Jewish World Review March 28, 2000 /21 Adar II, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IN ITS TIRELESS DEVOTION to the motto "All The News That Fits, We Print," The New York Times actually published more from the dissent than from the majority opinion in the Supreme Court's recent tobacco ruling. Not just a little more, either. Excerpts from the majority opinion were confined to 1 1/2 crabbed little columns, basically explaining nothing more than the background of the case and the laws at issue.
Meanwhile, excerpts from the dissent spanned 3 1/2 columns -- and of course, didn't have to squander space on the background and laws involved.
Like others who depend on The New York Times for their information, I'm not really sure what the law of the land is, since all the Times printed was the rationale of the dissent. If you happen to be interested in what Justice Stephen Breyer's opinion is -- or, I gather, the Times' opinion -- you're in luck. But if you want to know what the law is, you'll have to look elsewhere.
The basic argument of the majority -- which I have gleaned exclusively from the dissent's harsh characterization of it -- is that Congress gave the FDA authority to ban bad drugs, like heroin, and to regulate good drugs, like heart medicine. Since cigarettes are neither good for you nor so bad for you that Congress has ever so much as flirted with the idea of making them illegal, cigarettes are not within the FDA's jurisdiction.
On the basis of the healthy excerpts printed by the Times, I can tell you with some certainty what the dissenters' argument was. In the opinion that lost, four justices of the U.S. Supreme Court opined that any substance that may cause public health problems can be regulated by the FDA.
After reading the decision, a parent friend of mine promptly e-mailed me pointing out that the dissenting justices clearly have not heard of Gameboy. As a single person, I'd like to throw in: late nights, little sleep, dating and eating out a lot.
These aren't frivolous comparisons.
Until the trial lawyers demanded a more lucrative definition, addictive drugs had always been defined as: (1) "intoxicat(ing)" drugs that (2) induce an "overpowering desire or need (compulsion) to continue taking the drug and to obtain it by any means" and also that (3) create a "psychic (psychological) and generally a physical dependence." Not only that, but the addictive drugs must (4) have a "(d)etrimental effect on the individual and on society."
After the country had operated fairly smoothly for a quarter-century under this perfectly workable definition of "addiction," commisioner of the FDA David Kessler redefined it to include Gameboy in 1988. He dropped the "intoxicating" and "harmful" criteria from the definition altogether. Not only that, but Kessler redefined the "compulsive use" requirement from "an overpowering desire or need (compulsion) to continue taking the drug and obtain it by any means," to -- I am not making this up -- "strong urges."
Yet a fourth switcheroo in the definition of addiction initiated by Kessler concerned the meaning of "psychoactive effect." For 25 years, the surgeon general's office had reasonably defined "psychoactive effect" to mean distortions or disruptions in cognitive and motor performance. About the time trial lawyers were running low on idiots using blenders in their showers, Kessler redefined "psychoactive effect" to mean anything that produces an effect on the brain.
On the basis of Kessler's new definition, actual scientists began proving that all sorts of things are "addictive" -- television, credit cards, surgery, love, chocolate, carrots and jogging. (You know, just like heroin.)
One could hardly be accused of overreaching here to note that the editors of The New York Times have a "strong urge" to print only the news that fits their ideology, and these urges have so affected their brains that they will deprive their readers of the majority opinion (a.k.a., "the law") in a rather important Supreme Court case. You can check David Kessler's definition, but this sorry state of affairs ineluctably leads to the conclusion that the Times is run by a bunch of addicts.
Not knowing what the law is can be bad for your health. In their widely reported dissent,
four justices of the Supreme Court concluded that addictions that are bad for the public's
health can be regulated by the FDA. I think the Times is safe, though. The actual law -- only
glancingly acknowledged by the Times -- is evidently to the
JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton.
03/24/00: Net losses all around