Today's Papers

DiMaggio Streak Ends

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the Federal Trade Commission’s announcement on Monday that it has settled its antitrust suit against Intel Corp., just a day before the trial was to begin. The settlement is also the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. USA Today, which doesn’t front Intel, leads with the Supreme Court’s rejection of Timothy McVeigh’s appeal of his Oklahoma City bombing conviction, a story that nobody else fronts. The appeal had alleged jury prejudice brought about by news coverage of the case. USAT explains that the McVeigh turn-down still leaves room for additional appeals, which could delay the imposition of his death sentence for years. What gets a lot of top front space with pictures everywhere is the death of Joe DiMaggio at age 84 a few months after lung surgery.

The papers explain that the central issue in the Intel case was whether it was monopolistic for the company to require computer manufacturers to share details about their machines as a condition for their getting information about Intel chips. If the company had gone to trial it ran the risk of being legally judged to be a monopoly, which the papers explain, could have many adverse legal consequences across a wide range of issues. The settlement avoids that branding in return for Intel’s agreeing to very specific provisions–not detailed in the papers–governing when it can withhold technological information from computer makers. Both the WP and LAT say that many thought the government’s case might have been hard to win.

Everybody notes that the settlement, in its low-key, no-name-calling style, stands in distinct contrast to Microsoft’s approach to its legal tussle with the government, and everybody says that Intel went this way precisely to avoid the PR beating it thinks Microsoft has been suffering. (For all the comparisons to the Microsoft case, none of the papers explain why the one company is being pursued by the FTC and the other by the DOJ.) The Wall Street Journal adds that Intel’s irenic bent reflects the change of leadership at the company, from the former CEO who was a “merciless competitor and litigator” to the current one, who personally successfully negotiated a longstanding patent dispute with the concern’s chief competitor.

One discrepancy in the LAT account of the settlement: the paper says the agreement calls for the company to “mend its strong-arm tactics.” This is bad newspapering because the company isn’t admitting it practiced strong-arm tactics, and besides, the use of the phrase makes it appear as if the LAT is condemning the company, which it shouldn’t really be doing without first adducing a great deal more evidence about Intel’s practices than it does in this story.

The NYT and WP fronts report that Wen Ho Lee, the Taiwan-born Los Alamos lab scientist at the center of the China bomb spying controversy, was fired Monday, after being questioned by the FBI. Although not formally charged with anything, Lee is now officially the prime suspect in the case.

Joe DiMaggio’s passing draws tremendous ink volume. Besides the sprawling front-page coverage, there are editorials in both Times, as well as a strong op-ed presence, which includes the effort in the NYT in which Paul Simon, of “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” fame, explains that when they met, the Yankee Clipper protested that he hadn’t gone anywhere–he’d just finished doing a Mr. Coffee commercial, not to mention being a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank.

Despite the general consensus that DiMaggio was exactly the kind of quiet, workmanlike player that is practically gone from today’s courts and fields, a sort of anti-Rodman, if you will, it’s useful to note, as the WSJ does, that in 1938 DiMaggio held out for more money (he wanted at least $40,000 and the Yankees were offering $25,000.) And the LAT op-ed page runs the piece he wrote right afterwards to mend the fences with the fans, in which he advances the same “if movie stars can get it, why can’t I” arguments you hear today. But clearly DiMaggio knew not only on which side his bread was buttered, but also who buttered it: his op-ed was titled “I am Lucky to Be a Ballplayer.” Lest the coverage completely disappear into the metaphorical, in his WP column, George Will cites some of Joe D’s stunning stats. Yes, there’s the familiar 56-game hitting streak. But there’s this more recherch, one: The number of times DiMaggio was thrown out in his major league career going from first to third? Zero.

Did we miss something? Today’s WP runs a story under the headline “For Alexander, ‘96 Loss Sowed Seeds for 2000 Victory.”