In an early version of Julie Pace's coverage of President Obama's selection of Alan Krueger to be the next head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the following paragraph appeared (bolds are mine):
In the Associated Press's writeup ("Social Security disability on verge of insolvency") of the situation occasioned by a congressional report repeating the obvious, Stephen Ohlemacher surprisingly and correctly retold a bit of the history which readers should find quite interesting, as it largely explains how the program got out of control (bold is mine):
The opening sentence of Charles Babington's "objective report" about the possible extension of what was billed late last year as a "temporary payroll tax cut" reads like a Democratic National Committee press release: "News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes."
It doesn't get any better until the final paragraph. Babington's babble is otherwise a long-winded, chidish taunt about the supposed hypocrisy of anyone who would like to see a program which, for all its very considerable faults, at least ran a cash surplus for several decades get into the neighborhood of where taxes collected almost equal disbursements.
On August 15, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, and the Associated Press all reported that Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Oddly enough (no, not really), The New York Times, which published a 1,600-word report in January (HT to an NB emailer) on the company's competitive difficulties, did not take note of Evergreen's filing.
Each of the three reports cited gave readers the impression that Bay State agencies were the only ones which had provided the company any form of financial assistance during the past several years during which, according to its latest 10-K annual report (large HTML file), it was losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually (about $950 million in the past three calendar years):
The Christian Science Monitor appears to have a problem monitoring its bloggers. Even though it asserts that its "diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there ... (have) responsibility for the content of their blogs," the largely respected CSM should understand that Jared Bernstein has just embarrassed it bigtime.
To its credit, CSM describes Bernstein, currently a senior fellow at the very liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Director emeritus: Marian Wright Edelman), as a Biden/Democrat hack: "Jared was chief economist to Vice President Joseph Biden and executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class." But unless CSM wants to be seen as a place like the Huffington Post, where it seems that anyone can throw up anything regardless of its truthfulness (I'm talking to you, Sam Stein), it needs to at least fact-check info with an obvious surface stench -- and I could smell the acrid aroma from Bernstein's item here in Ohio. His woeful Wednesday post goes beyond predictable cherry-picking into the realm of flat-out errors.
At first blush, it might seem hard to imagine how one can contend that a press report describing an industry sector as operating "at depressed levels" and at volumes that are one-half of what "economists consider to be healthy" isn't telling the whole truth. But that's exactly how I would describe Tuesday's writeup by the Associated Press's Derek Kravitz after July's Census Bureau release on housing starts, building permits, homes under construction, and completions.
The problem is, as I separately noted earlier today, that of the sixteen key metrics the Bureau reported, eleven of them were record lows, either for any July on record, or any individual month on record. The other five were either the second-worst or third worst Julys on record. This isn't a depressed market; it's a despondent one. Kravitz only disclosed one of those eleven records, and in a misleading manner.
If we're to believe Associated Press reporter Daniel Wagner, this morning's report from the Department of Labor on unemployment claims revealing that initial claims during the week ended August 6 fell to 395,000, was "good news." Why, according to Wagner, that drop, all by itself, it was "enough to catapult stocks," pushing the Dow up by 423 points in Thursday's trading.
Uh, not exactly, Daniel. First, though the decline in initial claims was in the right direction, it was only 5,000, or 1.25%, less than last week's original number of 400,000 (naturally revised up to 402,000 this week), and an even tinier 3,000 fewer than the initial number two weeks ago. If (more like when, given the track record of previous weeks) it's revised up by 3,000 or so, it will be even less impressive. Huge advances in the Dow do not arise from such tiny improvements.
First, to be fair to Associated Press reporter Christopher Sherman, because there is no equivalent reference in the 3:34 p.m. version of his report on Rick Perry's immigration positions, the headline which will follow the jump does not appear to be of his doing.
But whoever at the wire service decided on the headline to use at Sherman's piece definitely has a problem with anyone who questions the need for illegal-immgrant amnesty, is against the granting of in-state tuition for college students who are illegal immigrants, or supports robust border enforcement:
We've just spent the past month or so having politicians and the press tell us that if there was no debt-ceiling deal by August 2, the government might default on its debts (of course, Tim Geithner and Barack Obama could indeed have strategically defaulted if they had wished, but work with me here).
But Sunday on Meet the Press, in a remark I expect will not be relayed much if at all by the rest of the establishment press, Alan Greenspan said that default is impossible -- which puts him directly at odds with the rest of Washington's elites and Ben Bernanke, his successor as Federal Reserve chairman. On July 14, Bernanke said: "A default on ... (U.S. Treasury) securities would throw the financial system ... potentially into chaos."
Wait until you see the reason why Greenspan says default is impossible, as carried at CNBC's web site in an item by Patrick Allen:
Saturday night in Cincinnati, Fox 19's Kimberly Holmes Wiggins interviewed Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown from Washington about the state of the debt-ceiling debate. A full transcript follows.
Contained therein readers will see the untruthful establishment press memes which have dominated their coverage, and all too typical disgraceful and predictable demagoguery by Brown. Similar reports involving other Democrats likely played on stations across the nation this past weekend.
Strap on the duct tape. Here goes (bolds and numbered tags are mine; link is to the station's video home page):
In his roughly 10 a.m. report this morning (HT to an NB emailer), the Associated Press's Steven R. Hurst opened by saying that "The top Republican in the Senate said Congress and the White House were very close to a deal on raising the limit on U.S. borrowing that would avert an unprecedented default on America's debt, ending one of the nastiest partisan fights in recent memory."
In his second sentence, he wrote, based on a statement from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that an agreement would "likely extend U.S. borrowing authority, which expires on Tuesday, beyond the 2012 presidential and congressional elections," giving casual readers the impression that default will occur if the borrowing authority ends.
That simply isn't so. Who says so? Moody's says so, as carried in a live blog item at the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday (HT Verum Serum):
The AP's coverage of the U.S. economy late Friday focused on high gas prices as the dominant, uh, driver of this year's anemic growth both visually and in its text.
As will be seen after the jump, the graphic at the AP's national site is of a gas price sign. The final sentence in the caption of the full-size version reads "High gas prices and scant income gains forced Americans to sharply pull back on spending."
The underlying report by Christopher Rugaber and Paul Wiseman predictably mentioned gas prices first and foremost, tagged debt-ceiling negotiations as a suddenly important contributor to economic uncertainty (where have they been while President Obama, his cabinet, his czars, and his hyperactive regulators have been injecting uncertainty in megadoses during the past two years?), and relayed Ben Bernanke's months-old warning that cutting back too much on government spending would hinder economic growth:
Ms. Wolverson's most obvious omission is her failure to mention the government's breathtaking downward revision to first quarter gross domestic product growth from the annualized 1.9% announced in late June to today's revised 0.4%. That's a nearly 80% hit compared to where we thought we were just a month ago, indicating how anemic the so-called recovery has been. It also gives one reason to doubt that today's 1.3% figure for the second quarter will hold up in subsequent revisions.
What follows are excerpted paragraphs containing just some of Ms. Wolverson's errors and political postures:
This morning, Christopher Rugaber's coverage of the news from Uncle Sam's Bureau of Economic Analysis about the growth in the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the Associated Press appropriately characterized it as indicative of a "sharp slowdown" and "extremely bad" (via a quoted economist).
Today's report carried an advance estimate of second-quarter growth of an annualized 1.3%. As a result of revisions going all the way back to 2003, the BEA's report also included a steeply reduction to 0.4% for the first quarter (down from the 1.9% reported last month), deeper contractions during the recession's roughest quarters, and net slightly lower growth figures since the recession officially ended in June 2009.
The big story Rugaber missed -- and which I suspect the rest of the media will also miss -- is that two full years after the recession ended, the economy, based on today's numbers, has not yet fully recovered, as seen in the following graphic (Source data: Table 3A at the BEA's full GDP report):
The one I expected came from CNNMoney.com, which read: "Initial unemployment claims fall below 400,000 for the first time in more than 3 months, dropping 24,000 to 398,000 in latest week." The other one came from USAToday.com, which does not ordinarily issue alerts when this report appears, took the opportunity to relay the same message, followed by an assertion that today's report is "a sign the job market may be healing after a recent slump."
Gosh, isn't it convenient that Associated Press reporter Jim Abrams, in a Wednesday evening dispatch ("Democrats say Obama should invoke 14th Amendment"), was able to find "some legal scholars" who believe that President Obama can invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to ignore the nation's current debt ceiling and have the government go out and borrow more money, but "somehow" didn't name any? Not only that, he didn't even tell readers why 14th Amendment power creationists might be wrong, let alone find "some other" dissenting legal scholar to explain why. Instead, he instead went to White House spokesman Jay Carney, who only said that the president doesn't have such authority.
I suspect that Abrams' "oversight" occurred because the only "legal scholars" he could have cited would have been uncomfortable Democrats in Congress who don't want to be on record voting against any and every effort to control spending which might be attached to whatever bill or bills House Republicans might attempt to pass -- a matter of fierce internal GOP debate as of late Thursday evening.
If there's a reason why Dayton Daily News staff writer Drew Simon wrote his Tuesday morning story ("Seniors fear losing Social Security checks") other than to scare the elderly, I don't know what it is.
Nowhere in his report did Simon say who was the first person to invalidly raise the specter of Social Security checks not going out on August 2 (it was President Barack Obama, in case you missed it). Nowhere did he mention that the likelihood is extremely remote, and that if it happens it would only be because the Obama Treasury Department decided to let it happen. Messy items like that distract from the main purpose. Oh, but Simon did get an apparatchik from AARP who also should and probably does know better to chime in on his behalf.
On Wednesday evening (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted the absurdity of Associated Press coverage characterizing the 5-page document with 3-1/2 whole pages of text issued by the "Gang of Six" as a "plan" -- 12 times, plus in the item's headline. Though I didn't bring it up then, an obvious point to make about any of these items floating around Washington is that if the Congressional Budget Office can't score it, it can't be a plan. A month ago, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf told a congressional committee, in response to a question about President Obama's April proposal, that "we can't score speeches." By contrast, there's no reason to believe it can't score Cut, Cap & Balance, because it's actual legislation passed by the House.
Last night at Investors Business Daily, Mark Steyn, the self-described "One-Man Global Content Provider," made more generalized comments about the media coverage of the debt ceiling-tax-spending-amending discussions and its identification of anything stated in a semi-coherent sentence as a "plan" (press-related items in bold):
Former Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to five felony counts, is a Democrat.
What follows are the results of three searches demonstrating that every media outlet which can be found by Google News which has tracked the story in the past 30 days has failed to note Solano's party affiliation.
Green Vehicles is no more. The world will somehow have to get by without the lovely vehicle pictured after the jump populating our streets and highways.
Given that its owner put an "I've giving it up" blog post last Tuesday, and even though Drudge just caught it a few hours ago, it's pretty safe to assume that the Green Vehicles debacle won't be a national establishment press story.
It is, however, a fairly hot story in Salinas, California, a city of about 150,000 fifty or so miles south of San Jose.
The NBC News Investigative Unit has devoted considerable resources to uncovering "scandals" ranging from Marcus Bachmann's health clinic to Newt Gingrich's credit line at Tiffany to the Sarah Palin document dump, but continues to ignore a botched Justice Department operation that contributed to the death of a U.S. border agent.
Examining the trove of reports filed by NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff over the last few months reveals a fixation on investigations involving Republican politicians and an aversion to probes concerning the Obama administration, even as other media outlets expose the controversial ATF practice of letting guns purchased in America slip across the U.S.-Mexico border in hopes the trail would lead federal agents to drug kingpins.
Can anyone in Midway, Georgia take money for or even borrow food without risking arrest?
If you're in Midway, you'd better not let your neighbors reimburse you for any homemade food you cook or grow, or you might get busted for not having "a business license, peddler’s permit, and food permit to set up shop, even on residential property." Heck, you may have to worry about even giving your output away.
That's where you have to go with the "logic" of a story from Maura Kennedy at TV station WJCL (HT AP; bolds are mine; video is at link, where, in an unusual choice of priorities, this was apparently the lead story):
Last night (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that the State of Minnesota, where the government is shut down but spokesman for the Department of Public Safety Doug Neville is somehow still working, is demanding that MillerCoors pull its products from Gopher State store shelves within days, and identified a number of questions non-inquisitive Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Eric Roper should have asked and didn't.
One of the questions which didn't make my list, which wasn't intended to be comprehensive, is: "How much money is involved?" As seen in the headline, the answer is so trivial that it almost costs more to think about it than to say what it is. The potential embarrassment over this matter may partially explain why Democratic Farm Labor Governor Mark Dayton appears to have sued for peace this morning (covered later in this post). Readers will also have a hard time believing the penny-ante amount over which retailers whose "buyer's cards" have expired will from all appearances be prevented from buying alcoholic beverages for resale.
At the Associated Press, the task of reporting on the official results of Uncle Sam's June Monthly Treasury Statement fell to Christopher Rugaber instead Marty Crutsinger.
Next time, Chris, tell us what happened in the month you're covering instead of going almost exclusively with the federal government's year-to-date results.
If Rugaber had looked more closely at June, he would have had to relay not particularly pleasant news -- or maybe he did look at June, and decided that we didn't need to know anything more than what the deficit was (possible motivation will be identified later). Although the deficit came in lower ($43 billion vs. $68 billion), the AP reporter "somehow" forgot to tell readers that receipts trailed June of 2010, indicating that whatever economic recovery has occurred is well on its way towards fizzling.
Well, I guess it's getting serious now in the melodrama known as the Minnesota state government shutdown.
If the Gopher State shutdown goes on much longer, hundreds of bars and restaurants will lose their ability to serve alcohol because they can't renew their liquor licenses. Worse, as reported by Eric Roper at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, MillerCoors, whose "brand license" somehow expired, will, be forced to "pull its beer from Minnesota liquor stores, bars and restaurants." The economic ripple effect will have a lot of Minnesotans crying in their beer, if they can find any.
If there's a less curious reporter than Eric Roper, I don't want to meet him. I've seen pet rocks with more curiosity than the Strib reporter demonstrated in the linked report. Consider the following paragraphs which Roper relayed without any hint of an attempt at follow-up:
If we are believe two late Friday afternoon dispatches from the Associated Press following the government's awful Employment Situation report earlier in the day, you would think that even a cadre of cops with the talent of Sherlock Holmes couldn't solve the mystery of the underperforming job market.
Economics Writers Christopher Rugaber and Paul Wiseman went with themes of "baffled economists" and "defying history," respectively.
When the Associated Press's Paul Wiseman and Martin Crutsinger team up for a report on the economy, there's no limit to the comic potential.
Today, in covering what the folks at Zero Hedge described as "Ben Bernanke's 'I Have No Idea Why The Economy Will Get Better But It Will' Speech" (transcript is at link), the AP pair may have set a new world record for most unused words one would expect to be employed in a report on the condition of the economy.
Readers will not find the following words, all of which bear at least somewhat on why the economy is currently failing to live up to expectations and to meaningfully rebound nearly two years after the official end of the recession, in the wire service's report:
The Department of Energy (DOE) continues to tout the importance of safety at nuclear facilities, while simultaneously ignoring legitimate safety concerns in the name of saving time and money.
Last week, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board delivered a scathing report on the ‘safety culture’, or lack thereof, being perpetuated by the DOE. Within that report, which focused on how the department handled safety complaints at a nuclear waste cleanup site in Richland, Washington, were statements from several witnesses who believed that raising safety issues could be detrimental to their career. One specific situation seemed to bear this out, in which a former Engineering Manager, Walter Tamosaitis, had raised several technical safety issues in July, and was abruptly removed from the project the next day.
These findings led the House Appropriations Committee to amend a proposed 2012 DOE budget document report, stating that:
"The most recent (defense board) report describes an environment where the professional exchange of views which a safety culture relies upon is discouraged and at times punished. These revelations are both alarming and disturbing and should be interpreted by the secretary of energy as a call to action."
In the run-up to the passage of Obamacare in March 2010, Nancy Pelosi infamously told a friendly audience: "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."
Fifteen months later, we still haven't learned everything about a bill which no honest congressperson or senator can claim to have read and fully understood.
Today's "discovery" is that some couples in their early 60s earning up to $64,000 a year can qualify for Medicaid. As has become establishment press custom since Obamacare's passage, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar at the Associated Press reports on the "anomaly," without getting to its root cause, namely that nobody who voted for the 2000-page legislation knew it was there: