In reporting what it called a "big win" for Senate Democrats in killing off drilling in ANWR, this morning's Today show aired footage of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, similar to the file photo to the right.
There's only one little problem. The drilling in ANWR won't take place anywhere near those mountains.
It will occur on barren coastal plains far away. A few years ago, attempting to break through the ice-jam of blather over the issue, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg took a trip up there himself. Here's one of the photos Jonah took, giving an idea of the area in which drilling would take place. Them's some mighty small mountains!
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
On December 7, The Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger reported on a rise in factory orders and productivity growth, and quoted an expert who predicted good times ahead:
"The momentum of growth has been very strong," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. "This suggests that growth in the fourth quarter of this year and early next year will remain robust."
Two weeks later, on December 21 at 8:37 AM ET, in a report on the slight downward revision of third-quarter GDP growth from 4.3% to 4.1%, Crutsinger wrote the following, apparently for consumption by the general population, based on where it appeared (bold is mine):
When it comes to the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC, the Today show just can't bring itself to pronounce the 'I' word, for illegal.
In contrast with his reticent Today show appearance yesterday, this morning NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg took off the verbal gloves, repeatedly condemning the union for its illegal strike, which violates the Taylor Law prohibiting public employees in New York from striking. Among other things, Bloomberg stated that striking union members would be fined two days pay for every day the strike lasts.
But whereas Today expressed concern for the plight of commuters and the city's economy, and Katie made sympathetic noises in her interview of Bloomberg, the show remained terribly bashful when it came to reporting the undeniable fact that the strike is illegal.
Let's get one thing straight: the the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC is illegal. Even the New York Times, in this article, had to acknowledge that stubborn fact:
"The state's Taylor Law bars strikes by public employees and carries penalties of two days' pay for each day on strike, but the transit union decided it was worth risking the substantial fines to continue the fight for what it regards as an acceptable contract."
In addition to the tremendous inconvenience the strike inflicts on the seven-million largely working-class people who use the transit system daily, the economic loss has been estimated at as much as $400 million per day.
The really interesting stories in today's Washington Post are hiding off the front pages. On page A-23 (and not even the TOP of A-23) is the Dan Balz story "Pelosi Hails Democrats' Diverse War Stances." That's a sunny way of saying again, "Democrats Have No Iraq Plan." Balz begins his summary of a Pelosi sit-down with the Post:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.
MRC's Brent Baker noted in today's CyberAlert about Brian Williams's latest instance of describing a spending increase as a "cut" in spending. I emailed Williams's comments to the Heritage Foundation's lead budget analyst, Brian Riedl. Riedl's reply:
The reconciliation bill would reduce the 5-year growth of entitlement spending from 39% down to 38%. Spending would still increase.
Riedl then dropped a link which took me to a WebMemo from November. What follows should be required reading for any reporter, but broadcast ones especially, to read before covering spending bills on Capitol Hill. Portions in bold are my emphasis:
USA Today practiced a “rip and read” of liberal talking points on winter heating costs with it’s headline for Richard Wolf’s December 12 story, “Some may face choice: Whether to heat or eat." Wolf’s article centered on critics of the Agriculture Department’s (USDA) decision to deny the requests of five states for a boost in food stamps spending.
The self-declared “nation’s newspaper” cribbed from a December 12 press release by America’s Second Harvest, whose headline read, “Heat or Eat? Millions of Americans Forced to Make the Choice This Winter; Energy Costs and Food Insecurity Reach Record Highs.”
The latest issue of Newsweek featured an almost 4,000 word article – written by Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe, with assistance from Holly Bailey, Daniel Klaidman, Eleanor Clift, Michael Hirsh and John Barry – that painted a pretty bleak picture of President Bush as possibly being “the most isolated president in modern history.” The authors referred to Bush as being in a “bubble” that blocks out thoughts, policy suggestions, and ideas that he is either unwilling or intellectually incapable of absorbing. Some of the lowlights:
“Yet his inattention to Murtha, a coal-country Pennsylvanian and rock-solid patriot, suggests a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president who seeks to transform the world.”
“What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable.”
A front page New York Times story on the global warming talks in Montreal chose to place all the blame for America’s refusal to move forward with the highly controversial Kyoto Protocol on the Bush administration. In doing so, the Times didn’t inform its readers about the history of this accord, and, in particular, that the Senate in July 1997 voted 95-0 against it. In addition, the Times completely ignored any of the obvious economic consequences to America if it entered into a global warming treaty that did not include China.
Yet, that didn’t deter the Times from identifying a culprit: “In a sign of its growing isolation on climate issues, the Bush administration had come under sharp criticism for walking out of informal discussions on finding new ways to reduce emissions under the United Nations' 1992 treaty on climate change.”
How does one analyze the economy's performance without considering tax policy?
In a column posted on the afternoon of December 8 at MSNBC's web site, James C. Cooper and Kathleen Madigan of Business Week Online devote over 1,100 words to analyzing and explaining the current strong economy, and fail to cite the 2003 Bush tax cuts as a possible contributing factor. In fact, the words "tax," "Bush," and even "government," do not appear at all!
Cooper's and Madigan's explanations center around spending:
So why has the economy performed above expectations amid unexpected developments? The main explanation seems to be that, despite the Fed's desire to tighten monetary conditions, consumers and businesses, on average, still have access to cash, whether through cheap borrowing, better income and profit growth, or rising housing and stock market wealth. Accommodative financial conditions are proving to be the economy's Peyton Manning, quarterbacking the steady forward movement in demand.
Of particular interest, Simpson notes that Weisman fell hook, line, and sinker for a flawed study by a handful of Federal Reserve economists. Portions in bold are my emphasis:
Weisman hyped a flawed report from the Federal Reserve Board to draw the conclusion that the earlier dividend tax cut package “had no real impact on the stock market and prompted ‘only muted gain in total corporate payouts.’
After a month of hounding President Bush for low poll numbers, Thursday’s “Early Show” on CBS ignored their own network's poll showing President Bush’s approval rating has improved by five points over the last month. But a month ago, when a CBS poll found lower ratings for the President, the “Early Show” mentioned it two days in a row. CBS’s Bill Plante was quick to point out that among modern Presidents; only Richard Nixon was lower at this point in his second term. The next day, Thalia Assuras touted how “the President’s poll numbers are defining a new low.” However, CBS's polling partner, the “New York Times”, found President Bush’s rising poll numbers important enough to put on their front page above the fold Thursday morning under a headline reading “Economy Lifts Bush’s Support in Latest Poll,” and the poll was also featured on last night's "CBS Evening News” with Bob Schieffer.
A recent report published by the Gallup Organization stated:
“a majority of U.S. investors continue to describe the current economy as being ‘in a slowdown’ or ‘recession’ as opposed to being ‘in a recovery’ or ‘sustained expansion.’”
Regardless of continuously strong economic reports, such bearish assessments have been regularly portrayed by public opinion polls for several years. During this period, economists and politicians – including the Bush administration – have wondered what is responsible for this disconnect between perception and reality.
A detailed look at how unemployment numbers are shared with the public by mainstream media outlets gives us some clues. The Labor Department on Friday announced very strong employment gains for the month of November. In fact, this was the largest number of job creations since April. However, this news was reported to the public in a fashion that largely downplayed its significance. A 3.2 percent annual increase in wages was characterized as employees “basically treading water.” Although energy prices have been steadily declining since September, jobs market stories included references of this still being a “huge concern.” Other news accounts referred to the unemployment rate being “stuck at 5 percent,” as if a 5 percent unemployment rate is a bad thing, while one cable news outlet told viewers to take the numbers “with a grain of salt.”
Yesterday, CBS Early Show co-host Hannah Storm asked White House aide Dan Bartlett about how most Americans think the economy is tanking: "Finally Dan, quickly, I know you came on to talk about the economy today, the President is going to address this today, there are some positive numbers but we have Americans shopping at discounters, they spent their money on gas this summer, they're worried about heating costs. What can you tell the majority of Americans who actually feel that the economy is getting worse?"
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Stephen Pearlstein noticed in his "Sunday Briefing" (page F-2) that "The Economy Grabs the High Ground," as the headline said. He wrote: "Defying hurricanes and inflation, rising interest rates and political gridlock, the U.S. economy demonstrated its remarkable strength and stamina last week." Despite the drama implicit in that sentence, the Post’s editors buried the news inside the paper.
Last Wednesday, as PostWatch noticed, Nell Henderson's story on growth, "Economy Grew Briskly In 3rd Quarter," was placed on D-1, the front page of the Business section. (On October 29, a Henderson report headlined "Hurricanes Didn't Stop Economy From Growing" was also on D-1.) A strong jobs report? "Growth in Jobs Overcame Slump in November" appeared on page D-1 on Saturday. Negative-sounding economic news appeared on page A-1: on Sunday, the front page carried the story that struggling car companies want help with benefits: "Automakers Are Lining Up Aid, But Just Don't Call It a Bailout." A peek at Nexis back to March 1 at the stories on economic indicators reported by Nell Henderson showed a continuing pattern of Henderson making A-1 or the A-section with bad news:
“I know, Dan, the President’s giving a speech on the economy coming up, but there are people, including Alan Greenspan of the Fed, and also the GAO, the top auditor in the country, who have said with these deficits, these mounting deficits, it is simply hard to look at this economy as anything but on thin ice, no matter what. No new taxes?”
-- Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer to Dan Bartlett, White House counselor, December 5, 2005.
The media’s pessimistic holiday shopping forecasts fail to register with reality.
Don't miss my latest at the Free Market Project: Contrary to the media’s pessimistic forecasts for the Christmas shopping season reported by the Free Market Project in late October, strong retail sales this Thanksgiving weekend got the annual end-of-the-year buying bonanza off to a bang. In fact, the economic data available prior to this weekend looked so strong that the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, actually raised its sales forecast for 2005 holiday shopping from a 5 percent year-over-year increase to 6 percent.
Regardless of this upgrade in expectations by retailers themselves, and the fabulous start to the shopping season, the media continued to rain on everybody’s parade.
Don't miss my latest writing for the Free Market Project: Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.
A Bubble?: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has denied the existence of a national housing bubble for several years, but the media have used the term repeatedly.
Strong Gains: The increase in real estate values the past five years has not resembled the rapid rise typically seen in a bubble. In 2000, the national median existing-home value was $139,000. This grew to $215,900 by the third quarter of 2005 – a 55-percent nominal increase but a 34-percent inflation-adjusted gain.
Home Sales Still Going Up: New home sales jumped another 13 percent in October. While sales of existing homes were down 2.7 percent from September, the median national price rose to $218,000, a 16.6 percent increase since October 2004.
You've come to Newsbusters because you want to see a concrete example of liberal bias. Who delivers that better than the New York Times?
This is reality. We're 4 years out from the worst attack since Pearl Harbor, post dot-com crash, we've had more hurricanes than any year since some old man first started keeping track, and we just about had a major U.S. city -- an economically important city -- wiped off the face of the planet. The hurricanes took out oil infrastructure at a time when we can ill afford a disruption in supply.
And yet the economy is, quite simply, running hot.
That would be great, except for the fact that a religious conservative is sitting in the White House. Will the powerful New York Times stand for this? After all, there has been so much invested in making Bush look like a religious idiot.
Strong "Black Friday" showings across America were given short shrift by the Washington Post this "Cyber Monday" which buried the story in a four-paragraph blurb on page A10 in the District and Maryland home edition.
But not only were the numbers good in comparison to last year, they far surprassed the expectations of the National Retail Federation (NRF), the industry group which analyzes and forecasts the performance of the American retail industry.
For those who missed it, the Federal Open Market Committee released minutes from its November 1 meeting on Tuesday, and the stock market rallied as a result. Yet, depending upon which Associated Press story you read, you were either elated or despondent.
For instance, the AP’s Michael J. Martinez began his report: “Stocks extended their rally yesterday after the Fed's latest take on the economy raised hopes that the central bank's string of a dozen interest rate hikes are coming to an end.”
By contrast, Jeannine Aversa began her article: “Worried that high energy costs could spread inflation throughout the economy, Federal Reserve policymakers this month decided they should keep pushing interest rates higher.”
Remember the good old MSM formulation from the days when Newt was Speaker? The notion that slowing the runaway growth of any government program was actually a cut?
Just in time for Thanksgiving, it's back.
My local paper, the Gannett-owned Ithaca Journal, leads with this tear-jerker of a banner headline: "Budget Cuts Would Hit State's Poor Hard". Here is a link to the article.
Gannett News reporter John Machacek writes of thousands of welfare recipients being "squeezed," the poor being dealt a "blow" and the proposals "poking sizeable holes in New York's safety net."
Predictably, the story comes complete with heart-tugging personal stories: a cancer survivor living in a YMCA; a single mother with an asthmatic child, both worried about how the 'cuts' might affect them.
In homes across this country that subscribe to the New York Times, Americans will wake up on Thanksgiving morning to be told that the land they love is still in some kind of Great Depression. Of course, unemployment is at 5 percent, more Americans own their own homes than ever in history, and the average citizen has a higher net worth – meaning assets minus debt – than ever before, including during the supposed boom years of the late ’90s. Alas, none of that is important to the Times editorial staff...not even on Thanksgiving.
To be sure, this kind of economic mischaracterization is certainly nothing new to the mainstream media. However, stuck in the middle of an editorial about one of the nation’s most cherished holidays, on the very day in question, does make it a little more distasteful than usual:
General Motors has had its share of trials lately – renegotiating worker benefits and now closing plants. The media continue to blame the auto manufacturer’s worries on high gas prices and foreign automakers. The glaring omission in the coverage is the United Auto Workers, the union that has driven GM’s costs to unsustainable heights.
That's not Joe Biden's approach, as CBS's Hannah Storm discovered on Tuesday's Early Show.
Hannah Storm: "Let me ask you about general motors, shifting gears a little bit here. They announced 30,000 job cuts, 12 facilities closing in 2008 because of poor sales and rising healthcare costs. How much does this concern you? What are the implications for other U.S. industries here?"
Since his surprise call on Thursday to withdraw American troops from Iraq, the media have been speaking nothing but high praise for Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn). Yet, the press haven’t always been so fond of the congressman, and their recent love affair with Mr. Murtha is totally ignoring their past depictions of him as being “a leading pork-barrel politician” who is often in the middle of a great deal of questionable spending related to defense contracts.
In fact, many of the headlines Murtha made in the ’90s were specifically connected to projects that he pushed through the House that largely benefited his home district in the state of Pennsylvania. His “earmarking” was so legendary that Roll Call’s Mary Jacoby stated in a February 24, 1994 article that it might have prevented him from becoming the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations: