Friday, February 17, 2017

Making America Great Again: A Review of "Where to Invade Next"

Michael Moore's latest theatrical film was released at the beginning of 2016, before Trump mania really took hold.  Watching it in 2017, as Trump and Republicans begin their dismantling of America, this film is especially relevant.  The title isn't really about military invasions; it's about taking ideas from other countries that have worked much better than what we're doing here.  Maybe if Hillary had adopted this as her platform she'd have done better in "the heartland"--or not.

Moore travels to much of Western Europe and Tunisia to discuss some ideas that have worked in those different countries compared to what we do in America.  And in the process I guess he got to write off a nice European vacation.

Italy:  Italian workers get 8 weeks of paid vacation.  That's right, 2 months of paid vacation!  Plus they get paid for two months in December.  They also get 5 months for maternity leave.  Their lunch hour is 2 hours long!  Why?  Because management is willing to sacrifice a little in profit for a happier, healthier workforce.  And Italy's productivity is actually a little better than ours!  The average Italian also lives 4 years longer than the average America.  It's actually funny when Moore tells an Italian couple how much paid vacation most Americans get--none--and their faces are just WTF?!  Yeah, really.  How bizarre.

Germany:  The German work week is only 36 hours but they get paid for 40.  The day usually ends around 2-2:30 in the afternoon.  By law employers can't call or send emails to workers when they are not present.  To help make sure management works in the interest of workers, half of a company's board is made up of workers.  In the schools, they actually study the Holocaust and Nazis, not minimizing it like we do with our treatment of Native Americans and slaves.  Later Moore returns to Berlin to the Berlin Wall.  He and a friend from Michigan were actually in Berlin to help bring the wall down; there's footage of the friend dancing on the top of the wall.  It's a good reminder for those wanting to build a wall with Mexico that this wall lasted less than 30 years.

France:  Going to American public schools, your lunch was usually pizza or sloppy Joes or something like that.  In France, even districts in poorer neighborhoods they have real chefs making healthy, four-course meals every day.  Really they look like something you'd get at a nice restaurant.  And this is standard!  It wasn't like a special day or anything.  He shows the kids some of the meals from a school in Boston and they are completely grossed out--with good reason.  They have real sex ed countries there too.  When Moore suggests abstinence as an alternative the whole class laughs at the notion.

Finland:  When you think who has the best schools, you might think it'd be America or Japan or Germany or somewhere like that.  Nope, it's Finland!  Yeah, Finland.  So they must have tons of homework, right?  Nope.  No homework.  Then they must study all the time, right?  Nope.  They only have 3-4 hour school days.  There are no standardized tests either.  Kids who have been exchange students to America can't believe the difference.

Slovenia (Not Slovakia):  In Slovenia college is free.  Because of this even some Americans have moved to Slovenia to take part of it.

Portugal:  In Portugal drug possession is no longer a crime.  Are drugs a huge problem then?  Quite the opposite.  They also don't have a death penalty; a couple of cops pleaded to the camera to repeal the death penalty in America.

Norway:  Norwegian prisons vary from like a summer camp to like a college dorm.  There are few guards and they don't carry guns.  Inmates have their own rooms and have the key to it.  Convicted killers work in the kitchen with knives!  So shouldn't there be tons of escapes and riots, right?  Nope.  Turns out when you don't treat prisoners as animals they don't act like animals.  Whoa! In 2011 a homegrown terrorist (not a Muslim either) killed 54 people, but instead of going to war and passing a Patriot Act, the country rallied together to heal.  Even a father of one of the victims didn't wish to kill the terrorist or arm everyone with guns.

Tunisia:  Tunisia is in Northern Africa and is predominantly Muslim.  Yet they legalized abortion the same year as the United States.  Like France they preach education and prevention, not abstinence.  After the tyrannical government fell in 2014, women took to the streets and got an equal rights amendment passed.

Iceland:  Speaking of women in government, Iceland was one of the first countries with a female president in 1980.  When the banks crashed in 2014, the only one that didn't crash was a bank run by women.  A prosecutor brought in an American who successfully prosecuted bankers in the Savings & Loan scandal of the late 80s and they put the bankers behind the crash in prison far, far away from the public.  And it didn't take them a decade to bounce back either.

The sad thing about all of this?  Most of these are AMERICAN ideas!  The problem is we've let our thinking be corrupted with fear and hatred.  We have this idea that we have to work, work, work until we die or we're lazy and no good.  Because we have to work all the time we need kids in school to babysit them and to keep them out of trouble they need tons of homework to pass those pointless standardized tests.  We need to stuff prisoners in cells and treat them like animals; then we wonder why they act like animals during and after they get out.  And we can't prosecute banks or put women in charge.  That's just terrible!

Even sadder is that all of these ideas are based on treating people decently and fairly.  For some reason this has become a radical idea.  Sad!

Now I know a lot of people would say:  but if we adopt this stuff our taxes would have to go up!  Yes, they would, but here's the way to think of it.  Imagine you're buying an airline ticket from New York to Los Angeles.

Ticket A:  A cut-rate airline like Spirit or Jet Blue.  Your base fare is only $150.  But then it's $25 to choose a seat, $25 to put a bag in the overhead bin, $25 to check a bag, $10 for a meal, $10 for using WiFi, etc etc until that $150 ticket is actually costing you about $500.

Ticket B:  A better airline (if such exist) where your base far is $300 but you get the overhead bin, checking a bag, meals, WiFi all included in the price.

Our current system is like Ticket A:  we pay less in taxes but because we have to pay for our own healthcare, college, and so forth we end up actually paying more than people in European countries who have higher taxes but like with Ticket B aren't getting nickel-and-dimed all over the place..  (Plus we have that humongous national debt.)

On the whole this is one of Moore's best films.  It's a lot more focused than some of his previous ones.  Not really any of the silly stunts other than handing foreigners an American flag after "invading" their country.  It's not even all that partisan though of course Republicans would still hate it.

I was thinking the other day that really the best way to describe socialism to someone is it's like putting us all in a labor union that's run by the government.  I mean for 13 years I was in a labor union and we had a lot of the perks of Italian and German workers:  paid holidays, paid vacation, paid maternity leave, shorter hours, and fully-funded health care.  It's not all great but it's a lot better than not having any benefits, which is how it is for a lot of us.  Of course since Republicans and their corporate lobbyists have scared a lot of people on unions I don't suppose that would be a comf


  1. A while ago I saw the Moore film Sicko that was before Obamacare. I had hoped Obamacare wouldn't involve insurance companies, so I was disappointed in it. Ideally I think expanding Medicare and/or Medicaid to cover the uninsured to be the best solution. I agree we need more vacation. Where I work, they actually cut back on vacation time of new employees. Fortunately, I got in before the cut back, but it still makes me sad for the others.
    As for the media, and I'm not going to argue with you about it, but I watch both sides of the media and the "mainstream" media is no doubt bias against Trump and republicans. They slant things or just don't report what doesn't look good for Democrats. I'm an independent voter and have always voted Democrat, but I just can't tolerate the media these days. Yes, there are things I don't like about Trump, but I'm sick of our media. They are either going for ratings or their own bias constantly. Trump is right when he brought up the subject of Hillary getting the questions to a debate. The media would've went crazy if it was him, but no they hardly even reported. Nothing even happened to CNN for that. How do they get away with it? The only thing a person should do if you watch the news is to watch both sides of it. Otherwise, you'll miss something.

    1. "They slant things or just don't report what doesn't look good for Democrats. "

      How much airtime did they give that bullshit about Hillary's email server? Meanwhile Trump's crew has been using private emails and he uses an unsecured phone and I don't hear about any hearings on that.

      "Trump is right when he brought up the subject of Hillary getting the questions to a debate."

      Didn't Megyn Kelly say he got debate questions before one of the Republican debates?

      Most of what the media has reported on is stuff his own staff is leaking. So I'm not buying that the media is the enemy of the people or biased against him. Trump is a narcissist who can't stand anyone criticizing him, even when he brings it on himself, which he's been doing since even before he threw his hat in the ring.

    2. Never heard about Megyn Kelly saying that, however, there should be consequences for anyone giving out the questions to a debate on either side. It's outrageous they get away with it.

      It must've been good ratings for the media regarding Hillary's emails, which I don't think is BS. Anyone else would've been fired from their job. You goes for ratings first, bias second. Regardless of anything, we can't have the media telling us what to think. They purposely leave out details that make a story less interesting all the time. No matter what you believe.

      I think in general, you have to be a narcissist to have the ego to run for President. Again, I don't like everything about him. And that's all I'm saying. (Hopefully)

  2. That sounds like a good movie. A lot of those items sound like an unworkable fantasy system in a fictional utopia until you find out they already exist. But the US has the best. The best. Other countries are a mess. Sad.

    1. Yeah and as I mentioned and Moore talked about in "Capitalism: A Love Story" a bit, a lot of that stuff in Europe came from Americans Roosevelt and Truman sent over to rebuild after WWII.



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