September 7, 2001
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A dispatch from San Diego in the national section of today's New York Times reports on a hearing by President Bush's commission on Social Security reform.
"In substance, the six hours of testimony did not produce anything new or surprising," the Times reports. If nothing new or surprising happened, why kill trees to put this article in the newspaper at all? And why waste the time of readers by continuing on about the subject for 14 more paragraphs following the announcement that nothing new or exciting happened?
The same article reports, "There were dueling news conferences and demonstrations; reams of position papers and news releases -- and a sense of deja vu, with many of the same Washington people making the same arguments about what to do, or not do, about one of the government's most successful programs."
Oh. So now it is the position of the New York Times news department that Social Security is "one of the government's most successful programs."
Well, now that the Times has taken that position, it is going to be interesting to watch the newspaper pretend to be fair in its coverage of those who argue that Social Security isn't really that successful at all. It is financed by a hugely regressive payroll tax. It pays a return on that tax that is much less than the return that could be achieved by investing the money privately in even the least risky investments. It is in most cases not transferable to children as an inheritance in the case of death, the way a private retirement account would be. It is subject to fraud and abuse: The Associated Press reported this week that "Social Security paid $31 million through the end of last year to deceased beneficiaries who were listed as dead in the agency's own electronic files, auditors estimate. . . . One woman who died in November 1993 was still receiving benefit checks in May 2000, and auditors said more than $100,000 in benefits had been paid after her death."
Anyway, the subject that the Times is supposed to be covering is whether Social Security is one of the government's most successful programs or whether it needs an overhaul. For a news article to take a position that it is successful -- without stating the definition of success, giving any evidence of success, or even disposing of the arguments of those who say it is not a success -- is just a blatant example of the Times crossing the line from reporting the news to taking sides in a political dispute.
Herbert Matthews, Phone Home: A photography review in the weekend section of today's New York Times reports adoringly on the Cuban Communists and their leader, Fidel Castro, without even a passing acknowledgement that the regime in Havana is engaged in brutal human rights abuses and is an economic failure. "Even the moralizing political liberation of the 1950's and 1960's had its glamour. The revolutionary troops, with their scruffy-chic beards and berets, were popular international heroes for a time. And they were led by two genuine superstars: the baby-faced Fidel Castro and the Byronic Che Guevara," the Times says.
One propagandist, "Korda," is described by the Times as "Mr. Castro's official photographer." "Whether depicting Mr. Castro as a magnetic orator, a military leader or just folks, Korda paid shrewd attention to camera angle, facial expression, composition and backdrop. The idea was to create the image of a great man of action IN action, an illusion of Olympian spontaneity, and he got what he was after," the Times asserts.
The Times review asserts that these photos partly answer the question, "What does Cuba look like from the inside, to people born there and defined by its shores?" It's sure not how Cuba looks to those rotting in the dungeons of the dictator the Times calls a baby-faced superstar.
Reagan Revisionist: Thomas Friedman's column on the New York Times op-ed page today manages to assert that what made Ronald Reagan popular was that he "engaged in sweeping arms control" with the Soviet Union. Un-be-lievable. His source for this is an anonymous "European diplomat." Amazing how Mr. Friedman and this diplomat have discovered this phenomenon that apparently eluded all the journalists and historians and political analysts that have so far studied the matter -- the huge silent majority of arms control enthusiasts who were the little-known core of Reagan's political support. Un-be-lievable.
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