blink, you won’t recognize the other figure. A meeting with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, or at least with this prime minister, is not a goof-off.

The president is also captured in a well-worn TV news clip, on a golf course, making a boilerplate response to a question on terrorism and then asking the reporters to watch his drive. Well, that’s what you get if you catch the president on a golf course. -- Christopher Hitchens, Unfairenheit 9/11: The lies of Michael Moore, Slate.com, June 21, 2004.

Hitch! My favorite misanthrope! First off, Hitch, a working vacation still counts as a vacation, and the picture in question shows Bush and Blair walking one of Bush's little canine friends. The weather is cold -- both are bundled up, but not too much. I'd guess it's early spring, given the weather at Camp David and the foliage visible. I got all that from the first time I saw the movie. Gee, I must be the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes, given the brief millisecond Hitch says it appears on-screen.

(Just Googled the meeting... I was off a bit, it happened in late February. Oh well, no deearstalker hat for me.)

As for the golf course bit, maybe it is unfair, showing Bush being so smug and arrogant immediately after speaking seriously about terrorism, looking like he cares more about his stroke. Maybe if he showed up for work once in a while reporters wouldn't have to track him down on a golf course in the first place. Shucks. Incidentally, did you notice how Bush re-jiggers his backswing after the fact to make for a better pose for the photographers?

By the way, the clip of Bush making a comment about terrorism, and then hitting a golf ball, is also taken out of context, at least partially:

Tuesday night on FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume, Brian Wilson noted how "the viewer is left with the misleading impression Mr. Bush is talking about al-Qaeda terrorists." But Wilson disclosed that "a check of the raw tape reveals the President is talking about an attack against Israel, carried out by a Palestinian suicide bomber." -- "Cyberalert," Media Research Center, July 1, 2004, item. 3.

Really? It's clear the footage was taken before 9/11, and Moore more than once in the film makes the explicit point that Bush, Ashcroft etc. weren't paying enough attention to al Qaeda. Why would 'the viewer' think the quote is about al Qaeda? And why did Hitch miss this among F9/11's 'contradictions', if it's such an obvious deceit?

Maybe Kopel and Hitch should compare notes before going any further with this nonsense.
Good thing Reagan didn't live to see this, huh?

American officials agreed to return five terrorism suspects to Saudi Arabia from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, last year as part of a secret three-way deal intended to satisfy important allies in the invasion of Iraq, according to senior American and British officials.

Under the arrangement, Saudi officials later released five Britons and two others who had been convicted of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, the officials said. British diplomats said they believed that the men had been tortured by Saudi security police officers into confessing falsely.

So here's the question: Were the Saudis released from Gitmo also falsely imprisoned innocents (in which case, what were they doing there, and why did it take a secret deal to get them out?) Or were they 'real' terrorists (in which case, WTF?)

This is the ultimate lose-lose for the Bushies -- either way, it reflects badly on the War on Terror. No wonder they snuck it out there on the holiday.
OK, Edwards as the VP pick in nice, but the BIG news:

Kerry/Edwards' campaign theme song is "Right Now" by Van Halen. Ni-i-i-ice:

Don't wanna wait til tomorrow,
Why put it off another day?
One more walk through problems,
Built up, and stand in our way ,ah
One step ahead, one step behind me
Now you gotta run to get even
Make future plans, don't dream about yesterday, hey
C'mon turn, turn this thing around

Right now, hey
It's your tomorrow
Right now,
C'mon,it's everything
Right now,
Catch a magic moment, do it
Right here and now
It means everything

Miss the beat, you lose the rhythm,
And nothing falls into place, no
Only missed by a fraction,
Slipped a little off your pace, oh,
The more things you get, the more you want,
Just trade in one for the other,
Workin so hard, to make it easier, whoa,
Got to turn, c'mon turn this thing around

Right now...

It's enlightened me, right now
What are you waitin for
Oh, yeah, right now


Right now, hey
It's your tomorrow
Right now,
C'mon, it's everything
Right now,
Catch that magic moment, and do it right,
Right now
Right now, oh, right now
It's what's happening?
Right here and now
Right now
It's right now
Tell me, what are you waiting for
Turn this thing around

Let's call this an experiment in filters-off blog research. If it's interesting (not necessarily relevant) it makes the cut.

First: start with James Risen's article in today's NYT about how it's all the CIA's fault that the Bush administration thought Saddam had WMDs. Note the complete absence of names like 'Feith' and 'Perle', and words like 'stovepipe'.

Second: note how Timeswatch feels about Risen. Estimated time to tune-changing -- as soon as they wake up this morning.

Third: read a copy of Risen's piece about Iraq's possible last-minute desperate bid for peace. Note this passage:

The overtures, after a decade of evasions and deceptions by Iraq, were ultimately rebuffed. But the messages raised enough interest that in early March, Richard N. Perle, an influential adviser to top Pentagon officials, met in London with the Lebanese-American businessman, Imad Hage.

According to both men, Mr. Hage laid out the Iraqis' position to Mr. Perle, and he pressed the Iraqi request for a direct meeting with Mr. Perle or another representative of the United States.

"I was dubious that this would work," said Mr. Perle, widely recognized as an intellectual architect of the Bush administration's hawkish policy toward Iraq, "but I agreed to talk to people in Washington."

Mr. Perle said he sought authorization from C.I.A. officials to meet with the Iraqis, but the officials told him they did not want to pursue this channel, and they indicated they had already engaged in separate contacts with Baghdad. Mr. Perle said, "The message was, 'Tell them that we will see them in Baghdad.' "

So, err, the CIA was setting foreign policy, Richard? And that was OK with you? You didn't go over their heads to your White House buddies about this?

Makes you wonder who Risen's big inside source is, doesn't it?

Fourth: for laughs, read Hitch's attack on Risen's Iraqi peace appeal article, and worry for Hitch's sanity.

(JMM says the same thing, quicker, here.)
Gaaah! More from the Crap News Network -- Suzanne Malveaux is reporting the 'McCain for VP' rumor as fact, as part of the Bush counter-attack to the veep announcement story.

Start your Rove conspiracy theory engines!
So I'm up a bit past my bedtime (still fighting the itch to go slug Christopher Hitchens) with CNN droning on in the background, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Their one month retrospective on their coverage of Reagan's death!

I'm too tired not to go with the obvious joke, so... yes, he's still dead.

That's my cue. Good night, everybody! Mwah!

Monday, July 05, 2004

Foolishly, I've decided to take on a herculean task... analyzing and, where necessary, debunking Dave Kopel's Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 911. (Yes, 59; he's added three more.) (And yes, the title of the piece says '911', not '9/11'. If anyone out there feels like starting a 'Some Number of Spelling and Grammatical Mistakes in Dave Kopel's Work', consider that a freebie.)

The impetus for this effort was a) seeing the film a second time, and having a bit of an epiphany on why Hitch got it so badly wrong, and b) remembering Hitch's 'nauseating' comment about the Lila Lipscomb sequences, and needing to do something more constructive than tracking him down and punching him in his soulless face.

This'll be in many, many parts.

Here we go:

Deceits 1-2

Fahrenheit 911 begins on election night 2000. We are first shown the Al Gore rocking on stage with famous musicians and a high-spirited crowd. The conspicuous sign on stage reads “Florida Victory.” Moore creates the impression that Gore was celebrating his victory in Florida.

Actually, the rally took place in the early hours of election day, before polls had even opened. Gore did campaign in Florida on election day, but went home to Tennessee to await the results. The “Florida Victory” sign reflected Gore’s hopes, not any actual election results

This is probably going to come up a lot. 'Creates the impression...' It's important to keep in mind (this is the epiphany part) that Moore did not create the film for NRO writers, or for political bloggers, or for pundits or wonks. He created it for all the Lila Lipscombs and Sgt. Michael Petersons of the world.

That knowledge is absolutely crucial for debunking maybe 95% of the attacks on the film. When Michael Moore mentions, say, the Unocal natural gas pipeline plan, that reference will dreg up a whole wealth of related info in the mind of a political junkie, info that isn't actually in the film. It's important to focus on what Moore actually includes, not what a Google search on what he includes might turn up.

Anyway, back to Kopel. First off, I only saw one famous musician on stage (unless, like Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck has started a band... shudder), but that's just nitpicking. The Florida rally footage is part of Moore's 'dream sequence', and is separate from his election night coverage. If he 'creates an impression', it's that a Gore victory celebration is what should have happened, not what did happen. It is, after all, Moore's dream, right?

The film shows CBS and CNN calling Florida for Al Gore. According to the narrator, "Then something called the Fox News Channel called the election in favor of the other guy... All of a sudden the other networks said, ‘Hey, if Fox said it, it must be true.’"

We then see NBC anchor Tom Brokaw stating, “All of us networks made a mistake and projected Florida in the Al Gore column. It was our mistake.”

Moore thus creates the false impression that the networks withdrew their claim about Gore winning Florida when they heard that Fox said that Bush won Florida.

I was going to debunk this, but then I kept reading and found that Kopel had already done it himself!

In fact, the networks which called Florida for Gore did so early in the evening—before polls had even closed in the Florida panhandle, which is part of the Central Time Zone. NBC called Florida for Gore at 7:49:40 p.m., Eastern Time. This was 10 minutes before polls closed in the Florida panhandle. Thirty seconds later, CBS called Florida for Gore. And at 7:52 p.m., Fox called Florida for Gore. Moore never lets the audience know that Fox was among the networks which made the error of calling Florida for Gore prematurely. Then at 8:02 p.m., ABC called Florida for Gore. Only ABC had waited until the Florida polls were closed.

The premature calls probably cost Bush thousands of votes from the conservative panhandle, as discouraged last-minute voters heard that their state had already been decided, and many voters who were waiting in line left the polling place. In Florida, as elsewhere, voters who have arrived at the polling place before closing time often end up voting after closing time, because of long lines. The conventional wisdom of politics is that supporters of the losing candidate are most likely to give up on voting when they hear that their side has already lost. (Thus, on election night 1980, when incumbent President Jimmy Carter gave a concession speech while polls were still open on the West coast, the early concession was widely blamed for costing the Democrats several Congressional seats in the West. The fact that all the networks had declared Reagan a landslide winner while West coast voting was still in progress was also blamed for Democratic losses in the West.) Even if the premature television calls affected all potential voters equally, the effect was to reduce Republican votes significantly, because the Florida panhandle is a Republican stronghold; depress overall turnout in the panhandle, and you will necessarily depress more Republican than Democratic votes.

At 10:00 p.m., which network took the lead in retracting the premature Florida result? The first retracting network was CBS, not Fox.

Over four hours later, at 2:16 a.m., Fox projected Bush as the Florida winner, as did all the other networks by 2:20 a.m.

CBS had taken the lead in making the erroneous call for Gore, and had taken the lead in retracting that call. At 3:59 a.m., CBS also took the lead in retracting the Florida call for Bush. All the other networks, including Fox, followed the CBS lead within eight minutes. That the networks arrived at similar conclusions within a short period of time is not surprising, since they were all using the same data from the Voter News Service.

So Moore said the other networks called it for Gore, then followed Fox's lead in calling it for Bush. Which part of Kopel's account disputes that, exactly?

Kopel also glosses over Bush first cousin John Ellis' role in starting the 'Florida goes for Bush' dominoes falling under the cover of the VNS. Kopel fails to explain how the data could have changed so much between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. -- or why networks, having made one mistake already, would be so eager to make another unless there was a little competitive peer pressure involved.

And oh, incidentally, those 'thousands' of disenfranchised Panhandle voters?

There are only nine counties in Florida entirely on Central Standard Time, and one (Gulf) which is split. The total voting age population of all 10 of those counties was 672671. Given a turnout rate of 50.6% in Florida in 2000, that leaves 340,397 Panhandle residents (statistically) who would have voted. How many 'thousands' of those, do you figure, would have waited until the last 10 minutes -- no, wait, less than that, since they haven't even left the house yet if they're watching election coverage on TV -- to vote, instead of going to the poll before work? Or on the way home from work? Or on their lunch hour? Or any time in the middle of the day, if they weren't working?

Who's dreaming now, Mr. Kopel?
Any guesses on how the usual gang of idiots would be handling this story if it were Kerry's personal physician?

COULTER: Kerry considers himself so far above normal human experience that he even delegates his vices. A painkiller addiction is too gauche for Kerry -- why, Rush Limbaugh had one! Better assign it to the help. Still, after Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton, I guess moral corruption once removed is a step up for liberals.

O'REILLY: But Kerry has his own problems on the morality front. His stance on abortion has the Catholic Church turning against him; his stance on gay marriage has that group eyeing him warily; and now even his own people are being exposed as drug addicts. A political shark like Karl Rove, Bush's man in the shadows, must be smelling blood in the water.

HANNITY: Shut up! Shut up! Just answer the question: does John Kerry knowingly employ drug addicts?


Sunday, July 04, 2004

Following up on my post about there being no reconstruction money for Baghdad University textbooks -- apparently no money's been spent on anything in Iraq.

Think about this for a second:

Thus far, according to the report, nothing from the package has been spent on construction, health care, sanitation and water projects. More money has been spent on administration than all projects related to education, human rights, democracy and governance.

Of course there's a positive spin on this. How could you doubt it?

Officials with the contracting office contend the amount of money actually spent does not reflect the full scope of work being performed. A more accurate figure, they said, is the amount of money allocated for reconstruction work. Just over $5.2 billion had been allocated as of June 22, according to the White House budget report.

"The money that is disbursed is typically not disbursed until the work is completed, so it doesn't give the best picture of what's going on," said John Proctor, a spokesman for the contracting office. "Some of our projects take months, or even years, to complete."

Translation: If things go to $#!+ and the projects never get completed, we don't owe anyone a dime. Luxury Hummers for everybody! Huzzah!

Yet another case of the Bush administration not being willing to back up their rhetoric with actions.
Oh, Howie...

To discuss Fahrenheit 9/11, Kurtz brings on Isikoff, Hitchens and, oh what the heck, Bill Press just to be the token defender.

The interesting thing is that Isikoff backs way off his orginal statements about the bin Laden flights. Hitchens, however, keeps the crap coming, claiming that Moore's 'Minutemen' comment means that he supports the Iraqi insurgents, and repeatedly saying that Moore is in league with 'jihadists'.

Ugh. Hitchens just described the Lipscomb part of F9/11 as 'nauseating'. Way to marginalize yourself, Hitch!

The best part of the round table? All four of them defending the job the media did in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

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