Today's Papers

Rug Brats

Everybody leads with the Federal Reserve’s surprise half-point interest rate cut yesterday that propelled the Dow up 3.9 percent and the Nasdaq up 8.1 percent.

USA Today says the latest cuts–making it 2 percentage points off short-term rates since Jan. 3–mean that the Fed has now cut more aggressively than at any other time since Alan Greenspan became its chairman in 1987. The Washington Post observes that the short-term loan rate banks charge each other and the rate they pay when they borrow from a reserve bank are both at their lowest level since 1994.

Everybody notes that the Fed justified its latest move by referring to the economy’s potential for further weakness, especially driven by profit-starved companies pulling back from capital investment. The New York Times adds that the Fed also cited a concern that the stock market drop might lead consumers to cut their spending. But adding to the usual sense of indeterminacy surrounding Fed moves, both the Times and the Post also note that there’s been positive economic news lately, some of it in a report released by the Fed on Tuesday. But today’s Two-Way Street Award goes to the Wall Street Journal for this beaut: “Is this rally for real, in contrast with several other short-lived run-ups since stocks began their bear-market drop last year? The answer, traders and investors say, may depend on whether investors are more fearful of missing out if the market keeps going up, or more worried that the economic outlook will remain cloudy.” And congratulations to Kenny Yee, president of Wing Hing Noodle Co., on getting plucked by the Los Angeles Times’ lead as the only example of an actual business owner reacting to the lowered borrowing costs. (He’s still cautious about more capital investment.) (Today’s Papers would have loved to have read a little bit about the paper’s selection process. Blindfolded stab at the L.A. phone book? Particularly good dim sum at the last newsroom order-in?)

Everybody fronts the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling yesterday that a state legislature’s redrawing of a congressional district making it heavily black (or heavily any group) is not unconstitutional even if race is one factor in the change. (The North Carolina legislature, in the case in question, was trying to draw a Democrat-voting district–and that is constitutional–based on data that blacks tend to vote for Democrats.) What’s crucial, said the court, is that race considerations do not predominate.

USAT and the LAT front, and the WP and NYT stuff, the conclusion of the largest long-term study ever of the behavioral impact of child care on U.S. toddlers: The more time they spend in child care, the more likely they are to display aggressiveness, disobedience, and defiance by the time they are ready for kindergarten. The NYT quantifies the most, quoting one of the researchers as seemingly suggesting that 30 hours of child care a week is what it takes to produce pronounced misbehavior, but USAT quotes the same researcher as saying there is no such magic number. There isn’t much in the stories about possible explanations for the link. The NYT mentions the idea that child care providers aren’t trained to give emotional support and that working parents are stressed out when they’re around their kids. The WP is the only piece that says the study doesn’t even mean that child care actually causes the problems. It might be, says the paper, that aggressive kids are the ones who spend more time in child care. USAT, the LAT, and the WP all note that this isn’t just a middle- or working-class issue, reminding that many mothers had to put their kids in child care in order to comply with welfare reform requirements. Both the LAT and WP go high with another result of the study: that kids in quality child care do better than those under parental care in developing language, knowledge, and memory. The NYT saves this for the last paragraph. Three of the four stories for sure are written by women, and probably all four. Does this mean that, like child care itself, child care reporting is considered by the papers mainly a woman’s problem?

A special Pentagon panel weighed in yesterday on the fate of the Marines’ troubled Osprey program. And what was the conclusion? Well, depends which headline you read. The NYT (online at least): “PANEL CALLS FOR OVERHAUL OF OSPREY PROGRAM”; WSJ: “FEDERAL PANEL SUGGESTS OSPREY PROGRAM SHOULD CONTINUE, WITH SAFETY UPGRADES”; WP: “VERDICT ON OSPREY IS MIXED/Panel Wants Major Changes but Favors Limited Production.”

The WP’s George Will highlights a recent piece by Heather Mac Donald in City Journal on police racial profiling that successfully points out some mistakes involved in the blanket condemnation of the practice (and Will reminds, those now tossing the blanket include President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft), mistakes frequently made by newspapers reporting on the topic. Mac Donald’s basic observation is that police stops of a disproportionate number of blacks is racist only if blacks aren’t disproportionately connected to other empirical or behavioral properties the police might be keying on. (This is, by the way, the exact reasoning the Supreme Court used to OK that disproportionately black congressional district.) And so reformers and newspapers always have to also show that such other disproportionate connections are ruled out. But if, for instance, blacks commit disproportionate numbers of traffic violations of the sort that attract police attention, or even just drive disproportionately more, then racism isn’t proven by a mere disproportion in police stops.

A NYT fronter headline announces “BUSH AND HIS CABINET STEPPING IN AS CHIEF FUND-RAISERS FOR G.O.P.” The story quickly reports “for instance,” that Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson has recently had new contacts with fund-raisers, but it doesn’t mention any similar activities by any other Cabinet officers. Doesn’t that make the headline an oversell?

The NYT reports inside that University of Hawaii faculty members have agreed to end a strike in return for a $2,325 raise the first year and a 6 percent increase the second. But the story never mentions what sort of annual salaries that will create or indeed, what sort the profs previously had that prompted them to go on strike. Without information like that, how’s a reader to know what to think of the strike or the settlement?