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Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Dream [Fact] Police

Last night I dreamed about Michael Moore.

I dreamt that he lived near me, and I met his wife and talked to her about Fahrenheit 9/11. They also had a toddler son, and a puppy. Or maybe it was a kitten, I forget.

The most interesting part of the dream was when I showed Mrs. Moore -- who was very proud of her husband, and fully confident in the movie -- a place where the movie was inaccurate. "See here," I said, pointing to a transcript, "it says that [some office supply product or other] is used in [my field] in Sydney, Australia. Ha! Well, I worked in that field in Sydney for three years, and we never used these products!" She said there must have been a mistake, but I could see the doubt in her eyes.

But even in my triumph, I knew that his blunder about our Post-It notes was not going to really convince anyone. So he got a little fact wrong, so what? He's telling the Truth! And if all his facts are wrong, it still doesn't matter: the Truth is not inconvenienced by a few facts. Like John Pilger, they believe certain lies are more True than facts.

My dream was no doubt inspired by a transcript of the movie which has been posted at Red Line Rants (Part I, Part II, third part to be posted).

I read the second part of the transcript the other day, and came across this:

NARRATOR: And who else stood to benefit from the pipeline? Bush's number one campaign contributor, Kenneth Lay, and the good people of Enron.

I immediately detected a piscine aroma. Ken Lay and Enron seem entirely too convenient -- mentioned because they were famous for their failure. Was Lay really Bush's top contributor? So I went to Open Secrets and found this page listing Bush's top 20 contributors. Enron comes in at number 12. However, you see that these are actually the employers of Bush's top 20 contributors (or, sponsors of PACs which contributed to Bush). It's possible that Ken Lay was the biggest individual contributor, but that many other employees of the other corporations added up to their larger totals.

[This also explains why Bush's 17th largest contributor is the State of Texas, and why Gore's top contributors include the US Depts of Agriculture, Justice, and State, plus the University of California.]

So I wanted to find out what Lay's individual contribution was. It took a lot of doing (search-by-contributor seems to be down), but I finally found this, which reports all Lay's contributions. You can sort by election cycle, and you find that Bush got $4,000 out of the Lays, in four contributions. Now, of course they also contributed to a bunch of other political causes, many of them Republican (e.g. Americans for a Republican Majority, and the Republican parties of thirteen states). They also contributed to Houston Democrat moonbat Sheila Jackson Lee ($1500) and other Democrats Bob Kerrey ($2000) and Ken "nephew of Lloyd" Bentsen ($2000).

The next step is to find out whether anyone donated as much as Lay. This was difficult, because of the broken search engine, but it turns out that Tobias and Marianne Randall of Eli Lilly also donated $4000 to Bush during the 2000 election cycle.

But that doesn't really matter. It's only a technical objection. "Bush's number one campaign contributor" might mean the guy who's raised the most money for Bush overall, or who has contributed the most to Bush's various political campaigns over the years. And even if I found that this wasn't true, it doesn't negate Moore's main point, that Lay has seen to it that the Republicans got lots of money. If you are disposed to think that Bush would go to war primarily in payback for this favor, then knowing that other people in other industries might have given more will not change your mind. (And neither will realizing that Enron did not actually dig any oil out of the ground.) So my nitpicking is pointless.

Here's some more Moore:

NARRATOR: Or was the war in Afghanistan really about something else? Perhaps the answer was in Houston, Texas. In 1997 while George W. Bush was Governor of Texas, a delegation of Taliban leaders from Afghanistan flew to Houston to meet with Unocal executives to discuss the building of a pipeline through Afghanistan bringing natural gas from the Caspian Sea. And who got a Caspian Sea drilling contract the same day Unocal signed the pipeline deal? A company headed by a man named Dick Cheney: Halliburton.

If I recall correctly, Halliburton doesn't dig up oil either. The just sell machines and whatnot that do. Continuing on...

NARRATOR: And who else stood to benefit from the pipeline? Bush's number one campaign contributor, Kenneth Lay, and the good people of Enron... Then in 2001, just 5 1/2 months before 9/11, the Bush Administration welcomed a special Taliban envoy to tour the United States to help improve the image of the Taliban government.


NARRATOR: ...When the invasion of Afghanistan was complete we installed its new president, Hamid Karzai. Who was Hamid Karzai? He was a former advisor to Unocal... Faster than you can say Black Gold Texas Tea, Afghanistan signed an agreement with her neighboring countries to build a pipeline through Afghanistan carrying natural gas from the Caspian Sea.

Note that "black gold, Texas tea" are synonyms for oil, but "natural gas" is not. Just thought I should clear that up. The pipeline deal was indeed signed in late 2002. That BBC article notes that (at that time) potential investors were skittish. This DOE page says that the pipeline project seems to be dead in the water, and that "no major Western companies have expressed an interest in reviving the project."

But, again, a little niggling detail like that won't make a difference to you if you already know It's All About the Oil (Or Possibly Natural Gas).

Speaking of natural gas, Moore's emanations ("So-and-so 'just happened' to be in Houston at the same time as George Bush happened to be in Austin, only a few hours away on the day that such-and-such a paper was signed by someone else, half a world away...") sound a lot like the TV ads for those old books on the paranormal: "When Dorothy Hork hit her thumb with a hammer in her home in Baltimore, her mother in Los Angeles experienced a sharp, stabbing pain in her knee. Coincidence? Read the book..."

Or better yet, read Richard Cohen (registration required) or this item at MSNBC.