Thursday, 03 May 2007


Ken Berwitz

Here is a commentary by Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson on the state of Cuban health care.  He specifically addresses the vast disconnect between wishful thinking on the part of castro worshippers (of which there are many in the USA entertainment business) and reality:-

"Paradise Island"
The myth of Cuban health care.

By Fred Thompson

You might have read the stories about filmmaker Michael Moore taking ailing workers from Ground Zero in Manhattan to Cuba for free medical treatments. According to reports, he filmed the trip for a new movie that bashes America for not having government-provided health care.

Now, I have no expectation that Moore is going to tell the truth about Cuba or health care. I defend his right to do what he does, but Moore's talent for clever falsehoods has been too well documented. Simply calling his movies documentaries rather than works of fiction, I think, may be the biggest fiction of all.

While this p.r. stunt has obviously been successful  - here I am talking about it  - Moore's a piker compared to Fidel Castro and his regime. Moore just parrots the story they created - one of the most successful public-relations coups in history. This is the story of free, high quality Cuban health care.

The truth is that Cuban medical care has never recovered from Castro's takeover - when the country's health care ranked among the world's best. He won the support of the Cuban people by promising to replace Batista's dictatorship with free elections, and to end corruption. Once in power, though, he made himself dictator and instituted Soviet-style Communism. Cubans not only failed to regain their democratic rights, their economy plunged into centrally planned poverty.

As many as half of Cuba's doctors fled almost immediately - and defections continue to this day. Castro wont allow observers in to monitor his nation's true state, but defectors tell us that many Cubans live with permanent malnutrition and long waits for even basic medical services. Many treatments we take for granted aren't available at all - except to the Communist elite or foreigners with dollars.

For them, Castro keeps "show" clinics equipped with the best medicines and technologies available. It was almost certainly one of these that Moore went to, if the stories in the NY Post and the Daily News are true.

Nothing about this story inspires doubt, though. Elements in Hollywood have been infatuated with the Cuban commander for years. It always leaves me shaking my head when I read about some big-time actor or director going to Cuba and gushing all over Castro. And, regular as rain, they bring up the health care myth when they come home.

What is it that leads people to value theoretically "free" health care, even when it's lousy or nonexistent, over a free society that actually delivers health care? You might have to deal with creditors after you go to the emergency ward in America, but no one is denied medical care here. I guarantee even the poorest Americans are getting far better medical services than many Cubans.

According to Forbes magazine, by the way, Castro is now personally worth approximately $900 million. So when he desperately needed medical treatment recently, he could afford to fly a Spanish surgeon, with equipment, on a chartered jet to Cuba. What does that say about free Cuban health care?

The other thing that irks me about Moore and his cohort in Hollywood is their complete lack of sympathy for fellow artists persecuted for opposing the Castro regime. Pro-democracy activists are routinely threatened and imprisoned, but Castro remains a hero to many here. According to human rights organizations, these prisoners of conscience are often beaten and denied medical treatment, sanitation or even adequate nutrition.

If Moore wants a subject for a real documentary, I would suggest looking into the life of Cuban painter and award-winning documentarian Nicols Guilln Landrin. He was denied the right to practice his art for using the Beatles' song, "The Fool on the Hill," as background music behind footage of Castro climbing a mountain. Later, he was given plenty of free Cuban health care when he was confined for years in a "mental institution" and given devastating, repeated electroshock "treatments."

There are many other artists and activists who have enjoyed similar treatment. I suspect we'll see movies with sympathetic portrayals of terrorists held in Guantanamo before we ever hear about the torture of true Cuban heroes. Even Andy Garcia's brilliant fictionalized movie about the real Cuban experience, The Lost City , was given the Hollywood silent treatment. My bet, though, is that we'll hear lots about how Michael Moore showed that Cubas socialized medicine is better than ours.

So go ahead and start working on the Oscar speech, Michael.

Until now Rudy Giuliani has been my personal choice among Republican candidates.  But I have to admit Mr. Thompson is climbing the charts fast.  It is clear thinking and blunt talking like this that is doing it.


Ken Berwitz

If there is a baseball game on TV, I often don't have to watch it or listen to the announcers to get an idea of how things are going.  If I hear the crack of the bat and sudden loud cheering, I know the home team did something good.  If I hear the crack of the bat, and the sudden cheers start and then stop just as quickly, I know the ball was caught.  If I hear booing after each pitch, it's a pretty good bet that the home team's pitcher has "lost the strike zone" and working himself into trouble.

I have political cues as well.  For example, if a Republican, say Randy "Duke" Cunningham, is caught peddling political influence for profit, I know the mainstream media will nail him relentlessly and celebrate when he goes to jail.  If a Democratic, say Diane Feinstein, peddles her influence far more profitably than Cunningham ever dreamed of (to the tune of over $10,000,000 to her husband - which is to say, to her as well), mainstream media will barely cover it.

This brings me to the French debate, held last night, between Nicholas Sarkozy and Sgolne Royal. 

Sarkozy and Royal are the two "finalists" in a political runoff to replace President jerk chirac**.  Mr. Sarkozy is friendliest to the USA of all the candidates who ran, and Ms. Royal is a socialist who happily puts forth the anti-USA mantra of chirac. 

I did not see the debate.  But I do know our media.  So when I saw the headline and sub-head in Newsweek's international edition this morning, I had a pretty good idea of what happened without reading any further.  It says -

Pas de Deux

After more than two and a half relentless hours, neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor Sgolne Royal scored a knockout blow in the debate for the French presidency. But the Socialist candidate did manage to hold her own. 


If Royal had won the debate, Newsweek would have trumpeted it in that headline.  If she was on par with Sarkozy, Newsweek would have trumpeted her "victory" anyway by arguing that she started as the underdog.  The only way those words were going to lead the story in Newsweek was if Sarkozy was a clear winner.  

And, sure enough, a good deal later in the article, Newsweek was forced to grudgingly report that "French television pundits tended to give it to Sarkozy on points in the immediate aftermath".  But even there, look at how tentatively they said so, and the context they put it in to assure their readers (themselves?) that this somehow didn't count:-

Who won? After more than two and a half relentless hours of grand pronouncements and pointed barbs, brutal interruptions, insults veiled and not-so-veiled, high dudgeon and low insinuations, neither candidate scored a knock-out blow. French television pundits tended to give it to Sarkozy on points in the immediate aftermath. But expectations for Royal were low after she made several gaffes early in the campaign and then fell back on recitations of Socialist boilerplate. Tonight, she held her own. -

And there you have it.  That is how you have to read our "neutral" media to get any semblance of reality from what should have been a straight news story. 

What a sad state of affairs.  And it doesn't look like it is going to end any time soon, either. 


UPDATE:  From Reuters - as if to prove my point:

PARIS (Reuters) - French conservative Nicolas Sarkozy extended his lead after a television debate with Socialist rival Segolene Royal and stayed on course for victory in Sunday's election, opinion polls showed on Thursday.

A poll for the Opinionway institute showed 53 percent of viewers found Sarkozy more convincing during the sometimes fiery debate, against 31 percent who judged Royal better.

A separate survey by the same polling organization gave Sarkozy, who has come out on top in over 100 opinion polls since the start of the year, an eight point lead with 54 percent support, versus 46 percent for Royal.

**The lack of capitalization and misspelled first name are intentional.


Ken Berwitz

Tomorrow's edition of Time magazine has its yearly "100 most influential" list.  That is, the 100 people who, in the (supposedly) considered judgment of Time magazine, most shape the world.

Justin Timberlake is on the list. Leonardo DiCaprio is on the list.  Rosie O'Donnell is on the list.  So is Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), Tina Fey (???), Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

President Bush is not on the list.

In other words, Time magazine is telling you that President Bush, the head of state of the world's only remaining superpower, the commander in chief of its armies, the man whose policies include taking out the taliban government in Afghanistan and saddam hussein in Iraq, the man who just vetoed a bill that would have established a withdrawal timetable for our troops in Iraq, is less influential than Justin Timberlake, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rosie O'Donnell (and Kate Moss, Tyra Banks, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett as well, among others). 

Regardless of your opinion of Mr. Bush's performance, it is impossible to claim that he is not INFLUENTIAL.   Time magazine knows that as well as you do.  Illustratively, Time once named Adolf Hitler its man of the year.  But George Bush can't crack the top 100.

I think it would be safe to assume that this was meant as an insult to President Bush.  Another glowing example of  media "neutrality". 

But, ironically, it doesn't insult Mr. Bush at all. It insults you.

With or without Time magazine, George Bush remains the President of the United States and its commander in chief.  His status is unaltered by this list.

But what does it indicate that Time magazine thinks of YOUR status?  Time is saying that they consider YOU so ignorant and/or full of hatred for George Bush that YOU can't understand that the president of the United States is more influential than a movie actor or a clothes model. 

Simply stated, Time is telling you that you are an idiot.  Are you insulted?  You should be. 



Ken Berwitz

Here is today's daily reminder of what war is all about, with a synopsis (courtesy of of what happened on this date in the middle year of World War II:


In Tunisia... The US 1st Division break out of "Mousetrap Valley" and capture Mateur. An improvised Axis defensive line prevents further progress.

From Washington... US General Devers is appointed to Commander in Chief of the American European Theater Command after General Andrews is killed in an airplane accident.


How would today's media have treated these events?

The casualty numbers from "mousetrap alley" would have been reported, with video of grieving family members if possible.  There would be an associated report that our "prize" for breaking out is to encounter another axis battle and suffer more casualties - still with no end of the war in sight.

There would be panel discussions on the meaning of a lost general, and it would be pointed out that, if we were not fighting a war far from our shores, he would be alive today. 

There would be demands that FDR finally, after two years and so many thousands of combat deaths, show us what our plan is and when we will exit the European Theater of Operations, before even more of our boys are sent home in body bags.

FDR's lack of such information would be offered as proof that this is an ill conceived, ill thought out war that is going nowhere and doing nothing but causing our boys to die.

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