The stunts the folks at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, continue pulling to downplay, minimize, or whitewash bad or embarrassing economic and other news shouldn't surprise us any more. But they continue to disappoint nonetheless.
Last month, a consumer sentiment index reported by the Conference Board fell by a relatively modest amount. Headlines and descriptions at related AP reports went from “falls” to “dips slightly” to “roughly flat” to a “rosy outlook” in the course of a single day. Today's AP rewrite only involved one step. At 9:04 a.m., Derek Kravitz's dispatch on the Census Bureau's New Home Construction report gave equal play to the seasonally adjusted (and totally unexpected) fall in new housing starts and the also unexpected but more modest rise in building permits:
Derek Kravitz and Alex Veiga at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, must have doubled down on the energy drinks over the weekend. A Sunday morning report (HT to a NewsBusters tipster) telling readers that signs are "pointing to a long-awaited recovery" in the housing market went on, and on, and on, and on for over 1,350 words.
The factors the AP pair cited were primarily these: "Hiring has strengthened," "Loans remain cheap," "Homes are more affordable," and "Americans are more confident." They should have known that their first point has become questionable with March's mediocre jobs report and the recent spike in weekly initial unemployment claims to 380,000 (which so happens to be above his colleague Christopher Rugaber's already too-high benchmark for job-market improvement of 375,000), and that their last point should read: "Americans are less un-confident."
You've got to admire the determination of Derek Kravitz at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, to find lemonade among the lemons known as the monthly new-home construction statistics from the Census Bureau. Why, he was even able to find a guy who said that "housing permits-not the starts" are more relevant in gauging the health of the market. Did it ever occur to these guys that builders might be piling up permits in the hope that economic conditions will change for the better for real once it's clear that the country will have new leadership (which could conceivably happen even before the November general elections)?
Here are the first seven paragraphs from Kravitz's report, followed by a fuller rundown of the relevant stats (bolds are mine):
Over at the Associated Press in a report with a Tuesday morning time stamp, Christopher Rugaber produced yet another predictable lemonade-from-lemons story about how the economy is allegedly "improving faster than economists had expected. They now foresee slightly stronger growth and hiring than they did two months earlier - trends that would help President Barack Obama's re-election hopes." Because, after all, that's what it's all about.
The folks at AP, the economists they surveyed for their report, and the rest of the establishment press really need to get out more. Y'know, they used to, at least before November 4, 2008. If they did, they'd find something which it seems only the BBC among major original-source news organizations has found: well over 50 "tent cities." These are not Occupy movement encampments; instead they are places where one will find America's desperately poor:
Comedian Jon Stewart apparently thinks the economy is just fine and that any news outlet that says otherwise must be doing it because they don't want President Obama to get reelected.
Even more preposterous, on Tuesday's Daily Show, the host did an entire segment on how Fox News reporting the national debt, unemployment, and rising gas prices is all a Republican National Committee conspiracy (video follows with highlights and commentary):
The Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, and designated drone Derek Kravitz clearly haven't tired of putting smiley-faces on the ongoing, relentlessly awful conditions in the new-home market.
As shown on February 17 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the number of single-family homes under construction is barely above its all-time low (since records have been kept), while January's figure for single-family units completed was absolutely the lowest on record. Yet Kravitz, as has been his habit, erroneously presented housing starts alone as a proxy for "construction" activity, made it appear to many typical readers that housing starts have been averaging about 500,000 per month (not per year), and pretended that the modest rise in starts "suggests builders are growing more confident that more buyers are ready to come off the sidelines." In his Friday report on new-home sales, Kravitz noted a seasonally adjusted January drop, but trumpeted a minuscule upward adjustment to fourth-quarter sales which was barely more than a rounding error:
By the time AP real estate writer Derek Kravitz turned it into a full-blown report, the headline became "US housing starts rise modestly to start new year." The opening sentence now reads: "Construction of single-family homes in the U.S. cooled off slightly in January after surging in the final month last year." The word "weak" is not in the report. It won't surprise anyone that the wire service's initial unfiltered reaction was more correct. What may surprise even those who are used to AP misdirection is that Kravitz made it appear to those who don't know better, which would include a large number of newspaper, TV, and radio journalists, that construction began on almost 1.5 million single-family homes during the past three months. Really.
Today's report by Derek Kravitz at the Associated Press (also known to yours truly as the Administration's Press) covering the Census Bureau's December and full-year 2011 new-home sales release put a smiley-face on the "worst ever" year (the AP headline's term) in the category.
I like the adjective used at Sweetness & Light's related blog post to describe Kravitz's crud: "unfazed." The AP reporter follows four paragraphs of facts with three more paragraphs of sunshiny "analysis" which are so wholly unsupported by reality that you would fall off of your chair laughing if you didn't also realize that most readers, listeners and viewers who saw and heard this garbage today didn't know any better than to believe it:
A few readers asked me for my reaction to Derek Kravitz's December 23 report at the Associated Press on new-home sales. I thought that it was reasonably good, but felt that his leaving open in readers' minds the idea that this year's sales could conceivably top last year's was in bad form.
I was too kind. Based on data available elsewhere, Kravitz should have known (and maybe did) that instead of holding out the possibility that "December would have to produce its best monthly sales total in four years for 2011 to finish ahead of last year's total," he should have written something along the lines of: "There is virtually no chance that 2011 will be better than 2010."
In 1984, an Associated Press writer covering the Democratic primaries wrote that "In a presidential contest dominated by concerns over the economy, inflation, and unemployment, the Democratic candidates have been loath to acknowledge the extent to which Carter administration policies contributed to those problems. Democrats have also controlled Congress for most of the past three decades, which made it relatively easy to enact the policies Carter pursued."
Of course, that AP report really never happened. The establishment press never razzed Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, and the other 1984 Democratic presidential candidates about the ruinous Carter-Era inflation, 20%-plus interest rates, and high unemployment against which the Reagan administration was making significant progress in the early 1980s. But on Tuesday morning, Beth Fouhy at the Associated Press felt it necessary to wonder why this year's GOP primary candidates are rarely mentioning George W. Bush, even though the economy under Barack Obama is making relatively scant progress towards a genuine recovery and makes a much more appropriate target for criticism. Here was her comparable paragraph, plus the two which followed:
Lord have mercy, these people are looking anywhere and everywhere to turn an economic improvement molehill into something that sort of looks like a mountain.
Today, the headline to Derek Kravitz's report at the Associated Press ("Rise in home construction suggests a turnaround") reasonably reflected the underlying reality reported by the Census Bureau, but his first six paragraphs most definitely did not:
George Will on Sunday marvelously told liberal economist Robert Reich something that many conservatives have been dying to say for years.
During a fascinating Right vs. Left debate on ABC's This Week, after Reich predictably pined for higher income tax rates to solve all that ails us, Will struck back with the line of the weekend, "You are a pyromaniac in a field of strawmen" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
No wonder President Obama adopted some of the language of the Occupy movement in his class-warfare speech this week. It's led by the likes of Alfredo Carrasquillo, a fellow "community organizer" with whom the president perhaps identifies. Carrasquillo specializes in breaking into foreclosed homes to dole them out to people—beginning with himself—to live in.
Chris Hayes gave Carrasquillo a sympathetic platform on his MSNBC show this morning. Making it clear that he was speaking as a "devil's advocate," not, God forbid, expressing his own opinion, Hayes gently inquired of Carrasquillo whether, you know, it could be said he has no right to break into and live in homes owned by others. Dismissing the notion out of hand, Carrasquillo described theft of others' property as "technicalities." That seemed good enough for Hayes, who helpfully pointed out that the homes Carrasquillo is breaking into "are just sitting there, no one's making use of them." Video after the jump.
For conservatives, one of the bright spots of the Occupy Wall Street protests was when millionaire investor Peter Schiff went down to Zuccotti Park with video camera and a sign reading "I Am The 1% - Let's Talk."
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Schiff by telephone in a sweeping interview about his experience at OWS, how the financial media are doing, and ending with his rather frightening view of the economy and the future of our nation (video follows with transcript):
Anyone who made the easy prediction that the Associated Press would fail to bring up Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in its fawning tribute to Barney Frank after his retirement announcement yesterday was correct. Anyone making the easy prediction that the AP would lionize him as a "gay pioneer" was also spot-on.
Also predictably, the wire service's Bob Salsberg and David Espo failed to mention that Frank advocated abolishing Fan and Fred as a dishonest survival tactic during his final reelection campaign in 2010, and of course did nothing visible to make that happen this year. What's really odious in this regard is that the AP pair gave him credit (pun intended) for how he "worked to expand affordable housing," when the Community Reinvestment Act-driven subprime crisis Fan and Fred engendered has sent the housing market levels not seen since World War II. What follows are excerpts from the AP. After that I have a few contrary and clear-headed paragraphs from an Investor's Business Daily editorial, and a little reminder of a 1999 "Present" vote which should have generated controversy, but didn't:
In a testy interview on Tuesday's NBC Today, fill-in co-host Savannah Guthrie avoided asking retiring Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank about his role in the collapse of the housing market and yet the liberal Democrat still complained: "You've managed to ask all sort of negative questions.....you're four for four in managing to find a negative approach."
Guthrie began the segment by fretting that the Democrats could lose Frank's House seat: "...you said that your district has been redrawn in a way that would make it more difficult for you to win re-election. My question is, are you leaving your fellow Democrats in the lurch? It won't be any easier for any other Democrat to win this seat, right?"
“The first line in Barney Frank’s political epitaph,” The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes predicted on Monday’s FNC Special Report upon news the longtime liberal Democratic Congressman won’t seek re-election, will “be the housing crisis.” But that isn’t what those who decide the first draft of history considered relevant.
ABC, CBS and NBC didn’t mention Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac as they instead touted him as “one of the most familiar, powerful and colorful characters on Capitol Hill” (ABC), as “the Congressman who co-authored the overhaul of financial regulations after the crash” (CBS) and all noted his sexual orientation. NBC’s Brian Williams: “Among his legacies – besides his legendary sharp tongue – he was the first Member of Congress to publically acknowledge he was gay back in 1987.”
This morning, the Census Bureau told us that 25,000 new homes were sold in October, which, after seasonal adjustment, works out to an annual rate of 307,000. This was up from a seasonally adjusted and downwardly revised (from 313,000) 303,000 in September. According to the first sentence of Derek Kravitz's related report at the Associated Press, this constitutes a "hopeful sign," even though October's number could easily be revised downward, as September's was.
Kravitz went further downhill in his fifth paragraph, descending into flat-out, undeniable falsehood (bold is mine):
The European Union might completely fall apart any day now as the countries in that region implode under their massive debt.
Despite this, CNN's Fareed Zakaria offered another America-hating love letter to the struggling continent Sunday actually claiming, "The American dream seems to be thriving in Europe not at home" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
If it's Saturday, I must be pointing out more simply stunning stupidity coming from the mouth of Bill Maher.
Never letting me down, the host of HBO's Real Time Friday said the financial crisis was caused by "something new in politics where Wall Street was sort of betting on things to fail as opposed to for things to succeed" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
"We need to re-evaluate what is required in our lives, so that we have a sense of satisfaction. What really counts? One friend of mine has reduced it to this: you should get up in the morning and ask 'what do I need,' not just 'what do I want?'" -- Tom Brokaw, Morning Joe 11-1-11.
"Of course, one of the reasons I bought it was to be able to get away from the frantic life I lead and to have some privacy." -- Tom Brokaw, explaining his purchase of an interest in a 4,000-acre mountain retreat in Montana.
Tom Brokaw: a Michael Moore kind of millionaire? We haven't seen him getting down with the Occupy kids like the documentary-maker recently did. But there was Brokaw--who has amassed a reported $70 million and owns a 4000-acre "mountain retreat" in Montana--on Morning Joe today preaching the virtues of the simple life . . . for others. Video after the jump.
At the top of Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer touted a new plan to address the housing crisis: "After a series of foreign policy victories, President Obama is hitting the road to sell his plan to help turn around the struggling economy and today the focus is on the housing market." Lauer later wondered to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd if the plan would, "help politically?"
Todd declared: "Well, it could....emphasize the fact that they can't get anything done through Congress, right? That Republicans won't do anything....Mitt Romney said of the housing crisis, 'You know what? We're not allowing foreclosures to happen fast enough.' So this is a two-fer, as far as the White House is concerned. They feel like they can talk about housing but also make the Republicans look like they're out of touch on that."
The headline and opening sentence in Derek Kravitz's Associated Press report this morning on the Census Bureau's homebulding industry data release gives readers the impression that industry activity increased impressively during September. It increased a tiny bit, but certainly not by the percentage indicated.
The headline ignorantly assumes that a double-digit increase in housing starts is the same as an increase in "home building." It isn't. That headline, the first four paragraphs from Kravitz's report, and some other indicators of housing market progress -- and the stunning lack thereof, three full years after the politicians promised that the Troubled Asset Relief Program would right the ship -- follow the jump (bolds are mine):
A number of Democratic members of Congress came out Wednesday throwing their support behind the protest known as Occupy Wall Street.
Fox News's Neil Cavuto interviewed one of them on Your World marvelously asking Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.), "So why didn’t you celebrate when Tea Partiers were running around the country and protesting all the spending and protesting the budget and the debt getting out of control? I don’t remember you glomming on to that one" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
President Harry Truman signed the Housing Act in 1949, giving unprecedented power to federal, state, and local governments to reshape entire communities through the abuse of eminent domain. One method of doing so was called urban renewal, which permitted governments to destroy communities they deemed as slums, destroying approximately 2000 communities through the 1950s and '60s, and forcing 300,000 families out of their homes, often most affecting blacks.
One of the first examples of urban renewal was the destruction of six blocks of "slum" on the Upper West Side of New York. The valuable land was then contracted to private developers hand-picked by the city: members of Democratic political clubs, given as political favors, to build middle-class housing developments. With little financial incentive to build quickly, though, the buildings often sat vacant for years.
ReasonTV put together a video telling the story of the destruction of this New York City neighborhood. Check out the video after the break, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
George Will and Donna Brazile had a telling exchange on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.
After Will listed all the excuses President Obama makes for the poor economy, Brazile said, "I thought you were going to mention media" leading Will to smartly retort, "They're not his problem" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
As NewsBustersreported, America's media last week gushed and fawned over billionaire Warren Buffett's call for higher taxes on the rich.
On Monday, Harvey Golub, the former CEO of American Express, responded to the Oracle of Omaha in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that reveals a side of this tax story media refuse to share with the American people: