Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I feel fine

I'm ambivalent about the possible selection of Dr. Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. He seems like a very bright, earnest fellow, but his, and CNN's cavalier treatment of Michael Moore following the release of "Sicko" was pretty tasteless.

Here's the video of the Moore/Gupta debate on Larry King:

Gupta came across, to me, as fanatically nit-picky, and his smug dismissal of Moore was obvious. Granted, Moore can be overbearing, but his points were never really in dispute, just parsed to death.

Gupta objected to Moore's using different sources for different statistics: he used a BBC report for the per capita medical expenditure in Cuba, and a US Government report for the same expense in the US. Ya think?

I doubt seriously that any US government bureau tracks medical spending in Cuba, based on our vast political relationship with Cuba, dominated by right-wing ex-pats in the Florida Cuban community. So why not go with the BBC, which actually pays attention to the rest of the world.

Others found fault with Gupta's treatment of Moore:
Another CNN correction followed on July 15 concerning the credentials of "Sicko" healthcare expert Paul Keckley. Gupta asserted that Keckley, whom he had quoted criticizing the national healthcare systems of France, Canada and Cuba during his fact check piece, was only affiliated with Vanderbilt University. It was his response to Moore's claim the Keckley was "a person from a think tank group who is a big Republican contributor."

Gupta's fact check piece listed Keckley as a "Deloitte Healthcare Expert." Yet further checking revealed Keckley had, indeed, served on the faculty of Vanderbilt University. He is also the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

Moore must have been beaming as he read CNN's apology: "Moore is correct. Paul Keckley left Vanderbilt in late 2006."

I know Gupta is a Very Busy Person™, yet the one fuck-up correction he admitted to, he blamed on transcription. By someone else. That means, he didn't do research on Moore & Sicko, he decided to do a hit piece and had an intern do the actual reading:
In Gupta's original piece he refuted figures Moore presented regarding Cuba's per capita spending on healthcare. Gupta alleged that the $251 per person cost reported by Moore was untrue.

Yet on "Larry King Live" Gupta admitted the error was his, not Moore's. "Michael correctly said $251 in the movie."

Gupta also made a correction statement on July 11.

"To be clear, I got a number wrong in my original report, substituting the number 25, instead of 251."

I hope he doesn't do neuro-surgery that way. But don't take my word for it. Take Paul Krugman's word:
I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

As usual, Paul points out the inconvenient truth. Thanks.