Giuliani Continues Usual Scare Tactics About Democratic Health Care Plans

Rudy Giuliani offered a health care plan lacking in substance, instead falling back on his usual tactic of name calling. Giuliani equated the proposals of the Democratic candidates with the views of Michael Moore, claiming the Democrats support socialized medicine.

This is the same tactic used by George Bush in 2004 when he claimed that John Kerry’s plan was a government take over of health care when it actually centered voluntary measures to assist businesses and individuals who were having difficulties with the cost of health coverage. Republicans typically scream socialized medicine when they are the ones who back increased government intrusion in health care decisions, including on abortion rights, end of life decisions, and medical use of marijuana. Giuliani has opposed allowing cancer patients to use marijuana for relief of symptoms.

Giuliani is especially dishonest when he compares the plans of the Democratic candidates to Michael Moore. While most Democrats probably agree with Moore’s description of the health care crisis, none of the candidates agree with Moore’s solutions. Of all the candidates, only Dennis Kucinich has backed a single payer plan, and Moore has said that even Kucinich’s plan does not go far enough for him.

Giuliani also promises to solve all our problems–quickly:

He said he can solve global warming in five to 15 years and would end illegal immigration in a year and a half to three years. “I give ourselves 18 month to three years to accomplish it,” he said.

Update: The New York Times has more on Giuliani’s proposals. Giuliani claims that under the current system “there is no incentive to wellness.” In general people would prefer to be well as opposed to being sick. However if promoting incentives for wellness is the criteria we judge plans by, Giuliani’s plan fails.

Giuliani is very vague on his plan, but he did discuss the use of Health Savings Accounts.  A major problem with HSA’s is that they are used along with high deductible insurance plans leading people to avoid routine care of chronic diseases and preventative care to avoid taking money out of their own plan.

Republicans Block Legalization of Medical Marijuana

The authoritarian right might have lost control of Congress, but they have enough votes to win when the Democrats are divided. The Hinchey of New York Amendment which would have permitted medicinal use of marijuana was voted down in the House, defeated by a 262 to 165 margin. Democrats supported the amendment 150 to 79, but this wasn’t enough to overcome the overwhelming opposition by Republicans, who opposed it by a vote of 183 to 15.

Freedom Democrats notes that eight Democrats voted for the amendment last year but voted against it this year. The two members of the House of Representatives running for their party’s presidential nomination, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, both voted for the amendment.

A Review of Michael Moore’s Sicko

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joaAfBr9tAE]

Last night I took Michael Moore up on his offer and watched Sicko prior to its official release, with the trailer appearing above. The documentary made many excellent points on health care, but after seeing its overall philosophy, I am surprised that it received favorable reviews from Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Perhaps their reviewers also have had unpleasant experiences with the health insurance industry.

Moore briefly mentions the problems of the uninsured, but concentrates on the millions who do have health insurance yet still run into problems. He shows people having financial difficulties after paying their deductibles and co-pays, or paying the bill when an insurance company refuses to cover a necessary service. He shows how insurance companies cherry pick the healthiest applicants and deny those it expects to have to pay out on.

Moore might give a false impression that people with chronic diseases cannot obtain coverage at all. In many states they can receive coverage in theory–if they can afford the rates. The chances are better if covered by an employer as opposed to needing to obtain individual coverage, but a catastrophic case might also cause an employer to drop or reduce coverage. Michael Moore has a valid point that insurance companies are in the business to make money, and that often means finding ways to avoid paying claims as opposed to covering medical care for the sick. Similarly, viewers might get the impression that insurance companies find ways out of paying every claim. They actually do pay out on a sizable number, but that doesn’t help the many people, such as those shown in Sicko, who do not have their bills paid.

Moore shows not only victims of the health care system, but those who worked for insurance companies and are now confessing about the tactics used. This includes medical directors for insurance companies who were well paid for finding justifications to deny claims. The health insurance companies attempted to rationalize this to their medical directors by claiming they were working only to deny payment, not medical care.

The more controversial aspects of the movie are sure to involve the visits to Canada, Great Britain, France, and, most of all Cuba. I prefer to stick with aspects of the movie I’m personally familiar with, health care in the United States, as opposed to debating health care plans in foreign countries I have only read about. Moore also goes beyond health care to support considerable more government services than many who are pushing for health care reform in this country are advocating. I’m sure that Michael Moore does white wash many of the problems in other countries, but the fact remains that all these countries are able to provide health care for all its citizens. That does not mean that we should necessarily follow any of these particular models, but universal health care is something an affluent society such as ours should be able to find a way to provide.

Detractors of Michael Moore are bound to attack his more leftist economic positions and attempt to claim that the Democrats are as far left as him. As noted in a previous post, Michael Moore believes that none of the Democratic candidates, including Dennis Kucinich go far enough. Only Kucinich backs a single payer plan, with the rest of the Democratic candidates advocating plans which preserve private insurance plans as well as private medical practices. The plans advocated are actually very similar to those enacted by Republican governors in California and Massachusetts. I’ve seen claims that Sicko is virtually a Hillary Clinton campaign ad. It is true that the movie takes a highly favorable view of Hillary Care while ignoring the problems, but Moore ultimately attacks Clinton for selling out to the insurance companies.

There is no way that Michael Moore will receive anything but opposition from the insurance industry, but he does try to appeal to doctors. In both England and France he makes a point of showing that, despite “socialized medicine,” the doctors continue to have an excellent standard of living. On top of that, they don’t have all the paper work hassles we receive from the insurance companies, as well as denial of payment. Michael Moore is receiving support from groups of doctors and nurses who have joined together in Scrubs for Sicko to give information to movie goers.

Moore looks at previous health care legislation, including portions of the Nixon White House tapes showing Nixon’s true motives for pushing HMO’s as a means to deny care. He also shows how George Bush’s Medicare Part D plan was really a scheme to provide greater payments to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, but he does leave out many of the details. Moore could have said more about how many patients who were eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare had their prescription coverage changed from plans which negotiated lower prices to new plans which paid the pharmaceutical companies significantly more. He also said nothing about the Medicare Advantage Plans included in the legislation. Under these plans, insurance companies are paid more than it costs to treat regular Medicare patients, even though they cherry pick the healthier patients and engage in dishonest sales techniques.

Moore makes a variation of an argument which I have often made to libertarian-leaning friends who question why I would support changes in health care, even if far less than those advocated by Moore. As Michael Moore points out, we already have “socialized” police, fire fighters, soldiers, and teachers. In the rest of the developed world universal health care is also seen as the norm, although Moore does brush over the fact that many countries do provide universal care through utilizing private insurance. In the case of health care, the insurance industry has simply failed, substituting a business model based upon avoiding payments as opposed to providing a service.

There’s bound to be denial from the right as to the accuracy of the movie. While it certainly doesn’t excuse the other problems in their system of government, I’ve previously provided information on the validity of Moore’s comments on health care in Cuba. The National Coalition on Heallth Care has reviewed health care costs, as well as the number of people, including those with insurance, who declare bankruptcy due to health care costs. The American Society of Registered Nurses has also reviewed Moore’s facts and found those on the US insurance system to be accurate. Among their findings:

When we surveyed select counties across the world for life expectancy, which was defined as the life expectancy at birth for both sexes, the U.S. fared very poorly.

The U.S. came in 17th, tied with Cyprus, with a life expectancy of 78.0. Here are the countries in the top 17: Japan (81.4); Switzerland (80.6); Sweden (80.6); Australia (80.6); Canada (80.3); Italy (79.9); France (79.9); Spain (79.8); Norway (79.7); Israel (79.6); Greece (79.4); Austria (79.2); New Zealand (79.0); Germany (79.0); U.K. (78.7); Finland (78.7); Cyprus (78.0); and the U.S. (78.0).

In our survey of select countries across the world for infant mortality, which was defined as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births, the U.S. again did poorly.

The U.S. came in 16th, below South Korea, with an infant mortality rate of 6.4. Here are the countries in the top 16: Sweden (2.8); Japan (3.2); Finland (3.5); Norway (3.6); Czech Republic (3.9); France (4.2); Spain (4.3); Denmark (4.5); Austria (4.5); Canada (4.6); Australia (4.6); Portugal (4.9); UK (5.0); New Zealand (5.7); South Korea (6.1); U.S. (6.4).

The next question is whether the U.S. truly spends more than any other country in the world on health care. This would indeed indicate a mismanagement of funds budgeted for the health care system…

Again, Moore’s facts checked out. The U.S. spends $5,711 per person. That’s a whopping 33% more than the next highest spending country, Norway. Norway spends only $3,809 per person.

Here are the top 27 highest per capita spending countries in the world: U.S. ($5,711); Norway ($3,809); Switzerland ($3,776); Luxembourg ($3,776); Iceland ($3,110); Germany ($3,001); Canada ($2,989); Netherlands ($2,987); France ($2,902); Australia ($2,874); Denmark ($2,762); Sweden ($2,704); Ireland ($2,496); U.K. ($2,389); Austria ($2,306); Italy ($2,266); Japan ($2,244); Finland ($2,108); Greece ($1,997); Israel ($1,911); New Zealand ($1,893); Spain ($1,853); Portugal ($1,791); Slovenia ($1,669); Malta ($1,436); Czech Republic ($1,302).

It is not necessary to agree with all of Michael Moore’s personal beliefs to see the movie and acknowledge that we do have a problem. Nor must we necesarily agree with Michael Moore’s solutions. The problem is only worsening as the number of uninsured , as well as under-insured, continues to grow.

Fact Checking the Republicans I: Socialized Medicine

Factcheck.org found a number of incorrect statements in the Republicans debates, but the most significant two are those I have concentrated on criticizing. The first of these is health care. They debunk statements from Null Set Romney, but the same corrections would apply to Rudy Giuliani’s claims about Democrats supporting socialized medicine:

Health Plan Hoodoo

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney tried to distance his state’s universal health insurance plan from the proposals of the Democratic presidential candidates.

Romney: Every Democrat up there’s talking about a form of socialized medicine, government takeover, massive tax increase…. I’m the guy who actually tackled this issue. We get all of our citizens insured. We get people that were uninsured with private health insurance. We have to stand up and say the market works. Personal responsibility works.

There are two problems with Romney’s characterization: One, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is the only Democratic candidate to propose a single-payer, wholly government-funded health care plan. And two, Romney’s Massachusetts universal insurance system bears a striking resemblance to the health care proposals of the Democratic front-runners.

We first took a look at the Romney-backed health insurance plan after the May 3 Republican presidential debate, when the candidate said it was not a government takeover and juxtaposed his plan with “HillaryCare.” We pointed out that while the plan is not government-administered health insurance, it includes government mandates and subsidies, minimum coverage requirements and fines for noncompliance. The Massachusetts plan is clearly not a complete government takeover; it builds on the private insurance industry – as do the proposals of Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, and the health care initiative spearheaded by Hillary Clinton in the early ’90s.

Kenneth E. Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University, has analyzed the costs of the Edwards and Obama plans. In reading those and the Massachusetts plans, the similarities are clear, and Thorpe says the Obama and Romney plans are “virtually identical.” Both call for an insurance exchange (an entity that would offer various private insurance plans to the public), and they offer financial assistance to low-income people. Edwards’ proposal differs in that he uses health care plans in the federal employee program, rather than a national exchange. “That’s an implementation difference,” says Thorpe. “The real important part of it, they’re both building on the private insurance industry.”

Sen. Clinton has not released a formal proposal, but when she does, it’s highly unlikely to be a wholly government funded proposal.

Politicians will debate how much government involvement in health insurance regulation is acceptable and how much is stepping on the toes of private insurance companies. But in our view, the term “government takeover” could only be applied to Rep. Kucinich’s proposal. Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel calls for a federal voucher program, but Kucinich, in fact, brags on his Web site that he’s the only candidate advocating a universal not-for-profit health care system.

Factcheck makes a misleading statement of their own. Dennis Kucinich’s plan for a single payer plan might be called a “government takeover” of the insurance industry, but not of health care delivery. The closest analogy to his system would be Medicare, as opposed to a British-style government run system. Although payment would come from the government, we would still preserve our system of private medical practices. Critics of such plans do have a valid argument that if the government pays the bills they will have control. While there is some truth to this, the reality of our current system is that Medicare does far less to attempt to micromanage what physicians do than many private insurances do.

While Republicans raise scare stories of socialized medicine, it is really the Republicans who support increased government intrusion in health care decisions. It is the Republicans who wish to intervene in a woman’s right to an abortion as well as restrict access to Plan B and to birth control. It is the Republicans who harass physicians who prescribe narcotics to treat chronic pain, and who fight to prevent the use of medicinal marijuana. It was the Republicans who got the government involved in end of life decisions in the Terri Schiavo case. It was a Republican President who devised the current Medicare D plan which is primarily a monetary reward to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries for their huge contributions.

Related Story: Fact Checking the Republicans II: Romney Rewrites History on Iraq Inspections

The Republican Debate: Out of Touch Extremists Who Make Barry Goldwater Look Liberal

Last night’s Republican debate was again disappointing, as it points out the fact that we no longer have a viable two party system. The Republicans remain too far out of touch with reality to be able to govern effectively, as we’ve seen both under George Bush and the entire time the Republicans controlled Congress. As comes up during my review of the debate, we can see how far the Republicans have moved to the right when Barry Goldwater’s views are more welcome by the Democrats than current Republican candidates.

The first question of substance dealt with whether going into Iraq was a mistake:

Governor Romney, I wanted to start by asking you a question on which every American has formed an opinion. We’ve lost 3,400 troops; civilian casualties are even higher, and the Iraqi government does not appear ready to provide for the security of its own country. Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

Romney: “Well, the question is kind of a non sequitur, if you will, and what I mean by that — or a null set. And that is that if you’re saying let’s turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn’t be in the conflict we’re in.”

I’m not sure if Romney is weaker on math, for his misuse of “null set” or on recent history. He forgets that at the time the war began Saddam had already let the inspectors back in. Perhaps he is afraid to answer because of the way an answer to a similar question posed to another candidate from Massachusetts was distorted in the subsequent coverage. While Romney avoided answering, Giuliani at least did give a response:

MR. GIULIANI: Absolutely the right thing to do. It’s unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror. And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.

Giuliani continues to give the Bush line on the war, falsely connecting Saddam and terrorism as I’ve previously noted. At least Ron Paul gave a more realistic answer on Iraq, but I wonder who it was at the Republican debate applauding his answer:

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Ron Paul, how much longer should the United States stay in Iraq?

MR. PAUL: The sooner we come home, the better. If they declare there’s no progress in September, we should come home. It was a mistake to go, so it’s a mistake to stay. If we made the wrong diagnosis, we should change the treatment. So we’re not making progress there and we should come home. The weapons weren’t there, and we went in under U.N. resolutions. And our national security was not threatened.

We’re more threatened now by staying. (Applause.)

Giuliani’s best moment came when discussing abortion. He both got in a good one liner, and made some sense as to allowing women to make their own choices:

Mayor Giuliani, there was some news here today. A Catholic bishop in Rhode Island said some words about your position on abortion, suggesting that it was similar to Pontius Pilate’s personal opposition to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion but allowing it to happen anyway.

How does that make you feel when you hear words like that from a Catholic bishop?

MR. GIULIANI: Well, you know — well, a Catholic bishop — (off mike) —

MR. BLITZER: That’s the lightning that’s having an affect on —

MR. GIULIANI: (Laughs.) Yeah, I know.

MR. BLITZER: — our system. (Laughter, applause.)

(Cross talk.)

MR. GIULIANI: Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that’s happening right now. (Laughter.)

But the reality is, I respect, you know, the opinion of Catholic — (off mike) — religious leaders of all kinds. Religion is very important to me, it’s a very important part of my life. But ultimately, as a — (off mike) — I’ve been in public life most of my life and taken oaths of office to enforce the law, I’ve got to make the decisions that I think are the right ones in a country like ours.

And my view on abortion is that it’s wrong, but that ultimately government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman. That’s — that is my view that I — I consult my religion, I consult my reading of the Constitution, I consult my views of what I think are important in a pluralistic society, and the reality that we have to respect the fact that there are people that are equally as religious, equally as moral that make a different decision about this. And should government put them in jail?

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Maureen Dowd on The Boy Wonder versus Wonder Woman

Maureen Dowd wonders of Barack Obama, the Boy Wonder, can take on Hillary Clinton, The Wonder Woman. The Boy Wonder has both strengths and weaknesses:

Clearly, the 45-year-old senator is blessed with many gifts. He can write and talk, think and walk, with exceptional grace and agility.

When he wants to, Mr. Obama can rouse the crowd to multiple ovations, as he did yesterday when he talked with a preacher’s passion about the “quiet riot” of frustration of blacks in this country, on issues like Katrina, in a speech before black clergy at Hampton University in Virginia.

But often he reverts to Obambi, tentative about commanding the stage and consistently channeling the excitement he engenders. At times, he seems to be actively resisting his phenom status and easy appeals to emotion. When he should fire up, he dampens. When he should dominate, he’s deferential. When he should lacerate, he’s languid.

Obama took on the lesser foes, such as John Edwards, but missed his chance to go after Hillary Clinton, who dominated both Democratic debates:

In the New Hampshire debate Sunday night, Mr. Obama again missed his chances. Hillary is the one he needs to unseat, but he treads gingerly around her. He seems afraid of a repeat of that moment last December, as the clamor for him to run was building, when he touched her elbow and winked at her on the Senate floor, and she kept walking. He called a friend afterwards, stunned at her icy behavior.

Instead, he wasted his time tangling with Dennis Kucinich in the first debate and slapping back John Edwards in the second.

When Hillary admitted that she had not read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting to authorize the president to go to war, Senator Obama had a clear shot. The woman who always does her homework did not bother to do her homework on the most important vote of her Senate career because her political viability was more important than the president’s duplicity: She felt that, as a woman, she could not cast a flower-child vote if she wanted to run for president. At this fateful moment, she was thinking more of herself than her country. As someone who has been known to tailor the truth to accommodate her ambition, she looked away while W. was doing the same.

Mr. Obama let the opportunity for a sharp comment pass. He made an oblique one, without mentioning her name, noting that former Senator Bob Graham said that the N.I.E. was one of the reasons he voted against the war authorization.

He missed another chance when Hillary said at the beginning of the debate that she believed “we are safer than we were” before 9/11, even though the Democrats won Congress with the opposite argument last fall, and even though the Iraq war has clearly made the world more dangerous than ever.

The next day, after reflecting on the matter overnight, the Obama campaign sent out a rebuttal to Hillary’s ridiculous claim, citing reports showing that radicalization in the Muslim world and terrorism are spreading rather than diminishing. The belated memo was blandly addressed to “Interested Parties.” But by then the only thing that was interesting was why it took Obambi so long.

Fortunately for Obama, few are watching so far and there’s a long way to go. In football, the conventional wisdom is that a team shows the most improvement between the first and second game. Obama did improve between the first and second debate, but must show even more improvement to beat Clinton. Although the media and blogs have been talking about the debates this week, many other factors will also determine the winner and it is way too early to predict a winner.

Rudy Giuliani’s Problem With The Truth–From Terrorism to Health Care

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It is remarkable how much Rudy Giuliani has become like George Bush. On Friday I questioned an article in Rolling Stone which claims he is worse, but Giuliani still shares far too many traits with George Bush to be considered to be president. The number one trait they both share is a total disregard for the truth.

Reports of Giuliani campaigning in Florida demonstrate how much like George Bush he has become:

”I believe that leading Democratic candidates and the Democratic party are in denial of the threat that we face,” Giuliani said. “The world is a dangerous place. If you can’t face it, you can’t lead.”

Giuliani railed against Democrats in Washington pushing for a deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq. He also predicted that a Democratic president would bring higher taxes and “socialized medicine.”

That’s a lot of noise coming from a member of the party which denied the risks of terrorism right up until the 9/11 attack, and then screwed up the response. John Kerry had written a book on the dangers of terrorism well before 9/11. Bill Clinton attempted to go after bin Laden, but was blocked by the Republican controlled Congress. Clinton then passed on plans for going after al Qaeda, but the Bush administration ignored them, not believing that a non-governmental organization could do serious harm to the United States. The leader of the Republican party even ignored intelligence briefs shortly before 9/11 warning that bin Laden planned to attack the United States using planes.

Giuliani’s personal record on terrorism is no better. Rudy’s the genius who placed New York’s emergency command center in the World Trade Center after we knew it was the target of terrorist attacks. His understanding of terrorism is so weak that he actually argued with Ron Paul over his simple statement that US involvement in the middle east was a motivating factor behind the attacks. If Giuliani really believes that they attacked for no more reason than hating us for our freedoms, how can he ever do anything to solve the root causes, as even Republican Secretary of Defense Robert Gates now advises?

Just as Giuliani echoes Bush on the claims about terrorism, his comments on health care resemble Bush’s false claim that John Kerry’s health care plan would amount to a government take over of health care. Kerry’s plan was a voluntary plan to assist businesses and individuals to obtain health coverage at an affordable price. Since then two states have instituted health plans with greater government regulations, and both had Republican governors.

While Giuliani brings out the scare stories of “socialized medicine” there is not a single Democrat running who wants to eliminate our system of privately run medical practices and hospitals. There’s not even a serious candidate advocating moving to a single payer plan, unless you believe that Dennis Kucinich has a chance of winning.

What Giuliani and the Republicans won’t admit is that it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who have instituted a greater degree of government control over health care. It is the Republicans who wish to intervene in a woman’s right to an abortion as well as restrict access to Plan B and to birth control. It is the Republicans who harass physicians who prescribe narcotics to treat chronic pain, and who fight to prevent the use of medicinal marijuana. It was the Republicans who got the government involved in end of life decisions in the Terri Schiavo case. It was a Republican President who devised the current Medicare D plan which is primarily a monetary reward to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries for their huge contributions.

If we are to oppose “socialized medicine” and get the government out of health care, the way to do that is to keep the Republicans out of office.

Prospects for Second Tier Candidates in Iowa

David Yepsin of the Des Moines Register writes that second tier candidates are hoping for an upset in Iowa which will thrust them into the limelight and give them a chance at the nomination. He writes, “Throughout caucus history, second-tier candidates have sometimes upset the leading ones here.”

Yepsin looks at the second tier candidates of both parties. He doesn’t find any Republican candidates who are well positioned for an unexpected victory in Iowa. Among Democrats he finds Bill Richardson to have the best shot:

The top of this party’s second tier is clearly held by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. He puts together a nice combination of executive experience as governor and federal service as a member of Congress, energy secretary and U.N. ambassador. As someone of Latino ancestry, he’s in a position to attract those voters, though that will be of limited help to him in lily-white Iowa.

He seems to enjoy campaigning and is something of the happy warrior in the race. Right now, he’s the second-tier candidate who seems most likely to break from the pack in Iowa. Some say he’s positioning himself for vice president, and that could happen, too. (See above mention of Daddy Bush.)

Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut are two respected national political leaders with the expertise and gravitas to be president. They are well-grounded on issues like foreign policy, education and health care. Unfortunately, they are trapped by Senate duties. Without a break in Iowa, they will go down in history with other leading U.S. senators who never made it to the White House.

On the bottom tier are Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who are not waging serious campaigns.

Michael Moore’s Controversial Look at Health Care in America

Sicko, Michael Moore’s new film on health care, has been shown at Cannes this week. From initial reports, it sounds like there will aspects of the film which please and displease most viewers. The attacks on heavy handed attempts to control health care decisions by HMO’s will find agreement among many liberals, as well as conservatives who may be unaware of the Republican push for establishing such a system. Moore’s love of the Canadian system will be opposed by conservatives, as well as many liberals.

The most controversial aspect of the movie, which is turning into a tremendous publicity stunt, has been going to Cuba. Moore’s original idea was to take the 9/11 workers to Guantanamo. where “US authorities claimed top medical services had been provided to the inmates.” Moore expected viewers to react by saying, “You are telling me that al-Qaeda are receiving better healthcare than those who suffered and died on 9/11.” When it turned out to be too difficult to get to Guantanamo, Moore went to Cuba instead, leading to investigation by the U.S. government.

Conservatives generally try to shout out any plans to make health care more affordable to businesses and individuals as “socialized medicine.” They are bound to try to blur the distinctions between Moore’s more radical opinions and those of most Democrats. As I previously discussed, none of the Democrats running for President actually support socialized medicine, but Dennis Kucinich comes by far the closest. Even Kucinich doesn’t go far enough for Moore, as he discussed in this interview in Time Magazine:

TIME: Of the declared presidential candidates, down to the Dennis Kucinich level, say, who do you think has the best health-care plan? Including Kucinich? We could include him.

Michael Moore: Then Kucinich, but he doesn’t go far enough. He supports what he’s calling a single-payer nonprofit plan, but from my read, it would still allow [private] entities to control things, as opposed to the government. What’s wrong with the government? The right wing and the G.O.P. have done a wonderful job brainwashing people that government doesn’t work, and then, as Al Franken says, they get elected and proceed to prove the point. [Laughs.]

What we really need is a system where neither big business or the government are making health care decisions. From what I have heard about the movie so far, it may be valuable in bringing more publicity to the failings in our health care system. There remains plenty of room for controversy over the best solutions, with virtually no Republicans, and even a minority of Democrats, likely to agree with Moore on this topic.

Update: One sign that this topic transcends much of the usual left vs. right divide comes from a review at Fox News which calls Sicko a “brilliant and uplifting new documentary” in which Moore shows “a new maturity.”

Update II: The official movie trailer.

Impressions of the First Democratic Debate

The effects of any debate comes in two parts, reaction to the initial debate, followed by how opinion is influenced by the subsequent coverage. As the first debate of the Democratic candidates did not appear likely to change many minds, I waited a day to see the reactions to the debate before commenting. For the most part, preexisting views of the candidates were reinforced.

Hillary Clinton, as expected, came off as the most polished candidate and showed that, like it or not, she has an excellent chance to win. While the pundits gave higher marks to Clinton, the early polls show an edge for Obama, probably because so many voters do not want Hillary regardless of how well she debates.

There was an occasional mention by the pundits that Edwards seemed out of his league, but his performance is unlikely to have changed any minds. Those of us who don’t feel he deserves consideration for major office will feel the same after the debate, but I doubt that those who do support him had their views of him changed. Even if Edwards could not move beyond his Breck Girl image, he opened up a whole new potential campaign theme, moving from the old promise of “a chicken in every pot” to keeping kids from being embarrassed by their father not being able to pay the prices on a menu.

I was most disappointed in Bill Richardson, not because he did a bad job but because he failed to excel as I thought he might in light of his resume. Richardson, unfortunately, is wrong when he says, “They don’t want blow-dried candidates with perfection.” Voters, and even many bloggers, are easily taken in by charisma and fail to look closely enough at substance. For Richardson to win he not only needs to hold his own but to come out of the debate looking like the smartest guy in the room, much as John Kerry did in the debates in 2003, causing me to get over my brief infatuation with Howard Dean.

Attention was distracted from Richardson’s expertise on foreign policy by repetition of the sound clip where he mistakingly referred to “a post-democratic Cuba.” While I doubt anyone will really believe Richardson intended to say this, the coverage of the gaffe drowned out coverage of Richardson’s actual answer. Richardson also needed to do a better job of staying on message in another answer. He needed to stress the fact that he did call for the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, as opposed to adding this as a footnote to a discussion of their common heritage. (more…)