Have you noticed how often “the press” seems to miss the point of important stories it covers? Here are a few recent examples:
UN oil-for-food Program
Press Take: This is a story about whether Kofi Annan’s son improperly used his influence to benefit from the program. Story is over when Volker Commission apparently can’t find proof of this.
The Real Story: An enormous and extremely important program was mismanaged in a way which let Saddam Hussein divert billions meant to feed his people into arms and palaces (apparently more of the latter than the former) and bribes for government officials worldwide. This may be the biggest case of misdiverted resources in the history of the world. Incompetent management of this program was certainly a contributing cause to the Iraq War. The same people are still “managing” the UN and all of its could-be-important programs today.
My Rant: The issue of Annan Jr.’s venality is irrelevant compared to the issue of gross mismanagement. Somehow Annan Sr. got a hall pass for mismanaging on an historic scale because his son wasn’t caught with his hand all the way into the cookie jar. He needs to be fired for incompetence,
Social Security Insolvency
Press Take: It’s all about “privatization”.
The Real Story: There is no Social Security Trust Fund, just a Ponzi scheme that will predictably run out of money unless the rules are changed. The longer we wait to change the rules, the more painful the changes will be. Allowing (not forcing) some people to risk some of their investment in hope of greater return (exactly what almost all 401(k)s do) will neither save nor destroy this doomed system although anything which results in “diverting” any contributions towards future rather than present benefits forces the issue of the Ponzi scheme sooner. As a country, we are probably going to have to change Social Security to a means-tested welfare program in order to avoid significant hardship. We will probably also have to defy Lou Dobbs and encourage young immigrants to support us through their work when we retire.
My Rant: The President deserves some of the blame for the privatization red herring although I give him credit for taking advantage of lame duck status to firmly grasp the third rail of American politics.
Disrespecting The Koran
Press Take (BBC): The most important news in the world on Wednesday were the charges that an American at Guantanamo Bay desecrated a copy of the Koran. This was reported as sufficient cause for violent outbreaks throughout the Muslim world.
The Real Story: The Koran is being desecrated by those who carry out terrorism in its name.
My Rant: Symbolic tolerance is important but punishing some pieces of paper is not on the same scale as beheading hostages.
The Runaway Bride
Press Take (CNN): There is a story even after there isn’t a story.
The Real Story: There never was one.
My Rant: Having been suckered into covering nothing in its constant search for slightly prurient free content, CNN is now trying to make a story out of the fact that there never was a story. Better to just shut up and be a little more careful next time. We might have missed five minutes of Michael Jackson’s lawyer’s ex-wife’s mother-in-law while time was being squandered on this.