Today's Papers

Breyer: I Walk the Line

Everybody leads with the Supreme Court’s raft of decisions as it skipped out for the summer. With the exception of USA Today, which goes with a more expansive headline, the papers all agree on the consensus big case, actually two cases: The court allowed a monument of the Ten Commandments to stay planted on the grounds of the Texas Capitol while ruling in another case that the display of the same Ten Commandments at two Kentucky courthouses is verboten. Both votes were 5-4, with only one justice in both majorities: Justice Stephen Breyer.

The two cases produced a total of 10 opinions. But the swinging Breyer gave a shot at reconciling the two majority rulings. It all about intent, that is, whether the people who put up the monuments mean to actually promote religion. Or as Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote, the purported standard is about “divining the unknowable secrets lurking in the hearts of sometimes long-dead government officials.”

Breyer also cited another reason he allowed the Texas monument to stick around: It’s been around a long time. Removing it, he wrote, might “create the very kind of religiously based divisiveness the Establishment Clause seeks to avoid.” There are hundreds of similar monuments, so those will probably be grandfathered in, too. And the larger upshot of all yesterday’s hoopla? Eh, not much. As the Washington Postsays, the result of the rulings “may have been to leave the law more or less unchanged.” Meanwhile, the WP notes that some Christian groups announced that they’re gearing up to install 100 new monuments honoring the U.S.’s “Christian heritage.”

Most of the papers also front the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that companies that make file-sharing software—such as Grokster—can be busted if they encourage users to illegally swap songs or other copyrighted material. In another Net ruling, the court said that cable companies can keep rival Internet services off their lines; the Wall Street Journal says the decision could “eventually limit consumers’ access” to Internet options.

As the New York Timesfronts, the court also declined to hear the cases of reporters Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller, who are facing jail time for refusing to spill the names of sources in their reporting on an apparent administration official’s outing of a CIA operative. The prosecutor in the case suggested yesterday that he’s now looking to book the two. “Now that the legal obligations of the reporters are settled and all appeals exhausted,” he said, “we look forward to resuming our progress in this investigation and bringing it to a prompt conclusion.”

Meanwhile, in the biggest of non-news: Chief Justice Rehnquist did not resign. But, turns out there’s no real retirement protocol. Rehnquist could still hand in his papers this week, or any other time.

The Post fronts a poll showing Americans feeling a bit conflicted, or perhaps just realistic, about Iraq: 62 percent think the U.S. is “bogged down,” but 58 percent think the U.S. should stick around. What the Post doesn’t do is put the numbers is historical context. For instance, that “stick around” percentage has held steady for the last year. It might be helpful to give readers a sense of such older numbers—unless, of course, in an attempt to create a stir with your in-house poll, you’d prefer to give the impression of big new trends.

The NYT mentions inside that Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, offered a big peace branch to Sunnis: He endorsed a change in the voting system to give Sunnis more representation in the government. In short, candidates—in a Senate-esque move—would be elected via provinces, not via national lists.

Two Americans soldiers were killed when their Apache helicopter crashed north of Baghdad; witnesses said it was shot down.

A bit more than a week after the Post’s ombudsman dinged the paper for not seriously covering the prewar Downing Street memos, the Post seriously covers the prewar Downing Street memos. It’s a reasonable overview, but there’s not much new. A piece in the Journal looks at how some liberal activists launched a now darn successful (shoestring) campaign to get the memos covered.

Most of the papers tease a NASA advisory panel’s conclusion that, well, depends on which paper you read. The Los Angeles Timesand Post highlight the panel’s nuanced take—or perhaps bureaucratic hedging: As the WP puts it, “PANEL CALLS SHUTTLE READY, WAVERS ON SAFETY MOVES.” Said one of the chairs of the panel, “You have to look at the progress that has been made. Is it a miss if you’re at 95 percent? We haven’t seen anything that says that [there is] any danger to the vehicle.” Another panel member dubbed the shuttle “ready to fly.” The NYT skips those quotes and headlines, “PANEL SAYS NASA STILL FALLS SHORT ON SAFETY ISSUES.” (Even if the panelists were effectively spinning for NASA, shouldn’t that itself be newsworthy?)

The LAT and NYT front the confession of Dennis Rader, the Kansas man who dubbed himself BTK—for bind, torture, kill. He pleaded guilty to 10 murders and described his modus operandi. “If you’ve read about serial killers,” he said, “they go through different phases.” At the time of the killings—1974 to 1991—Kansas had no death penalty, so Rader just faces life. He didn’t apologize.

The LAT profiles the latest Israeli settlers to resist the government’s pullout plans: 12-year-olds.