“Sick for Profit”: Robert Greenwald Documentary Exposes Salaries, Claim Denials of Healthcare Profiteers
Sick for Profit, a documentary by Robert Greenwald, contrasts the salaries of insurance company CEOs with the experiences of policyholders denied medical claims. We play an excerpt.
By Kathleen Miller at The Raw Story
The left-wing filmmaker behind a documentary that questions U.S. policy in Afghanistan says he “took a lot of grief” and lost progressive donors when he began making the movie “Rethink Afghanistan.”
Robert Greenwald’s latest effort criticizes the U.S.’s current approach to the war in Afghanistan, even if it tarnishes the image of Pres. Barack Obama by association. Greenwald says his intent with the film is to get people talking about the Afghan war and questioning U.S. policy there, which made some progressives angry in the early days of the Obama administration.
“When we started doing it, we took a lot of grief, we lost funders, people were mad at us,” Greenwald said in a phone interview with Raw Story. “It was at a time when there was this notion that anything the Obama administration did you were not supposed to question.”
Greenwald has a petition on the movie’s website that calls on Congress to debate “civilian alternatives to a failed military-based approach to bringing peace and security to the region.” He told Raw Story he was prompted to make the movie after a recent trip through Vietnam when he noticed parallels between the Afghan war and the Vietnam war.
“I started thinking, literally, you could cross out Kennedy and replace it with Obama, and cross out communism and replace it with a fear of terrorism,” Greenwald told Raw Story.
Today, the Obama administration is having its fourth cabinet-level meeting on what to do about the war in Afghanistan, a conflict now eight years old. As the president and his team decide on a course of action, documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald has debuted “Rethink Afghanistan,” a politically-minded documentary being released in segments online for free (you can see the film in its entirety on his Web site).
In a phone interview with Speakeasy, Greenwald said that two events motivated him to make the film: a Christmas trip to Vietnam, where he saw “wonderful things happening between us and Vietnam,” and his re-reading of David Halberstam’s book on the war, “The Best and the Brightest.”
“The argument we make in the film is that there are a lot of unanswered questions about the war: How many troops? What’s the cost in lives and treasure?” says Greenwald. “In the film, we try to ask these fundamental core questions. It’s not just 10,000 troops there, or 12,000 there, it’s why troops at all?” He added, “Those are the questions we need to ask, and those are the questions you need to ask in a democracy.”
During a recent panel about the film, Greenwald said his production company, Brave New Films, took a lot of heat for the movie’s subject, and many donors backed away, citing deference to Obama and the notion that Afghanistan “was the right war.” Greenwald also said this was the first time he had ever released a movie entirely online, saying it made it easier to get many people talking about “rethinking” policy in Afghanistan prior to its full release.
By Byron York at Washington Examiner
Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards, a vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, attended the premiere of the anti-war film, “Rethink Afghanistan” in Washington last night. In remarks afterward, Edwards quoted a House colleague, whom she did not identify, saying anti-war Democrats must work to rescue President Obama from his commitment to escalate the war in Afghanistan. “As one of my colleagues, who shall remain unnamed, said, ‘Indeed, we may have to save this president from himself on Afghanistan,’” Edwards told the audience. “I take that really seriously.”
Edwards said she believes Obama is “capable of setting aside this language of a campaign” as he decides U.S. policy in Afghanistan. “Even though we talked about Afghanistan as sort of the good war, there is no good in that war,” Edwards said. “We have to be vocal and insistent on this administration and this Congress not to fall prey to the language of the good war.”
“Rethink Afghanistan” is the work of left-wing documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. Featuring commentary by war critics Juan Cole, Robert Baer, and others, the movie calls for the U.S. military offensive in Afghanistan to be replaced by a large-scale humanitarian effort. Rep. Alan Grayson, the self-styled “Democrat with guts” whom MSNBC host Ed Schultz recently dubbed “the new hero on the lefty block,” also attended the showing.
In an interview after the film, Edwards expanded on her remarks. “I think it’s clear just reading the headlines, that the president is getting some advice and push to escalate the war in Afghanistan,” she said. “I don’t want to push the president toward any particular decision, but I’m concerned that in fact there are some who would choose to push him toward an escalation, and I want him to have the opportunity to step back, make a full assessment, and then give a rationale to the American people about why we’re still in Afghanistan and what the strategy is going forward.”
If Obama ultimately decides to send more troops to Afghanistan, Edwards suggested that a large number of majority Democrats will abandon him when it comes time to vote for extended funding of the war. “In order to go forward to continue the funding,” she said, “it is going to be largely, I think, a Republican vote that would stand with the president, if that’s the decision that he makes.”
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine, a subsidiary of WellPoint, the nation’s largest insurer, wanted the state to approve an average rate hike of 18.5 percent on its policyholders. Maine rejected the increase and now the insurer is fighting for the hike in court.
Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films is taking aim at Anthem’s rate reach in the latest installment of his “Sick for Profit” series. The video, posted below, is a slick pitch for pitchfork-style outrage. It notes how much WellPoint pays its CEO ($9.8 million) and how much of its policyholders’ premiums it spends on lobbying ($9,529,747). WellPoint’s subsidiary in Maine says it needs the rate increase to guarantee a 3 percent profit margin.
“The only justification for this lawsuit is just pure greed,” says Ali Vander-Zanden of the Maine People’s Alliance in the video.
And the Maine attorney general’s office seems to buttress that argument — in a Sept. 23 filing, in response to the insurer’s claim that raising premiums is necessary for the financial health of the company, the AG says Anthem is perfectly profitable.
This past weekend, AlterNet had the privilege of hosting a screening of Robert Greenwald’s important new documentary, Rethink Afghanistan, in New York City. It was just one of several screenings to kick off an impressive nationwide campaign by Brave New Films to spread a crucial message about the war in Afghanistan: This is not the “good war” as we have been told by so many for so long. This is a losing battle, and it is costing us dearly: in billions of dollars, in thousands of lives, and in the eyes of the rest of the world.
And of course, it is costing the people of Afghanistan more than anyone. Perhaps one of the most jolting things about watching the film is seeing image after terrible image of civilian suffering: desperate families mired in refugee camps, pain-stricken schoolgirls attacked with acid by the resurgent Taliban, countless injured men, women and children who are the collatoral damage from errant U.S. bomb strikes. It is a punch-to-the-gut reminder of just how sanitized this war — which Obama has always called the “right front” of the so-called war on terror — has been.
Of course, if you’re the New York Times, these very images, which have the power to awaken people to the human cost of war, are actually proof of a slanted agenda on the part of the filmmaker. “At an almost breathless pace that leaves little room for reflection, Mr. Greenwald presents a flurry of sights, voices and figures, many of them compelling but all reflecting his point of view,” writes NYT film reviewer Andy Webster in a dismissive 250-word review today.
Perhaps more than any other major corporate news outlet, The New York Times played a central role in promoting the Bush administration’s fraudulent case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The “reporting” of Judith Miller and Michael Gordon basically served as a front-page fiction laundering factory for Dick Cheney’s fantasy of a “mushroom cloud” threat from Saddam Hussein looming on the immediate horizon, topped off with a celebratory slice of yellowcake. More recently, the paper’s propagandists, William Broad and David Sanger, have aimed their sights on reporting dubious claims about Iran’s nuclear program.
Readers of the Times, therefore, should take with a huge grain of weaponized salt the paper’s “review” of Robert Greenwald’s new documentary, Rethink Afghanistan. With no sense of the painful irony of writing such jibberish in the Times, reviewer Andy Webster declares that the film could “use balance, something in short supply here:”
At an almost breathless pace that leaves little room for reflection, Mr. Greenwald presents a flurry of sights, voices and figures, many of them compelling but all reflecting his point of view. A historical summary is fleeting. What appears, again and again, are terrifying images of children: dead, hideously maimed or, in one instance, almost put up for sale by a frantic civilian in a refugee camp. Military engagements, it seems, are messy and claim innocent lives.
If it takes Greenwald’s “point of view” to see the human costs of the U.S. war in Afghanistan in the form of deformed, maimed and dead civilians, then his film should be required viewing for anyone purporting to support the war.
By John Nichols at The Nation
President Obama, who is under pressure from the Pentagon and defense contractors to surge 40,000 additional U.S. troops into occupied Afghanistan, will meet Tuesday with members of Congress to discuss the sorry state of the mission and its uncertain future.
That’s the good news — sort of.
At least the president is talking to the civilian leaders who, according to the U.S. Constitution, are supposed to be making decisions about whether to engage in and escalate wars.
The bad news is that the president and Vice President Joe Biden (who is reportedly skeptical about expanding the occupation force) are not planning to meet with members of Congress who have studied the conflict and determined that it is time to develop a flexible exit strategy.
Here is the list of House and Senate members who got the White House invite:
SENATORS * Harry Reid, Majority Leader, D-NV * Dick Durbin, Majority Whip, D-IL * Mitch McConnell, Republican Leader, R-KY * Jon Kyl, Republican Whip, R-AZ * Carl Levin, Armed Services Chair, D-MI * John McCain, Armed Services Ranking Member, R-AZ * Daniel Inouye, Appropriations Chair and Defense Subcommittee Chair, D-HI * Thad Cochran, Appropriations Ranking Member and Defense Subcommittee Ranking, R-MS * John Kerry, Foreign Affairs Chair, D-MA * Richard Lugar, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member, R-IN * Patrick Leahy, Foreign Operations Appropriations Chair, D-VT * Judd Gregg, Foreign Operations Appropriations Ranking Member, R-NH * Dianne Feinstein, Intelligence Committee Chair, D-CA * Kit Bond, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, R-MOREPRESENTATIVES * Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA * Steny Hoyer, Majority Leader, D-MD * John Boehner, Republican Leader, R-OH * James Clyburn, Majority Whip, D-SC * Eric Cantor, Republican Whip, R-VA * Ike Skelton, Armed Services Chair, D-MO * Howard McKeon, Armed Services Ranking Member, R-CA * Howard Berman, Foreign Affairs Chair, D-CA * Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member, R-FL * David Obey, Appropriations Chair, D-WI * Jerry Lewis, Appropriations Ranking Member, R-CA * Nita Lowey, Foreign Operations Appropriations Chair, D-NY * Kay Granger, Foreign Operations Appropriations Ranking Member, R-TX * John Murtha, Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee Chair, D-PA * Bill Young, Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee Ranking Member, R-FL * Silvestre Reyes, Intelligence Committee Chairman, D-TX * Peter Hoekstra, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, R-MI
As the eighth anniversary of the US-led bombing of Afghanistan draws closer, the Obama administration continues to debate the best way to fight this ongoing war. Senate Democrats voted Thursday to delay a congressional briefing by General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a NATO air strike on a compound in southern Afghanistan has reportedly killed a family of six. As the civilian death toll in Afghanistan continues to rise, we turn now to an excerpt from a new documentary by filmmaker Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films. It’s called Rethink Afghanistan and premieres today in New York.