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In today's pages: Dismissing Tom Daschle, ending free news online and curtailing constitutional amendments

February 4, 2009 | 12:59 am

DaschleThe Times editorial board was poised Tuesday to advise Tom Daschle to withdraw as President Obama's nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, but then Daschle mooted the issue by pulling his own ripcord. Undeterred, the board advises Daschle today not to let the door hit him on the way out of the Obama inner sanctum. Distinguishing him from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, whose payroll-tax problems drew a more forgiving response, the board writes:

The problem with Daschle’s nomination ... went beyond his tax returns. After losing his reelection bid in 2004, Daschle, the former leader of the Senate Democrats, spent four years doing what many former officeholders do: cashing in on his connections.

Tut tut tut. The board also pooh-poohs the latest hostage release by Colombia's FARC rebels ("a stunt") and urges the House of Representatives to approve a Senate bill to create 700,000 acres of new wilderness in California.

Over on the Op-Ed page...

... columnist Tim Rutten calls for the government to save newspapers from themselves by granting an anti-trust exemption:

It would allow all U.S. newspaper companies -- and others in the English-speaking world, as well as popular broadcast-based sites such as CNN.com -- to sit down and negotiate an agreement on how to scale prices and, then, to begin imposing them simultaneously.

That, in turn, would set the stage for tackling the other leg of this problem -- how to extract reasonable fees from aggregators like Google and Yahoo, which currently use their search engines to link to news that newspapers and broadcasters pay to gather.

Let's see, the major record companies have tried to enforce scarcity online, and that's really worked for them. Perhaps Tim would like us to sue readers who download our content without paying for it, or who share it on Limewire? Great business model! Seriously, if not for Google and Yahoo, Tim's column on the latimes.com website would probably draw 70% fewer readers. Is it Google and Yahoo's fault that we haven't found a good way yet to capitalize on the readers they send us?

But maybe now's not the time to be asking such questions. Elsewhere on the page, author Chitra Divakaruni defends the movie "Slumdog Millionaire" against the accusation that it's "poverty porn." Academics Edward L. Lascher Jr., Tim Hodson and Floyd F. Feeney add their voices to the ongoing Proposition 8 debate, calling on California to make it harder for those pesky voters to amend the state's constitution. And author Barry Gottlieb wonders aloud (or rather, in print) why the English language needs a million words. I think we can all agree that this post, at least, would have been better with fewer of them.

Photo: EPA/Michael Reynolds

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