Today's Papers

Rational Exuberance

The Los Angeles Times leads with California’s stronger than expected economic growth in the final months of 1998. The story notes that the state data dovetails with the Commerce Department report issued Friday, indicating that the nation’s gross domestic product grew 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter. The Washington Post leads with an exclusive, reporting that earlier this month the Clinton administration stopped issuing new licenses for the export of military or dual-use equipment to Greece due to Pentagon suspicions that the Greeks had provided the Russians with NATO aircraft jamming codes. The New York Times leads with a Clinton administration report that condemns China’s recent record on human rights, including China’s squelching of the formation of a opposition party, religious expression and the freedom of the press.

The LAT pairs its lead on rosy job growth in California with an analysis of the “nearly sublime” national economy. The paper observes that the torrid pace of growth has confounded prognosticators, who had widely expected that contagion from the international economic crisis would slow the U.S. expansion. The NYT fronts the revised GDP numbers, pointing out that inflation dipped to 1.0 percent last year, the lowest level since the launch of Sputnik. The papers report that the Dow retreated because of fears that the Fed will raise interest rates to cool the exuberant economy.

The Post exclusive informs that a Defense Department team has investigated allegations of a Greek breach of NATO security and concluded that there has been “no compromise of technology whatsoever.” The Pentagon suspected that the Greeks were giving NATO codes to Russia in exchange for a radio jamming system to disrupt Turkish combat jets. The Post observes that animosities between Greece and Turkey, long the most serious tension within the NATO alliance, have worsened with the Ocalan affair. The exclusive notes that “aides said” that “some members of Congress” plan to press for more information and are dissatisfied with the Pentagon response. Is this sourcing detail a clue as to why a story of dismissed suspicions, which are sure to stoke international sensitivities, turned up as the Post’s lead?

The NYT story on the State Department’s rebuke of China in its 22nd annual human rights report, observes that the criticism came on the eve of Secretary Albright’s trip to China, at a time when Clinton is being attacked for being to easy on Beijing. The LAT reefers the story. Though each story provides some detail on human rights flashpoints, no story notes that the report covered 194 countries and no story explains that the report is compiled to provide an authoritative basis for international affairs decisions by the three branches of the U.S. government. In what the White House promoted as a major speech on foreign policy challenges, the president advocated an active role for the United States throughout the world and defended his policy of engagement in China, as the Times and the Post, report in front-page articles.

A NYT editorial calls on the president to address Juanita Broaddrick’s assertion that Clinton raped her in 1978. The editorial evinces the paper’s discomfort with this disquieting story and the media’s discontent with the terse denial issued by the president’s attorney. The Times opines that “the public and the press are in a muddle as to what to think” and that “the White House is banking on the Broaddrick’s story’s lacking legs.” Of course, the editorial itself lends the story legs.

The Arts section of the NYT reports on the debate over the accessibility of academic writing, which has been stoked by an Edward Said’s article denouncing abstruse writing. The fact that Said’s article provoked “discourse” is not simply a factor of his having recently assumed the presidency of the Modern Language Association. Said is considered a prime offender when it comes to inaccessible communication. The Times informs that a journal, Philosophy and Literature, has started to hold an annual Bad Writing Contest, in which leading scholars take the prize. The paper refers readers to an Internet site that automatically creates an impenetrable “post-modern” essay each time a user logs on.

Yesterday’s LAT Metro Section conveys a cautionary tale: beware of flying bovines. In Northern California, a wandering 750-pound cow was hit by a northbound Mercedes, which sent it hurtling into the path of a southbound pickup. Tragically, a truck driver was killed when the airborne heifer smashed through the windshield of his vehicle and struck him in the head. The bovine bounced off the truck and was hit by another pickup. Curiously, the story does not report on the condition of the cow.