Investors Business Daily ("What the Government Can't Do"), whose editorials are must-reads for hard news the establishment media will either ignore or downplay, has tipped readers off to the poor reviews General/Government Motors and Chrysler cars are receiving. These would include the latest automaker report cards compiled by Consumer Reports magazine.
Nearly one year into their new lives as wards of the state, it looks like one of those government "can't do's" involves improving car quality, while the car company not owned by Uncle Sam has gotten a bit better. Specifically, CR's April 2010 overview post tells us the following:
Among American manufacturers, only Ford improved over last year. It scored one point better to pass Mitsubishi for 11th place in our rankings. By contrast, Chrysler is again in last place and dropped two points since last year. And General Motors placed right where it did last year—second from the bottom—even though it eliminated half its brands and about one-third of its models.
A look at the magazine's "most and least reliable" narrative shows just how bad things are at GM and Chrysler, and how things are looking up at Ford (bolds are mine; personal commentary is in italics):
The "normal person" definition of a recession is two or more quarters of economic contraction as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This definition was perfectly acceptable to everyone until the 1970s, when the "non-partisan" National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) was tasked with deciding when recessions begin and end.
In December 2008, the NBER declared that a recession had begun in December 2007. As I've noted several times in several places, they did this despite several contrary indicators such as positive economic growth in the second quarter of 2008, and at best inconclusive results relating to income, industrial production, and employment.
Nonetheless, the establishment media has consistently run with the NBER's definition of when the recession began. After all, they're the experts. Who are we peons to dare to point out that using the normal person definition, the recession began in the third quarter of 2008, continued for four quarters, and ended when GDP went positive in the third quarter of 2009?
In a move that one would expect is causing an excess of expletives inside the White House, NBER officials have indicated that they can't yet conclude that the recession as they define it has ended. A New York Times story carried at CNBC tells us the following (internal link added by me):
Associated Press writer John Flesher seems to be one bitter guy.
Flesher, along with whoever (possibly Flesher himself) came up with the headline for his Saturday report on Bart Stupak's decision not to run for re-election in Michigan's 1st Congressional District, tells readers that:
Tea Partiers are poor winners.
The residents of Stupak's district are federal money-grubbers who can be fooled by candidates holding the right position on "hot-button issues."
Based on a poli sci prof's contention, Stupak (pictured at top right with his wife in an AP photo) would "absolutely" have won as all the evidence he needed to "prove" the nine-term congressman's re-electability.
Here are the opening paragraphs from the flailing Flesher:
The establishment press has for decades and almost without exception insisted that FDR's sacrosanct legacy of Social Security can go on and on with only minor tweaks, and that if trouble looms, it's way out there in 2040 or so when the "Trust Fund" is depleted. The problem is that during that time the federal government has raided the annual surpluses generated by "Trust Fund" which now consists almost entirely of IOUs from the rest of the government. Meanwhile, annual surpluses, where tax collections exceed benefits paid and which were well over $100 billion just a couple of years ago, have vanished, and aren't coming back to any significant degree.
Another mythology is under development: That the just-passed ObamaCare legislation has "saved" Medicare. The Social Security/Medicare Trustees report is being delayed until June 30 to incorporate the effects of the recently passed ObamaCare on the health of Medicare. It will supposedly tell us that the life of the Medicare "Trust Fund" has been magically extended by about a decade. (Raise your hand if you think the Trustees are under immense political pressure to issue a favorable verdict regardless of the facts.)
In his Tuesday coverage of a government official's leak to the Associated Press about the report's delay in advance of the official administration announcement, the AP's Martin Crutsinger spun these and other fairy tales in his stout defense for the fiscally destructive programs. But in doing so, he perhaps inadvertently revealed that Congress and the administration had no idea of the true future impact of ObamaCare.
Here are key paragraphs from Crutsinger's report (footnotes are mine, and are explained later):
One would think that in a story about how a four-year move-up of higher fleet gas mileage requirements being imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would at least look at which manufacturers might be more or less affected by them based on what they currently sell, and how those sales are trending.
Well, most readers here don't think like writers at the Associated Press. Heck, in his report last Friday, the AP's Ken Thomas didn't even mention the fact that the EPA's regs represented a four-year move-up, and to a slightly higher standard -- apparently because doing so would have required him to mention the B-word (Bush) in connection with something seen as environmentally positive. Thomas also allowed "global warming" advocacy support to go unchallenged, as if the ClimateGate scandal that has wrecked the alarmists' entire case didn't exist.
Government/General Motors announced today that it lost $4.3 billion during the second half of 2009 (actually from July 10 through the end of the year). A further look at that result will come later after yours truly has time to digest GM's 10K Report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
What stood out even further for me about the announcement was GM's top line, i.e., global revenues. That figure came in at $57.5 billion.
Ford's revenues during the final two quarters of 2009 were $66.3 billion, or roughly 15% higher. GM's ten missing days in July would only explain about one-third of that difference.
It may be out there, but I haven't seen a lot of establishment media recognition that Ford is a bigger company worldwide than General Motors, and has been since the first quarter of last year. Given that GM was larger than Ford for about the previous 80 years, Ford's ascension to the top spot among US-based companies in worldwide revenues would ordinarily be what is known as "news."
After a bit of a respite primarily due to NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics, the audience desertion from the Big 3 networks' evening news broadcasts has again resumed.
Not that the first quarter of 2010 was all peaches and cream. Last week, Media Bistro noted that ABC's "World News Tonight" had "its lowest-rated first quarter ever."
But the results for the first week of the second ratings quarter are beyond awful. The total audience for all three evening news shows came in under 20 million. For context, recall that during a traditionally low-audience summer week in 2006, Drudge headlined ("TV's Lowest Week") a disastrous drop -- to 21 million viewers. Now it appears that what was once considered a really bad summer week four years ago (noted at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) might be a typical week during 2010's prime spring viewing season.
I'm sure they'll have an excuse for this, but whatever it is, it won't fly with yours truly.
Saturday, the New York Times published a feature called "The Pay at the Top." Instead of preparing the usual "Who made the most?" list, it instead disclosed the "pay for 200 chief executives at 199 public companies that filed their annual proxies by March 27 and had revenue of at least $6.3 billion."
But at a link called "Calculating the Pay Figures," the Times told us that, "The data includes information for 200 executives at 199 companies with annual revenue of at least $5.78 billion" for U.S-based companies that "filed a preliminary or definitive proxy statement by March 26."
Why the difference? Besides a bit of the sloppiness that is all too characteristic at the paper these days, I believe the difference may inadvertently reveal why the Times chose to prepare its report as it did.
I submit that there is a high likelihood that the Times chose the "200 companies with the highest revenues" method to avoid having to reveal Times CEO Pinch Sulzberger's embarrassingly overgenerous total compensation package last year to its readers (from Page 51 of the company's March 12 proxy statement):
Tuesday, a brick was thrown though a window at the Republican Party's headquarters in Marion, Ohio, 50 miles north of Columbus.
It would appear fans of Gateway Pundit would be about the only ones outside the local area who would know this. Virtually no other establishment media outlet has been involved in reporting on this incident. Meanwhile, the fact that a window was broken at Hamilton County, Ohio's Democratic headquarters was reported nationwide.
Betcha didn't know this: The Tea Party movement's growth was fueled by unemployed people lying around looking for something to do, and will have a hard time sustaining itself if/when the economy improves. Oh, and they're so distressed about the country's circumstances that they're letting emotion trump facts in their advocacy.
Those are the themes of Kate Zernike's Saturday New York Times report with the snarky title ("With No Jobs, Plenty of Time for Tea Party") that was carried on the front page of Sunday's print edition. Really. This is the same Kate Zernike (pictured at top right) who saw racism where none existed at CPAC in February, and who Andrew Breitbart memorably called "a despicable human being." Seems about right.
Zernike's piece attempted to support its pathetic premises and implications as a result of discussions with three -- count 'em -- individuals. One of them is in her mid-60s and collecting Social Security, hardly the archetype of a disaffected unemployed person. Comically, the Times reporter characterized Dick Armey's FreedomWorks a "Tea Party group," even though it was founded in 1984, a quarter-century before Rick Santelli's memorable tea-party rant last year.
This item may not surprise those of us who have watched politicians take the safe way out at any opportunity, but it will give any voters who come across it reason to doubt any Democratic congressman who says that he or she voted no on principle against Obamacare on Sunday, March 21.
This explains why it hasn't been covered much -- and maybe not at all -- in any establishment media outlet.
On March 26, the Catholic News Agency had an exclusive interview with Michigan congressman Bart Stupak. Wait until you see some of the things he admitted to CNA (bolds are mine):
Rep. Stupak: Speaker Pelosi had extra health care votes 'in her pocket'
The health care reform bill would have passed the House without the votes of Rep. Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “always carries a number of votes in her pocket,” Stupak told CNA in a Thursday phone interview.
Chris Liddell, who himself just started at GM in January, brought on a new VP to be involved with its pension investments. More interestingly, he hired a new VP and Treasurer with an interesting background (bold is mine):
During his 11 years at Morgan Stanley (head of Industrials Investment Banking), (Daniel) Ammann was instrumental in many high profile assignments spanning a variety of technology, service, and manufacturing clients. His diverse experience in mergers, acquisitions, raising capital, and restructuring includes leading Morgan Stanley’s banking team in advising GM on its restructuring and sale pursuant to Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Oh, and did I forget to note that GM won't submit its audited financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission until about two weeks after the deadline for normal companies (note the "not to worry" tone at the link)?
(March 26, 8:30 p.m. -- SEE THE UPDATE at the end of this post.)
People in Cincinnati who follow politics reasonably closely will be scratching their heads wondering what's gotten into the people assembling news stories at the Seattle Times once they learn of what the Times reported in an item that originally went up Wednesday evening and was modified Thursday morning:
A rock was thrown through the window of (1st District Congressman) Driehaus' Cincinnati office Sunday, and a death threat was phoned in to his Washington office a day later, Mulvey said.
Driehaus, who claims to be pro-life but in reality stopped being so when he supported Barack Obama for President in 2008, is one of the members of the Bart Stupak contingent that abandoned their alleged pro-life beliefs to vote for statist health care in the House Sunday night.
Well, perhaps the death threat was real, and of course if it is it demands a thorough investigation.
But there's a "little" problem with the news about that rock throw:
Doing work the Associated Press refused to do -- or more specifically, providing context the AP refused to provide -- Sweetness & Light's indefatigable blogger Steve Gilbert gave readers the back story behind the order by U.S. District Judge James Robertson (pictured at right) to release Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi. Salahi is said to have, in the words of the wire service's Pete Yost, "provided advice to three of the Sept. 11 hijackers."
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has announced that it is disbanding.
Though the hard-leftists that formed or were running it are likely to show up in some other venue and perhaps in a successor organization down the road (Update: or perhaps burrow themselves into the government, as NB commenter "Hunter 12" suggests), this is a moment to savor. Two twenty-somethings, acting entirely on their own, assisted later by a skilled mentor who knew the value of their work and how to maximize the mileage to be gained from it, brought down what had turned into a pretentious, intimidating, fraud-riddled wing of the Democratic Party's get out the vote effort. All that remains -- frankly more than should be allowed to remain -- is ACORN Housing Corporation. According to USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, whose related article is behind its subscription wall, is saying that ACORN Housing "has a separate budget and board."
In one last act of sympathy, most of the press is giving ACORN's leaders a chance to vent without rebuttal and in some cases supplying their own sour grapes. Here are some examples:
Sometimes, certain claims made by establishment media reporters or people who are quoted don't pass the smell test. Then, when you dig in, to borrow a phrase from Michael Savage, the stench makes you clench.
Such is the case with a front-page story ("Number of People Living on New York Streets Soars") that went up online at the New York Times late Friday, and appeared in its Saturday print edition.
Reporter Julie Bosman opened fairly enough with this paragraph:
The Bloomberg administration said Friday that the number of people living on New York’s streets and subways soared 34 percent in a year, signaling a setback in one of the city’s most intractable problems.
The New York City Department of Homeless Services’ Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOME) is conducted in late January each year. It’s almost as if Bosman and/or her editors thought that this opening statement was too strong and needed some seasoning; after all, you-know-who’s administration in Washington was overseeing the economy during the entire period in question.
So take a look at how Bosman, with the help of a “clever” homeless services official, tried to massage the results in the next five paragraphs, and then be amazed at how reality differs:
Who knew that two brave twenty-somethings and a skilled mentor constituted America's entire right wing?
That's apparently how Ian Urbina at the New York Times sees it. In a subheadline employed in a front-page article in the paper's March 20 print edition (relevant portion shown at right) but not used in the online edition's version, the reporter told readers that the poor, put-upon Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is on the brink of bankruptcy because it was "ATTACKED BY" the streamrolling monolith known at "THE RIGHT" (cue the scare music and the blood-curdling scream).
Actually, it was filmmaker James O'Keefe, his investigative partner Hannah Giles, and Andrew Breitbart, the pair's take-no-prisoners mentor. Three people, hardly "the right wing," basically did it all. What followed -- the de-fundings, the abandonments by former political and corporate friends, and now apparently its imminent financial demise -- was largely inevitable fallout from a brilliantly conceived series of stings followed by a savvily managed exposure campaign that ultimately forced holdout establishment media publications, including the Times itself, to play catch-up after days of embarrassing unprofessional silence.
Obviously, that's not how Urbina sees it, occasionally with barely concealed bitterness (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Following up on a post earlier today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) -- a 16 year-old in southern New Jersey was arrested and charged with "harassment and bias intimidation" for getting onto an area Wal-Mart store's intercom and saying, "Attention, Walmart customers: All black people, leave the store now."
Though the company had told the local press Friday evening that it believe that a non-employee had been responsible for the incident, the Associated Press did not report that critical fact (see picture of 7:03 a.m. report here) until mid-morning on Saturday, leaving its readers up to that point to infer that a company employee had perpetrated the act.
Now, even though the worst you could say about the company is that it didn't protect its public address system from customer access Associated Press writer Bruck Shipkowski is citing the incident as "the latest in a series of problems the retailer has had in its dealings with minorities and women." How disgusting.
Here is the Associated Press's report on an intercom incident at a southern New Jersey Wal-Mart store as of 7:03 a.m. Saturday (text at link will likely change):
Naturally, most readers will believe that some Wal-Mart associate thought he was being "cute." That's because "somehow" the wire service "forgot" to reveal a key element of the story that as of 7:03 a.m. Saturday had been known for at least eight hours:
In a Friday piece of presidential protection prose promulgated by the Associated Press, writer Erica Werner correctly identified a number of significant "unfulfilled commitments" relating to proposed health care legislation, and then attempted to make excuses for why they didn't happen.
Werner's work was conveniently accompanied by a heavily downplaying headline -- "Final health bill omits some of Obama's promises" -- while her rundown of the specifics in reality ended up being "all but two":
It was a bold response to skyrocketing health insurance premiums. President Barack Obama would give federal authorities the power to block unreasonable rate hikes.
Yet when Democrats unveiled the final, incarnation of their health care bill this week, the proposal was nowhere to be found.
In a week that has been chock full of lame claims, it would not be correct to say that the howler propagated by Sharon Thiemer of the Associated Press on Tuesday is the worst. But it's definitely in the upper echelons.
In an item about government bureaucrats' increased volume and increased level of excuse-making for denying Freedom of Information Act requests, Theimer acts as if the guy in charge of the entire enterprise -- that would be President Obama -- has stood by helplessly while things got worse. One can be reasonably assured that the problems described below would not be treated with such kid gloves if a conservative or Republican occupied the Oval Office:
PROMISES, PROMISES: Is gov't more open with Obama?
Federal agencies haven't lived up to President Barack Obama's promise of a more open government, increasing their use of legal exemptions to keep records secret during his first year in office.
The Associated Press's timing couldn't have been better for those who still want to pretend that Social Security is really not in serious trouble. Stephen Ohlemacher's item ("Social Security to start cashing Uncle Sam's IOUs") originally appeared on Sunday, in the midst of most of the major college basketball conference tournament championships, then followed by the evening's announcement of the selections for the NCAA Division I Men's basketball tournament. (The AP has issued minor revisions several times since its original appearance, up to and including today.)
The wire service's timing, while convenient for the Washington establishment, as it minimizes the possibility of distractions from its statist health care obsession, couldn't have been worse for those of us who wish the American people would get a grip on the gravity of the situation -- which is why I saved this post for today.
What is about to occur is the event that as little as a year ago, according to the Social Security Trustees' 2009 Report, wasn't expected to arrive until 2016. Ohlemacher tells us that it's right here, right now, and gets the reporting right until his seventh paragraph (bolds are mine):
The Associated Press seems to have two unwritten rules on how and when to write stories about leftist controversies and setbacks:
Rule Number 1 -- Do little or nothing with the story until you can figure out a way to make center-right critics or victors look like the bad guys.
Rule Number 2 -- If you're thinking about covering the story any other way, refer to Rule Number 1.
On Thursday, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in Columbus, Ohio, which describes itself as "an independent legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse," announced a significant legal victory for Buckeye State residents interested in clean elections:
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law achieved victory in its state RICO action against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). ACORN has agreed to settle the case and will cease all Ohio activity as a result. In its settlement with the 1851 Center, ACORN agreed to surrender all of its Ohio business licenses by June 1, 2010. Further, the organization cannot support or enable any individual or organization that seeks to engage in the same type of activity.
That seems like a pretty clear-cut result, doesn't it? Not if you're the Associated Press's JoAnne Viviano, whose brief item on Saturday followed the rules above, fabricated a supposed loophole in the settlement, and gave an unnamed spokesman an open mic to despicably play the race card:
The company eked out full-year pre-tax earnings of roughly $23.7 million (after adding back $3.8 million in taxes to the company's reported net income of $19.9 million).
In the midst of all of this, the Journal reports that Times Company chairman "Pinch" Sulzberger's total compensation more than doubled in 2009 to roughly $6 million, and that his CEO compadre hauled in a similar amount:
Two reports linked by Instapundit earlier today demonstrate at a macro and micro level how weak the claim that Toyota has deliberately jeopardized consumer safety in connection with "sudden acceleration" complaints may ultimately turn out to be.
The macro piece comes from Megan McArdle (pictured at left; "How Real are the Defects in Toyota's Cars?") at her blog at the Atlantic. The magazine's business and economics editor dissected case-by-case detail originally compiled by the Los Angeles Times, which was also analyzed to an extent by Washington Examiner op-ed writer and Overlawyered blogger Ted Frank, to make important points about the likelihood of driver error in many of them.
The micro item comes from Michael Fumento, whose Forbes column takes apart the recent James Sikes "sudden acceleration" incident in California as it rips the establishment media for its total lack of skepticism about the driver's claims and his credibility.
First, to McArdle, who also has nicely done graphs at her post:
Yesterday, Jim Taranto at the Wall Street Journal's indispensable Best of the Web took note of a report by the Washington Post's V. Dion Hayes about the state of the employment market in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and summarized its findings thusly:
So what looks to the Post like good news that looks like bad news is actually bad news that looks like good news.
Even that assessment turns out to have been overly charitable. Hayes, like most of the press, betrayed that he doesn't understand the crucial difference between raw and seasonally adjusted data by mixing the concepts (perhaps without even realizing it), failed to look at data from previous years, and ended up producing an incoherent report with no supportable conclusions.
The following table identifies all relevant changes in the three employment markets between December and January (sources -- Bureau of Labor Statistics state and selected areas tables 3, 4, 5, and 6 for January):
April Castro and the headline writers at the supposedly "objective" Associated Press are obviously not pleased with changes the Texas State Board of Education made to the Lone Star State's social studies curriculum.
Castro's report (HT to an NB e-mailer) makes almost no attempt to hide her clear disdain. She includes references to a "far-right faction" (a "faction" that happened to constitute a two-thirds majority!) and "ultraconservatives," while uniformly describing leftists as mere Democrats, and generally comes across as a sore loser in solidarity with the poor, outvoted libs.
You'll also see in the excerpt that follows that the story's headline is disgracefully over the top:
One thing you can say about the Apparatchik Press -- er, the Associated Press -- is that it's leaving no stone unturned in its attempt to prop up their guy Barack Obama.
In the tenth paragraph of an AP report today by Ben Feller on President Obama's stack of priorities ("For Obama, big agenda and small window for results"), the wire service's Ben Feller bitterly clings to an AP-GfK Roper poll result that is sharply at variance with others, and assumes that it gives Obama a level of clout that doesn't exist outside the grounds of the White House:
Obama has a key edge in setting the agenda: public approval. His job-performance rating is holding mainly steady at 53 percent, while a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that fewer people approve of Congress - a mere 22 percent - than at any point in Obama's presidency.
Well, of course his approval is 53% in AP-GfK la-la land. The poll's sample, as you can see at the top right (found at Page 31 of the 42-page PDF, consisted of 33% declared Democrats and 23% declared Republicans.