Saturday, November 06, 2004

Michael Moore's error in fighting fire with fire

Putting it in two words: Wrong fire.

Actually, it comes back to my original reaction to Fahrenheit 9/11. When I saw the movie, I felt like asking "Is that all? What's the fuss about?" From the loud screaming and bitter noisy crying of the Bushevik children, I was really expecting a monumental epic.

Michael Moore made no secret that the movie was supposed to be a very negative attack on Dubya's qualifications for and handling of his "job". However, there was nothing extremely negative there. The background facts were old and well known to anyone who has been paying attention. A lot of the footage was just the end bits that regular media sources had snipped out of their broadcasts. Yes, Moore's perspective certainly didn't match the official propaganda very well, but the tone was basically light, even humorous. I certainly dislike Dubya and am receptive to criticism of BushCo, and I certainly would have been sensitized to notice any reasons to hate Dubya on some kind of personal level, but the movie didn't offer them. In conclusion, only a rather ignorant person could have a strong reaction to that movie--but the many strong reactions suggested that there were lots of such Americans...

Contrast it to the anti-Clinton rhetoric and the endless witch hunt. Maybe I was fooled, but they sure had me convinced that their hatred was real, very sincere, and very intense. Contrast it with the anti-Michael-Moore books and movies that were made in "response" to Fahrenheit 9/11. No way I could be mistaken about the palpable hatred there. Compare it with the attack ads from Nixon's revived swift boat vets and you can feel the purity and intensity of their rightwing hatred. Not just limited to politics, by the way. It's the same kind of irrational hatred that fanatically argues that 3,000 innocent American deaths (caused by Saudi terrorists with funding that originally came from BushCo) completely justify 100,000 innocent Iraqi deaths (even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no significant threat).

In conclusion, Michael Moore obviously recognizes how negative American politics has become, and he wanted to fight that fire with fire, but he didn't have the right fire--the fire of wrongness. A bit of humor is no match for the pure, distilled hatred that drives so many of Dubya's supporters.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Japanese premier of Fahrenheit 9/11

Well, I finally got to see the movie yesterday, and I have a number of personal impressions to report. These are really just preliminary notes while the event is fresh in my mind.

At 11 a.m. there was a long line extending several hundred meters from the ticket lobby in Ebisu Garden Cinema. My friend had arrived when the ticket window first opened at 9 to validate the pre-purchased tickets. He thought he would be able to waltz through to the front, but there were already a lot of people ahead of him and he had to wait, and his tickets were eventually validated around number 130 for the 12:30 (third) showing. They had changed the schedule to use both of their screens for Fahrenheit 9/11, but the second screen is only about 100 seats. At that time there were a lot of media people taking pictures of the line (and I took some). Some people were also setting up for a little straw vote presidential election for people coming out of the first showing.

When we came back for the showing itself, they let the first 10 validated tickets go in first, then the next 10, etc. We still had plenty of good seats to choose from when we got in, and we got a block pretty near the front. The theatre was soon full, and I could see no empty seats anywhere, so I believe it was sold out. The advertisements were mostly for French movies, so I felt like it's an "arts" theatre.

I had three main impressions of the movie itself:

There didn't seem to any real justification for the R rating. Though there were some gruesome images, they were the kind of thing regular TV news could include and they flashed by quickly enough. I think I'm rather squeamish about these things, but I was able to watch all of it.

There were no material errors of fact. I was listening very closely for ANY mistakes. This was not naive searching, but based on various reported criticisms of the movie, mostly from devout Busheviks who certainly seem to be quite sincere about wanting to find flaws in the movie. Having read their claims, I was listening very closely at those points--and I could not spot anything that supported their criticisms. The closest thing was in the section about the post-9/11 evacuation of the Bin Ladins, where Michael Moore juxtaposed the closed air space very closely--but the movie did not actually say when the Saudis first received their special permissions to get out of the US--and of course the REAL issue there and the REAL focus of the movie was on whether or not the Saudis should have been allowed special treatment in comparison to the other "suspicious" "Arabic" people who were rounded up and interrogated. Around 1/4 of the way into the movie, I actually thought I did hear a one-word mistake that I had never read about, but it was a minor item. Not sure if that's sufficient justification to go again next week when it opens in my local theater. Kind of expensive just to try to catch a one-word glitch. (However, I'm at least going to visit the theater to see how big the "pure" Japanese crowd is.)

Notwithstanding all of the noisy criticisms, it was a very balanced and even moderate documentary. It certainly mentioned a lot of the smoke around BushCo, and even showed a few of the fires, but it stuck quite ploddingly to the facts. It did ask a lot of really rude and pointed questions, but they all seemed to be questions for legitimate public discussion. Especially as regards the questions about the real justification or lack of justification for the Saddam-removal war, these are life-and-death questions that should have been answered much more definitively before anyone died. It's really hard for me to understand what all the violent criticism is about. Well, actually I think I sort of understand some of it, but it's a complicated question of push propaganda. When you ask questions and show the available evidence, some people will leap to conclusions--and in this case most of those conclusions are NOT favorable to Bush.

I did see a LOT of examples where the critics were willfully misinterpreting scenes from the movie. For example, there were a few pre-war scenes of life in Iraq, but nothing suggesting that there was any sort of Iraqi paradise under Saddam. It showed normal human beings living their normal lives--and they just happened to be Iraqi human beings. Michael Moore's obvious goal was to juxtapose those images against what ALWAYS happens in REAL war, which is that some innocent people also die.

After the movie, there was no big reaction from the crowd, though I've heard of reports of standing ovations and such. I should have looked to see what percentage of the audience were foreigners. The Japanese in our group liked the movie, but had no strong reaction to it. There was one pro-Bush American in our group, and he wasn't particularly offended or upset, though he wanted to defend Dubya by diffusing the responsibility, especially for the seven minutes of sitting. (By the way, I'm now sure the movie did say My Pet Goat as the title of the book, which is a known mistake, but obviously irrelevant to the significant question of Dubya's inaction and lack of leadership.) We did stand around talking about the movie for a while afterwards, but it wasn't a big long discussion.

My overall conclusion is that the movie was pretty good, but not really great--but maybe that's just because Michael Moore knows his target audience very well and I'm not in the target. My initial reaction to Dubya was to see him as a kind of sick political joke, not a REAL politician who could possibly wind up in the White House. Michael Moore wants this movie to reach the people who have initial doubts about Bush, but my doubts are WAY past that stage. I can see where someone who had never heard about any of this stuff would be surprised--but to me it seemed that Michael Moore was only showing the tip of the iceberg. For example, he only scratched the surface of the material covered in House of Bush, House of Saud, even though he spent a fair bit of the movie interviewing Craig Unger, the author of that book.

From the amount of crying and screaming from the BushCo side and the sheer number of violent ad-hominem criticisms directed against Michael Moore, I really expected the movie to be MUCH stronger. I think Michael Moore did what he could with the editing of the pre-existing stock film that was available, but that kind of documentary footage is fundamentally limited. The specially produced footage (like the ice cream truck) was not really that compelling or powerful. I think it would be a legitimate candidate for best documentary, but I have trouble seeing how it could win in the best picture category. Also, if it were nominated in the best director category, I don't see how the judges could make fair comparisons, because it would be like comparing apples and oranges.

On the other hand, Michael Moore's criterion for the success of this movie is simple. If it helps remove Dubya from the White House, then he (and I) will be happy. The question of Dubya-removal will soon be resolved, but it may never be absolutely clear what part this movie played in real life.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Dubya is toast on both sides

I'm feeling increasingly optimistic about disposing of Dubya. He really is getting heavy fire from both sides these days, the funny side and the unfunny side.

Of course, the humor-based attack is Michael Moore's primary angle in the Fahrenheit 9/11 movie. Is he just reacting to the BushCo propaganda? Or is he just that politically shrewd? Perhaps both? Of course, it's obvious that Rove has tried to recast Dubya as presidential since 9/11. From the reviews I've seen, it appears the main point of the film is that Dubya is a laughingstock, at least as far as fighting terrorism goes. I'm really looking forward to seeing the film as soon as possible. I'm sure it makes Dubya look stupid, but how stupid? Fire-the-loser stupid?

Don't forget that before 9/11, and especially in the 2000 campaign, Dubya sang a different song. He was supposed to be just a regular guy who just accidentally happened to be the stinking rich son of a president, and who was just lucky to have so many stinking rich friends eager to invest in his campaigns. I think the case for Dubya as a cunning and vicious fool is quite strong, but I keep remembering that a lot of people thought that's some flavor of what they were voting for in 2000. However, they either thought the fool would hire smart assistants (like Rumsfailed?), or they were persuaded by the crazy rightwing propaganda that Gore was some sort of dangerous monster. (Too bad the American presidency is no longer suitable for nice guys like Gore or Jimmy Carter.) Is Dubya the fool he originally pretended to be? The new and improved presidential fool? And what will the voters want in November?

Meanwhile, the anti-humor attack is mostly blowback from Iraq. Now we have a movie aspect there, too, with new films of the prisoner abuse. Honor and integrity? Sure thing, coming right up--as soon as BushCo can find some gaps in the unending streams of lies. Restore America's dignity? Is that anything like the human dignity we took from the Iraqi prisoners? Iraq is almost certainly the biggest and most impressive failure of all of Dubya's miserable failures. There are just so many ways to slice the failure in Iraq... American deaths? Loss of all international influence except for the old gun in your face method? Extreme abuse of power to the point of systematic war crimes? All that money flushed away? (Except that BushCo got kickbacks, so they don't regard that part as wasted.) Building a "new and improved" Al Qaeda? Dead Iraqis? Oh, I keep forgetting. Dead Iraqis don't count. They're just untermenschen.

Actually, I think BushCo's failure in education policy is also a strong contender as the most miserable failure, but it may take decades for that damage to become fully apparent, and even longer to assess it. Every other BushCo policy has failed, too, except maybe the environmental policy. Trick question! BushCo doesn't even have any environmental policy, so those failures have to re-filed in other categories.

You'd think that someone should be held accountable. Punish someone significant like Rumsfailed? Perish the thought. (Saddam doesn't count--the reason he's been punished is only because he quit the team.) It reminds me of some comedian's joke about Dubya admitting that there was a security failure on 9/11 and punishing someone, even if he had to retroactively fire someone from the Truman administration. Guess it depends on what you remember. Most people remember Truman for "The Buck Stops Here", but BushCo only remembers the bit about "Never apologize."

So let's see what the voter's remember in November.

Monday, May 03, 2004

The Iraqi Farce continues unabated...

I'm currently increasingly convinced there is no direction in Iraq but out, and the only question is whether it's before or after the election. Before, and it would be a politically fatal admission of his blunderhood, so we can basically rest assured that Dubya will not bring the troops home by Christmas. Doesn't matter how many soldiers and Iraqis do the resting, as in RIP.

The context that got me thinking about this involved considering the Israeli policies towards the Palestinians as models of the American policies in Iraq. However, I think this is only peripherally relevant to the situation in Iraq, and mostly it only serves as another bad example of how to handle such situations. As an American I'd actually prefer to use the American Revolution as the bad example. At least it's a "bad example" from the perspective of King George III. The bottom line is that all such examples show that lots of people are willing to fight very hard when they believe they are fighting for their freedom. Sometimes that's religious freedom, but the exact nature of "freedom" doesn't seem to matter much. Yes, there have been many historical cases when the "freedom fighters" or "terrorists" or "patriots" or "criminals" (depending on who won and who's speaking) do lose in their struggles, but people have a tendency to persist in such struggles, and in the end, I think they usually win--unless they are exterminated as a people. Freedom is a really powerful motivation.

Right now it certainly seems like a large number of Iraqis have decided they are fighting for their political freedom (or national identity). The alternative is remaining in (or returning to) the status of being an American client or puppet state. Other Iraqis apparently believe they are fighting for their religious freedom--and one can scarcely blame them with lunatics like Ann Coulter on BushCo's side. Probably Dubya, too, though he hasn't actually publicly said their leaders should be slaughtered and the masses forcibly converted to Christianity the way Coulter did. I actually doubt that these "freedom fighting" groups are a majority of Iraqis, but there are two funny aspects there.

First, if you took a poll of Americans at the time of the Revolution, I bet that most of them would have said it was a bad or crazy idea. Completely nuts to fight the British supreme-superpower-of-that-day. Actually, it was kind of amazing we did win, and the war would have dragged on if the French navy hadn't helped out at just that moment.

Second, Dubya is not and never has been worried about acting for the majority of Americans--only about dragging or suckering enough of them along. Obviously Dubya's only real interests were in getting into power, and then in using that power to do what he wanted to do anyway. King George II?

Returning to the latest screwups in Iraq, apparently BushCo has changed their minds again on the Falluja mess. We don't actually like THAT general, but we want one of Saddam's OTHER generals to take over the mess. We'll trade that popular general for another general to be named later? Crazy.

My guess on the REAL situation is that BushCo realized this guy was too popular. They actually managed to talk to some Iraqis, and they discovered that they regarded this "solution" as an Iraqi victory. Allowing the Americans to be defeated would be a BIG mistake. If the Americans get "whipped" anywhere in Iraq, the whole country is liable to go nuts, and we can't allow any more of that, can we? So now the Marines have stopped withdrawing and are preparing to counterattack again. Or maybe not. Or maybe...

There have been a number of comments about the significance of the prisoner abuses, but so far not much light has been shed. For now, I still believe those sorts of problems are inevitable in these sorts of situations, but on some reflection, I'm kind of surprised we got our American hands dirty there. I actually thought that handling these sorts of things was part of our secret understandings with the Kurds. Very difficult to speculate when BushCo is so big on secrecy, but if there was such a clause, then the actual problem is probably much larger than revealed so far, since most of it would have been passed along to the Kurds for discreet "handling". (An additional reason to read Dean's new book? Apparently argues that BushCo is even more abusive of power than the Nixon gang. It would be interesting to compare the chronology of abuses in Vietnam.)

Can't remember where to credit this, but it definitely belongs in the humor category. It was supposed to be an analysis of possible political solutions to the mess. Remember Colin Powell? No? Well, anyway, if you could remember him, he's supposed to be involved in that sort of diplomatic stuff. But the hilarious part was saying that a "broader political solution" could have made it possible to use Indian troops to get the numbers needed for the occupation of Iraq. Riiiiiiiight. Anyone else remember that the whole idea of India was to get the Muslims out of there? Not even BushCo could claim that the Iraqis would greet the Indian troops with flowers.

In the tragedy category, I was reading about an entire outfit who got their chain yanked real hard. They'd finished their long hitch in Iraq, turned their heavy equipment over to their replacements, and even shipped their personal effects home. And then they got new orders to stay in Iraq. Shock and awe big time. The shock was the orders, but the awesome part is that Rumsfeld thinks they'll be happy about it. All 'dem soldiers be lil' Colin Powells, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bush is toast.

"Elected dictatorship" be damned, there is a reality out there, and there are limits to how far you can stretch it. Go too far from reality, and reality is going to bite back. And hard. Reality is NOT going to just sit there and take it forever. (Just too bad so many relatively innocent people get squished in the process. Heck, even many of the fanatics are sort of innocent. At least they are innocent of any understanding of reality.)

The latest report from Iraq has one of our military spokesman saying we need to make sure that Sadr understands we're not going anywhere. The "we" is the Americans, and the anywhere is apparently out of Iraq.

Wait just a minute here. What is the reality here? Who is invading who? Who exactly belongs where?

I hate to break the news to you, but Sadr is the guy who lives there. He's the one who isn't going anywhere. The Americans are the invaders in Iraq, and even the BushCo claims that the goal is to leave--as soon as they can declare a "suitable victory" and find appropriate puppets to leave in charge of BushCo's latest mess.

Remember this is an ideologically purged army, and this is one of the best spokesman they can come up with. Well, at least it's as purged as they can manage and still keep some boots on the dirt. When they start talking so stupidly... Time for "We have to destroy the village to save it." Anyone remember that witticism? Little place called Vietnam. Remember? (Dubya sure doesn't. He was too busy dodging paper cuts in Alabama.)

Dubya is toast. Roasting slowly on his cross of oil.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Call it BushCo's lunatic fringe strategery (sic) and Nader worship. Yeah, it's hard to believe, but Nader announced he's running again. In the American system, it's hard to buy votes directly, but lunatic fringes are the easiest to buy or divert. In terms of election strategy, it works quite well for BushCo. Dubya is perfectly willing to accept the votes of various lunatic fringes, and BushCo has the money to persuade their pet troublemakers NOT to run separately and suck off any of their votes. Meanwhile, the votes you can siphon off from your REAL opponents are just as useful as the votes you capture with lies or bribes.

In the current example, BushCo can covertly encourage fringe candidates like Nader to run on the other (progressive/liberal) side, thereby sucking off the lunatic fringes that might help offset the lunatic fringe votes they've collected for BushCo. I'm not saying that all Nader supporters are lunatics, but that's becoming his strongest base of support. Without him as an escape hole to toss their votes into, some of those fanatics would be willing to accept reality. Don't forget that Dubya's entire claim to legitimacy for his tyrannical redirection of America, his entire "mandate for change", comes down to 500 votes in Florida in 2000, as justified 5-4 by SCOTUS. (Never forget: "Our considerations are limited to the present circumstances." That's where history will file Scalia et al.)

You might want to cite Buchanan as some sort of exception, but he had no significant negative effect on Dubya in 2000, but, in a less-than-amusing twist of fate, purely by accident managed to have a significant negative effect on Gore in the crucial Palm Beach situation. Not the only crucial situation in 2000--but almost all of them broke against Gore.

Principles are important, but when your principles prevent you from seeing reality, you are insane. Gore is NOT equal to Bush. But even if the fanatical Nader worshippers wanted to say both of them were evil, Gore was VERY clearly the lesser of the evils--and one of them was going to live in the White House. Nader is serving NO constructive purpose now. In the three years since seizing power BushCo has already done more harm than all of the good Nader ever accomplished in his entire lifetime. Only insanity can explain Nader's divisive new campaign. It can only have two possible outcomes: it will assist BushCo in clinging to power or it will discredit Nader's beliefs and causes as far as the new Democratic president is concerned. President Nader is NOT a possible outcome.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

I've been thinking about Dubya's famous gaffe on the old saying "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." You may recall that Dubya stumbled all over this, and his version wound up something like "Fool me once.... Fool me... You can't get fooled again."

I'm increasingly convinced that this was a deeply Freudian slip and reflects a deep form of insanity. I think Dubya really can't conceive of the idea that he could be fooled or make any sort of mistake. When he tried to imagine it as a part of a speech, he just fell apart. If it was just a minor slip... Well, you'd think he'd have corrected himself by now and they'd be publicizing that version. However, as far as I know, BushCo wants to pretend it never happened, and Dubya doesn't want to stand up and admit that he was ever fooled--not even by 9/11. (Or maybe he expects to be "fooled" again by terrorists, and just couldn't stomach the "shame on me" part?)

None of us is perfect, and all of us make mistakes--but normal folks get held accountable for them. That's never happened to Dubya, though he's caused plenty of big foul-ups. In spite of his "personal responsibility" rhetoric, he's always slid away from his own mistakes, or hid them, or often enough just let "friends" take the rap (as in his current efforts to throw the blame for the Iraq fiasco onto his "friends" at the CIA).

Actually, BushCo is full of really strange people with strange mental processes. Maybe Dubya can't imagine making a mistake, so he can project that to assume the legal system never makes mistakes. That would explain how easy it was for him to set the record for executions when he was governor. No mistakes possible. And don't apologize, either, even if later evidence shows a couple of innocent guys got executed. How about Rumsfeld, who still wants to believe in those mythical WMD? Just too bad his delusions direct the spending of billions of YOUR tax dollars. And guys like Cheney who get pleasure out of killing just for the sake of inflicting pain and death. Sorry, but I just think good people should not enjoy that sort of thing. When actual good people use violence, it should be truly necessary, based on reality, and without the pleasure--and accepting the possibility of error.

Back to Dubya and his "Bushal Infallibility". Maybe it isn't insanity. Maybe it's just a sincere belief that Dubya has that he's so specially chosen and blessed by God that he can't go astray. As long as he says his prayers, God won't let him be fooled. Of course, that's exactly what Bin Ladin thinks. Does that mean 9/11 was a good thing? After all, using this line of "reasoning", someone's god must have approved.

Friday, January 30, 2004

This week's rant is on the real significance of the political attack on the BBC. I'm not claiming that I'm part of the "true majority" (whatever Dubya claims that is today), but this is a big one and apparently very few people are much interested. Actually, to me it looks like it's just another example of exploiting other people's misfortunes for BushCo's political advantage. Remember 9/11?

In this case, the misfortune was relatively small, but BushCo has exploited it big time, with lots of prominent heads already rolling at the BBC. Remember that the BBC is (but soon to be "was") the antithesis of the journalistic black jokes such as FOX news and CBS. Even if this was a real and major mistake (and not just the pure scapegoating for political advantage that it seems to be), the BBC has never been a purely reliable propaganda mouthpiece for the Iraq war, etc.

So... Any speculations on the new direction of the BBC? I'd wager that those British headhunters are all over at FAUX news and CBS right now. CBS gets special mention this week for refusing to broadcast a prize-winning anti-Bush ad during the Superbowl. They said it was "advocacy" to remind people about Dubya's deficit. Truth is no excuse, sir!

However, back in jolly old England, they aren't going to reward the BBC for telling so much of the truth that opposes BushCo, but they sure are going to punish the organization for making a mistake. The hilarious part (in the "best" tradition of really black British humor) is that the underlying truth here, even in this case, was that BushCo WAS lying about the WMD, and that was the main point of the BBC reports. For messing about with that truth, the BBC shall be recast in a new mold, using "journalistic integrity" as the WMD.

Hey, if they administered a "journalistic integrity" test at FAUX news they'd have to fire each and every one of them. At CBS they might be able to retain a couple of the interns and the woman who makes the coffee.

Just to complete the picture, here's a recent example of "real news" from CBS:

"Yes, we believed in Iraq's WMD without any real evidence, but we invaded the country and killed a bunch of people anyway. We just wanted to do this, and lying about WMD was a convenient excuse. Dick Cheney assured us that Haliburton will 'donate' a good chunk of the profits back to us. Only fair considering all the business we are giving them," Condoleezza Rice told CBS on Thursday.

Ha, ha!! Fooled you, didn't I! Oh? You weren't fooled. Okay, so here's the actual story:

"I think that what we have is evidence that there are differences between what we knew going in and what we found on the ground," Condoleezza Rice told CBS on Thursday. [Reuters reports that] CBS simply broadcast this, apparently with a straight face.

It all depends on what "knew" means, right? Remember how much good clean fun the rightwing loonies had with Clinton over the definition of a word? Well, "knew" means you knew something. Past tense of "know", because she's describing a prior state here. If you really and actually know something, it is not false. When you "know" something, you don't find "differences" "on the ground". If BushCo-token spokes-fool Rice could move her lips without lying, she might have said the first version. Of course, in the case of President Clinton, I can't recall anyone dying for the confusion on the word.

Hey, how about defining "honor and integrity"? That should be worth a few thousand more deaths, right?


About Me

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As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...