Today's Papers

SCOTUS Reviews Texas Tom-Foolery

The New York Times and Washington Postlead with the Supreme Court agreeing to review the Texas redistricting pushed by Rep. Tom DeLay that resulted in Democrats losing a handful of congressional seats. USA Todayleads with President Bush’s comment that “30,000, more or less” Iraqis have been killed in the war. Aides later explained that the estimate—given during a Q&A where, atypically, participants weren’t screened—was a WAG and simply based on media reports. (This TPer once wrote an op-ed arguing that the U.S.’s apparent failure to count civilian casualties was harming the counterinsurgency effort.) The Los Angeles Times leads, WP fronts, and NYT reefers Gov. Schwarzenegger denying Tookie Williams’ plea for clemency. He was executed today shortly after midnight.

The DeLay-inspired remapping was a “highly unusual mid-decade” effort and came only two years after the usually once-a-decade census-driven redrawing. After the GOP-led redistricting, Texas’ congressional delegation went from 17 Republicans and 15 Democrats to 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

Justice Department staff lawyers had concluded that the redistricting-cum-gerrymandering violated the Voting Rights Act since it diluted the voting power of minorities. But the lawyers were overruled by political appointees. The Post, which broke that story, plays it right at the top. The LAT relegates it to the bottom third of its story, and the NYT sticks it away in the last paragraph.

A co-founder of the Crips gang, Williams was convicted of four 1979 murders. After being on death row for about a decade, Williams began a high-profile campaign against gang violence. But he never admitted to the killings, always insisting he was innocent. His lawyers argued that Williams deserved clemency because of his anti-gang advocacy and because of what they asserted were questions about his guilt. Schwarzenegger didn’t buy either contention. “Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption,” wrote the governor, who added that Williams’ case had been reviewed by eight courts.

Williams is the 12th man executed by California since the death penalty was reinstated there in 1978.The LAT gives his execution two Page One stories, a Page One photo, a five-column headline, and bonus scene-coverage inside.

What exactly makes Williams worthy of the copious coverage? His guilt does not seem to have been in significant question. Nor, so far as TP knows, were there doubts about his mental competence or the competence of his lawyers. As for his anti-gang crusade, the LAT mentions that Williams refused to “formally cut ties with the Crips [and] share his knowledge of gang tactics with police.”  So, what exactly separated Williams, besides his celebrity status?

TP isn’t arguing that Williams’ execution wasn’t deserving of plenty of coverage. He’s wondering how much the 11th man should have gotten.

An LAT editorial has thoughts along similar lines, “IT’S NOT ABOUT TOOKIE“:

The population of California’s death row now stands at 647, with the next execution, of Clarence Ray Allen, scheduled for Jan. 17. Allen, who is 75 years old, blind and confined to a wheelchair, is unlikely to attract the kind of attention that accompanied the debate about Williams. If the governor feels compelled to issue a treatise explaining his decision in that case, he should take the opportunity to address the larger injustice of capital punishment.

The NYT, LAT, and WP all front yet another assassination in Lebanon of an anti-Syrian activist. Gebran Tueni, a journalist and politician, knew he was a target and left the country months ago. He returned from Paris last week. Yesterday, his armored car was destroyed by a bomb. Meanwhile, U.N. investigators released their latest report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; it points a finger at Syria, saying there’s “probable cause” that top Syrian and Lebanese officials were involved.

USA Today teases a poll on Page One showing President Bush’s approval rating rebounding to 42 percent, up five points from a month ago. (The NYT found a similar uptick a last week.)

The Wall Street Journal notices that “many” articles in scientific journals carry the byline of top-flight academics but “are actually written by ghostwriters in the pay of drug companies.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, insists one drug company exec. Authors “have to sign off on everything,” he pointed out, adding, “This is properly viewed as a way to more efficiently make the transition from raw data to finished manuscript.”