On Michael Moore

*Moore goes to California: the heart of the single-payer health care movement.

Michael Moore was recently in Sacramento, where Sen. Kuehl along with the help of a tireless and committed group of health care activists, are continuing to fight for a single-payer model. (SB 840 the Californians Health Insurance Reliability Act). Katrina and I wrote about this recently.

When I spoke with health care activists in the state, I was truly impressed with how smart and devoted they were to pushing the bill. Though it was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger they are going to pass it again and are pressuring him to sign it. That is unlikely but even if vetoes it again, and are coming up with override strategies. If that fails, they plan to simply keep sending the bill back over and over again. The bill has massive popular support, In fact, does any type of health insurance plan have any grassroots supports other than single-payer. When is the last time you saw a rally on the street for the individual mandate? Furthermore, Schwarzenegger has put a lot of chips on the table by saying he will fix the health care problem. No legislator, however, will back his flawed plan and he will be under tremendous pressure to get something done. If if he ever werr to sign the bill, he could say he was responsible for guaranteed universal health care to the entire state -- and overnight he is an iconoclast on the issue. Indeed it would piss off his GOP buddies, but he has been willing to do that before with his stances on gays, climate change and immigration.

There are also faint whispers he may try to challenge the popular incumbent Barbara Boxer for a senate seat in 2010 and this could make him far more appealing to voters if this race were to ever happen. (Again, I have only heard whispers)

Back to Moore: The filmmaker' new movie Sicko comes out this month (it has been seen in select places). It will be interesting to see how if he mentions the Massachusetts plan or the hybrid concept in general. My guess is that he will, and he will oppose them. Moore's movie will inevitably lead to two debates: 1) How the US should handle its health care problem (I know of nobody who does not call it a problem) and 2) more tiresome arguments over Moore's credibility.

There is no doubt that Moore's in-your-face interviews with corporate PR staffers and his occasional childish jokes are often pretty off-putting and step on his some of his good points. On top of that, Moore also misses some key points by using weak examples. Consider what Robert Jensen said about Moore' segment on Bush's trampling of civil liberties in his 2004 review of Fahrenheit 9/11.

The other example of political repression that "Fahrenheit 9/11" offers is the story of Barry Reingold, who was visited by FBI agents after making critical remarks about Bush and the war while working out at a gym in Oakland. Reingold, a white retired phone worker, was not detained or charged with a crime; the agents questioned him and left. This is the poster child for repression? In a country where hundreds of Arab, South Asian and Muslim men were thrown into secret detention after 9/11, this is the case Moore chooses to highlight? The only reference in the film to those detentions post-9/11 is in an interview with a former FBI agent about Saudis who were allowed to leave the United States shortly after 9/11, in which it appears that Moore mentions those detentions only to contrast the kid-gloves treatment that privileged Saudi nationals allegedly received.

But he is far more credible than the right tries to paint him out to be. Bowling for Columbine was a smart film with a well-deserved Academy Award to show for it. Roger & Me and the Big One both highlight the very real anxiety working class people must live through in an age of outsourcing. And Moore has posted sources for all of his facts in Farenheit 9-11 online.

Others , such as Andrew Sullivan, try to paint Moore as the Ann Coulter of the left. He wrote the following not long after Coulter's infamous CPAC speech.

I'm not being an hysteric about Coulter. Republicans, if they are serious about reaching the people they lost in 2006, need to start distancing themselves from her. She's their Michael Moore.

I responded to this in March:

Now, there are certainly plenty of valid critiques of Michael Moore's style, and reasonable people can disagree about his politics. But to say that there is anything close to a moral equivalence between Moore and Coulter -- a racist, homophobic, simpleton -- is beyond absurd.