Maher and Moore Chew (Out) The Fat

Finally, fruits and vegetables have a heavyweight in their corner! OK, so it's Michael Moore, the famously unfit filmmaker from Flint.
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Finally, fruits and vegetables have a heavyweight in their corner!

OK, so it's Michael Moore, the famously unfit filmmaker from Flint. And why not? Who better to go to bat for carrot sticks and veggie dips than a working class hero who's had a few too many heroes himself?

Our revered and reviled roly-poly rabble rouser revealed his new appreciation for produce -- the least loved link in our meat-centric food chain -- in his first interview in two and a half years on last Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher.

Moore told Maher how the process of filming Sicko, his latest Woe-is-Us opus, compelled him to reassess his own lousy habits. After all, what could be more galvanizing (and galling) than finding you're too flabby to even gaze at your own navel? Let's face it, getting exercised about unjust wars and uncaring corporations doesn't raise your heart rate enough to qualify as aerobic. And then there are those powdered sugar pushers on the film production's payroll whose sole job is to dole out donuts all day.

So Moore's on a mission to put the "Active" back in activist, and he's asking Americans to bypass those high fructose, transfatty highways that lead to a bypass. Bill Maher, eternally disgusted with Yoo-hoo-drinking yahoos and coddled kids who can't eat a piece of fruit unless it's been pre-sliced and packaged like a potato chip, was only too happy to pile on about the crap we pile on our plates:

MAHER: ...The human body is prettyamazing; it doesn't get sick, usually, for no reason. I mean, there's some genetic stuff that can get to you, but, basically, people are sick in this country because they're poisoned.

The environment is a poisoning factor, but also, we gotta say, they poison themselves. They eat shit. People eat shit, and that's, to my way of thinking, about 90 percent of why people are sick, is because they eat shit. Would you agree?

MOORE: Well, that's right...not 90 percent, but I would say that people, who are certainly young, or young adults, or even middle-aged people, if they took better care of themselves...I mean, you're looking at somebody right now that, while I was making this film, actually, I said to myself, you know, this is kinda hypocritical. You're making a movie about health care, and you're not even taking care of your own health...

MAHER: You look a lot thinner! I thought that was Ben Affleck...

MOORE: (laughing) Ah, man, poor, but what I did, was, I said, you know, I'm gonna participate. This isn't in the movie, but I guess you see it in the movie, because I'm a little different because I decided one way to beat the system is, take care of yourself, and I found that just by going for a walk thirty minutes a day, and I discovered these things called fruits and vegetables, which are amazing. But you don't have to do a lot, and I would say, to guys like me from the Midwest, you know, we're never gonna go on a diet, or join an aerobics class, or whatever. But if you just moved around a little bit, turned the TV off, ate a few things differently, you would avoid the nightmare that awaits so many people who enter the healthcare system in this country. As you pointed out a couple of weeks ago, we're behind Costa Rica in health care, we're just ahead of Slovenia, and that should be an embarrassment to most Americans.

Actually, it should be an embarrassment to all Americans, but maybe Moore was making an exception for the vultures who feather their nests by telling us chickens to pluck off --the Big Pharma Frankensteins and their health insurance industry Igors. Oh, and don't forget Big Food, whose bottom line can only grow by growing our bottoms bigger. As NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle notes in What to Eat:

The deep dark secret of American agriculture (revealed only by agricultural economists behind closed doors) is that there is far too much food available -- 3,900 calories per day for every man, woman, and child in the country, whereas the average adult needs onlya bit more than half that amount, and children much less.

So Big Food plies us with Paul Bunyan-sized portions of poisonous processed foods while Big Pharma stands by, silent and salivating, waiting for our cholesterol to go through the roof so it can rush to the rescue and lower it with Lipitor, the biggest selling drug ever.

NPR's Morning Edition reported last week that diet and exercise can be just as effective as drugs -- or, in some cases, even more so -- for people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. But you won't see any multi-million dollar ad campaigns advertising this fact. As I pointed out a few months back, "if Americans actually stopped overeating and started working out it would be a disaster for Big Food and Big Pharma."

Of course, such a shift might save ourselves, and the planet, but corporate profits would plummet. The very notion of a fit nation must give the corporations conniption fits.

I know some people quibble about Michael Moore's methodology, and there will always be wingnuts who call him an America-hater for having the audacity to suggest that We the People have the right to reject the fossil-fueled, faith-based, Fuhrer Knows Best kind of government the Decider's decreed that we need.

Moore takes on the tough topics every time, and gets grief from both sides for it. With Sicko, though, he's turned his lens on a problem so pervasive that it touches the lives of most Americans and transcends partisan rancor. Fox News reportedly called it "brilliant" and "uplifting," and Moore told Maher about attending a screening at which some teary-eyed Republicans actually thanked him for making this film. And you thought compassionate conservatism was just some hokey, jokey Rovian trope!

As Moore noted at the top of the interview, "Illness and sickness doesn't know any kind ofpolitical stripe, this affects Democrats and Republicans, and we've got a huge, greedy industry in this country, and there should be no room for greed when we're talking about people's health, and that has to be removed, we've got to get rid of these profits..."

Tell that to Wall Street, whose message to Main Street is "drop dead." But not till you've spent your life savings paying for health insurance coverage that picks your pocket but won't pick up the tab for the procedures and prescriptions that could save your life.

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