Not So High Court

Not So High Court

Not So High Court

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 30 2000 7:54 AM

Not So High Court

The  Los Angeles Times leads with the Supreme Court's emergency order on Tuesday saying that for now at least, Californians cannot legally give marijuana to people who are sick and in pain. The paper says the ruling is a strong signal that the court is likely to eventually invalidate California's referendum-based medical marijuana law and similar provisions in other states. The New York Times goes with the deepening split between the Pentagon and the State Department concerning how far the United States' development of a national missile defense system can proceed before the government would be required to notify Russia that the project was violating the ABM treaty the two countries signed in 1972. The paper explains that the military generally leans toward the interpretation that allows the most system development before notification and the diplomats lean towards allowing the least. The top non-local story at the Washington Post is that the average SAT math score--514--is at a 30-year high, and the paper notes that local scores are in step with the increase. The average verbal score, 505, has been the same since 1996, says the Post, and, unlike the math, is much lower than the average of 30 years ago. USA Today leads with a topic that's been hot for days and getting hotter: Joe Lieberman's open espousal of religious themes while campaigning. The story is also fronted at the LAT and is covered inside at the NYT, where it also draws a host of letters and is addressed in an editorial at the WP, which advises the candidates to "leave room for those who worship differently, or not at all."

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The new SAT data not only presents an improving math average and a flat verbal one but also an increasing performance gap between blacks and Hispanics on the one hand and whites and Asians (who had the highest combined average) on the other. The WP delays mentioning this until the 11th paragraph, and doesn't breathe a word of it in the headline, which is all about the math and verbal trends. By contrast, the headline over the LAT front-pager on the scores flags the ethnic gaps, but doesn't mention the math score improvement. The USAT front-pager covers both points clearly, and ditto for the Wall Street Journal's piece. The headline (online at least) over the NYT inside effort on the scores manages to be silent on both points: "POSITIVE TRENDS HIDDEN IN SAT AND ACT SCORES." What's given hardly any notice at all is far more important than race: the huge SAT gap associated with poverty.

The USAT lead provides some fresh polling data that may help explain why it was a Jewish advocacy group, the Anti-Defamation League, that the day before yesterday asked Lieberman to back off: While 43 percent of non-Jews agree that there should be a high wall between church and state, 86 percent of Jews believe this, and while 70 percent of non-Jews OKed a constitutional amendment permitting school prayer, only 14 percent of Jews did.

The inside WP Bush/Gore campaign situation report spends the first half of its 1,300 words detailing the back and forth sniping between the two camps about whether or not the other side has stooped to negative campaigning, and only after that indulges in a few actual policy details, about children's health insurance and about educational standards. It's bad enough when TV news hardly gives any time at all to the candidates' actual positions, but this is a trend newspapers should be discouraged from emulating.

The WP fronts a new wrinkle on Dick Cheney's business career. Although Cheney says he told the Halliburton board that in resigning he insisted on being treated like any other company exec taking early retirement, the paper cites three other companies where Cheney, in his capacity as an outside director or member of a compensation committee, supported extraordinarily lush CEO exit packages.

Deep inside, the WP reports that several senators have called for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to remove the head of the agency's Portland, Ore., office because of an incident in which a Chinese businesswoman was strip-searched, handcuffed, and then jailed for two nights when the INS mistakenly concluded her passport was bogus. The paper notes that the INS refuses entry to foreign travelers at the Portland airport at a much higher rate than other ones on the West Coast, earning it the nickname of "De-Portland."

The WP's Al Kamen announces the results of the contest in which he invited readers to predict who the vice-presidential nominees would be. Out of the 500 or so entrants, nobody got both men, but two guessed Cheney and 10 guessed Lieberman. The winners came from many walks of life including corporate communications, lobbying, consulting, headhunting, and law. Kamen doesn't draw attention to something you, dear reader, must remember as you read the pundifications of the likes of Will and Broder, et.al.: None of the winners was a journalist.

The WSJ runs an editorial railing against what it sees as the latest grabby outrage by trial lawyers: a lawsuit by some Chinese and Chinese-Americans filed against an assortment of companies controlled by Japanese firms Mitsui and Mitsubishi because these firms used the plaintiffs or the plaintiffs' relatives as slave laborers during World War II. The paper is less than thrilled with California's having extended the statute of limitations for such suits until 2010. The mistake the Japanese companies have made, says the Journal, is to "run afoul of American litigiousness." Blaming them for WWII atrocities, says the paper, "defies credulity. It's safe to say that Mitsui and Mitsubishi have only a tiny few employees or shareholders dating from the war years. Most weren't even alive at that time." But this is a specious argument. Material, compositional identity is neither necessary nor sufficient for the sort of identity moral or legal judgment requires. If it were, no person in prison could rightly be kept there, because after a matter of months not one cell of his body would remain that had been in it at the time of the crime. No, what makes these suits plausible is spatio-temporal continuity: The company that abused these workers made profits that were then used to run a company with many different employees and stockholders that made profits that were then used to run a company ... and so on until the present day.