One Victory And One Loss Today

As I noted earlier, it was a mixed day. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” passed with eight Republican Senators joining the Democrats. Unfortunately there weren’t enough votes to get cloture on a GOP filibuster on the DREAM Act, with some Democrats joining the Republicans. It is hard to come up with a rational argument against passing the DREAM Act as it only gives a path towards citizenship to those brought into the country as minors without intending to break the law. The most likely explanation I can come up with is that the Republican Party is dominated by bigots who hate people who look like foreigners. Conservatives act like victims when called bigots, and yet they support so many policies which are based upon bigotry.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell To Be Overturned

CNN reports that the Senate has voted 65-31 to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The House has already voted to overturn it.

Update: More from The New York Times .

While we got this good news, the Dream Act failed to get enough votes to get past a GOP filibuster, with a handful of Democrats also failing to support the measure.

More on The Lie of the Year

Earlier I had a post on PolitiFact naming claims that health care reform was a government takeover of health care as the top lie of 2010. Many conservative blogs are claiming this falsehood is true, citing the numerous new rules in the legislation. Actually the legislation does far more to regulate the insurance industry than to intrude into medical affairs. Of course complaining about increased regulation of the insurance industry, considering all its abuses, would not be as useful an argument as scaring people into thinking a government bureaucrat was going to be making decisions instead of  decisions being made between the patient and their doctor.

It is also notable that conservatives have little problem with the manner in which insurance company bureaucrats intervene in health care decisions. It is also the conservatives who actually advocate for having the government intrude upon health care decisions. This includes their views on abortion, birth control, embryonic stem cell research, and end of life care.

Quote of the Day

“According to new census data, Falls Church, Va. is the best-educated area in the U.S. Least educated? Sarah Palin’s Alaska. ” –Jimmy Fallon

Sicko Banned In Cuba To Prevent “Popular Backlash” From Moore’s Inaccuracies (Or Maybe Not, See Updates)

Michael Moore’s health care documentary Sicko did a good job of showing the problems of  American health care but unfortunately Moore resorted to Fox standards of truthiness when looking at foreign health care systems. The most blatantly dishonest section of the documentary (as I’ve mentioned previously) was the segment on a Cuban hospital. A  hospital for foreign tourists was shown with the implication that it represented the type of health care available to Cubans. The Guardian reports that, according to WikiLeaks, Cuba banned Sicko out of fear that it  might lead to a “popular backlash” from Cubans who were denied access to the health care portrayed in the movie.

The secret 2008 cable is based on reports from the USINT’s foreign service health practitioner (FSHP) of her conversations with local people, unauthorised visits to Cuban hospitals, and experience of helping USINT American and Cuban personnel access healthcare.

The cable describes a visit made by the FSHP to the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital in October 2007. Built in 1982, the newly renovated hospital was used in Michael Moore’s film as evidence of the high-quality of healthcare available to all Cubans.

But according to the FSHP, the only way a Cuban can get access to the hospital is through a bribe or contacts inside the hospital administration. “Cubans are reportedly very resentful that the best hospital in Havana is ‘off-limits’ to them,” the memo reveals.

According to the FSHP, a more “accurate” view of the healthcare experience of Cubans can be seen at the Calixto Garcia Hospital. “FSHP believes that if Michael Moore really wanted the ‘same care as local Cubans’, this is where he should have gone,” the cable states.

A 2007 visit by the FSHP to this “dilapidated” hospital, built in the 1800s, was “reminiscent of a scene from some of the poorest countries in the world,” the cable adds.

The memo points out that even the Cuban ruling elite leave Cuba when they need medical care. Fidel Castro, for example, brought in a Spanish doctor during his health crisis in 2006. The vice-minister of health, Abelardo Ramirez, went to France for gastric cancer surgery. The neurosurgeon whoheads CIMEQ [Centro de Investigaciones Médico-Quirúrgicas] hospital – widely regarded as one of the best in Cuba – came to England for eye surgery, returning periodically for checkups

Update: Michael Moore Responds

Writing at his website and Huffington Post, Michael Moore states that Sicko was not banned in Cuba. Moore accuses the diplomat who wrote the previously secret cable of lying. It is certainly possible that  diplomats in Cuba might send home reports which are negative of Cuba but we cannot be certain the author was actually lying. The cable was written January 31, 2008 and Moore reports that Sicko aired in Cuba  on April 25, 2008. The author of the cable might have been lying, but it is also possible that the Cuban government changed their policy after this was written.

Moore did not respond to the real problem with the Cuban segment. He portrayed a Cuban hospital which is used for tourists and diplomats as an example of Cuban health care. Moore only looked at the worst aspects of American health care, which by itself is fine as there are enough problems to necessitate a change. However, when he selectively shows the worst of American health care and an atypical example of Cuban health care he is really not being honest. He also took a selective view of health care in other countries.  This is no better than the reports in the conservative media which highlight the best aspects of American health care while concentrating on (and often exaggerating)  problems in other countries.

Not having been to Cuba and basing my view on what appears to be reports which are not based upon ideology, I get the impression that health care varies tremendously for Cuban citizens. At least it is available to all. Michael Moore’s portrayal is false, but I also believe that the description in the cable  highlights the worst.

Update II: Sicko Was Banned, Maybe

In the above section I questioned whether Michael Moore was right that the diplomat in Cuba lied about Sicko being banned versus this being a change in policy after the report was written. It might have been latter. Ed Morrissey demonstrated this with a simple Google search showing numerous reports of Sicko initially being banned.

However it might not be this simple. Reason found evidence suggesting that there was another reason the story spread that the movie was banned, regardless of whether or not it was:

I may have found the origins of the error. The dissident Cuban doctor Darsi Ferrer Ramírez wrote an editorial in 2007 predicting that the government would censor the film. Some writers outside Cuba misread this as a statement that the film had been banned. I suspect that the author of the cable then heard that version of the story and passed it along.

I was already disappointed in Moore for his erroneous portrayal of the Cuban health care system. Such dishonesty really was not necessary to make the case for needing reform in the United States. I would also think that Moore would be aware of this information showing either that the movie was banned or that there was reason for people to believe it was banned, making it unfair to accuse the original author of the report of intentionally lying.

I am also disappointed in Moore for also being deceitful in his response by citing a World Health Report ranking of Cuba as being just two places behind the United States. This report is ten years old and the World Health Organization has since stopped issuing such rankings, realizing the complexity of such rankings and that they are of questionable validity. Besides, even if true this still would not excuse Moore’s dishonest portrayal of Cuban health care in Sicko.

PolitiFact’s Top Lie Of The Year From The Right Wing Was On Health Care Reform

There were many lies coming from the right wing (and insurance industry) during the health care debates, including claims of death panels (last year’s top lie), that Medicare benefits would be cut, and that everyone would be paying for the public option out of tax revenues. PolitiFact has named the false claim that health care reform amounted to a government takeover of health care as the top lie of the year:

The phrase is simply not true.

Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill:  “The label ‘government takeover” has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a ‘takeover.’ “

The claim is especially absurd considering that health care reform will result in an increased number of people being covered by private insurance companies. As PolitiFact says, “it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.”

This isn’t even a new lie. The same claim was made about John Kerry’s health care plan in 2004 which was far more modest than the plan which passed this year. Republicans stuck with this lie because it sounds good, and Frank Luntz found it would benefit the Republicans politically. They couldn’t care less whether there’s any truth to what they say.

PolitiFact provides further arguments against the validity of this claim. The lack of any government take over can also be seen in the American Medical Association’s endorsement of health care reform back in November, 2009 which debunked similar claims. This was from their statement in support of the House bill, with the AMA also endorsing the Senate bill:

Preserving the power of patients and their physicians to make health care decisions–rather than insurance companies or government officials–is of paramount importance to all physicians and to the AMA. While H.R. 3962 includes a number of new government oversight bodies, the AMA has not identified any new authority that would overpower the relationship between patients and their physicians. Furthermore, expanded coverage and choice should help empower patient and physician decision making.

This hardly sounds like a situation where government would be taking over.

Update: More on The Lie of the Year