The Hypocrisy of Edwards’ Attacks on Obama

I’ve long said that one of the defining characteristics of John Edwards is that he approaches politics like a trial lawyer arguing a case. To Edwards it is winning and not principles that matter, and on any given day he will say whatever he feels increases his chances of winning. Like a trial lawyer, he is perfectly capable of arguing the opposite position before different juries or groups.

In recent days Edwards, as well as many liberal bloggers, have been attacking Obama for his consideration of all viewpoints. Edwards charges Obama with living in “never-never land.”

“If he believes that, yes,” Edwards said. “It’s a little hard for me to tell sometimes based on the way he talks about this. I’ve heard him say he would give stakeholders a seat at the table. I assume he’s talking about oil companies, drug companies and insurance companies.”

Supporters of Edwards have picked up on this meme in the blogosphere, and Paul Krugman has repeatedly criticized Obama for being willing to negotiate with insurance companies, and for “his reluctance to stake out a clearly partisan position.”

Others have fortunately seen Obama’s strategy in a different light, realizing that Obama is far more likely to be able to achieve a consensus willing to consider change. Mark Schmitt has described how Obama can bring about change in The American Prospect. As Steve Benen summarized it, “In this sense, the ‘politics of hope’ isn’t about bringing everyone to the table to compromise; it’s about an effective rhetorical strategy to achieve a progressive result.” Should the Democrats lose their generic lead, Obama’s greater support among independents will give the Democrats a far greater chance at victory, especially as more voters realize that Edwards is no longer the moderate he campaigned as in the past.

If you want to see virtually any position on an issue you can generally find it by quoting John Edwards depending upon what point he wanted to make that day. Generally the opposite from Edwards’ current positions can be found by looking back at his brief and generally undistinguished career in the Senate. In this case we only need to go back to February to see how Edwards has changed his position on whether we should “bring everybody to the table” or whether arguing for this is something out of “never-never land.” In an interview with MyDD, Edwards took the opposition position from what he is taking today:

Singer: – also bringing in both corporations and labor and healthcare groups and doctors. Not getting into the specifics at all, but how do you see bringing in everyone so it’s not just an us versus them, because us versus them didn’t work in the past?

Edwards: I think you try to bring everybody to the table. You want their participation, you want to make the system work for everybody. I think there’s a difference between a healthcare plan that builds on the existing system but deals with some of its deficiencies and problems as opposed to a complete new way of doing healthcare in America. The latter will engender huge opposition. And it will engender a lot of just plain political opposition. If on the other hand you’re taking the system that exists, dealing with the problems with it, making sure everybody gets covered, it’s just much more likely to be achievable.

If you think that the Republican charges of flip-flopping against John Kerry and prior Democratic candidates was a problem in the general election campaigns, just wait and see what the right wing noise machine will do to John Edwards. In contrast to their smear campaign against Kerry there will be one major difference which will further help the Republicans: in Edwards’ case the charges will be accurate.

SciFi Friday: Voyage of the Damned a Success; Torchwood, Tribbles and Letterman; Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Voyage of the Damned, the third annual Doctor Who Christmas special, was a tremendous success. It was the most viewed episode of the revived series with 13.8 million viewers (and an unknown number of us in the US downloading copies with bit torrent). It is estimated that 55% of British televisions sets were tuned to the special–which must correlate with all those tales of empty cathedrals in Europe. (Warning, spoilers below).

The show took place on a space ship orbiting the Earth which was a replica of The Titanic. It shouldn’t be hard to guess its fate, but there was some mystery as to the motivations of the person responsible. The Doctor anticipated the danger as soon as he got on board:

The Doctor: Titanic. Who thought of the name?
Host: Information: it was chosen as the most famous vessel of the planet Earth.
The Doctor: Did they tell you why it was famous?

As with the previous Christmas specials, this one included the Doctor facing robotic symbols of Christmas, with angles replacing the robotic Santas in the first two specials. Unfortunately there was no good explanation for why they bothered to program all those robots to kill the surviving passengers when, if the Doctor hadn’t intervened, the Titanic would have crashed into the Earth killing everyone on both the Titanic and the Earth. Santa was not ignored in this year’s special as we learned about an alien view of earth’s Christmas customs. Mr. Cooper, the ship’s historian, explained:

I am Mr. Copper, the ship’s historian, and I shall be taking you to Old London Town in the country of UK, ruled over by Good King Wenceslas. Now, human beings worshiped the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary and every Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the turkey people for Christmas dinner, like savages.

I’m not sure if there have been any other episodes in which so many characters are killed, including several sacrificing themselves to save others. Kylie Minogue made a fine companion but did not survive to return like Catherine Tate, who will be returning next season. David Tennant gave his usual fine performance. I’ve read speculation that his reaction to the death of Astrid, Kylie’s character, was enhanced by his personal experiences from the death of his mother in the past year. He also had a good scene when a passenger asked who he was:

Rickston: Hang on a minute! Who put you in charge? And who the hell are you, anyway?
The Doctor: I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who’s going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?
Rickston: No.
The Doctor: In that case, allons-y!

The Doctor saves the Earth, and as in previous Christmas specials London is subjected to fake snow:

Mr. Copper: You know, between you and me, I don’t think this snow is real. I think it’s the ballast from the Titanic salvage entering the atmosphere.
The Doctor: Yeah, one of these days, it might snow for real.

Mr. Cooper wound up remaining on Earth. It seems that his degree as a historian wasn’t very legitimate, and if discovered during the investigation of the destruction of the Titanic he faced ten years in prison. Fortunately the credit card he had for “petty cash” had one million pounds on it, allowing him to lead a good life on Earth, with the possibility of running into The Doctor again.

We have to wait until spring to see more of Doctor Who, but its spin off, Torchwood, returns in January on both the BBC and BBC America. Freema has two videos of trailers for the second season here and here.

The Trek Movie Report has learned that there will be tribbles appearing in Star Trek 11. They better make sure that all the quadrotriticale is secure. Incidentally, tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the first showing of The Trouble with Tribbles.

David Letterman’s company has made a deal with the Writer’s Guild. Both his show and Craig Ferguson’s show will be returning with writers in January. The other returning talk shows will be at a disadvantage because of both not having their writers and as many potential guests might be unwilling to cross the picket lines.


Kristen Bell has been busy since Veronica Mars was canceled. The trailer for Forgetting Sarah Marshall is above.The movie, scheduled for release on May 30, 2008, stars Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Heroes) and Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Knocked Up). As a public service to save time for those who are only interested in the scene with Kristen Bell in a bikini, here’s a screen grab. (Those interested in Jason Segel’s nude scene will have to watch the clip.)


Peggy Noonan’s Fairly Reasonable Assessment of the Candidates

Peggy Noonan reviews the candidates from both parties based upon whether she finds the candidates “reasonable” as opposed to whether they share her ideology. As a result of looking beyond ideology, I must say that Noonan does a far more reasonable job of assessing the candidates than I would expect from a conservative columnist at The Wall Street Journal. She is also far more reasonable than some of the liberal bloggers who are distorting what she wrote.

Looking at the Democratic race, Noonan starts with Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, writing “They have been United States senators for a combined 62 years. They’ve read a raw threat file or two. They have experience, sophistication, the long view. They know how it works. No one will have to explain it to them.” She also briefly mentions Bill Richardson as being a reasonable choice. She finds Barack Obama to be reasonable, even if having some reservations which aren’t totally unreasonable:

He has earned the attention of the country with a classy campaign, with a disciplined and dignified staff, and with passionate supporters such as JFK hand Ted Sorensen, who has told me he sees in Obama’s mind and temperament the kind of gifts Kennedy displayed during the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. Obama is thoughtful, and it would be a pleasure to have a president who is highly literate and a writer of books.

Is he experienced enough? No. He’s not old enough either. Men in their 40s love drama too much. Young politicians on fire over this issue or that tend to see politics as a stage on which they can act out their greatness. And we don’t need more theatrics, more comedies or tragedies. But Mr. Obama doesn’t seem on fire. He seems like a calm liberal with a certain moderating ambivalence. The great plus of his candidacy: More than anyone else he turns the page. If he rises he is something new in history, good or bad, and a new era begins.

Noonan finds problems with Hillary Clinton which do make sense, although I can’t agree with her ranking of Clinton compared to Nixon:

Hillary Clinton? No, not reasonable. I concede her sturdy mind, deep sophistication, and seriousness of intent. I see her as a triangulator like her husband, not a radical but a maneuverer in the direction of a vague, half-forgotten but always remembered, leftism. It is also true that she has a command-and-control mentality, an urgent, insistent and grating sense of destiny, and she appears to believe that any act that benefits Clintons is a virtuous act, because Clintons are good and deserve to be benefited.

But this is not, actually, my central problem with her candidacy. My central problem is that the next American president will very likely face another big bad thing, a terrible day, or days, and in that time it will be crucial–crucial–that our nation be led by a man or woman who can be, at least for the moment and at least in general, trusted. Mrs. Clinton is the most dramatically polarizing, the most instinctively distrusted, political figure of my lifetime. Yes, I include Nixon. Would she be able to speak the nation through the trauma? I do not think so. And if I am right, that simple fact would do as much damage to America as the terrible thing itself.

I also agree with her assessment of John Edwards, writing, “All the Democrats would raise taxes as president, but Mr. Edwards’s populism is the worst of both worlds, both intemperate and insincere.” It would have been better if she went into further detail about how Edwards is not qualified to be president, and she is being kind in limiting her description of an opportunistic phony such as Edwards as merely being “insincere.” Joining Noonan in looking at character over ideology, with the exception of George Bush we have rarely seen a candidate so unfit to be president have such a real shot at the job. Bob Shrum elaborated more than Noonan in calling Edwards a “lightweight,” a “hyper-ambitious phony” and “a Clinton who hadn’t read the books.”

Unfortuantely Noonan couldn’t resist one trivial shot in writing, “Also we can’t have a president who spent two minutes on YouTube staring in a mirror and poofing his hair. Really, we just can’t.” This line, which does weaken the column, has been taken out of context by some bloggers suggesting that this one throw away line is characteristic of her entire column. James Joyner also notes that Glenn Greenwald is inaccurate in his criticism. The YouTube video is hardly the major reason why Edwards should not be president, and is not Noonan’s major objection. While out of place in a column of this nature, the video shouldn’t be totally ignored either. The video actually does capture the shallowness of John Edwards, which is the real issue as opposed to Edwards not being a “real man.” Sure it is possible that any candidate might look foolish if videotaped while combing their hair, but it is no coincidence that such a video has come to represent John Edwards specifically.

On the Republican side, Noonan considers John McCain, Mitt Romney, Duncan Hunter, and Fred Thompson to be reasonable. My view of Romney as reasonable has declined the more I see him campaign. While both Edwards and Romney have changed their views out of political expediency, and both appear “insincere” to me, Noonan is far more forgiving of Romney. She also considers Rudy Giuliani to be reasonable. While I disagree I’ll give her a pass on that one as she also writes, “He is reasonable but not desirable. If he wins somewhere, I’ll explain.” As long as she realizes that Giuliani is not desirable it is possible we agree on him.

Noonan doesn’t elaborate as to why she doesn’t consider Huckabee to be unreasonable in this column, but did express her views of him in a column I discussed a couple of weeks ago. Huckabee is also notable for being one of only two candidates left in the race who are foolish enough to admit they don’t believe in evolution. The other, Ron Paul, is not mentioned but few would expect Paul to be considered in any review of candidates based upon being reasonable, with some of the reasons noted in a post yesterday following his discussion of a possible third party candidacy. Not surprisingly, she also left out Alan Keyes, and on the Democratic side she left out Kucinich and Gravel.

Ron Paul Considering Third Party Bid

I’ve noted that in multiple interviews Ron Paul has denied plans to run as a third party candidate, but has also always left the door open a crack (much as Al Gore did much of the year). Paul has widened that opening quite a bit today with The Swamp reporting that Paul is now admitting to thinking about the subject:

If he doesn’t do well in the early primaries, Paul said he would re-evaluate his Republican bid and the possibility of a third-party run depending on how he does in the contests on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.

“With my staff I’ve never discussed it, but I sort of have that in my mind.”

We will probably have a better idea as to whether there is much point in Paul remaining in the Republican race after the Iowa and New Hampshire votes. While Paul has virtually zero chance of winning the nomination his performances in the first two events might determine whether he is at least covered by the media as a long shot contender or remains lost in single digits. Paul is realistic in his assessment of Iowa, admitting that it is difficult to tell if he can surpass his single digit poll results:

“The one thing that we can’t measure as well as the ordinary polls is will our people be motivated? They seem to be motivated, but will they know where to go and what to do? That’s the big question,” Paul said in a Tribune interview, in between a day of Iowa events.

Should Paul manage to get a bounce out of a third place finish in Iowa, Paul is fortunate that the next state, New Hampshire, is the state where he has the best chance to surpass single digits. New Hampshire both has libertarian sentiments and a primary which independents have a considerable impact upon. If Paul could exceed single digits in New Hampshire, he also has a chance to do better than expected in Michigan. The Michigan Democratic primary is virtually meaningless, with Obama, Edwards, Richardson, and Biden not even appearing on the ballot. Many Democrats might be convinced to vote in the Republican caucus for the sole anti-war candidate.

The problem for Paul is that at best he has a shot of exceeding single digits in some early states, but ultimately the Republicans will not nominate an opponent of the war for their nominee. Paul’s support among liberal opponents of the war and independents will also begin to diminish should he get more publicity in the early states and his views become more well known.

Many people are now interested in Paul’s campaign seeing him simply as an opponent of the war and defender of civil liberties. While they hear he is also a defender of the Constitution, the Constitution which Paul defends is not what the framers intended. In reality, Paul is really advocating a government closer to what was established under the original Articles of Confederation, which was replaced when the need for a stronger central government became clear. Paul’s views of states’ rights, along with his denial of the establishment of separation of church and state, also negate his support for limited powers of the federal government. Paul’s opposition to abortion rights are known to many people, but his views leave open the danger of even further restrictions on individual liberty by state governments.

If concerns over state governments which could be oppressive and even theocratic by out current standards are too esoteric for most voters to consider, Paul’s support will also remain limited by his past writings as well as recent statements which call into question both his ethics and rationality. Paul’s newsletter contains racist articles which describe blacks as being prone to violence and unable to form sensible political opinions. Paul has claimed that others wrote these articles under his byline, but this explanation is hardly reassuring. Paul’s writings on the Israeli lobby have raised similar questions of anti-Semitism. These problems for Paul are exacerbated by his refusal to return a contribution which was identified as coming form Don Black, founder of the white supremacist group Stormfront. Regardless of whether Paul agrees with the extremist groups which support him, Paul’s treatment of such groups as a legitimate constituency in American politics crosses a line which is almost as bad. Paul also shows questionable judgment in his adherence to various conspiracy theories. His recent statement in which he denies evolution also shows a shocking lack of understanding of basic concepts of science for someone who was trained as a physician.

Ron Paul now has a small core of devoted followers, a respectable amount of money, but otherwise nowhere to go. He can neither win the Republican nomination or a general election and what he decides to do might come down to how much he wants to continue using the election to promote his views. Running as a Republican there is a slight but real hope that he could escape single digits and receive further coverage. If he fails to do this by Super Tuesday, then he might consider a third party candidacy in order to remain on the campaign trail until November. Just to be safe, Paul has also filed to run again for his current House seat.

Emails Suggest Edwards Knew About Union 527 Support

After Barack Obama criticized John Edwards for advertising being financed by  527 group Edwards tried to distance himself from the groups. A report in The New York Times suggests that the Edwards campaign might have been coordinating efforts with the 527 group:

In the final days before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, John Edwards has stepped up his criticism of outside organizations that spend money to influence elections, repeatedly disavowing a labor group that is blanketing Iowa with commercials supporting his candidacy.

“As for outside groups, unfortunately, you can’t control them,” Mr. Edwards said last weekend as he distanced himself from the actions of the group, known as a 527 for the section of the tax code it falls under. He would prefer the group “not run the ads,” he said.

But the Edwards campaign may have expected the support of the group, Alliance for a New America, set up by a local of the Service Employees International Union. An Oct. 8 e-mail message circulated among the union leaders who created the group suggests that they were talking with Edwards campaign officials about “what specific kinds of support they would like to see from us” just as they were planning to create an outside group to advertise in early primary states with “a serious 527 legal structure.”

Obama Asked About The Social Security “Crisis”

The Iowa Independent has a brief interview with Barack Obama. He was asked about Paul Krugman’s recent columns attacking him for raising Social Security. In his columns Krugman has mischaracterized Obama’s position on Social Security by trying to lump together anyone who raises concern for its long term viability with Republicans who use the program’s problems as justification for privatization. Obama’s response:

I’m familiar with Paul’s arguments.I have said that this is a long-term problem. I’ve never suggested that this is somehow a crisis in the same way that George Bush argues with privatization.  There is a long-term problem demographically because the Baby Boom generation is retiring. It’s just common sense. The Social Security actuaries said the same thing. Bill Clinton said the same thing in 1998. I suspect that Paul Krugman in the past has acknowledged as much as well. And what I’ve simply said is that we should deal with it sooner rather than later. The longer we delay solving it, the harder it’s going to be solve, the more costly it’s going to be for future generations. Part of my message in running is that we have to start taking responsibility now for solving these problems instead of kicking the can down the road.

That sounds perfectly reasonable. Yes, some Republicans do exaggerate the problems for political purposes. That does not mean that the inevitable problems which will be created by demographic changes should be ignored. In his recent writings Krugman increasingly sounds like the far right Republicans. Krugman argues for different positions, but shares their practice of only considering one set of extreme views while dismissing all other opinions. We don’t need that mindset from the left any more than from the right.

Paul Krugman Supports Continuation of Bush/Rove Style Politics

The mind set behind Paul Krugman’s recent attacks on Barack Obama become clear from reading the excerpt from his book, The Conscience of a Liberal which appears at Slate. Krugman’s objections to Obama are over matters far greater than their disagreement over mandates on health care. The two have a totally different philosophy of government, and unfortunately Krugman wants to continue the philosophy of government best attributed in recent years to George Bush and Karl Rove.

While a majority oppose the Bush administration, different people do so for different reasons. Some of us have opposed Republican rule in recent years because Republicans practiced government from the extremes. Under their philosophy of government, the views of 49% of the country could be ignored if they could have the support of 51%. Paul Krugman and some on the left object not to this government from the extremes but simply object to the fact that it isn’t their extreme views which are dominant. Krugman writes:

Democrats, with the encouragement of people in the news media who seek bipartisanship for its own sake, may fall into the trap of trying to be anti-Bushes—of trying to transcend partisanship, seeking some middle ground between the parties.

That middle ground doesn’t exist—and if Democrats try to find it, they’ll squander a huge opportunity. Right now, the stars are aligned for a major change in America’s direction. If the Democrats play nice, that opportunity may soon be gone.

Krugman misunderstands why the Democrats won in 2006, as well as why they were out of power for many years before that. Voters rejected Republican rule largely because of how extreme it became. The problem with the Republican 51% strategy is that as soon as people disagree with parts of the platform there is no room for them in the party. Those who did not agree with Republican extremism in all its forms ultimately voted Democratic as the only option.

Krugman is mistaken if he believes that people voted Democratic because they support everything in what he characterizes as the progressive agenda. There is a middle ground between the two parties. There are also a variety of viewpoints. Many of us lean more libertarian, while rejecting the extremism and fantasy world view of Ron Paul and his supporters. We oppose the war and infringements on civil liberties, recognize a legitimate need for government in some areas, but do not see big government as the solution to all problems. Others might disagree with the Republicans for other reasons and decided to vote Democratic to register their protests. Many people are not ideological and simply recognize that the Republicans are taking the country on the wrong course.

If Paul Krugman’s advice is followed by the Democrats, us independents will quickly abandon them again. Government which only listens to the views of the far left is no better than government which only listens to views of the far right. Some independents will return to the Republicans, who will hopefully be willing to accept a wider range of viewpoints. Others will seek alternatives.

The frustration that government ping-pongs back and forth between two competing groups of narrow minded ideologues led to the Ross Perot movement, and explains the attraction of Ron Paul and Michael Bloomberg to some this year. Barack Obama has also tried to show some understanding of the views of such independents this year, causing him to repeatedly be attacked by Paul Krugman who realizes that if Obama listens to independents and even conservatives he will present a roadblock to shoving his agenda down the throats of all Americans. The result of Democrats following Krugman’s advice will be more hyper-partisanship as each side continues to try to push their agenda while ignoring the views of everyone else, and it won’t be long before there is an anti-Democratic backlash.

Clinton’s Experience

Experience has often been mentioned in coverage of the Democratic race, but it is hard to believe that many people really care. If experience is what most people were voting on (and was what the media initially used to determine who the meaningful candidates were) then Dodd, Biden, and Richardson would be receiving far more attention. None of the top tier of Democratic candidates has experience to match them, but their relative amounts of experience has occasionally been an issue.

With Hillary Clinton often running on experience, The New York Times looks at her experience as first lady today. They begin:

As first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton jaw-boned the authoritarian president of Uzbekistan to leave his car and shake hands with people. She argued with the Czech prime minister about democracy. She cajoled Roman Catholic and Protestant women to talk to one another in Northern Ireland. She traveled to 79 countries in total, little of it leisure; one meeting with mutilated Rwandan refugees so unsettled her that she threw up afterward.

But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda.

And during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled.

In seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton lays claim to two traits nearly every day: strength and experience. But as the junior senator from New York, she has few significant legislative accomplishments to her name. She has cast herself, instead, as a first lady like no other: a full partner to her husband in his administration, and, she says, all the stronger and more experienced for her “eight years with a front-row seat on history.”

Reading the full article doesn’t change my previous view of her experience. Her years as first lady do provide her with unique experience, but not enough for her to make any claims as being especially qualified to be president. Experience isn’t something which can be exactly measured, and it is difficult to weigh her experiences as opposed to Obama’s experiences as a professor of Constitutional law, community organizer, and member of the state legislature.

Of the top tier candidates, all three are less experience than the candidates in the second tier. Edwards is the only one who I feel is unqualified to be president, having used a single undistinguished term in the Senate primarily as a stepping stone to run for the 2004 nomination. In comparing Clinton and Obama I’m more concerned with their judgment and the specifics of their actions and beliefs as opposed to trying to compare two totally different types of experience. The problem with Clinton’s experience is that she performed poorly on the one project she has responsibility for, health care. The overly complicated and bureaucratic nature of the health care plan she devised also makes me doubt that I would be happy with other plans she would develop as president.

The article also makes it clear that Hillary Clinton had little input with regards to foreign policy:

Associates from that time said that she was aware of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and what her husband has in recent years characterized as his intense focus on them, but that she made no aggressive independent effort to shape policy or gather information about the threat of terrorism.

She did not wrestle directly with many of the other challenges the next president will face, including managing a large-scale deployment — or withdrawal — of troops abroad, an overhaul of the intelligence agencies or the effort to halt the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Most of her exposure to the military has come since she left the White House through her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In comparing Obama with Clinton (as well as Edwards) on foreign policy, what differentiates them is not their level of experience but judgment. On the key foreign policy decision of recent years, Obama is the only one of the three who got it right. This makes me far more willing to trust Obama on future decisions of war and peace than either Clinton or Edwards.

New York Times Calls For Ending Subsidies to Medicare Advantage Plans

In addition to the prescription drug program, George Bush’s Medicare Plan provided for extra payments to private insurance companies to cover Medicare patients. Under these Medicare Advantage plans it now costs about twelve percent more to cover Medicare patients than under the government program, even though the private companies often cherry pick the healthiest patients. The extra payments also provide incentive for fraud. In light of the problems which have been identified with these plan, The New York Times has an editorial today calling for an elimination of the subsidies:

Heavily subsidized private Medicare plans are continuing to prey on elderly Americans despite state, federal and industry efforts to stop them. It is yet another reason to rein in these operations by eliminating their unjustified subsidies.

These plans are a financial drag on Medicare as the government pays them about 12 percent more, on average, than the same services would cost in the traditional Medicare program. All too often, the private plans are an ethical horror as well.

As Robert Pear reported in The Times last week, unscrupulous insurance agents have tricked people into dropping traditional Medicare coverage and enrolling instead in private plans that do not meet their needs. Agents typically receive $350 to $600 for each patient they enroll in a private plan. Some try to boost sales by pretending to be Medicare officials, forging signatures or hiding the fact that a patient’s doctor will not be part of the private plan. Others barge into homes and use high-pressure tactics to push poor, semiliterate people into a private plan…

Although federal officials claim the number and severity of sales abuses have declined, they remain a dark stain on the ethical performance of private plans. Federal and state agencies need to redouble their efforts to root out abuses, and Congress ought to eliminate the unjustified subsidies that give private plans a competitive advantage over traditional Medicare.

Voyage of The Damned Downloading


It is certainly Christmas. I can tell because Liberal Values is getting lots of hits from people searching for the Doctor Who Christmas special–Voyage of the Damned. My attempts earlier in the evening weren’t too successful, but there are finally enough people sharing the episode in the UK to get reasonable speed. The download is varying from 0 up to 34 KB/s. Fortunately, as more people are sharing portions of the episode, the faster it should get and I’m optimistic that the download will be completed well before morning.

The BBC has the episode available for download here, but it is blocked for those of us outside the UK.

Not everyone is happy about this episode. The Sun reports that the oldest living survivor of The Titanic, who was a two month old baby when it sunk, finds it disrecpecful to set the show on a replica of The Titanic.