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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Just One Fix 

I owe you all a long post about the move and the wedding, and you'll get it -- probably in August. Meantime, here's some stuff about Michael Moore's new documentary film Sicko. (We saw it last night and I've spent an hour this morning linking up stuff about it).

First off: Thumbs up. It's well-made, funny, and important. Drawbacks: Moore doesn't go into enough detail about the finances involved, and doesn't deconstruct the anti-single-payer arguments in enough depth.

There are spoilers here, so be warned and stuff. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, I want to provide people with action. If you support a single-payer system, check out the following sites:Why Is It Bad?

Insofar as we all agree it's massively botched, the key question about health care in the US is this: Is the system's for-profit orientation to blame? The answer is: Yes.

Countries with single-payer like Canada and Britain experience problems, to be sure -- universal care is no panacea. But the fact that our system puts profits first is a vital core element that must be remedied.

As Moore points out, the US socializes certain other parts of our infrastructure -- fire departments, schools, etc. And in each of these areas, the fundamental philosophical idea is that public control means a more just system. (I wrote about how this applies to education in A Profit Without Honors, and philosopher Mark Kingwell spoke in The Corporation about firefighting in the US before it was socialized.)

Other Peoples' Health Care

Again, this is not to say that single-payer is without problems. The Wikipedia page on Sicko controversies points out that waiting times are a serious problem in Canada -- whereas Moore wanders around a waiting room hearing patients explain their mere 45 minute delays, the time they spend waiting before coming in is often a matter of weeks. (Obviously, this is no more a necessity of single-payer medicine than 30-student classrooms are a necessity of public high schools. Both can be cut in half if we have the political will to do so.)

Meanwhile, France is apparently in a lot of debt because of their health care system. (Not even close to the debt the US is in, but significant nevertheless.) The Independent also has a good piece about health care in the US, pursuant to the film.

As for Cuba, Moorewatch makes the stinging point that doctors in Cuba don't drive fancy cars like those driven by doctors in Europe. Aieee! Muerta a la Revolucion!

On a more serious note, I'll agree that the happy, clean, efficient hospital we see in Cuba isn't necessarily typical. This picture -- which is hideous and repulsive and not for anyone in the middle of a sandwich -- may or may not be representative, but it sure is a disturbing rejoinder to the immaculate Cuban hospital in the movie.

Still, we should have single-payer in the US, like they have in every other industrialized nation. This is a point where Moore should have used the following clip from The Simpsons (from episode 9F09, Homer's Triple Bypass, wherein Homer suffers a series of heart attacks and requires major surgery):

Also, he should have used Ice Cube's Alive on Arrival and The Coup's Breathing Apparatus. (Bad words in both.)

The Moorewatch Thing

One item that really intrigued me was the bit in the movie about how Moore donated $12,000 to Jim Kenefick, who runs the anti-Michael-Moore site MooreWatch. (Kenefick's wife was ill and they faced financial problems.)

The site has a buttload of posts about the whole affair -- starting here -- but it boils down to this: Moore made the donation anonymously at first. Kenefick used the name "guardian angel" in response to someone else who used "angel" first. When he found out it was from Moore (which he suspected all along), Kenefick said thanks.

Apparently, some people said Kenefick was wrong to take the money once he knew (or suspected) it was from Moore. This is dumb. As Kenefick (or someone else) points out somewhere on the site (I'm too done with this post to find it now), the only ethical wrong would be to take the money and then refrain from criticism of the donor's activities. I would add that this is precisely what many Senators and Representatives do when they get money from insurance and drug corporations.

This page goes into some of the editing slickery in the movie that makes Kenefick look especially mean -- the edits aren't life-threatening, in my opinion, but they're worth mentioning (like many of the criticisms on the site), and Moore's work could be 95% as powerful without them (and then his critics would have much less traction). I discussed all of this in my Fahrenheit 911 post. (I also misspelled fahrenheit. Duh.)

In Closing

The other problem I had with the movie is that it didn't get into research and development. One of the major arguments made by pro-privatized health care advocates is that the US leads the world in new treatments and research into new drugs -- this is supposedly why drug prices are so high here. (And, they say, other countries charge less because they simply leech off our expensive work.) Even though there's a lot to be added about the advertising budgets and executive salaries of drug and insurance companies, there is some truth to this point of view -- the US does have some very impressive research going on, which would be affected if we changed our system.

While I believe it's possible to continue to do this research and provide health care for every human in the nation (you may say I'm a dreamer, but at least I'm not a hideous mutant rhinoceros-looking freak), this element deserves some attention.

Also, Jesse wrote a review. (Sorry for the tacked-on link, J.. I couldn't find a better place to do it.)

Okay, enough of this. I've got a wedding to plan. See many of you on the 7th!


Bloxorz is maddeningly fun and addictive. You have been warned.

Today I'm listening to: Groove Salad!