Michael Moore By the Numbers: “Sicko” is Not Pyscho

The stats in Michael Moore’s expose of the non-existent American health care system check out. Unfortunately, so will you if you’re critical, and broke:

Analysis: ‘Sicko’ numbers mostly accurate; more context needed

By A. Chris Gajilan

(CNN) — Michael Moore’s “Sicko,” which opened nationwide Friday, is filled with horror stories of people who are deprived of medical service because they can’t afford it or haven’t been able to navigate the murky waters of managed care in the United States.

It compares American health care with the universal coverage systems in Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Cuba.

Moore covers a lot of ground. Our team investigated some of the claims put forth in his film. We found that his numbers were mostly right, but his arguments could use a little more context. As we dug deep to uncover the numbers, we found surprisingly few inaccuracies in the film. In fact, most pundits or health-care experts we spoke to spent more time on errors of omission rather than disputing the actual claims in the film.

Whether it’s dollars spent, group coverage or Medicaid income cutoffs, health care goes hand in hand with numbers. Moore opens his film by giving these statistics, “Fifty million uninsured Americans … 18,000 people die because they are uninsured.”

For the most part, that’s true. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 43.6 million, or about 15 percent of Americans, were uninsured in 2006. For the past five years, the overall count has fluctuated between 41 million and 44 million people. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 people do die each year mainly because they are less likely to receive screening and preventive care for chronic diseases.

Moore says that the U.S. spends more of its gross domestic product on health care than any other country.

Again, that’s true. The United States spends more than 15 percent of its GDP on health care — no other nation even comes close to that number. France spends about 11 percent, and Canadians spend 10 percent.

Like Moore, we also found that more money does not equal better care. Both the French and Canadian systems rank in the Top 10 of the world’s best health-care systems, according to the World Health Organization. The United States comes in at No. 37. The rankings are based on general health of the population, access, patient satisfaction and how the care’s paid for.

So, if Americans are paying so much and they’re not getting as good or as much care, where is all the money going? “Overhead for most private health insurance plans range between 10 percent to 30 percent,” says Deloitte health-care analyst Paul Keckley. Overhead includes profit and administrative costs.

“Compare that to Medicare, which only has an overhead rate of 1 percent. Medicare is an extremely efficient health-care delivery system,” says Mark Meaney, a health-care ethicist for the National Institute for Patient Rights.

Moore spends about half his film detailing the wonders and the benefits of the government-funded universal health-care systems in Canada, France, Cuba and the United Kingdom. He shows calm, content people in waiting rooms and people getting care in hospitals hassle free. People laugh and smile as he asks about billing departments and cost of stay.

Not surprisingly, it’s not that simple. In most other countries, there are quotas and planned waiting times. Everyone does have access to basic levels of care. That care plan is formulated by teams of government physicians and officials who determine what’s to be included in the universal basic coverage and how a specific condition is treated. If you want treatment outside of that standard plan, then you have to pay for it yourself.

“In most developed health systems in the world, 15 percent to 20 percent of the population buys medical services outside of the system of care run by the government. They do it through supplemental insurance, or they buy services out of pocket,” Keckley says.

The people who pay more tend to be in the upper income or have special, more complicated conditions.

Moore focuses on the private insurance companies and makes no mention of the U.S. government-funded health-care systems such as Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Veterans Affairs health-care systems. About 50 percent of all health-care dollars spent in the United States flows through these government systems.

“Sicko” also ignores a handful of good things about the American system. Believe it or not, the United States does rank highest in the patient satisfaction category. Americans do have shorter wait times than everyone but Germans when it comes to nonemergency elective surgery such as hip replacements, cataract removal or knee repair.

That’s no surprise given the number of U.S. specialists. In U.S. medical schools, students training to become primary-care physicians have dwindled to 10 percent. The overwhelming majority choose far more profitable specialties in the medical field. In other countries, more than one out of three aspiring doctors chooses primary care in part because there’s less of an income gap with specialists. In those nations, becoming a specialist means making 30 percent more than a primary-care physician. In the United States, the gap is around 300 percent, according to Keckley.

As Americans continue to spend $2 trillion a year on health care, everyone agrees on one point: Things need to change, and it will take more than a movie to figure out how to get there.

A. Chris Gajilan is a senior producer with CNN Medical News. Intern Emily Breidbart contributed to this report.


Germany to Cruise: And Please Pay Us in Euros

 Our guess is this was re-thought, vis-a-vis “It’s good press to have a film that shows there was opposition to Der Fuhrer:

 Germany now would welcome Cruise production
By Scott Roxborough
Fri Jun 29
COLOGNE, Germany (Hollywood Reporter) – The German Defense Ministry is scrambling to qualify its stance on the Tom Cruise World War Two thriller “Valkyrie,” saying Thursday that, despite reports to the contrary, it has no opposition to the film shooting in Germany.

News reports earlier this week had started officials would ban “Valkyrie” from shooting at German military sites because of star Cruise’s belief in Scientology.

The ministry now says that, while it hasn’t received an official request from “Valkyrie” producers United Artists to shoot in the country, it would “look agreeably” upon any such application.

The film, slated for a 2008 release, tells the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise), the leader of a failed German military plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. The film’s title comes from Operation Valkyrie, the plot’s code name.

The producers have expressed interest in shooting at the Bendlerblock memorial in Berlin. It is the actual location where Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators hatched the plot to assassinate Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase. It also is where Stauffenberg and the other plotters were executed after the attempt failed.

Now a memorial site, the Bendlerblock also houses part of the Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry said Thursday that it wasn’t even responsible for approving film shoots at Bendlerblock because they are only tenants on the land. The location is under the authority of Germany’s Finance Ministry, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The source of the “Valkyrie” controversy seems to have stemmed from a posting on the Web site of conservative German member of parliament Antje Blumenthal. Blumenthal posted a statement Friday claiming that Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung had pledged to her that Cruise would not get permission to shoot because of the purported danger posed by his Scientology.

Blumenthal is a cult expert for the conservative CDU/CSU party and a longtime opponent of Scientology.

The German government does not recognize Scientology as a religion and sees it instead as a dangerous cult, which brainwashes and exploits its members. Scientology is under official observation by Germany authorities as a potentially threat to German democracy, putting the organization on par with neo-Nazi groups.

Germany’s film industry, however, has embraced the “Valkyrie” project.

The heads of Studio Babelsberg, Christoph Fisser and Carl Woebcken, on Thursday praised “Valkyrie” as one of the “too few examples of military opposition to Hitler’s regime.”

Fisser and Woebcken are in negotiations with United Artists to join the project as co-producers. If UA executives reach a deal, “Valkyrie” could begin shooting at Babelsberg next month.

“The assassination attempt against Hitler is hardly known outside Germany,” Fisser said. “We should therefore be delighted and welcome this wonderful opportunity to improve the image of our country.”

Gee, ya think?


“Grey’s” Losing Isaiah Pulls Race Card

We don’t watch a whole heap o’ “Grey’s”, but have seen it. We certainly don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. We do, however, notice that James Pickens, Jr.’s character Chief of Surgery Webber, and Chandra Wilson’s Dr. Miranda Bailey play authority figures (who happen to be Black). The cast is quite “diverse”. For those reasons, this, while not surprising as Washington has communicated his feelings before, is difficult to believe. Meaning, it sounds like he is describing a nine-to-five gig, not a Hollywood set:

Ex-`Grey’s’ star cites racism for firing
Thu Jun 28

LOS ANGELES – “Grey’s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington said racism was a factor in his firing from the hit ABC series after he twice used an anti-gay slur.

Washington, who initially used the epithet during an onset clash with a co-star, told Newsweek magazine that “someone heard the booming voice of a Black man and got really scared and that was the beginning of the end for me.”

He tried to make amends by expressing remorse and volunteering to enter a counseling program to understand how the confrontation got out of hand, he told Newsweek.

“My mistake was believing that I would get the support from my network and all of my cast mates across the board. My mistake was believing I could correct a wrong with honesty and sincerity,” he said in the interview posted online Thursday.

“My mistake was thinking Black people get second chances. I was wrong on all fronts,” he said.

His unwillingness to act like a submissive Black at work was part of the problem, Washington said.

“Well, it didn’t help me on the set that I was a Black man who wasn’t a mush-mouth Negro walking around with his head in his hands all the time. I didn’t speak like I’d just left the plantation and that can be a problem for people sometime,” he said.

“I had a person in human resources tell me after this thing played out that `some people’ were afraid of me around the studio. I asked her why, because I’m a 6-foot-1, Black man with dark skin and who doesn’t go around saying `Yessah, massa sir’ and `No sir, massa’ to everyone?

“It’s nuts when your presence alone can just scare people, and that made me a prime candidate to take the heat in a dysfunctional family,” he said.

ABC declined comment Thursday. In its one public statement regarding Washington, issued in January, the network said his actions were “unacceptable.”

Washington, who used the slur against co-star T.R. Knight during a confrontation with Patrick Dempsey, repeated the word backstage at the Golden Globes in January in denying the first incident. A public apology to Knight and others followed.

We’ve seen Washington in some pretty frank interviews, covering high school football in Houston, Howard University, the D.C. nightclub scene in the 1980’s, construction gigs, the Air Force, and his born again Christianity. The man has worked on government contracts, and with his hands, and has read for parts for which he competed with all the other Black male actors in his age group- Terrence Howard, Harry Lennix, Giancarlo Esposito, Morris Chestnut, et al. In other words, he’s spent a great deal of time working with, and thus conversing with, all kinds of Black folk in everyday situations- some when no white folk are present. He’s had both the time and the experience to form some pretty strong beliefs. Yet we cannot overlook the fact that Washington wishes to be treated with respect, but doesn’t seem to afford the same to his homosexual cast mates. Perhaps for him, the gay issue is scriptural (in effect, a “deal closer”). But hey, he is in Hollywood- and Jesus never judged.


The Invisible Woman Lives


 A quiet footnote to a harrowing tale:

Cutts’ wife files for divorce
By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer

The wife of Canton patrolman and accused murderer Bobby Cutts Jr. has filed for divorce.

Kelly Cutts, 28, filed the papers today in Stark County Common Pleas Court. She cites “gross neglect of duty, incompatibility and ill treatment.”

She obtained a restraining order against her husband in the complaint. The order bars Cutts from selling any marital assets and from contacting her.

The couple, married in 2001, has been separated since February. They have one daughter together, age 6.

Cutts Jr., 30, is currently in jail, charged with two counts of murder in connection with the death of Jessie Marie Davis and her unborn child.

Cutts Jr. had an extramarital relationship with Davis since about 2002 and fathered her son, Blake. Family members say he is also the father of her unborn daughter.

Authorities say Cutts Jr. killed Davis inside her Lake Township home on June 14. Her body was recovered Saturday in Summit County.

Also today, prosecutors said they would go forward with a preliminary hearing Monday in Canton Municipal Court. Prosecutors said they would use the minimum amount of evidence to establish probable cause of the two murder charges against Cutts and a charge of obstructing justice against co-defendant Myisha Ferrell, 29, of Canton.

Saw an interesing stat which I’m certain many of you have known about for years- pregnant women are twice likely to be murdered as non-expectant women, and the leading cause of death among expectant mothers in the U.S. is murder.


The Fragile Case of Chris Benoit

The backstory of the murder-suicide of WWE star Chris Benoit may not be anabolic steroid abuse, given the prolonged nature of the acts that weekend, but something sadly more common- depression suffered by the father of a diseased son. Benoit’s seven-year old had Fragile X Syndrome, which causes minor mental retardation. It is often difficult for fathers to cope with the reality of children, particularly sons, who cannot lead the lives they would like them too. Of course, this is not, in and of itself, a recipe for murder. But it is the admirable dad who is emotionally equipped to raise a challenged child.


Tucker Inn at the Bethel

We saw this:

“…’The Situation with Tucker Carlson’ for June 27

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Brad Blakeman, Leo Terrell, Tom Tancredo, Elbridge James, John Jacob

RITA COSBY, HOST, “LIVE AND DIRECT”:  And that does it for me.  I‘m Rita Cosby.  Have a great night.  THE SITUATION with Tucker starts now—Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Thank you.  Thanks to you at home for tuning in for our preelection tour of the Northeast, coming to you all this week from Bethel, Maine.  Good to have you with us…”

and almost fell off our rocker. The staff of “Tucker” couldn’t have picked a more All-American town. Brings back memories:



Mere Christianity

In light of the spate of bestsellers regarding secular-faith debate (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, et al), how nice of “Hardball”‘s Chris Matthews to have Christopher Hitchens and Rev. Al Sharpton on to engage in a debate about whether there is a supreme being. But who died and left Sharpton the C.S. Lewis of the 21st century? Our guess is Matthews and his ratings-conscious producers were thinking “name recognition”, not “leading theologian”.


When Coulter Helped Edwards

This is why Ann Coulter and Rosie O’Donnell should host a late night political show on cable t.v.:

Coulter’s remarks aid Edwards’ fundraising
June 28, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Wednesday encouraged his supporters to donate to his campaign in response to “hateful” comments from conservative author Ann Coulter.

Edwards made his first comments to The Associated Press in response to Coulter’s suggestion that she wished he would be “killed in a terrorist assassination plot.” His campaign cited her remarks in two e-mails and a telephone text message to supporters for donations, with the fundraising deadline on Saturday.

It’s not the first time Coulter has given the Edwards campaign a financial boost. In March, she called Edwards a “faggot” and the campaign used video of the comment to help raise $300,000 before the end of the first quarter.

In the e-mails, the campaign asked supporters to send donations to defy her remarks and help Edwards meet his goal of raising $9 million in the second quarter. The first e-mail from campaign adviser Joe Trippi showed a clip of Coulter on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where she made the comments on Monday.

In answering criticism of her March speech, Coulter referred to comedian Bill Maher’s suggestion, also in March, that “people wouldn’t be dying needlessly” if Vice President Dick Cheney had been killed when terrorists launched an attack as he visited Afghanistan. She contends that Maher — whose comment about Cheney drew little attention — was not joking. “So I’ve learned my lesson,” she said on the ABC program. “If I’m going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.”

When Coulter appeared Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Elizabeth Edwards called in to ask Coulter to stop making personal attacks on her husband. The exchanged deteriorated, with Coulter shouting over Mrs. Edwards and demanding that the campaign stop using her name to raise money if they want her to stop personal attacks.

Response to the controversy was so large that it repeatedly crashed the server for MSNBC’s political blog Wednesday.

Mrs. Edwards followed up with an e-mail to supporters Wednesday morning that included a clip of their exchange and a donation request. The campaign also sent a text message to supporters’ cell phones, asking them to call to hear a recording of the clip and an appeal from Mrs. Edwards to donate.

The campaign said it raised more money this week than from any previous e-mail campaign but declined to give a total.

“I think when they engage in these attacks and use the language of hate, it’s very important to stand up,” Edwards said. “What happens if you are silent when this kind of hateful language is used — not just by her, but by anyone — hate gets a foothold.”

Edwards pointed out that Coulter’s attacks haven’t been limited to him, but also included his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Coulter has made fun of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s legs and compared Barack Obama to terrorists because his middle name is Hussein.

“What she said about Senator Clinton and Senator Obama is outrageous,” Edwards said. “And somebody has to stand up when she makes these kind of attacks.”

For a Michigan law grad, Coulter makes Paris Hilton look enlightened.


Is the Hilton Bible a Gideon?

On “Larry King Live”, Paris Hilton was stumped for a Bible verse:

(from Elliot C. McLaughlin for CNN)

…During her 23 days in jail, she said she meditated, read letters from fans, talked to other inmates through the vents, wrote in her journal and read the Bible, though she couldn’t cite a favorite passage when asked….

It’s a long book.


Lost in Translation: An Issue of Character in Politics

How the presidential balloting is shaping up, in Chinese:

Candidates’ names are tough in Chinese

Tue Jun 26, Associated Press
BOSTON – Mitt Romney’s been called many things as he runs for president, but chances are “Sticky Rice” isn’t one of them.
That’s how his name might be read on some ballots, according to state Secretary William Galvin.

Galvin says the federal Justice Department is pressuring Boston election officials to translate candidates’ names into Chinese characters in precincts with prominent Chinese-speaking populations.

But there’s more than a little lost in translation, according to Galvin.

Since there’s no Chinese character for “Romney,” translators have resorted to finding characters that most closely match the sound of each syllable in the name.

The problem is that there are many different characters that could be used to match the sound of each syllable, and many different meanings for each character.

So Mitt Romney could be read as “Sticky Rice” or “Uncooked Rice.” Fred Thompson might be read as “Virtue Soup.” And Barack Obama could be read as “Oh Bus Horse.”

Galvin’s own name could be read at least two different ways, as “High Prominent Noble Educated” or “Stick Mosquito.”

But perhaps the most perplexing translation would be for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s name, which could be read as “Sun Moon Rainbow Farmer” or “Imbecile,” or “Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own.”

“To try to make rhymes or approximations in Chinese, you can have unintended negative meanings,” Galvin said. “It leads to confusion. You can render it with a good meaning or a bad meaning.”

To add to the confusion, Galvin said, the ballots have to be offered in two major Chinese dialects, Mandarin and Cantonese, leading to even more potential variations of candidates’s names.

But advocates for minority voting rights say Galvin’s objections are misdirected. If the translations are awkward, they say, the candidates should be free to offer variations, or look to the way Asian language newspapers already transliterate their names.

“We are looking to make sure Asian Americans are able to vote for their candidates of choice,” Glenn Magpantay, staff attorney of the New York-based Asian American Defense Fund, told the Boston Globe. “This is difficult to do when voters with limited English proficiency cannot find those candidates.”

Cynthia Magnuson, spokeswoman to the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said a system is needed to let voters with limited English vote without the aid of election monitors.

“This will allow them to vote independently,” she said.

Galvin said he supports translating the bulk of the ballots into Chinese as required by a 2005 agreement with the justice department, as long as the names of the candidates’ names remain in Roman letters.

(perhaps Condoleeza Rice should enter the race)


Oh Really?- Another Pundit Blames Female Murder Victims

On “The Radio Factor”, Bill O’Reilly said Jessie Davis knew Bobby Cutts, Jr. was a troublemaker, and that “she should’ve expected…” bad things to happen. He coupled victim Davis with the late Nancy Daus (Benoit), saying both women remained involved with men they knew were bad news. So it’s their fault the men killed them, eh Bill? Then why is murder a serious crime? The pundit faulted both women for allowing their children to be involved with the fathers, and specifically criticized Davis for having another baby by Cutts.

What about blaming the (alleged, in the case of Cutts) killers? No sense preaching to the victims now- they’re dead.


He Ant Funny, He’s My Bother

No one has ever explained to us how the comic Ant earned the judging gig on “Last Comic Standing”? He didn’t place as a high finalist the first season, unlike contestants Dat Phan, Ralphie May and Rich Vos. Then he showed up the next year as a contestant. Didn’t fare well then either, compared to Tammy Pescatelli, Kathleen Madigan and Corey Holcomb. Had one shtick- the gay joke. At my old high school, the kids would have said he’s not even funny.

Today, he’s not only a regular on LCS, he hosts “Celebrity Fit Club” on VH.1 (he’s not remotely amusing there either, and doesn’t even ad lib- so why hire him).

With whom is he sleeping in the upper echelons of NBC?