Five Best Wednesday Columns

Clarence Page on Rush Limbaugh, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. on Apple's closed ecosystem, Dana Milbank on Obama's lobbyists, Samuel Waksal on paying for drug treatment, and Wendy Kopp on publicizing teacher rankings

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune on Limbaugh and Republicans Rush Limbaugh's attack on a Georgetown law student led to the flight of numerous sponsors, but the Republican presidential candidates might be the ones to see real lasting damage to their reputations. "Their attempts to distance themselves from Limbaugh's vile language without losing his supporters come off like profiles in cowardice," writes Page. He describes each of Mitt Romney's, Rick Santorum's, and Newt Gingrich's responses, noting that all of them tried to strike a tricky balance. He praises Ron Paul for his candor in saying Limbaugh's apology was insincere and motivated only by "the bottom line." Limbaugh threatens to change the subject from issues on which Obama is weak to ones where he looks much stronger. "Like a radio shock jock, he'll probably benefit from his recent negative publicity, as long as his ratings hold up. The Republican candidates may not get off that easily."

Holman W. Jenkins Jr. in The Wall Street Journal on Apple's closed ecosystem Apple's business model has long benefited from the idea that users lock themselves into a "closed" ecosystem with each App purchase or new device, one that makes it impossible for other companies to break Apple's mobile dominance. "But open and closed are not synonyms for good and bad, and recent decades have seen violent swings almost overnight in response to market factors. Macintosh was closed, Windows open ... And good reasons exist why the next wave will be a circling back, in a sense, to the universal browser." Jenkins focuses on the Cloud system and streaming services that make physical phones and devices less important as data is increasingly stored away from them. He cautions not to bet against Apple's profits continuing to rise. "A realistic scenario, however, is that its margins will start coming down sharply."

Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Obama breaking his own rules Obama has long had a policy of not allowing lobbyists to take positions in the White House, but Vice President Biden recently hired Steve Ricchetti, president of a prominent lobbying firm, as a counselor. "Only in today’s Washington could a president circumvent his own ban on hiring lobbyists by hiring the head of a lobbying firm," writes Milbank. He explains the "loophole" -- Ricchetti deregistered as a lobbyist with most of his clients even as he served as head of his firm. Milbank says he'll likely offer Biden good advice, but he lists the many firms he's worked for previously that will now have a closer connection to the administration. And he notes that its not the first time Obama has circumvented his own rule. "Such an arrangement may not violate the letter of Obama’s ethics policy, but it makes a joke of the spirit of reform he promised."

Samuel Waksal in The New York Times on how to pay for drug treatments Americans pay more for health care than other countries without better results in part because drugs are priced so highly. "Individuals and insurance companies should be willing to pay — and pay a lot — for drugs when they work. The problem is we’re also paying for drugs when they don’t." Waksal notes that some cancer drugs are designed only to attack cancers caused by certain genetic patterns, and that we should develop and prescribe them looking for those markers. An incentive program that pays drug companies only when their drug works would push them to do more specific research into therapies that address rarer, more specific problems. We'd get better at matching patients to treatments. "Making this idea a reality would take industry and government support, as well as legislation, and it won’t happen overnight. But this is the future of biotechnology."

Wendy Kopp in The Wall Street Journal on publicizing teacher rankings Teach For America founder and C.E.O. Wendy Kopp adds her name to the prominent list of voices arguing against New York's new system of publicizing teacher rankings. "So-called value-added rankings—which rank teachers according to the recorded growth in their students' test scores—are an important indicator of teacher effectiveness, but making them public is counterproductive to helping teachers improve," Kopp writes. She argues that teacher effectiveness is just one in a long list of factors that will improve American education. Teach for America has learned, she writes, that even good teachers struggle to be effective when the school system doesn't support them enough. Giving them feedback in an environment designed to help them would be a better way to use the value-added rankings. "Just as we now know how wrong it was to blame kids and their families for the achievement gap, we should be careful not to get swept up in the trend of blaming teachers."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.