Tag Archives: Los Angeles Times

Teachers Grade The Students And The Paper Grades The Teachers

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with a round-up

Los Angeles Times:

Seeking to shed light on the problem, The Times obtained seven years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified School District and used the information to estimate the effectiveness of L.A. teachers — something the district could do but has not.

The Times used a statistical approach known as value-added analysis, which rates teachers based on their students’ progress on standardized tests from year to year. Each student’s performance is compared with his or her own in past years, which largely controls for outside influences often blamed for academic failure: poverty, prior learning and other factors.

Though controversial among teachers and others, the method has been increasingly embraced by education leaders and policymakers across the country, including the Obama administration.

In coming months, The Times will publish a series of articles and a database analyzing individual teachers’ effectiveness in the nation’s second-largest school district — the first time, experts say, such information has been made public anywhere in the country.

This article examines the performance of more than 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers for whom reliable data were available.

Huffington Post:

The United Teachers of Los Angeles was quick to blast the Times for their report, according to SCPR:

Unfair, said a statement released by the United Teachers of Los Angeles today. “It is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teachers effectiveness,” it said.”The database will cause chaos at school sites, as parents scramble to get their children into classes taught by teachers labeled as `effective’ by a newspaper — not by education professionals,” UTLA said, emphasizing the word “newspaper” in italics. The union said the result is a public, incomplete and
inaccurate picture of a teacher’s effectiveness.

Chad Aldeman at The Quick and The Ed:

Have pity on the individual teachers for this public outing, but, at the same time, don’t blame the Times for what they’re doing. The teachers union has pressured the district against using value-added measures in teacher performance evaluations, and only now are they moving forward together. The district has been complicit for years, and then took the easy way out and gave the data to a newspaper. And, in an ironic twist of fate, the newspaper could publish the value-added results precisely because they were not part of teacher personnel files. Those are private and cannot be released publicly.

In contrast, Tennessee has been using a value-added model since the late 1980’s, and every year since the mid-1990’s every single eligible teacher has received a report on their results. When these results were first introduced, teachers were explicitly told their results would never be published in newspapers and that the data may be used in evaluations. In reality, they had never really been used in evaluations until the state passed a law last January requiring the data to make up 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. This bill, and 100% teacher support for the state’s Race to the Top application that included it, was a key reason the state won a $500 million grant in the first round.

Tennessee is a good comparison, because here is a place with longstanding, low-stakes use of the data. The data will now have much higher stakes attached to it, but there wasn’t nearly the acrimony that’s happening now in LA. That’s because, to a large extent, LAUSD has sat on this information for so long without doing anything with it. Kudos to the intrepid reporter for digging it out and making a story of it, but the fact that it’s been buried for so long and is only seeing the light of day in this manner has made it that much more controversial. LAUSD could’ve avoided all the headache by doing something with the data themselves years ago. That should’ve started with letting the teachers see their own data, because they are interested in it. The teachers quoted in the Times articles and the 2,000+ teacher requests the newspaper has received since the story’s release suggest that teachers do want to know how they perform on these measures.

Instead of a methodical process where teachers slowly become used to seeing their data and therefore comfortable with its use, LA now has a situation where many people are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the data at the same time there’s suddenly pent-up demand from teachers, parents, and the public to see it.

Sherman Dorn:

When researchers show distributions of scores, they often show error bands to indicate “the inherent imprecision,” as Felch, Strong, and Smith wrote. For example, see the following figure from a 2000 paper by Kenneth Rowe on value-added measures: Graph of schools with value-added point estimates and 95% confidence intervals, showing significant overlapThe point here is that showing imprecision is easy to do in a way that is professionally competent.  Is that what the L.A. Times shows in its database? Here’s the chart for one teacher:

Sample chart from L.A. TimesThere are two graphing sins here: dequantification and an implication that the estimate for the teacher is infinitely accurate (or at least as accurate as the center of the diamond images). I don’t know what the Times editors and reporters thought they were doing by eliminating a scale, but this doesn’t remove the central problem of visually implying that the estimate of effectiveness is precise. Instead, it commits the sin of dequantification. To borrow from Edward Tufte, is the L.A. Times’ publication of these figures an act of reporting or finger-painting?

It also raises significant questions about the response to Jay Matthews. Was the Times deliberately trying to fudge what they were intending to do with the graphs, or are they really so incompetent an organization that they don’t have people who know how to design statistical figures and also didn’t check such a high-stakes display with people who do this professionally?

Sara Mead at Education Week:

The reality is that, even as value-added student test score data has emerged as the center of current debates over teacher evaluation, it’s only available and relevant for a fraction of the teachers in our public schools today. There is currently no value-added data for kindergarten and early elementary teachers, teachers in non-core subjects, or high school teachers in most places. My brother-in-law, who teaches middle school band and drama, and sister, who teaches high school composition and literature, do not have value-added data.

Some critics see this as an argument against new teacher evaluation systems that incorporate data on student performance. I see it the opposite way: The way we currently evaluate teachers is deeply flawed, not helpful to them or students, and there are lots of things we could do to move towards a more effective system of evaluating and developing teachers. Where we have value-added data as a source of information to inform teacher evaluations, we should use it. But since it’s only available for a subset of teachers, and therefore only a small piece of any meaningful solution to teach evaluation, we shouldn’t let debate over value-added or the various methodologies derail the broader effort to create better ways of evaluating teachers’ effectiveness and using that data to inform professional development and staffing decisions. We also shouldn’t pretend–as I sometimes fear my reform colleagues do–that value-added data is some kind of magic panacea that provides perfect information about teacher effectiveness. And we should put a lot more effort into developing and using validated and reliable observational tools, such as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), that look at teacher classroom behaviors and measure the extent to which teachers are implementing behaviors linked to improved student outcomes. (I’m even more concerned that the observational rubrics many districts and states will put into place under their proposed evaluation systems have not yet been validated than I am with any of the issues related to use of value-added data.)

Jack Shafer at Slate:

These conclusions are so sensible, so obvious, so intuitive that only a union official or education bureaucrat could possibly dispute them. Oh, the Economic Policy Institute took its shot, calling teacher assessment based on standardized-test results just “one piece of information” used in a “comprehensive evaluation.”

By doing something LAUSD should have done in the first place, the Times had shamed the cowardly school district into performing its own “value-added analysis” of the data. So far, so good. But what does the school district intend to do with these scores? Release them to the public? No. It’s going to dispense them confidentially to teachers in the fall. For all the good that will do parents and teachers, why doesn’t the school district play ostrich and dig a big hole in Playa del Rey and bury the scores?

Let’s hope the Times stays on this story—and that it or some other publication uses the California Public Records Act to publish these new, LAUSD-generated scores. If you can’t grade the graders, whom can you grade?

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John Boehner Has Something To Say

Paul Kane at WaPo:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Tuesday for the mass firing of the Obama administration’s economic team, including Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and White House adviser Larry Summers, arguing that November’s midterm elections are shaping up as a referendum on sustained unemployment across the nation and saying the “writing is on the wall.”

Boehner said President Obama‘s team lacks “real-world, hands-on experience” in creating jobs that are needed for a full economic recovery. The Republican lawmaker cited reports that some senior aides complained of “exhaustion,” including the recently departed budget chief Peter Orszag.

“President Obama should ask for – and accept – the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council,” Boehner said in the morning speech to business leaders at the City Club of Cleveland. The mass dismissal, he added, would be “no substitute for a referendum on the president’s job-killing agenda. That question will be put before the American people in due time. But we do not have the luxury of waiting months for the president to pick scapegoats for his failing ‘stimulus’ policies.”

Vice President Biden lashed back at Boehner, called his “so-called” economic plan nothing but a list of what Republicans are against and devoid of innovative new ideas that can help move the country forward.

In a sarcastic tone, Biden thanked Boehner for the suggestion that the president fire his top economic advisers.

“Very constructive advice and we thank the leader for that,” Biden said.

Andrew Malcolm at Los Angeles Times:

But then Boehner’s communications staff springs the trap. Having drawn their DNC opponents into helping to publicize the Republican speech, just before he speaks and in time for the morning news shows they leak the fairly dramatic news that the GOP leader’s remarks will call for the mass firing of Obama’s entire economic time for, in effect, engineering the prolonged period of unemployment. Which gets the debate back onto the economy where the GOP wants it.)

Everyone involved and watching knows it’s a pedestrian game. Which is a large part of the reason that only 19% of Americans say they approve of the job the Democratic Congress is doing. Among Republicans that approval rate is only 5%. Even among Democrats, however, congressional approval stands at only 38%, down from 55% one year ago.

Such predictable sparring is what the parties do, though. Why? Because despite what voters tell pollsters, it works. Americans in recent elections have re-elected about 80% of incumbent senators and 90% of House representatives.

We’ll see come the night of Nov. 2 if 2010’s voters remain as hypocritical as they’re so quick to say pols are. Or if this era of fear and frustration spurs a real change in ballot box retribution — and, thus, perhaps even an end to predictable pathetic prebuttals.

Doug Mataconis:

Boehner’s call for mass firings makes for good sound bite material, but it surely doesn’t accomplish anything substantive. After all, Boehner knows that even if Obama fired his entire economic staff today, they’d be replaced by people who largely agree with the Geithner/Summers ideas. Certainly, Obama isn’t going to be appointing free-market conservatives to run his economic policy.

Moreover, Boehner’s demand inevitably brings up the question of who you bring in to replace them and, as Slate’s David Weigel noted this morning on Twitter the traditional GOP practice of looking to the business and financial community for such people hasn’t exactly worked out well in the past:

I like the suggestion of putting a “business leader” in charge. Like, err, Paul O’Neill, John Snow, or Hank Paulsen!

All of whom, of course, didn’t see the 2008 economic crisis coming, or at least didn’t do anything to try to stop it if they did.

Ed Morrissey:

In fact, Boehner may have given Obama the best political advice he could get.  Firing the team that failed to deliver the growth Obama promised would at least show that Obama understands that his policies aren’t working.  If he waits until the day after the midterms, it’s not going to do him or his party much good.

Michelle Malkin

Pete Davis:

This morning, in Cleveland, OH, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) slammed President Obama’s economic policies and called for the resignation of Tim Geithner and Larry Summers.  Here’s the video, and here are his prepared remarks.   He railed against “job-killing tax hikes,” stimulus spending that “has gotten us nowhere,” and “government run amok.”   Boehner is right on about ending economic uncertainty, particularly about future tax rates and unsupportable levels of future public debt.   However, he sounded as if all of our problems began when President Obama was sworn in as president on January 20, 2009.  Our current suffering mostly arose from the Iraq War, Medicare Part D, and the very lax regulatory environment that allowed the financial crisis and the Gulf oil spill to occur, all courtesy of President George W. Bush and the Republicans.  In my opinion, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, and Ben Bernanke are all to be commended for their Herculean efforts to keep us from falling into a Depression.  Today, the Congressional Budget Office estimated how much worse off we would have been without the stimulus bill.   Mr. Boehner also forgot the mention that his tax and spending policies would make the rich a lot richer and the rest of us worse off.   The main advantage of being in the minority is that you get to blame the majority for everything that is wrong in the world.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

Rep. John Boehner in a speech today: “When Congress returns, we should force Washington to cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels – before the ‘stimulus’ was put into place. This would show Washington is ready to get serious about bringing down the deficits that threaten our economy.”

Rep. John Boehner’s spokesperson in January when President Obama proposed freezing non-defense discretionary spending in 2010 for three years, which would have brought it in line with 2008 levels:

“Given Washington Democrats’ unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you’re going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest.”

Robert Costa at The Corner:

There is a lot of buzz around Rep. John Boehner’s policy speech and Democrats — from Vice President Biden to little-known operatives — have scurried to slam it. Bush-bashing veterans, on the lookout for a new GOP demon, are hoping to make Boehner a campaign issue. Yet as Jake Sherman of Politico notes, that strategy seems to be a bit flat, “despite Democratic efforts.”

As Boehner basked in the spotlight today, even he acknowledged that November has little to do with him. “Eighty or 90 percent of this election is going to be about them,” the House minority leader told reporters. “But that 10 or 20 percent of the election that’s about us, my goal has been, for 20 months, is to maximize that portion of the election that’s about us.”

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“I’m Crazy For Trying And Crazy For Crying…”

David Klinghoffer at Los Angeles Times:

Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now. Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, whose news and opinion website, Breitbart.com, is read by millions. In his most recent triumph, Breitbart got a U.S. Department of Agriculture official pushed out of her job after he released a deceptively edited video clip of her supposedly endorsing racism against white people.

What has become of conservatism? We have reached a point at which nothing could be more important than to stop and recall what brought us here, to the right, in the first place.

Buckley’s National Review, where I was the literary editor through the 1990s, remains as vital and interesting as ever. But more characteristic of conservative leadership are figures on TV, radio and the Internet who make their money by stirring fears and resentments. With its descent to baiting blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, its accommodation of conspiracy theories and an increasing nastiness and vulgarity, the conservative movement has undergone a shift toward demagoguery and hucksterism. Once the talk was of “neocons” versus “paleocons.” Now we observe the rule of the crazy-cons.

Donald Douglas:

I can’t speak for Andrew Breitbart, and I actually reject a good bit of the “craziness” on the right, but as you finish Klinghoffer ask if American politics, realistically, will be returning to a more wistful, respectful era? (And also ask if being “crazy” is code for being “racist”?) Besides, National Review‘s not my top source for right wing news. I prefer Commentary and Weekly Standard, to say nothing of Ace of Spades HQ, Instapundit, and The Other McCain. And I read these sources, among others, because they provide me with the intellectual sustenance to “save civilization,” which is what Klinghoffer suggests is “what he signed up for” when he became a conservative.

And here’s the thing: A lot of us became conservative because we saw society’s moral foundations in tatters, and it was the Democratic-left holding the shears. You can always hold up your hands and scream “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” but you still have to choose. We have no viable third party movement, and the GOP at present is the best place to form a conservative-libertarian coalition for political victory. And as a party out of power, the most strident voices at the base are going to get a lot of play, especially when new media is driving most of the key political memes. I choose conservatism. It’s a no-brainer. But notwithstanding the citations above, I’m not wedded to any particular talking point. I think for myself, thank you. For example, is it crazy to call President Obama a socialist? I think he is (but on an intellectual level, e.g., see Jonah Goldberg, “What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama?“). But that kind of talk gets one attacked as an extremist by the left-wing media machine. How about if you don’t submit? Breitbart’s attacked mercilessly as a “liar” and a “unprincipled” scoundrel because he gets results. Yet, almost daily I find some MSM outlets reporting not just factual errors, but outright lies, and then people like me are crazy for calling out this sh*t? I don’t think so. People are mad. And when people get mad they starting gravitating to more polarizing messages, and some of it can get heated. For me though, Klinghoffer and others like him (which no offense to him, would include idiots like Charles Johnson) simply prop up the left’s Media Industrial Complex, and in that sense they’re enabling the very anti-conservative forces Andrew Breitbart is finally beginning to take down.

Rick Moran:

Maybe it’s the heat. Perhaps it’s an al-Qaeda plot that has dumped LSD in public cisterns throughout the country. Or, it could be simple, old fashioned, bat guano crazy wishful thinking.

Whatever it is, the very silly season has arrived on the right and with it, diminishing chances that the American people will drink the same flavor of Kool Ade and join conservatives in giving the Democrats a well-deserved paddling at the polls.

A kind of irrational combination of fear and exuberance has infected the right in recent weeks as the number of vulnerable Democrats grows and the realization that at the very least, the House may fall into their laps takes hold. And if the hysteria was limited to the fringes, one might dismiss it as not worthy of discussion.

Instead, illogical ranting has gone mainstream with a call by former Rep. Tom Tancredo in the Washington Times for the president to be impeached, and now the belief that there may be another American Revolution on the way emanating from the pages of the staid, and usually rational Investors Business Daily.

The probable response of those two media organs would be that these are valid points of view and they are performing a public service by airing them. At least, that’s what the New York Times says when they publish off the wall looniness from liberals.

In truth, they are not valid. They are not rational. They are not sane. Tancredo especially, forces one to ask the question; what country is he talking about?

For the first time in American history, we have a man in the White House who consciously and brazenly disregards his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. That’s why I say the greatest threat to our Constitution, our safety and our liberties, is internal. Our president is an enemy of our Constitution, and, as such, he is a danger to our safety, our security and our personal freedoms.

Now, if you’re familiar with the conservative internet, this is not an uncommon idea. All that’s missing is the charge that President Obama is a Marxist.

Oh, wait…

Mr. Obama’s paramount goal, as he so memorably put it during his campaign in 2008, is to “fundamentally transform America.” He has not proposed improving America – he is intent on changing its most essential character. The words he has chosen to describe his goals are neither the words nor the motivation of just any liberal Democratic politician. This is the utopian, or rather dystopian, reverie of a dedicated Marxist – a dedicated Marxist who lives in the White House.

That’s right. Tom Tancredo believes the president of the United States is a Commie. He’s not even a pinko. He is a dead red, dyed in the wool, “dedicated Marxist.” Left unsaid, but easily inferred from Tacredo’s unbalanced rant, is that President Obama is deliberately out to destroy the country. This is a Rush Limbaugh talking point and many of his 17 million daily listeners fall for it. One would think a former congressman should know better, but evidently, such rationality requires adherence to a worldview that doesn’t see the political opposition as the reincarnation of the Devil.

Is President Obama intent on “changing [America’s] most essential character?” Unfortunately, yes he is trying. He is doing it not because he wants to destroy America but because he thinks he is improving her. This misguided, imprudent, and ultimately doomed attempt to alter the relationship between the people and the government can be opposed rationally (as defending it can be argued without resorting to hyperbole or name calling). Tancredo chooses to believe (or lets on that he believes) that in order to oppose the president, one must resort to hysterical exaggerations and deliberate misinterpretation of Obama’s motives. But doing it the logical way will not garner him headlines or make him a hero on the right.

Such is the level to which conservatism has sunk in some quarters.

Doug Mataconis:

Indeed, and as I’ve said to many of my friends on the right upset by the latest news from Washington, it was the failures of George W. Bush and the Republicans that made Barack Obama’s election not only possible, but likely. Obama’s mistake, it would appear, is assuming that his election constituted an endorsement of his agenda rather than a rejection of the other guy.

Moran is concerned that rhetoric like this will hurt the GOP at the polls in November. While I don’t know that ranting by a guy like Tom Tancredo or an op-ed at Investors Business Daily are going to have that much of an influence on the electorate. However, as the examples of Sharron Angle and Rand Paul show us, one of the most viable Democratic strategies over the next 90 days may be the argument that “Yea we’re bad, but look at them. They’re crazy.

Will it work ? Maybe not in 2010, but if the right continues down this road then it will be handing Barack Obama back the White House on a silver platter.

Steve Bainbridge:

These days it’s getting increasingly embarrassing to publicly identify oneself as a conservative. It was bad enough when George Bush 43, the K Street Gang, and the neo-cons were running up spending, fighting an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, incurring massive deficits, expanding entitlements, and all the rest of the nonsense I cataloged over the years in posts like Bush 43 has been a disaster for conservatives.

These days, however, the most prominent so-called conservatives are increasingly fit only to be cast for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel. They’re dumb and crazy.

[…]

Let’s tick off ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement:

  1. A poorly educated ex-sportwriter who served half of one term of an minor state governorship is prominently featured as a — if not the — leading prospect for the GOP’s 2012 Presidential nomination.
  2. Tom Tancredo calling President Obama “the greatest threat to the United States today” and arguing that he be impeached. Bad public policy is not a high crime nor a misdemeanor, and the casual assertion that pursuing liberal policies–however misguided–is an impeachable offense is just nuts.
  3. Similar nonsense from former Ford-Reagan treasury department officials Ernest Christian and Gary Robbins, who IBD column was, as Doug Marconis observed, “a wildly exaggerated attack on President Obama’s record in office.” Actually, it’s more foaming at the mouth.
  4. As Doug also observed, “The GOP controlled Congress from 1994 to 2006: Combine neocon warfare spending with entitlements, farm subsidies, education, water projects and you end up with a GOP welfare/warfare state driving the federal spending machine.” Indeed, “when the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, and the White House in 2000, the desire to use the levers of power to create “compassionate conservatism” won our over any semblance of fiscal conservatism. Instead of tax cuts and spending cuts, we got tax cuts along with a trillion dollar entitlement program, a massive expansion of the Federal Government’s role in education, and two wars. That’s not fiscal conservatism it is, as others have said, fiscal insanity.” Yet, today’s GOP still has not articulated a message of real fiscal conservatism.
  5. Thanks to the Tea Party, the Nevada GOP has probably pissed away a historic chance to out=st Harry Reid. See also Charlie Crist in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and so on. Whatever happened to not letting perfection be the enemy of the good?
  6. The anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.
  7. Trying to pretend Afghanistan is Obama’s war.
  8. Birthers.
  9. Nativists.
  10. The substitution of mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio for reasoned debate. Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, and even Rush Limbaugh are not exactly putting on Firing Line. Whatever happened to smart, well-read, articulate leaders like Buckley, Neuhaus, Kirk, Jack Kent, Goldwater, and, yes, even Ronald Reagan?

Jonathan Adler:

Professor Bainbridge lists “ten things that make this conservative embarrassed by the modern conservative movement.”  I’m not as enamored with David Klinghoffer’s lament (see also here), nor would I equate Hugh Hewitt with Michael Savage, but I largely agree.

Mike Rappaport:

Bainbridge seems to be missing something here.  Yes, the Republicans of 2000-2006 were excessively big government.  Now, why does the Tea Party want to see Marco Rubio instead of Charlie Crist, and the others?  Because the Tea Partiers believe, quite rightly, that Charlie Crist supported Obama’s stimulus and would behave much like the Republicans of 2000-2006.  I would take my chances with Rubio and the possibility of real constraint.Bainbridge can’t really have it both ways.  You can’t criticize the Tea Partiers for wanting better conservatives and also criticize the old Republicans who were elected based on the idea of “not letting perfection be the enemy of the good.”

You can count Professor Bainbridge among the folks who love David Klinghoffer’s L.A. Times piece (criticized here earlier today). Via Jonathan Adler at Volokh, Bainbridge offers a remarkably unconvincing set of ten reasons that he claims are reasons that “It’s getting to be embarrassing to be a conservative.” Upon closer inspection, however, the “reasons” turn out mostly to be reasons that conservatives should not support the Republican party — a quite different proposition entirely. Added in there, for good measure, is a heaping helping of overly broad generalizations about Tea Partiers.

Bainbridge’s complaints include: a lament that Palin is being considered a leading contender for the 2012 GOP nomination; complaints that the GOP is running candidates that are too extreme to take seats that should be ripe for the picking; complaints that certain Republicans have (in Bainbridge’s view) criticized Obama unfairly and too harshly; and criticism of birthers, “nativists,” and the “anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.”

Heavens! T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII would most certainly agree!

Bainbridge also moans about “mouth-foaming, spittle-blasting, rabble-rousing talk radio” including . . . Hugh Hewitt (?!). (Really? When is the last time Bainbridge was on Hewitt’s show?)

In addition to the above nonsense, which has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with the shortcomings of the GOP, Bainbridge also has a perfectly legitimate complaint regarding the GOP’s lack of fiscal restraint during the Bush years. But, again, why should that GOP failure to act in line with true conservative principles make anyone ashamed to be a conservative??

Jonah Goldberg at Los Angeles Times:

Conservatives, being conservatives, have a soft spot for the good old days, but this is getting ridiculous. It seems every day another colleague on the right wants to click his ruby red slippers — or Topsiders — and proclaim, “There’s no place like home” — “home” being the days when conservatism was top-heavy with generals but short on troops.

The latest example comes from my old National Review colleague David Klinghoffer in this paper. “Once, the iconic figures on the political right were urbane visionaries and builders of institutions — like William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol and Father Richard John Neuhaus, all dead now,” Klinghoffer lamented. “Today, far more representative is potty-mouthed Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart.”

As someone who knew Buckley and Kristol (and was a brief acquaintance of Neuhaus), I think David’s got it wrong. For starters, no one confuses Breitbart for Buckley — first and foremost, Breitbart himself — and the only people making that comparison are those wishing to indict contemporary conservatism for one reason or another.

Let’s start with the left, which certainly has different motives than Klinghoffer’s. The urge to lament how far today’s conservatives have fallen from the “golden age” of Buckley & Co. is a now-familiar gambit. You see, this is what critics on the left always say: “If only today’s conservatives were as decent or intellectual or patriotic as those of yesteryear.”

The best conservatives are always dead; the worst are always alive and influential. When Buckley and Kristol, not to mention Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, were alive, they were hated and vilified by the same sorts of people who now claim to miss the old gang. The gold standard of the dead is always a cudgel, used to beat back the living.

As for the right, there are many competing agendas among those lamenting the populist enthusiasms of the right today. Some seem to want to displace and replace today’s leaders; others are simply beautiful losers in forgotten struggles eager to tear down the winners.

But what undergirds a lot of this is simply nostalgia. A conservative populism is sweeping the land, and although I think it is for the most part justified and beneficial, you cannot expect millions of people to get very angry — deservedly angry — and expect everyone to behave as if it’s an Oxford seminar.

James Poulos at Ricochet:

Jonah’s reminder that the right’s intellectual lions actually deigned to have a practical political project is more than helpful: it’s needful. Yet there’s a danger that he and Klinghoffer — and, more broadly, the loose camps they each represent — will wind up talking past each other. To be sure, yesterday’s deep thought and institution-building created the preconditions for today’s popular political activity. And we all know that popular political activity, even (or especially) in America, makes plenty of room for demagogues, hucksters, opportunists, and careerists. The question is whether a fresh crop of erudite heroes, very unlike the technocratic eggheads who set the agenda for the left, would be of any help in pressing what Jonah calls “the battle” that’s been joined.

Few on the right would respond in the negative. But for a number of those like Klinghoffer who answer yes, a suspicion is growing that new intellectual heavyweights are not only helpful to partisan conservatism today but essential. The trouble is simple: these mental mandarins are nowhere to be found on the right. Or the left. Or somewhere in the middle, or off in some unclassifiable corner of our political map. No wonder their influence is nil. Jonah would likely insist that this is nothing, necessarily, for anyone to be ashamed of. True; it’s entirely possible that one or two or two dozen will burst or creep onto the scene over the next, say, ten years. Really, there are too many names to watch to name. The issue, now, isn’t nostalgia versus populism. The kind of public theorists who dominated the American right in its contemporary infancy aren’t available to lead conservative politics. Why waste any time crying out for them, or crying over their absence? Ask, rather, what kinds of smart people are most needful today. Some of them, I imagine, will be better suited to calling and running plays on the ground. Others will remain pretty high up in pretty narrow towers. And a third kind of genius will do the most good explaining precisely what kind of intellectual leadership conservatives require most today.

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What’s A Billion Here Or A Billion There Between Friends?

Max Fisher at The Atlantic rounds this up. Fisher:

The Pentagon cannot account for over 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money, according to an internal audit. The lost $8.7 billion, handled by the U.S. Department of Defense between 2004 and 2007 for reconstruction work, was raised from Iraqi oil revenues by that country’s government. Of that amount, the military has no records at all for $2.6 billion in funds. Here’s what obilservers have to say about the misplaced money.

Liz Sly at LA Times:

Though there is no apparent evidence of fraud, the improper accounting practices add to the pattern of mismanagement, reckless spending and, in some instances, corruption uncovered by the agency since 2004, when it was created to oversee the total of $53 billion in U.S. taxpayer money appropriated by Congress for the reconstruction effort.

“The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss,” notes the audit report, a copy of which was obtained Monday by the Los Angeles Times.

Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, who heads the agency, said repeated investigations have shown that “weak oversight is directly correlated to increased numbers of cases of theft and abuse.”

In this instance, the audit focused on Iraqi revenue earmarked for reconstruction under a 2004 arrangement granting the Defense Department access to Iraq’s oil proceeds at a time when the country did not have a fully functioning government and was unable to undertake urgently needed projects. The revenue was deposited in a special account in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq.

The report comes as Iraqis are increasingly frustrated with their own government’s inability to provide basic services, or to explain how tens of billions of dollars’ worth of oil revenue has been spent since 2007. The alleged U.S. mismanagement of Iraqi money is certain to revive grievances against the U.S. for failing to make a big dent in the country’s reconstruction needs despite massive expenditures.

Zaid Jilani at Think Progress:

SIGIR also notes that the “U.S. military continues to hold at least $34.3 million of the fund, even though it was required to return it to the Iraqi government in December 2007.” The “Department of Defense comptroller promised to report back to the inspector general’s office by November on progress made.”

Atrios:

Not especially shocked that no one has any idea what we did with all the money, but it does remind me of that multi-year period where it seemed that we invaded Iraq in order to free Iraqi schoolchildren from the tyranny of peeling paint.

Juan Cole:

The reason is that in the chaotic days after the fall of the Baath government and the collapse of the old economy, Paul Bremer & Co. attempted to jump-start the Iraq market economy by giving out large sums in brown paper bags with no questions asked. They did not understand that the Iraqi market had been killed by decades of government control and that no magic hand any longer existed, so they might as well have taken that money and buried it in the ground. (Actually some of it probably was buried, in back yards in Fairfax County, Va.)

The real problem, though, is not petty larceny but that no one can account for our whole country being gone in the aftermath of the 2003 illegal war– with a cancellation by John Roberts of our Bill of Rights, $2 trillion missing from the treasury for the wars and their related costs (at least), torture still permitted overseas, arbitrary no-fly punishments meted out to peaceful protesters, the entire Republican Party kidnapped and stealthily replaced with glaze-eyed Manchurian cultists, and habeas corpus permanently embezzled and bamboozled out of existence.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was wrong when he declared in 1840 that ‘property is theft.’

But I can offer a more solid and more consistently true aphorism: “War is theft.”

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Captain America, Flag Or No Flag, Fights Fred Phelps

Geoff Boucher at LA Times:

The director of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the 2011 summer blockbuster that will coincide with the character’s 70th anniversary, says the screen version of the hero will be true to his roots — up to a certain point.

“We’re sort of putting a slightly different spin on Steve Rogers,” said Joe Johnston, whose past directing credits include Jurassic Park III and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” He’s a guy that wants to serve his country, but he’s not a flag-waver. We’re reinterpreting, sort of, what the comic book version of Steve Rogers was.”

None of that is surprising, of course — Christopher Nolan pared away significant parts of the Batman mythology (such as Robin the Boy Wonder and any super-powered villains) that didn’t fit his grim take on Gotham City, while Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. manufactured a version of Iron Man that is hard-wired for far more humor than the old-school Marvel Comics character.

Still, Captain America, with his name and history, is a sensitive case. A red-white-and-blue character that dates back to the Franklin Roosevelt era stirs up plenty of civic emotion — just take a look at the dust-up over the recent change to Wonder Woman’s costume. “Wonder Woman” comics are hardly a publishing-world  sensation these days but still, for a day or two, the whole world seemed to notice that she put on some pants.

Allah Pundit:

The movie’s set during World War II, so obviously we don’t want any jingoistic demonizing of the enemy happening. Question: If you want to make a superhero movie but you don’t want to be troubled with the hair-raising spectacle of out-and-proud patriotism, why the hell would you choose Captain America? Choose Aquaman instead and have him deliver the requisite lecture about fearing “The Other.” Granted, CA’s a symbolic character whom lefties would like to appropriate, but they’ve already been there and done that. Remember when Marvel was waging its anti-Bush crusade and had ol’ Cap martyred by a sniper’s bullet for championing civil liberties? Or how about earlier this year when they had him take on the greatest threat of our time, Al Qaeda Red China the tea-party movement? If Johnston’s hot to do some radical reinterpretation of Captain America, making him the flag-waving Nazi-smiter he started off as is about as radical at this point as you can get.

Weasel Zippers:

Only the liberals in Hollywood would change a classic comic book hero who (gasp) is patriotic and turn him into a character who “makes the rest of the world great”…

James Joyner:

If Johnson were re-imagining the character with an origin in 2010, on the other hand, the change would be perfectly natural.   American soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, very much think they’re the good guys.  But cynicism and ambiguity about the mission are part and parcel of their culture.

But a WWII Cap?  It doesn’t make sense.

Bob Calhoun at Salon:

If Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church had his way, God would be sending biblical plagues down upon the San Diego Convention Center right about now and turning hundreds of nerds dressed in Batman costumes into pillars of salt.

It’s the first full day of the San Diego Comic-Con. I was in front of the convention center, trying to cross the street against an unending tide of convention-goers carrying oversized bags stuffed with assorted plastic figurines and video games. As I made it to the crosswalk, I saw a man in a checkered shirt on the side of the road holding up a lime-green Day-Glo sign that read “GOD HATES KITTENS” with a picture of a cat pasted to it. I chuckled and snapped a couple of pictures of him. I’m taking a lot of pics at Comic-Con this year. Next to the man with the sign expressing the Lord’s hatred of baby felines was a person dressed like Bender, the robot from “Futurama,” holding up a sign that read “KILL ALL HUMANS!” I took some more pictures of the beginnings of a picket line bathed in satire.

I then saw a line of cops behind Bender the robot, and beyond them were the God Hates Fags people. Fred Phelps and his congregation from the Westboro Baptist Church took some time away from protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers to spend a little time waving their hateful placards in the general direction of Comic-Con and its annual mega-gathering of movie stars, geeks, nerds, Klingons, stormtroopers and multitudes of gals dressed in Princess Leia slave-girl outfits.

Moe Lane:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley…

“…of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for the Dark Knight is by my side.”

I normally would at least wag a finger there – it’s not unreasonable to find that at least a little rude – but it was in response to the Fred Phelps freaks showing up at a comic book convention, which means that context is going to come into play here.  Given that I’ve heard ordinary, decent Christians happily endorse the idea that a good curbstomping would be an excellent way to respond to the Phelps clan’s habit of protesting soldiers’ funerals, I think that we can forgive invoking the geek community’s invocation of Batman.

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Dude, It’s Prop 19, Man…

Terry Hamburg at Technorati:

On November 2, 2010, the most populous U.S. state may make possession of one ounce of marijuana legal.

Some in government, like the progressive and cash-strapped Oakland City Council, see the passage of The California Marijuana Initiative as a billion dollar tax windfall, plus a jobs creation bill. Three members of Congress from the Bay Area enthusiastically endorse it: Reps. George Miller, Barbara Lee and Pete Stark. Law enforcement is divided: some rank and file are quietly in favor while most brass officially stand shoulder to shoulder against. The California NAACP supports the proposal as a civil rights issue because blacks are disproportionately arrested for possession.

Despite state inmates being released by court orders for overcrowding, the prison industry appears to reject anything that might reduce its clientele. Major opposition and probably funding is coming from illicit pot farmers, who fear a drop in demand and prices for their harvests. According to some reports, the liquor industry is discretely funneling money to groups pushing for a “no” vote.

R. M. Schneiderman at Newsweek:

So far, no modern country has ever legalized marijuana production—not even the Netherlands. Yet with heavy drug-related violence plaguing the U.S.-Mexican border, some analysts and policymakers now say that America should legalize weed in order to reduce the power of Mexico’s drug cartels.

Marijuana carries the least amount of overhead cost for many of the cartels and provides some of their cash flow for buying guns and influence. Estimates vary, but analysts say pot accounts for somewhere in the range of 20 to 50 percent of the cartels’ profits. But that could soon change with competition from El Norte: California has a proposition set for the November ballot—on which voters are roughly split—that would legalize the drug’s domestic production and sale. If the measure passes, says a recent analysis by the RAND Corporation, California could become a major supplier of the drug to the rest of the U.S. That, according to George W. Grayson, a professor of government at William & Mary, “would hurt the cartels badly.” RAND estimates that it could reduce the drug’s pretax price by more than 80 percent.

David Hirschman at Big Think:

Big Think spoke with Columbia University psychology professor Carl Hart who said he wasn’t particularly impressed with the California proposals, noting that similar movements had failed in the past. While he liked the idea of raising tax revenue from pot, he said that decriminalizing just marijuana would risk not addressing similar issues with other drugs.

“I don’t like the idea of separating marijuana from other drugs,” said Hart. “There’s a movement in the country to say marijuana isn’t like cocaine, isn’t like meth, isn’t like heroin.” He said that these distinctions don’t take enough into account, and that the trouble with addiction to any of these drugs is less about their pharmacological effects, and more about the social conditions under which they are consumed.

Hart suggested the U.S. should follow the lead of Portugal, which has effectively decriminalized all drugs, allowing users to face non-criminal administrative proceedings when they are caught rather than criminal charges. “It provides less of a taxing on our criminal justice resources, and allows young people to make mistakes without having a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their lives,” said Hart.

Another Big Think interviewee, former High Times magazine editor John Buffalo Mailer, told us today that he would be surprised to see the legalization efforts go through: “Given the environmental and economic benefits of hemp, not to mention the medicinal and economic value of marijuana, it seems insane to me that we still have the draconian laws in place we do for marijuana possession anywhere in this country,” Mailer said. “That is until you take into account the several large industries who benefit from marijuana’s illegal status, namely the oil, cotton, tobacco, alcohol, and prison industries. If we were to legalize the plant, they would all take a hit.  Combined, that is a tremendous amount of lobbying power. So, I would be surprised if we see legalization any time soon.”

Mark Kleiman at The Los Angeles Times:

There’s one problem with legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis at the state level: It can’t be done. The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a felony to grow or sell cannabis. California can repeal its own marijuana laws, leaving enforcement to the feds. But it can’t legalize a federal felony. Therefore, any grower or seller paying California taxes on marijuana sales or filing pot-related California regulatory paperwork would be confessing, in writing, to multiple federal crimes. And that won’t happen.

True, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has announced that the Justice Department will not prosecute people who are selling medical marijuana in compliance with California’s law. But that’s an entirely different matter. The attorney general could cite good legal and constitutional reasons for that policy, because the regulation of medical practice is a state and not a federal responsibility. And if the medical justification for most of the pot sold through dispensaries is sketchy at best? Well, that too is a state problem. The international treaties that require their signatories, including the United States, to ban the production and sale of cannabis have an exception for medical use.

Most important, the feds can afford to take a laid-back attitude toward California’s medical marijuana trade because it’s unlikely to cause much of a trafficking problem in the rest of the country. Because dispensaries’ prices are just as high as those for black-market marijuana, there’s not much temptation to buy the “medical” sort in California and resell it out of state.

By contrast, the non-medical cannabis industry that would be allowed if Proposition 19 passed would quickly fuel a national illicit market. According to a study issued by the RAND Corp.’s Drug Policy Research Center this month, if the initiative passes, the pretax retail price of high-grade sinsemilla marijuana sold legally in California is likely to drop to under $40 per ounce, compared with current illicit-market (or dispensary) prices of $300 an ounce and more. Yes, the counties would have authority to tax the product, but even at a tax rate of $50 an ounce — more than 100% of the pretax price — the legal California product would still be a screaming bargain by national standards, at less than one-third of current black-market prices.

As a result, pot dealers nationwide — and from Canada, for that matter — would flock to California to stock up. There’s no way on earth the federal government is going to tolerate that. Instead, we’d see massive federal busts of California growers and retail dealers, no matter how legal their activity was under state law.

More Kleiman at his blog:

If you’re not keeping score at home, that’s the California marijuana-legalization initiative.  My op-ed explaining why it makes no sense is now on the LA Times webpage, and will appear in Sunday’s paper.  Bottom line:  a state can’t tax and regulate a federal felony.

I may vote for the proposition anyway, just as a protest against the current laws. Too bad the California ballot initiatives don’t permit you to vote for “a pox on both your houses.”

Kevin Drum:

Me too. Besides, there’s really no telling what the feds will do until someone forces the issue. So why not force it? At the very least it has a chance to move the public opinion needle a bit. Besides, I think it would be entertaining to watch the tea partiers twist in the wind trying to figure out which is more important: (a) making sure the hippies don’t get their dope or (b) fighting the jackbooted tyranny of federal officers interfering with the sovereign Tenth Amendment right of states to police their own borders. Or something.

In any case, my guess is that Prop 19 will fail. It probably would regardless (it’s already behind 44%-48%), but Mark is right: opponents can make a pretty scary case that it would lead to California becoming the pot capital of the United States and fueling gang/mafia/DEA wars of all stripes. The ads sort of write themselves. Unfortunately, we’re probably still a few years away from having any chance of seriously discussing a sane marijuana policy. Even in California.

Andrew Sullivan

Stephen Bainbridge:

I disagree with fellow UCLA prof Mark Kleiman about a lot of things. We’ve crossed blogosphere swords occasionally. But I still respect his vast knowledge of drug policy, so I take his analysis of California’s pot legalization ballot proposition (number 19 for those of you following along at home) seriously

Pete Guither:

Let’s start with Mark Kleiman’s new OpEd in the Los Angeles Times:


California can’t legalize marijuana

There’s one problem with legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis at the state level: It can’t be done. The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a felony to grow or sell cannabis. California can repeal its own marijuana laws, leaving enforcement to the feds. But it can’t legalize a federal felony.

Well, duh. Thanks for letting us know that marijuana would still be illegal at the federal level. There’s a newsbreak.

When California passed medical marijuana, it was illegal at the federal level as well. That didn’t stop them from actually, relatively successfully (despite the challenges of federal government intrusion), implementing a licensed medical marijuana system.

But Mark helpfully explains why that could work, while recreational marijuana wouldn’t…

True, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has announced that the Justice Department will not prosecute people who are selling medical marijuana in compliance with California’s law. But that’s an entirely different matter. The attorney general could cite good legal and constitutional reasons for that policy, because the regulation of medical practice is a state and not a federal responsibility. And if the medical justification for most of the pot sold through dispensaries is sketchy at best? Well, that too is a state problem.

This is just a bizarre statement. Maybe the Attorney General “could cite good legal and constitutional reasons for that policy,” but he didn’t — he merely said that prosecuting medical marijuana in compliance with state law was not a particularly good use of limited resources. How would that be different from prosecuting millions of recreational users?

And “because the regulation of medical practice is a state and not a federal responsibility”? More bizarreness. Yes, under today’s fatally strained Supreme Court interpretation of the Commerce Clause, medical “practice” is mostly a state function, but the drugs used in medical practice (including marijuana) are considered to be under federal control (re-read Raich). The implication that somehow medical drugs are constitutionally the domain of the states (don’t I wish), but recreational drugs are not is an even more unusual Constitutional notion (I’m imagining a bizarro-land Kleiman version of the 10th Amendment reading “The powers not delegated to the States, or to the people, are reserved to the United States”).

Note: it is interesting that I don’t recall Mark mentioning this point about the regulation of medical practice being the domain of the states when it came to discussions about federal health care.

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You Can’t Reinvent The Wheel, But You Can Reinvent The Scribe

Mark Tapscott at The Washington Examiner:

Release of the Federal Trade Commission’s working paper on “reinventing journalism” makes it clear that there is no more time for diplomacy about this issue: President Obama is determined to federalize the news industry just as he has banking, autos, and health care.

Everybody who wants independent journalism had better wake up to these three facts about what is going:

* Journalists must understand that there is no way the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press will survive if the federal government regulates the news industry as envisioned by the FTC. Those who accept at face value protests to the contrary or the professions of pure intentions by advocates of government takeover of the news business are, at best, incredibly naive.

* Journalists who remain silent or apathetic about what is being prepared by the FTC for their profession become unintentional accessories in the strangulation of independent journalism.

* Journalists who support or assist, for any reason, the FTC process are accomplices in the strangulation of independent journalism.

Those in the administration who clearly view independent journalism as an obstacle to “change we can believe in” and their numerous allies in the old media, non-profit, and academic communities who either share a similar ideological vision or see the FTC process as their salvation against the Internet, will no doubt dismiss my assertions as extemism or alarmism.

Fine, call me whatever, but what they cannot deny is what is clearly written in the FTC document and what it reveals about the intention behind the initiative, which is to transform the news industry from an information product collected by private individuals and entrepreneurs as a service to private buyers, to a government-regulated public utility providing a “public good,” as defined and regulated by government.

Instapundit

Val Prieto at Michelle Malkin’s place:

Want to see the nine scariest words in the English language today?

Yes?

Try this on for size:

“Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism.”

It’s not enough that we can arguably state that the guy sitting in that oval office at 1600 Pennsylvania today was basically put in there by the Mainstream Media. It’s not enough that said MSM can arguably be called “water carriers” for the current administration. And it’s not enough that we can arguably state that that same MSM is in deep, deep denial over their selling us the Presidential snake oil.

Nope.

Just imagine how fair and balanced the news will be once the MSM and their “journalists” are “reinvented.” And of course, it wouldn’t be in keeping with this administration’s modus operandi if we didn’t add a little insult to injury along with a good dose of salt to the wound: Just imagine how this “reinvented journalism” will undoubtedly be subsidized.

Good times lie ahead, fellow taxpayers. Soon, not only will be we regaled with what we’ll be assured – for our own good, natch – will be “fair and balanced” coverage of this administration’s opaque transparency but we’ll be footing the bill.

Andrew Malcolm at The Los Angeles Times:

True, there have been government subsidies over the decades in the form of below-cost postal rates and printing contracts. But this FTC study is rated R for anyone who thinks the federal government, the object of copious news coverage itself, has no business deciding which sectors of the private media business survive and thrive through its support, subsidies and encouragement with things like tax incentives.

Yet that’s what this Obama administration paper is suggesting as another of the ex-community organizer’s galactic reform plans.

Would you believe: major changes to the copyright law, including government licensing provisions; government pilot programs to investigate potential new media business models, antitrust changes to allow media companies to unite on imposing online pay walls, establish a journalism division of AmeriCorps with government underwriting the training of young journalists, tax incentives per news employee, increased funding of public broadcasting, a 5% tax on consumer electronics and/or assessments on users of public airwaves.

Another idea would be to allow taxpayers to direct a portion of their taxes — perhaps up to $200 — to a specific media institution as payment for media services rendered. (Now, if taxpayers could direct such sums to individual bloggers…. )

Ed Morrissey:

The next two paragraphs are just as Orwellian:

Economics provides insight into why this has been the case. The news is a “public good” in economic terms. That is, it is non-rivalrous (one person’s consumption of the news does not preclude another person’s consumption of the same news) and non-excludable (once the news producer supplies anyone, it cannot exclude anyone). Because free riding is usually easy in these circumstances, it is often difficult to ensure that producers of public goods are appropriately compensated.

In addition, the news can produce benefits that spread much beyond their readers. For example, investigative reporting that results in a staff shakeup in a local hospital can produce better health care for patients in the future, but the news organization that produced that story will receive, at best, limited compensation (perhaps through increased readership) related to having spurred those benefits.

Declaring news a “public good” is nothing more than a rhetorical cover for demanding government oversight of it.  “Free riding” is apparently defined as linking to and quoting news from a media source.  This is an absurd issue for federal intervention, as a remedy for those media outlets is readily available: membership-only access.  It also discounts the fact that the eeeeeeeeeevil aggregators, including yours truly, direct traffic to those sites through links, arguably boosting the bottom lines of the media outlets, especially since readers are usually inclined to double-check the assumptions made by the aggregators.  There is a reason that newspapers send out tip e-mails on a daily basis to bloggers, and it’s not because they are unhappy about bloggers “free-riding” their output.

Beyond that, the FTC apparently also wants to set a standard of what is “appropriate” compensation.  Who’s to say what is appropriate?  Shouldn’t the market determine the compensation?  Does the government fix prices on computers, televisions, and radios, by which consumers access other news media? This looks like an attack on blogs — and an attempt to turn back the clock to 1993 in terms of the voice that news consumers have in news delivery.

Erick Erickson at Redstate

Jeff Jarvis at Huffington Post:

If the FTC truly wanted to reinvent journalism, the agency would instead align itself with journalism’s disruptors. But there’s none of that here. The clearest evidence: the word “blog” is used but once in 35 pages of text and then only parenthetically as an example of buying ads on topical sites (“e.g., a soccer blog…”); otherwise, it’s only a footnote. The only mention of investing in technology — the agent of disruption — comes on the 35th page (suggesting R&D for tools such as “improved electronic note-taking”). There’s not a hint of seeing a new ecosystem of news emerge — the ecosystem we study and support at CUNY — except as the entry of nonprofit entities that, by their existence, give up on the hope the market will sustain news.

If the FTC truly wanted to rethink journalism and its new opportunities and new value in our democracy, it would have written this document from the perspective of the people it is supposed to represent: the citizens, examining how we can benefit from news that is newly opened to the opportunity of collaboration and greater relevance. Instead, the document is written wholly from the perspective of the companies and institutions of the industry.

The document, like good government work, does a superb job of trying very hard to say very little. From its hearings and research, the staff outlines proposals I find frightening, but many of them are as politically absurd as they are impossible — e.g., what I’ll dub the iPad tax to put a 5% surcharge on consumer electronics to raise $4 billion for public funding of news — and the document doesn’t endorse them.

Still, it’s the document’s perspective that I find essentially corrupt: one old power structure circling its wagons around another. Change? That’s something to be resisted or thwarted, not embraced and enabled. The FTC’s mission in this administration of change — its justification for holding these hearings and doing this work — is to foster competition. Well, the internet is creating new competition in news for the first time since 1950 and the introduction of TV. But the commission focuses solely on newspapers, apologizing that it ignores broadcast — but not even apologizing for ignoring the new ecosystem of news that blogs and technology represent.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen and Julian Sanchez at Bloggingheads

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