Associated Press reporter Martin Crutsinger reported this morning that retail sales in December came in better than expected:
Retail sales rose in December at the strongest pace in five months, indicating that the all-important holiday shopping season turned out better than original reports indicated.
The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales increased 0.9 percent last month, the strongest showing since a 1.4 percent increase in July.
The increase was better than the 0.7 percent advance that economists had forecast and provided evidence that consumer spending was ending the year on a firmer footing than initially thought.
The government report presented a firmer tone to spending than initial reports from the nation's big chain retail stores. They complained that holiday sales had fallen below expectations as mild winter weather depressed sales of winter clothing.
Crutsinger then downplayed the year's strong retail results, and used it as an opportunity to get in a few licks about how supposedly tough the economy of 2006 was:
For all of 2006, retail sales rose by 6 percent, a solid showing but down from a 6.9 percent increase in 2005.
That slowdown reflected the fact that consumer spending, after a sizzling start to the year, slowed in the spring and remained at lower levels for the rest of the year as Americans were battered by soaring gasoline prices, rising interest rates and a cooling housing market.
Mr. Crutsinger portrayal of the full-year result as a "slowdown," which formed the linchpin of the rest of that sentence's negativity, overlooked one "minor" detail: Reported retail sales figures include inflation.
Last week saw the dawning of the new Democratic majority and members of the media seemed to be charmed by the event. ABC reporter Cokie Roberts described a photo-op of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holding her grandchild as "fun" and "completely natural." CBS’s Bob Schieffer interviewed Pelosi and pressed her to raise taxes. And "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney became nostalgic for Democrats of old, saying it’s "hard to dislike Jimmy Carter."
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann continued his fevered attack on all things Republican and conservative. He’s now accused White House Press Secretary Tony Snow of "bald-faced lying" about a Bush speech. Olbermann’s cohort in liberalism, Chris Matthews, described the Vice President of the United States as someone "who always wants to kill." Later in the week, he told his "Hardball" audience that he was "terrified" of the President’s plans for Iran. Chris, calm down!
At his site Mullings.com, former Gingrich aide Rich Galen is mocking the tendency of the pundits to lack humility on their qualifications to pass judgment on the potential of the Bush surge strategy:
On Canadian television, yesterday, I was asked whether I thought the plan presented by President Bush would work in Iraq. I said (and this is pretty close):
"I am not an expert in military tactics or strategy - neither, by the way, is almost anyone else who has weighed in on this. Asking me whether 20,000 additional troops is enough, is like asking me how much more power we should add to an particle accelerator." [Laughter by the anchor]
I have been listening to people in elected office from US Senators down to who-knows-what; to people who were once in appointed office; people who were once in the military; people who have never been closer to a military unit than standing in front of the gate at a military base with their make-up on and their hair sprayed in place; reporters who evaded the draft (when there was a draft); reporters who are too young to have needed to evade the draft; and cable hosts pontificating on the status of the US military who wouldn't know an FM22-5 from the menu at McDonalds.
As NewsBuster Warner Todd Huston has noted, Sen. Barbara Boxer took an unseemly jab at Condi Rice yesterday.
Of all the members of the Senate, the one you might expect to be least likely to call attention to a woman's single, childless status for purposes of scoring political points would be Boxer. And yet it was the oh-so-broadminded senator from the Bay Area who did just that when Condi Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to defend President Bush's newly-announced Iraq plans.
In a segment narrated by ABC senior national correspondent Jake Tapper, today's Good Morning America highlighted Boxer's questionable comment, running a good-sized clip of the exchange.
The Washington Post wanted to send one message loud and clear today: almost nobody supports Bush's Iraq surge. The top front-page story was headlined "Bush's Iraq Plan Meets Skepticism On Capitol Hill." That's true. From there, the Post took the odd step of promoting columnist Dana Milbank (is he a reporter? or an editorial writer?) to the front page to joke that Team Bush "finally succeeded in uniting Congress on the war in Iraq. Unfortunately for Rice, the lawmakers were united in opposition to President Bush's new policy." Exhibit A was "a seething Sen. Chuck Hagel." Milbank, like other journalists, failed to note Hagel is a long-standing Bush-basher on Iraq, even before Saddam fell. Milbank did note Sen. Johnny Isakson said supportive things, as well as noting Barbara Boxer's dig at Condi the Spinster.
Is it not outrageous that Senator Barbara Boxer (Dem, Cal) verbally attacked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for not having children as Rice appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday to discuss the Administrations position on Bush's Iraq military "surge" plans? Is this an acceptable criticism of a political official? Is the fact that an official might not have children reason to doubt their capacity for policy making or ability to advise an administration?
Is this the Democrat's new era of niceness, their less rancorous way of governing?
I was shocked to see this intemperate verbal assault by Boxer in the New York Post, but I became curious to see how other MSM sources treated the outrageous comments of the unbalanced Boxer. So, I did a little search of the reactions of the press.
(Full excerpts of the sections in each story that detailed Boxer's outrageous behavior follows)
Coverage all day Thursday on the cable news networks, as well as on the ABC and NBC evening newscasts, emphasized negative reaction to President Bush's plan for a “surge” of troops into Iraq. But the CBS Evening News delivered a markedly more negative presentation, even managing to raise Watergate and Monica Lewinsky. Katie Couric led: “If the early reaction to President Bush's new Iraq strategy is any indication, selling the American public on it could be a mission impossible.” She soon added: “The reviews of the speech last night were largely negative from the American public and Congress.”
Gloria Borger checked in with how Bush “sparked a bipartisan rebellion on Capitol Hill" as “some of the harshest criticism came from his own party." Couric then went to Bob Schieffer who, citing a CBS News poll showing no move in the public attitude toward Bush on Iraq, suggested “you really have to go back to Vietnam and Watergate to find presidential speeches on television that didn't give the President at least a little bump in the polls.” Schieffer recalled how “in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton went on television to give his State of the Union address. Even in the midst of that scandal, Mr. Clinton went up 16 points in the polls. Going on prime time TV and nothing changes, that is fairly extraordinary, Katie." Next, Couric characterized as “out of the ordinary” the “response the President got today from a usually receptive audience,” soldiers at Fort Benning. Jim Axelrod offered a dour assessment of the mood of the troops: “Even rallying the troops is now a challenge. The mood here was polite but muted, more somber than usual for a President talking to soldiers.”
It is very rare that a conservative agrees with anything published by Newsweek. Yet, Robert J. Samuelson wrote an article Wednesday that will likely shock most NewsBusters readers (emphasis mine throughout):
As someone born in late 1945, I say this to the 76 million or so subsequent baby boomers and particularly to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, our generation's leading politicians: shame on us. We are trying to rob our children and grandchildren, putting the country's future at risk in the process. On one of the great issues of our time, the social and economic costs of our retirement, we have adopted a policy of selfish silence.
Shocking, yes? Think this might go counter to most Newsweek subscribers’ beliefs? Well, sit back and enjoy, ladies and gentlemen, for Robert was just getting warmed up:
By the time President Bush delivered his Iraq speech Wednesday night, the news media had spent several days engaged in what the military calls "preparing the battlefield." The media's air war against the plan to try to actually win the Iraq war assured that most of Bush's audience would have already heard journalists claiming the new mission is wrong-headed and doomed to failure. A few examples:
"Like a folly." Last Tuesday on NBC's Today, anchor emeritus Tom Brokaw argued that the way Saddam Hussein was executed revealed Iraq as "a deeply divided country along tribal lines," and that sending more troops would "seem to most people...like a folly." Brokaw added: "I think a lot of people who are raising their hands to join the armed services are wondering, ‘I'm giving my life for that?'"
The day after his "America on fire" map, Good Morning America weather man Sam Champion continued his series "It’s Cool to be Green" with some of the most credible experts in the field of science, Hollywood celebrities. Metro Los Angeles’s second largest polluter is now among those that "acknowledge the very real issue of global warming."
Champion featured left wing celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Cameron Diaz, and Leonardo DiCaprio. ABC even hired DiCaprio in 2000 to interview former President Clinton on the subject for an Earth Day special. Champion featured Will Dana, the editor-at-large for the far-left publication Rolling Stone. After the report, co-host Diane Sawyer, thrilled about all of the celebrity activism, exclaimed, "They say, why not turn [publicity] into some good purpose if we can?" The entire transcript is below.
ABC's "The View" cast was split over the President's surge speech. Elisabeth Hasselbeck said "this is the last shot...this better work." Barbara Walters said she was torn, since ABC News employees "try hard not to give our political opinions" [!], and that she wanted to give the new strategy a chance, but wondered about why it mattered that Bush said he took responsibility for the war's mistakes. Rosie O'Donnell and Joy Behar were sharply opposed. Behar said the troops were just "cannon fodder." Rosie whacked at Bush-Cheney: “The armed forces, they are the bravest and the boldest and they're much braver than the men who sent them there to fight this war.”
The sharpest exchange came when Rosie complained that we lost our popularity in the world after 9/11, and Hasselbeck wondered if our "social standing" was so important. Rosie rebuffed: “So it’s about that we're a beacon of light. America, we are a beacon of light in this world. We are supposed to be above this kind of behavior, of invading and occupying." Behar seconded the emotion, and Hasselbeck slapped back: “I don't really care about being liked. I care about being safe.”
On the day after President Bush announced a troop surge in Iraq, CNN chose to commemorate an odd "anniversary." As of January 11, it has now been five years since the first terrorist suspects arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The cable network’s "Your World Today" program used this date to highlight the "allegations of mistreatment amounting to torture" at the facility. On Thursday, the hour-long show featured two segments and a news brief on the subject, all heavily focusing on how the camp could be shut down, not whether it should be closed. After an intro piece on the history of the camp, anchor Hala Gorani interviewed Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and began her questioning with this loaded lead-in:
Hala Gorani: "Well, Human Rights Watch says detaining hundreds of men without charge at Guantanamo has been a legal and political debacle of historic proportions. But what can human rights groups do to shut the facility down or put pressure on governments? Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth joins us now live from Washington. That was a quote from you, ‘a legal and political debacle of historic proportions,’ Ken. Did you imagine in 2001, that in 2007 Guantanamo Bay would still be operating?"
Chances are if you hate what you make at your job, you either ask the boss for a raise or seek a job that pays more. Chances are you don't wait 10 years for your pay to increase. But ABC's Charles Gibson apparently thinks millions of Americans are mired in a decade-long drought of minimum wage pay.
"After years of waiting, millions of Americans have reason tonight to plan on a pay raise. The House overwhelmingly voted late today to raise the minimum wage in stages from $5.15 an hour to $7.25," Gibson informed viewers as he introduced a story by reporter Dean Reynolds on the January 10 program.
Only thing is, it's just not true. I explain why here.
It also appears CNN's Miles O'Brien got his econ degree from the Charlie Gibson Correspondence School of Economics.
Despite the media's fawning over Jimmy Carter and the publication of his new book as reported by NewsBusters here, here, here, and here, the former president has suffered even further embarrassment as another fourteen members of The Carter Center have resigned. As reported by the Associated Press (hat tip to Drudge, emphasis mine throughout):
Fourteen members of an advisory board to Jimmy Carter's human rights organization resigned on Thursday to protest his new book, which criticizes Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories.
The resignations from The Carter Center board are the latest backlash against the former president's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," which has drawn fire from Jewish groups, been attacked by fellow Democrats and led to the resignation last month of Kenneth Stein, a center fellow and a longtime Carter adviser.
Bush stubbornly refuses to give up on the Iraq war, despite what New York Times reporters insists was the message delivered by the voters in November, and they're peeved at him. Congressional correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg reacts to Bush's Iraq speech last night outlining his plan for more troops in Iraq in her Thursday "news analysis," "Bush's Strategy for Iraq Risks Confrontations on Many Fronts."
"By stepping up the American military presence in Iraq, President Bush is not only inviting an epic clash with the Democrats who run Capitol Hill. He is ignoring the results of the November elections, rejecting the central thrust of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and flouting the advice of some of his own generals, as well as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq."
The inevitable comparison to Vietnam comes up halfway in.
Washington Post media writer Tom Shales noticed how CBS introduced yesterday's Bush speech, but said it was only a "regularly scheduled program."
CBS viewers, especially those who are always suspecting the network of tilting left, may have been jolted by the recorded announcement played during the closing credits of "Armed & Famous," the show that preceded the president's speech on the network. Said an announcer: " 'Criminal Minds' is next, here on CBS."
That, of course, was the regularly scheduled program, the one to which CBS rushed back at about 9:29.
Here are how the Big Three networks introduced Bush's Speech (HT TV Newser):
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin appeared on Thursday’s "Early Show" to discuss President Bush’s new strategy for Iraq, and, as one would expect, Senator Durbin was highly critical of the plan. However, it wasn’t anything that Durbin or "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith said that was attention grabbing, but the information CBS provided under Mr. Durbin’s name that was perplexing. For example, CBS informed viewers that the senior Senator from Illinois supports the presidential ambitions of his junior colleague, Barack Obama. Other tidbits of information provided by CBS included that Mr. Durbin is in his second term in the Senate and that "Time" rated him as one of the Senate’s ten most effective members.
With reporters declaring that yesterday's Bush Iraq speech was "the most important speech in the president's career," Fox News' Sean Hannity reminded people that the opposition Democratic party has to put foward an alternative view as well. According to TV Newser:
Throughout MSNBC's day of "Iraq: What's Next?" coverage, a countdown clock appeared in the lower right corner of the screen, ticking down to President Bush's speech. So at the top of a special 10pm edition of Hannity & Colmes, FNC's Sean Hannity placed his own clock on the screen, titled "What's Their Plan?" He said:
"The left wing media spent most of the day counting the hours to which they called the most important speech in the president's career. We will count the time since the president's speech and and wait for a Democratic alternative." He added: "Our clock is officially clicking on the Democratic leadership and their rhetoric."
And so a major Associated Press claim in "Jamilgate" takes an apparently fatal hit.
According to Bill Costlow of CPATT (Civilian Police Assistance Training Team) in Baghdad, and as forwarded by Lt. Michael Dean of Multinational Corps-Iraq/Joint Operations Command Public Affairs, our now infamous police captain in Iraq appears to be definitively not Jamil Hussein.
Nor is his name Jamil Gholaiem Hussein as statedrepeatedly by the Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll and other Associated Press employees.
Nor is his name Jamil Ghdaab Gulaim, as he has been called previously in other accounts. According to his personnel records at MOI, confirmed with BG Abdul-Kareem and then reportedly verified by BG Abdul-Karim Khalaf with AP's Baghdad sources, his name is actually Jamil Gulaim "XX".
The "XX" protects his second middle name and real last names, of which "Hussein" is not a part.
Appearing on this morning's Imus show, Chris Matthews [file photo] painted a portrait of a bloodthirsty VP Cheney.
Matthews: "I don't think we should get deeper and deeper into the sands of Arabia with more troops. I think these decisions to keep going forward, which is what he’s doing, is getting us into a quicksand situation where the more you struggle, the more you sink. I think that's where we're headed and it‘s because of his ideology, because of the neocons who have grabbed his arm again, this guy Fred Kagan has grabbed hold of him [the president] again and they've using [retired General] Jack Keane to do it, and they’re working through Cheney, of course, who always wants to kill, and they’ve dragged us back into the same mentality that we're looking for any reason to strike, and I think that's the way he is towards Iran right now."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was accidentally caught Thursday morning making some very positive statements about Fox News. As reported by Reuters (emphasis mine throughout, hat tip to NRO’s Media Blog):
In comments overheard on an open microphone between morning television interviews, including one with Fox, the top U.S. diplomat said: "My Fox guys, I love every single one of them."
For those thinking the Secretary was displaying a predictable conservative bias, think again. It appears that Rice doesn’t only like the “Fox guys,” but also has a sweet spot for an unlikely subject:
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman didn’t wait long to file his disdain for President Bush’s speech to the nation about Iraq Wednesday night. In fact, according to the timestamp at MSNBC.com, his “A Crisis of Confidence” article was posted at 7:43 PM Pacific Time, or a little over an hour after the president finished. I guess Howard was anxious to tell his readers that “George W. Bush spoke with all the confidence of a perp in a police lineup.”
The article, which read as if it had been written well before the speech was given, continued (emphasis mine throughout):
I first interviewed the guy in 1987 and began covering his political rise in 1993, and I have never seen him, in public or private, look less convincing, less sure of himself, less cocky. With his knitted brow and stricken features, he looked, well, scared.”
Scared? Really? I must have had the wrong station on. Alas, Fineman continued:
Appearing on this morning's "Early Show," CBS Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan lit into President Bush's Iraq plan. Harry Smith opened the exchange: "the question of the morning is, can Prime Minister Maliki's government hold up its end of the bargain?"
Replied the South-African born, French-educated Logan: "That's a very good question, because most people agree that this whole plan depends on the Maliki government living up to their promises. Very, very few people in Baghdad believe that Maliki is willing or able to do this. And what you're looking at is essentially a government where all signs point to a sectarian government pursuing a sectarian agenda. And so when Maliki says he's going to act against the militias the Sunnis simply just don't believe him."
The last two weeks have been pivotal in this debate ever since Nature Biotechnology published a study that was co-authored by researcher Paolo De Coppi and Anthony Atala through Harvard and Wake Forest Universities, 7 years ago. The study details advances in stem cell research that could be achieved faster and safer with amniotic fluid than could be achieved with embryonic stem cells. In addition, it is being reported that the amniotic stem cells don’t have the propensity to turn into runaway cancer like tumors as has been demonstrated in many embryonic stem cell trials to date.
An unbylined report on unemployment claims by the Associated Press is a classic of the genre (bold is mine):
The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for jobless claims dropped by 26,000 to 299,000 last week on a seasonally adjusted basis. It marked the first time jobless claims have fallen below 300,000 since the week of July 22.
The improvement was much better than the decline of 9,000 that analysts had been expecting and provided further evidence that the slowing U.S. economy has not begun to seriously affect the labor market outside of specific industries such as housing and auto manufacturing.
SLOWING? Did AP ever consider that maybe claims are dropping because the economy may NOT be slowing?
It's not like there is a lack of evidence of continued and probably accelerating growth:
In the 8 am hour of NBC's Today on Wednesday, they hailed old co-host Barbara Walters (then given the lesser title of "panelist") and showed old 1970s clips -- often with Walters sounding liberal notes. Viewers in 2007 saw a list of golden oldies showing Barbara's moxie, including:
"Let's get out! Just get out of Vietnam."
"This is Womanhood Day...Get your own cup of coffee!"
And touring the disastrous Cultural Revolution in communist China: "Today, the women in China speak of their total equality with men." Equally poor and oppressed. Sometimes equally murdered.
Matt Lauer said "Today came a long way, baby." Politically, maybe not so much.
Could Meredith Vieira be emerging as one of the morning shows' most incisive inquisitioners? As we noted here, Katie Couric's replacement at "Today" recently gave Ted Kennedy a rather rough going-over regarding his legislative proposal to require the president to obtain congressional approval for a surge.
This morning, she took on the hitherto untouchable Barack Obama. And while her tone and line of questioning were not disrespectful, neither was there any hint of the kind of MSM cheerleading that the junior senator from IL has no doubt come to expect.
Before we get to Vieira's questions, take a good look at the screencap. By his super-serious mien and the marble-pillared setting he chose for the interview, Obama was clearly trying to project the image of a ready-for-prime-time Commander-in-Chief. Call him "Stone Cold Barack Obama."
On MSNBC Wednesday night, during coverage of President Bush's speech to the nation, Chris Matthews compared Iraq to the "losing battle" of the "Alamo," calling it a "catastrophe," and contended that, if America were under a parliamentary system, that the President's handling of the war would be grounds for retirement. Matthews was further alarmed at Bush's apparent willingness to confront Iran over its nuclear program, as the MSNBC host contended that "a lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified," and even described himself as "worried" because of Bush's continued "neoconservative aggressiveness."
Matthews: "A lot of people are going to go to bed tonight terrified that the President of the United States admitted to mistakes in terms of implementing his policy over there ... I am worried, well, I shouldn't say I'm worried, I am definitely interested in the fact that the President of the United States maintains that neoconservative aggressiveness, the same attitude that we have the business in this world of going into countries when we don't like their weapons systems and deciding we're in the Middle East, we're going to attack." (Longer transcript follows)
On Wednesday's American Morning, CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley assembled a piece arguing strongly that President Bush is a "severely weakened commander-in-chief" who is "now running out of cards" on Iraq.
Crowley: "Less than four years ago 71 percent of Americans approved of the way the president was handling Iraq. Each spring thereafter shows a president in slow free fall. Americans come to believe the war was too slow, the objective far from sure; within 12 months the insurgency began to take hold."
Bush (2004 footage): "We will not waiver in the face of fear and intimidation."
Crowley: "Every good thing -- elections, new governments, a constitution -- was followed by something horrendous -- roadside bombings, prison abuses."