Posts tagged ‘michael moore’

Public vs. Private Privacy Threats

I am always fascinated by folks who fear private power but support continuing increases in public / government power.  For me there is no contest - public power is far more threatening.  This is not because I necesarily trust private corporations like Goldman Sachs or Exxon or Google more than I do public officials.  Its because I have much more avenues of redress to escape the clutches of private companies and/or to enforce accountability on them.  I trust the incentives faced by private actors and the accountability mechanisms in the marketplace far more than I trust those that apply to government.

Here is a good example.  First, Kevin Drum laments the end of privacy because Google has proposed a more intrusive privacy policy.  I am not particularly happy about the changes, but at the end of the day, I am comforted by two things.  One:  I can stop using Google services.  Sure, I use them a lot now, but I don't have to.  After all, I used to be a customer or user of AOL, Compuserve, the Source, Earthlink, and Netscape and managed to move on from those guys.  Second:  At the end of the day, the worst they are tying to do to me is sell me stuff.  You mean, instead of being bombarded by irrelevant ads I will be bombarded by slightly more relevant ads?  Short of attempts of outright fraud like identity theft, the legal uses of this data are limited.

Kevin Drum, who consistently has more faith in the state than in private actors, actually gets at the real problem in passing (my emphasis added)

And yet…I'm just not there yet. It's bad enough that Google can build up a massive and—if we're honest, slightly scary—profile of my activities, but it will be a lot worse when Google and Facebook and Procter & Gamble all get together to merge these profiles into a single uber-database and then sell it off for a fee to anyone with a product to hawk. Or any government agency that thinks this kind of information might be pretty handy.

The last part is key.  Because the worst P&G will do is try to sell you some Charmin.  The government, however, can throw you and jail and take all your property.  Time and again I see people complaining about private power, but at its core their argument really depends on the power of the state to inspire fear.  Michael Moore criticizes private enterprise in Capitalism:  A Love Story, but most of his vignettes actually boil down to private individuals manipulating state power.  In true free market capitalism, his negative examples couldn't occur.  Crony capitalism isn't a problem of private enterprise, its a problem of the increasingly powerful state.  Ditto with Google:  Sure I don't like having my data get sold to marketers, and at some point I may leave Google over it.  But the point is that I can leave Google .... try leaving your government-enforced monopoly utility provider.  Or go find an alternative to the DMV.

A great example of this contrast comes to us from Hawaii:

There may be some trouble brewing in paradise, thanks to a seemingly draconian law currently under consideration in Hawaii's state legislature. If passed, H.B. 2288 would require all ISPs within the state to track and store information on their customers, including details on every website they visit, as well as their own names and addresses. The measure, introduced on Friday, also calls for this information to be recorded on each customer's digital file and stored for a full two years. Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the bill includes virtually no restrictions on how ISPs can use (read: "sell") this information, nor does it specify whether law enforcement authorities would need a court order to obtain a user's dossier from an ISP. And, because it applies to any firm that "provides access to the Internet," the law could conceivably be expanded to include not just service providers, but internet cafes, hotels or other businesses.

Americans fed up with Google's nosiness can simply switch email providers.  But if they live in Hawaii, they will have no escape from the government's intrusiveness.

Michael Moore Propaganda Too Much Even for Castro

Via the Guardian.  No commentary really necessary (via Q&O)

Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash", according to US diplomats in Havana.

The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.

But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".

Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."

In continues:

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 Corporate State: A Love Story

Via John Stoessel:

Moore declares capitalism evil, but he's never clear about what "capitalism" means. Considering how much time he spends documenting the cozy relationship between business and government, I thought he might mean "state capitalism."

But then he uses the term "free market" as a synonym for what he doesn't like.

What does the free market have to do with businesses manipulating government and strong-arming Congress for bailouts? Moore properly condemns both.

A libertarian student at GWU pushes Michael Moore on this issue, captured on video.

In the movie, Moore apparently:

visits the National Archives to see if the Constitution establishes capitalism as the country's economic system. Seeing the words "people," "union," and "welfare" in the document, he says, "Sounds like that other ism."

The reason is because free-market capitalism is not a system.  It is the un-system.  It is the lack of a system.  It is the chaotic, anarchic, bottom-up actions of 300 million people acting to direct their lives as they see fit and improve their own financial well-being.  The fact that it works without top-down coordination, that the right number of pencils get manufactured each year without a pencil czar, is a testament to the power of a few simple tools, particularly price, in signaling to individuals where they might best employ their own time and capital.

Capitalism: A Real Not Sarcastic Love Story

Sure, we all know that a series of carefully edited anecdotes on film constitute better evidence than comprehensive data and statistics, but Mark Perry soldiers on and does what he can anyway to rebut Michael Moore's new movie.  He has lots of good charts, but his summary is:

the evidence clearly demonstrates that along with capitalism and greater economic freedoms come: a) higher per-capita incomes, b) higher incomes for the poorest 10%, c) greater life expectancy, d) less corruption, e) cleaner environments, and f) greater political rights and civil liberties. Not a bad record for a system that Michael Moore portrays as evil, and says did "nothing for him."

I am always amazed at these attempts to portray countries like Cuba as superior to the US for the common man.  One only has to look at immigration patterns (and even better some measure of desired immigration intent, since our ridiculously restrictive immigration laws keep so many people out of this country) to see the common man's preferences.   Moore and his pears are like a man who looks at a river running from north to south and then arguing that the land in the south must be higher.

Just as an aside, there have probably been thousands of states in world history.   Of all those thousands of states and regimes from history, including the hundreds that exist today, there are probably only 15-20 that would have  social, economic, and political systems that would allow a man born to modest circumstances to make a fortune through criticism of the government and the social elite.

Another Michael Moore Howler

I was listening to NPR in a cab a week ago Sunday and heard an interview with Michael Moore on the [then] impending bankruptcy of GM.  It is perfectly logical to interview Moore on such a topic, as he has been a long-time critic of GM's management, and I was curious to see what he would say.

In the interview, Moore was asked why GM failed.  I wish I had a transcript to ge the exact words, but in effect he said that 1) GM failed because it did not pay its workers enough and 2) GM failed because the US has not promoted enough mass transit.

Huh?  This is certainly a unique perspective, that GM with some of the highest manufacturing labor costs in the world, failed because its labor costs were not high enough.  His "logic" seems to have been that by not paying its workers enough, GM caused real middle class income to stagnate for decades which therefore reduced demand for its cars.   And don't even get me started on the proposition that GM was worse off because the government did not subsidize competitive transit modes enough.   I guess it does not really surprise me that Moore, who wants the US medical care system to emulate Cuba, would be so illogical.  But how does a seasoned journalist just let this stuff pass in an interview?  Incredible.

Why Aren't Women Fighting the Health Care Trojan Horse?

Reader Robert Hammond, who always sends me good stuff, pointed out this article from the Evening Standard about proposed new health care rules in England.  Frequent readers will know that I have long argued that nationalized or single-payer health care is a Trojan Horse for fascism (and much more here) in the form of micro-management of individual decisions.  If your personal choices that in the past only put yourself at risk now cost other taxpayers money, then those other taxpayers are going to try to redirect your choices.

Failing to follow a healthy lifestyle could lead to free NHS treatment being denied under the Tory plans. 

Patients would be handed "NHS Health Miles Cards" allowing them to earn
reward points for losing weight, giving up smoking, receiving
immunisations or attending regular health screenings.

Like a
supermarket loyalty card, the points could be redeemed as discounts on
gym membership and fresh fruit and vegetables, or even give priority
for other public services - such as jumping the queue for council
housing.

But heavy smokers, the obese and binge drinkers who
were a drain on the NHS could be denied some routine treatments such as
hip replacements until they cleaned up their act.

Those who
abused the system - by calling an ambulance when a trip to the GP would
be sufficient, or telephoning out of hours with needless queries -
could also be penalised.

The report calls for a greater
emphasis on the "citizen's responsibility" to be healthy and says no
one should expect taxpayers to fund their unhealthy lifestyles
.

Here is the real problem:  This is absolutely logical.  There is nothing at all incorrect about the last statement for example.  This is not an abuse or an excess.  This is a completely predictable result of single-payer health care.  Any single-payer is going to have these incentives, but when the single-payer is the government, they not only have the incentives but the full coercive power to do something about it.  I am exhausted with the statist defense against such outcomes that "well, its just the particular individuals in charge -- if we could get the right guys in there, it would work great."  No.  The right guys are never in there, despite technocrats' big dreams, in part because the incentives in place turn even the right guys into the wrong guys. 

One of the reasons we spend so much on health care today is because most of us can do so without any personal financial cost.  Few of us (I am an exception, with a very high deductible policy) actually have to make cost-benefit trade offs in each of our health care purchases like we do in contrast for ... absolutely everything else we buy except health care.   The results are predictable.  We get pissed off when our insurance company denies coverage on some procedure or cost, we is part of the base-level of discontent that health care "reformers" draw on.  But it is stunning to me that people who have discontent with their current insurer feel like things will be better with the government!

Hey, this sounds like a women's issue!

What this article really shows is that by going with a single-payer government system, each of us would be ceding the decisions about our health care, our bodies, and even lifestyle to the government.  So surely women's groups, who were at the forefront of fighting against government intrusion into our decisions about our bodies, is out there leading the fight against government health care.  WRONG!  Their privacy arguments stand out today as sham libertarian arguments that applied only narrowly to abortion.  It's clear that as long as they can get full access to abortion, women's groups are A-OK with government intrusion into people's decisions about their bodies.

So please, dedicated feminists are urged to comment.  How do I relate this T-shirt from the NOW web store:
Tskyl2

With this button from the NOW home page:
Codebluebutton

And a bit of text from their site:

People need and deserve universal, continuous,
and accessible health coverage that is provided by a single payer and
does not require full-time employment and a beneficent employer.
Learn more with our action toolkit....

With the recent release of Michael Moore's new movie, "SiCKO", and the
introduction in Congress of a bill to provide health insurance to all
U.S. residents, the movement for universal single-payer health
insurance is gaining momentum. This toolkit is provided to help you
take action on this important issue....

Health care is a right, not a privilege.

Mental Image of the Day

James Christopher via Kurt Loder via Cattalarchy:

After marveling at Moore's rosy view of the British health care system
in "Sicko," Christopher wrote, "What he hasn't done is lie in a
corridor all night at the Royal Free [Hospital] watching his severed
toe disintegrate in a plastic cup of melted ice.  I have."

The whole review is worth reading.  Many folks seem to think Michael Moore is brilliant until he makes a film about something with which they are actually familiar.  Which, come to think of it, encapsulates my entire view of the media, not just Michael Moore, as well.  Nothing will reduce your confidence in the media more than reading an article on a topic about which you have intimate knowledge.

The Health Care Difference

While it may have been unintentional, a quote in New York magazine helps make the point I have been trying to make about universal health care (HT: John Scalzi)

"With universal [health care], you'd get the same kind of
mediocre shittiness that you'd get in all other kinds of standardized
approaches. But for millions of people, that would be a big upgrade."

Americans are unbelievably charitable people, to the extent that they will put up with a lot of taxation and even losses of freedoms through government coercion to help people out.

However, in nearly every other case of government-coerced charity, the main effect is "just" an increase in taxes.  Lyndon Johnson wants to embark on a futile attempt to try to provide public housing to the poor?  Our taxes go up, a lot of really bad housing is built, but at least my housing did not get any worse.  Ditto food programs -- the poor might get some moldy cheese from a warehouse, but my food did not get worse.  Ditto welfare.  Ditto social security, unemployment insurance,and work programs. 

But health care is different.  The author above is probably correct that some crappy level of terribly run state health care will probably be an improvement for some of the poor.  But what is different about many of the health care proposals on the table is that everyone, not just the poor will get this same crappy level of treatment.  It would be like a public housing program where everyone's house is torn down and every single person must move into public housing.  That is universal state-run health care.  Ten percent of America gets pulled up, 90% of America gets pulled down, possibly way down. 

I don't think most Americans really know what they are signing up for.  Which is why it is so important for health care socialists to have people like Michael Moore running around trying to convince the middle class they will be getting better health care.  Because there is almost no possibility of this being true, and health care proposals will never pass if people realize it.

More here.

Heads You Win, Tails I Lose

For years, high school civics books have portrayed our political choices as ranging from socialism on the left to fascism on the right.  These textbooks represent the statists' wet dream -- the reframing of political discussion such that all possible outcomes are defined as rigid government control of individual lives.  The only difference is who is in charge, and the path they took to get there. 

Think I am exaggerating?  Here's an example:

The left hate George Bush.  Fine.  I have my own problems with the man.  Over the last few years, the left has cast about for a person to rally around as a counterpoint to Bush.  Some latched on the the French leadership, some to Saddam Hussein, some even recently to George Gallway.   I think you can see the problem here, and the mistake Michael Moore made.  Forcing voters to choose between Saddam Hussein and George Bush is practically begging them to vote Republican.

After the last election, I had hoped that the left had gotten wiser.  I guess not.  Apparently the "progressive" community is rallying around Hugo Chavez as their next model leader:

Of the top oil producing countries in the world, only one is a democracy with a
president who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to
benefit the poor. The country is Venezuela. The President is Hugo Chavez. Call
him "the Anti-Bush."...

Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does,
Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor
in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its
people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement
behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large
majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And why the
Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to
overthrow Chavez.

And this is the group that calls themselves "reality-based"?  Does anyone really believe that poverty results solely from not handing oil revenue to the poor?  The US doesn't do this (well, except in Alaska), yet despite this our poor in this country are wealthier than the middle class in Venezuela, and its because we have a stable government that protects property rights and individual freedoms and provides a stable environment for investment.  Prosperity comes from building a healthy and growing economy, not looting a particular industry.  (By the way, I am sure that the previous regime was looting the oil industry as well, so I am certainly not defending them.)

However, this point is worth repeating:  Progressives consider Venezuela to have a better policy for helping the poor than the US, but the poorest 20% in the US still make more money and live better and longer than at least 80% of Venezuelans.  A person in the middle of the "poor" quintile in the US would be upper middle class in Venezuela.  And I will bet anyone that after 10 years of Chavez rule, this will be more, not less, true.

Chavez is a totalitarian thug.  Human Rights Watch has plenty to say about his miserable record of trashing freedoms.  In particular, you can compare the supreme court shenanigans of the "anti-Bush" with ridiculously mild controversy in this country (at least by comparison) over judicial nominations.  More background on Chavez here.

So there you are.  We are given the choice of Bush or Chavez.  Statism or statism.  Thanks a lot.

Notice to Britain

To avoid any potential confusion, here is a notice to Britain and my British readers (all 10 or so of them):  I do not consider myself, my statements, or this blog to be subject to British law, and in particular your libel law.  Now, since I am an American citizen living and publishing in Arizona, you may be confused why this clarification is necessary.  If so, note this article, via Captains Quarters.

The decision today, by Mr Justice Eady, has cleared the way for a libel trial in London sometime this year [against Arnold Schwarzenegger]

Miss Richardson alleges she was libelled by Schwarzenegger and two
campaign workers in an October 2003 article in The Los Angeles Times,
which also appeared on the internet.

The trial is going forward in London later this year.

Let me say that there are many, many things wrong with the tort system in the US, but one of the things we have done right is consistently protected free speech rights (at least until McCain-Feingold), and part of this protection has been resistance to onerous European, and particularly British, libel laws.

The obvious result, if this type of suit becomes successful and pesky, is of course for media to start blocking Internet traffic from British URLs.  Maybe this is a secret plan to have just this happen, so the Beeb can get their monopoly back.

UPDATE:  (via Overlawyered.com)  It appears that US litigator Samuel Hirsch is making his own interpretation of US libel law by suing Morgan Spurlock, the maker of the film "supersize me".  Though one could argue that the film ostensibly was on Mr. Hirsch's side (Mr. Hirsch makes a living in part by suing McDonalds for his clients who lack the ability to control their eating habits), it caught Mr. Hirsch on film making some comments he would rather not have been made public:

Ostensibly, this would make
Mr. Hirsch a prime ally in Mr. Spurlock's quest to edify the nation as
to the adverse affects of eating junk food. The film, however, was not
flattering to Mr. Hirsch in his brief cameo. In his only appearance on
camera, Mr. Spurlock asks Mr. Hirsch about his motivation for being
involved in the McDonald's litigation. Mr. Hirsch's reply? "You mean,
motive besides monetary compensation?" He then added, "You want to hear
a noble cause?"

Mr. Hirsch is suing for

Negligence, Unauthorized Use
of Likeness, Disparagement to Reputation, and Defamation of Character,
Fraudulent Inducement, False Misrepresentation, Damage to Business
Reputation.

Mr. Hirsch must know that he stands little chance of winning in US court, particularly since the film used his own words against him.  So this is intimidation, pure and simple.

It is interesting to note that McDonalds, the main target of the film, has not been dumb enough to sue Spurlock, no matter what they thought of the film.  And imagine if George Bush had tried to sue Michael Moore for the same stuff.  Suits like this are intimidation to shut down criticism, and it is good and right that they cannot win in the US.