Saturday, July 31, 2004
Kopel again quotes Slate's Christopher Hitchens. There are a few points in the quote, and it is not evident what Kopel feels is a deceit. The most prominent part of the quote deals with whether or not Moore is a pacifist, and that Moore presents the Iraqi insurgents as justifiably outraged, though the record of the regime’s war crimes goes unmentioned. Hmm, what to do with this one. Whether Moore is or is not a pacifist is unimportant, discussing the insurgents’ justifiability is not deceptive, and ignoring the regime’s crimes was an earlier deceit. -1
Again, a two part deceit, half a point for each. First, Moore mocks the “coalition of the willing,” only mentioning in Fahrenheit a few small countries that joined, leaving out England, Italy, etc. Moore defends this by saying it is a counterbalance to the “Big Lie” about the coalition spread by the administration and the mass media. Kopel argues that it is also a lie just to mention the small countries. Yes and no. It is, by the same token, a lie, but it also is important to show that when the administration brags about a large, worldwide coalition, they are including many nations like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Macedonia. After the U.S, U.K., Italy, and Poland, there are mostly small countries (and a very large country, Australia, contributing 800 troops) -.25
Next, Kopel discusses footage in the film of a military burial and an interview with a wounded soldier. It is not clear if the footage was legally obtained. The legal issue hurts Moore as a filmmaker, but does not subtract any of the meaning from these scenes in the documentary. -.5
Kopel, and his quote from Debbie Shlussel, argues that Moore distorts clips to claim that the media supports Bush and all his designs. However, that is not what this segment of Fahrenheit does. Moore showed that the media was soft on Bush during the time after 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq war, which is true. He shows a clip of either Dan Rather or Ted Koppel, I don’t remember, saying that sure, of course there was a pro-US bias. -1
Kopel interjects a deceit that is for some reason not numbered. The film shows soldiers supposedly making fun of a corpse or detainee with an erection. However, Moore admitted that it was actually a drunk man who had passed out. -0
Moore mangles numbers and logic in a segment about military pay and health care. Read Kopel for details. -0
Moore claims only one son or daughter of a congressman is in Iraq. While true at the time of the article he cites in May of 2003, this is now false. There are 2 (sons of Sen. Tim Johnson and Rep. Duncan Hunter), though by Moore’s wording only Johnson’s son counts (see Kopel), and the son of Sen. Joseph Biden is on active duty, though not in Iraq. In total, seven members of Congress have children in the military. -0
Moore selectively and deceptively edits the scene in which he asks Rep. Mark Kennedy to enlist his son in the military. He makes Rep. Kennedy look like an idiot as he responds with a blank stare to Moore’s inquiries. However, according to the transcript, the exchange went like this:
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.
That is disgraceful. -0
Moore shows Rep. Michael Castle waving him off while on the phone, avoiding Moore during his attempts to get congressmen to enlist their children. Castle, however, does not have any children. The point remains that congressmen were not interested in Moore’s attempt to point out the lack of congressional children serving in Iraq, enlist them, and pass out materials around congress (as Rep. Kennedy was happy to do). -.5
Kopel argues that Moore creates the “false impression that Congressional families are especially unlikely to serve in Iraq.” No, not really. He creates the impression that there are very few congressional family members in Iraq, which is true. Also, Kopel shows how a congressional household is a bit more likely to have a child serve in Iraq. However, the point is that these are the people who made the decision to invade Iraq. Moore argues that they should be more willing than most Americans to send their children into battle, as they are responsible for sending all who are there. -1
An extra deceit with no number and two parts. First, Moore uses extensive footage of Lila Lipscomb, who formerly supported the war, lost a son in Iraq, and now opposes the war. Kopel says it is unfair to only show her and not other families who still support the war despite losing family members. Moore never made the claim or even gave the impression that all military families who have suffered losses are opposed to the war. It is Kopel who is deceitful here, insisting that Moore does so. -1
Next, Kopel criticizes Moore for saying that African-Americans disproportionately enlist in the military, though he says Moore is right. He explains, however, that they do not suffer disproportionate casualties in Iraq. So? Did Moore say this? He did, however, give the impression that blacks are bearing the burden of, including dying for, this war. I guess I’ll add some points back, since this is not numbered. -.5
Again, two parts. The first is silly. Moore says he grew up in Flint, when he actually lived in a suburb, though his father and grandfather worked at a General Motors plant in industrial Flint. This is a petty complaint by Kopel. I grew up in a suburb of Seattle, but refer to Seattle as my hometown, and, if I made a documentary that included Seattle, I would have no problem saying that is where I grew up. I did. I may have gone to bed and to school in a suburb, but I grew up in the parks and markets, stores and stadiums of Seattle. -.5
The second part deals with the unemployment figures cited by Mrs. Lipscomb in Fahrenheit. Her statements about how the rates are figured are inaccurate, but the numbers given by Moore are correct. -.25
“Bonus Deceit,” McDermott edition
Moore uses an interview with Seattle Rep. Jim McDermott. Kopel tries to discredit McDermott, which does not matter. McDermott did, however, misspeak when discussing the use of the terror levels, saying it went from orange up to red and back to orange. It has never been to red. But McDermott’s point was not about specific levels, rather the use and power of fear. His point remains. Kopel calls it a deceit when Moore gets his facts right but the message wrong, and here McDermott gets the message right but a small fact wrong. -1
“Bonus Deceit,” Famous Musician Edition
Moore show a clip of Britney Spears saying we should all support the President in everything he does and have faith in him. Kopel says this is deceitful because it is one-sided. I say Kopel needs to laugh from time to time.
Also, Kopel picks on a Moore lie about music in the movie. Moore says Peter Towhnshend wouldn’t let him use the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” while Townshend says he changed his mind at the last minute and gave Moore permission. This is completely irrelevant to the veracity of the documentary. -1
“Double Bonus Deceit,” Tom Daschle Edition
Moore lies, or Daschle does, about meeting Tom Daschle. Outside the movie and irrelevant. Kopel is supposedly writing about the deceits of Fahrenheit 9/11, not the deceits of Michael Moore. -1
“Triple Bonus Deceit,” Return of the Jedi Edition
Moore boasts that Fahrenheit’s opening weekend beat that of RotJ. It only beat the re-release opening weekend, not the 1983 one. -0
Moore claims to support our troops, but actually supports the enemy! He compares the Iraqi fighters to the Minutemen and thinks they will win. There are many opinions about the insurgents, mostly patriotic drivel calling them enemies, though they are enemies because we decided to invade their country without provocation. Does this mean I want them to win? Would I compare them to revolutionaries and our own minutemen? No. Does this make Fahrenheit a grand deceit. Not at all. -1
Terrorists support Fahrenheit! Moore’s Middle East distributor is getting aid by organizations related to Hezbollah, in order to avoid a boycott of the film in Lebanon. This certainly is not something of which to be proud, but it in no way effects the authenticity of the film. -1
Kopel concludes with a dizzying array of inflammatory quotes and logical leaps to imply that Moore goes to bed every night praying for the slaughter of American troops and the destruction of our democracy. Kopel should be ashamed of the work he has done here. Even more so because I just spent days refuting him, when, if he had just realized he was mostly full of empty, whiny complaints, I could have spent the time playing video games.
There are 20 listed "deceits here," despite Kopel' brilliant numbering system. For this section, Kopel only loses 11.5. The grand tally for all of Kopel's "deceits" in Fahrenheit 9/11 comes to 26.05 out of 66. Michael Moore could have made a strong, error free film that was still able to criticize the administration and raise important issues for debate. However, his penchant for slick editing got the best of him on certain occasions. While there is still plenty worthwhile commentary in Fahrenheit, these tactics left Moore and his film vulnerable to the petty attacks that go beyond his mistakes in an effort to discredit the entire film. Kopel and others have seized on this opportunity, seemingly convincing many people to ignore the film, making them believe - without understanding and knowing what is actually in the film - that there is no substantial truth to any point raised by Moore. They have largely succeeded in silencing what could have been a great national debate over the actions of this administration, and should be hung for treason for violating the spirit of the First Amendment.
Convention's Final Night
Back to the Democratic Convention: I think Kerry did a pretty job of getting across a message and, perhaps more importantly, telling the American people about himself. This was never a problem for Clinton, but evidently poll numbers have shown that people don’t know that much about Kerry. Even I don’t, and I’m from freaking Massachusetts. Part of this is because, he hasn’t done anything that exciting or creative in his 18 years in office. You’d think he could have gotten a name on some sort of bill. Kerry seems to know this, however, and spent much more time talking about his childhood, his parents, and his war experience than anything he did as a Senator. We’ll see if he can get away with that for three more months. (Of course, I also couldn’t tell you anything about what Clinton did in Arkansas, and Bush didn’t do anything in Texas other than deny clemency for executions. Ok that’s probably not true, I’m sure he did something. The Texas governor does have the least power under state law of any of the 50 states, however.)
In covering the rest of the convention, I implored Kerry to lay out some policies that people could get a hold of and get behind. I think he said the right things: that he wouldn’t send troops to war unless we had to (without saying whether or not we would leave Iraq), that he would rebuild relationships with other countries. Most importantly, he tries to reacquire the patriotism that the Republican Party seems to have hijacked from the Left, which he is of course capable of doing because he is a war hero. Plus in saying he would implement the 9/11 commission recommendations, he puts pressure on W, who isn’t gung-ho about them.
After talking about security, Kerry attempts to steal another traditional Republican buzzword: values. Once he again, he does this fairly effectively, portraying Republican values as out of touch with the middle-class. I also like his message: America can do better, and help is on the way. Great. I totally agree with the first part, and I think enough people do to win Kerry the election. But they aren’t as convinced on the second part.
Kerry’s economic plan on the surface doesn’t inspire me. I am unsure about free trade and outsourcing, and whether its actually a good thing or bad thing. However politically, Kerry’s stance works. As for raising taxes on the wealthy, hell yes. Tax those rich bitches as much as possible I say. (Problem here: People think they are wealthier than they actually are. When Kerry says he will increase taxes on the top 1 percent, or whomever, probably something like 10-20 percent of the country assume they fall into the bracket. He needs to come up with a different way of conveying this.) Education policy, who cares? Can’t be worse than No Child Left Behind.
Kerry reiterates that he will extend Washington’s Healthcare plan to those who are uninsured. Whether or not this is feasible, or smart, I have no idea. But I will say one thing to some critics who have claimed that Kerry’s endorsing Universal Healthcare is undoable. Don’t be idiots. Look at other countries that have universal coverage and spend less a percentage of their GDP on healthcare than we do now, without coverage. It has to be possible. Next topic.
Kerry ends his speech with a message that he is the candidate of hope, of optimism. He implores Bush to join him in a positive campaign (conveniently right after a 4 day festival of pointing out everything wrong with the current administration.) Overall a good speech, maybe not in the way it was orated, or in the policies outlined, but in helping Kerry get elected. And that is all that matters.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Religion in American Mass Media and Society
Turn on the television, and you'll see countless television shows with people from very diverse backgrounds, upbringing, and religions. But what you probably won't see is an outward display of religion. Almost none of today's TV shows will show people actually practicing religion or have an underlying theme of religion behind them (yes, there are obviously glaring exceptions)... But seriously, did any of the members of Seinfeld or Friends really even talk about their religion except maybe to make fun of it? (And when you turn to a Christian radio station, don't you know it immediately, because they can't go more than 4 seconds without saying Jesus, Christ, God, Sin, Repent, Lord, or some other religious buzzword? Seriously, is there some FCC regulation? Oh well, that's a topic for another time.) On the surface, most characters in today's television could be considered non-practicing.
Obviously this can be attributed to the fact that America is probably the most diverse nation in the history of the planet, and the Big Networks don't want to offend, alienate, or be politically incorrect to any of the many segmented minorities. Even amongst the majority of Christians, there are sects that you can't possibly pander to. So we get a mostly Judao-Christian value system applied to our media. Of course, we have a mostly Judao-Christian value system applied to our laws and our government, so people have largely accepted this, and for the most part, we don't even notice the assumptions the media makes about its audience. But for those of us who aren't Judao or Christian...
What does the future hold for American art and media? The non-religious populace is growing in the US. While these people may or may not believe in a god or gods, they don't practice religion, and they won't want to be harassed by the media, (and society) into believing in someone else's values. To a certain extent I think American media does a good job tiptoeing around offending non-religious people, but there are some unavoidable collisions with God and Jesus.
Right now I think that gay America is fighting the bigoted old people who are threatened by change, but they have largely convinced the young populace. Can this be attributed to an acceptance of the media? Shows like "Queer Eye", "Will and Grace", and "It's All Relative" have brought gay America into the forefront. Once these old people die off, and the younger generation, who has been exposed to this already, takes power, gay people will have the same rights that they deserve.
But what's troubling is that many of the same people who fought for the civil rights in the 60's are the same people who are fighting against the gay rights movement. Many religious leaders in the black community speak out against the gay rights movement, saying that in effect- 'it isn't the same thing... the Bible says this is wrong'. Well, the Bible said slavery was ok, but you didn't listen to that, did you?
What I am trying to point out here, is that people don't become more open-minded. They just become acclimated to what's already out there. What American media needs, is not just a lack of religious characters, but rather, a few outwardly non-religious characters: people who not only don't practice religion, but have done so for reasons other than 'we don't have time to show our characters going to church every Sunday'.
Well, who is going to be this atheistic hero? Ladies and gentlemen, I can be that man. Just put me on a TV show and I'll charm the daylights out of America while subtly ridding them of their need to believe that everyone goes to some kind of religious building once a week.
Thank you, and God Bless America.
Convention Night 2
Obama continues this course the entire night, giving credit to the people of America for knowing what they want, and knowing they want to work hard to get it. Now I don’t know what I want, and definitely have problems working hard to get it. But I don’t mind my politicians telling me otherwise. Obama then goes through a list of things John Kerry believes in, on this sort of populist, servant-of-the-people tack, such as universal healthcare, energy independence, and job creation.
Overall I liked Obama’s message, the “faith in small dreams,” quote and the united America especially. But rallying and message-time is over: its time for Edwards and Kerry to lay out some freaking policies. (Note: Some people have been discrediting Obama for not even winning an election yet. While true, he is running unopposed, although the Republicans were trying to recruit MIKE DITKA to run against him. If Ditka does run, and beats Obama, flee the fucking country. Immediately. Also, can we get odds on which asshole Republican shill will first refer to him as Obama Bin Laden?)
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Moore shows footage of a Taliban official’s visit to the U.S. in March of 2001, and implies he was treated like a great friend and ally. Kopel successfully discredits this. -0
Another personal grievance against Moore, noting how he previously opposed military action in Afghanistan, while Fahrenheit argues we have not pursued it strongly or swiftly enough. Though somewhat contradictory, this does not diminish, nor make deceitful, the message of the film. Further, why is it not allowed for people to change their opinions over the course of years? -1
Kopel does not really elucidate a deceit here. I assume his quote from Hitchens here refers to the notion in the film that Afghanistan is a puppet of the U.S., their “coalition forces” sent to Iraq are just American forces stationed in Afghanistan, and that they are a failed experiment in nation building. Hitchens extols the “emerging Afghan army,” their membership in NATO, and their upcoming attempt to hold elections. However, those elections have been delayed, regional warlords are controlling vast territories, and drugs are flowing out of the country at an alarming rate (see Hitchens’ colleague at Slate, Fred Kaplan). Though the debate over the success and independence of Afghanistan could go on, clearly Moore’s argument is valid, though Kopel does not really say what Moore did deceptively here. -1
Moore skews the order of events regarding the administration’s compliance with the 9/11 commission’s requests. The President is shown saying, “We have given extraordinary cooperation with Chairmen Kean and Hamilton,” followed by a clip of Kean (9/11 commission chairman) saying, “We haven’t gotten the materials we needed, and we certainly haven’t gotten them in a timely fashion. The deadlines we set have passed.” The problem is that Kean’s statement was made 7 months before the President’s. This is deceptive editing, but the message remains the same even in the correct order: the president was not cooperating with the commission in a timely manner, and only cooperated after public pressure mounted. The President smugly asserted his “extraordinary” cooperation, while the chairman had said that at a certain point, past many deadlines, they had not yet received that for which they had asked. -.75
Moore tells of how Attorney General John Ashcroft lost his 2000 senate race in Missouri to the late Mel Carnahan, saying “Voters preferred the dead guy.” Kopel cites a source arguing that though Carnahan died only three weeks before the election, the voters knew they were voting for his widow, who would be appointed to the vacant seat in the even of a Carnahan victory. Well, in three weeks, how many voters knew what Jean Carnahan stood for? Did she even know her position on every issue? The election was more about people not liking Ashcroft than it was about their like for the unknown widow; about symbolically supporting their dead candidate against an extreme neocon like Ashcroft. -1
(aside: I attended Washington University, in St Louis, during the 2000 election, and the third presidential debate was held there. Of course, protesters turned out for the event, some lambasting the powers that be for denying Ralph Nader a spot in the debate, some supporting Gore despite his hideous flannel shirts, and others hating him for being linked to President Clinton. Then there was that group of Ashcroft supporters. Mel Carnahan, as Governor, had vetoed a bill that banned partial-birth abortions. The bill also could have been construed to make all abortions illegal, and it gave legal cover to anyone who committed crimes – including murder – to prevent an abortion from being performed. (The state legislature overrode the veto, but the bill was declared unconstitutional this year because it lacked exceptions to protect the mother’s health) Just three weeks after Mel Carnahan’s death, many protesters still could not come to terms with their hate for the late Governor, and held signs that read, “Mel’s in Hell.” Lovely. I wonder if they considered themselves “compassionate conservatives,” as that was all the rage during Bush’s campaign.)
Moore chastises the Attorney General for ignoring the FBI’s warnings of Al Qaeda cells in flight schools and that Bush cut the FBI’s counter-terrorism budget. Moore is exaggerating about the knowledge of flight training and lying about and misdirecting certain budgetary claims. Also, Moore shows former FBI Director Thomas Pickard testifying before the 9/11 commission, saying Ashcroft told him he did not want to hear any more about terrorism. Ashcroft shockingly denies this, and Kopel complains that Moore left out the AG’s denial. Still, it is testimony under oath by the former director of the FBI. When Clinton denied having sexual relations with Monica, was it a deceit to say that Monica claims they got it on? The rest of this segment, however, is deceitful. -.5
Two deceits here. First, Moore lies about Rep. Porter Goss’ claim that he has an “800 number” for people to call about the USA PATRIOT Act. Moore says gross is lying, though there is a toll free number, though not “800,” to call the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which Goss chairs, to report any problems with the Act. Moore “exploits this trivial fact to create the false impression that Goss lied.” The rest of the segment on the Act is valid, and Kopel supports some of Moore’s arguments. -0
Also, Moore bemoans the lack of funding for the Oregon state troopers, leaving miles of coastline almost completely unwatched. Kopel says this is not a valid critique of the Bush administration, as the state troopers are funded by the state budget. Oregon’s budget crisis, not Bush’s lack of homeland security funding, are to blame. Well, yes, if you want to be like Moore and exploit certain technicalities. But even assuming Kopel’s argument, why would Bush, if he is concerned with fully funding Homeland Security, allow any state’s budget to diminish the safety of the nation? However, the better argument Moore does not make is that Oregon, and many other states, are suffering from terrible budget crisis because the Federal budget has been horribly mismanaged under the Bush administration. Much of this has to do with the under-funded No Child Left Behind act, which has left states’ education systems in disarray as they try to meet the necessary funding to develop and administer the required testing. Oregon has even had to shorten their school year to meet budget demands. That’s a pretty good way to leave no child behind. -.5
Moore says that Saddam Hussein and Iraq have never attacked, or threatened to attack, the U.S., nor have they murdered a single American. Well, they tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush in 1993 and have supported terrorists who have attacked in the U.S. (WTC bombing) and have killed Americans (Achille Lauro hijacking and Palestinian terrorists, who have, from time to time, killed Americans in Israel). -0
Kopel continues with the previous deceits, discussing the various threats towards American people and interests abroad. Though Kopel is correct again, this was included as part of the two previous deceits – which probably should be counted as one. I am a benevolent man. (note to Kopel: start, programs, accessories. you should find a calculator there.) -1
Moore states that there was no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, and it was developed by the administration to deflect attention to his Saudi friends. The 9/11 commission’s findings support Moore’s assertion, though the reason Moore gives (protect the Saudis) is his own. Kopel cites one author who has written many times about the Iraq/al Qaeda connection, which leads me to believe he is a right-wing journalist and author who is a lone voice in the sea of evidence to the contrary. Kopel also deceives here, asserting that whether you believe the 9/11 report (at the time, it was only the preliminary staff report) or not, there "is no disputing that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with al Qaeda." Well, not if you freakin believe the commission's report!
Happily enough, Kopel’s next deceit supports Moore’s position about the lack of connection. Kopel points out how Moore cut a Condoleezza Rice quote to say only, “Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11.” In actuality, Kopel points out, she continued to say that the link is in the rise of “ideologies of hatred” in the Middle East, and Iraq is a central figure that encourages such anger. This is the type of contradiction Kopel and Hitchens like to criticize. Kopel should have put Moore’s name on the heading before editing his “Deceits” – he may have caught this one. For these two deceits, -2
Moore shows happy Iraqis leading ordinary pre-war lives, followed by American bombing and scenes of Iraqis bemoaning the loss of innocent lives. Kopel, by quoting Jeff Jarvis and Jeff Foreman (who has some factual errors and deceptive editing himself) of the right-wing tabloid The New York Post, complains that Moore ignores the hundreds of thousands who were killed, tortured, and tormented by Saddam’s regime. Those are facts that should not be ignored, but neither should the loss and destruction of innocent lives resulting from the invasion and occupation. Though one bad situation may be better than another, and may lead to a much better life in the future, the destruction this war has caused should be part of the discussion. -.5
Kopel, quoting Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard: “According to the footage that ensues, our pilots seem to have hit nothing but women and children.” Moore, as described above, shows footage of happy Iraqis, followed by the bombings and deaths of innocents. There is no way anyone would think the U.S. has only killed innocent civilians, unless they are trying to find an excuse to criticize Moore. -1
and so we come to our last intermission. Kopel loses 9.25 out of 15 here, bringing his total losses to 29.45, and his overall score up to 16.55/46. In totally unrelated news, why did sportscenter just end with a rap performance? Is this the Late Show with Linda Cohn (please, please, do not imagine such a show. There is no known antidote for such poisonous thoughts cursing through the brain). Also, Steve Levy suddenly looks like he is 15 years old.
Edit: Kopel has changed his numbering and labeling. I refuse to go through mine to re-match these posts to his deceits. They are off by one from the 30's up to the late 40's now, and some of the "bonus deceits" to come are mislabled. Thank you, Dave Kopel, for annoying me even more than before.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Democratic Convention: Night 1
The Dems brought in three big guns on Monday to try and sell Johnny boy to the rest of the country. Three Southern Dems, Carter, Gore, and Clinton. Now being in Australia, I only get to go on the text of the speeches, rather than the presentation. Gore started the night with some 2000 jokes. I guess reminders of 2000 are necessary, although I am getting awfully tired of them. Complaining 4 years down the road is called being a sore loser, especially when Dems eschewed further challenges in 2000 itself. 2000 was the time to complain about unfairness.
Anyways off of that, Gore turned his speech into question time. And effectively, in my opinion, skewered Bush on his campaign promises from 2000. The Bush of 2004 is so clearly different than what he said he would be. Calling him on compassionate conservatism was a great move, especially the question: “For that matter, are the economic policies really conservative at all?” They of course, aren’t. Still, no selling of Kerry yet however
Carter comes next, and talks for a while about how Kerry served in the military, as other presidents did beforehand. Earth to Democrats: just because someone served in the military doesn’t mean they would make a good president. If people only cared about military service, neither Clinton nor Bush would have won. It’s not a bad thing to keep talking about Kerry’s service and medals, but you need to use that as a secondary selling point, not a primary selling point. The primary selling point needs to be an alternative plan, a clearly stated message. Carter goes on to bash Bush for being extreme, screwing up the Middle East, and ruining America’s reputation in the world. Again, all valid points: but tell me how you’re going to do things differently.
And last, the big honcho, Billy boy. I am reading his autobiography right now, which is excessively long and could use a good edit. Not quite as bad as Larry Bird’s autobiography, but closer to Bird than a real writer. Not a good thing. However Clinton’s strength isn’t writing, it’s sermonizing. Even from the text I can tell the sway he holds over the crowd. It’s the repetition that’s key to Clinton: “I am honored to share this stage with…(insert name),” comparing Kerry to two other Johns from Massachusetts. He understands the human brain, the way we group things and associate things with each other. He brilliantly exploits our tendency to compare and contrast, by comparing the Democrats and Republicans: “They need a divided country, we don’t.” And buzzwords my friend, buzzwords. In one sentence he mentions: new jobs, clean energy, biotechnology, global economy, labor standards, environmental standards, world diversity, celebration of differences, and world harmony. That’s just fantastic.
The problem with Clinton is that he’s already been elected twice. He can’t run again. God how I wish we could put him up against Bush. He would destroy him. Can we at least substitute him in for Kerry for one debate? Pretty please? That’s all the Democrats would need to win, one chance for Clinton to embarrass Bush. He wouldn’t even need to attack him, he would just be so much smoother, look so much more like someone who should be President, that people would just vote for whom he supported. Alas, it’s not to be. Thus the key to Clinton’s speech is selling Kerry over himself, since selling himself is no longer important.
Clinton did a good job of this: first by setting up the Republicans as missing the opportunity to give the American people what the wanted: a united country. What is key, is that Clinton didn’t portray the Republicans as doing this because they are evil a la Michael Moore, but rather as doing what they thought was right, what they believed in. Of course, Clinton points out: this is out of touch with what the American people want and need. This is such a better strategy than the antagonism of the left for winning swing voters. Then, Clinton starts preaching again, first reminding everyone of the boons of his 8 years in office, then selling Kerry as a man who steps up to the challenge, who will stand for what he believes in even if its not popular, a man dedicated to his country, who always says: “send me.” Clinton even gives Kerry a possible catch phrase “Strength and wisdom are not opposing values.” A simple way to shatter everything the Republicans have been throwing at the Democrats.
Clinton has provided the setup, but it’s not his election. Thursday night Kerry needs to build on the path Clinton has paved, and give the American people something to grab onto.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
3 reviews for the price of one
While I’ll admit O’Brien’s show has been slumping lately due to lack of new material, you can’t deny his role in moments of comedic greatness: the first 5 years of his show, as a writer for early 1990s SNL, and most importantly, as a writer for The Simpsons for seasons 4 and 5. (Somehow I dont think Carolla matches up with "Loveline," and "The Man Show.) Season 4 was recently released on DVD and finds the show at its absolute peak. There are no weak episodes, in fact there are probably more “classic” episodes then simply “great” episodes, including personal favorites “Whacking Day,” “Ralph Loves Lisa,” and “New Kid on the Block.” In fact my only complaint is that I have seen some episodes too many times in syndication, such as “Marge vs. the Monorail.” However, if you’re a big enough Simpsons fan to have seen an episode that many times in re-runs, you’re going to want to buy the set anyways
I also picked up the first two seasons of Batman the Animated Series on DVD from good old Best Buy, (packaged as one collector’s set.) This show was released due to fan activism, there have been petitions going around online for years. For someone like me who loved the show growing up, I say thank you geeks. This is a pretty good bargain: 28 episodes in all for 35 dollars. The show, in addition to being pretty funny, is beautifully drawn, capturing and even enhancing the dark, evil, Gotham City from the first Tim Burton Batman movie, leading you to believe a city could actually exist where the supervillains dressed in outrageous costumes and randomly terrorized the populace. Some of the episodes are legitimately scary, and the show goes into the psyches of both Batman and its villains at a level one doesn’t expect from a children’s show. Plus any episode with the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamil aka Luke Skywalker,) is a guaranteed 10. The others aren’t too shabby either
My last review concerns Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” which I finished on the plane over to Australia. While not as good as the classic “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the subject material of “Sun,” is much more relevant: Jaded young arts major hangs out with his friends in foreign countries getting wasted and bemoaning the futility of life. Hmmmmm. Sounds like someone I know. The story develops slowly over the first half, but picks up when protagonist Jake Barnes and his crew go to Spain for the Running of the Bulls. Hemingway, of course is known for his short sentence prose, and it is clearly less developed in this early novel than in his later work. But even at this early stage his gift for character dialogue shines through, with hilarious exchanges throughout. Plus I lied, his prose is still good, he just decides to talk about nothing interesting in the first 100 pages, other than his characters going to cafes. In the second half, the descriptions of the bullfights and the Spanish festivals are top notch. A slightly depressing book, for sure; you can see how the man ended up blowing his head off with a shotgun.
Friday, July 23, 2004
The Bush and James Bath connection, part 1. Bath was Bush's friend from the National Guard (so he must have shown up for at least one night on the town), who was hired by the bin Ladens to be their U.S. money manager. The movie says that the bin Ladens invested in Bath, who “in turn invested in George W. Bush,” as he invested in Bush’s energy company Arbusto (which, in Spanish, means “shrub”). However, Bath asserts he invested his own money, and no records show that bin Laden funds were invested in Arbusto. Though many people would understand from the film that Bath may not have invested bin Laden money, this may mislead others. -.25
The Bush and James Bath connection, part 2. Bath and Bush were ordered to stop flying by the Alabama Guard for failing to report for a physical exam. On the records released by the White House during the National Guard controversy, Bath’s name is blacked out. Moore, however, previously obtained an un-censored copy from the Guard which did show Bath’s name. Moore implies that the White House deliberately hid Bath’s name to avoid the embarrassing Bush-Bath-bin Laden connection. However, federal law (pages 9 and 10) requires Bath’s name to be blacked out, unless he consents to the release of his information. Poorly done, Mr. Moore. The connection would still serve your point without the “concealment” of Bath’s name. -0
Moore discusses the close relationship between the Bushes and Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s U.S. Ambassador. While they do have close ties, Kopel points out that Bandar also had ties to Clinton and has been a “bipartisan Washington power broker for decades.” Ok, Bandar has dealt with many a politician. But did any of them have friendships that extended beyond business, and did any of them have those ties while commanding the military, while the country was attacked by a group consisting mainly of Saudis, and while doing nothing in retaliation to Saudi Arabia? That is Moore’s point. -1
Deceit 19 & 20
This really looks like one deceit. I’ll try to split hairs to help Kopel out here. Kopel quotes 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…
The first deceit is that Bush checked with “those same ‘company lawyers’” before selling his stock. The second is that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Bush, though he did fail to file an SEC disclosure form on time. Well, checking with lawyers before selling his stock only matters in the sense that it was a legal maneuver, which is the point of the second deceit – and which is said by Moore himself: “Bush beat the rap.” So what we have here is just one deceit, and that is not really a deceit because Moore says he beat the rap – which means there was not enough evidence to convict him. Further, Kopel says that “ALMOST all of the information that caused Harken’s large quarterly loss developed only after Bush had sold the stock,” (emphasis added) which lends to the notion implied by Moore, as he frames this segment in an accusational tone. It is a low move to subtly accuse someone of a crime of which they have already been acquitted, but also worthwhile to elucidate certain connections that may have abetted an unwarranted legal victory. One point is automatically taken away because there is only one potential deceit here, not two. -1.5
(there are four “deceits” here – each will have a starting value of .75)
- Moore describes the links between the bin Laden family and the Bush family through the Carlyle Group, to which Bush Sr. was a senior advisor and Bush Jr. was a board member of a company owned by the Carlyle Group. Kopel does not like the fact that there are democrats involved with the Carlyle Group that Moore does not mention. On one hand, knowing that powerful democrats are Carlyle players diminishes the importance of the Bushes’ involvement, as it shows that when a company involves the world’s powerful and wealthy elite, there will be many strange bedfellows. On the other hand, the Bushes seem to have a personal relationship with the Saudi investors beyond business. Also, as stated earlier, regarding the Prince Bandar ties, the others did not have these connections while governing America and being attacked by bin Laden and Saudi nationals. -.5
- Fahrenheit “quotes author Dan Briody claiming that the Carlyle Group ‘gained’ from September 11 because it owned United Defense, a military contractor.” (link added) However, he does not mention that an $11 billion Crusader artillery rocket system was cancelled by the Bush administration. This does not mean that they did not turn a profit from 9/11. Also in this financial deceit, 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.” He fails to mention that they withdrew before the public offering, not after it. Yep, that was deceptive, and completely irrelevant. -.70
Kopel throws out another anti-Bush Carlyle investor, George Soros, seemingly to please himself, before moving on to the next deceit.
- “Moore alleges that the Saudis gave $1.4 billion to the Bushes and their associates.” However, the majority of that was solely from contracts in the early-mid ‘90s for BDM, a military contractor hired to train Saudi forces, before Bush Sr. was a member of the advisory board (though Bush Jr. was with a Carlyle owned company – Caterair, who’s only connection to BDM is being funded by Carlyle – until 1994.). The money was not all given to the Bushes, just their associates. -.25
- And finally, Moore makes hay over the fact that Bush the Elder still receives daily CIA briefings, as is his right as a former President, while no other President takes advantage of this. Kopel states, “The suggestion is made that Bush uses the C.I.A. information for personal business purposes…We have no way of knowing, and it is possible the [sic] Bush does so.” I do not remember if the suggestion is what Kopel drew from the information on screen or was actually put forth by Moore – either way, it is a possibility, as Kopel admits. Other possible explanations may exist (like Kopel’s notion that Bush is interested as a former CIA director), but their omission is not a deceit. -.75
Moore asks Craig Unger, author of House of Bush, House of Saud, how much the Saudies have invested in America. Unger replies, “Uh, I’ve heard figures as high as $860 billion dollars,” a number used in his book. Asked further about the percentage of our economy the Saudi investment totals, Unger replies, “Well, in terms of investments on Wall Street, American equities, it’s roughly six or seven percent of America.” Moore later says that the Saudi royal family and elite own seven percent of America.
The numbers here can be spun many ways, almost all of which lead to the conclusion that Moore is flat out wrong in his assertion. While $860 billion would be roughly %7 of the New York Stock Exchange, which validates Unger’s claim, the NYSE is far from all of America’s value. That figure would total roughly %8 of foreign investment, not of “America,” unless, as Kopel says, “you believe that all American assets are owned by foreigners.” Further, the $860 billion figure itself is unreliable, as even Unger’s sources, cited by Kopel, give a broad range between roughly $400 billion and $750 billion. Though Unger only unconvincingly says he has heard $860, Moore fancifully stretches this to implausible lengths, while effectively deceiving the viewer into thinking that Saudis own %7 of America. There are ways to say Moore did not lie, but this entire segment is ridiculous. -0
Moore, across the street from the Saudi embassy, is questioned by a Secret Service agent, who says that they do not usually guard foreign embassies. Moore did not do his homework, as the agent was wrong, as the Secret Service website says uniformed officers provide protection for “foreign diplomatic missions and embassies in the Washington, DC area.” This was the officer's, and not Moore's, statement, and one would think a secret service officer would know better than anyone else. But it is in their policy to protect embassies (acoording to Kopel, only those that request it), and Moore makes implies that it is never done and must be some strange order by the President.. (By the way, Secret Service, you should fix your site – if you just go to the page for the Uniformed Division, the description leaves out embassies. Only by going to the UD through the employment opportunities page can you see that they protect embassies.) -0
Moore asks in the documentary, “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?” Kopel cites Slate’s Christopher Hitchens, who highlights that Moore fails to mention Saudi Arabia did not join Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing,” and forced the U.S to move its regional headquarters to Qatar. Kopel, though, defends Moore: “This isn’t to say that concerns about the wishes and interests of the Saudi rulers play too large a role in American foreign policy.” There is no deceit in suggesting, while making it clear that it is not a fact, that Bush and friends may have the Saudi’s interests in mind. Kopel again retreats to a character attack outside of the film, noting that Moore is extremely anti-Israel and did not include his true feelings about Israel in Fahrenheit. Though I am no fan of defending one who supports suicide bombers and calls on America to arm them with advanced military technology, this has no place in a critique of Fahrenheit’s errors. -1
Deceits 27 - 31
Many deceits about the Unocal pipeline through Afghanistan. Moore is at his worst here. Almost everything in this segment is false or deliberately misleading. The closest thing to a straightforward truth is the claim that Hamid Karzai was formerly a consultant for Unocal, which comes from a questionably translated and unsubstantiated French media source, Le Monde. Though Anton Sirius, who has been brought to my attention, and is much better at this than I, cites this article showing Karzai was an advisor for Unocal. Moore does get most of his facts right here, and it can be disputed how much Kopel has deliberately misuderstood and extended Moore's arguments. -2 (out of 5)
Kopel fares a bit better this time around, losing only 7.95 from these 16, bringing his total score to 10.8/31 (If this was baseball, Kopel would be paid millions). Moore certainly makes or implies some unfair arguments, and Kopel ha stumbled across them. Of course, if you list nearly everything in the movie as a deceit, and you are discussing a Michael Moore film, you are going to be right some of the time.
More "deceits" coming soon!
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
The opening scene of a Florida rally for Al Gore, where a large sign reads “Florida Victory.” One might believe that Gore is celebrating a victory he assumes is in hand, while the rally actually took place just after midnight that morning. Is this a deceit? Moore does not claim that Gore was celebrating what he thought to be a victory, and the rally looked like any other rally on a campaign, with signs supporting and guaranteeing victory for a candidate. It is a sight we see every four years – simply because it is good footage and is used when talking about the confusion of Election Day does not make it a deception; if anything, it is more valuable to not mention its accurate timing because it evokes the general bewilderment of that night. If I were to say to you “my nephew, at his 5th birthday party, was about to blow out the candles on the cake, but he was tipping his chair forward to do it and it slipped and he fell right into the cake, and one of the candles burned his ear” as I flipped through a photo album looking for a picture to show you of my nephew, and as I find one, say, “oh, here he is,” and show you a picture of my nephew at his 4th birthday party, would that be a deception? -1
Moore says Fox News, with Bush’s cousin leading the decision team, was the first to call Florida, and the election, for Bush, after the other networks had called Florida for Gore, leading the other networks to change their prediction. Moore, however, somewhat misleads us on the timing of these events, as Kopel details.
Was Fox News the first to call Florida for Bush – yes. Did the other networks call Florida for Bush right after Fox News – yes. Could someone see this segment and believe the assumptions Kopel argues are inherent – yes. This was, however, just 4 years ago, and most Americans watched it themselves and remember that surreal night. Is there no responsibility on the viewer to avoid assuming more than the movie shows us? -.5
Moore calls the chairman of Bush’s campaign the “votecount” woman, but Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was only Bush’s co-chair, and her office only certified, rather than counted, the vote. Well, a co-chair is still a chair, and her office directed and certified the vote and recount- that’s good enough for me. She certainly was a central figure, on TV every day discussing the recount and how it was being organized and implemented. Also, Moore claims that Gore got the most votes in Florida “under any scenario.” While there are many ways to conduct a recount, the National Opinion Research Council, under the direction of a media consortium consisting of the Associated Press, CNN, The Wall Street Jounal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The St. Petersburg Times, The Palm Beach Post, and Tribune Publishing, which includes the Los Angeles Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel and Chicago Tribune, found that any statewide recount that tallied all votes – undervotes and overvotes included – would have resulted in a victory for Gore. Does it matter, as Kopel believes, that the type of recount sought by Gore would have resulted in a Bush victory? I don’t think so – the type of recount Bush argued for would have won the election for Gore. Does Moore overstate his case in saying that Gore would have won under any scenario – yes. Had he said any scenario that counted all votes across the state, his argument would not have been weakened, yet would remain equally significant. -.75
(bonus deceit of my own – Kopel cites a “web widget” by the New York Times that lets visitors discover who would have won under various recount criteria. Kopel writes, “It’s certainly possible under some of the variable scenarios to produce a Gover victory. But it’s undeniably dishonest for Fahrenheit to assert that Gore would win under any scenario.” Kopel’s phrasing, and its place soon after some of his cited material and arguments, leads me, and I would think many others, to believe that this “web widget” would show that under most circumstances Gore would still have lost Florida. However, exactly half (12/24) of the possible recount methods would have resulted in a Gore victory, 2/4 of the “what-ifs” would lead to a Gore victory, and 3 of the 4 terrible ballot designs gave Bush an advantage.)
Moore discusses the hiring of Data Base Technologies to purge the voter rolls of convicted felons who, if convicted in Florida, are not allowed to vote. Most states grant automatic clemency to felons upon the termination of their sentence, thus re-enfranchising them, while others grant clemency 5 or 10 years later. Florida, however, tried to keep these re-enfranchised felons off the voter rolls too, going against a 1998 2nd circuit ruling. Three months after the 2000 election they changed their position, just in time! The deceit that bothers Kopel is that Moore suggests the purge was racist in intent, hoping to keep likely democratic voters out of the voting booths. 44% of those wrongfully removed from the voter rolls were African-American, so you can see why Moore, as well as countless others, makes this claim. However, an investigation of the company turned up no statements or discussions of race. Yet we have this, from an article cited by Kopel: “State officials told DBT to use broad parameters to identify as many likely felons as possible, despite warnings that this would disenfranchise legitimate voters.” Knowing that the most likely result of disenfranchising felons would remove more African-Americans than others, and that African-Americans vote heavily democratic, this statement sticks out. Especially considering the fact pointed out oh-so often by Moore that certain state officials have close ties to Bush – his brother/Governor and his Florida campaign co-chair/Secretary of State/votecounter lady (an aside – doesn’t the secretary of state have work to do? On the taxpayer’s dime, she took time from her duties as SoS to work for Bush’s campaign). Though it certainly cannot be proven without an admission or a discovered written communication discussing the need to purge blacks from the rolls (does Kopel expect this to turn up in DBT’s mission statement?), it is not deceitful to make an argument that there was racism, or some sort of discrimination against likely democratic voters using race as a demographic middle man, involved in the purging of voters in Florida in the 2000 election. -1
Kopel lumps together the statements of the protests on inauguration day, Bush’s declining approval rating, inability to push his goals through congress, and a joke he makes at a charity event being taken out of context. As for inauguration – 1 egg thrown vs. eggs thrown, this is worth challenging? And about saying “no president had ever witnessed such a thing on his inauguration day,” while Nixon did face protestors: ok, Moore could have said “since Richard Nixon” his point would still come across, but he didn’t. Is that wrong and deceitful? Not really. Maybe Moore was at both events, and knows for sure that Bush’s protesters were more unruly than Nixon’s. Who knows. Who cares.
Though he goes on about it, by Kopel’s own admission, the approval ratings comment is not a deceit: “This is not entirely accurate, although I haven’t counted this issue as a ‘deceit.’” Bush’s ratings did drop, and using certain selected polls his rating was as low as 45% (as Moore states). What better information could you expect from anyone with an agenda – they will pick the polls that best suit them and not mention the rest. Unless Kopel is willing to say that ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX, the LA Times, etc are deceitful – which I would bet he is not - why does he even mention this.
Kopel takes issue with the notion that Bush was unable to push his agenda through congress. He admits that the President did lose control of the Senate, could not get his judicial nominees appointed, and “some other Bush proposals did not pass,” But cites the tax cut and No Child Left Behind as evidence that Moore is deceiving us. Well, yes, the tax cut was passed in May. NCLB, however, was passed in May and June by the House and Senate, but with differences – which they did not resolve until December, two months after 9/11. Bush signed the bill into law in January of 2002. On his website, Moore cites a Washington Post article that describes the President’s troubles with his agenda regarding faith-based initiatives, campaign finance reform, and drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Did the President have his judicial appointees blocked – yes. Did the President have trouble getting his legislation passed – certainly. Does passing two of his top priorities mean he had no trouble with his agenda – no.
To top it off, Kopel argues that the President’s quip to a wealthy audience - “I call you the haves and the have-mores. Some call you the elite; I call you my base” – is misused in an effort to show that Bush caters to the wealthy. Kopel belabors the point that it was just a joke – but we do not need him to tell us; it is as obvious in the film as is Kopel's lack of a sense of humor. Seriously, somebody send him a Chris Rock video, buy him tickets to the Funnybone, show him a Mariner's '04 highlight reel, do something.
All these deceits, plus another quote/joke about a dictatorship being a heck of a lot easier, just to add up to one of Kopel’s deceits – its obvious he is stretching here. -1
Michael Moore didn’t mention that weekends were included in the President’s 42% vacation rate. So what? No American (with the possible exception of the President) considers the Presidency a Monday-Friday, 9-5 job. The President does not get paid overtime when he has to work through dinner to meet with congressional leaders on a bill coming to a vote in the near future; nor does anyone think he should be allowed to sleep in on a Sunday morning if immediate military action is needed in response to a terrorist attack. The Presidency is a full-time job in the purest sense of the term, and weekends off should rightfully be included in determining the amount of vacation time taken by a president.
However, if we were to accept Kopel’s gripe and weekends should be removed from the equation, and we figure that every Saturday and Sunday were taken off, we would still be faced with a staggeringly unacceptable number: roughly 30 non-weekend vacation days – six weeks! - in less than 8 months. 30 days plus every single weekend. From our commander-in-chief. In his first year in office. And we pay his salary during this vacation and for his flights to and fro. Should this be a regular criticism of this President? Of course. According to an Yahoo article, President Bush, as of August, 2003, has taken 250 vacation days (including weekends and “working vacations,” which, I assume, all presidential vacations are), compared to 79 days during President Carter’s 4 years and 152 through the first 7 years of President Clinton’s two terms. (from yahoo and CBS)
Also, Kopel gripes about the famous clip of Bush golfing while on vacation. In the clip, the president condemns terrorism, calling on all nations to work towards its end, after being asked a question about a suicide bomber in Israel, finishing by saying, “now watch this drive.” Kopel does not like how this gives the impression that he is discussing 9/11 when it was actually about Israel (which was clear when the Daily Show had a laugh at Bush for this in 2001, but Moore cut the question out for some reason). There are three problems with Kopel’s argument. First, though Bush was responding to a question of a bombing in Israel, his response turned to his general message of calling on all nations to bring an end to terror – and this is quite obvious in the movie, as it is his quote. Does it matter if he was asked about a specific event? Also, this clip came during a sequence describing the Bush's months in office leading up to 9/11 - how Kopel understands this, or tries to understand this, as possibly being about 9/11 is a mystery. Further, the notion Kopel’s implies in his argument is that making it about 9/11 deceives us into feeling more outrage that the President could discuss terrorism and the deaths of innocents so flippantly than we should or would if we knew he was only talking about Israelis (even though he wasn’t only talking about Israelis). My question is why should we feel less outrage over the death of innocent Israelis than an American? I am offended by Kopel’s argument here and would ask for his apology or clarification. -1
Deceit 7 (and this is a biggie)
Kopel here argues that Michael Moore feels no personal horror, outrage, or sympathy for the events of 9/11 and the families that event destroyed, except the families of the innocent Afghani and Iraqi civilians we have accidentally killed in the course of our military response. The alleged deceit is that despite his personal beliefs, Moore makes a beautiful and tasteful segment on the attacks. Maybe Kopel would have been OK with this segment if we could hear Moore chuckling in the background throughout. Fahrenheit 9/11, Kopel argues, is on the whole a gigantic deception because Moore does not actually feel the emotions his documentary is intended to elicit. This, I say respectfully, is a stinking pile of horse shit. Kopel cites certain Moore quotes to show that the director does not think 9/11 was such a big deal, etc. If that is the way Moore thinks, then: 1, its his right to think so; and 2, shame on him for disrespecting the thousands of lives lost and families tormented by the events of 9/11. Does that make this documentary a farce – of course not. Moore has been lambasted by the press for not presenting both sides of the argument, only putting forth a liberal view of the last three+ years. If Fahrenheit had some conservative counter-arguments, would Kopel bemoan Moore’s deception for including ideas contrary to his personal beliefs, or congratulate him for seeing past his opinion for the sake of balance? The possible contrast between the film and Moore’s personal beliefs is not a deception. The point of the documentary is not to tell everyone Moore’s views, it is to fairly criticize the actions of the present administration.
Not convinced? How about this. Kopel uses the analogy of a Klansman making a film of admiration for Rosa Parks, honoring her as a hero. This, he says, would be a deceit. The film, by his logic, should be discredited. However, if a person has done some civil rights work, spoken a few times of the need for better protections for minorities from discrimination, and said favorable things about the NAACP, and then writes an op-ed in the New York Times saying how African-Americans are the bane of society and women should stay in the house have dinner ready when their men return from work, Kopel, it follows, would ignore this article as a deception and defend this person as a great human being and civil rights activist. -1
Cheap shots against Bush and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. First, Kopel thinks it is wrong to criticize Bush for going ahead with his photo op of reading with schoolchildren when he was told of the first plane right before entering the school, and then for remaining in the room reading “My Pet Goat” with the kids for nearly 7 minutes after his Chief of Staff told him of the second plane before taking any action. Kopel links an article about the school principal as defending the president’s decision (though from the looks of it, remaining seated and reading the story was less a decision and more of an uncontrollable act of confusion), and quotes Lee Hamilton, former Democratic Rep. from Indiana and Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, as saying that Bush did the right thing. Well, a democrat and a principle – I’m sold. I used to think that Bush should have taken immediate action, though not to the point where he made every kid erupt in tears, knowing that we were under attack and not knowing when the attacks would end, but now a principle and a democrat! tell me Bush was right, so I guess I don’t have to waste any precious brain cells on that one. Case closed. Thank you, Dave Kopel.
Also, Kopel criticizes the use of a clip of Wolfowitz combing his hair with saliva – both his own and that of who I hope was a lowly unpaid gofer intern. While gross, this tells the viewer nothing more than to laugh. Kopel, apparently using mental abilities not normally found in humans, infers from this clip that the entire Bush administration is not to be trusted, and blames Moore for tricking him so. I really don’t think it is necessary to discuss this any further.
Despite my great desire to do so, I have removed no points here because these two “cheap shots” were included by Kopel, along with what I listed as deceits 6 and 7, as a combined “deceits 6-7.”
Moore’s voiceover says about Bush, “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 also quips that perhaps the title (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.") was too vague. Kopel breaks this down into three parts.
First, there is the implication that the President did not actually read the memo. See the movie, read that quote again – any reasonable person would assume that Bush read the memo, that Moore knows and believes Bush read the memo, and that this statement is just a phrase often used to infer that something should be given more attention despite the fact that one has already read that to which the speaker is referring. -1
Second, Kopel complains of the use of a clip of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice at the 9/11 Commission hearings saying the title of the memo, right after Moore mentioned that maybe the memo was too vague. Kopel’s deceit #9 is that Moore says the reason Bush may not have “read” the memo was because it was vague, but Bush never said that was his excuse for not reading it. Well, of course not – because he read it! – which I just discussed. This whole bit on not reading the memo was obviously in jest, pointing out that there was certain information that was disregarded by Bush and his top advisors. -1
Third, Kopel disagrees with Moore’s assertion that the memo said bin Laden planned to attack “by hijacking airplanes.” Kopel correctly quotes the memo as saying the FBI was “unable to corroborate” the evidence that bin Laden wanted to hijack an aircraft. However, the next paragraph of the memo reads, “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.” Was this memo vague – sure. Did it warn of hijackings – yes. Should Moore be discredited for saying the memo warned that bin Laden planned to hijack an airplane – of course not. -1
I will, however, restore half a point because a main theme of these “deceits,” according to Kopel, is that Moore misused the clip of Rice saying the title of the memo to contradict the notion that it was vague, while her whole testimony was to the imprecision of the memo, though that is not one of Kopel’s specifically listed “deceits.” I am a benevolent man. +.5
Deceit 11 & 14
Moore, while not lying, carefully chooses his words to imply that the 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, who were flown out of the country by the government in the days following 9/11 were flown during the period when all flights were grounded and that they were not screened or questioned at all. While there was one flight which may have been illegal, the 9/11 commission has determined that the flights, cleared by the FBI, were proper and that sufficient screening was done to determine if any of the 142 should be questioned. While it is hard to understand why the FBI did not want to question any of these people for any significant amount of time, Kopel is right to suggest Moore here is guilty of deliberately misleading his audience, to a degree. The main theme that many Saudis were hastily escorted out of the country shortly following the attacks remains. -.5
Moore uses counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke as a critic of the Bush Administration – which he is – but doesn’t include his testimony saying he had the final say on clearing the flights for the 142 Saudis; Kopel complains. Moore responds lamely, saying he included a shot of a New York Times article about the approval of the flights in which Clarke’s name is used, and its right there blown up on the screen. Well, Michael, most of us read a bit slower than necessary to read that article and tend to not read what you put on screen unless the relevant parts are highlighted or enlarged, like other texts used in your documentary. What you should have said was, “My use of footage of Richard Clarke is consistent with his position and provides valid criticisms of the administration, and deciding not to include him in the segment on the flights is of no concern to the rest of the film in general or the segments including Mr. Clark specifically. It is common to agree with and approve of another’s statements and actions on certain points and disagree with them on others.” Moore’s ineffectual defense on this criticism does not make Kopel right. You are welcome, Mr. Moore. -1
Moore, in an interview with Jack Tapper of ABC, lies, according to Kopel, about presenting Clarke’s role in approving the flights. His lie is saying how he put the NY Times article, mentioned in deceit 12, on screen. Though, again, a lame answer, this is not a lie. Also, as far as Fahrenheit is concerned, this is the same as the previous “deceit”. Further, this is not in the film – it is a weasely answer given by Moore about the film, not in it. -1
In the documentary, Moore says, “But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens,” while, on September 14, 2001, he wrote to his fans “Our daughter is fine, mostly frightened by my desire to fly home to her rather than drive.” (taken from Kopel’s article – his link to Moore’s archive for this quote is dead). This, my friends, is insanely stupid. Of course there were thousands of people who wanted to fly, maybe millions. This is not a deceit in any except the most absolutely narrow-minded and purposefully ignorant approach – in which Kopel is proving very adept indeed. -1
and so we arrive at our first intermission. Kopel is not doing so well, as of the 15 points in his "deceit budget" at stake here, 12.25 have gone missing, leaving him with only 2.75 "deceits." Check back soon to see how he fares in the next round.
Not Good news
Being home gave me two weeks to check in on my beloved Red Sox. So what have I learned about this years team in 14 days?
We aint winning shit.
Too many holes for us. For every great player we acquired in the off-season to put us over the top (Schilling, Foulke,) two have regressed from 2003. (Millar, Mueller, Trot, Lowe.) Thus the record breaking offense of 2003 no longer exists. Also, Bronson Arroyo is now our third starter, as Wakefield is having off year combined with Lowe's total collapse.
Sabrmetricians will continue to flaunt our league leading OPS and ERA as evidence that, we are the most talented team and we will turn it around and over-achieve in the last two months to make up for the underachievement of the first four. First off, this neglects the teams general inabiliity to turn baserunners into runs and to keep from making errors in the field leading to...unearned runs. Second, it neglects the observational evidence and the makeup of the team. Pedro, Curt, Ortiz, Damon, and Manny arent going to play much better; they are all having monster seasons. An increase in wins is going to have to come from increased performance by Lowe, Nixon, Millar, Reese, the bench etc... (and it would certainly help if Nomar could stop popping up on the first pitch on a quarter of his ABs. What amazes me is he can be that bad a player on some ABs, literaly little league level, and still hit over .300.) Barring a Wake in 95 miracle, I think we're fooked.
Yes we may add payroll, may convince Houston to take Youkilis and D Lowe for Beltran. No doubt we will sacrafice a prospect to add some third starter of Jeff Suppan quality who may help us win an extra game or two. Hopefully the teams in the AL West will continue to flounder and we can hold on to the Wild Card. But this team reminds me so much of the 02 addition, great individual performances, 93 wins, just missed the playoffs. Sounds about right for 04 too.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
The Many Deceits of Dave Kopel
Kopel composed a list of 59 deceits he believes are in the movie, and often refers to Moore’s own fact-check site to display his poor defense of the issues in question. And he is right – Moore does a poor job defending his film, simply relying on the truth that he presents (in almost every case) actual facts in Fahrenheit. Kopel, however, argues that making a factual documentary requires more than just getting the facts right – the film must not mislead the audience, through clever arrangement of the facts and editing of actual footage, to believe something that is false. I agree with Kopel, and Moore should be ashamed of the instances in which he, while not lying, deceives his viewers – especially since most of his arguments would remain convincing without his spin. The problem is Kopel has picked out deceits that just are not there. He often complains that Moore only presented one side of an issue. Well, that’s what one often does when trying to convince others of one’s view. Though an argument is stronger when counter-arguments are given and proven unconvincing, they are not necessary for a valid, factual and honest argument. Still, there are some instances where leaving out opposing facts turns Moore’s point into a deception, and these are noted.
Kopel’s deceits have been cited all over the web (Independence Institute calls it one of the “top ten most linked to articles on the web”). While he offers some valuable critiques, the majority of his article is deceptive in itself, attempting to convince the reader that Moore has deceived us in instances where there is no such deceit. Having little better to do with my time, I have gone through Kopel’s piece, “deceit” by “deceit,” and described where he has gone astray. Thus I present to you The Many Deceits of Dave Kopel.
Beginning tomorrow I will post these deceits in groups of roughly 15 over the course of the week, so check back to see the latest additions. Kopel has listed 59 deceits, plus 5 “bonus deceits.” I have given Kopel a deceit budget of 64, presented each of his deceits and described, in instances in which he is wrong, why he is wrong, and subtracted an appropriate value from each one. The total deceit budget remaining will be summed at the end of the posts. Enjoy.
Edit: a Google search has turned up only John Hickey, Canadian bloggers, and one article from an Arizona newspaper as using "plate trips" in regards to baseball. Therefore, it in entirely possible that John Hickey did not in fact invent the term, and if he did, it was years ago.
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Is there anybody out there?
I say it plainly that I believe it would be the greatest event in human history to find evidence of other life in the universe. But our technology is so limited and our knowledge of physics so small that it is almost inconceivable for us to find other civilizations. All we can hope is that the other civilizations contact us. This is where SETI comes into play. SETI is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and it is being conducted all around the world by computers just like yours and mine. The way SETI works is that signals collected from radio telescopes are crunched by computers piece by piece, in order to see if they represent more than just noise. But because this number crunching is so intense, we are unable to do it in real-time and are forced to look at data that has been collected but not processed.
The problem with this approach is not only is it inefficient and time-consuming, but the SETI telescopes represent a ridiculously small proportion of the sky. All odds are against SETI to actually find a signal.
The barriers to communication between two distant worlds is immense. First, the two worlds have to both evolve sentient life. Secondly, the two worlds must develop life that is capable of technology of transmission and reception. Thirdly, both civilization's timeframes have to overlap each other, and both civilizations have to be watching and/or transmitting to the other's
We don't know what the probabilities of evolving sentient life, other than our own Earth. Out of all the planets we have seen, only one has developed life. And on that one world, there have been trillions of species on the planet, and only a very few are sentient. Only one is technological. And when you take note of the age of the universe (4 billion years, give or take a few billion), and the age of our ability to send and receive information (80 years, give or take a few), AND the fact that light travels very slowly compared to the size of the universe (4 years to our nearest neighboring star), and the window of opportunity seems inconceivably small.
It very well may be true that alien civilizations abound in the universe. But if they are located 80,000 light years away, to us they may as well not exist. Can we possibly hope to discover other life forms? Or would we venture out into space only to find ourselves very, very alone?
Obviously this calculation of odds takes into account only our current technology and our current knowledge of physics. 300 years ago, sending a message across the globe in a split second to a specific person may very well be today's equivalent of sending a message across the galaxy. Perhaps learning more about physics will give us a better understanding of how to bend the rules and get ever closer to the alien races that our science fiction writers so desperately hope are out there.
This is why I consider myself a technologist. Sometimes it is necessary to pursue technology for its own sake. At our core, I believe that humans are explorers, and whether it was the wheel, reinforced wooden ships, the Model T, or the Saturn V rocket, I think technology has always helped satisfy our wanderlust. While technology sometimes brings out the worst in us (it is not too unlikely the atomic bomb will end our planet before we can get off it), I believe it is the only way for us to push forward. Learning more about our universe is always a noble pursuit, and harnessing that knowledge to create and invent is almost all that keeps my faith in humanity alive.
But as for my crappy dream, even technology can't save it. All I can hope for is that an alien race with superior technology visits our planet, reads this post, and decides to pity me and present themselves to the human race. Of course, we also have to hope they don't totally wipe us out, like every advanced human society has done to less technologically advanced societies.... but that's a totally different story. And yet, I almost think it would be worth it. Almost.
Friday, July 16, 2004
Rally around the Flag
As a Bush-hater, I appreciated Michael Moore’s ability to effectively synthesize many of the gripes against the current regime better than anyone other than the Daily Show. Moore is especially into linking the Bush’s to the Bin Laden’s and Saudis, and exposing the Bush camp as a bunch of rich people out for each others’ interests, not the country’s. You will have to see the movie, and more importantly, do your own research on Bush to determine how much you agree with Moore on this point. When you answer that question, then you can turn to the question Moore totally ignores: are the Democrats any better?
Moore covers the major news stories of the past 4 years: the 2000 election, 9/11 and the aftermath (PATRIOT Act, etc.), the War on Iraq. He gets his hands on some great footage of a young W., and airs some pretty gruesome stuff from the Iraq War that the American media doesn’t show. We know the story he is trying to tell. Here are the points he makes that resonated with me the most:
- The Democrats are giant pussies. This begins with the Black Caucuses (African-American Reps,) signing a petition to protest the 2000 election. Their petition needed the backing of ONE senator to pass and delay Bush’s inauguration. Of course there are no black senators (shameful,) and the white democrats were busy ignoring part of their base again. Next time something like this comes up, listen to the people who were oppressed for 150 years. They might know more about sniffing out injustice than you.
- The media is pathetic. Forget the part where the major news anchors admit their pro- U.S. bias. The more insulting part is the way they let themselves get played by the Bush administration and their mixed messages. Moore nails the administration on its mixed message campaign, one moment saying “attacks will happen soon,” the next talking about how much safer America is. This trend hasn’t stopped of course: Tom Ridge just said their would be an attack on the “electoral process,” while Bush is off in Tennessee talking up the safety of America. (leading to John Stewart commenting that the Bush campaign’s new security policy is repetition.) Of course, everytime Ridge or Cheney, or whomever makes an announcement, CNN.com puts a stock picture of the U.S. in the sightline of a giant target. Can’t we get a little more creative with our hysterical propaganda? Really I am quite bored of the giant target sign. Are terrorists actually aliens? Will they be shooting stuff at us from outer space? Regardless, the message from Moore, with which I totally agree, is that mainstream news is not only uninformative, but actually a hinderance to democracy and progress. Only two news shows are actually informative: The News Hour on PBS, and the Daily Show. Of course one informs us on the idiocy of our government and general population, but oh well.
- In the end, the lower class bears the burden of the games of the upper class. To Wolfowitz, Rumsfield, Bush, whomever, war is an instrument of the competition of international relations, and the support of war is tied to elected officials political futures. While Wolfowitz sits at home with his thinktank buddies thinking of how to increase and maintain and American hegemony, families lose sons, daughters, husbands and wives. Moore exploits this contradiction effectively, investigating Army recruiting techniques, talking to prospective soldiers, and wondering why not that many (one) sons of members of Congress are fighting for our country.
Moore has taken criticism from many corners for this movie, not just the right-wing, but moderate media sources who are afraid of being labeled liberal. One of the main criticisms leveled against Moore, however, is horribly misplaced. Moore, in talking about the invasion of Iraq, notes that we “invaded a sovereign nation that had not attacked us, and had not threatened to attack us.” I have seen him rammed for that statement in several articles, stating that, while this may be true, Sadaam was still a tyrant, and how could Moore portray Iraq as the innocent, etc. They are missing Moore’s point. Under the United Nations Charter, war is illegal, except for under two conditions, self defense, or under imminent threat of attack. Moore’s point, missed by his critics, is that the U.S.’s attack of Iraq violated UN Charter. Which it did.
Moore’s movie won’t convert many swing voters, or change the views of any Right-wingers. Hopefully it will remind liberals how terrible and awful every facet of the Bush regime is, and the price we are paying. Right-wingers need not worry, however. Fahrenheit 9/11, for all its strengths, will remain the second-biggest propaganda flick of the year WAY behind The Passion of Christ. And that, my friends, makes me want to stay in Australia.