8 thoughts on “Hey, Check This Out (Politics Edition)! (2023)

  1. This post, on classified information, probably deserves a separate thread, but I suspect you guys won’t be very interested in this topic. Yet, given the revelations about Biden and now Pence having classified information in their private homes/offices, as well as the ongoing investigation with Trump’s handling of classified information, I think the topic is worth thinking about, especially since there is some important nuance to the issue.

    For this post, I’m drawing on two articles: Seeking Context for Hillarygate from Scott Lilly in Huffingtonpost and Sloppiness in Handling Highly Classified Information is Widespread from John Sipher, a former CIA officer, at Cipher Brief. Both articles came out in 2016, when Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information was an issue during the presidential campaign.

    Both articles provide really important contextual information that I wish the press emphasized a lot more. The contextual information is also important to know now.

    Here are some key points:

    • When I hear of “classified information,” I think of top secret information that would damage the security and interests if it were made public. But not all classified information is like this.
    • From John Sipher, “The level of classification of a specific document is based on a judgment call as to how damaging the information would be if released. Reasonable and experienced people can disagree, and find it expedient to simply classify at the higher level.” It makes sense to do this, but it also leads to overclassification–that is, some classified information doesn’t really warrant this designation.
    • Because of this, Sipher says that, policymakers can have a dismissive attitude toward the status of classified information–that is, there is a boy-crying-wolf effect going on. Overall, Sipher and Lilly point out that mishandling classified information by senior officials is not uncommon. There are some justifiable reasons for this.

    Here are five important questions that Lilly thinks should be asked (and both articles provide some answers to them):

    1.When the word classified material is used, what are we talking about?

    2.What are the procedures for those who must deal with classified information to communicate with one another about its meaning for the policies they are responsible for shaping?

    3.How often do officials violate the best practices for handling classified material?

    4.How significant were the Clinton (insert: Trump, Biden, Pence) violations?

    5.How has the government responded to significant mistakes in the handling of classified material in recent history?

  2. Former Senior F.B.I. Official in New York Charged With Aiding Oligarch from NYT

    The oligarch in question is Oleg Deripaska, a guy Paul Manafort owed a lot of money to.

    This is also interesting:

  3. There’s Already a Solution to the Crisis of Local News. Just Ask This Founding Father. from Politico

    …in 1792, Congress passed the Post Office Act. Publishers would be charged 1 cent for most newspapers and 1.5 cents for those traveling more than 100 miles. This amounted to an enormous subsidy. Rates for regular letters ranged from 6 cents to 25 cents, depending on the distance. The postmaster in 1794 estimated that newspapers constituted 70 percent of the mail while kicking in about 4 percent of the revenue. Postage paid by publishers defrayed no more than 12-14 percent of costs, concluded Richard Kielbowicz in News in the Mail. Scholar Robert McChesney has estimated that “if the U.S. government subsidized journalism today at the same level of GDP that it did in the 1840s, the government would have to spend in the neighborhood of $30-$35 billion annually.” That’s about the size of NASA’s budget.

    The key to making this policy work — logistically, constitutionally and politically — was its content-neutrality. Benjamin Franklin did not sit around in the Postmaster General’s Office deciding whether the New York Gazetteer was wittier than the Massachusetts Spy. All newspapers benefited.

    (emphasis added)

    1. Put aside whether this would motivate me to subscribe to a local newspaper, as I think this is a separate question. What I like is the idea of a more indirect government subsidy for news outlets. I was open to direct government funding, largely because the alternates seemed bleak, but I recognize this approach is very problematic.

      But the article suggests creating an economic environment that supports all news outlets. (I do think defining a news outlet can be problematic as well.) This appeals to me. Not only will this make news outlets, local and national, become more economically viable, but I’m hoping it can give them more independence from commercial pressures.

      1. Without paid subscriptions, I don’t see how this would save local newspapers. It’s why I’m asking the question. If you’re thinking of Midweek but with government subsidies, where everyone just gets whatever local papers they request, I suppose that could work but I’m doubtful.

    2. The quality of the reporting would be a big factor in whether I subscribe, but the larger question is whether more local newspapers would become economically viable with existing, or relatively modest subscriptions, plus government policies that support these outlets. I really don’t know the answer to that.

  4. This post from Ted Gioia, who is a music critic, isn’t political, but it relates to the previous post. Gioia lays out his plan to create a profitable newspaper.

    Gioia begins by describing the abysmal state of the newspaper business, especially local newspapers. A friend asks him if this is a solvable problem.

    “Well, yes, I think it’s possible to solve this problem. But if you implemented my plan the end result won’t look anything like today’s newspapers.”

    “But if it works—and I’m confident it will—it creates good-paying jobs and ensures high quality reporting. And we can make money too, lots of money.

    “This requires some radical steps. When I’m done, we will be operating in an entirely different world from the Cleveland Plain Dealer or the Minnesota Star Tribune.”

    He pressed for details, and I gave them. But, my dear readers, I always think of you, too.

    So here’s my business plan for the “newspaper of the future.”

    More later.

    (On a side note, Gioia’s idea reminds me a little of my idea for a university.)

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