CNNMoney.com ran a provocative piece Friday listing what it determined to be the top "meanest budget cuts." The website laid out seven government programs that are victims of the recent budget compromise – programs that provide assistance to the poor and support humanitarian causes overseas.
Most of the individual cuts make up a small fraction of each program's annual budget, and a Democratic source is quoted multiple times downplaying the significance of the cuts. Don't tell CNN, however, as these cuts are apparently "mean."
The undisguised bias of a dispatch tonight by Associated Press reporter Laurie Kellman, with help from Scott Bauer, about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's appearance before a Congressional committee may have as its source two items found at the Newspaper Guild's web site (seen after the jump).
One is an announcement relating to a possible deterioration in the Guild's negotiations with AP, where union members have been working without a contract since November. Immediately below the announcement is an extraordinarily mean and spiteful cartoon produced by "alternative" comic Tom Tomorrow directed at Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan which has no place at the site of a group wishing to at least maintain a fig-leaf pretense of objectivity.
First let's look at several of the sentences seen in the 10:26 p.m. version of the pair's report (saved here at my host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) -- after the headline ("Wisconsin governor defends hobbling unions'), with which the AP pair may have had help:
In a business that is supposed to treat record achievements, dubious or otherwise, as news, it's more than a little curious to note that the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger, along with Reuters and AFP, all "somehow" forgot to tell readers that March's reported federal outlays, as seen in the Monthly Treasury Statement released today, came in at an all-time record of $339.047 billion, and that this year's spending through six months of $1.849 trillion -- also an all-time record -- is 3.5% higher than last year's comparable figure of $1.786 trillion ($1.671 trillion plus a non-cash credit of $115 billion explained here last year).
This year's six-month spending total annualizes out to $3.7 trillion, an amount that is almost $1 trillion, or 36%, higher than fiscal 2007. Though spending is the self-evident real problem, frontline reporters and their bosses would apparently prefer that news consumers not see how ugly those numbers really are.
On Friday's Early Show, CBS's Betty Nguyen used the Statue of Liberty as a live backdrop to play up how "visitors would miss out on the Smithsonian and its 19 museums...even the National Zoo" if the federal budget impasse leads to a government shutdown. Nguyen also highlighted that the "Cherry Blossom Festival...[is] set to wrap up this weekend, but the parade may not march on if the government shuts down."
Fill-in anchor Rebecca Jarvis introduced the correspondent's report, which ran 10 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, by outlining that the cost of a shutdown might be $8 billion a week "because there are so many government employees who won't be working, agencies that will shut down, and there are costs to restarting them, including our country's national parks, which is where we find...Betty Nguyen at Liberty State Park, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, with more on the expected impact at those locations."
The repeal of Obamacare's nightmarish 1099 requirement has passed both chambers of Congress and is on its way to the President for his expected signature.
In reporting Tuesday on the repeal bill's progress, the Associated Press's headline writers assured readers that the original requirement in Obamacare was a "small" component of it. The AP's Stephen Ohlemacher also misstated current 1099 filing requirements, ignored the repeal bill's de facto tax increases (i.e., reductions of tax credits) that were crammed into the bill to "pay" for lost revenue that will supposedly result from repeal, and glossed over the fact that the requirement made it into law because almost no one read the Obamacare legislation in the first place. Other than that, the AP report isn't too bad. (/sarc)
Here are key paragraphs from Ohlemacher's report (bolds and number tags are mine):
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:
NPR's Dina Temple-Raston touted Attorney General Eric Holder's reluctance to give detainees at Guantanamo Bay military trials during a segment on Monday's All Things Considered. Temple-Raston and host Michele Norris only featured sound bites from the Justice Department head, omitting clips from supporters of the military tribunals.
Norris began by noting the Obama administration's "major reversal" in their decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 suspects in military court. After playing a clip from Attorney General Holder's recent press conference, where he announced the move, the host turned to the correspondent and recounted how " in late 2009...Holder announced that these five conspirators will be tried in New York City in a civilian trial. So today's decision officially reverses that."
Temple-Raston, who conducted a sting operation against U.S. border agents earlier in 2011 by wearing a headscarf and posing as Muslim woman, mainly acted as stenographer for the attorney general, though she did acknowledge the mismanagement of the rollout for the civilian trials plan:
The back and forth between Washington Post syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob ("Jack") Lew continues. Thus far, Krauthammer has won both rounds, including his punch-out on Thursday.
It all started on February 21, when Lew issued a "rebuttal" to a USA Today editorial which called for near-term action to deal with Social Security's structural problems. In it, he claimed, among other things, that "Social Security benefits are entirely self-financing," and that even though tax collections are now less than benefit payments and will probably remain so indefinitely, the system "will have adequate resources to pay full benefits for the next 26 years." Ergo, per Lew, "Social Security does not cause our deficits." Zheesh.
Most readers here aren't aware that Associated Press reporters began withholding their bylines this week in support of their union's "quality journalism proposals." Participating reporters are refusing to have their name placed on AP stories. It appears to apply to stories datelined in the U.S. and not overseas (as seen here).
It is truly a wonder that the world has gone on while AP reporters refuse to tell us who wrote the wire service's U.S. stories (/sarc).
The byline strike springs from the wire service's refusal, among other things, according to the News Media Guild, the union which represents AP newsroom personnel, to accept a "fixed-cost pension plan." The AP wants a defined-contribution plan (i.e., something similar or identical to a 401(k)).
Here are some economy, business, and political "gems" appearing at AP during the past few days which can't be traced to a specific reporter:
NPR's Scott Horsley favored Democrats over Republicans by a five-to-two margin on Thursday's Morning Edition. Horsley played sound bites or quoted from Obama administration officials or congressional liberals more often than from GOP representatives.
During his report, the correspondent highlighted congressional concerns over the safety of nuclear energy during the Tuesday hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Energy Secretary Chu and Nuclear Regulatory Chairman Gregory Jaczko were the main witnesses during the hearing. Horsley first noted that "Chu was cautious in talking about Japan's nuclear crisis and its meaning for the U.S. Damage to the Fukushima reactors seems more serious than Three Mile Island. But Chu confessed we don't really know what's happening, and the situation is unfolding hour by hour."
On Tuesday's Morning Edition, NPR's Carrie Johnson highlighted critiques of the Obama White House from the left on their promise to be "the most transparent administration in history," but downplayed questions over the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Unit's use of non-disclosure agreements with companies under investigation.
Host Renee Montagne introduced Johnson's report, noting that "in Washington, D.C., some people are calling this 'Sunshine Week.' It's a time of year when government watchdog groups evaluate the administration's commitment to openness. Two years ago, President Obama promised to run the most transparent administration in history."
You begin to get an idea of how poorly served the news-consuming public is by the Associated Press when you compare its "reporting" on Obama czar Elizabeth Warren's appearance tomorrow before the House Financial Services Committee to an information-packed editorial -- yes, an editorial -- in the Wall Street Journal this morning.
You can read all of the over 750 words in the unbylined AP report without learning that Ms. Warren and various state attorneys general are attempting to shake down the banking system for $20 billion. You would think from the wire service's selective content that it's only Republicans who have opposed and continue to oppose the broad, unchecked authority her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will have over U.S. banking policy and practices. It ain't so.
Yesterday, Washington Post syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer performed an act of journalism that anyone in the establishment press could have done -- and didn't -- for 17 days.
Krauthammer did a masterful job of taking apart Obama White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob ("Jack") Lew's ridiculous February 21 defense of Social Security and its alleged irrelevance to the deficit in USA Today.
But he went further. He caught Lew saying the exact opposite thing 11 years ago when he was -- wait for it -- Bill Clinton's White House Office of Management and Budget Director.
Here are key excerpts from Krauthammer's column on the fundamental truths about Social Security and the fundamental fib foisted on McPaper by Jack Lew (bolds are mine):
On Monday, in a story I will link after the jump, the Associated Press reported that on March 1 the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) dropped a lawsuit it initiated last year over the school district's refusal five years earlier to cover a prescription drug the union described as "an issue of discrimination, of equal rights for all our members” (that link will also appear after the jump).
So the questions submitted for our readers to ponder are these:
1) What drug was involved?
2) How much has the district spent defending itself against the lawsuit?
Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia caused a bit of a stir last week when he said on CSPAN's Washington Journal program that, as paraphrased by Daniel Strauss at The Hill, "lawmakers are getting around the new ban on earmarks by convincing Obama administration officials to fund their pet projects."
Those who have followed Moran's less than illustrious career recall something he said in 2006 that makes his determination to make earmarks happen by any means necessary not at all unexpected.
In June of that year, Scott McAffrey at Northern Virginia's Sun Gazette reported on Moran's intentions if the Demcrats were to win a Congressional majority the following November (one example of R-rated language follows):
Is Rush Limbaugh’s fear of a state-run media coming to fruition?
Hillary Clinton spent the morning on C-Span defending the State Department’s need for funding, because she feels private media in the U.S. has fallen woefully behind the likes of Al-Jazeera, the Chinese, and Russia.
"Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up a global English language and multi-language television network, the Russians have opened up an English language network. I've seen it in a couple of countries and it's quite instructive."
Has she watched MSNBC or CNN lately? The coupon book in the local newspaper is far more informative than the American media.
More perplexing is that Clinton seems to be blurring the line between popular media and the need to disseminate information via her State Department. Essentially, because the Republicans want to slash the State Department budget in half, efforts to spread U.S. propaganda through new media will suffer. Without money, her department cannot spread information to Arabic and Farsi language audiences. This apparently, is the fault of Republicans cutting spending, and a private American media that can no longer compete. Enter the state-run media.
Coming on the heels of an election in which the people clearly rejected the concept of government intrusion, one New York State Assemblyman has decided to introduce legislation calling for… well … more government intrusion.
Meet Michael DenDekker, Democrat from Queens, who recently revealed two measures that would require all bicycles in the state to be registered, inspected, and carry a license plate costing a minimum of $25.
It’s like your car’s license plate, but for your bike.
Two bills recently introduced in the state Assembly would require that all bikes in the state be registered each year and sport a license plate.
The first applies to personal bicycles. The license plate would cost $25 for the first year and $5 each year after.
The second bill would require a $50 license plate fee for commercial bikes. It would also require casualty insurance.
All bikes would have to pass a safety inspection -- including lamp and equipment requirements -- to get the license.
In an interview with Gothamist, DenDekker explained that the two bills were a result of constituent complaints on the difficulty of reporting cyclists who don’t obey traffic laws. He expanded upon his vision, expressing a desire to one day see cameras monitoring bike lanes, holding cyclists accountable for their actions.
Thursday, the Associated Press's Matt Gouras "reported" ("Tea party vision for Mont. raising concerns") on legislative proposals in Montana. It got the attention of Rush Limbaugh, who skewered it as only Rush can.
Gouras's opening paragraphs read like a press release from an opposition party:
With each bill, newly elected tea party lawmakers are offering Montanans a vision of the future.
Their state would be a place where officials can ignore U.S. laws, force FBI agents to get a sheriff's OK before arresting anyone, ban abortions, limit sex education in schools and create armed citizen militias.
His third paragraph uses the "some people" tactic, which more often than not is AP code for "people I found who agree with me":
It's going to be a long year for those of us who review Associated Press reports Uncle Sam's finances for evidence of bias and ignorance. Sometimes it seems that it would be easier to highlight the rare examples of fairness and balance.
Take the first sentence of Andrew Taylor's report on President Obama's 2012 budget (please; that goes for his report and the budget). It, in combination with the oh-so-predictable headline, makes you want to stop reading on in disgust (for the purposes of this post, I did endure the whole thing; bold is mine):
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Michelle Miller reported on planned closures of 2,000 U.S. Post Office locations: "...in this age of digital communications, online bill paying, and Federal Express, are physical post offices still relevant?" She seemed to answer her own question: "Folks are not going to let this go down without a fight...It's what makes their community whole."
During her report, Miller explained how the government subsidized organization had "a record deficit this year of $8.5 billion, the Postal Service loses a staggering $23 million a day and is facing a growing number of problems." Even so, she played on the emotions of viewers, interviewing an elderly New Jersey man named Harold Schutzman, who explained: "[I] got a friend there at the desk, Gary. I can't get into the paying by e-mail."
The search for ways to rehabilitate the Obama administration in the eyes of the public is seemingly a never-ending enterprise at the Associated Press.
Oh, they slip up occasionally. Late last week (covered yesterday at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), in an item primarily about how Congress really, really can't stop planned stimulus spending (uh-huh), the wire service's Brett J. Blackledge let slip that President Obama's stimulus program is "politically unpopular." In noting that the government wasn't able to spend the funds as fast as intended, Blackledge also indirectly confirmed an obvious truth the President admitted to the New York Times that he needed almost two years to learn: "there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects."
So what do you do if you're "The Essential Global News Network" and need to recover? Why, you find something that appears to be working (sort of), and rename it "stimulus." Voila! See how easy that is?
According to Brett J. Blackledge at the Associated Press, when it comes to unspent stimulus money, cue the MC Hammer ("U Can't Touch This") and go away.
In a Friday "analysis" in the wire service's "Spin Meter" category (HT Sweetness & Light), Blackledge, using words which clearly communicate which side he's on, in essence tells those whose goal it is to reduce federal spending to a more sustainable level that they're going to have to go somewhere else to find money that can't be spent.
There are a couple of silver linings in Blackledge's otherwise leaden analysis. First, he admits in his very first sentence that the stimulus program is "politically unpopular." Second, he notes that the government wasn't able to spend the money as quickly as promised in the heady days of February 2009, when passage of the stimulus bill that no one had time to read was supposedly the only thing preventing economic Armageddon:
April 1984 was the U.S. economy's 19th post-recession month while Ronald Reagan was President. It was a month during which the government initially reported that the unemployment rate remained at 7.7%, while the number of jobs added was 269,000. By the time the government made all its subsequent revisions over the next few years, the final jobs-added figure was 363,000.
On May 5, 1984, in an example of what Tim Graham at NewsBusters cited on Wednesday of the press's poor economic reporting during the Reagan era, the New York Times's Robert D. Hershey Jr. (link is to Proquest Database article copy, presented for fair use and discussion purposes) did what he could to downplay the good news, highlight the bad news, and create an impression that the good times might not last long, The report doesn't have the intense negativity found in many press reports during the George W. Bush era, but there is definitely an undercurrent of surprise and disappointment that things were going so swimmingly:
Someone needs to tell the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa and Christopher Rugaber that just because the number of unemployed people declines, it doesn't mean that they "found work."
That must be what the pair believes. Their error-riddled and suspect supposition-driven Friday afternoon report, whose title predictably focused on the unemployment-rate drop while ignoring the pathetic increase in seasonally adjusted jobs, actually made that claim (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
On Wednesday, the inarguably correct Mark Levin, aided by flashbacks to monologues earlier in the week, laid out in detail the rule of law standoff the Obama administration has created in choosing to defy Monday's federal court decision declaring Obamacare null and void and continuing its implementation as if the ruling doesn't exist.
In the process, he also ripped in to the clear establishment press double standard at work.
Choice excerpts follow (internal links added by me; bolds refer to media-related comments; the rest is important for grasping just how serious this is):
Ten days ago, on the eve of the House vote to repeal ObamaCare, Kathleen Sebelius's Department or Health and Human Services issued a fearmongering press release saying that "129 million Americans with a pre-existing condition could be denied coverage without new health reform law."
Ten days later, on a Friday afternoon (naturally), the Associated Press's Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar finally got around to skeptically evaluating HHS's claim. Way to be there at crunch time, Ricardo (/sarc).
Here are selected paragraphs from Ricardo's rendition:
In a Monday Associated Press dispatch, reporter Tom Krisher virtually celebrated the idea that Government/General Motors "may be Number 1 again," with happy talk of "dethroning" and "overtaking" Toyota.
Nowhere did Krisher mention the inconvenient fact that Toyota's revenues dwarf GM's to the point where comparing unit sales is an absurd waste of time. Specifically:
In an Associated Press report by Patrick Walters yesterday afternoon, the following two reasons were offered as to why the Philadelphia abortion "clinic" operated by Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was arrested and charged earlier this week "with murdering seven babies and one woman who went to him for an abortion," had not been inspected since 1993:
Democratic former Governor Ed Rendell, who left office on Tuesday after eight years as Keystone State chief executive, claimed that officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), in the AP's words, "didn't think its authority extended to abortion clinics."
The grand jury indictment of Dr. Gosnell says that DOH "decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all."
According to the indictment handed down against Gosnell, the hard-to-handle first explanation (If DOH doesn't have jurisdiction, who does? No one?) is a subset of the second, i.e., the opinion on lack of jurisdiction was part of a longer-term effort to come up with reasons to avoid inspections. Walters never told readers that, and in doing so largely let Rendell off the hook for the fact that almost half of 17-years involved -- the longest time period of any Keystone State governor contemporaneous with the non-inspection regime of non-inspection occurred on his watch (the others: Bob Casey, prolife Democrat, somewhere between 13 months and two years; Tom Ridge, prochoice Republican, 6-3/4 years; Mark Schweiker, prolife Republican, 15 months). Walters also saved the grand jury's overall "political reasons" assessment for Paragraphs 9-12 after giving Rendell's explanation paragraphs 1-4.
Bob Casey? Yes, though the grand jury for some reason didn't recognize it.
On Friday, a Reuters report at CNBC noted the Federal Reserve's journey into the accounting and reporting twilight zone earlier this month. In doing so, it conducted a clinic in how to make unreality look acceptable and make a dangerous situation appear palatable.
In the el bizzarro world at Reuters and those the wire service interviewed for its article:
A change in how one accounts for things can magically make a functionally insolvent entity solvent again.
Such a change can also mean that an entity which has run out of cash and has to beg for funds no longer has to.
Calling a genuine erosion of capital something other than an erosion of capital means that it's no longer an erosion of capital.
Gee, why didn't they just do this at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers 2-1/2 years ago and let things go on as usual?
Here's most of the Reuters report (bolds supporting the bullet points above are mine):