Hard News by Russell Brown


Can somebody hook a brother up with some Twiglets?

I've had Michael Moore's Sicko (friends in America version) for nearly two weeks and hadn't found the right time to watch it -- it's not exactly Saturday night fare -- but I put it on yesterday.

He still doesn't do nuance. His loving depiction of the French social system ignores the social and economic slough the system has helped produce there. He doesn't acknowledge that, although it is plainly and unforgivably awful at safeguarding the welfare of many citizens in most need, the US system does provide incentives for the development of novel treatments that help the rest of us.

But I think it's the best film Moore has made, partly because he keeps his manipulative urges in check. Or, rather, he manipulates us not through editing tricks, but by obliging us to confront a series of human tragedies - many of which would provoke full-scale public scandals if they happened in a health system like ours. And right at the end of the film, where desperately ill and disgracefully abandoned 9/11 volunteers meet Cuban firemen, he procures a moment that I found genuinely moving.

I'm also quite clear now on why Moore went off at Wolf Blitzer about the preposterous "reality check" by Sanjay Gupta that preceded their CNN interview.

Gupta's package looked every bit like the sop to Big Medicine advertisers that Moore said it was. Gupta's killer point - these other systems aren't really "free" because people pay for them though their taxes - is explicitly made in the film. And his claim that Moore got Cuba's per capita health costs wrong by a factor of 10 is simply wrong. It barely warrants the description of journalism.

I also watched the long scroll of "pre-existing conditions" for which health insurance companies deny their customers cover, to see if autism was there. It is. And families suffer. But Dr Mrs Instapundit thinks that's how it should be, because -- wait for it --- "there is no free lunch".


Friday was busy. I was in Wellington with our new producer Glynis, grabbing as many stories as we could fit in for Public Address Radio and, thereafter, our podcast. In the end, we got five done, which was a reasonable haul.

The first one we did - and the first one you'll hear - was a visit to look at the new Parliamentary camera system, which will deliver full coverage of proceedings in the House from tomorrow. I really felt that this was the other side of the "satire and denigration" story that was either being dismissed or going unmentioned.

The coverage will be available to broadcasters, and as a webcast, here, from tomorrow. I think it's quite important, not least because there is no copyright on the proceedings of Parliament, which means that sites like ours -- and our readers -- can capture and excerpt interesting parts of those proceedings. The streams will go out in both Windows Media and QuickTime formats.

The control room, at No.1 The Terrace, is quite impressive. The purpose-built system includes a touch-screen with a diagram of the House's seating plan: just touch a seat and the appropriate robotic camera will swivel around to focus on the member speaking. The system uses Radio New Zealand's existing microphone system, and Hansard staff will do the onscreen captioning.

Other things from the weekend:

- The cover of the SST's Sunday magazine, featuring Marcus Lush, is superb.

- Tracey Nelson's All Black stats from Saturday are online. I'm not panicking yet, but I would hope to see a significant step up against the Aussies on Saturday (which, by the way, is our annual mailing list get-together). I really want to see them smashed out of the way.

- We've already eaten all three bags of Twiglets I bought at Cool Britannia in Taranaki Street. Why this is excellent baked savoury snack so hard to obtain? Can somebody hook a brother up?

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