Michael Moore: The Jerry Lewis of Germany?

The Boston Globe informs us this morning of a disturbing phenomenon in Germanny: the balooning of Michael Moore’s popularity. In an article today about a visit made by Colin Powell to a group of high-school students, Glenn Kessler provides background on the source of German anti-Americanism:

When you want to send a message to a nation that gobbles up the anti-Bush ideas of Michael Moore, whom do you call to deliver it? Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, of course. …
Most were two or three years old when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989; their parents had grown up under communism. Many told reporters they detested President Bush, and several said they learned a lot about foreign policy by reading Moore’s books. Even those who hadn’t said one of the school’s music teachers manages to talk at length about Moore’s condemnations of the Bush administration while kids are tuning their instruments.
Moore, a sharp-tongued filmmaker and author, has turned into something like a cult hero here, so much so that Publisher’s Weekly compared his popularity to that of comedian Jerry Lewis in France. Three of his books hit the German top-10 list at the same time. His attack on Bush, “Stupid White Men,” sold nearly 1.1 million copies in German — one-third of the book’s total global sales and almost double the sales in the United States. Moore’s “Dude, Where’s My Country?” also shot to the top of the best-seller list shortly after it was released.

What is it about ranting, idiotic, unbalanced demagogues that so fascinate the Germans? (Of course, I refer to Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin when I say this.) The Bush administration sees the calm and forceful rationality of Colin Powell as the perfect antidote to the wildly inaccurate and paranoid ravings of Moore, and if Kessler’s article is accurate, it appears that they are correct. Powell explained the American position on various issues to the German students with patience and respect:

Powell, sitting on a stool in the school’s gym, admitted he isn’t as avid a Moore reader as the Germans. And he insisted Bush did not invade Iraq for its oil. Iraqi oil sales are being used to rebuild the country, he said. He added that the United States has to pay for oil on the open market just like every other country.
Powell’s spiel to the teenagers often veered between pronouncements of policy (“We regret that Israel found it necessary to build a wall for its security . . .”) and repeated references to the glories of democracy, as demonstrated in Germany and soon — in Powell’s telling — in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While I never could understand the French fascination with Jerry Lewis, who usually grates on my nerves, at least he was entertaining in a pleasant way. Moore not only lies, but he does so in that exceptionally embarassing way that people who think they’re funny have when they’re not. The sheer pretentiousness of Moore and his schtick, even in his one halfway decent documentary, Roger and Me, makes spending any significant time around him or his work akin to getting your teeth cleaned by Ike Turner. It doesn’t do any permanent damage, but what would make you agree to do it?

NYT: Shocked at Hollywood Politics?

Jim Rutenberg at the New York Times watches very little television in his role as entertainment critic — or else he wouldn’t have written such a pandering, naive article as today’s report on the shocking development that Hollywood has ‘suddenly’ started injecting partisan politics into its TV shows:

Galvanized politically in ways they have not been since the early 1990’s, Hollywood’s more liberal producers and writers are increasingly expressing their displeasure with President Bush with not only their wallets, but also their scripts.
In recent weeks, characters in prime time have progressed beyond the typical Hollywood knocks against Washington politicians to calling out the president directly or questioning his policies, including the decision to go to war in Iraq, the support of the antiterrorism law and the backing of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Translation: Having a Republican in the White House galvanizes Hollywood activists to get partisan with their product. It really doesn’t matter who it is; if they’re Republican, they’re evil and stupid. This is news? Republicans and conservatives have become the generic representation of evil for all Hollywood fare, TV and movies alike. Did Rutenberg ever watch “West Wing”? Has he seen the movies The American President or The Candidate? Apparently Rutenberg never heard of Ronald Reagan and the treatment he got from the entertainment industry either — and still gets, when they think they can get away with it. CBS showed the miniseries “The Reagans” last year, a hack job starring Barbra Streisand’s husband, of all people.
Rutenberg then reviews a couple of recent entries that the limousine liberals in Hollywood thought were trenchant and funny:

On the NBC show “Whoopi,” the hotelier played by Whoopi Goldberg delivered an anti-Bush screed when the president, played by a lookalike, appeared at her establishment to use the facilities. “I can’t believe he’s in there doing to my bathroom what he’s done to the economy!” she said.
One of the wise-cracking detectives on the NBC show “Law & Order,” played by Jesse L. Martin, referred to the president as the “dude that lied to us.” The character went on to say, “I don’t see any weapons of mass destruction, do you?” His cantankerous partner, played by Jerry Orbach, retorted that Saddam Hussein did have such weapons because the president’s “daddy” sold them to a certain someone “who used to live in Baghdad.”
But the season finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO arguably best conveyed the growing sentiment. On that episode, the main character, played by the comedian Larry David, backed out of a dalliance sanctioned by his wife after noticing that his prospective paramour had lovingly displayed a picture of Mr. Bush on her dresser.

Ha ha. Ho ho. Yes, it’s this kind of comedy genius that’s led to a golden age of television viewership — having a married guy turn down extramarital sex with another woman because of her conservatism. It’s not just the sitcoms, either; later on in the article, Rutenberg tells of an HBO movie that equates oppression and torture of Christians in China with treatment of Muslims here in the US under the Patriot Act:

Mr. Fontana said he wrote a film for HBO called “Strip Search” to explore the merits of the USA Patriot Act. The film, which has not been shown yet, tracks the parallel experiences of an American woman being held for questioning by the authorities in China and a Muslim man being held for questioning in the United States, both on suspicions of terrorism.
“The real question is, if it’s wrong for a white American woman to be mistreated in a repressive country, is it O.K. for us to mistreat a Muslim male in this country?” he said. “I don’t know the answer, but when does the humanity stop and the fear take over?”

Yes, I recall well the day that Christian missionaries in China hijacked airplanes and flew them into Beijing office buildings, massacring thousands. Don’t you? Sure — it was on an episode of “Law and Order: Special Political BS Unit,” and Sam Waterston couldn’t get a jury to convict Gutenberg for printing the Bible and starting the whole mess. Since even leading liberal politicians like Diane Feinstein and Joseph Biden have publicly supported the Patriot Act (although John Kerry voted for it, which means he opposes it) and have repeatedly said that there has been not one incident of its misuse, the producers of “Strip Search” have set up straw man and rather easily knocked it down.
Not that you get any kind of analysis from Rutenberg, who accepts at face value the notion that Hollywood was liberal for a moment in 1992 and suddenly rediscovered its leftist predilection since the Iraq War. Not everyone has sheltered themselves like Rutenberg, however, and the increasing stridency of Hollywood entertainers like Larry David and his wife — who organized a notorious “Hate Bush” event in December — has not escaped notice from their customers. Television viewership has declined dramatically over the past twenty years, especially in episodic TV. Film box office has struggled as well, although ticket-price inflation tends to mask that more. The entertainment industry’s insistence on political posturing at the expense of entertaining its audience has managed to alienate a large part of their market.
Oddly, Rutenberg fails to mention any of these related issues, even as he tries to push the notion that Hollywood is only political at election time. Perhaps he’s trying to land himself a job as a screenwriter for fairy tales.

SuperBloggers Congregate at the Lord High Commissioner’s Office

If you weren’t listening to the Hugh Hewitt radio show — or if you’re allergic to “Going Up The Country” by Canned Heat — you missed a terrific hour and a half, where Hugh interviewed Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, James Lileks, and Roger L. Simon, all of which can be found on my blogroll as well. Great discussion and phone calls, and Hugh was kind enough to mention an e-mail I sent in. DC from Brainstorming called in and did a great job.
If you missed it, check out the replay at the KRLA website, and find out the top five blogreads of these blogosphere leaders…

I Get E-Mails …

First off, I love running this blog. Although it takes a lot of effort to maintain, Captain’s Quarters has allowed me to interact with some terrific people throughout the political spectrum — and I find that the regular readers of this blog are almost intimidating in their intelligence. Friends and family ask whether I’m preaching to the converts, but I have been challenged many times on my positions, which just makes me better at defending my positions or, as happens on occasions, rethink those positions entirely.
Some of you bypass the comments and e-mail me directly, which is fun to read. Lately, I have been receiving suggestions for posts, which is new for me. I do read each of them, even if I don’t respond, so feel free to keep sending them to me. If you don’t see a post, it’s just because I either have decided to focus on another story or I just didn’t get to it while it was timely — but it doesn’t mean I don’t like getting your suggestions. Whether you send me e-mail directly or comment on one of my posts, I read all responses.
This leads me to why I felt compelled to write this particular post today. This morning, when I got up and checked my e-mail, I had received this message, with the subject line “Bush Is Toast”:

Come November that twit pretending to be president will be out on his ass straight to hell. Have a nice trip asshole.

The writer identified themselves as ‘Test Name’ with the return e-mail addy of ‘gwbisevil666’ at a domain which I won’t name. That’s it; no debate, no evidence, not even an explanation of whether the final epithet was aimed at me or President Bush. I suspect that the writer wouldn’t care either way.
At first, this amused me, and it still does, but on further reflection, I think it is perectly indicative of the campaign rhetoric from the Kerry camp (and Dean’s too, for that matter) this election cycle. Rather than honestly debate issues, the Democrats have made it all about personality since last summer. For some on the left, all you need to do is hate George W. Bush to feel you’ve fully participated in the national discourse. It’s one of the reasons I remain optimistic about November, because I think that this strategy, if it could be called that, has already worn thin with the centrists. Kerry may ride that campaign tone down to the high 30s in the polls.
I’m mulling over issuing a challenge to some of the intelligent Democrats who read this blog — the kind of people whose blogs reflect intelligence and rational thought, even if we disagree — on holding a series of debates on our blogs in order to lift the level of discourse. That would make for the kind of blogosphere where we aren’t preaching to the choir, where we meet for rational debate and give the other side an opportunity to exchange ideas. Maybe that way we can even engage the “Bush Is Evil” wingnuts … or at least we can keep getting hilarious e-mails from them.
If the debate idea intrigues you, drop me an e-mail or a comment on this post, and we’ll set up a schedule and some ground rules.

Economy Still Steaming Forward

Two stories in today’s USA Today demonstrate the strength of the economic expansion. Manufacturing, which the Democrats have used to beat George Bush over the head, turns out to be expanding even faster than the overall economy:

The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index registered 62.5 in March compared with 61.4 in February. The new reading beat the expectations of most analysts, who had forecast a figure of 59.5. … It was the 10th consecutive month of expansion in the sector, which makes up less than a fifth of the U.S. economy.
The ISM said its monthly employment index climbed to 57.0 versus February’s 56.3. February’s reading was its highest level since December 1987 [emph mine].

The ISM measures 20 manufacturing industries and reports expansion in all twenty. That may account for the dropping numbers of jobless claims, which indicate that companies have stopped trimming payrolls in the first quarter, which is traditional in retail markets especially, and are ramping up hiring to meet the needs of the expansion. In addition, inflation was non-existent during the same reporting period, which indicates a true expansion instead of simply wage and price puffery.
In short, while we are still waiting for extensive job creation, the stage has certainly been set for it. The economy is expanding at rates not seen in over fifteen years while keeping inflation under control, and the unemployment level still is below the average of the past two decades. John Kerry will have a tough time running against these numbers.

Iraqi Scientist: I Saw the WMDs

The Australian newspaper, The Age, features an interview with a scientist formerly in Saddam’s employ who insists that Iraq maintained stockpiles of WMDs, at least until he was arrested and almost executed in 1998 (via Drudge):

For seven years, before he was tortured and sentenced to death, Rashid (not his real name) worked at the top of Iraq’s scientific establishment. He says he regularly met Saddam Hussein and his cousin and strongman deputy prime minister Abdul Tawab Huweish. After the Gulf War he was put in charge of a taskforce code named “Al Babel” to develop stealth technology to make aircraft and missiles undetectable on radar.
Rashid, who now lives in Melbourne, also claims to have had access as a trusted insider to secret underground bunkers where chemical weapons were stored. “Saddam gave me access to everything, he was so desperate to perfect the stealth technology,” he says.
Now Rashid’s great fear is that Saddam loyalists still active in postwar Iraq may get to the chemicals and weapons he saw hidden away before fleeing for his life.

Rashid was arrested by the Mukhabarat, tortured, and set up to be executed for suspicion of disloyalty to Saddam in 1998. Until then, Rashid had access to all facilities in his capacity as a researcher into stealth technology, and claims Saddam himself told him and showed him where chemical and biological weapons were being stored. In his interview with The Age, Rashid mentions several specific locations for underground storage bunkers, including an intriguing assertion about an island in the Tigris River in Baghdad.
His fear is that remnants of Saddam’s regime will get to them before the Coalition and use the WMDs on either Coalition troops or the Iraqis themselves. If that happens, it will make yesterday’s attack in Fallujah look like a ticker-tape parade.

Brother, Can You Spare a Kidney?

I have another First Mate update, and unfortunately this time the news is not so good. The friend who had generously volunteered to donate a kidney has received notice that her medical tests show she will be unable to do so. Her own kidney function falls below the thresholds needed to qualify as a donor. She had no idea that there was any problem, and it’s not a serious issue for her; in fact, she probably won’t require any treatment.
I didn’t realize how much I was counting on this transplant emotionally until I got this call on Tuesday. The First Mate had spent all day Monday at the hospital getting an angiogram done — which came back okay — and we knew our friend had been at the transplant center at the same time, working on her own evaluation. Up until that time, whenever my wife had felt poorly or had little energy, we would tell ourselves, “In a couple of months, the transplant will be done and it will all get better.” After the call, that emotional crutch was kicked out from underneath us, and now we’re looking at a five-year wait for a cadaver donor. Needless to say, we’re pretty devastated, although we are hopeful that somehow this will all work out.
Thanks for all of your support in the past; I always share comments and e-mail on these posts with the First Mate, who very much appreciates all the kind thoughts and prayers expressed. I’ll keep you up to date on any further developments.
While you’re thinking about this, keep Julie from Fidler On The Roof in your thoughts as well. She’s had some bad news about a family member, although things seem to be improving.

Iran Still Playing Games: IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that despite Iranian claims of full cooperation with IAEA inspectors, Iran has continued to interfere with the inspections and block the investigations into its nuclear program:

An internal report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency challenges Iran’s contention that it has provided international inspectors with free access to workshops where it has manufactured parts for centrifuges. The document contradicts Iranian assurances this month that it had allowed inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, unrestricted access to the sites during inspections in January.
“The agency’s visit was ‘managed’ by the Iranians in the sense that the inspectors were not permitted to take pictures with IAEA cameras or use their own electronic equipment,” said the document, which was first reported by Reuters and obtained Wednesday by The Times.

The last time that the IAEA or the UN issued a critical report on Iranian cooperation, the mullahs responded by throwing the inspectors out of the country and accusing them of being dupes for the US. This time, the Iranians again deny that they have provided anything less than full cooperation, but have not issued any threats. The Iranians continue to insist that their nuclear program relates only to domestic energy production and that IAEA concerns about weapons proliferation are baseless.
Well, maybe. However, for a country with massive oil reserves, nuclear energy seems like an odd and expensive way to generate electricity, and the discovery of enrichment centrifuges on military bases doesn’t give confidence to their peaceful intentions. I believe that the Iranians have fixed on Saddam’s cheat-and-retreat strategy and will stick to it until a show of force makes the mullahs on the Supreme Guardian Council understand that either they or Syria will be the next focus in the war on terror. The choice will be left to them; Syria is already looking for ways to shed their status as a rogue state.

Muslim Cooperation in the UK

Two stories from the London Telegraph show how the war on terror has divided the Muslim community — and how imams and other leaders of Islam continue to demonstrate their disloyalty to their nation and their insistence that the only law worthy of recognition is Islam. The first article looks at the reaction of the families of the eight Muslims arrested in the UK after months of surveillance, netting a half-ton of explosives and preventing a large-scale terrorist attack:

Britain’s most prominent Muslim leader last night demanded a crackdown on “rogue” Islamic preachers, blaming them for brainwashing young men with sermons promoting holy war against the West. Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, was backed by the families of some of the eight men arrested in Tuesday’s anti-terrorism raids in south-east England. …
People such as Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun, which campaigns for an Islamic state in Britain, brought “much harm to the Muslim community”. He said: “These elements are preaching a message of hatred and violence that is against the Koran. They have nothing to do with Islam. There are more than a thousand mosques in Britain. We are not aware of this sort of activity in more than one or two.”

The families of the suspects have called upon the British government to pass laws similar to our old Alien and Sedition Law, specifically to prohibit the teaching of violence and treason in Britain’s mosques. They believe that today’s leaders of Islam in Britain are perverting it into a supremacist movement that teaches their children to disobey civil authority and to commit violent acts. One father even called upon Muslims to quit listening to imams altogether and to study Islam through books instead — a brave act in an increasingly radicalized Muslim community. In fact, these families all have acted in an honorable manner; instead of calling the police racist and spouting platitudes about the suspects, they have used the occasion to try to call other Muslims back from the brink of madness.
On the other side of that brink, however, is the mullah Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, who has told his flock to cease cooperating with British police in the war on terror and not to recognize their authority over Muslims:

Muslims cannot co-operate with local authorities against other members of the faith, the outspoken leader of an Islamic group has said. … Sheikh Omar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Muslims have a unique way of life. Co-operating with the authorities against any other Muslims, that is an act of apostasy in Islam.”

This fundamental difference highlights the difficulty in working with even the more mainstream Muslim groups. For them, the only law is Islam; cooperating with local authorities outside the ummah is a voluntary choice, made on a case-by-case basis. The sheik, who has been agitating for an Islamic state within Britain, makes it clear that the peace and safety of the UK is a secondary consideration to supporting Muslims no matter what crimes they commit. You can’t just dismiss the mullah as a crank, either, since that same message comes from mosques all over Britain, and indeed all over the world.
At least in the UK, rational Muslims have formed public-action groups to counteract the strident rhetoric of clerics such as Sheik Omar. Here in the US, the only voices we hear are from the Council of American-Islamic Relations, which spends its time and effort griping about ethnic profiling and the bad manners of Americans while making no effort to assist in our own security. No one could doubt that had those arrests taken place in the US, CAIR would have been using their face time on TV claiming that the whole investigation was a frame-up and the result of bigotry towards the Religion of Peace.