There was another appearance of the dreaded U-word ("unexpectedly") this morning at Bloomberg News.
The Commerce Department's advance report on December durable goods orders and shipments showed a seasonally adjusted 4.3 percent decrease in orders from November, while November was revised down from a positive 3.4 percent to 2.6 percent. Economists' median prediction for December was for a 1.8 percent increase. Bloomberg's Victoria Stilwell had an excuse at the ready, and as will be seen, chose to use it even though she knew it was a stretch (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Teasing an upcoming report on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie announced: "...the big-box store of weed? One Colorado company's plan to bring their controversial product to states coast to coast." In the report that followed minutes later, correspondent Gabe Gutierrez was shown standing in a room filled with marijuana plants at the Denver-based pot store and proclaimed: "If you thought pot retailers in Colorado were all tiny shops run by stoners, you'd be wrong. We're here at Medicine Man, and they call this vegetation room the green mile. It's part of a long road to making this a national pot franchise." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Gutierrez touted the ambitious plans of the legalized drug dealers: "Medicine Man calls itself the largest marijuana dispensary in Colorado. Here under the watchful eye of armed guards and security cameras, the owners are building what they're calling the Costco of weed."
Usually, when the Associated Press covers the Census Bureau's monthly new-home sales releases, its reporters will tell readers that a "healthy" market should generate about 700,000 sales per year (examples here and here). Though I believe that figure is insufficiently ambitious, given that pre-bubble annual sales averaged 776,000 from 1993-2000, it apparently has somewhat wide acceptance.
Of all the times to mention that benchmark, the bureau's final report for 2013 released this morning would be it. But AP's Martin Crutsinger failed to do so, possibly because astute readers would have noted that the year's actual sales of 428,000 units show that the industry, despite years of a media-hyped "housing recovery" which is supposedly leading the economy out of the wilderness (cough, cough), is still operating at a miserable 61 percent of capacity (428K divided by 700K). Excerpts from Crutsinger's report follow the jump (bolds are mine):
CBS analyst Mellody Hobson, whose husband George Lucas is worth $7.3 billion, appeared on This Morning to slam excessive salaries for corporate bosses. Discussing income inequality and Barack Obama's planned discussion at the State of the Union, Hobson lashed out, "If you look today, the typical CEO makes 354 times more than the typical worker in his or her company, mostly his because there are so few women running companies." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] (How much more does the male Lucas make than the average worker?)
She continued, "If you look back to 1980, that difference was just 42 times. So it's been that kind of income inequality that has started a lot of backlash and chatter..." Co-host Norah O'Donnell introduced the segment by highlighting a hyperbolic letter to the Wall Street Journal by CEO Tom Perkins comparing the treatment of the wealthy to Jews during the Holocaust. O'Donnell promoted, "[President Obama] calls [income inequality] one of the defining challenges of our time. How do you think that will be received by people in the business community?"
When it comes to reporting on aspects of Obamacare, the press is really good at pretending to speculate about outcomes which have already happened in the real world, and at contradicting Obama administration assertions without telling readers that's what they've just done.
Case in point: Last Tuesday at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, Carla K. Johnson and Tom Murphy told readers that Obamacare "could touch ... people who have insurance through work," and that "The law may prompt some companies to drop coverage for their part-time workers" and to "start excluding spouses." The law has already "prompted" all of these things. Excerpts follow the jump.
Presumed union member (the News Media Guild) and Associated Press reporter Sam Hananel's Sunday morning coverage of union threats against a pilot partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and Staples Inc. fails to deliver on at least three counts.
First, while noting that American Postal Workers Union (APWU) boycott threats ended a similar effort at Sears stores in the late-1980s, Hananel "somehow" forgot to note its aftermath, which resulted in even wider distribution of USPS products by non-union workers. Second, Hananel ignored the fact that USPS's main competitors, UPS and Fedex, both already have large networks of relatively convenient nonunion retail shipping outlets – compared to most post offices, which are separate-trip, standalone locations. Third, and most critically, he fails to note that the APWU's demand to have its members staff the Staples counters, even ignoring the wage differential, would be an extraordinarily counterproductive waste of labor. Excerpts from his coverage follow the jump (bolds are mine):
It's hard to imagine how the Politico's Kyle Cheney could have written up his Thursday story about the government's dissatisfaction with soon to be (but not yet) former prime HealthCare.gov contractor CGI with a straight face. But it appears that he did.
The opening sentence of Cheney's report is an absolute howler. When you read it after the jump, keep in mind that the firm worked on HealthCare.gov for well over a year before its October 1 debut, and that it was obvious to everyone within hours of its launch that the web site's construction had been horribly botched. So guess when the government wants us to believe it finally figured out that CGI wasn't up to its assigned tasks?
In May 2009, the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, announced that it would be "launching an index that will provide monthly, multi-format updates on the economic stress of the United States down to the county level." Not a bad idea, especially if you were concerned that evidence of an economic recovery under Barack Obama would not otherwise be convincing.
The AP likely believed that since an overwhelming percentage of U.S. counties lean conservative (remember those Bush v. Gore county maps?), a large majority of U.S. counties would likely recover in time for the 2010 congressional elections, or in the worst-case scenario, the 2012 presidential election — even if the nation as a whole did not. A statement that "most counties in the U.S. have recovered from the recession" would have been quite useful in defending congressional Democrats and Barack Obama's incumbency. But a recently released report from the National Association of Counties (NACo), which was covered poorly by the Wall Street Journal and virtually ignored by almost everyone else, shows that it hasn't happened.
We've seen it play out in several areas, one of which is climate science. Any researcher who questions the supposedly "settled science" of global warming is a hack who will produce whatever industry wants if they have ever accepted a dime from an energy company, while those who depend on government grants to sustain their livelihood — grants which heavily depend on toeing the politically correct line that human-caused warming is one of the greatest evils of our time — are as pure as the driven snow.
In an item about head injuries and football, USA Today's Dan Wolken went to the same, uh, playbook with neuroscientist Sandra Chapman, who contends that "concussions don't pose a significant long-term health risk." It almost seemed as if Wolken believes that those who have sued the NFL and obtained a tentative $675 million settlement — an amount which a judge believes is likely inadequate — have "settled science" on their side (HT Rush Limbaugh; bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Following up on Friday's awful jobs report from the government (only 74,000 seasonally adjusted jobs added, with the unemployment rate dropping to 6.7 percent only because adults continued to leave the workforce), the Asssociated Press's Christopher Rugaber tried to search for excuses.
To its credit, the headline at Rugaber's report didn't blatantly dissemble like the one at Bloomberg, which, in revising the title of an underrated Stevie Wonder song from the 1970s ("Blame It on the Sun"), blamed it on the cold and snow: "Old Man Winter Put a Chill on U.S. Labor Market at End of 2013." But the AP reporter predictably failed to entertain the possibility that Obamacare's virtual chaos, plan cancellations, and impending 2014 premium hikes might have thrown a great deal of sand into the job market's gears, even though a virtual halt in healthcare hiring stuck out like a sore thumb. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Drudge's headline linking to a Politico item by Carrie Budoff Brown and John Allen about the Obama administration's plans to aggressively identify and promote Obamacare successes in 2014 ("White House Plans to Step up Obamacare Propaganda in 2014") is far better than the tired one Politico itself used ("White House looks to spread good Obamacare news").
What Team Obama plans to pursue will be propaganda, because as it identifies and "spread(s) good news," it's going to have to ignore a far larger volume of bad news. An NBC investigative report (video at link; HT Political Outcast) two days ago about the situation at a Michigan car dealership makes that point about as well as it can be made (bolds are mine):
In an earlier post today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that reporters at Politico and CNNMoney.com seemed mystified at a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showing that 68 percent of Americans believe the economy is in poor shape, and that over half believe it will still be that way a year from now.
One reason for their incredulity is that, perhaps deliberately, they haven't been paying attention to household income data compiled monthly by ex-Census Bureau workers at Sentier Research. Sentier's latest report covering November came out today. It shows that annualized inflation-adjusted median household income is still more than 7 percent below where it was when Barack Obama took office in Janaury 2009, and that it's gone nowhere in the 23 months since December 2011. At an index value of 92.7, November's figure is virtually the same as it was in December 2011 (92.8).
One thing the establishment press will not be celebrating this evening as we head into 2014 is the fact that they have been unable to convince the American people that the economy has been and will continue to be on the rebound.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released on Friday, which "oddly enough" (no, not really) is not being touted at ORC's related press release web page, shows that 68 percent of Americans believe the economy is in poor shape. Over half expect the economy to be in that condition a year from now. This came as somewhat of a surprise to Lucy McCalmont at the Politico and Gregory Wallace at CNNMoney.com.
In a December 27 blog post, New York Times columnist and incurable Keynesian economist Paul Krugman capitalized on the problems United Parcel Service and to a lesser extent Fedex had in delivering Christmas packages on time: "Can’t the private sector do anything right?"
While I recognize that there's sarcasm in his question, Krugman then went on to try to make HealthCare.gov's problems appear analogous: "[M]any pundits were quick to declare healthcare.gov’s problems evidence of the fundamental, irretrievable incompetence of government, and as an omen of Obamacare’s inevitable collapse. ... (But) none of these people are making similar claims about UPS or Amazon." Since the Nobel Economics laureate appears to be too dense to understand the differences between the two situations, Robert P. Murphy, "the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism," explained many of them in a Sunday post at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada's web site (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Bloomberg Businessweek and others are trying to capitalize on the difficulties United Parcel Service and to a lesser extent Fedex had in delivering packages in time for Christmas to claim that the U.S. Postal Service is coming out of it smelling like a rose ("An Unlikely Star of the Holiday-Shipping Season: The U.S. Postal Service").
Not so fast, people. Let's be extremely generous and take it as a given that the Post Office didn't have any late arrivals, and that it deserves props for delivering 75,000 packages on Christmas Day. It's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison, but based on the quoted number of packages UPS planned to deliver on Christmas Eve, the private company's package volume, particularly its air package volume, dwarfs that of the Post Office, and would overwhelm it if it tried to pull off what UPS routinely does:
Concerning the Christmas shopping season, the Associated Press's Anne D'Innocenzio and CNBC's Krystina Gustafson agree: It has stunk.
D'Innocenzio noted that "sales at stores have fallen for the third consecutive week as Americans continue to hold back on spending during what is traditionally the busiest buying period of the year." Gustafson, apparently looking over the same ShopperTrak data as D'Innocenzio, added that "store traffic in the final week before Christmas posted the third straight week of double-digit declines." Neither noted that combination of much lower traffic and relatively slight sales declines appears to indicate that the well-off are splurging, while many families of average means are AWOL. Though it's hard to see how, the keepers of Christmas data at ShopperTrak the National Retail Federation and the International Council of Shopping Centers still believe they will end up in meaningfully positive territory when all is said and done.
In an October 3 column at USA Today, economics correspondent Tim Mullaney pronounced "HealthCare.gov a winner despite glitches."
Mullaney from all appearances has never retracted any of what he wrote that fateful day. He also defended himself vigorously in correspondence with yours truly during the week or so after my NewsBusters post critical of his writeup appeared. Accordingly, in light of what has really happened with HealthCare.gov, it seems more than appropriate to republish several paragraphs from his October review for their value as pure comedy gold.
Kelsey Snell "is a tax reporter at POLITICO Pro." Her output in a column entitled "Indiana lures 'Illinoyed' biz with tax breaks" makes one wonder how she arrived at her current position.
Snell's piece is riddled with striking omissions and lame progressive talking points. But the most jaw-dropping element in her report is her clear inability to detect erroneous numbers which she and her employer should know make no sense.
As would be expected, Associated Press reporter Martin Crutsinger Wednesday treated Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's announcement that the nation's central bank will reduce the amount of money it creates out of thin air from $1.02 trillion per year to $900 billion, i.e., from $85 a month to $75 billion, as "its strongest signal of confidence in the U.S. economy since the Great Recession." As will be shown, it's a sign of continued serious weakness.
The pretense inherent in all of this is comparable to teaching a child how to ride a bike, raising the training wheels by one-eighth of an inch, and pronouncing him or her ready to roll. What should be troubling is that the tiny reduction means that the Fed will be financing a much higher percentage of next year's projected deficit and increase in the national debt than it has in previous years. That would seem to indicate that the nation is running out of other buyers who might be interested in purchasing Treasury securities, and that Bernanke's own words in July, namely that "the economy would tank" if he wasn't so obviously and artificially propping it up, are truer than ever.
During a panel discussion on Amazon.com offering discounts to consumers who are parents -- a discount mechanism completely on the honor system since the company cannot verify claims of parenthood -- MSNBC The Cycle co-host Toure Neblett justified lying to take advantage of the discount, saying "nobody was getting hurt here."
"If a lie is being told to a corporation, it's not really a lie," Neblett quipped, shortly after calling a lie about qualifying for the discount "a noble lie." For his part, Business Insider writer Josh Barro also excused dishonestly benefiting from the discount because such discount gimmicks are "price discrimination" and because brick-and-mortar Amazon competitors are supposedly the victims of the cutthroat corporate suits at Amazon [watch the video excerpt below the page break]:
Joe Scarborough highlighted a very important aspect of ObamaCare, one that has been too often overlooked by mainstream journalists, on Wednesday’s Morning Joe.
During a roundtable discussion of the federal health care industry overhaul, Scarborough told everyone what he had been hearing from small business owners about ObamaCare: [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
On October 3, the National Retail Federation projected that "sales in the months of November and December" will "marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion, over 2012’s actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth." But on October 16, it warned that "the average holiday shopper will spend $737.95 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more, two percent less than the $752.24 they actually spent last year."
Anne D'Innocenzio at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, in a report on the upcoming Christmas shopping season, chose to report the NRF's overall November-December increase, and ignored the obviously more relevant and more recent individual spending expectations. She also held off mentioning the elephant in the room — sharply reduced spending by Obamacare "sticker shock" victims and those who anticipate more of the same during 2014 — until the 19th of her 21 paragraphs (bolds are mine):
Since TransCanada proposed building the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2009, liberal actors, environmentalists, and the media have attacked the plan. Four years later, the media continue to work against the company that proposed building it, TransCanada and this time they had help.
On Nov.12, CBS “Evening News” did a segment on repairs being made by TransCanada to the recently built section of the Keystone Pipeline. That story was essentially a copycat summary of a report released that day from the anti-pipeline group, Public Citizen. CBS not only relied on the group as its only experts in the matter, but also interviewed the same farmer and former TransCanada employee cited in the group’s report.
You would think that economic forecasters, who have been obsessing over the impact on economic growth of October's 17 percent partial government shutdown might have noticed that a lot of people have all of a sudden learned that they're about to experience a major cut in their take-home pay. You would be wrong.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans had received health insurance cancellation notices by September 30, and had also learned that they will be on the hook starting next year for hundreds of dollars in premium increases on the Obamacare exchanges. It should be obvious that most affected people would have started spending less on other items virtually immediately, and that they will continue to be in major cutback mode indefinitely. But I didn't find anyone in the establishment press who mentioned it. Nor did I find anyone who noted that the millions of Americans facing higher health insurance premiums are also going to materially impact fourth quarter growth and Christmas shopping season results.
The Associated Press has published a great but disturbing story. Given the frequent and deserved grief yours truly administers when the wire service lets its readers, listeners, viewers, and subscribing news organizations down, it seems only fair to acknowledge fine work when it does occur. The real question is, in the politically charged U.S. health care environment, whether the AP's subscribers and other media outlets aware of Frank Bajak's Wednesday morning report will acknowledge its existence, and adequately relay the horrors contained therein.
The story is about what's left of Venezuela's "free" healthcare system. It's in shambles. The headline reads like it might be "only" doctors who say so, but Bajak's content says otherwise. Readers here need to go to the full report, because the excerpts which follow of necessity convey only a small portion of how awful things are, including indications that the country is moving ever closer to becoming another Cuba:
After NBC warned viewers that the partial government shutdown that ended weeks ago may be "the Grinch that stole Christmas," on Tuesday's Today, correspondent Stephanie Gosk fretted that Thanksgiving would be ruined as well: "Macy's, the company that sponsors the Thanksgiving Day Parade, will open its doors on the holiday for the first time in 155 years....But there is a risk, the identity of one of the country's most cherished holidays may be in jeopardy." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Despite co-host Matt Lauer noting moments earlier that the trend of Black Friday creeping into Thanksgiving had been happening "for years," Gosk laid blame on October's temporary shutdown: "Retailers are facing a tough reality. The government shutdown slowed down the economy and took a serious toll on consumer confidence. A recent poll showed that just over half of shoppers say they will spend less than last year this Christmas season."
During the 2008 banking crisis, then-Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel famously said, “Never allow a crisis to go to waste.” The broadcast networks certainly followed his advice when reporting on Hurricane Sandy since the storm became a hurricane one year ago, hitting the New Jersey coast on Oct. 29.
Network reporters and experts have repeatedly claimed that the storm was either caused or worsened because of climate change. In fact, 100 percent of the 32 news stories and briefs in the past year that mentioned climate change and Hurricane Sandy claimed global warming directly impacted the storm – even though “no single weather event can be linked directly to a long-term driver, such as global warming,” according to climate change activists.
Green energy is supposedly the future. Why, solar energy will break out and become a major energy source any year now, or any decade now. Or maybe never. It has been the subject of national attention ever since President Obama made it a cornerstone of his 2008 presidential campaign. Of course, what Obama claims is in energy policy has worked out to be more a of a growth-constraining, government money-wasting endeavor than anything else.
The Denver Post carried the original story on Thursday of how the federal government's first attempt at a solar auction went. The headline was accurate: "1st auction of solar rights on public lands in Colorado draws no bids." That's right. Zero. Post reporter Mark Jaffe's first sentence was charitable but acceptable: "The plan to auction rights to federal land across the West for solar-power plants got off to a rocky start Thursday when no bidders showed up for the first auction in Colorado." Too bad that two establishment press outlets which were in a position to communicate this news to the nation failed to adequately do so.