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Fahrenheit 9/11

Hey, surprise! I liked this movie. It may have its flaws, but it manages to be fun even while being incredibly depressing (both in a life/death way and a "please save us from these evil zealots" way), so that's something. If I could change one thing, I'd put Moore in front of the camera at the very start (á la Woody Allen in What's Up, Tiger Lily?) saying what he said on The Daily Show: "This film is not fair. I'm partisan; I'm biased; I have an opinion. But here are the facts I've gathered, I present them to you. I hope it gives you something to think about." I think it'd really undermine some of his most ignorant critics and it wouldn't take anything away from the film. His skill with editing (the backbone of any good documentary) is in top form, and his ability to encounter and illuminate the common man is the best it's been since Roger and Me. One of my favorite interviews from Roger and Me (I think it may have run over the credits) was someone standing in front of a store and saying, "It's open on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. [long pause] It's closed on Saturday and Sunday." There's an interview in Fahrenheit 9/11 in which an Oregon State Policeman is discussing how cutbacks to law enforcement budgets have affected his office. "There's nobody on Monday. There's nobody on Tuesday. There's nobody on Wednesday." It was great. (And, egad! Hundreds of miles of Oregon coastline – America's precious, vulnerable border – are left guarded by one patrolman. Part time.)

Anyway, I think it's an amazing film. I wasn't surprised by a lot of the information presented – nor did I expect to be – but I think it's important to get a glimpse of some of the stories we don't hear about, even if we watch The Daily Show as avidly as I. I think anyone who isn't a rabid, mindless, dittohead Republican should see it; I think they'll enjoy it and get something out of it. (And I don't mean to imply that Republicanism or conservatism necessarily equate "mindless" in a stupid sense. I just mean the unquestioning partisan kind. Believe me, the left has them, too.) In fact, even the dittoheads should go. I just doubt they'd be able to hear much over the petulant self-important scoffing.

Proof that it made a difference, even among the semi-retarded: walking ahead of us out of the theatre, a girl said to her friend: "I wish we could vote tomorrow."

Andy and I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 on Monday night, because it was sold out all over town when we tried to see it on Sunday afternoon/evening. (Damn hippy-leftie Angelenos!) I guess it's a good thing that so many people want to see it. Tonight's screening was packed as well, and this is the part where I'm a frickin' genius. (Not about the movie tickets; Andy generously retrieved those over his lunch break.) No, when we arrived, at about twelve minutes to showtime, the refreshment line was enormous. We found our seats (reserved; thanks ArcLight!), and then I volunteered to grab refreshments while visiting the restroom. On the way by, I noticed that the lines had grown even longer than before. First, I visited the secret second floor restroom (behind the cafe), so I was all alone and no waiting for the sink. Then, I ducked down the back stairs to the main lobby and took a look at the downstairs concession stand. (Fahrenheit 9/11 was upstairs and it was probably the only packed movie on a Monday night.) Sure enough, there were four people down there. Two pairs of two; each in front of a separate register. I was "next" no matter which way I went! I thought I was going to have to sweet talk the guy manning the velvet ropes at the top of the stairs, since my ticket said theatre 10 and I wanted to go downstairs. I figured he'd understand if I explained my brilliant time-saving idea. Those morons on the second floor weren't even going to get to see the movie if they weren't careful! ArcLight won't seat you more than five minutes after showtime! It was already within a minute or two of 7:45! But here's where even more genius comes in. I managed to time it so that I approached Velvet Rope Guy just as another patron with an untorn ticket stepped up to him. That way, I just quickly flashed my stub, he assumed I was going to a downstairs movie, and I got in line at the concession stand.

Both pairs seemed equally close to concluding their transactions, so I picked an adorable couple in their mid-to-late fifties who were joking with each other and being cute, because I liked them more. As they wrapped up, flirting and being playful all the while, I really wanted to tell them that they reminded me of Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad from Cosby, being in their golden years but still being cute and affectionate. But I thought they might take offense because they were black and I couldn't think of a good white TV couple that were as cute. I didn't need to get into a "What, I remind you of Bill Cosby because I'm black and I have on a cable-knit sweater?!" conversation, so I just smiled as sweetly as I could and bought my Cokes. Genius! I almost wanted to skip past the mouth-breathers still standing in the second floor concession line as I walked back by. Of course, due to a near-fatal face plant on the escalator on the way up (right in front of three people), my pride was bruised enough that I just hustled by, Cokes in hand, hoping to make my point in a subtle way. What fun! After that, the movie could've just been 90 minutes of Julianne Moore and Michael Gross taking turns kicking Spielberg in the nuts and running a chainsaw over Jodie Foster's face, and I still would've liked it.

Also, waiting for Andy to validate his parking, I was thisclose to Kiele Sanchez, walking in the main entrance. I really wanted to stop her and say how much I adore her, she being the only reason I watched an entire season of Married to the Kellys (and me being the only American to do so). But, she was with some skinny punk – they always are – so the situation didn't really present itself.

***

Bonus: ArcLight is holding special 21+ screenings of Spider-Man 2 next month! I'll see it with my family this weekend, I'm sure, but for my repeat viewing, a guaranteed baby-free THX experience will be hard to beat!

29 Comments (Add your comments)

Joe MulderTue, 6/29/04 12:07pm

"I think anyone who isn't a rabid, mindless, dittohead Republican should see it; I think they'll enjoy it and get something out of it."

Hmm. Interesting. So, it's basically far-left pablum, incapable of even hoping to convince avowed Republicans that it's not full of crap?

Or, are you saying that anyone BUT a rabid, mindless Republican dittohead would find this movie to be a valuable piece of discourse? 'Cause that makes more sense.

"...please save us from these evil zealots..."

Holy Effing Ess, I hope you're referring to Islamic terrorists. Otherwise, you're quite a bit further gone than I thought you were.

Here's an Orwell quote that Christopher Hitchens suggests Moore could have used, since it's from an essay Orwell wrote in his own voice, and therefore reflects what he actually thinks, rather than being a passage from a novel:

"The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …"

(I didn't see "The Passion of the Christ" either, incidentally; I only see the controversial ones if I think I'll like them. In fact, that's my policy with movies in genearl. So I'm not just picking on "9/11." Well, I am, but, I'm not avoiding it only because it's Michael Moore's movie; I'm avoiding it because I don't really want to see it very badly. That's my point)

Bee BoyTue, 6/29/04 2:34pm

Ah, at last. You've sided with your brethren and decided to label anti-Bush (or at least anti-fictitious-preemptive-war) as anti-American. I suppose it was just a matter of time.

I spent an entire paragraph defining my terms regarding the dittohead remark, so I feel no need to explain further here. However, the read on Fahrenheit 9/11 has clearly been swayed by Hitchens's awful column about it, which forced me to do two things I didn't want to do:

  1. Read it.
  2. Spend my entire morning at work writing a rebuttal to it because of how maddeningly obtuse it is.

BrandonTue, 6/29/04 4:06pm

"After that, the movie could've just been 90 minutes of Julianne Moore and Michael Gross taking turns kicking Spielberg in the nuts and running a chainsaw over Jodie Foster's face, and I still would've liked it."

That would be "NutsSaw!" I believe it's getting a fall release, in order to best garner Oscar consideration.

Saw "Farenheit" on Sunday, liked it very much. (Of course, I also just liked getting out of the house and seeing a movie period; the last movie I saw in a theater was "Clifford's Really Big Movie" a few months back. The moviegoing life of a parent is, well, pretty much nonexistant.)

I like your idea for a preface by Moore, Jameson, I think that would be a good addition. At the same time, audiences should be smart enough to know that it's one man's opinion (with the emphasis on SHOULD be). As Roger Ebert likes to say, even documentaries have a point of view. There's still a person behind the camera.

I like Michael Moore. I enjoyed "Roger and Me," and liked what I saw of "TV Nation" and "The Awful Truth" (I still have to get around to seeing "Columbine" - again, anything post-2002 and chances are I haven't seen it). I don't always agree with his methods and I'm not going to take everything he says as gospel truth, but I like that he's asking the questions, be they hard questions or ones seasoned liberally with conspiracy. The Democrats certainly aren't doing enough of it on their own.

As for the Orwell quote Moore uses in the film, I think it has little to nothing to do with framing it as some kind of endorsement from Orwell; when you quote someone else in your own work, it's not about the author of the words, it's about the words themselves. Moore chose a quote from Orwell's work that he felt further expressed what HE (Moore) wanted to say. The fact that Orwell's name is attached to it is just giving proper bibliographical credit. Come on, does anyone really think that George Orwell's opinions are going to influence the outcome of a modern-day presidential election?? The quote could've come from George Costanza as far as most people are concerned.

"Do you ever get down on your knees and thank God you know me, and have access to my dementia?"

Joe MulderTue, 6/29/04 4:53pm

"Do you ever get down on your knees and thank God you know me, and have access to my dementia?"

– Karl Rove, to George W. Bush.

I didn't cite the REST of the Hitchens article, because it was frothy and angry and weird. I just liked that Orwell quote.

"Ah, at last. You've sided with your brethren and decided to label anti-Bush (or at least anti-fictitious-preemptive-war) as anti-American."

No, and that's regrettable; anti-Bush isn't anti-American (it can be, but it isn't necessarily), nor is anti-war. Anti-American is, however, by definition, anti-American.

  • "They [Americans] are possibly the dumbest people on the planet."

  • "You [an audience of Liverpudlians]'re stuck being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe."

  • "Don't go the American way when it comes to economics, jobs and services for the poor and immigrants. It is the wrong way."

– Michael Moore

Doesn't make him evil (there's the difference, right there). Just makes him anti-American. Not everybody, just him. Well, and people who agree with every word of the above. And why is calling someone anti-American so bad? It's not. So you don't like America. Big deal. I don't like olives, you probably do.

(I'm being serious, by the way. Not just about the olives. About all of it)

"please save us from these evil zealots"

See, and I just can't get past that. If you're not joking, then, Jesus. If you are, well; you know what they say about jokes.

They aren't.

Joe MulderTue, 6/29/04 5:22pm

And here's the main thing: there's "Hope Bush Loses to Kerry" anti-Bush, then there's "Bush is More Dangerous Than al-Zarqawi" anti-Bush. One is definsible, the other is just plain not. And I don't mean not defensible in the sense that anyone who says so needs to get locked up (they do that, not us). I just mean intellectually, philosophically, historically and in all other ways indefensible.

And, so, then what? Somebody holds forth an indefinsible point of view regarding the President?

Big deal. That's his right as an American. And if he can get rich off of it, then, what's more American than that?

(for the record, I think Michael Moore is funny. How could you not? That to me was always telling, in terns of people attacking his stuff. Say what you want about him, but don't say he's not funny)

Bee BoyTue, 6/29/04 7:06pm

Oh, I agree that audiences should know full well that documentaries have opinions, no preface needed. But I think if he specifically stood up and mentioned it, it would go along way toward dulling the teeth of his least informed critics. Kind of like Dogma. Any halfway intelligent viewer could see that it wasn't sacrilegious, but by putting the cute disclaimer on, it points out how dumb you'd have to be to miss that, plus gives the dummies that much less to harp about.

On the Moore quotes, I agree with the bottom one about 80%. He isn't saying "America is bad," he's just saying "America doesn't have an elegant answer to these problems, so feel free not to copy America." Which is valid. America doesn't have an elegant solution; an elegant solution is tough to crack. America shouldn't feel bad about it, but they should always strive to do better. Sometimes they do (even Bush). Sometimes they seem more concerned with cronyism and partisanship (even Clinton).

The middle one is simplistic and silly, like arguing "blood for oil." I give Moore a pass for making a "blood for oil" argument in his movie, because there isn't time to go into every nuance of Wolfowitz's mania, but that doesn't mean I agree with oversimplification.

On the top one, anyone who watches Last Comic Standing can't help but agree. Seriously, though, I'm not sure what he means. I'm disappointed with Americans' pack-like response to the fearmongering, but I can't really blame them. I wish the structure of power in the highest levels of our society weren't such that the concept of meritocracy becomes a pipe dream, because the result of that is that people are generally lazier and less motivated, just more ambitious to find an advantage or cheat. I do feel like there's a philosophy of being owed something, which reaches throughout all levels of society. Melanie Hutsell (remember her? me either) said it best, "Where's my stuff?" (Still, there's a distinction between anti-American and anti-Americans.)

And, finally, regarding the evil zealots. That's what I call an unfunny joke. A joke that's not really a joke, as Bush would say (via Letterman). It's a joke in the sense that it's cute that it looks like I mean Islamic extremists, but I really mean Bush et al; but it's not a funny joke, and it's not meant to be. Is it meant to be a little incendiary? Sure. Is it meant to be 100% serious? Well, not 100%. I mean, me, personally, I haven't been all that personally inconvenienced by the Bush administration. In fact, I probably benefitted more than average (average is pretty low). But I do think he's a zealot. He believes he's guided by God, and he doesn't make mistakes. (It's not that he can't come up with one when put on the spot; he sincerely believes he doesn't make them.) And I do think he's evil. Maybe that's a strong word, but that's my call. The gentler designation, "dangerously, irresponsibly opportunistic" would cover it if not for two things: sending innocent soldiers to die for deeply personal reasons of profit and influence; and using the deaths of 3,000+ citizens as a cover to protect himself and disarm the public while pushing through an otherwise unpopular agenda. To me, those things represent the most cynical, base elements of human nature, and public beheadings they may not be, but they still strike me as evil.

I don't subscribe to all of Moore's theories about why Bush does what he does, but I don't think he does what he does for the reasons he tells us; and what infuriates me most about him is that he doesn't care. Pardon my ignorance, but Fahrenheit 9/11 was the first time I saw the footage of his inauguration motorcade being egged. All I could think of was "he's in that limo, and he doesn't care at all." Moore describes how historic this outpouring of resentment was, but you just know Bush was thinking "So? Bring 'em on. What are they gonna do? I'm president." "Who cares what you think?"

So, yes, I think there are those in the Bush administration who are evil zealots. More evil and zealous than al-Zarqawi? Well, that's not for me to say. That's indefensible.

Joe MulderTue, 6/29/04 8:02pm

"More evil and zealous than al-Zarqawi? Well, that's not for me to say."

There, again. I can't conceive of how far gone ("gone" meaning "so full of – and preoccupied with – hatred for George W. Bush; not "gone" meaning "actually gone") a person would have to be to say something like this.

I think that's the chasm; I really do think that there are plenty of people who honestly believe that it's "not for them to say" whether we're better than they are. We are. Bush is. Clinton was. Gore would have been, Nader would be, Kucinich would be. I don't understand the inability or unwillingness to make moral judgements; that way lies the beginnig of the end of the Republic.

It seems to me that's at least a sound philosophical argument on which to disagree, even strenuously; are there moral absolutes? Discuss. Doesn't mean either of us are bad people, doesn't mean we won't be friends.

It's not like you said Dennis Green was a good coach, for Chirst's sake.

"Pardon my ignorance, but Fahrenheit 9/11 was the first time I saw the footage of his inauguration motorcade being egged."

I don't remember it getting egged (classy move), but, I do remember people protesting the hell out of it. Bush had been all "hey, this was messy, let's try to see if we can work together a little bit here," and people were like "No! Fuck you, you piece of shit!"

"He believes he's guided by God, and he doesn't make mistakes. (It's not that he can't come up with one when put on the spot; he sincerely believes he doesn't make them.)"

That's a two-part statement. The first part, we're back to this again; the same could be said for most American presidents, and indeed a majority of Americans. Doesn't mean it's correct, just means it's not crazy.

The second part, I just don't believe; mishandling a question at a press conference to an almost supremely inelegant degree and not being quick enough on one's feet to come up with a politically satisfying answer does not count as evidence that a man believes he is infallible.

Yes, though, that was bad. That's were the Janeane Garofalo Mom in me just shakes her head and says, "oh, George."

BrandonTue, 6/29/04 8:06pm

There was a moment when Bush was on Letterman back during the 2000 campaign that I thought did an excellent job of capturing his persona. It took place during a commercial break - Letterman showed the footage the next night, after Bush was gone. During the break, as various production staff were hovering around the desk, the show's producer, Barbara Gaines (at that time, I think she was asst producer) was leaning over the desk and talking with Dave. Bush reached over, grabbed the hanging left flap of the vest she was wearing, and proceeded to wipe his glasses on it.

Now this is admittedly a minor thing (and played for excellent laughs in the skilled hands of Dave), but you don't just grab someone's clothing and start wiping your glasses on it. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but to me it showed contempt - you're an underling, you're beneath me, so I don't need to ask your permission to do this. Yes, it's a small thing, but to me it shows a lack of respect.

And that's how I would characterize Bush - that he's arrogant, unfeeling and views the American public with a certain measure of contempt. Evil? I just don't think he's intelligent enough. Evil to me requires a high level of intelligence. That, or the responsibility for producing something destructive on a large scale - like, for instance, Jay Leno. Very evil. I think we can all consider that defensible.

Now Dick Cheney, HE'S evil. I mean, come on, look at him. He looks like he's always plotting something nefarious. At the very least, he's bad-ass. Look at the F-word thing with Leahy - he's D.C.'s tough guy.

Joe MulderWed, 6/30/04 11:31am

"Evil to me requires a high level of intelligence."

I must argue; I just finished "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," and some of the more evil Nazis were not considered intelligent in the least.

"Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but to me it showed contempt - you're an underling, you're beneath me, so I don't need to ask your permission to do this. Yes, it's a small thing, but to me it shows a lack of respect."

You should hear Adam Carolla's horror stories about appearing on Letterman. Or Louis C.K.'s horror stories about being on the writing staff.

Jeff TidballWed, 6/30/04 11:53am

The world contracts again: Stacey and I saw 9/11 at the Arclight on Monday night as well. I think we must have been in a slightly later, overlapping showing though (we saw 8:30), as we were in theater 3, downstairs.

BrandonWed, 6/30/04 12:40pm

"I must argue; I just finished "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," and some of the more evil Nazis were not considered intelligent in the least."

Ahh, but I think that would fall under my second (admittedly shamelessly broad) definition of "producing something destructive on a large scale." I originally wrote "massive" instead of large. I wish I had stuck with that. Massive is better.

"You should hear Adam Carolla's horror stories about appearing on Letterman. Or Louis C.K.'s horror stories about being on the writing staff."

Please, do tell (or toss me a link if you've got one). I mean, I know from reading "The Late Shift" and other features on Letterman that he can be a moody, demanding perfectionist who's self-critical to the point of being his own worst enemy, and is very tough to work for/with. But it sounds like, from the way you framed your words below that quote from me, that you've got examples of employee abuse, which I have not heard/read about.

michwagnWed, 6/30/04 12:50pm

Hey, I am new, but not to Joe or Brandon...I saw the movie on Sunday and thought it to be an above-average cinematic editorial. Documentaries do have points of view, but they tend to make an effort to provide what I'll call an honest portrait of the situation at hand. Moore's portrait was an ideological one, which is fine, I tend to agree that Bush is a below-average president, the war in Iraq was a massive mistake from a national security, national interest, and international opinion standpoint, and that the many members of the public might make a presidential choice different than the one they currently say they will make if they had access to a wider amount of information.

There are a few things I'd like to respond to Joe about regarding his responses, which I enjoy very much (read The Athletic Reporter! at athleticreporter.com) First, Joe says that saying Bush is More Dangerous Than al-Zarqawi is indefensible. Personally, I agree that al-Zarqawi is worse than Bush, but for reasons that I will guess are different than Joe's. However, I also think that the claim is defensible.

Here's a try: It depends on how you look at worse. If worse is defined as "how many people died as a result of orders you gave" Bush is worse than al-Zarqawi multiple times over. So, from one perspective, an incomplete one in my view, one could argue that Bush can be argued as being directly culpable for more deaths, American and otherwise. Of course, you could argue that al-Zarqawi started it and Bush was just responding, or you could argue that al-Zarqawi is not a recognized leader of a state and thus his violent actions are less 'legitimate' than violent actions that come from a recognized state like the US or even, say Trinidad. I think it would be a legitimate argument to say that the poorer leader, the worse leader is one who gives orders that result in more deaths, I would even amend that to innocent deaths (not soliders).

Another way to judge 'worse' might to ask people all over the globe who they believe is a bigger threat to their way of life. I cannot say with confidence what the results of such a poll would be, but I do not think that it is clear that al-Zarqawi would be seen as the more dangerous by a majority of earthlings. It is certainly possible, and given the polling in Eurpoe and Asia regarding mass anxiety about the foreign policy of the US, that it would be a close call.

Another way one might consider Bush worse is more intellectually rigorous. It requires us to control for factors of wealth and personal freedom. One could argue that those who are better off are to be held to a higher standard than those who are not. al-Zarqawi comes from an impoverished family. Bush and Osama bin Laden come from wealthy ones. John Kerry is married to an enormous amount of personal wealth as well, so this isn't a partisan thing and it isn't equating Bush with bin Laden. It is just saying that given the wealth and freedom in his own family and country, we might trust that president Bush would see the value in supporting those without the wealth of him personally or his country more generally (and more fairly, not everyone in any society is going to be rich) because we know with a considerable degree of confidence that those who are poor are more likely to commit acts of violence, regardless of color, religion, or gender (in most cases)

Another way to judge worse would be to evaluate the reasons each side uses for violence. For the war in Afghanistan, Bush used 9/11, which I think most Americans, myself included, is a good reason. For Iraq, Bush used weapons of mass destruction, liberating Iraq, Iraq's ties to al Qaeda, Saddam gassing his own people 10 plus years earlier, the doctrine of pre-emption, and a few others. In the present, it is not clear to me that any of these reasons justify the decision to invade a sovereign nation - unless perhaps we are prepared to do it in the other countries that have WMD, ties to terrorists, and oppress their people. Syria comes to mind. So does Saudi Arabia. al-Zarqawi has used Americans being in Saudi Arabia, America's ties to Israel, Israel, and Western imprisonment of Muslim extremists as his reasons (that I have been able to find). These don't seem to me to be very good either. So for me, it is a narrow, but comfortable 'win' for Bush on this count.

What Fahrenheit 911 does, in my view, is rabidly and often unfairly ask about relationships that if were true for Clinton, the nation's conservatives would be in an uproar about. If Roger Clinton was an investor with the bin Laden family, all hell would have broken loose in the media. The media has not made an important issue about the bin Laden family's ties to Bush and his family, Moore has. It is fair of him to ask why. That is an important question, though I believe that the connections are circumstantial and not involved with Bush's decision to go to war, let the bin Laden family leave the US, etc. But Bush has not had to answer it and he should. It should be required. He owes it to us to explain.

I also think the movie does a nice job showing the different kinds of kids who bravely serve in the military. Some are tortured by having to kill, others treat it as a video game, complete with rock music. We should ask ourselves as a society why that is and what we might be able to do about that. We should also ask if we want to do anything about it - sad as it is, large, rich, free nations need people who are willing to kill and die for it.

Well, I have to go teach soon, so I best go finish preparing, but this has been a really interesting discussion and I look forward to hanging out here once in awhile.

Joe MulderWed, 6/30/04 3:25pm

Re: Letterman...

Adam Carolla will rant once in a while about his appearance on Letterman, about how they breifed the living hell out of him before he went on; "Dave doesn't like it when..." "Don't do x, or y, or z, because Dave will get nervous," "Don't make Dave angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry." It obviously made him mad enough to just go out and, because he knew he wouldn't ever want to come back on Letterman (nor would he ever be asked), tell everyone who ever dumped on him in his life to "kiss my ass, because I'm on Letterman." Which I found amusing.

Louis CK, nothing specific, I just read something where he talked about working at the various talk shows, and it was something like "Letterman was bad; the less said about it the better." That was the spirit of the comments, if not the actual words.

Which; okay. Maybe Letterman's an asshole, but, I don't care. He puts on a good show. And I know certain people have worked with him for years, and would step in front of traffic for him; I've always had the impression that he's like Bobby Knight – WAIT! Hold on; let me explain, put down the gun – in that he rubs quite a few people the wrong way, but the few who find themselves able to get along with him become fiercely loyal. Obviously not on the scale of Bobby Knight; Letterman couldn't possibly be that big of a douche.

Anyway. That's about all I've got on that score; sorry the stories weren't juicier.

Joe MulderWed, 6/30/04 3:47pm

"I tend to agree that Bush is a below-average president, the war in Iraq was a massive mistake from a national security, national interest, and international opinion standpoint, and that the many members of the public might make a presidential choice different than the one they currently say they will make if they had access to a wider amount of information."

That's what I like to see; I might not agree with any of that, but, well done. And well written. That's why I come here instead of other places; with the exception of whoever put up those Maggie Haskins comments ("dude that thing you wrote is sick and kreepy, like your stalking her or something"), Jameson tends to attracts a more reasonable and literate clientele, and I'm sure we all appreciate that.

"Another way to judge 'worse' might to ask people all over the globe who they believe is a bigger threat to their way of life."

Uh oh. Don't make the ugly American angry. You wouldn't like the ugly American when he's angry... opps, too late:

UGLY AMERICAN MAD! UGLY AMERICAN NOT CARE WHAT REST OF WORLD THINK! UGLY AMERICAN POINT OUT THAT REST OF WORLD BATHES WHERE ANIMALS PEE! REST OF WORLD STUPID ENOUGH TO WATCH SOCCER! REST OF WORLD NOT ABLE TO FIGHT NAZIS, COMMUNISTS IF NOT FOR US! AMERICA ONLY COUNTRY PEOPLE RISK DROWNING TO FLOAT TO ON CARDBOARD RAFTS! (Well, us and Spain; ugly American not completely ignorant of northern African refugee situation vis a vis the Mediterranean Sea)

What? Where was I? What happened?

Anyway; hell of a post, michwagn, especially parts breaking down the "Is Bush more 'evil' that Zarqawi" thing. In response, I must quote Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain Haller from "My Cousin Vinny:"

"[michwagn], that is a lucid, well thought-out, intelligent objection. Overruled."

I must respectfully disagree on most of what you said, and only say in rebuttal that indeed, the rest of the world perceives America and Israel as the gravest threats. I happen to think that the rest of the world is just as capable of being wrong about this as Americans are (and yes, of COURSE America is capable of being wrong. I just don't think we are on this score, in that I think it's almost impossible to overstate the threat posed by fanatical Islam).

"Here's a try: It depends on how you look at worse. If worse is defined as "how many people died as a result of orders you gave" Bush is worse than al-Zarqawi multiple times over."

I'm glad you classified this argument as less intellectually rigorous. If we follow this logic, we have to place Churchill and FDR (and hell, probably Woodrow Wilson) way, way ahead of bin Laden, Pol Pot, Saddam and their ilk on the list of history's all-time evil people. And, I mean, if you want to, fine, but, I'm not gonna.

Anyway, post more! Post more! I loved reading your stuff. Everybody's, in fact.

Joe MulderWed, 6/30/04 3:56pm

Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention all of this, too:

"given the wealth and freedom in his own family and country, we might trust that president Bush would see the value in supporting those without the wealth of him personally or his country more generally"

He did offer all that money for AIDS to Africa, and now Colin Powell (who works for Bush, I'm pretty sure) is in Sudan, finally doing something about the borderline genocide that's going on there.

UGLY REPUBLICAN WANT TO KNOW HOW MUCH CLINTON GAVE FOR AIDS IN AFRICA! UGLY REPUBLICAN WANT TO ASK HOW MANY LIVES WOULD HAVE BEEN SAVED IN RWANDA IF CLINTON ADMINISTRATION ACTED FASTER, LIKE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS DOING IN SUDAN!

Damn. Sorry. I'll try to stop that from happening.

But seriously folks, it's easy to suggest that rich Republicans don't give a crap about poor people, whereas rich Democrats do; it's more difficult for me to belive it.

michwagnWed, 6/30/04 8:21pm

Thanks for the mad disagreement props, Joe. And, I personally do not think that al-Zarqawi is more dangerous than Bush, but I do think that those that do have a leg to stand on.

Good point on Rwanda, your boyfriend Bill Clinton feels the same way, all the interviews I've seen for the book he's peddling lists Rwanda as his biggest foreign policy regret. As for AIDS in Africa, Clinton's foundation just secured a deal with drug companies and a few countries (Russia especially, which is about to explode in AIDS population) to provide more medication at cheaper costs. And he is doing the same in Africa. Bush's money to Africa for AIDS is a nice step forward, but it is built on the shoulders of what Clinton started near the end of his term. I think if Clinton had been more courageous, he would've acted on that a lot sooner.

It's like, Bush can give money for AIDS, Nixon can go to China, and Clinton can radically alter welfare. When you do something antithetical to your party's beliefs, you get the street cred.

Which isn't to say Bush hates people with AIDS, but it is to say that the conservative ideology feels that, transfusions and birth aside, getting AIDS is a matter of personal responsibility and should thus be dealt with without government interference.

Also, on the liberal white guilt making rich Democrats more noble than rich Republicans, I couldn't agree more - but I don't think it is as rampant as some conservative columnists, commontaters, and radio hosts suggest, given the general policy preferences exhibited by each party since the New Deal.

Favorite stat of the day: Clinton made more, and kept a higher percentage of, his campaign promises than any president of the modern era (from Thomas Patterson, poltiical scientist and author of many books on how the media sucks and how the media sucks at covering the president)

Joe MulderThu, 7/1/04 11:30am

"Favorite stat of the day: Clinton made more, and kept a higher percentage of, his campaign promises than any president of the modern era"

Yeah, then you look at the fine print, and "modern era" is actually "since the first Gulf War."

Har. Kidding.

"Good point on Rwanda, your boyfriend Bill Clinton feels the same way, all the interviews I've seen for the book he's peddling lists Rwanda as his biggest foreign policy regret. As for AIDS in Africa, Clinton's foundation just secured a deal with drug companies and a few countries (Russia especially, which is about to explode in AIDS population) to provide more medication at cheaper costs. And he is doing the same in Africa. Bush's money to Africa for AIDS is a nice step forward, but it is built on the shoulders of what Clinton started near the end of his term. I think if Clinton had been more courageous, he would've acted on that a lot sooner."

Since I know nothing about foreign policy or politics, I figured there would be good rebuttals; and well done sir. But, you really can't (I mean, you CAN, but you oughtn't) ignore what Bush is doing in Africa. I don't mean to suggest that Clinton didn't care about people, though. I think he did, more than most people even.

"michwagn"Thu, 7/1/04 12:01pm

"But, you really can't (I mean, you CAN, but you oughtn't) ignore what Bush is doing in Africa. I don't mean to suggest that Clinton didn't care about people, though. I think he did, more than most people even."

That's why I said "Bush's money to Africe for AIDS is a nice step forward. . ."

lol on the 'since the first Gulf War.' Damn liberal media...

Joe MulderThu, 7/1/04 12:46pm

"That's why I said "Bush's money to Africe for AIDS is a nice step forward. . ."

Yeah, I know you did; I was just reiterating (and I don't have to tell Jameson the importance of "reiterating").

Stupid forgetting to sign in. I'm not an anonymous coward; I'm a forgetful bastard!

[I put your name with your previously anonymous comments, because it was an honest mistake and in this conversation the Anonymous Cowards should be ostracized like the scurvy bastards they are. More on this in my reply below. –Ed.]

BrandonThu, 7/1/04 1:26pm

re: Letterman

I don't think he's an asshole/douchebag; again, I think it's the self-critical perfectionist thing - it can come across the wrong way. Some people will think you are being pissy toward them, when really, your anger is directed solely at yourself. It's easily misunderstood, as is shyness (often mistaken for aloofness or snobbery), and Letterman has always referred to himself as "painfully shy." As a shy person who is self-critical to the point of being harder on himself than anyone else ever could (or should) be, I can relate.

Anyway...

re: Farenheit 9/11

This is not in response to anything written so far, just my own tangent... I thought the way Moore handled the 9/11 footage, using just audio and people's reactions, was very well-done. It is still incredibly moving and painful to go back to that time and place.

It leads me to the thing that angers me the most about the Bush administration - I feel like they squandered a great opportunity to work toward bringing the country together. The days and weeks and months after the attacks saw such a dramatic change in attitudes and conduct. There was a genuine spirit of cohesiveness and decency. It was the first time in a long time that we as a society moved away from the pervading sense of personal entitlement and trash-talk mentality that seemed to be more about focusing on our differences than our sameness. I loved that period. I wasn't proud of us as Americans; I was proud of us as human beings. And it just seems like the Bush administration - with their actions, yes, but more so with the way they conducted their business - drove a stake into the heart of that burgeoning movement. And now we're as divided as we've ever been.

Maybe I'm just naive; maybe what was going on there wasn't meant to last. Maybe it wasn't even real. And it's certainly possible that a Gore presidency (or even Clinton) wouldn't have handled the situation any better. It just frustrates me that we were so close to what seemed like real societal progress, and we let it slip away.

Joe MulderThu, 7/1/04 3:47pm

"It leads me to the thing that angers me the most about the Bush administration - I feel like they squandered a great opportunity to work toward bringing the country together."

As usual, Lileks says it best:

"How will he [Kerry] bring our allies back to us? By waving the magic ally-reassembling wand? No: by doing what they want us to do, not by doing the things they don’t. It’s almost as if Kerry believes that the point of a war is to have allies first and victory second. But I think I know what he’s doing. It’s an appeal to those who always say – always - that we “squandered” the goodwill of the world after 9/11. But in certain quarters that “goodwill” was equal parts pity, schadenfreude and the belief that we would now realize the errors of our ways. And note how no one ever talks about how the Palestinian Authority squandered the goodwill it got from the Oslo Accords. The Squander, it would seem, is a bird unique to our nation, and we alone are responsible for its care and feeding."

BrandonThu, 7/1/04 4:19pm

But I wasn't talking about other countries - I'm talking about inside THIS country. I wasn't talking about our foreign policy, our allies or our enemies - I was talking about how we interact and communicate with each other, our national dialogue. I felt there was an opportunity for the Bush administration, for all of us, to take our country in a direction that might have been less fractured and contentious. But maybe that's just too idealistic.

Bee BoyFri, 7/2/04 9:58am

As usual, Lileks is very well spoken but tends to set up some things, rhetorically, in a way that makes his point seem like a no-brainer... as long as you don't pick apart his argument very carefully. He did the same thing when he tried to compare the Abu Ghraib prison abuse with that of Chechnyan prisoners – after making the comparison, he said "Does that excuse what we did? Not at all. Just balance the world's reaction." Which is a sneaky way of pretending to say "Am I saying that we should be allowed to violate basic tenets of humane behavior just because other nations have done it? Of course not; to say something like that would be monstrous, cruel, and xenophobic," but then adding, "I'm just saying, we should be allowed to violate basic tenets of humane behavior without too much complaining." I have to agree with Brandon on this one (shock!) – maybe most people Lileks talks to mean the world's goodwill after 9/11. (I get the impression most liberals Lileks talks to are busy huffing uncapped highlighters in a wastepaper basket and making giant papier-mâché puppets of Bush with a Hitler moustache.) But, against those who were referring to goodwill inside this country, his particular rebuttal is baseless.

(And, on another subject, I really have a problem with anyone who tries to defend or ameliorate the Abu Ghraib situation by comparing it to brutality practiced by other nations. This isn't a problem with Americans being mean to Iraqis; this is a problem with human beings doing terribly unforgivable things to other human beings, stripping them of their humanity, and doing so for sport, not in the practice of any military exercise. So Russians also did it? So Nazis also did it? Also deplorable. But this sort of thing doesn't really fit under the umbrella of a race or a nationality – the problem is humankind's problem to solve. It wastes time and energy attempting to figure out where we stand on the torture ladder tournament; it doesn't matter who's done it worse, or more often, or to more people – what matters is that it should never be tolerated. The fact that anyone attempted to smear the Bush administration with the Abu Ghraib problem is just a political convenience – after all other defenses for pre-emptively invading the country faded away, they were left with "liberating the people of Iraq," and that became the rallying cry for defenders of this war. For those who opposed it, photos of smirking soldiers dehumanizing the oppressed people we were supposed to be freeing created a very attractive target. I don't defend the politicizing of that, because it isn't like Bush personally tortured any Iraqis (as far as we know). More has come to light regarding memos he signed, and documents Rumsfeld annotated and signed, that seemed to approve some of these tactics, but I stand by my previous position on this issue. It's not for me to entangle myself with; it's just a damn shame.

I'm not here to give Bush a hard time for the prisoner abuse because (as far as we know) he didn't personally do any of it. There's probably an argument to be made that the low morale of troops fighting a bloody war for purposes that have been misrepresented and for longer than they should have is the sort of thing which leads to these sorts of activities ("blowing off steam" and all that). But I'll leave it to O'Franken to get apoplectic about that.

O'Franken did, a little. Moore points it out, too. I'm personally going to stick to "this is unfortunate; this shouldn't be tolerated; I dislike Bush, but for other reasons.")

This has been an excellent and invigorating discussion all around, and I couldn't be more grateful to everyone who comments, and everyone who reads. If I had to pick out one phrase that distills my view on the subject, it's this, from michwagn: "He owes it to us to explain." This is a reality of holding the highest office in the land, the leader of the free world. You are responsible for explaining your actions, especially to your constituents. Bush realizes this, of course, otherwise he wouldn't have given us reasons (phony or not) for invading Iraq. He'd have just said, "I'm invading Iraq. Catch you on the flip side!" However, I think he owes us honest explanations. In some cases, we get them; in some cases, we're getting close. In most cases, I think we'll never get them. It's my hope (although I'm still not supremely confident) that the voters of this country will agree with me that we are owed an honest explanation, and they'll fire him this fall. Because that's the only effective response to his way of inhabiting the office of president. No matter what criticisms are lobbed against him, his response is, "What are you gonna do? I'm the president. Heh, bring 'em on." I think the key to that response is being president. If a majority of Americans expect more from their president – and if their votes manage to be counted – then perhaps, he won't have that to fall back on anymore.

I've been traveling and unwired for a few days, so forgive me for responding in scattershot fashion. I began composing a response in my head to the Letterman thing, and Brandon ended up saying pretty much what I was thinking. I'm not the type to forgive someone completely for being an asshole just because he's an excellent talk show host, or a brilliant director of dialogue-heavy nebbishy Manhattan-based films of steadily diminishing insight, or the best president of my lifetime – but I'll admit that I usually forgive him a little bit. In Letterman's case, I have to agree with Brandon, that it's part asshole (we all are, especially me), but also partly just being misunderstood. I'd say, three parts misunderstood, one part asshole. I think it would be very difficult to be close to someone who is so tough on himself, especially working on the show. Letterman doesn't beat himself up about everything he does. He's not self-critical of the way he makes a turkey sandwich; he beats himself up about the way the show is run. While it would probably be delightful to help him make a turkey sandwich, I can imagine that it would be very hard to work on his show if you weren't able to understand that the self-criticism is his way of working. He's really just attacking himself, and the show is an extension of him, and you are a part of the show, so it's just a matter of not taking it personally. I think the fiercely loyal people are those who understand him well enough (based on years of service, or just being a similar personality, or maybe a misguided hope that they can help him learn to love himself) that they can embrace the man and forgive the raving tyrant. Because I know that he is also a very sweet man, and generous to a fault. I don't know if I'd be able to do it, and I certainly won't have an opportunity to find out. But I think people like Gaines and Burnett, and even the much-abused Tony Mendez, love him because they see past his faults. However, no matter what his personality, I don't think it forgives Bush for treating Barbara Gaines like a piece of furniture, which is a great example of his way of thinking about people.

Joe, I removed the Anonymous Coward designation from your previous post, because it was an honest mistake and I think in a discussion as "heated" as this, any truly anonymous cowards should be persecuted and ostracized. (Consider this my free TV for the indigent.) I regret that logging in is something people have to remember to do. I wish I could code some sort of auto-login feature for you, but the only way I can think of to do that would be to analyze all comments over a certain length for witty and intelligent discourse, and then assign them to you. However, now that we've been joined by Brandon and the Michelin Waggoner, the "witty and well said" filter is still too broad.

Joe MulderFri, 7/2/04 11:51am

"I regret that logging in is something people have to remember to do."

No need to regret it; I don't mind doing it at all. I just forget sometimes.

[Brandon] "But I wasn't talking about other countries - I'm talking about inside THIS country."

Oh. Then never mind.

"But, against those who were referring to goodwill inside this country, his particular rebuttal is baseless."

True.

[Brandon] "I felt there was an opportunity for the Bush administration, for all of us, to take our country in a direction that might have been less fractured and contentious. But maybe that's just too idealistic."

I think it might be, in that the other side is no more interested in this than Bush is. I knew that for sure by the frothing, wild-eyed protests of Bush's innauguration (which, for you trivia buffs, took place on the same day that Brandon had his 30th birthday and that Karen and I had our first date), which took place after he said, basically, "hey, let's try to take our country in a direction that's less fractured and contentious," and people showed up to, basically, tell him to go fuck himself (which is their right as Americans, and I'm okay with that, but, it doesn't speak to those peoples' inherent willingness to cooperate).

"He [Lileks] did the same thing when he tried to compare the Abu Ghraib prison abuse with that of Chechnyan prisoners – after making the comparison, he said "Does that excuse what we did? Not at all. Just balance the world's reaction."

Yeah. I never liked the "well, everyone else tortures prisoners too, and worse, even" argument as far as Abu Graib went. I bristle whenever anyone tries it. It's true, but, so? I don't want to hear about what everyone else does; we're America, and we're supposed to be better than that. I'm that's what I sit here and say (and I do), I have to be consistent; we can't just be slightly better than the horrible countries. We have to be good.

Anyway, my thing was never "yeah, we tortured prisoners, but everyone else does it worse," but, "regretably, we tortured some prisoners, which is inexcusable. However, unlike almost anyone else, we prosecute our own torturers to the fullest extent of the law, the process of which was well underway before anyone in the general public ever even heard about any of it."

So, yeah, a lot of my favorite conservatives took the "settle down, world, because we don't torture prisoners as bad as you guys do" route, and that's too bad.

Re: Letterman; he was brought up, so, I just threw that out there. I don't imagine he's a complete douche, but I'm sure he's difficult to work with if one's personality just won't mesh with Dave's particular quirks.

But that's not an indictment of Dave; you could say that with everybody. On that subject, I'd pretty much agree with anything and/or everything you guys said.

"(I get the impression most liberals Lileks talks to are busy huffing uncapped highlighters in a wastepaper basket and making giant papier-mâché puppets of Bush with a Hitler moustache.)"

Thank you, oh God of Having Your Ideological Opponents Walk Smack Dab Into It, for this opportunity. I, your humble servant, certainly did not deserve such a blessing.

[second paragraph, last sentence]

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/issues/current/feature.html

Bee BoyFri, 7/2/04 12:21pm

I'm not sure if I'm the ideological opponent in question, or if the papier-mâché'ers are. Because, believe me, they're my ideological opponent, too. "Papier-mâché puppet" is my shorthand for arch-left, wacky liberals who protest everything from the WTO to the opening of a Souplantation that uses a dishwashing soap containing a phosphate which is sometimes tested on crickets. I take this from my "evening with The Daily Show" a couple of years back at which the first person to stand up during the Q&A said something like "are you concerned about the worsening trend of large multi-national corporations running the world?" To which Jon replied quickly, "shouldn't you be in front of a building somewhere, with a giant puppet?"

My aim was to say that if Lileks only talks to freaky, whacked-out liberals, who go around comparing America to the Palenstinans, then it isn't Lileks's fault if he draws some faulty conclusions about where some of us stand.

(But, I did think Peter Kuper's Not a Pipe was pretty cute.)

BrandonFri, 7/2/04 1:03pm

I think it might be, in that the other side is no more interested in this than Bush is. I knew that for sure by the frothing, wild-eyed protests of Bush's innauguration (which, for you trivia buffs, took place on the same day that Brandon had his 30th birthday and that Karen and I had our first date), which took place after he said, basically, "hey, let's try to take our country in a direction that's less fractured and contentious," and people showed up to, basically, tell him to go fuck himself (which is their right as Americans, and I'm okay with that, but, it doesn't speak to those peoples' inherent willingness to cooperate).

I agree, working toward bridging the ideological divide can only happen if both sides participate, and the Dems can tear apart as much as the other side (though without the sinister music playing in the background - wait, did I say that out loud?).

However, my 30th birthday was one of the most fractured and contentious periods in recent American history, so I'm not sure it's the best example to use. A heavily-disputed election is not the right climate for trying to bring people together.

Post-9/11 was different. The seeds were there. Yes, there was a lot of anger and a lot of fear, but most of all, I think there was an overwhelming spirit of compassion for the loss we had just suffered, and a feeling of "hey, I may disagree with you on matters of politics and personal taste, but first and foremost, we're people, and we're in this together." Seemed like a good place to start.

Now is something like transforming the way our society interacts the sole responsibility of the president and his administration? Certainly not. It has to come from all of us. But at that particular time and place in history, I do think a lot of people were looking around for a cue on how to best move on and move forward, and were ready to listen to some new ideas.

It was a nice moment, but eventually we all kinda just went back to what we were doing before, and ultimately, the responsibility for that can't be pinned on any one person or their administration, even if said administration does have sinister music playing ever-so-softly in the background (dammit, I said that out loud again!).

Joe MulderFri, 7/2/04 1:05pm

"My aim was to say that if Lileks only talks to freaky, whacked-out liberals, who go around comparing America to the Palenstinans, then it isn't Lileks's fault if he draws some faulty conclusions about where some of us stand."

Of course, of course; it was just too damn good. You actually play the papier mache card, then, boom, there's that article.

I would say we're "ideological opponents" only in the sense that I'm voting for Bush and you're not; it's not an extreme. I think there's a pretty big leap from myself to, say, Timothy McVeigh, just as there's a pretty big leap from you to the Symbianese Liberation Army. But the WTO/giant puppet crowd? Not as big a leap.

And, as usualy, leave it to Jon Stewart to put it most succinctly.

Joe MulderFri, 7/2/04 1:06pm

Nooo! "As usual," I meant.

"michwagn"Mon, 7/5/04 4:48pm

Regarding Dave: I really enjoyed the Letterman stuff...most everything that I'd want to say has been posted, but I remember Andy Richter saying after he left his show (the coming quotation marks are meant here to mean the spirit of what he said, not the exact quote) that "Conan is a good guy, I hope he doesn't get all freaky like so many of these hosts do." And I think that says a lot about the business he is in in general. To me, Dave seems to be a guy who has fiercely loyal friends, some people who misunderstand him and some people who are misunderstood by him and both of the latter groups think Dave's an asshole. I love Dave. If I ever met him and he was rude, mean, distant, etc. it would be disappointing, but I would still watch his show. He's my TV pal.

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