Michael Moore Defends Film Downloading
More Moore slams - can you tell I dislike him?

Pam on the red carpet! More on Moore - are you sick of him yet? HA!

For those of you who are curious who was at the Reggie Bush party this Friday night, check out this link to Wireimage. I walked my actress friend, Pamela Adamic, down the carpet and she made the list! I find that photographers are more generous with my new female clients than my new male clients and this proved true here! Go Pamela, Go Pamela!

Now in case you haven't heard enough on Michael Moore - here's an article I'm quoting in its entirety from Kyle Smith, a New York Post reviewer, since he's actually seen the film, Sicko, and can give a balanced viewpoint. Hopefully, unlike the last guy who created an anti-Michael Moore site, I won't hear from the big guy himself because who knows what I'd say!:) Can't stand him and how he's desecrated the documentary format. Anyway, enjoy the read.

Kyle Smith on Michael Moore's 'Sicko'

Tuesday's New York Post features my review of Michael Moore's "Sicko," a film that will be released in theaters on June 29 but has already been released nationwide, on many Web sites, free, with Moore's blessing. What follows is a greatly expanded, much more detailed version of the one-star review I wrote for the print edition of The Post.


Michael Moore’s latest documentary “Sicko” is an urgent bipartisan plea. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Yankees and Red Sox can surely all agree, says Moore, that our health care system ought to be run by Fidel Castro.

The silliness of Moore’s oeuvre is so self-evident that being able to spot it is not liberal or conservative either; it’s a basic intelligence test, like the ability to match square peg with square hole. (I'll be writing more on Moore on my blog, kylesmithonline.com).

Even Moore does not believe what he says, and his films don’t bring about change-—union membership did not skyrocket nor corporate downsizing trickle off after "Roger and Me," there was no movement towards banning guns after "Bowling for Columbine," and John Kerry did not have to fill out any change of address forms in 2004. Moore's documentaries are mere political slapstick that could have been made by a third Farrelly brother or an eighth Stooge. I will pay him the honor of treating him with his own meds. How else can I deal with a film that calls Hillary Clinton "sexy"?

The bulk of "Sicko" is given over to the stories of Americans who got the run-around from health insurers. These people were told they didn’t qualify for benefits because the requested procedures were too experimental or because of pre-existing conditions. The most absurd example of several is, perhaps, that of the woman who says that after she received benefits, the check was stopped because she had previously suffered an undisclosed yeast infection.

There is no way to know whether this claim is true because Moore’s style is to present whatever information he likes without checking it. He told "Entertainment Weekly" "absolutely not," when asked whether he felt any need to get the other side of the story. So, over time, his work rusts out from within as the facts eat away at it. The central idea of "Bowling for Columbine," for instance—that the killers were subconsciously driven to their actions by the presence of a weapons manufacturing plant in Littleton---turned out to be not only conceptually insane but literally untrue. The plant did not make what Moore called "weapons of mass destruction" but rather space launch vehicles for TV satellites. “Roger & Me,” which presented Moore as unable to secure an interview with the GM chief Roger Smith, was also a 90-minute lie: Moore did talk to Smith, a fact revealed by Ralph Nader.

One Los Angeles woman in “Sicko” says her daughter died because her insurance company told her to take her daughter to a different hospital than the first one she went to, and there are several other similarly grim tales. Moore is smart enough to know that a depressed audience is an absent audience, so he mixes the genuinely sad cases with ones that are just dopey, such as the one about the young six-foot beansprout rejected for coverage because he was underweight.

Regardless of whether any particular claim in "Sicko" is true, no one doubts that lots of insured and uninsured Americans face health-care crises. So far, Moore is master of the obvious. We all hate insurance companies and red tape, and we all want to improve the system. Where do we go from here?

To France, Britain and Canada, says Moore, who presents each of them as a health-care paradise. But lots of people in those countries have health-care nightmares of their own. Here’s how easy it is to lie by anecdote: Say I wanted to make a film about gay black Republicans who live in Chelsea. I find ten of them, make a film about them, and you walk out of the theater thinking: Wow, so many gay black Republicans in Chelsea! The six years it took me to find these ten guys will go unnoted.

All three countries are edging away from how Moore portrays them. Moore knows that in France, where he praises not only the health service but limits on working hours, expansive unemployment benefits and the country’s three preferred forms of exercise—street-marching, banner-hoisting and strikes—a new conservative president was just elected by promising to cut back on such nonsense. (According to Moore, if you need a babysitter or help with the laundry, the French government will send a trained professional right over.)

Everywhere he looks, Moore finds French happiness. But this phrase is as close to an oxymoron as French rock. In a poll, 85 percent of the French recently said their country is heading in the wrong direction. Right direction? Nine percent. In France in 2003, 15,000 mostly elderly hospital patients died in an August heat wave--because hospitals lack air conditioning and doctors were on vacation. The French parliament blamed the health care system.  That’s five times 9/11’s toll, all of it preventable, all of it unlamented by Moore.

Moore knows that in Britain, where National Health Service spending has more than doubled since Tony Blair was elected, with little to show for it, there is a two-tier health system: the smart set carry private insurance, which Moore wants to outlaw in the U.S. The cliché in London (check out this story and this one) is that the well-shod go to the same doctor as the suckers on the National Health Service. The difference is that private clients get treated right away while the NHS losers wait two years to get their strep throat looked at.

Moore glosses over wait times, hoping his audience is too stupid to notice. He asks a handful of Canadian patients how long they had to wait to see the doctor. Oh, 20 minutes, 45 minutes, everyone says. So if Moore finds five people who didn’t have to wait, there’s no waiting for anybody! “To any Canadian who has ever been forced to go to emergency, this would seem unbelievable,” writes Thomas Malkom, a vehemently pro-Moore columnist for Canada’s paper The Star. The Canadian Supreme Court struck down a law forbidding private insurance in a 2005 decision, ruling that "Access to a waiting list is not access to health care" The decision resulted from a Canadian case in which a man waited a year for hip-replacement surgery, and Canada has started down the road of privatization. Check out the Canadian movie "The Barbarian Invasions" (which is, like "Sicko," a fiction film) for a view of how Canadians view their system: agonizing waits; trips across the border to Vermont to get access to modern technology; fetid facilities modeled, seemingly, on an American one—the Confederate field hospital in "Gone with the Wind."

Here is Dr. David Gratzer, the Canadian author of "The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save Health Care," who believes both the US and Canadian systems are deeply flawed:

"Like most Canadians, I believed that we had the best-run health-care system in the world. Because the system was publically owned, I assumed that compassion came before profit and that everyone got good care. . .After I entered medical school, however, my view of Canadian health care changed…I trained in emergency rooms that were chronically, chaotically, dangerously overcrowded, not only in my hometown of Winnipeg, but all across Canada. I met a middle-aged man with sleep problems who was booked for an appointment with a specialist three years later; a man with pain following a simple hernia repair who was referred to a pain clinic with a two-year wait list; a woman with breast cancer who was asked to wait four more months before starting the lifesaving radiation therapy. According to the government’s own statistics, some 1.2 million Canadians couldn’t get a family doctor. In some rural areas, town councils resorted to lotteries: the winners would get appointments with the only general practitioners around."

Mere anecdotes? Yes, but mine cancel out Moore’s. Where are the stats? Moore emphasizes life-expectancy figures in which the US slightly lags some other Western countries. But life expectancy involves many factors; two that Moore is especially knowledgeable about, obesity and homicide by firearm, are special American plagues. Here’s a stat: The percentage of patients having to wait more than four months for non-emergency surgery is about five times higher in Canada and seven times higher in Britain than it is here. [see Gratzer, 171]

In his EW interview, Moore tacitly admitted that "Sicko" lies about wait times, saying, "Well, okay, let’s set up a system where we don’t have the Canadian wait. Let’s set up a system where we take what they do right and don't do the things that we do wrong." Yes, and let's also make sure that every girl gets to be the prettiest girl in town.

Those who have mastered basic economics can skip this paragraph. Not everyone can have everything they want because there is not an unlimited supply of anything (except maybe air); that’s why Canada and Britain have lotteries to determine who gets treatment. Deciding who gets what and when involves rationing, either by price or by waiting or some combination of the two. If the Mets announced that World Series tickets were free to anyone lining up in front of the Shea Stadium box office, you’d have to go get in line now. Medicare, which isn’t an unlimited benefit, is by itself projected to eat up a third of federal tax revenues by 2030[see Gratzer, p. 7]. There isn’t enough money in the U.S. to pay for free, wait-free top-quality universal health care. The law of supply and demand can no more be repealed than the law that all documentary films must be left-wing. Gratzer's book suggests a real-world solution: decentralization that gives patients more choice: "both failed options [HMOs and Medicare/Medicaid] share one fatal feature. They remove choices from patients and give them to government or corporate bureaucrats. Restricting patient choices in this way, flouting the laws of basic economics, has been a mistake. It's the reason why, while pocket calculators have declined in price from $500 to $5, the price of pacemakers keeps rising."

When Moore visits a British pharmacy in which all drugs cost ten bucks, what he isn’t showing is who invented the drugs: evil American profit-hungry pharmaceutical firms that would effectively be shut down if there were a $10 price limit on all prescriptions. Firms spend hundreds of millions developing and testing a drug while the patent clock ticks down, only to be forced to start over if the drug is rejected by the FDA. If a drug is approved, they have only a few years to recoup costs (and the cost of all the previous failures) by charging "exorbitant" market prices because the drug will soon go generic, i.e. non-exorbitant, i.e. virtually free. The Brits freeload on American technology. Being regulated to death is the reason the once-vibrant European pharmaceutical industry has been lapped by its U.S. counterpart in the last few decades. Want your drugs invented and open-heart surgery performed by the people who gave us FEMA, Amtrak and the CIA? Does the Post Office do a better job than FedEx? I can't mail a package via the federal government without waiting in line 20 minutes--and the Post Office is the best-run federal agency.

Moore is outwardly a genial buffoon; inwardly he is an authoritarian buffoon. He lets it show in two long episodes: a straight-faced interview with the UK’s infamous Commie, Tony Benn, whom Moore presents as an expert on the transformative power of socialism, and the famous-before-anyone-saw-it sequence, first reported in The Post, in which Moore takes some 9/11 rescue workers with lingering health problems to Cuba.

Moore, at a Havana hospital, says he requested that his group receive exactly the same care as any Cuban who walked in—"and that’s exactly what they got." As comedy, this statement is on a par with the sex scene in "Knocked Up," the chest waxing in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and the moment in "An Inconvenient Truth" when Al Gore tells us that the ecology’s no. 1 enemy, China, is in fact "on the cutting edge" of environmentalism.

In the Cuba section of "Sicko," so many guys in white coats (don't look at the camera, guys!) scurry around Moore’s patients listening to symptoms, peering at X-rays and firing up high-tech medical equipment that the scene seems to have been co-written by Groucho and Karl Marx. If Fidel himself gets this level of care, it’s no wonder the guy has outlasted nine presidents.

You can’t film anywhere in Castro’s Alcatraz without government say-so, meaning the whole scene was as phony as what happens when Frank Bruni walks into a four-star restaurant, and if there is a Michael Moore of Cuba, he is in jail right now. Reporters without Borders calls Cuba the world’s second biggest prison for journalists after China. But Moore solemnly reports Cuba’s official health statistics, which are of course a fiction dreamed up by El Presidente, because Moore's motto is to trust no authority figure from cringing corporate spokesman on up to Washington windbags. Except dictators. Dictators, he’ll take your word for it. I expected Moore to protect himself with a thin coat of disclaimer, just a line to say, "Look, I know Cuba is actually a prison nation where nobody’s gotten a new car since Fredo betrayed Michael, but I’m just using this as an extreme example for ironic purposes." Instead, his irony runs the other way: He plays scare music over an image of Castro to get a laugh. I say that again: he thinks the idea that Castro is evil is so obviously ridiculous that he says it sarcastically and expects you to giggle along. Moore calls Cuban health care among the best in the world. Nonsense. Cuba is short on everything from clean drinking water and aspirin on up.

The health care industry could not ask for a more ideal opponent than Moore; the idea that US health should go to a single-payer model is held by plenty of reasonable people, but Moore is not one of them. Despite his apparent belief that he can seem moderate by narrating the film in a sing-song, I’m-talking-to-a-child-or-moron tone, the man can no more hide his Marxism than his belly. He presents not only Tony Benn but Che Guevera’s daughter as voices of sanity and, through a French doctor, Moore sneaks in the Marxist slogan "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Everyone who has ever lived in a country that put this idea into practice has found that it actually means this: Give the country whatever it asks for and take back whatever it gives you, and do so without complaint or go to prison. Moore also runs lots of old Soviet propaganda footage with comical music on the soundtrack as if to suggest that Stalin was just another campy, overhyped entertainment figure--Martin Short with a mustache.

Moore has been along long enough that his ideas are starting to contradict one other; on his Web site, he once said of Al Qaeda’s grunts in Iraq, "They are the REVOLUTION, the minutemen," but in this film he tries to jog around to the right of Paul Wolfowitz: He pretends to be aghast that the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay (is any other group of 380 people in the world receiving as much attention as these guys?) get top medical care. So, Mike: don’t these heroes, these minutemen, deserve a doc?

Moore comes up with a few zingers, though fewer than in previous films. There’s a funny montage of a Congressman making speeches on health care in which he keeps tearing up on cue and talking about how much he loves his mama. Even I laughed when, following an American north of the border to get some CanuckCare, Moore said, "We’re Americans. We go into other countries when we need to." The founder of socialized medicine in Canada is described as the most important man in the country’s history, "even more than Wayne Gretzky!"

Let’s not give too much credit to Moore, though, for what he did about a guy who runs an anti-Moore Web site who was going to be forced to shut it down—because of a health crisis he couldn’t afford. When Moore found out about it, he anonymously sent a $12,000 check, or .0005 of the money he was paid to make this movie. An anonymous check is not actually anonymous if you announce it in a movie; then it becomes simply a bargain method for buying stories in the press that paint you as a nice guy. Moore, of course, has a Castro-ish history of suppressing dissent But he is free to prove himself a patron of the loyal opposition. He can send my check in care of the Post.

Posted by Kyle Smith on June 18, 2007 07:49 PM


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