Today's Papers

Cash Crops

The Washington Post leads with its study of farm subsidies, discovering many of the 1996 farm bill’s beneficiaries haven’t farmed anything in years. The New York Times leads with its analysis of the just-completed U.S. Supreme Court term, examining why Chief Justice John Roberts wasn’t better able to corral the other justices during his SCOTUS rookie season. The Los Angeles Times predicts the GOP will lean on the war on terror as its primary election-year issue, providing a handy primer for anyone who hasn’t bothered to notice American politics in the last five years.

The federal government spent at least $ 1.3 billion since 2000 on farming subsidies for nonfarmers, the WP reports. The 1996 farm bill tied subsidies to simply owning land that was used for farming in the past, regardless of what it is now used for, the paper found. The upshot is some homeowners collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in government cheese over the last decade simply for having big backyards. The story runs online with an interactive map breaking down farm payments by county, along with several other graphics.

Chief Justice Roberts’ dreams of a unified and acrimony-free court quickly evaporated as the term dragged on, leaving Roberts in dissent nearly as often as in the majority on major nonunanimous decisions, says the NYT. The NYT acknowledges the court was more conservative this year, chiefly because Justice Samuel Alito joined the bench, but it wasn’t the slam dunk some Republicans had hoped for. The NYT attributes that, in part, to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s lone swing vote. Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, rebuffed the conservative voting block on a number of key issues, including last week’s military tribunal’s decision. The LAT, under the fold, and the WP, going inside, agree with the Kennedy hypothesis, proclaiming him the new Sandra Day O’Connor.

The LAT roots its election-year analysis (such as it is) in the Supreme Court’s Guantanamo decision, which brought a flurry of stump speeches from both sides of the aisle. The paper says Republicans may not be seeing the same support for their national security agenda they saw in previous elections, but that the public still prefers their plan to Democrats’, which the paper paints as being unprincipled. The paper warns, however, that Republicans could easily overplay their hand if they don’t watch their campaign rhetoric.

Everyone fronts the truck bomb that killed more than 60 people in a Baghdad marketplace Saturday, though each paper does something a little different with the news peg. The WP puts the death total at 66, focusing on how events like this could hurt Iraqis’ confidence in their newly formed government. The LAT (with a body count of 77) looks at how large-scale insurgent attacks like this one could hurt Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s attempt to grant amnesty to some insurgents. The NYT low-balls it at 62 killed and attributes Saturday’s attack to anti-American sentiment among Iraqis.

The trouble with these stories is they all try to work in further revelations in the Mahmudiyah rape/murder allegations against U.S, troops, which the NYT and WP led with yesterday. The LAT mentions it more as an aside while the NYT comes back to it at intervals, linking it to the aforementioned anti-Americanism. The WP devotes about half the story to the Mahmudiyah events, switching topics after just two graphs and then coming back to the bombings with no transition at all. It reads like an editor lost one story inside of another. The NYT and the LAT also mention, somewhat offhandedly, the kidnapping of Tayseer Najah al-Mashhadani, a female member of the Iraqi parliament. TP understands the temptation, given the scarcity of front-page space, to lump all Iraq news together into a single article, even if it’s not really part of the same story. But we also hope it’s not too much to ask that those subjects be clearly, logically arranged.

The NYT alone fronts news of Israeli missiles hitting the offices of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Haniya was not there at the time and no one was killed.

The WP looks at how race may affect a Maryland Senate race. If, as a WP survey suggests, the Democratic primary shakes out in favor of former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume he’ll face likely Republican nominee Lt. Gov. Michael Steele in November—which would be the first time in state history both parties nominated an African-American.

The NYT fronts a feature about a growing trend in public entities—towns, school boards, even fire departments—hiring lobbyists to make funding appeals to Congress on their behalf. The NYT reports the number of public entities with lobbyists has almost doubled since 1998 and, for the most part, it’s proved an incredibly efficient use of local tax dollars. While results are not guaranteed, lots of small towns are seeing returns of 10:1 or 20:1 in earmarked funds for every dollar spent on lobbyists. In the case of one Florida town, the return is $285.83 for every dollar spent.

Inside, the LAT reports California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will allow the media to review roughly 60 state intelligence reports dating back to March, some of which involve the state’s recently discovered practice of gathering intelligence on anti-war rallies.

The NYT looks into Warren Buffett’s kids’ charity work, ultimately asking why the Buffet Bunch are so normal compared to the children of other famous rich people.

The WP and the LAT reefer, while the NYT fronts, analysis of the Mexican presidential election.

Locally, but not nationally, the NYT fronts the New Jersey state government shutdown over budget issues.

The NYT publishes a list of obscure but pivotal dates in American history as a way of honoring the fact that the American colonies voted for independence on July 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as popularly supposed.