On Tuesday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted how the Associated Press's headlined assessments at Anne D'Innocenzio's reports throughout the day on the Conference Board's monthly consumer confidence survey went from "falls" to "dips slightly" to "roughly flat" before ending up at "rosy" -- an evaluation the AP reporter also included in the verbiage of her final dispatch. For the record, the confidence measurement fell to 70.2 in March from 71.6 in February. Bloomberg's final report for the day also obfuscated, with a headline of "Consumer Confidence in U.S. Holds Close to One-Year High" and an opening sentence which read: "Confidence among U.S. consumers in March held close to the highest level in a year, underpinned by an improving labor market" -- anything to keep any indication of drop out of what most people would see. Along the same lines, Rush Limbaugh also picked on Reuters Tuesday for saying that confidence only "eased."
The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Survey came out today. The press release's opening sentence: "Consumer confidence edged upward as more favorable income and job trends offset rising gas prices." Its value (with a different scale) went from 75.3 to 76.2. That's also "roughly" flat, isn't it? Don't be silly. All three wires said that an increase smaller than Tuesday's Conference Board decrease was an unqualified "rise."
From what I can tell, no one in the establishment press yesterday attempted to quantify the total employment impact of yesterday's announcement by Best Buy that it will reduce its headquarters headcount by 400 and close 50 stores. One thing is certain: It's not just 400, as the headlines and verbiage in certain media reports might lead readers to believe -- and it's not excusable to say that the company itself didn't name a specific number of employees affected by the store closures.
An estimate of how many jobs will really be lost is after the jump, followed by a few misleading media examples. Note that the media review is based on reports from Thursday; today, we began learning which stores will be closing. They include five in the Twin Cities area where the company is headquartered.
Earlier this year, a reporter informed me of what is apparently a common belief in the business press, namely that "the Labor Department considers the (seasonally adjusted, or SA) numbers to be much more reflective of what’s actually going on in the economy" than the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted, or NSA) economic data. That's interesting, given that you can't even do seasonal adjustments without the raw data, but I digress. That expressed and almost blind belief in SA numbers explains why virtually no one in the press bothers to look at, let alone report, the NSA numbers.
But given this "seasoned" faith, why didn't the business press tell readers that today's revisions to SA figures for initial unemployment claims going back to 2007 released today by the Department of Labor increased the originally reported amounts for the past four weeks by an average of almost 4%? That's indeed what happened, and it hardly seems minor. Instead, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press all celebrated today's number (359,000) as the lowest in four years -- which it will no longer be if it gets revised upward next week by 2,000 or more next week (the average seen during the past year has been a bit below 4,000). The specific changes are after the jump, followed by a rundown of the three wire services' coverage.
The science against BPA isn’t very convincing, yet the left-wing onslaught from environmental groups, activist scientists and the media has convinced many consumers that soup cans, soda bottles and plastic storage containers are going to make them sick.
In the case of BPA, perception and reality are far different, but false perceptions can still cost businesses millions -- or put them out of business altogether. The infamous Alar scare cost apple farmers $100 million according to a 1989 Associated Press report. Even growers who weren’t using Alar were devastated. By March 31, 2012, the FDA will announce a decision on the use of BPA in food and beverage packaging.
ABC’s attacks on USDA-approved beef have already put American jobs in jeopardy, and Dan Gainor, the Media Research Center’s VP of Business and Culture, appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Happening Now” on March 28 to discuss the sliming of Beef Products Inc. by the news media.
I had to make sure that the Conference Board, which issues one of the most closely watched consumer confidence reports each month, didn't issue some kind of update during the day after telling us in the morning that its reading for March came in at 70.2, down from 71.6 in February.
Nothing changed. But oh how the Associated Press's headlines about the Board's reported results changed in successive dispatches authored by the wire service's Anne D'Innocenzio, as seen after the jump from Google News listings:
An item filed at the Hill on Friday afternoon by Peter Schroeder tells us that Bloomberg News was the first organization to report the latest development relating to former New Jersey Democratic Governor and Senator Jon Corzine. Bloomberg's report, via Phil Mattingly and Silla Brush, reveals that Corzine, who was CEO at the now-bankrupt MF Global Holdings until November, "gave 'direct instructions' to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to a memo written by congressional investigators." That would be an MF brokerage account, meaning that customer money was used to cover company losses. If the memo reflects what really happened, Corzine committed a crime -- either by committing perjury in his congressional testimony several months, in ordering the transfer itself, or both.
Bloomberg's report identifies Corzine as a Democrat in its fourteenth paragraph. But at least Bloomberg did so. That did not occur in reports at the Associated Press, United Press International, MarketWatch.com, CNBC. The Hill's Schroeder did tag Corzine as a Dem. Here are several paragraphs from Bloomberg's report (bolds are mine):
You've got to admire the determination of Derek Kravitz at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, to find lemonade among the lemons known as the monthly new-home construction statistics from the Census Bureau. Why, he was even able to find a guy who said that "housing permits-not the starts" are more relevant in gauging the health of the market. Did it ever occur to these guys that builders might be piling up permits in the hope that economic conditions will change for the better for real once it's clear that the country will have new leadership (which could conceivably happen even before the November general elections)?
Here are the first seven paragraphs from Kravitz's report, followed by a fuller rundown of the relevant stats (bolds are mine):
Once again, CNN's Piers Morgan is pouting that corporations like Apple should bring jobs back to the U.S. simply because they should. Morgan was rebutted by Chris Christie the last time he made that reasoning at the expense of shareholders' profits, but he was at it again on Monday night.
He has a "constant nagging problem" with Apple making money overseas. "So they are making squillions of dollars. And yet they still employ massively larger sums of people in China than they do in America," he fretted to guest Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). [Video below the break. Audio here.]
The exercise of watching the press report on the current week's unemployment claims figure as if it's etched in stone and assessing it as if it's the last word -- only to see the figure get upwardly revised the next week virtually without media comment -- is getting extraordinarily tedious and predictable (but of course watching what they do remains necessary).
At the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Reuters, this week's version of the shell game has a relatively unique twist. The three wire services respectively and all without qualification say that today's seasonally adjusted figure of 351,000 from the Department of Labor "matches a four-year low," "the lowest level in four years," and "back to a four-year low." As seen in the graphic which follows, based on the history of the past year, there's a 98% chance they will be wrong after subsequent revisions, almost all of which have occurred during the very next reported week:
The New York Times told us about three weeks ago that "there's little President Obama" can do about the current pump price of gas. Since then, it has become a well-established media meme. Poor guy.
Well, not really. Four years ago, another U.S. president did something which caused the barrel price of oil to drop by over $6, and the press spent the rest of the day trying to pretend that the drop had nothing to do with his actions -- and almost succeeded. What follows is from my related NewsBusters post on July 15, 2008 ("Oil Drops Over $6 a Barrel; I Wonder Why?"):
At the Associated Press as of 7:30 p.m., its Top Business stories (saved here for future reference) top headline read: "Strong 3 months of hiring as US adds 277,000 jobs." The headline at the underlying article (saved here) reads the same. Related pics are after the jump.
Yesterday was sort of "Pick on Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press Day." So when I came across a particularly reprehensible report he filed last night whining about the difficulty the economy may face in meeting heightened expectations -- with yet another reference to the wire service's obsession with its relevance to President Obama's approval ratings and reelection -- I let it go.
That changed when I learned about and then read Kyle Drennen's NewsBusters post today about CNBC's Carl Quintanilla, Friday's fill-in Today show host. Carl Q spoke of how "...we're in a situation where we're sort of managing expectations, especially for the White House." "We" are "managing expectations ... especially for the White House"? What Carl Q said seems to have been influenced by what Rugaber wrote yesterday. Especially note the last excerpted paragraph (bolds are mine):
Earlier today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted the press's ridiculously forgiving coverage of today's reported increase in unemployment claims while concentrating primarily on RTT News's assertion that the unemployment rate should continue to come down as long as weekly claims stay below 400,000. Three years ago, Christopher Rugaber's threshold at the Associated Press, also known to yours truly as the Administration's Press, was 325,000. He has since raised it (including in today's report) to 375,000.
This afternoon, Rush Limbaugh expanded on wire service's knee-jerk defense of mediocre-to-bad economic news, taking particular umbrage at the thoroughly misleading headline at Rugaber's report, as well as his first paragraph, which I will relay first before posting part of Rush's reaction:
The Department of Labor reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits increased to 362,000 from an upwardly revised (as usual) 354,000 the previous week. Expectations were for a reading of 351,000 (Business Insider's email) or 352,000 (Bloomberg).
Over at the Associated Press, also known as the Administration's Press, the headlined reaction in its 9:17 a.m. report was: "Applications Hover Near Low Levels." As usual, it took a New Media source, in this case Zero Hedge, to point out something potentially troubling in the news, namely that "this is the first time we have seen three consecutive weeks of rises since August 2010." True, the rises have been modest, but next week will almost certainly see an upward revision to this week (the case for 51 of the past 52 weeks, averaging almost 4,000 and with no decreases). Modest or not, they run counter to presumptive press claims that the job market is "healing" (Reuters) and "improving" (Bloomberg). The howler of the day came from RTT News, which "offers custom news and information solutions" for which subscribers apparently pay at least $250 a month:
Over at the Associated Press in a report with a Tuesday morning time stamp, Christopher Rugaber produced yet another predictable lemonade-from-lemons story about how the economy is allegedly "improving faster than economists had expected. They now foresee slightly stronger growth and hiring than they did two months earlier - trends that would help President Barack Obama's re-election hopes." Because, after all, that's what it's all about.
The folks at AP, the economists they surveyed for their report, and the rest of the establishment press really need to get out more. Y'know, they used to, at least before November 4, 2008. If they did, they'd find something which it seems only the BBC among major original-source news organizations has found: well over 50 "tent cities." These are not Occupy movement encampments; instead they are places where one will find America's desperately poor:
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.” But not just the trees! With the help of Universal Studios, “The Lorax” drank the left-wing kool-aid and has entered the fight against plastics, and anything artificial. To top it off, The New York Times is upset that the movie doesn’t promote environmentalism enough. Really.
In this adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss book, the screenwriters took a story about saving trees and turned it into an animated flick promoting one of the latest lefty trends, attacking plastics. The movie villain, Mr. OHare, sells air in plastic bottles to the residents of Thneedville. (Selling bottled air has long been the left’s analogy for how silly it is to sell bottled water.)
Well, I guess when you think you're going to sell 45,000 cars and you're on track to achieve about 25% of that, something's gotta give.
Something gave today, as Government/General Motors announced a temporary suspension of production of the company's centerpiece of environmental correctness, the Chevy Volt, and the layoff of 1,300 employees. Oh, and as readers will see in the Examiner.com excerpt, it's the (cough, cough) media's fault:
On CNBC's Behind the Money blog on Wednesday, Fast Money executive producer John Melloy promoted a left-leaning theory as to why the stock market has been on the rise lately: "While President Obama may not be Wall Street's ideal candidate, stock prices are rising on growing expectations he will be re-elected this November."
Melloy pointed to long-term political certainty as a reason for investor optimism and added: "The surge in President Obama's chances at a second term also have coincided with a string of better-than-expected domestic economic data this year, including an all-important drop in the unemployment rate."
At the Associated Press on Thursday, reporter Chris Tomlinson clearly took the side of statist environmentalists in covering the Texas Supreme Court's decision recognizing the right of landowners to pump water flowing through their property underground.
Tomlinson's sub-headline said that the court "approved" the idea, and his text claimed that it had "expanded property owner's rights." All the court did was formally recognize a principle which has long applied to underground oil and gas. The dispute involved restrictions desired by the city of San Antonio on how much water two farmers could pump. Much of Tomlinson's writeup follows below:
The Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, and designated drone Derek Kravitz clearly haven't tired of putting smiley-faces on the ongoing, relentlessly awful conditions in the new-home market.
As shown on February 17 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the number of single-family homes under construction is barely above its all-time low (since records have been kept), while January's figure for single-family units completed was absolutely the lowest on record. Yet Kravitz, as has been his habit, erroneously presented housing starts alone as a proxy for "construction" activity, made it appear to many typical readers that housing starts have been averaging about 500,000 per month (not per year), and pretended that the modest rise in starts "suggests builders are growing more confident that more buyers are ready to come off the sidelines." In his Friday report on new-home sales, Kravitz noted a seasonally adjusted January drop, but trumpeted a minuscule upward adjustment to fourth-quarter sales which was barely more than a rounding error:
By the time AP real estate writer Derek Kravitz turned it into a full-blown report, the headline became "US housing starts rise modestly to start new year." The opening sentence now reads: "Construction of single-family homes in the U.S. cooled off slightly in January after surging in the final month last year." The word "weak" is not in the report. It won't surprise anyone that the wire service's initial unfiltered reaction was more correct. What may surprise even those who are used to AP misdirection is that Kravitz made it appear to those who don't know better, which would include a large number of newspaper, TV, and radio journalists, that construction began on almost 1.5 million single-family homes during the past three months. Really.
On February 2, Blake Ellis at CNN Money (HT to a NewsBusters tipster), in an item which treated minor regulatory changes relating to annuities as some kind of "rescue plan" for retirees, gave President Obama credit for "measures ... (he) has put in place to help Americans save for retirement, including automatic enrollment in 401(k)s." There's no word on whether Ms. Ellis also believes that Obama hung the moon, but it wouldn't surprise me if that were the case.
Somebody needs to tell Ms. Ellis that a "History of 401(k) Plans" published by the Employee Benefits Research Institute seven years ago tells us that the critical dates relating to employers' ability to automatically enroll new and eventually existing employees in their 401(k) plans (subject to the employee's ability to proactively decline if he or she chooses) go back to 1998 and 2000, many years before Obama was sworn in as a U.S. Senator (bolds are mine):
Sometimes you read the most interesting things in those supposedly boring trade publications.
One such item of interest comes from an article in Manufacturing News (HT to an emailer) written by Richard A. McCormack which is primarily about the Mainland China's designs on the worldwide auto parts industry, including the U.S. Some of the larger American unions are demanding that the administration and Congress take action on what they see as unfair trade practices. One sentence is indicative of a more pervasive problem, and it directly contradicts what the establishment press has been telling Americans for months. It's of particular concern to all Americans because the U.S. government still owns over 25% of General Motors, and reads as follows: "China has told GM that it will not be able to sell its Volt electric vehicle in China unless GM transfers technology to China and produces the vehicle there."
On Monday (appearing in the print edition on Tuesday, New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera gave President Barack Obama a pass for rejecting the Keystone Pipeline. In the process, he also complained about "the way our poisoned politics damages the country," and, in a revelation which shouldn't but did surprise him, learned that far-left environmentalists want to stop all tar sands development and not just the pipeline. Imagine that.
Here are several paragraphs from Nocera's column (my comments are in italics):
In two items about today's report on economic growth from the federal government's Bureau of Economic Analysis today, Martin Crutsinger claimed that today's lower-than-expected annualized growth of 2.8% during the fourth quarter of 2011 (vs. expectations of 3% or higher) was hurt because of big "cuts" in government spending, especially federal spending -- supposedly the biggest cuts in 40 years. I guess the underlying message is supposed to be that Congress shouldn't try to reduce federal programs any more, because already they're allegedly being cut at historic rates.
Baloney. Crutsinger was either being incredibly ignorant by assuming that all government spending is part of GDP (it's not; only government purchases of goods and services are components of GDP), or he deliberately deceived his readers. At the federal level, purchases of goods and services and "investment" are only about 30% of all government spending. Total spending has hardly gone down at all. Here are the relevant paragraphs from his two reports:
Today's report by Derek Kravitz at the Associated Press (also known to yours truly as the Administration's Press) covering the Census Bureau's December and full-year 2011 new-home sales release put a smiley-face on the "worst ever" year (the AP headline's term) in the category.
I like the adjective used at Sweetness & Light's related blog post to describe Kravitz's crud: "unfazed." The AP reporter follows four paragraphs of facts with three more paragraphs of sunshiny "analysis" which are so wholly unsupported by reality that you would fall off of your chair laughing if you didn't also realize that most readers, listeners and viewers who saw and heard this garbage today didn't know any better than to believe it:
I guess what follows shouldn't be a total surprise, given that the Obama administration was perfectly comfortable ruining hundreds of thousands of perfectly good cars during the Cash For Clunkers program in 2009.
The video which follows from CBS News in San Francisco last Thursday (full transcript here) tells viewers what is happening to valuable parts at the main manufacturing plant of the now-bankrupt Solyndra. At the risk of belaboring what longtime readers here already instinctively know, it's not news based on searches on the company's name at at the Associated Press and the New York Times.