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Friday, July 23, 2004

I missed it on Wednesday, but Scottie Mac is showing signs of dementia:

Q Why isn't Lee Hamilton briefing the President directly today, instead of briefing the staff and then the staff briefs him?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's always the way it was set up, Steve, that they were going to brief the White House staff today. I think it's for a half hour, hour briefing. The President looks forward to receiving the full report tomorrow. He will receive the full, final report and looks forward to looking at it and looks forward to seeing what the recommendations are from the 9/11 Commission. He greatly appreciates all their hard work and he will see the full report tomorrow, versus just a shorter briefing today.

Q Does he get briefed tomorrow, as well, or does he just read --

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, he's been briefed throughout this process by White House staff, and he will continue to be briefed by the White House staff. And I'm sure he'll receive a report on the briefing that's going on this afternoon.

I would remind you that the President sat down with all members of the commission for some two-and-a-half hours just a few months ago.


Can someone explain to me what relevance Bush's testimony before the commission has to do with his being briefed on their findings? This is a complete non-sequiter.
Aside from the fact that this latest Friday Fact-Fest offers more proof that Bush was not fulfilling his National Guard service requirements in 1972, here's my question:

You're the Pentagon records official charged with finding these documents. You enter what you think is the president's access number into the system, and it returns... nothing.

What's your first thought? That the records must have been destroyed? Or that you entered the wrong number?

Anyone who's ever worked with a database knows the answer to that one.
Good advice, if you hate America.
Josh Marshall is of the opinion that it was the Republicans who leaked the Berger scandellette, rather than the leak being a pre-emptive one by the Dems.

I'm not quite convinced.

Clearly the multiple leaks/multiple talking points strategy has a Rovian stench, but considering how long the investigation has been going on, all that could have been scripted months ago.

The fact of the matter is that the Berger brouhaha has already been buried under coverage of the 9/11 report -- look at Google News' US front page, for instance. Poultry abuse is getting more play than Sandy Berger.

Given how much effort must have been put into creating the anti-Berger campaign, that has to be disappointing for the Pubs. If the leak was pre-emptive, I'd say it's worked brilliantly so far.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

It's nice to know the Bush White House still has depths to which they can sink, isn't it? Sort of helps to keep my feet on the ground. No matter what craziness happens around me, I know that Bush will find a way to be even more loathsome.

Claire Buchan, a White House spokeswoman, said the administration was still trying to negotiate. But Republican Congressional officials said the administration did not want a deal that Democratic lawmakers might support, giving them a tax-cutting credential, too.


...thereby depriving not just the Democrats, but the Republicans as well, of their tax-cutting street cred.

Time for my chorus of, "Bush will be lucky to hold onto Texas!"
Apparently, today is Make With the Funny Day at the Ghost of Howard Beale... here's a laudable effort from the Poor Man.

What I wouldn't give to see Andrew Sullivan team up with Vince van Patten on commentary.
I'm doing my part in the War on Pornography... how about you, Gran'pa? What did you do during the war?

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.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Are Congressional children less likely to serve in Iraq than children from other families? Let’s use Moore’s methodology, and ignore members of extended families (such as nephews) and also ignore service anywhere except Iraq (even though U.S. forces are currently fighting terrorists in many countries).

Sigh.

And like Moore, let us also ignore the fact that some families (like Rep. Castle’s) have no children, or no children of military age.
 
We then see that of 535 Congressional families, there are two with a child who served in Iraq. How does this compare with American families in general? In the summer of 2003, U.S. troop levels in Iraq were raised to 145,000. If we factor in troop rotation, we could estimate that about 300,000 people have served in Iraq at some point. According to the Census Bureau, there were 104,705,000 households in the United States in 2000. (See Table 1 of the Census Report.) So the ratio of ordinary U.S. households to Iraqi service personnel is 104,705,000 to 300,000. This reduces to a ratio of 349:1.
 
In contrast the ratio of Congressional households to Iraqi service personnel is 535:2. This reduces to a ratio of 268:1.
 
Stated another way, a Congressional household is about 23 percent more likely than an ordinary household to be closely related to an Iraqi serviceman or servicewoman.
  
Of course my statistical methodology is very simple. A more sophisticated analysis would look only at Congressional and U.S. households from which at least one child is legally eligible to enlist in the military. Moore, obviously, never attempted such a comparison; instead, he deceived viewers into believing that Congressional families were extremely different from other families in enlistment rates.

According to this study from the US Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, deployment 'in and around Iraq' numbered 185,000 in the fall of 2003. Using Kopel's dubiously-accurate doubling trick, that gives 370,000 troops, which produces a ratio of 283:1 -- entirely comparable to the Congressional ratio. Of course statistically the whole exercise is futile, since the Congressional sample size is far too small.

After this Kopel tosses in another non-deceit deceit -- namely, Moore's oft-quoted angry newsletter is which he said, basically, that America will have to pay for its sin in supporting the invasion of Iraq with the blood of its children -- and somehow concludes that this invalidates his sympathy for Lila Lipscomb. Whatever.

Lipscomb is from Flint, Michigan, which Moore calls "my hometown." In fact, Moore grew up in Davison, Michigan, a suburb of Flint. Davison is much wealthier than Flint. According to the Census Bureau, 6 percent of children in the Davison public schools are from families living in poverty, whereas in Flint, 31 percent of children are. Calling Flint your "hometown" when you really grew up in Davison is like calling the Bronx "my hometown" when you really grew up in Westchester County.

"Flint is working class, industrial, down-at-heel, where the majority of the population is black or Latino. It's where the factories are.
 
Davison, where Moore grew up and attended Davison High School, is comfortable middle class, suburban, and white. Overwhelmingly white. It's where the managers and professionals live. While many of the children of Flint go on to work at the factories...the normal trajectory for the children of Davison is university. Michael Moore went to university (though didn't stick long). Unusually, he also went to Flint and tried his hand on the blue-collar front line with a job on the Buick assembly line for General Motors. He found the conditions under which the working class actually worked so appalling he quit the job after one day." -- "Less is Moore," Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 2004.

If someone can explain to be how current demographic data is relevant to the environment in which Moore grew up I'd like to hear it. Call me crazy, but I suspect the pre-plant closing Flint of the late '60s might have been a little different than the Flint -- or Davison -- of today.

And wouldn't the correct analogy be "like calling New York City your hometown when you grew up in Westchester?"

We then get treated to a dissection of Lipscomb's casual remark describing how unemployment rates are calculated. I have no idea what the point of this is, other than to belittle Lipscomb.

Oh goodie, another bonus deceit! This is starting to feel like a game show... c'mon, big bucks, no whammies!

Washington Representative Jim McDermott appears in several segments. 

McDermott was one of three Congressmen who went on Saddam’s propaganda tour of Iraq in Fall 2002. The trip was funded by Life for Relief and Development (LRD), a “charity” which laundered money to terrorist group Hamas’ Jordanian operation. LRD is funded in part by Shakir Al-Khafaji, a man who did about $70 million in business with Saddam through his Falcon Trading Group company (based in South Africa). LRD’s Iraqi offices were raided by US troops last week, and the Detroit-area “charity” is suspected of funding uprisings, such as the one in Fallujah. Its officials bragged of doing so at a recent private US fundraiser. -- Schlussel

The McDermott quotes are, obviously, not like the deceitful quote of Condoleezza Rice, in which her quote was twisted to mean the opposite of what she really said. McDermott is apparently quite sincere, and there is no indication that anything he said was taken out of context. So you don't have to count this as a deceit if you don't want to. On the other hand, McDermott's quotes about the alleged motivations of the Bush administration are supported by no evidence, and amount to nothing more than the speculative ravings of one of the very few pro-Saddam members of Congress--who also worries that bin Laden has already been captured, and will be brought out at an opportune time before the election. To rely on McDermott to explain the Bush administration's alleged secret intentions is akin to relying on a bitter atheist to describe an alleged secret conspiracy in the Vatican.
 
McDermott claims, "Well you make them afraid by creating an aura of endless threat. They played us like an organ. They raised the le[vel], the orange up to red than they they dropped it back to orange." To the contrary, the threat level has never been raised above orange (high risk). It takes a highly paranoid mind to conclude that because changes were made in the announced threat levels, the changes must have been for the purpose of psychological warfare on the American people.

Right away we have problems. The Schlussel link doesn't take you to any column about McDermott, making it impossible to verify; the link to the 'worries' about bin Laden takes you to a piece where McDermott is briefly quoted acknowledging that such rumors exist. Not exactly the strongest corraborating evidence there, Dave.

But the "Saddam lover" smears are kind of beside the point. Is Kopel denying that the mass psychology techniques McDermott describes exist? Or is Kopel denying that the Bush administration has used them deliberately? Because it's pretty clear they have used them.

See also: a little film called Bowling for Columbine, who's central theme echoes McDermott's line.

More of the bonus round! Sweet! I must be doing well:

He shows Britney Spears saying she supports the President on Iraq. [To make Moore's oft-stated point that Americans who support the President are ignorant.] As if there weren’t a host of brain-dead bimbo celebs...spouting off on the other side. -- Schlussel.

As with much of the Iraq material, the Spears quote is not an outright fraud, but is the result of perspective which is so one-sided as to be misleading.

Once again Kopel's skills as an amateur film-maker fail to shine through. The Spears bit is cathartic, a bit of comic relief after some heavy $#!+. To think that it's supposed to be taken seriously is ridiculous. To play armchair phychologist for a moment, it really says something unpleasent about a viewer who doesn't take the Spears clip as needed comic relief, who wasn't affected strongly enough by the preceding footage to need that release.

But Peter Townshend, lead guitarist for The Who, accuses Moore of lying about the creation of Fahrenheit's soundtrack. The film concludes with George Bush giving a speech in which he bumbles the adage "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." He recovers enough to deliver a final line: "Don't get fooled again." The segment would have been nicely complemented by The Who's song "Won't Get Fooled Again." According to Townshend:

"Michael Moore has been making some claims – mentioning me by name - which I believe distort the truth.

He says – among other things – that I refused to allow him to use my song WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN in his latest film, because I support the war, and that at the last minute I recanted, but he turned me down...

I greatly resent being bullied and slurred by him in interviews just because he didn’t get what he wanted from me. It seems to me that this aspect of his nature is not unlike that of the powerful and wilful man at the centre of his new documentary.

Townshend says that he never asked Moore to include "Won't Get Fooled Again" in the film, that he would never have given permission without seeing the film first, and that he was never provided with a preview copy.

Kopel apparently didn't bother to read the Moore interview he linked to, since Moore makes it clear that he had no direct contact with Townshend and was making no claims about him. "We got word that Townshend...", "we heard that the Who wanted..." It's clearly a game of he-said-she-said being facilitated by the media. No wonder Kopel doesn't elevate it to the level of a full deceit.

Now I'm made it to the double- and triple-bonus rounds! Oh my! I feel like that guy on Jeopardy:

Michael Moore told Time magazine that at the Washington premiere of Fahrenheit, Tom Daschle "gave me a hug and said he felt bad and that we were all gonna fight from now on. I thanked him for being a good sport." Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told the Rapid City Journal that he has never even met Moore.

That's it? Moore says X, Daschle says not-X, about something that's not even in the movie? I feel kinda let down.

Fahrenheit has enjoyed impressive box office success. But not as much as Moore claims. On his website, he declares that Fahrenheit's opening weekend "beat the opening weekend of Return of the Jedi." That sounds awfully impressive, since Return of the Jedi was the highly-anticipated third movie in the Star Wars series, and enjoyed a phenomenal opening. Well, actually Fahrenheit didn't beat the 1983 opening weekend of Return of the Jedi. It beat the 1997 re-release, Return of the Jedi: Special Edition. Moore might as well claim that Fahrenheit is bigger than Disney's Beauty and the Beast--which would be true for the Imax re-release of Beauty.

These bonus rounds kinda suck, Dave.

You're also completely wrong on this one:

Fahrenheit's performance harkens back to the days when big movies wouldn't play in every nook and cranny of the country, but would bow at around 700 or 1,000 theaters to sell out crowds. Perhaps the greatest example of this, Return of the Jedi debuted to $23 million at 1,002 theaters in 1983, which would adjust to $45 million by today's ticket prices. In terms of raw dollars, Fahrenheit is actually the biggest opening ever for a movie playing at less than 1,000 theaters, topping Rocky III's $12.4 million at 939 venues.

Last time I checked, $23.9 million (F9/11's opening weekend take) was greater than $23 million. Not that this has anything to do with the contents of the movie, of course.

In Fahrenheit  9/11, Moore claims to support our troops. But in fact, he supports the enemy in Iraq—the coalition of Saddam loyalists, al Qaeda operatives, and terrorists controlled by Iran or Syria—who are united in their desire to murder Iraqis, and to destroy any possibility of democracy in Iraq. Here is what Moore says about the forces who are killing Americans and trying to impose totalitarian rule on Iraq:

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. -- Michael Moore, “Heads Up... from Michael Moore,” MichaelMoore.com, April 14, 2004. Of course if you believe that the people who are perpetrating suicide bombings against Iraqi civilians and American soldiers for the purpose of forcing a totalitarian boot onto Iraq are the moral equivalent of the American Founders, then Moore's claim about the Iraqi insurgents could be valid. But even if that claim were valid (and I do not believe that any reasonable person can equate people fighting for totalitarianism with people fighting for constitutional democracy), then Moore is still being dishonest in Fahrenheit when he pronounces his concern for American troops. To the contrary, he is cheering for the forces which are killing our troops, as he equates the killers with freedom-fighters. And if you think that the people who are slaughtering American soldiers, American civilians, Iraqi soldiers, and Iraqi civilians are terrorists rather than "minutemen," then it is true that Moore supports terrorists. By the way, the number of Iraqi victims of Moore's "minutemen" outnumbers American victims by about 10:1.

This claim -- that Moore supports the enemy in Iraq -- burst out the moment Moore wrote that original newsletter screed, and it hasn't gone away since. It makes me physically ill every time it rears its ugly head.

Try to understand this, you imbecilic troglodytes. When Moore compares the Iraqi insurgency to the Minutemen, he's not expressing his undying love for them. He's speaking a prophesy. The American Revolution didn't succeed because God was on their side, it succeeded because the social and historical forces at play made it almost inevitable -- the very same forces that are stacking the deck in favor of the Iraqi insurgents.

When little Iraqi children decades hence learn about Muqtada al-Sadr, are they going to be told he was a bloodthirsty bastard? Or is he going to be described in the same terms that our children are taught about, say, Thomas Paine?

The utter, complete inability of wingers -- dare I say wingnuts -- like Kopel, or Paul Wolfowitz for that matter, to put themselves in someone else's shoes and empathize with their position is one of the prime reasons why we're in this mess in the first place. And the more bile like this the wingers spew up, the more obvious it should be to sane(r) Americans how deeply the wingers' heads are embedded up their own asses.

And here it is, finally: deceit #59.

As reported in the trade journal Screen Daily, affiliates of the Iranian and Syrian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah are promoting Fahrenheit  9/11, and Moore’s Middle East distributor, Front Row, is accepting the terrorist assistance: 

In terms of marketing the film, Front Row is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah which have rung up from Lebanon to ask if there is anything they can do to support the film. And although [Front Row’s Managing Director Giancarlo] Chacra says he and his company feel strongly that Fahrenheit is not anti-American, but anti-Bush, "we can’t go against these organizations as they could strongly boycott the film in Lebanon and Syria." -- Nancy Tartaglione, "Fahrenheit to be first doc released theatrically in Middle East," Screen Daily.com, June 9, 2004 (website requires registration). The story is discussed in Samantha Ellis, “Fahrenheit 9/11 gets help offer from Hezbollah," The Guardian, June 17, 2004; and "Moore film distributor OK with terror support: Exec says firm doesn’t want to risk boycott of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' in Mideast," WorldNetDaily.com, June 22, 2004.
 
Slate.com followed up on the story, and reported:

Gianluca Chacra, the managing director of Front Row Entertainment, the movie’s distributor in the United Arab Emirates, confirms that Lebanese student members of Hezbollah "have asked us if there's any way they could support the film." While Hezbollah is considered a legitimate political party in many parts of the world, the U.S. State Department classifies the group as a terrorist organization. Chacra was unfazed, even excited, about their offer. "Having the support of such an entity in Lebanon is quite significant for that market and not at all controversial. I think it’s quite natural." (Lions Gate did not return calls asking for comment.) -- John Gorenfeld,  "Michael Moore Terrorizes The Bushies!" Salon.com, June 24, 2004.

Kopel goes on. And on and on, using this 'Moore accepts help from terrorists' meme to launch into a big summing up explaining how Moore is the anti-Christ and a big fat hypocrite, or something. This is the statement that really caught my eye though:

Fahrenheit presents the fighters as noble resistance, and the American presence as entirely evil. It's not that the content of Fahrenheit is all that different from the propaganda which pervades the state-controlled Arab media, or on al Jazeera. But Fahrenheit's may be more persuasive, to at least some of its Arab audience, because its denunciations of American and praise for the Iraqi insurgents comes from an American. It is reasonable to expect that such a film, when shown in Syria and Lebanon, will aid in the recruiting of additional fighters to kill Americans and Iraqis. In effect, the presentation of Fahrenheit in Syria and Lebanon--especially with explicit endorsement from a terrorist organization--amounts to a recruiting film for terrorists (or, in Moore's terms, "minutemen") to go to Iraq and kill Americans., and the American presence as entirely evil. It's not that the content of Fahrenheit is all that different from the propaganda which pervades the state-controlled Arab media, or on al Jazeera. But Fahrenheit's may be more persuasive, to at least some of its Arab audience, because its denunciations of American and praise for the Iraqi insurgents comes from an American. It is reasonable to expect that such a film, when shown in Syria and Lebanon, will aid in the recruiting of additional fighters to kill Americans and Iraqis. In effect, the presentation of Fahrenheit in Syria and Lebanon--especially with explicit endorsement from a terrorist organization--amounts to a recruiting film for terrorists (or, in Moore's terms, "minutemen") to go to Iraq and kill Americans.

It's all so purely logical, isn't it? Criticism of Bush = hatred of America. Make a film slamming the ineptness of Bush's foreign policy, and you de facto have made a terrorist recruiting film.  Quod erat dumbonstratum.

It's also crap.

Kopel says "Fahrenheit presents the fighters as noble resistance", that it offers "praise for the Iraqi insurgents". Really? That's a neat trick, considering the only shots of Iraqis insurgents in the movie show them holding American hostages. (I guess Kopel sees an inherent nobility in hostage-taking.) Moore must be a better propagandist than I thought.

Kopel does one great service: he makes it clear that the case against Moore is hermetically sealed. 'Moore hates America, therefore his film is anti-American, thus proving that he hates America.' Reality gets almost no chance to intrude upon this worldview.

As for this final, specific claim, the Slate piece says it all:  "While Hezbollah is considered a legitimate political party in many parts of the world, the U.S. State Department classifies the group as a terrorist organization." In many respects, Hezbollah is the Lebanese equivalent of the IRA. It was founded as a terrorist organization, but it has evolved to fill other functions in Lebanese society simply because nobody else could fill them (as the Council of Foreign Relations itself says, "Does Hezbollah do other things besides terrorism? Yes. Experts say Hezbollah is also an important player in Lebanon's politics, a key vehicle of Lebanese Shiite empowerment, and a major provider of social services to thousands of Lebanese Shiites.") So when students members of Hezbollah offer to help get the film out, which branch of the organization are they acting on behalf of? Or are they even acting on behalf of the organization at all?

Kopel doesn't know. Kopel doesn't care. In his oh-so-simple world anyone associated with Hezbollah is a terrorist, and incapable of independant thought -- which, inevitably, includes that monster Michael Moore, now personally responsible for so many American deaths.

After all, someone has to be responsible, and it can't be the Bush administration, can it?

Post-script:

Kopel continues to add to this piece, obviously, so a follow-up may someday be necessary. Already since I started, Kopel has added a 'Moore response' feature to the deceits, which essentially offer Kopel's spin on the response of Moore's 'war room'. Clearly Kopel has given up any pretense that this is supposed to be a criticism of the film itself; the 59+ Deceits are an attempt to discredit Moore the person, not F9/11 the movie.

For a different take on Kopel's opus, check out Robert Martin's work at opensecrets.org. He offers a handy grading system for Kopel's individual points (or, in most cases, lack of a point.)

The debate over this film is bigger than me, or Kopel even. The more voices there are critiquing and counter-critiquing the film -- the more dialogue that it generates -- the better. And I think that, in part, was one of the reasons Moore made the film in the first place.

For too long American political discourse has degenerated into the squealings of surrogates. Ann Coulter says this; Al Franken says that; and 'debate' became a war of talking points. If Fahrenheit 9/11 can jolt us out of that vicious cycle, then for that alone Moore should be hailed as a great American.


I'm ba-a-a-a-a-ack...
 
Could anything better sum up the futility of the US game plan in Iraq that this? How many people -- on both sides -- died in and around Fallujah because someone decided that closing a newspaper was a good idea?
 
Hypocrisy is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days, but if one thing has become clear to me it is the utter hypocrisy inherent in US foreign policy. And this is not, specifically, a criticism of the Bush administration.
 
When the Founding Fathers announced that people had certain 'inalienable rights', they were not granting those rights -- they were simply recognizing them, the way Einstein recognized that space and time were one and the same.  By that same token, the recognition of those rights cannot, by definition, stop at the borders of the US.  The UN acknowledges this, but for some reason we don't. Heck, the Patriot Act is part of a concerted effort to undo those inalienable rights here at home, so why should some towelhead get freedom of speech and freedom of the press when we don't, right?
 
I'm amazed the seismic activity from all the people rolling in their graves hasn't started earthquakes up and down the Eastern Seaboard yet.

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