The New York Times's lobbyist double standard lives on. Since Barack Obama became president, the paper has routinely overlooked the vast disconnect between his rhetoric on lobbying's role on the political process - there really isn't one, if you believe Barack - and his actions on the issue.
But while the Gray Lady all but ignores Obama's deep ties with lobbyists and the industry groups they represent, the paper has hammered Republicans for their ties to "special interests."
The latest such attempt is a hack job in Sunday's New York Times. Reporter Eric Lipton claims that House Miniority Leader John Boehner "maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation's biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS."
The story makes some serious allegations - the most damning of which was sourced to an anonymous lobbyist. Intriguingly, some of the same claims undergird an upcoming DNC ad blitz against Boehner. The Leader's staff, meanwhile, claim they were not asked for comment before the story went to press.
Adopting language and tactics more typical of tyrants, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday sent a public letter to the head of a health insurance industry group demanding that carriers stop "falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act," and that "that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."
She reinforced her short-term threat with a longer-term one:
We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections.
When Sebelius threatens exclusion from the "Exchanges," she is really saying: "Shut up and eat your costs, or you'll be out of business in a few years."
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening new shows have yet to notice Fidel Castro's astonishing admission that Cuban Communism does not work. But non-journalist Jay Leno brought the news to his Tonight Show audience on Thursday, joshing: "Most Cubans heard this announcement on a 1954 RCA Deluxe console TV -- beautiful black-and-white, all mahogany...." (Video at right)
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg recounted Castro's confession in a September 8 post:
During the generally lighthearted conversation (we had just spent three hours talking about Iran and the Middle East), I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.
Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggested continued growth in national economic activity during the reporting period of mid-July through the end of August, but with widespread signs of a deceleration compared with preceding periods.
... However, the remaining Districts of New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, and Chicago all highlighted mixed conditions or deceleration in overall economic activity.
It may be fair to describe the detail in Atlanta's section of the report as "mixed" (it's a borderline call; the opening paragraph from that District's report will appear later). But Richmond's section is clearly one of deceleration, which brings us to today's clearly needed geography lesson for Jeannine Aversa and/or a headline writer at the Associated Press.
What follows is a graphic containing the headline at Aversa's 2:45 p.m. story (since updated here), and her first few paragraphs:
CNN's Deborah Feyerick played up Imam Feisal Rauf's apparent credentials as a "moderate" Muslim during a report on Wednesday's American Morning. Feyerick omitted using sound bites from Rauf's critics, and only briefly mentioned his controversial remarks about on CBS's 60 Minutes about the 9/11 attacks and his reluctance to condemn Hamas.
The CNN correspondent's report led the 6 am Eastern hour, and was re-broadcast throughout the day on the network. Almost immediately, Feyerick stressed how Rauf is apparently a "voice of moderation" by playing three clips from three who unequivocally endorse him- the State Department's P. J. Crowley, mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal, and Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University. She continued by describing the Islamic cleric as a "Sufi Muslim, at the other end of the Islamic spectrum from the radical theology that feeds groups like al Qaeda."
In a Tuesday evening report, Associated Press Writer Jesse L. Holland engaged in a great deal of word massage which appears to have been designed to mislead relative newcomers to discussions about stem cell research.
The news concerned Federal Judge Royce Lamberth's refusal of the federal government's request that he lift his August 23 order blocking federal funding for embryonic stem cell research during the appeals process.
Less-informed readers could be excused for believing, at least through first nine of the eleven tortured paragraphs in Holland's report, that stem cells can only be obtained from human embryos. In Paragraph 10, Holland finally acknowledged the existence of adult stem cells, but then dubiously implied that the litigation was brought solely because the plaintiffs don't want competition from embryonic research. The AP writer also ignored a fine piece written in early August by wire service colleague Malcolm Ritter (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), who accurately reported that "Adult stem cell research (is) far ahead of embryonic."
What follows are several paragraphs from Holland's horror, including a ridiculous title falsely implying that no federal funds are going into any kind of stem cell research (bolds are mine throughout this post):
On Tuesday's American Morning, CNN's Kiran Chetry used General David Petraeus's denunciation of a planned Koran burning by a church to blast the church's pastor for any subsequent deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan: "Are you willing to have the blood of soldiers on your hands by this demonstration?" Chetry also lectured Pastor Terry Jones over his apparent lack of "refined" Christianity.
Chetry interviewed Pastor Jones 41 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour. After asking him why he and his church were planning to burn Korans, the anchor launched into her critique of the minister: "I wanted to let you say your piece, because when I first read this story, I thought there's no way that this could be as bad as it sounds. It appears that it is. You're saying that you're going to burn the holy book of another religion to send a message to the radical elements of that religion, with no thought to the fact that you'd obviously be highly offending everyone in that religion. How do you justify that?"
Later in the segment, Chetry turned theologian and quoted Scripture to Pastor Jones as she continued to question his planned action: "What about turn thy cheek? I mean, this is- you know, Christianity at its most- you know, refined. It's that you just don't act out in violence. You don't act out in any manner of hate, that you turn thy cheek, that you don't rise to the nastiness or the level of payback that your perceived enemies do. I mean, isn't this the exact opposite of what Christ taught all of us to be and to do?"
It's interesting, and more than a little frustrating, to see how inflammatory words in speeches delivered by liberal and leftist politicians that might cast them in a bad light don't seem to make much news.
One such example occurred in a speech yesterday at Cincinnati's Coney Island, on the occasion of the AFL-CIO's huge annual picnic there. At that event, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland lashed out at the party of gubernatorial opponent John Kasich as, according to one local reporter, "overrun by extremist elements."
I don't know that this is exactly what Strickland said, but it seems highly unlikely that veteran WLWT reporter John London would have strung those words together on his own.
Strickland's characterization of his opposition as relayed by London, which you will find at this Bing video and also at WLWT's own web site, "somehow" didn't make it into the the station's accompanying text report on the event, which, contrary to what I believe is the norm at the station, doesn't in any way follow the script of the London's coverage. The "overrun by extremist elements" reference also was not noted at either of the city's two other news-following TV stations which covered the event (here and here), nor in Howard Wilkinson's coverage at Gannett's Cincinnati Enquirer. Imagine that.
Here is the first 70% or so of the verbiage in the WLWT broadcast:
Obama administration Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (pictured at right with what I would guess is her ideal car of the future) shamelessly used Labor Day weekend as an opportunity to score political points.
In a presentation that was more a political stump speech than an informative presentation, Solis recited a litany of alleged accomplishments. Many of them have no relationship to what her department does, while some are also objectively wrong. Second, she set up a host of straw men in the form of "those who would" and "to those who want to" to make her department and the administration where she works appear as if they and they alone are the bulwark against rapacious employers and their political allies.
The YouTube video is present at this DOL page (direct YouTube link here). What follows are selected transcribed excerpts, with specific critiques:
The news out of Government/General Motors during the past couple of days hasn't been particularly good.
First, August sales results were disappointing. Second, it become known today that GM will attempt to go public on November 18, a later than originally hoped post-election date chosen to hopefully allow for another reported quarterly profit to boost investors' appetite for its shares.
As so often has been the case during Democratic administrations when unfavorable developments arise, the UK press has seen potential problems with the IPO, while the Associated Press has been acting as if all is well.
In two separate items, AP reporters couldn't even bring themselves to tell readers what the company's real August sales decline was.
In a report yesterday on the industry's awful August, reporters Dee-Ann Durbin and Tom Krisher were appropriately gloomy overall, but they massaged GM's reported result (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Yesterday the Gallup organization released a poll showing that Americans trust Republicans over Democrats on most major issues heading into the general election season. Today the same polling outfit released a poll that found a large number of Americans blame George W. Bush for the faltering economy.
Nearly two years after Barack Obama was elected president, Americans still are inclined to blame his predecessor for the nation's current economic problems.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, more than a third of those surveyed said George W. Bush deserved a great deal of the blame for economic woes and a third said he should get a moderate amount of it. Not quite another third called that unfair, saying Bush warranted not much or none of the responsibility.
In a short item about a Democratic Governors Association election complaint about Ohio GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, the Associated Press's Julie Carr Smyth showed that she is willfully ignoring Buckeye State reality, or has been living a hermit's existence for the past few months.
In describing Kasich's standing against Democratic incumbent governor Ted Strickland, Smyth claimed that Kasich "is keeping pace with Strickland in polls and fundraising" (a picture of the relevant paragraph is here).
As you can see, that's sort of like a baseball writer claiming that "The Cincinnati Reds are keeping pace with the Chicago Cubs this year":
Meanwhile, the NBC, ABC and CBS evening newscasts combined for a dubious record last week: the average of 18.7 million people who watched one of the three shows last week was the smallest audience those three telecasts have reached collectively on record, since the infancy of television, Nielsen said.
During the slow news period of late August, the broadcasts broke their previous record — set just last week.
Little did I know that my post last week (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) also covered a negative record-breaker.
This past weekend, intrepid journalists at the New York Post and NorthJersey.com released information they unearthed about proposed Ground Zero Mosque "organizer" Sharif El-Gamal and frontman Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, respectively, that the wire services, the New York Times and the national TV networks would likely have run with by now had the items related to a major church or synagogue.
But since the news has to do with what has turned into the PC crowd's cause celebre and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's personal pet project, you may not see the stories covered anywhere else.
The arguably more important story of the two concerns the tax problems of Mr. El-Gamal (pictured above via the Post) and his company, because they directly related to the GZM's property. The story by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein went up early Sunday morning:
Defenders of controversial imam Feisal Abdul Rauf have been touting his past efforts in offering counterterrorism advice to the FBI as a way to illustrate his bridge-building intentions. Much like other reports, they tend to gloss over the more controversial aspects of Rauf's statements. But, as is typical with the Ground Zero mosque imam, it can be demonstrated that he is frequently speaking with a forked tongue.
There is no doubt that Rauf has made some questionable and incendiary comments regarding America and her role in the Muslim world. Perhaps these statements fit the imam's overall rhetoric involving U.S. complicity in the attacks of 9/11. As does the following statement to the FBI, which is conveniently omitted from media reports defending Rauf.
Bridge-building imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was giving a crash course in Islam for FBI agents in March of 2003. When asked to clarify such terminology as ‘jihad' and ‘fatwa', Rauf stated (emphasis mine throughout):
"Jihad can mean holy war to extremists, but it means struggle to the average Muslim. Fatwah has been interpreted to mean a religious mandate approving violence, but is merely a recommendation by a religious leader. Rauf noted that the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks could be considered a jihad, and pointed out that a renowned Islamic scholar had issued a fatwah advising Muslims in the U.S. military it was okay to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan."
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's first full day as the only person in the whole wide world with any kind of influence over what happens in the economy didn't go too badly.
That's the impression one might get from consuming two Friday Associated dispatches and a related AP Video.
Bernanke apparently took full charge of anything and everything having to do with the economy on Thursday evening. As noted early Friday morning (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), two Thursday afternoon dispatches from the wire service in advance of the government's Friday morning GDP report widely predicted to contain news of a significant downward revision to second-quarter economic growth placed surreal importance on the content of a speech he was to give Friday morning shortly after that report's release. The names of President Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Geithner, and Larry Summers were totally absent from both reports.
Friday, in the wake of the downward revision of second-quarter GDP from an annualized 2.4% to 1.6%, AP's primary economic report about Bernanke's apparent first day as Emperor-in-Chief again failed to name the five folks just mentioned, as did a one-minute video from Mark Hamrick found here (after a 30-second commercial).
Here is some of what Christopher Rugaber, with assists from Jeannine Aversa and Alan Zibel, wrote about Ben's big day:
Sometimes you just have to chuckle at the transparent motivations of business writers in the establishment press.
Two Associated Press reports from this afternoon, one from Stephen Bernard and another much lengthier piece from Jeannine Aversa, attempt to set the template for Friday morning's reportage: Despite all the bad news, including a serious downward revision to second-quarter economic growth, it's up to Big Ben Bernanke to calm everyone down, and magically return the economy to some kind of even keel.
In late July, a Government Accountability Office report circulated which analyzed stimulus funding being spent by the Department of Energy. The main gist of that report involved the cost of each job being generated by the stimulus bill - a staggering $194,000. Tucked away in that report was a phrase that was new to most of us, a way to calculate jobs through a term called ‘lives touched'.
Last week it was confirmed that some departments being funded by the stimulus are indeed using the metric ‘lives touched' - a regression from the absurd ‘jobs saved or created', which was already a step down from the incalculable ‘jobs created'.
A spokesperson from the CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company explains:
"Lives Touched" is a figure that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses to track the amount of people who have been positively affected by the Recovery Act funds. This total would include people who have been provided full time employment (i.e. saved and created jobs) through the Recovery Act and people who at some point have supported a project funded by the Recovery Act.
Essentially, the Obama administration had figured out another way to inflate job numbers to better fit their claims of success. And yet, the media has remained largely silent on this matter. Even as Vice-President Biden released a report on the Recovery Act yesterday, with a specific focus on the Department of Energy and job creation.
Below is an outline of how the administration and the DOE are collaborating to inflate their numbers by measuring the number of ‘lives touched' by the stimulus bill.
Last week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced on CNN that she was hanging up her headphones at the end of the year. If she could not exercise her freedom of speech, she said, she was not interested in the job.
Watchdogs on the left had pounced on a conversation she had with a black woman in which she proclaimed something that everyone with cable TV knows is true. The N-word is acceptable vernacular for black comedians on HBO, but it’s not something you can ever, ever say if you’re not black.
While making this point, Dr. Laura purposely said the N-word repeatedly during this proclamation, and that was all the Left needed to start contacting sponsors, suggesting they shouldn’t want their products associated with this viciously racist talk show. It didn’t matter that even liberal editorialists in The Washington Post declared that there was nothing at all racist in what the doctor said.
July's bad news in new home sales is even worse than it first appears.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 276,000 units is bad enough. That is an all-time low since records have been kept and 12% lower than June's annual rate. It's also lower than what analysts predicted by about the same percentage. The lazy business press is running with those figures.
But, as has been the case so many other times, it takes a trip to the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) data, this time at the Census Bureau (large PDF), to fully comprehend the extent of the new-home market's collapse during this big, fat failed "Recovery Summer."
The raw data shows that 25,000 new homes were sold in the U.S. in July. That's not a typo, and it really is the figure for the entire country. Worse, that figure, the lowest July since records have been kept, is down by over one-third from July of last year, when the economy supposedly bottomed out, and by 42% from July 2008. I don't think you'll see those facts reported today.
Here is a graphic cap of a 10:07 a.m. report at Reuters carried at CNBC.com. It contains a jaw-dropper of a quote from an economist (red box is obviously mine):
Earlier today, Shirley Sherrod, who, according to the current version of ruling class wisdom, was prematurely evacuated from the USDA by Director Tom Vilsack, decided not to accept an offer to return to the agency.
Instead, according to Politico's Matt Negrin, "she hasn’t accepted the department’s offer to work there again, but that she wants 'some type of relationship' with it later." We wouldn't closure or anything, would we?
Five weeks or so have intervened since Andrew Breitbart posted a video excerpt of Sherrod's speech at an NAACP event. (It should be noted USAactionnews.com actually posted the video earlier; though their link has been taken down, their original July 15 tweet is here.)
In that time, the establishment press has either seriously downplayed or totally ignored the several important items relating to the background and outlook of Ms. Sherrod and her husband Charles.
It has now been five days since Politico's Ben Smith published a powerpoint presentation created by an amalgamation of powerful left wing interest groups, conceding that two of the central arguments for passing ObamaCare - that it will lower the deficit and will reduce health care costs - have failed.
For a group of organizations integral to the passage of the law, that was a stunning admission. And yet, the mainstream press is nearly silent on the issue. Searches on Nexis and Google News reveal no coverage from the major television networks, the cable news channels (with the exception of Fox), the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, PBS, or Newsweek. To their credit, Time Magazine and the Washington Post published a blog post each on the revelation.
Even while discussing ObamaCare and its potential effects on the deficit and health care costs, some media outlets managed to avoid any mention of a fact Democrats now seem to be conceding: "the White House's first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed," as Smith notes.
Mowjood? As Alana Goodman of the Business and Media Institute reported earlier this month, Sharaf Mowjood is a former lobbyist for the Council on American Islamic Relations, an interest group that strongly supports the mosque. Mowjood coauthored a glowing Dec. 9, 2009 article on the mosque with reporter Ralph Blumenthal and also contributed to a sympathetic story by Barnard August 11 about public relations missteps by the mosque sponsors.
Barnard began with an anecdote about a Rauf lecture in Cairo where the imam (with a voice the Times describes as "soft, almost New Agey") was accused by radical Islamists of being an American agent (a story which of course bolsters Rauf's moderate credentials). Barnard seemingly took it as her mission to rebut charges of extremism against Rauf.
In his absence -- he is now on another Middle East speaking tour sponsored by the State Department -- a host of allegations have been floated: that he supports terrorism; that his father, who worked at the behest of the Egyptian government, was a militant; that his publicly expressed views mask stealth extremism. Some charges, the available record suggests, are unsupported. Some are simplifications of his ideas. In any case, calling him a jihadist appears even less credible than calling him a United States agent.
On Monday's Situation Room, CNN's Jeffrey Toobin used dire language to describe a federal judge's decision which struck down federal funding for embryonic stem cell research: "The bottom line is this is a major setback for stem cell research and for the Obama administration....it will certainly cut way back on federal funding." Anchor Suzanne Malveaux labeled it a "potential wedge issue."
Malveaux led the 5 pm Eastern hour with the "breaking news" about Judge Royce Lamberth's decision, who issued a preliminary injunction against federal funding for the life-destroying research. The anchor brought in Toobin and asked, "What does this mean today?" Toobin immediately gave his "major setback" assessment and described the grounds on which Judge Lamberth gave in his 15-page opinion.
The CNN senior legal analyst, like many in the media, omitted that embryonic stem cell research isn't the only field when it comes to stem cell research. The federal government has actually spent much more on adult stem cell research. According to a July 18, 2008 report by PBS, the NIH "spent $200 million funding non-embryonic stem cell research, and only $38 million on embryonic stem cells." Less than a month ago, on August 2, the Associated Press actually highlighted the successes of adult stem cell research.
Well, it didn't take to much digging to find people who think that the $578 million cost of the new Taj Mahal complex known as the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles (pictured at right; noted last night at NewsBusters and BizzyBlog) isn't that big of a deal.
What I found makes me wonder why it took so long for waste of this magnitude to become a national story.
On July 9, at LA's Daily News, Connie Llanos chronicled much of the story behind how costs spiraled out of control. Readers will have to go to the link to get that detail. In terms of the project's final cost, Llanos found plenty of people willing to say that spending over $135,000 per seat is okey-dokey (bolds are mine):
RFK is LAUSD's most costly campus – and it needs more cash
... District officials say the cost of the Robert F. Kennedy complex is more than justified if you consider its urban location, historical significance and expected community role.
The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles, apparently opening soon, will serve roughly 4,200 students in grades K-12. Its cost is coming in at $578 million, or almost $140,000 per student ($2.75 million per 20-student classroom).
This is the LA Unified District's most flagrant example of its Taj Mahal obsession, and it is far from the only one. Also, as the Associated Press's Christina Hoag reported early Sunday evening, LA is not the only place where the Taj Mahal complex is in vogue:
The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of "Taj Mahal" schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities.
"There's no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the '70s where kids felt, 'Oh, back to jail,'" said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. "Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning."
Former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod says she will meet Tuesday with agriculture secretary
Shirley Sherrod, the former USDA rural development director for Georgia, said today she plans to meet Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to discuss a new job offer.
... Sherrod today spoke in the Sumter County town of Epes at an event hosted by the Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. Ben Jealous, executive director of the NAACP, shared the stage with Sherrod during a panel discussion.
Sherrod said she had no ill feelings toward the NAACP or President Barack Obama.
It the meeting does indeed occur, it will be an interesting test of establishment media credibility, given the accusations leveled at Ms. Sherrod and her husband Charles by Ron Wilkins at the leftist publication Counterpunch several weeks ago. Here are some of the specifics:
Here's how the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger and Daniel Wagner reported the housing portion of their Tuesday report on the day's economic news ("Factories aid bumpy recovery, housing still weak"):
Single-family home construction, which represented nearly 80 percent of the market, fell 4.2 percent. And requests for building permits, considered a good sign of future activity, slid 3.1 percent.
... The July increase in housing construction pushed total activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units. Building activity in June was weaker than first reported. It fell 8.7 percent to an annual rate of 537,000 units, the slowest pace since October of last year.
"The bad news is that activity is likely to remain depressed for several years," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "The good news, however, is that housing is so depressed it is hard to see activity falling much further from such a severely depressed level."
Well, okay, but the situation is already closer to a zero-out than it is to the levels we were seeing just a few years ago--or any time in the 50-plus years such records have been kept. Looking at the raw data on a historical basis, one finds that July 2010 was the worst July on record for the both stats the AP pair cited:
On December 8 of last year, at some point before hitting the "print" button, someone at the New York Times decided that a story about what has since become known as the Ground Zero Mosque needed to be reworked.
Earlier that day, the Times published an online powder-puff piece by reporters Ralph Blumenthal and Sharaf Mowjood about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's GZM plans. The pair's story was revised before it went to print, and the online version was changed ("Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero," with a web page title bar that reads "Muslim Prayers Fuel Spiritual Rebuilding Project Near Ground Zero") to mirror it. It's even puffier.
Several bloggers posted about the pair's online original when it appeared. A few, including Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs and Ben Muessig at The Gothamist, excerpted some or all of the key paragraphs shown on the left below (bold in the third paragraph is mine). On the right is how that segment went to print on December 9 (link is to hard-to-read enlarged scan of that day's front page, where the story's opening paragraphs appeared near its bottom right), and how it currently appears online: