Mob Mentality

Mob Mentality

Mob Mentality

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 31 2007 8:17 AM

Mob Mentality

The Washington Post leads with the big trouble Rudy Giuliani had to know was coming: His former driver, police chief, and recommended Cabinet appointee Bernard Kerik may be indicted. The Los Angeles Times leads with a possible multiyear drought in Southern California. The New York Times goes with a story on tightening trade policy with China and the Wall Street Journal tops its news box with a piece on American workers' declining productivity while going inside with the China trade story.

The U.S. broke with decades of China trade policy by slapping tariffs on two glossy paper importers, the Times reports. The U.S. charges that China unfairly subsidizes the companies. In the past, Chinese companies were immune to this charge because China was considered a Communist or state-run economy; determining what qualifies as a subsidy in a state that subsidizes everything is difficult. But today, no one still buys the People's Republic part of the nation's name and so China is being treated like any other free market nation—with a dose of good-old-fashioned protectionism. Welcome to the free world, China.

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The Post's lead story will hit presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani hard. His ace has always been his perceived toughness when it comes to law enforcement. It doesn't help that image if your business partner—a man you suggested President Bush appoint as Homeland Security secretary—is charged with taking bribes from mobbed-up companies and/or illegally wire-tapping personal enemies even after leaving the post of police chief.

It also won't help if he's charged and pleads not guilty, then goes on to air all sorts of things in court that Giuliani would rather have left in New York. The Post reports that this drama will play out over the next few weeks.

The LAT covers a "perfect drought" that is hitting Southern California right now and that could last a few years. Mountain snowcaps are as small as ever, the Colorado River basin is dry, and Los Angeles has gotten record-low rainfall this year. The combination makes it difficult to quench the thirst of 18 million people that depend on the system, but Los Angeles officials are confident that reservoirs are ready.

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at worker productivity, which the report says is declining. A Federal Reserve study links declining productivity to a halting of technological improvement. Workers already have e-mail, IM, and Google; what more could be invented to make them work any faster?

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The LAT writes about a blogger who was threatened repeatedly in the comments section of her blog. So she quit blogging.

The NYT has a piece above the fold on Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, noting that Bill is out raising money and as active as either of the candidates.

It was a bad news cycle for torture. The Post has a piece that opponents of the practice could have written up in press-release form. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Guantanomo detainee, told a review panel that his confessions of involvement in terrorist bombings were made only because he was being tortured by his U.S. captors. The allegations, the Post reports, come just days after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said something similar to a panel.

Were they tortured? Who knows? But the fact that the question can be asked calls all of their statements into question, just what torture opponents say is a practical objections to torture.

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WSJ also gives torture prominent play, with a feature story on Col. V. Stuart Couch, whose friend was a pilot on the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center. Couch was tapped to prosecute Mohamedou Ould Slahi for terrorist activity related to 9/11. After consulting his conscience, Couch decided not to press forward with the charges because he believed Slahi's confession was delivered only under torture.

The Journal's Jess Bravin writes: "These kinds of concerns will likely become more prevalent as other high-level al Qaeda detainees come before military commissions set up by the Bush administration." Torture's not looking like such a good idea anymore.

Israeli leader Ehud Olmert is in the New York Times saying that he wouldn't accept even one single Palestinian returning to their former home in Israel as part of a peace deal. Thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes during the war in 1948 and still live in refugee camps. Olmert blamed the '48 war on Arab aggression and says that, therefore, no Palestinians can return.

Chapter 20 of the Post's Citizen K Street series is now up on the Web, but TP has to admit that we were lost by Chapter 1.

Mold Buster …The Post's Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman  report on Democratic unity on Capitol Hill. Yes, unity among Democrats.

Murray and Weisman chart the coalescing of a Democratic position against the war in Iraq from a soft to a hard opposition. Democrats seem to be realizing that the game is over, whether the president wants to admit it or not. The quote they get from Rep. Dennis Cardoza (Calif.), a conservative Democrat who is late in joining his party, is typical of this hardening.

"Last summer, I didn't want to do anything to hurt the morale of our troops. … At this point, we're beyond morale. We're in serious jeopardy, and the president seems to have no clue how to get us out of this."