Shortly after 8:30 this morning, I began thinking that my CNNMoney.com e-mail alerts had stopped arriving. So I went to the Census Bureau's web site and learned that its monthly report on housing starts, building permits, and other construction-related news had indeed been released. The news for the already moribund industry was awful: Building permits in April fell by a seasonally adjusted 4% from March and by 12.0% from April 2010, while the comparable tumbles in housing starts were 10.6% and 23.9%, respectively.
Well, my opening and closing bell e-mails arrived as expected. So unless there was a technical glitch, this means that CNNMoney decided not to issue a post-8:30 alert for the bad housing news.
Let's take a look at the two e-mails which did arrive. First, just after the opening bell:
In an unbylined report this morning on homebuilders' continued pessimism, the Associated Press continues to mislead its readers and other news consumers about just how bad the market for new homes has been during the past two years.
The government has been reporting new home sales since 1963. The 320,000 news homes sold in 2010, which followed sales of only 375,000 in 2009, are the two worst performances on record. But that does not mean that they are the two worst performances in nearly a half-century, as AP continues to insist, as seen below:
How convenient. Via Editor and Publisher, the newspaper industry's Audit Bureau of Circulations, in issuing its March 31, 2011 circulation figures, tells us we shouldn't try to compare this year's numbers to last year's:
Because of the new and redefined categories of circulation on this FAS-FAX report, ABC recommends not making any direct comparisons of March 2011 data to prior audit periods.
As readers will see, if the ABC was really interested in enabling us to make apples-to-apples comparisons, it could have done so with appropriate definitional caveats. But it didn't; instead, it revised its definition of "total circulation" this year without disclosing the impact of the switch.
I've made the comparisons where possible for daily editions anyway, and they follow after the jump (original info links: March 31, 2011; March 31, 2010; Boston Globe data obtained here):
Yesterday evening (late afternoon West Coast time), Phil Bronstein at the San Francisco Chronicle informed his readers that one of its reporters had been banned by the Obama administration:
The hip, transparent and social media-loving Obama administration is showing its analog roots. And maybe even some hypocrisy highlights.
White House officials have banished one of the best political reporters in the country from the approved pool of journalists covering presidential visits to the Bay Area for using now-standard multimedia tools to gather the news.
MSNBC's Chuck Todd rattled off a list of reasons to explain the sharp rise in the price of oil – none of which included Barack Obama's offshore drilling moratorium – and was "confused" about why anyone would blame the president for the prospect of $4 per gallon gasoline.
On the April 28 "Daily Rundown," Todd suggested the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing measures and increases in global demand account for the dramatic spike in oil, but he absolved the president of any blame.
"I guess what I'm confused about, how is this an administration – what is it that the president could have done about the price of gasoline?" wondered Todd, interviewing Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
It's hard to be upbeat about that but since it occurred during a Democrat administration, Reuters does its best to accentuate whatever positive it can find in its report. First the downbeat news as relayed by Reuters reporter Lucia Mutikani:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Economic growth slowed more than expected in the first quarter as higher food and gasoline prices dampened consumer spending, and sent a broad measure of inflation rising at its fastest pace in 2-1/2 years.
And now the first of several Reuters exercises in excuse making:
But the pull back in output, which was also the result of harsh winter weather, a widening trade gap as well as weak government spending, will probably be fleeting given a firming labor market.
It's always a bit of risk saying that a bunch of supposedly smart folks are wrong, but the economists Jeannine Aversa at the Associated Press consulted for a Tuesday afternoon report on the economic outlook must be taking a double dose of sunshine pills every day.
If we are to believe these folks, the only thing that can stop the economy now is oil -- not the $112 a barrel accompanied by $4 per gallon gas we're seeing now. That's noooo problem. These smarties apparently think it's clear sailing ahead for the economy as long as oil doesn't go to $150, which would translate to at least $5.50 a gallon.
The New York Times announced its first quarter 2010 results on Thursday. As is the case with most companies when they would rather not talk about the bottom line, the Times instead concentrated on its "operating profit."
A detailed look at the release reveals a group of contracting, money-losing journalistic endeavors propped up by an also-shrinking Internet enterprise.
Imagine if a Tea Party backer by some miracle got to teach on a college campus, and began describing ways to, oh, I don't know, keep opposing politicians from conducting business, hack into their computers and destroy data, and make their staffs feel threatened. How long would that class last, and how long would it be before it became a national news story?
Well, Publius at Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com reports that " the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) sponsored two college courses: Introduction to Labor Studies and Labor Politics and Society, to be taught simultaneously through a video conference between to two campuses." Publius asserts, with video proof, that the courses really really are "How-to College Course(s) in Violent Union Tactics."
The two must-see BigGov posts are here and here. Direct links to the videos and brief descriptions follow the jump:
Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but in late August 2010 Ben Bernanke took on complete responsibility for everything -- especially everything mediocre or bad -- that occurs in the economy.
I know this because on August 27 and 28 (covered here and here), the Associated Press issued three reports essentially telling readers that it was up to Ben to save us. There wasn't anything Barack Obama, Tim Geithner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or then-present Larry Summers could possibly say or do to improve the economic situation, described at the time as "appears to be stalling" in one of those AP items.
Out of this came what has come to be known as "QE2" (the second round of "quantitative easing"), otherwise known as "electronically printing money to buy U.S. debt because possibly no one else will."
In its infamous June 2005 Kelo vs. New London ruling, a Supreme Court majority allowed the city of New London to seize the properties of holdout homeowners in that city's Fort Trumbull area for the "public purpose" of economic development, not a "public use" as the Constitution's Fifth Amendment requires.
It has been eleven years since the litigation began, six years since the court's ruling, and almost five years since the final settlement between the City and final holdouts the Cristofaro family and Susette Kelo, whose former home now stands elsewhere as a de facto monument to the perils of overbearing government. The land involved is still vacant, and nothing of substance has since happened. In late 2009, Pfizer, the economic linchpin which supposedly drove the city's need to remake the area, announced that it was pulling out of New London.
After several false starts, the city is working with a new developer. As of February of last year, this developer wanted to put rental townhouses in an area where century-old, largely owner-occupied homes once stood.
Early Friday, the New London Day's Kathleen Edgecomb reported a new twist. Wait until you see what the developer wants before going forward.
On April 20, 2010, a horrific oil spill took place in the Gulf of Mexico on British Petroleum's (BP) Deepwater Horizon rig. Since that day, gas prices have risen nearly $1-a-gallon to $3.83 per gallon. President Barack Obama's anti-oil policies, including a drilling moratorium are at least part of the reason for that dramatic spike. But you will rarely hear that from the mainstream media.
It certainly isn't the story the network evening news shows have told their viewers since the oil spill. Out of 280 oil price stories since the disastrous pill, just 1 percent (3 out of 280) mentioned any connection between Obama's anti-oil efforts, such as the drilling moratorium, and rapidly rising gas prices.
The Associated Press's Derek Kravitz seems to have a difficult time quoting government statistics without rewording them. This is a far from harmless habit.
Tuesday, Kravitz the Creative reported on the Census Bureau's information release on March homebuilding industry activity. His first two paragraphs and the story's headline (y'know, the parts that are more likely to be read over the airwaves or seen by readers in a hurry) told us that "new-home construction" increased by 7.2%. Either the poor chap believes that "housing starts," which is the only number which increased to that degree, is a synonym for "new-home construction," or he was trying to put a prettier face than deserved on a set of depressed industry data that barely showed a pulse.
After two cheery paragraphs, Kravitz segued into communicating the truly pessimistic nature of the housing industry these days, and noted two pieces of information which virtually prove that "new-home construction" did not increase by the percentage stated -- if it increased at all.
Here are several paragraphs from the AP report (bolded paragraph is where the two contradictory data points are found):
As night follows day, the press is beginning to go after a business entity which had the nerve to do its job and call attention to Uncle Sam's dire fiscal situation.
Standard and Poor's is presumably not 100% populated with angels, but it didn't deserve the gratuitous and ignorant shots fired at it this evening by the Associated Press's Bernard Condon and an "expert" he quoted. In attempting to tar the firm, Condon acted as if the mortgage-lending mess was the creation of "banks" which marketed mortgage-backed securities and asleep at the switch ratings agencies. He didn't once mention Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the fiasco's Democratic crony-run uber-culprits, which for 15 years consistently deceived the markets about the quality of the already marginal loans underlying the securities they issued .
Here are selected paragraphs from Condon's cracked creation, including a headline which gives away a resentment that the ratings agencies are still actually able to do what they were designed to do (bold is mine):
Yesterday afternoon, the Bloomberg financial news service picked up on a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers showing that U.S. companies pay the sixth highest effective corporate tax rates in the world.
"The tax rate for the largest U.S. companies between 2006 and 2009 was 27.7 percent, compared with a non-U.S. average of 19.5 percent, according to the study," reporter Richard Rubin noted. "Excluding the U.S., companies based in industrialized countries had an average rate of 22.6 percent."
But when the Washington Post picked up the story, it condensed the 15-paragraph Bloomberg story to a two-sentence squib on the Economy & Business page on A17 (see screencap of print edition PDF below):
The following is cross-posted from Human Events, where Mattera serves as editor.
Christian conservatives often decry the silencing of faith by major network television.
But Sunday night on CBS’ hit reality TV series “Undercover Boss,” people of faith had their breath taken away by what they witnessed, sparking a Facebook and Twitter avalanche of support and praise.
On Facebook, Kini Se remarked, “Loved the episode of 'Undercover Boss' last night. It is the BEST one yet. It is great to see you praising the Lord on National television. The entire time, I had tears running down my face. It was real, it was true and inspirational. God bless you and your family.”
Reasonably astute readers will catch the falsehoods and fallacies inherent in the following statement made by President Obama last Wednesday at the town hall meeting held in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania:
But here’s the thing about oil. We have about 2, maybe 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves;  we use 25 percent of the world’s oil.  So think about it. Even if we doubled the amount of oil that we produce, we’d still be short by a factor of five. 
The average Associated Press or other establishment media apparatchik following Obama around as he embarks on his 19-month reelection campaign has apparently given these statements little if any thought, simply assuming that they're "obviosuly" true. Each of the President's three key number-tagged assertions is either demonstrably false or seriously misleading. Each is badly in need of a specific refutation.
If you think it has gotten pricey to fill up your car's gas tank, imagine having to fill the 50,000 gallon or larger tank on a 747. Jet fuel costs51.4 percent more than it did a year ago, according to IATA and that is taking a huge toll on the airlines.
But when the airlines raise prices or ad fees to make up for the increased cost of flying, the network news media respond with charges of gouging or "nickel and diming" passengers. Some reporters even go to extremes to find as many fees as possible, in order to stoke viewer anger against the industry, other ignore the many airline bankruptcies and billions in losses in the recent years.
On Thursday morning's "Squawk Box," CNBC's on-air editor Rick Santelli sounded off against raising the debt ceiling, the Democrat-controlled congress' failure to pass a budget last year, and "spendthrift" politicians. The rant echoed his famous 2009 diatribe where he called for a Chicago "Tea Party."
"It's a matter of principle. If we can't do the discretionary spending now, what chance do the conservatives have to tackle everything we know?" he said of more budget cuts.
"But you turn on certain channels that are supposed to be news, and they vilify anything to get it under control. They say we're going to kill kids? You know, we will have problems with children if the whole damn country goes bankrupt. Wake up!"
Last Friday, in what one would think would be a bombshell story headlined "Foreign Banks Tapped Fed’s Secret Lifeline Most at Crisis Peak," Bloomberg's Bradley Keoun and Craig Torres reported that foreign banks secretly and routinely tapping the Federal Reserve's "discount window" lending program, primarily in 2008 and 2009. Some specifics:
"(The) loans protected a lender to local governments in Belgium, a Japanese fishing-cooperative financier and a company part-owned by the Central Bank of Libya."
Dexia SA (DEXB), based in Brussels and Paris, borrowed as much as $33.5 billion through its New York branch ..."
"Dublin-based Depfa Bank Plc, taken over in 2007 by a German real-estate lender later seized by the German government, drew $24.5 billion."
"...foreign banks ... (accounted) for at least 70 percent of the $110.7 billion borrowed during the week in October 2008 when use of the program surged to a record."
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke fought for two years to keep the information secret after Bloomberg filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2009. The Bloomberg report quotes Bernanke as claiming in April 2009 that disclosure "might lead market participants to infer weakness."
In the Bloomberg report, Congressman Ron Paul is quoted making a prediction that has sadly been way off the mark:
First, let me make something clear. One thing I learned in my first job as a dishwasher back in the Mesozoic Era is that all work conscientiously done can be noble. I don't criticize McDonald's for wanting to grow their business and the businesses of their franchisees, and I surely won't criticize anyone for taking a fast-food job to put food on the table or to gain an employment foothold.
That said, the people who have expressed contempt for such jobs and for an economy that for the last 30-plus years has, according to certain wrong-headed social critics, been devolving into one where the only jobs available will be low-paying, dead-end service-sector jobs have been awfully quiet in the wake of the fast-food king's announcement that it's looking to hire 50,000 workers.
Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, in a column appearing at Business Insider, says that we're heading in the direction of a "double-dip" -- and though he doesn't follow it with the word "recession," it's obvious he's not talking about an ice-cream cone. It's also obvious that he's less than pleased with the media spin that things are really okay.
Along the way, Reich had to go back to the mid-1930s, the era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ongoing economic depression (at least as far as employment was concerned) to exemplify what a supposedly good recovery from an economic trauma looks. He was clearly desperate to avoid saying anything nice about the more historically relevant and objectively more impressive recovery and subsequent prosperity that occurred under Ronald Reagan. This is also true of the establishment press.
UPDATE, April 1: Joshua Shapiro, who is "quoted" in the AP article covered in this post, has emailed me and informed me of the following --
Christopher Rugaber did not speak with him, but instead used text from "a written note that I (Shapiro) produced after the jobless claims report was released."
Shapiro is unhappy at my making it appear that he is fooled by establishment press reports. Although I framed my assertions in "if" and "might" to make it clear that I really didn't know, I regret implying that possibility, though of course I had no idea that Rugaber didn't even speak to him.
By using the word "said" without contextualizing it, Rugaber gave readers every reason to believe he spoke with Shapiro. Per Shapiro, he didn't. Rugaber used information that Shapiro framed in a much longer-term context to make current news appear better than it really is. Rugaber's AP report is even more risible than indicated in the post which follows.
This morning, the Associated Press's Christopher Rugaber, in his 9:14 a.m. coverage (saved here at my web host in case it's revised, as well as for fair use and discussion purposes) of today's weekly unemployment claims release by the Department of Labor, found an economist whose reaction was to get all pumped up about the job market:
"The downtrend ... is undeniable," Joshua Shapiro, chief economist at MFR Financial Inc., said. "We believe that this improvement will continue in the weeks and months ahead."
While one of course hopes for improvement in the coming weeks and months, the existence of an "undeniable" downward trend is questionable, as seen below:
Greedy, deep-pocketed Wal-Mart went to the Supreme Court yesterday to argue it's "too big to sue."
That's the sort of rhetoric one might expect from Brad Seligman, one of the attorneys representing Christine Kwapnowski and a handful of other women who are suing Wal-Mart on the claim of gender discrimination.
Appearing with Kwapnowski on Tuesday's CBS "Early Show," Seligman used those words to deride Wal-Mart's argument about why the Supreme Court should not let his and numerous other discrimination suits across the country to be consolidated into a single class action case.
Handicapping a case heading to oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court today, Yahoo! Finance's Daniel Gross insisted that "Wal-Mart has to like its chances" because "[t]he Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has generally been pro-business and hostile to the cause of workers."
Gross, who is also a senior editor for Newsweek, cited the 2007 ruling -- erroneously writing that the ruling came down in 2009 -- in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire in which "[the Supreme Court] threw out on a minor technicality the compelling case of Lilly Ledbetter, who had fought Goodyear Tire over sexual harassment and discrimination for a decade."
But the "technicality" as Gross sees it was actually pretty clear legislative language fixing a deadline beyond which lawsuits could not be filed.
In a report for Thursday's CBS Early Show, contributor Taryn Winter Brill fretted over the impact of movie theater popcorn on Americans' waistlines: "Have you ever wondered how many calories you're actually consuming in that large popcorn with butter? You probably don't want to know. Pretty soon, though, you may not have a choice."
Moments later, nutritionist Katherine Brooking declared the popular concession treat to be "a calorie bomb waiting to explode." Brill then touted a government solution to the problem: "Hoping to defuse this high caloric catastrophe, the FDA is working on a provision in the health care law requiring chain establishments which serve food to list the calorie count of their menu items." She added that Brooking and others "applaud the move."
The massive earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan on March 11 claimed many lives and knocked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant offline reviving decades-old fears as well as liberal media bias about nuclear power.
The news media have promoted anti-nuclear positions since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, although that incident did not injure or kill anyone and no long-term health impacts have been proven. At that time though, the frightening network coverage was "eerily similar" to the fictional Hollywood account of a nuclear disaster in a film released just days earlier: "The China Syndrome."
Three Mile Island was no "China Syndrome," yet some press outlets specifically sent reporters who had seen the film to cover the Harrisburg, Pa. nuclear accident, according to a PBS program aired in 1999.
While looking into the News Media Guild's positions in the current standoff between it and the Associated Press, I came across the most recent contract (large PDF file) between the two. It expired this past November; unionized AP employees are continuing to work under the old contract's provisions.
Many people don't know that the AP is a "not-for-profit news cooperative" which is "owned by its contributing newspapers (over 1,000), radio and television stations (over 5,000) in the United States." It would appear to be exempt from paying federal, state, and local income taxes (and perhaps others), and as such would seem to have a competitive advantage over any person or entity which might consider competing with it.
I thought readers might be interested in certain of the expired 65-page Editorial Unit contract's provisions, and consider how often such arrangements are available in the private sector (56 other pages which follow relate to Technology Unit, whose contract provisions are very similar; bolds are mine):