Saturday, May 3, 2008

If Trees Could Talk

Something truly remarkable happened on The View yesterday. It was so mindboggling that it brought me to tears!

For those of you who don't tune into ABC's morning live show, The View, here is how it came into existence.

The View's premise merges entertainment and politics. You see, never before had anything like that been attempted.

Except when Ronald Reagan became Governor of California or when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. Or when Sonny Bono became Mayor of Palm Springs.

But not since has entertainment and politics merged.

Except for Clint Eastwood, Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. And then there's Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, and of course Jesse Ventura formerly the Governor of Minnesota.

This enterainment/politics marriage is a great show for the People!

Entertainment: "Go on punk, make my day." Clint Eastwood

Politics: "The best minds are not in government. If they were, business would hire them away." Ronald Reagan

Entertainment: "I think a gay marriage should be between a man and a woman" Arnold Schwarzenegger

Politics: "Facts are stupid things." Ronald Reagan

So leave it to Barbara Walters to create just such a forum 11 years ago in The View, a place where women (who make up 51% of the population) can get together and discuss important, critical, life-sustaining issues in today's society. Our view, damn it! Five days a week for one hour.


To accomplish this enormous undertaking and not be viewed as a joke, the moderators of this forum must have an extensive resume, collectively compiling several decades worth of experience in journalism, education, public service, socialism, judicial advocacy, and economic awareness. They must be tenacious and passionate in their positions, and unwaivering in their commitment to discussing topics - no matter how uncomfortable - for the viewers.

Oh, yes, and they also must know product placement (and hopefully wear a complementary shade of lip color - and whatever else Disney, who owns ABC, wants of them).

The hosts this year? Well there's Whoppie Goldberg, an academy award winning actress known for her one-woman shows; Joy Behar, who spent most of her adult life telling jokes; Sherrie Shepard, a woman who never really thought about it but hey! you know the world could possibly be flat I don't know, you know; Elizabeth (the blonde) Hasselelbeck, someone who appeared on the (god awful) show Survivor; and Barbara Walters, known for her winner-take-all interviews that often leave everyone in tears.

Yesterday, all the hosts were present and they discussed Barbara's long awaited autobiography, Audition, which is previewed in the current edition of Vanity Fair (a magazine, by the way, that has repeatedly printed articles calling for the impeachment of George W Bush).

It was invigorating! Barbara talked about how difficult it was for her as a woman to break into broadcasting, to become the first female anchor of network news. She was harassed. She was discriminated against. She was treated horribly by her network news co-anchor. She was forced to tears in her dressing room every single day.

She cried.

She hosted the news "Scientists report life found on Mars".

She cried.

She hosted the news "President Ford ordered Swine Flu Shots for Everyone (except male chauvenist pigs)".

She cried.

She broke down the barriers that make it possible for women to host news today "Up next, how to recycle old bridesmaids dresses into table linen". (At least now we know who's responsible!)

Then we were treated to several photos of Barbara taken over the past 40 years. When this emotional rollercoaster was over and with the door flung w i d e open for critical discussion about women toiling side by side in a man's world, about sexual harassment on the job, about disparities in compensation and bonuses and pay increases and work loads - and on the heels of Equal Pay Day (4/22/08) which is designated as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages, Babawa asked the girls: "How do you tink I wook as a bwunett? Do you wike me as a bwunett?"

All the girls gushed.

I cried.

After viewing a picture - taken about 30 years ago - of Barbara in a silk blouse and skirt leaning provocatively on a table, The View's Blonde said "Ooooh, that belt. that belt. I love that belt. I want that belt!"

I'll give her a belt.

"Ask her about the details of her contract negotiations with the men in charge." I screamed at the TV. "Ask her about the avenues that were available to women in those days who were harassed or forced to tears." I yelled. "How did she get thru the day-to-day grind of that humiliation? Ask her about the perks she was provided (car?) (driver?) (days off?) as opposed to her male co-workers. Ask her about support organizations. Ask her about NOW. Ask her how she recovered from this continued abuse. Did she spend years in therapy? Was she angry? Did she take it out on family members (she has been married 3 times)? Ask her to discuss the options that are available to women today who are being discriminated on the job every single day. What should a woman do if she's being mistreated in the workplace? Should she write everything down? Get it on tape? File a complaint? What? What?"

But to no avail. No one asked.

And if Barbara ever askes me what kind of tree I think I would be, I'd say "These days, a weeping willow."


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

911 Responders

Last month I was in the throes of tax season. And it wasn’t pretty. Aside from not sleeping much, working three jobs, seven days a week – including volunteering time at a tax clinic in Asbury Park where we were so busy (can you say Economic Stimulus package?) that I set my own record for hours worked in a day.

Nevertheless my family suffered.

The last Sunday in April before the deadline, I was sitting at my desk working through another (damn) K-1 and the various (and forever re-issued) broker’s statements when my daughter came to me and said we were going to see a movie. No excuses.

In retrospect, I think her behavior might have been prompted by the dinner I served the night before – poached pork a la mode.

It was clear: I needed a time out.

We went to see Stop Loss which I thought was going to be about The New York Yankees. I mean, its obvious people are concerned. How can an organization with such an enormously disproportionate budget (two to ten times larger than any other) fail to claim victory for the 5th consecutive year? How much more can Americans take?

But I was wrong. Although Stop Loss was about men in uniform, it was a little different in that these boys were without enthusiastic fans watching their every move, jovial dancing mascots, or a zealous media determined to report every last statistic.

Here’s the story: The movie follows a group of Army soldiers returning home to a hero’s welcome after serving a tour of duty in Iraq. The parades and medals and congressional speeches occur just days after these men were caught in an intense, violent, bloody, and deadly battle on the streets of Tikrit. These former high school classmates volunteered to serve their country after 9/11. Now they just want to get reacquainted with friends and family, including the main character, Staff Sergeant Brandon King (played by Ryan Phillippe), who is looking forward to chilling out at his ranch.

Apparently this ranch is quite different from the one the President owns in Texas. Because while our commander in chief is spending time cutting down bush (him too?), riding his bicycle, and holding hands with foreign dignitaries, these young veterans are getting into bar fights, digging trenches in their front yards to sleep in, waiving loaded pistols, drinking, beating their wives, evading restraining orders, wrestling with night terrors, and using wedding presents for target practice.

Suffice to say, the boys are having some transition difficulties.

In fact, on the very day that Brandon goes to turn in his uniform, he is advised that the Army is sending him back – in less than 30 days - to Iraq for another tour. This is called “stop loss” – a government policy that allows soldiers to be called back to service even after they’ve completed their military contracts. It is also referred to as a back door draft.

This doesn’t sit well with Brandon. He appeals to his commanding officer by pointing out that he has already served his country, and that he signed up for one tour. Further, since the president declared “Mission Accomplished”, we are not technically at war so why is he being sent back?

The officer in charge is not amused and informs Brandon - in case he forgot - that the President of the United States can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and to whomever he wants. Doesn’t Brandon know we are over there to spread democracy?
Brandon is irate. He tells his commanding officer that the president is a *#%$^#@.
And *&%$* the President.

Oh boy.
Time out.

Which is exactly what Brandon does as he goes AWOL on a cross country jaunt to Washington DC to appeal to his congressman (the movie is not without humor). Along the way, Brandon stops at the home of a fallen soldier, meets another soldier making his way to Canada with his family because he was also issued stop loss orders, and visits one of his men, Rico, who is recovering from injuries received as a result of the battle in Tikrit. Despite losing part of his arm, his leg, and his eyesight, Rico tells Brandon that he is lucky. It is unlikely he will get stop loss orders.

There is turmoil throughout the movie, and I won’t tell you the ending, mostly because I don’t think I will ever understand it. The movie did disclose the number of Brandons in America: At least 81,000.

How our government could treat our soldiers with such callous disregard is incomprehensible. And it reminded me of the words of my grandfather who said to the governor of New Jersey in 1919 on his return from “The War to End all Wars” as one of 13 survivors of Company B regarding his service: “The enemy in front of us put up a good fight and we knew it, but they were not nearly as dangerous as the enemy in the rear of us, in our own organization.”1

Each of the returning soldiers in Stop Loss seemed to be fighting their own war on terror.

Apparently what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But what happens in Iraq doesn’t stay in Iraq.

Copyright 2008
1 Other Men’s Lives, Captain William J. Reddan, 1936,
Dear Oprah

It is not often that I am able to secure a copy of your magazine which I believe is referred to as “O”. But thanks to my male cat’s urinary tract problem, wherein he’s been peeing continually - and outside the box - for the past two weeks, I was able to glean your latest edition as part of my (repeated) daily visits to clean comforters, blankets, etc at the local laundromat. Here’s the thing: Someone left your magazine next to the soap dispensing machine. It was truly my lucky day.

I wanted to comment on one of the cover articles – Tell Your Story! (a top novelist shows you how) – which I read at least four times. I wish under the stars in heaven that I was able to tell my story too. But I have no story; nothing of a critical nature to relate whatsoever. How does one go about telling a story when there isn’t one? Is it OK to make things up?

Here’s what I mean. Last year my brother and his family came for a visit. It was nice, of course, but not the kind of stuff you would write about. We had a function at my home and invited most of the family (parents, siblings, nieces, nephews) so we could all be together. My family is typical of our nation’s citizens - loving their country and viewing life through the American lens.

And it isn’t easy to arrange a reunion, especially at my home, because I have cats.
And they hate cats.

When my mother arrived, as expected, she retold this one story which takes place just after the war (oh, sorry, I’m referring to WW II) and is about a teenage boy that lived on her block. It seems that every day on his way home from school, the boy would pass by a certain fenced-in yard with a big brown dog, and he’d always tease the animal by poking, barking, and rattling the fence. Some times he would hit the dog with a stick. Other times the boy would bring his friends along to watch the fun.

The dog would go nuts running back and forth trying to defend his territory. The boy did this because, well because, it made him feel like a super power. And he knew he’d be safe…because of the fence and also because the boy was certain the dog was inferior. Best of all, no one would suspect him – or rat him out.

This went on for years. The dog, once quiet and well behaved, became irritable and nasty. The dog’s owners were dismayed at their pet’s unfounded behavior. Because they were at work when the taunting occurred, the owners were unaware and never considered any foul play by their fellow citizen.

At this point, since we had all heard this story many, many times, I tried to change the subject by remarking that my daughter was busy applying to law schools. But that didn’t work.
Because my family hates lawyers.

So my mother continued as if there had been no interruption.
One day the boy was walking home from school and the dog was not in the back yard. Somehow he was able to get outside the fence. Do you know what that dog did when he had the opportunity to attack the person who had made his life miserable? He tore that boy to shreds.

OK so now I tried to move on to a more current topic by remarking that as of yesterday, there were over 4,000 US soldiers killed in Iraq. But that didn’t work.
Because my family hates statistics.

My mother continued.
After the boy was mauled by the dog, he spent months in the hospital, lost part of one ear, and was left with a scar on his face the size of Mississippi. All the neighbors were shocked, and angry at the dog’s owners. How could this happen in their community, in their back yard, for God’s sake? What the hell was wrong with those people?
Who would protect the children?

So, the neighbors – who never again walked through the community without looking over their shoulders - rallied for new laws against terrorizing animals and their owners. Of course, they called for the dog’s death. All similar breeds of dog were suspect from that day forward.
(I’m pretty sure it’s one of the reasons why we’ve never owned a brown dog.)

Then, my mother remarked that she and her friend Martha wanted to go on a trip overseas but they were unsure if it was safe, considering all the bombings.

End of story.

See? Nothing to write about.

After everyone left, I needed to get some fresh air so I took a walk through town. As I passed by the local Burger King, I nodded to myself in agreement reading their sign: Home of the Whopper.

Copyright 2008
No Country for Old Women
(Partie Deux)

In the fall of 1979, my husband and I returned from our honeymoon. Eager to demonstrate my domestic goddess skills, I decided to make him a special dinner of veal parmesan. So I went to the butcher and purchased two nice plump veal cutlets which I took home and pounded down to about a sixteenth of an inch thick. Then I dipped the cutlets in egg, rolled them in a coating of bread and spices, dipped and rolled, dipped and rolled, repeating this process about a dozen times. I baked them for two hours. When he came home from work, the setting was beautiful, candles lit, food prepared, and the veal glowing on the plate – all three and half inches thick. We sat down to eat. Halfway through the meal, my husband got up and went into the bathroom. I heard him vomiting through the closed door. He came out, sat down, and we finished the meal without a word about what had just happened.

The next day I confronted him. He waited patiently to respond, (praying, I’m sure) to find just the right words. Finally he said that the sacred rule of marriage – in fact, of any successful relationship – is: First, do no harm.

Everything I knew about cooking I gleaned from my mother. (And that explained a lot.)

But in retrospect, that purging probably helped to extend my husband’s life - because recently, I’ve come across an enormous amount of information about the detrimental effects of animal fat on our well-being. Oh, I don’t mean that I found it in the (LM) liberal media (ha, ha, good one!) like the conglomerate-owned newspapers or while watching (GE-owned) The Today Show (now four long hours). They have to protect their sponsors – Kraft, ConAgra, McDonalds - by promoting educational segments like how to recycle old bridesmaid’s dresses into party hats.
I’m talking about getting information the old fashioned way, like they did 150 years ago, through word of mouth, personal references, bulletin boards, or local community-owned radio. Talk about progress!

In last month’s column, I asked the following question: Why are American women’s chances of getting breast cancer six times greater than women in China and India?

That query deserved consideration, and my quest for answers led me to two sources: (1) The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, subtitled “The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted” which articulates the results of over two decades of research on the relationship between diet and disease and (2) Dying to Have Known, a documentary by Stephen Kroschel about the cancer treatment therapy developed by Max Gerson over 75 years ago which relates the testimony of patients, scientists, surgeons and nutritionists.

Two common threads run through these sources. One is the fact that a good diet – high in plant-based nutrition – is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness. Both authors lay out critical evidence on the damaging effects of animal fat – which they contend actually promotes illness. Most importantly, each articulates how we are grossly misinformed by the media. The second common thread is the body’s amazing ability to heal itself.

The China Study takes the reader through 50 years of research that has been ignored by the LM including as the following:

- p. 36
(1968) A research paper from India surfaced in an obscure medical journal. It was an experiment involving liver cancer and protein consumption in two groups of laboratory rats. One group was given AF (one of the worst carcinogens) and then fed diets containing 20% protein; the second group was given the same level of AF and then fed diets containing only 5% protein. Every single rat fed 20% protein got liver cancer or its precursor lesions, but not a single animal fed a 5% protein diet got liver cancer or its precursor lesions. It was not a trivial difference; it was 100% versus 0%.

I mean – geez - in America only 4 out of 5 dentists recommend Colgate!

The China Study contains data on the study of different dietary, lifestyle, and disease characteristics of 65 counties, 130 villages, and 6,500 adults and their families in China. When the analysis was complete, Dr. Campbell had over 8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet and disease variables.

p. 160
Exposure to excess amounts of female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, leads to an increased risk of breast cancer. According to our China Study data, exposure to estrogen is at least 2.5 – 3.0 times higher among Western women when compared with rural Chinese women…diet plays a major role in establishing estrogen exposure. This suggests that the risk of breast cancer is preventable if we eat foods that will keep estrogen levels under control. The sad truth is that most women simply are not aware of this evidence. If this information were properly reported by responsible and credible public health agencies, I suspect that many more young women might be taking very real, very effective steps to avoid this awful disease.

Remember the golden rule: First, do no harm.
These two publications can help.
Oh, yes, and from my perspective: Dr. Campbell’s book is mmm mmm good.

Copyright 2008
No Country for Old Women
(Part One)

In August of 1999, my sister and I completed a marathon event to raise money for a worthy cause: The Avon Breast Cancer Three Day. Avon (the company for women) sponsored this affair in which participants walked sixty miles over a three day period, from West Point, New York to Manhattan. It was the most physically challenging and exhausting experience I had ever endured.
Except for giving birth. And that only took two days.

But that didn’t matter. No amount of pain would stop the thousands of participants – 99.9% women - because we were united, an army of one, comrades-in-arms, together fighting this battle in the war on breast cancer.

On the first day of the event, we awoke at 4 am - sleepy-eyed and caffeine depleted - and boarded buses that took us to ground zero, the starting point of our sixty mile adventure. There, we listened to President James Preston of Avon (the company for women), who stood among us advocating the importance of our involvement in this (never-ending) conquest. He spoke compassionately, using loud speakers and visual effects, telling us about the company’s determination to win, win, win this war on breast cancer. He (could have) reminded the audience of the history of Avon (the company for women) which was founded in 1886, by Mr. David McConnell (originally called the California Perfume Company) and that in its (then) 113 year history, there had never been a woman chief executive officer.
(Which makes sense because only men know how they want a woman to smell.)

After this in-cite-ful indoctrination, we were charged up, and ready to rumble.

On the first day, we walked 22 miles in humidity and temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees, on the second day, 20 miles, and 18 on the third. At the end of each day’s march, we removed our backpacks, set up camp, ate in the mess tent, bathed in communal showers, tended to our sore, aching, tired, feet, and then slept.

Unfortunately over the three day course, some of the participants couldn’t complete the mission, succumbing to heat stroke, physical exhaustion, swelling of the feet, hammer toes, or that darn fungus foot. Some just plain went AWOL. But not me. No sir. I was able to do everything that was asked of me: (1) raise the required $1,200 (anything less would’ve come out of my pocket), (2) attend a class entitled “Ten Walking Mistakes to Avoid” (like flapping your arms like a chicken), and (3) watching a 75 minute video on how to cross the street.

Everyone involved gave their unwavering support and implicitly understood that you are either with Avon (the company for women) in its war on breast cancer or you are with the terrorizing few that strayed from the pack and actually articulated independent, (albeit “liberal”) thought about this often fatal disease. And if you are in the latter, you’re sure to get breast cancer.

(Frightened masses huddle together and ask very few questions.)

Some people even formed conspiracy theories which bordered on subversion, questioning how a company whose sales were $9 billion (last year) and whose products, applied directly to the skin (the body’s largest organ), include ingredients such as salicylic acid, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, parabens, and fragrances - have the audacity to advocate they are working to eradicate this disease.

They wanted to know why this company pays enormous fees to fundraisers – including a $7.5 million dollar settlement that Avon (the company for women) doled out in 2005 to their former marketing joint venture partner, Pallotta Team Works (that’s 6,250 walkathon participants minimum contribution or 12,500 blistered feet), and why, according to their latest financial statements, marketing and overhead charges a whopping 22 cents on every dollar raised.

Make no mistake about it, cancer is a frightening disease and treatment options – which include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and/or drugs - are physically and emotionally painful, debilitating, and costly. That is exactly why I decided to participate nine years ago.

But since then, I’ve learned quite a bit about the power of those who capitalize on (never-ending) wars against “something”. Don’t forget, American’s toil under a system that allows drug companies to spend billions a year telling citizens – via any media source possible - that their doctors are too stupid to know what drugs they should be taking (“ask your doctor”) – and tens of billions more directly marketing these same products to physicians. Drug companies spend almost twice as much on advertising ($57 billion in 2004) than on research and development.
I’m not making this up!

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women - in America. Our chance of getting breast cancer is one in eight.
But our odds are six times greater than women in China and India. Why is that?

That’s what I want to know.

And until we have honest, open discussions – irrespective of what market segments are impaired by the answers (god forbid) – American women will continue to suffer from this disease. And that’s totally unacceptable to this woman.

Ding, Dong: Avon, we’re calling on you…

Copyright 2008
My Big Fat American New Year

Our New Year started off with a bang.

My husband and I wanted to do something special but we didn’t want it to be controversial or – god forbid – educational.

We considered going into The City to see a play, and prepared for our trip by waiting in line at the drive-thru window of our local pharmacy to refill needed prescriptions (restless leg/irritable bowel/overactive bladder/depression/anxiety/chronic fatigue/PMDD) and then proceeding to the bank’s drive-thru to withdraw funds for the estimated $385 it would cost (donuts/gas/insurance/tolls/parking/snacks/admission/beverages/drive-thru-donuts).
But then we remembered there were rumors of labor strikes forcing many plays to shut down.
These “strikers” almost ruined our New Year. What’s wrong with them?

The City is a scary place anyway filled with unsavory characters, so we were relieved to skip the play and see a movie - but not at the Mega Mall Movie Theatre Complex where "undesirables" could roam in an unsupervised manner (and high on whatever). No. We went to a little independent movie theatre in a quaint seashore town known for its (increasing) separation of the "haves" (on one side of the railroad tracks) and "have-nots" (on the other).

When I entered the theatre, an employee gave me a special promotion. The offer seemed phenomenal - yet confusing - but I think it worked like this: Every dollar spent, you earned one point. Spend $50 (50 points) and that entitled you to free (small, unbuttered) popcorn. Three hundred points entitled you to a movie pass (weekends, holidays, after hours excluded). I think five hundred thousand points entitled you to a $10 gift card.
(I don’t know how businesses make any money these days.)

Anyway, we moved into the crowded theatre to see the film: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead” – which we heard was a family film - something about your distinctive all-American white collar family, living in a white four-story colonial (with black shutters), in a typical suburban neighborhood.

The story centers on the relationship between the two brothers.
The oldest brother, Andy, is embezzling money from his employer, a high-profile real estate conglomerate. Andy has a Park Avenue drug habit (not the kind that "cracks" open jail cells for people of color). He snorts cocaine on the top of his filing cabinet before going into a corporate meeting about an impending IRS audit. Hey, who wouldn't?

His wife, played by Marisa Tomei is mostly naked in the film -in almost every scene - every 15 minutes or so. And then some. Quite frankly, I'd seen more of her than I cared to.
I think my husband was glad we skipped the play.

The other brother, Hank, is four months behind in child support payments to his ex-wife who is a nagging, sniveling, denigrating hag. She does not have a scene or any dialogue in the movie where she is not hurling four letter words at her ex husband. Hank’s family loathes him, and Hank feels that pain by screwing Andy's wife (every Thursday morning between 10 and 11). Hence more naked scenes with Marisa Tomei.
Oh boy.

Despite all this family bliss, Andy and Hank decide to rob their parents business - a jewelry store that has been in the family for generations. All this conniving, planning, and possible jail time will net them $60,000 each. Each!
What dopes. I mean after taxes, they'll get only half of that!

During the robbery, all hell breaks loose. The mother tries to ward off the robber with a hand gun she has hidden in her....well, I dare not say. She manages to shoot the masked robber (who Hank hired to do the job because he is a big baby and doesn't even have enough courage to steal from his own mother). The robber - although wounded - is able to shoot the mother. There's lots of blood. The mother ends up in the hospital - brain dead - hooked up to machines that keep her alive. The family has to decide whether to pull the plug on mom.
I understood that part.

(As you can see, women are well represented in the film.)

In the aftermath, Andy laments: "Why couldn't it have been dad, instead of mom?"

The police are not looking into the crime so the father takes matters into his own hands after his investigation reveals his sons’ involvement. He grabs a gun and follows them during a bloody shooting spree (is there any other kind?).

I understood most of the film except the part where the father confesses that he was a bad parent. I’m not sure what dysfunctional leadership has to do with ensuing chaos.

I won't tell you the ending in case you want to see the film. But I think the moral of the story is black and white: Behind violence is the absence of color…and the presence of crude, capitalistic opportunities that benefit a very few.

Oh…and crimes against humanity come with a heavy price.
Especially if the Devil Knows You’re Dead: Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!

Copyright 2007
The Great Divide

I used to be a hot babe.
Not the Paris Hilton sex-starved-nose-thumbing-I’m not changing-my-ways kind of babe No. I’m talking about the bald-headed-thumb-sucking-hey!-I-need-a-change-over-here kind. You see, as an infant, I’d get fevers in excess of 105 degrees. Consequently, I’d be cranky, irritable, and quite messy. This went on for the better part of 1957.

Seven years later, I spent months in isolation after contracting meningitis. I couldn’t walk, was lethargic, feverish, and subjected to daily injections and other bodily invasions too embarrassing to mention.

Those were the good old days.

At least that’s what I’m told. Because back then – allegedly - doctors made house calls, provided routine treatments, prescribed medicine without commercial intervention, and had a “staff” of one handling payment.

Restless leg syndrome was not yet invented…err, I mean treated.

If that’s true, health care has changed quite a bit. Nowadays we have exorbitant medical bills, co-pays, referrals, pre-certification, and thousand dollar deductibles. You’re either in-network, out-of-network, or out-of-pocket. We have HMOs, PPOs and of course, OCOs Then there are the 500 page insurance contracts and the distinct differences between “urgent care” and “emergency”.

And everywhere you go, you hear stories from people who are fighting their health insurance companies over denied benefits.

That is exactly the premise of Michael Moore’s new film, Sicko, which focuses on the so-called flaws in the system for the roughly two hundred million Americans who have health insurance. The film implies that capitalism is to health care what Penthouse is to the women’s movement.

After I saw the film, I noticed the rush – the mad rush in the media, that is – to immediately discredit any notion that Americans need (or God forbid want) a single-payer health care system with universal coverage.

There were the usual suspects like:

Bill O’Reilly who, referring to Mr. Moore as a socialist, observed: “Say national health care is passed. Then what? I can guarantee you that Michael Moore and his acolytes will say that decent food is a human right. So is decent housing and a dignified retirement and child care for working people, and on and on and on.” (7/11/07)

Who in their right mind wants decent child care?

Oh, it gets better.

National Review’s Deroy Murdock, who titled his review “SKIPO”, states: “Moore overlooks many facts that would balance his otherwise well-crafted film…its leftward tilt makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa look like the Washington Monument.”

Kevin Carr of 7(M) Pictures considers a patient’s inability to get treatment their own damn fault. He recounts one of the film’s “criminals”: “Like the woman who killed her own child arguing with doctors to treat her rather than driving the sick kid to a hospital that took her insurance.”

An 18 month old dies in an ER with treatment an arms length away.
Yes, I agree. That is criminal.

The New York Times (hardly a conservative source) published a scathing editorial (7/5/07) in which Philip Boffey offered: “The film is unashamedly one-sided, superficial, overstated and occasionally suspect in its details…Can it really be true that three volunteers who worked on the smoldering World Trade Center pile after 9/11 were unable to afford care in this country?”

Imagine that.
I think that borders on criminal behavior also.

Most of the critics “reinforced” the notion that health insurance coverage is a non issue, like Mr. Denby, in his review for The New Yorker (7/2/07), who pointed out “Everyone knows the major Democratic Presidential candidates have already offered, or will soon offer, plans for reform.”

Duh! Of course they will. And to think otherwise is just plain sicko.

I can’t wait for these wordsmiths to evaluate other movies with such fanaticism. I can see the review for Evan Almighty now:

“Evan Almighty is a film of Biblical proportions about a woman’s quest for the patience to deal with her husband’s increasingly irrational behavior. The husband, whose name I believe is Evan (but that’s not important), plans to build a big boat because he claims an old black man appeared telling him there would be a monumental flood wiping out life as we know it causing devastation and catastrophic illness. The movie is a comedy.”

Mr. Moore claimed he received over 25,000 emails - within the first 24 hours - about the horrors of dealing with health insurance companies. That’s only from the people who heard about his request.

What seems clear to me from Sicko is the great divide in America today. Not left versus right, or Democrat versus Republican. I’m talking about the great (and ever expanding) division between public opinion and public policy.

It’s ironic that BlueCross VP Barclay Fitzpatrick’s confidential memo - leaked to Mr. Moore by an employee - (unintentionally) sums it up best: “You would have to be dead to be unaffected by Moore’s movie.”

Speaking of which, someday I’ll be a hot babe again - when I‘m reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes. Hopefully that won’t be the result of someone’s inability to determine whether the treatment I needed fell under the category of “urgent care” or “emergency”…or some insurance company hyping: Don’t worry. You’re in good hands.

Copyright 2007