A Tokin' Ruling

A Tokin' Ruling

A Tokin' Ruling

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 7 2005 3:17 AM

A Tokin' Ruling

The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and  Los Angeles Timesall lead with the Supreme Court's ruling 6-3 that the federal government can go after people who smoke pot even if the lighting up is sanctioned by state medical marijuana laws. The decision doesn't overturn state laws, but it does expose tokers to a potential knock on the door from the DEA. USA Todayleads with new FBI data showing violent crime down again last year. After a slight uptick the last couple of years, the national murder rate also dropped—up to 7 percent in major cities. The New York Timesleads with two New York state leaders putting on ice a proposed stadium on Manhattan's West Side. The decision means bad news for New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics. 

With the notable exception of Justice Antonin Scalia, the anti-marijuana majority was made up of liberal types. That's because in a larger sense, it was a states'-rights case. The majority said the Constitution's Commerce Clause, meant to regulate interstate business, gives the feds the right to regulate, say, non-state-crossing spliffs.

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"If there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in the majority opinion. Stevens also expressed sympathy for pot-smoking patients but suggested the proper recourse would be for Congress to legalize such use. Justice O'Conner, writing the dissent, complained that the majority's wide-open interpretation of the Commerce Clause "threatens to sweep all of productive human activity into federal regulatory reach."

As everybody mentions, the court also ruled that foreign-flagged cruise ships operating from U.S. ports can't discriminate against people who are disabled—or at least they can't go out of their way to do so. The 5-4 decision, which came complete with opinions by four justices, said that ships don't need to be retrofitted to accommodate the disabled. The Supremes left it to lower courts to decide exactly what ships need to do. That's where some of the papers flub it. For example, the WP: "COURT RULES SHIPS MUST OBEY LAWS ON DISABLED."Compare that with the lengthier, and accurate, NYT take: "SUPREME COURT RULES THAT DISABILITIES ACT, IN PART, APPLIES TO FOREIGN CRUISE SHIPS."

The WP fronts a sneak peek at an upcoming Air Force inspector general's report detailing how the Pentagon kept moving forward on a $30 billion tanker deal with Boeing despite the fact that the proposal was overpriced and the planes not needed. "We all know that this is a bailout for Boeing," e-mailed a Pentagon official during the deal negotiations. The e-mails are fun. But it's long been known that the deal was rigged. Instead, what really caught TP's eye is the 14th paragraph:

In the copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post, 45 sections were deleted by the White House counsel's office to obscure what several sources described as references to White House involvement in the lease negotiations and its interaction with Boeing. The Pentagon separately blacked out 64 names and many e-mails. It also omitted the names of members of Congress, including some who pressured the Pentagon to back the deal.

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The Post off-leads and others stuff Citigroup's announcement that they lost a box of computer tapes containing the account info and Social Security numbers of a mere 3.9 million customers. There's no evidence that the tapes have landed in the hands of evildoers. They were picked up by U.P.S. in early May, and as the NYT puts it, have "not been seen since." 

Everybody goes inside with the first stop of the reunion tour for the (now-private) 9/11 commission, which busted on the FBI for having failed to push through many of the commission's recommendations. The bureau still suffers from high turnover, poor training, and B-list technology (or paper records, as the case may be).

The NYT says "a relative lull in insurgent attacks" in Iraq continued for a second day. Not that you'd pick that up from the headline: "2 POLICE OFFICERS ASSASSINATED IN SEPARATE ATTACKS; U.S. AND IRAQI FORCES PRESS INSURGENTS." Meanwhile, the Post flags a suicide bombing at an Iraqi base in Baghdad. Five people were reportedly killed. (The NYT says none were killed and seven were wounded.)

The NYT inside cites a government study concluding that about half of Americans will have some form of mental illness in the course of their lives—everything from depression, to social phobias, to major mental illnesses. Not everybody was buying it. "Fifty percent of Americans mentally impaired—are you kidding me?" harrumphed one professor of psychiatry. "Pretty soon," he said, "we'll have a syndrome for short, fat Irish guys with a Boston accent, and I'll be mentally ill."