Barely four years after California's historic recall of sitting Governor Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger's landslide election to replace him, the Golden State is, again, in a budget crunch of its own making.
The state's Old Media, as would be expected, is moaning about cuts that might have to be made, obsessing over the possibility that "universal health care" might be derailed, and of course giving visibility to anyone and everyone who thinks even more taxes will solve the problem.
As has been the case for well over a decade, nobody that I know of in California's Old Media is considering the idea that the state is paying the price for failing to sufficiently go along with the rest of the country in aggressively reducing welfare rolls. But the numbers support the idea that if the state had done what the rest of the country has "somehow" done without visible suffering, it would be in a much better situation.
(A table and graphs illustrating the situation are after the jump.)
As an exemplar of a government-run enterprise stuck in the mud, it’s hard to come with a better example than what is happening in the area that was the subject of the infamous Kelo v. New London ruling in 2005. Nearly 2-1/2 years after the US Supreme Court ruled that the city could evict Susette Kelo and other holdouts from their homes, and 17 months after the final settlement between the city and the final two holdouts, very little has been done in the affected area.
Make that "nearly three years" (New London Day link requires registration after a short time, and a paid subscription after that):
Yes, the viciousness is being directed at Democrats for not being spendthrift enough.
It's too early to tell whether President Bush and congressional Republicans have outmaneuvered the Democratic congressional majority, but it's looking that way. Old Media doesn't like it, and their inability to successfully buck up their side, one bit.
In the Washington Post's "Dems Blaming Each Other For Failures," Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane are clearly critical:
But the oil-rich Emirates is considered a developing country, and even as a signatory to the United Nations Kyoto protocol on global warming, is not required to cut emissions. The United States is no longer bound by Kyoto, which the Bush administration rejected after taking office in 2001.
Hillary Clinton's performance in her interview with Maria "Money Honey" Bartiromo of CNBC last week was so bad that she must have sent a double (stop shivering at the thought, will ya?).
After all, the genuine Smartest Woman in the World couldn't possibly have said the things she said, as noted at Rush Limbaugh's site last Thursday. It got so bad that Bartiromo, who seemingly has barely cracked a smile since George Bush became president, felt compelled to challenge her.
Here is one of the choice offerings Mrs. Clinton served up:
(There are ) lots of people who come on your show who, you know, are gung-ho, protect the tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, that will not work if the economy slows down. You need to get money in the pockets of tens of hundreds of millions of Americans, and that's what I intend to do.
As monthly reported troop deaths began falling in Iraq a few months ago, CNN's Robin Wright was in an early October interview with the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz on CNN's "Reliable Sources" that was blogged on by NB's Noel Sheppard.
In it, Wright explained why September's US troop death figure, at the time the lowest in over a year, did not deserve significant news coverage:
We've had five years of the Pentagon telling us there is progress, there is progress. Forgive me for being skeptical, I need to see a little bit more than one month before I get too excited about all of this.
Okay, maybe Ms. Wright can work up some "excitement" about this (Source: icasualties.org) --
In 2005, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of "holiday shopping" instead of "Christmas shopping," but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to "Christmas."
My instincts have been proven correct for two years running, as you can see below from the results of three different sets of Google News searches in November and December of 2005 and 2006 (links to 2005's related posts are here, here, and here; 2006's are here, here, and here):
In reading the Associated Press's 9:09 a.m. report covering the Bureau of Labor Statistics November Employment Situation Report, one can't help but think that it was hoping for worse news than arrived. Unemployment remained at 4.7%, and 94,000 jobs were added during the month, beating expectations of 4.8% and 70,000, respectively.
After spending five paragraphs relaying the news, it began hitting us with negative commentary that almost had to have been drafted in advance (scare words bolded):
Still, a lingering fear among economists is that consumers will cut back on their spending, throwing the economy into a tailspin. The odds of a recession have grown this year, although Federal Reserve officials, the Bush administration and others are hopeful the country can avoid one.
Then, after brief foray into the good news about wage growth (up 0.5% in November, beating expectations of 0.3%), AP wrapped by going into four paragraphs that almost could have been written into a DNC press release (over-the-top negative words and phrases bolded by me):
The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor today reported revised productivity data--as measured by output per hour of all persons--for the third quarter of 2007. The seasonally adjusted annual rates of productivity growth in the third quarter were:
6.7 percent in the business sector and 6.3 percent in the nonfarm business sector.
In both sectors, changes in productivity are higher than the preliminary estimates published November 7, and represent the largest productivity gains since the third quarter of 2003.
Oh, how Old Media wants a recession. Too bad the economy isn't cooperating.
The latest Institute for Supply Management (ISM) report on the Manufacturing Sector, covering about 15% of the non-government economy, was just released this morning, and led as follows:
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in November for the 10th consecutive month, while the overall economy grew for the 73rd consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.
True, the reading of 50.8% was barely above the 50% cutoff point for expansion. But it's barely lower than the 50.9% turned in last month, and still came in slightly ahead of expectations, which averaged 50.4%, according to the Associated Press, and 50.7%, according to Bloomberg.
This makes three out of three fourth quarter ISM reports showing continued growth -- two in manufacturing, plus October's non-manufacturing report that came in at 55.8%, up from 54.8% in September. If Wednesday's ISM report on non-manufacturing for November comes in at 55.9% or higher, it will means that the economy as a whole, as ISM measures it, is not only growing, but growing faster. Recession, reschmession.
Journalism's defenders often describe it as a profession or craft unto itself, and minimize the importance, or even sometimes the relevance, of subject matter expertise.
That lack of subject matter expertise, and the apparent unwillingness to seek out a source of that expertise when necessary, probably explain how a Hillary Clinton whopper has survived on the campaign trail for so long.
As an exemplar of a government-run enterprise stuck in the mud, it's hard to come with a better example than what is happening in the area that was the subject of the infamous Kelo v. New London ruling in 2005. Nearly 2-1/2 years after the US Supreme Court ruled that the city could evict Susette Kelo and other holdouts and take their homes, and 17 months after the final settlement between the city and the final two holdouts, very little has been done in the affected area.
The latest setback to substantive progress in the area is significant, and is being totally ignored by the non-local press.
Here are the two major stories and the local paper's editorial from earlier this week (New London Day links require a paid subscription after seven days):
Nov. 27 (report by Elaine Stoll) -- Fort Trumbull Developer Asks For More Time, Misses Deadline NLDC could claim default, but delay in project more likely
The quarterly report on home prices issued by the government's Office for Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) is the most comprehensive and most reliable measure available of what is happening in the housing market.
For the first time in nearly thirteen years, U.S. home prices experienced a quarterly decline. The OFHEO House Price Index (HPI), which is based on data from sales and refinance transactions, was 0.4 percent lower in the third quarter than in the second quarter of 2007. This is similar to the quarterly decline of 0.3 percent (seasonally-adjusted) shown in the purchase-only index. The annual price change, comparing the third quarter of 2007 to the same period last year showed an increase of 1.8 percent, the lowest four-quarter increase since 1995. OFHEO’s purchase-only index, which is based solely on purchase price data, indicates the same rate of appreciation over the last year.
As the Christmas shopping season went into full swing in 2005, I sensed that journalists in general have a strong preference for using the term "holiday shopping" instead of "Christmas shopping" when covering business and commerce, but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to "Christmas."
My instincts have been proven correct, as you can see below from the results of three different sets of Google News searches in November and December in each of the last two years (links to last year’s related posts are here, here, and here; 2005's are here, here, and here):
Of course, the expectations game can be frustrating, and we won't know for sure until the actual report is released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. But there appears to be remarkably good economic news ahead. Naturally, it is getting the barest of coverage from an Old Media business press corps that seems intent on talking the economy down.
First, a week ago Monday, MarketWatch's Greg Robb, in an article entitled "Economists think U.S. can dodge recession," said the following (bolds are mine throughout this post): "The economy grew at a 3.9% rate in the third quarter, and many economists expect an upward revision above 4.5% when the government revises the data on Nov. 29."
Then, at MarketWatch.com yesterday, ("Dollar under pressure as credit fears loom"; link requires free registration), reporter Lisa Twaronite got this quote from an industry expert:
Old Media reporters have worked themselves into such a lather trying to talk down the economy that you have to wonder if retailers got lulled into believing them.
The Associated Press's report on Black Friday sales by reporter Anne D'Innocenzio went through the normal good news/"yeah, but" routine (bolds are mine throughout).
First, the good news:
The nation's retailers had a robust start to the holiday shopping season, according to results announced Saturday by a national research group that tracks sales at retail outlets across the country.
According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, total sales rose 8.3 percent to about $10.3 billion on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, compared with $9.5 billion on the same day a year ago. ShopperTrak had expected an increase of no more than 4 percent to 5 percent.
But in bringing out the supposed "bad news," D'Innocenzio may have inadvertently exposed a retailer miscalculation:
I receive the old-fashioned text version of MarketWatch's daily e-mail. That version of the e-mail always starts out with a short note from the editor about something that is being covered at the site that day.
Monday's e-mail from Steve Kerch, assistant managing editor/personal finance, was uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the economy. It was an enthusiasm that you'll see, after the jump, wasn't exactly reflected in his journalists' stories:
You have to wonder about all those doomsayers who predict the U.S. economy is on the brink of recession when you look at hotel rooms in New York that are filled at $600 a night, airplanes packed with passengers paying top dollar for flights to the Caribbean and Europe and highways jammed with cars guzzling $3-plus gallons of gas.
As far as travel goes this Thanksgiving holiday, the American consumer is in full rally mode. And it's not just the short jaunt to a family dinner on Thursday that's on the menu: More and more folks are making the Thanksgiving week a major vacation window, with international travel in particular seeing a big jump.
In a report ("D.C. Poised to Exceed 2006 Homicide Totals"; HT Hot Air) on overall urban homicide, Allison Klein at the Washington Post used a word that I've never seen directly associated with criminal activity by groups of people, and she used it twice.
Here's the first:
The number of killings in the District this year already has reached the homicide count for all of last year, reversing a trend in which deadly violence steadily declined over the past four years.
With six weeks left on the 2007 calendar, the District has recorded 169 homicides.
"There's a whole lot of things that play into it," (D.C. Police Chief Cathy L.) Lanier said. "It's hard to say any one contributing factor is driving the homicides."
Among her theories: Neighborhood crews are having more violent flare-ups, and criminals are using assault rifles and other guns with more firepower.
Did the police chief really say "crews"? Note that the sentence has no quotations marks.
(Note: This is about a local Northeastern Ohio column, but deals with a media bias issue of broad significance.)
What Feagler revealed gets to the very heart of journalism's failure, why blogs exist, why many news consumers pay attention to them (in fact, feel that they must), and why they matter.
I really want to admire guys like Dick Feagler (and the relatively few gals, back in the day). Their telephones, steel trap memories, and Rolodexes were the "databases" of that era. They worked, and their modern counterparts still work, in an underpaid, underappreciated job that, when done correctly, is something you don't clock out of, and can go crazy in the blink of an eye. The Dick Feaglers used the old-fashion tools and applied the old-fashioned work ethic to do their jobs as best they could. Their successors are typically doing the same, with better tools.
But that avoids the real question: What was, and still is, their job?
The Anchoress, a three-time Weblog Awards finalist and 2007 Catholic Blog Awards Winner (congratulations!) in the Best Political/Social Commentary category (scroll down at link to see it), delivered a cold but necessary shower earlier this evening to those of us who are tempted to exaggerate or overstate the impact New Media is having on most Americans.
I'll bet that a lot of us can relay similar stories to the ones she referred to in her very perceptive post ("Good news leaks past the embargo on good news…"; links that contradict the Old Media-driven beliefs described and bolds/italics were included in her original):
Unfortunately, it is still true that until a new president is installed in the WH, preferably one with a D after the name, only the downsides are newsworthy, and that holds true in every subject. Every subject. My elderly family members are convinced that everything, everywhere, is going to hell, and they are fretful and terrified. They think everyone is out of work, the economy is in a recession, the war in Iraq is lost and there are no real terrorist threats - that’s just made-up stuff. They’re sure America is dying. They are sure the world is headed for famine. They are depressed and do not want to send out Christmas cards, because how can you do that when so much is bad in the world?
Thanks to changes being implemented by the newspaper industry's Audit Board of Circulations (ABC), it may be, as I suspected in a previous post (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) that the 30-month analysis of newspaper print circulation drops I did last week (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) is the last "clean" one I'll be able to do.
The ABC announcement is here. Editor and Publisher's Jennifer Saba describes the changes that appear likely to prevent meaningful comparisons of new circulation figures to those in prior reports (bolds are mine; HT to Recovering Journalist, whose post on the topic is hysterical, though I always thought that CPAs were the ones who answered "What do you want it to be?" when asked "What is 2 + 2?" :-->):
It's hard to overstate the importance of the study released today by the Treasury Department ("Income Mobility in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005"; press release; full study PDF).
That's because it provides documented evidence of more, not less, economic mobility than in previous eras. Beyond that, taken in combination with an independent report I covered last week, it demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the first four-plus years of the Bush economy were exceptional.
Tuesday's read-the-whole-thing feature editorial at OpinionJournal.com provides a great overview (bolds are mine), plus some tantalizing details:
In a move that must be causing Excedrin headaches at the New York Times and other Old Media outlets, USA Today reports that the Wall Street Journal's new owner expects to tear down its subscription wall:
News Corp. (NWS) Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday he intends to make access to The Wall Street Journal's website free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue.
"We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers), having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth," Murdoch said.
News Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire Dow Jones (DJ), and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 in New York.
Murdoch said he believes that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.
Wealthy Americans are becoming increasingly interested in donating to global causes. Since 1997, the rate of global giving has increased steadily at an average of 12.5 percent each year. According to a recent Financial Times story, JPMorgan Private Bank has “noted a rise of about 20 percent over the last year in client interest in overseas donations, with high-net-worth individuals looking to support education, health and economic expansion projects in developing countries.”
And they aren’t alone. Financial planners and international banks have seen similar upswings. It all begs the question—why?
What does this increased giving tells us about Americans?
That's Bill Lerach. Yes, THAT Bill Lerach. The self-styled, one-time "King of Torts," and former partner at the once-untouchable Milberg Weiss law firm. The now criminally convicted Bill Lerach.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story of Bill Lerach and Milberg Weiss, here's a relatively quick synopsis, courtesy of a subscription-only editorial at the Wall Street Journal excerpted by yours truly in May 2006, when Milberg Weiss and two of its partners were indicted:
With all due respect to the chairman (Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke), he would see the recession that so many others are feeling if he would only open his eyes. While Mr. Bernanke and others are waiting for the official diagnosis (a decline in the gross domestic product for two successive quarters), the disease is spreading and has been spreading for some time.
Someone needs to tell me why this news about discretionary income isn't as significant as I believe it is.
But first, three warnings: 1. I'm not about to spend the $250 needed to read the full report from the Conference Board that backs the story (their "about" page is here). 2. I don't feel totally comfortable with how the statistic is measured -- "Households with discretionary income, as defined by the study, are those whose spendable income exceeds that held by households with similar demographic features." 3. I don't feel totally comfortable that the statistic has been measured consistently.
Now with the disclaimers out of the way, here's the stunning news: More Americans have "money to burn," technically known as "discretionary income," than at any time in the past quarter-century, and perhaps in the country's history.
A lot more. A whole lot more.
So many more that I went as far back as I could for comparable stats.