Letters from our readers.
Nov. 14 1997 3:30 AM

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I Can't Hear You

This morning's delivery of "Today's Papers" included an all-too-common error. Scott Shuger explained that "Senate Republican leaders are feeling their oats over yesterday's Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 209 and are suggesting that Lee and any other future nominees to the post will face a tough new standard on affirmative action." The Supreme Court did not "uphold" Proposition 209. It simply declined to hear the case. This decision has absolutely no precedential value, nor does it necessarily tell us anything about the court's opinion of the measure. The court receives thousands of petitions asking it to review lower-court decisions every year. On average, it agrees to hear less than two hundred of them. The court may decline to review a case for any number of reasons. For instance, the court may refuse to hear a case--even one that presents an important constitutional question--because it contains procedural irregularities or because the issue it presents has not yet "percolated" through the lower courts. Therefore, when journalists present the court's decision to decline to review a case as "upholding" the lower court's decision, they mislead and confuse the public. I hope that Slate will be more careful in presenting the decisions of the Supreme Court to its readership in the future.

--Oona Hathawaylaw clerk, Judge Patricia WaldU.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. CircuitWashington

Editors' Note: The page was corrected as soon as we realized our error.


Millionerds Maligned

Michael Lewis is congenitally incapable of being boring, but he comes damn close in his first Millionerds missive ("T.J. the Barbarian"). In it we see the uncomfortable sight of a writer not fully engaged with his material: the weak opening, the clichés ("swaggering"?), the much-trodden Upside/Forbes ASAP/Fortune material, the absence of anything tying T.J. Rodgers to the series' purported theme--the organizational man. The article feels overrushed and underthought. It lacks the wisecracking edge and the snappy repartee of Lewis' best writing.

Is Lewis doing this as a result of a lost bet, or has editor Kinsley got pictures of him naked from TNR days?

--Paul KedroskyVancouver, British Columbia


Gulf Boor

I find "Pundit Central" both your most enjoyable and most useful feature. By capsulizing the inanities that pass for political commentary, you expose the vapidity of the opinions and put these "opinions" in their proper perspective. I found the "not ready for wartime" Sam Donaldson quote most telling. Sam's not going to suit up for service in the Gulf, now or ever. But other people fighting and dying makes good video. From the safety of a TV studio, Donaldson's ready to have (someone else) pay any price, face any foe. Keep up the good work, Slate.

--Art CunninghamMoreno Valley, Calif.

Auto Erotica


Jacob Weisberg's excellent essay, "Car Talk," on the key to this year's gubernatorial and municipal elections, redefines the word "autocracy." He did miss the bus, however, on at least one transportation-related election result. Last week, voters in Seattle passed an initiative that will expand the city's monorail, a quaint remnant of the 1962 World's Fair, elevating it from its current 90-second-tourist-ride status into a 40-mile citywide transit system--at the estimated cost of $1 billion. This, after last year approving a regional transit system of express buses, commuter trains, and light rail costing nearly $4 billion. If, as Weisberg writes, public transportation is a violation of nature in the West, Seattleites obviously want to be violated.

--L.C. SmithSeattle

Nanny Nanny Boo Boo

David Plotz had it close, but not quite right, in his "Assessment" of Barry Scheck. Scheck, although supremely skilled, was overconfident in advising Louise Woodward to go for the "all or nothing" verdict. By taking away the jury's choice to consider a manslaughter conviction, Scheck gambled that they shared his ability to operate within a "narrowed framework." They didn't. Given the aftermath of the O.J. criminal verdict, he ought to have realized that jurors prefer too much justice (i.e., a second-degree conviction) to not enough (acquittal).

Don't get me wrong, if I were guilty, I'd call Scheck. But for Louise Woodward, he blew it.

--Bill Cozzo

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