Hello! Today will be gruesome for those on the F911 side of the audience, alas. Those disinclined to endure a screed are advised to head over to this week’s addition: Laff mag from 1952, a worthy addition to the dank treasures of Stagworld.

You’ve been warned.

Still here? Okay.

Believing in Bush’s perfidy gives some people the same comfort and emotional nourishment others get from believing in Jesus. It validates them, cements their view of the world – venal, conspiratorial, run by capering chimps who are somehow ten times less intelligent than Usenet posters but somehow able to yank strings on a global scale. A commenter on a Fark thread called Bush “The Unelected Murder Monkey,” for heaven’s sake. Not all the opponents are unhinged, of course. Of course. There are many levels of opposition, from the serene and reasonable to the char-broiled nutburgers who haunt the comments sections of my favorite blogs. Or my favorite talk shows. Today I heard a caller describe how “Fahrenheit 9/11” affected him; now he believed that the Bush administration attacked the Taliban and Iraq because the Saudis wanted it. The host pointed out that the Saudis didn’t want it. The caller said “well, that’s your opinion.” Movies are facts, you see. Facts are just opinions.

Ooooh! You’re really spooked by F911, musta struck a nerve, eh? Scared that Chimpy McDeath is gonna go down? I love that: Moore’s on the cover of Entertainment Weekly and Time and who knows what else; he's the big magilla of the month. But respond to his assertions and you’re acting out of frantic panic. Right. I admit, I don’t like Mr. Moore; I don’t share his contempt for the American people, and I think he’s a dishonest polemicist. Exhibit A:

It unpacks the assertions made by his books and movies. It’s not a flame-throwing rant. It’s the brief for the defense - the client in the dock being America. Fans of Mr. Moore would be advised to read it, if only to get a head start on refuting its innumerable refutations. Plus, it has an essay by Tim Blair, who is crueler and funnier than Moore can ever hope to be. If Moore had Blair’s talent, Ralph Nader would not only be elected president but elevated to Global Pope-Emperor by a deafening national voice-vote.

Which brings us to Moore’s 4th of July piece for the LA Times.

As a young boy, I loved the American flag. I'd lead my younger sisters in patriotic parades up and down the sidewalk, waving the flag, blowing a whistle and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over and over until my sisters begged me to let them go back to their Easy-Bake Oven.

I’ll take his word for that.

I loved singing the national anthem. I won an essay contest on "What the Flag Means to Me." I decorated my bicycle with little American flags for a Fourth of July parade and won a prize for that too. I became an Eagle Scout and proudly promised to do my duty to God and country. And every year I asked to be the one who planted the flag on the grave of my uncle, a paratrooper who was killed in World War II. I was taught to admire his sacrifice, and I hoped to grow up and do my part, as he had, to keep us free.

His patriotic bona fides thus established, he says this:

But, in high school, things changed. Nine boys from my school came back home from Vietnam in boxes. Draped over each coffin was the American flag. I knew that they also had made a sacrifice. But their sacrifice wasn't for their country: They were sent to die by men who lied to them.

For some reason that intrigued me: nine boys from my school. So I googled around, and found the Casualty list for the Vietnam War. There were six casualties from Davison, Michigan. (He didn’t go to high school in Flint. He didn’t live in Flint. You knew that, right? He lived in a suburb.) They weren’t boys. They were men. The earliest was killed in 1967, and there were two casualties in that year. Two in 1969, one in 1968, and one in 1970. Moore was born in 1954, so he would have entered high school in 1969, after which there were four casualties. (One of which died of a heart attack.) Two were drafted, incidentally. The rest – if I’m reading the site correctly – appeared to have enlisted.

Just so we’re not throwing them around as props, we should give their names. They were Gary Thompson, Martin Scott, David Bonesteel, Howard Doyle, David Ex, and Lowell Holden.

Why bother? Because it has the ring of a Mooreism – an assertion thrown out with the assurance that no one will question it. Sounds right. And if it's not exactly right on the micro level it's true on the macro level - hey, 50 thousand boys died for Nixon's war, and you're quibbling about whether they came from Davison or Flint or wherever? Tell you what: I'll grant him the nine if he grants me yellowcake.

For too long now we have abandoned our flag to those who see it as a symbol of war and dominance, as a way to crush dissent at home. Flags are flying from the back of SUVs, rising high above car dealerships, plastering the windows of businesses and adorning paper bags from fast-food restaurants. But these flags are intended to send a message: "You're either with us or you're against us," "Bring it on!" or "Watch what you say, watch what you do."

I knew a paranoid schizophrenic once. He believed that the New York Times was sending him personal messages through its front-page headlines. He might also have believed that car-dealership flags were telling him to watch what he said.

If flying the flag is intended to crush dissent at home (as opposed to abroad) it’s not doing a very good job, is it? Personally, I fly my flag on holidays because I love this country. If you asked for secondary reasons, I’d say it’s to show support for the troops and their mission. I gave my daughter a flag to wave on the Fourth as part of a long careful education in what sets the American experiment apart from the general nature of human history. (Details to follow.)

Those who absconded with our flag now use it as a weapon against those who question America's course. They remind me of that famous 1976 photo of an anti-busing demonstrator in Boston thrusting a large American flag on a pole into the stomach of the first black man he encountered.

That could be what’s happening here, although whether this is “the first black man he encountered” isn’t clear from the picture. Interesting side note: the man who was being attacked was named Ted Landsmark. He spent part of his youth in Harlem. He later went on to Yale, to get a BA in Political Science, then got a PhD at Boston U. He is presently the president and CEO of the Boston Architectural Center, and has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation. (The Bush administration requested a three percent increase in their funding in the last budget.) The man in the photo wielding the flag was Joseph Rakes, who when last heard from was a laborer on the Big Dig in Boston. Ted Landsmark is writing opinion pieces for the Globe about the nature of the art and landscaping that will go on top of the tunnel.

What a horrible country, eh? But that’s not Michael Moore’s America. Michael Moore’s America is the dirtball shoving the flag at a black man, because that says it all.

These so-called patriots hold the flag tightly in their grip and, in a threatening pose, demand that no one ask questions. Those who speak out find themselves shunned at work, harassed at school, booed off Oscar stages. The flag has become a muzzle, a piece of cloth stuffed into the mouths of those who dare to ask questions.

Or draped backwards on the broad trunk of brave dissenters who manage to schedule in a photo shoot before they’re carted off to the lime pits. You know, this is just so old. So tired. It would be old and tired if it ran in a high school newspaper. Shunned at work? Oh, I can’t tell you the number of times around the newspaper office I’ve been told to avoid someone because he was critical of the Shrub Regime. Harassed at school? I’ve heard of such things, yes. Booed off an Oscar stage?

But I thought that didn’t happen. According to that mouthpiece of the Jackboot set, CNN, Moore said the following after the Oscars:

Moore expanded on his comments with the press backstage.

"I'm an American," he said. "You don't leave your citizenship behind when you enter the doors of the Kodak Theatre." He added that expressing opinions is "what I do. I do that in my filmmaking."

Asked what he thought of the catcalls, he said, "Don't report that there was a split decision in the hall because five loud people booed."

One of these positions would appear to be a fictition. The Kodak theater, incidentally, seats 3400; is Moore saying that the catcalls of less than half a dozen people is a sign that the smothering glove of fascism is clamped over the wide-eyed face of America?

We continue with the LATimes piece:

I think it's time for those of us who love this country — and everything it should stand for — to reclaim our flag from those who would use it to crush rights and freedoms, both here at home and overseas. We need to redefine what it means to be a proud American.

Again with the crushed rights. It’s a standard trope, a talisman worn smooth with obsessive rubbing, and people of Moore’s stripe won’t let it go until the Patriot act is rescinded and we can go back to the good old days of petitioning judges for separate wiretaps for a suspected terrorists’s individual cell phones and land lines. Fine. But let’s talk about the rights and freedoms we’ve crushed abroad. Leave aside Western Europe, which is still reeling from the decision by the Bush adminstration to use Warthogs to strafe all those street protests. Two questions:

Afghanistan had more / less freedoms under the Taliban

Iraq had more / less freedoms under Saddam

I’ll grant you that we surely put the screws to the Iraqi press. Moore himself has famously decried the shutting of Al-Sadr’s paper. Here’s the legal basis for that:

Prohibited Activities: Media organizations are prohibited from broadcasting or publishing original, re-broadcast, re-printed or syndicated material that:

a) incites violence against any individual or group, including racial, ethnic or religious groups and women;

b) incites civil disorder, rioting or damage to property;

c) incites violence against Coalition Forces or CPA personnel;

d) advocates alterations to Iraq's borders by violent means;

e) advocates the return to power of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party or makes statements that purport to be on behalf of the Iraqi Ba'ath Party.

You read that right, friend: in the early days of occupation, before the country had settled down, the OCCUPIERS forbade people to publish newspapers that advocated rape, rioting, and the reinstallation of the fascist regime.

We continue:

If you are one of those who love what President Bush has done for this country and believe you must blindly follow the president to deserve to fly the flag,

Stop. This is a perfect example of prose from someone who either does not understand his opposition, or chooses not to grant that they have a legitimate basis for opposition. Or, it’s just bad sophomoric writing. If you are one of those who love what President Bush has done for this country and believe you must blindly follow the president to deserve to fly the flag. Yes, that’s me. Me deserve fly flag! Me blindly follow! Hulk smash!

you should ask yourself some difficult questions about just how proud you are of the America we now inhabit:

Oh, no: not the difficult questions! Biggles, stab him with the leaden accusation.

Are you proud that one in six children lives in poverty in America?

No. I’m ashamed. I think we should be more like British Columbia, where one in six children lives in poverty. No – wait. Er - next question.

But before we move along, I’d like to echo what Dennis Prager said about this today: child poverty is closely tied to unwed motherhood. You want a poor kid, have one when you’re young and the father’s contribution consists of bimonthly Pamper drops. If Mr. Moore wishes to lead society back to a place where unwed motherhood is frowned upon and men are expected to marry the women they impregnate, I’ll be right there with him.

Are you proud that 40 million adult Americans are functional illiterates?

This is addressed in “Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man.” As the authors note: the survey to which Moore refers also says (quoting MMIABFSWM) “in the next paragraph, [the survey] goes on to note that 25 percent of those people who scored in the lowest literacy category were immigrants who have learned little or no English. And in classic Moore fashion, he also fails to disclose that nearly 19 percent of the group he includes in the uneducated masses are actually people who have ‘visual difficulties that affect their ability to read print.’”

The authors also note that when it comes to the highest level of literacy skills, “the US figure is 21.1 percent, compared to 16.6 percent in the UK and only 13.4 percent in Germany.” I’m sure there are those who find calamity in those numbers, too, some sort of gap in the distribution of literacy skills. The rich get wordier while the poor are unable to afford the new, longer words, and have to make do with hand-me-down single-syllable slang.

There’s more Damning Stats of this ilk, and it’s too late for me to slog through them. Basic point: we dumb, and it’s everyone’s fault but the educational system. Then this:

Are you proud that the rest of the world, which poured out its heart to us after Sept. 11, now looks at us with disdain and disgust?

Let me see if I can find the right way to put this:


Again, the high-school-level thinking: “the rest of the world.” It’s simplistic to identify Iran, Iraq and North Korea as evil. It’s simplistic to state in the immediate wake of 9/11 that nations are either with the terrorists, or the United States. But it’s a sign of complex nuanced thinking to say that “the rest of the world . . . looks at us with disdain and disgust.” Yes, the world poured out its heart; it cost them nothing. Hearts are easily tipped and just as easily refilled. When the French newspaper said “We are all Americans now” it sounded nice, and I suppose it was, but in retrospect it looks as if there was an undercurrent of appeasement and surrender: we are all Americans because we are all victims in a sense, non? We ceased to earn the precious coin of French approval when we fired the chief procurer for their favorite customer, Iraq. C’est dommage. We can live with it.

Wait until France gets a hard shot in the nose. Wait until France reacts with some nasty work. They’ll get a golf-clap from the chattering class over here and a you-go-girl from Red America. France could nuke an Algerian terrorist camp and the rest of the world would tut-tut for a day, then ask if the missiles France used were for sale. And of course the answer would be oui.

Are you proud that nearly 3 billion people on this planet do not have access to clean drinking water when we have the resources and technology to remedy this immediately?

Immediately! Right now! The entire purpose of the American economy must be turned to the task of building sanitary water systems in rural Peru, old Soviet industrial sites in the Urals, and the Chinese hinterlands! Immediately! We are not only obligated to step in and help poor Robert Mugabe upgrade the pipes of urban Zimbabwe, we must issue bonds to ensure that these systems work until the sun sputters out. Because that is the first obligation of the government, as set forth in the Constitution: ensure that someone in the Sudan can drink tap water without getting the squirts.

I support helping struggling countries that aren’t run by kleptocrats upgrade their utilities; really, I do. It’s a good thing to do. But look how Moore sets the bar: if we don’t help 3 billion people, we can’t be proud.

And who might profit from this global project?

Are you proud of the fact that our president sent our soldiers off to a war that had nothing to do with the self-defense of this country?


This is the true state of disgrace we are living in. I hope we can make it up someday to these brave kids (and older men and women in our reserves and National Guard). They deserve an apology, they deserve our thanks — and a raise — and they deserve a big parade with lots of flags.

Draped over their coffins, that is. As Moore wrote elsewhere:

There is a lot of talk amongst Bush's opponents that we should turn this war over to the United Nations. Why should the other countries of this world, countries who tried to talk us out of this folly, now have to clean up our mess? I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle. I'm sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.

Moore did not tell us how many American deaths would be sufficient to earn God’s forgiveness. I can’t tell you. It's not something I think about. I don't have my soldier-death / God-placating abacus handy. I didn’t know God was rooting for Saddam. The things you learn on the internet!

Back to his opinion piece:

Let's create a world in which, when people see the Stars and Stripes, they will think of us as the people who brought peace to the world, who brought good-paying jobs to all citizens and clean water for the world to drink.

In anticipation of that day, I am putting my flag out today, with hope and with pride.

There you have it. He wants the flag to stand for clean water. This from a man who waddles up to the deep well of American freedom, fumbles with his zipper, and pisses in it.


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