On April 28 I noted what I argued was a case of fuzzy gas math on the part of a Washington Post reporter who uncritically relayed the gas price woes of a Raleigh, N.C., high school senior. Today blogger William Schaeffer, also a NewsBusters fan, pointed out a recent case of a suspicious gas budget claim, this time as reported in the Boston Globe. Schaeffer blogged about it here.
The May 6 Globe story, by reporter Jenn Abelson, kicked off with the lament of Dodge Ram owner Douglas Chrystall, who, Abelson noted, had just paid "$75 to fill his black Dodge Ram pickup truck for the third time in a week."
But after looking up the average gas price in Boston and the fuel economy of a Dodge Ram, Schaeffer crunched the numbers and estimated that Chrystall would have to be "driving around 961 miles a week" or nearly "50,000 miles a year."
"[B]asically the story from the Boston Globe is that consumers that drive over three times the yearly national average are facing a financial burden," Schaeffer concluded, adding sarcastically, "sounds like NEWS to me."
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and media hype about gasoline prices. On television that third item often takes place not just in your usual standup at a gas station interviewing outraged motorists. In Web-based media, however, the still shot is worth 1,000 barrels.
We've noted how CNN.com has done it. Today, it's ABCNews.com with its front-page teaser headline "Oil: Another Day, Another Record."
The photo accompanying the AP story filed from Vienna -- yes, as in Austria -- by writer George Jahn depicts a gas marquee from an American gas station showing regular unleaded at $4.419-a-gallon. Here's how the caption for the AP photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez that accompanies Jahn's article reads (emphasis mine):
Government meddling with the free-market forces can have ill consequences. Just look at how government mandates for corn-based ethanol have affected the global food supply.
According to CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi, CNN viewers rate the economy as the most important issue and named gas prices as their number one concern. "AOL Money Coach" Hilary Kramer agreed with viewers, but regarded Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's proposal as "valuable" when matched with alternative energy legislation.
"Absolutely right," Kramer said on CNN's May 5 "Issue #1." "That's why Barack Obama with a $150 billion package that he wants to jumpstart an entire industry alternative energy and clean technology could be very valuable, especially matching that up with legislation to force the use of alternative energy."
As media turn against ethanol due to the growing international food crisis, there's one idol they need to topple: Nobel Laureate Al Gore.
After all, this man has not only been strongly advocating the use of biofuels for years, but has also admitted to having investments in companies involved in such agri-business.
Of course, it's possible press members aren't convinced enough about the the connection between ethanol and rising food prices around the world that they're willing to fell their Green God.
If this is the case, might I recommend such fence-sitters immediately read Marlo Lewis's spectacular piece "Food for Fuel Is No Laughing Matter" published at the NRO's Planet Gore blog Monday (emphasis added throughout):
Check out the screencap from Carol Costello's CNN Newsroom segment of this morning on Hillary's gas-tax holiday plan. Costello's message: Clinton's proposal isn't just bad economics. It's not simply Santa Claus politics. No, it could . . . put your life in danger.
CAROL COSTELLO: For cash-strapped consumers, any reduction in gas prices would be like, well, like Santa coming into town early—or so it seemed on the stump.
The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.—Archilochus (7th-century BC)
Mark Penn might not be appearing before the cameras on Hillary's behalf nowadays, but bet that he is beavering away behind the scenes on his polling. And judging from Hillary's dogged [to mix an animal metaphor] performance on this morning's Today, it's obvious the pollster's turned up one big thing: Dem primary voters hate oil companies.
Meredith Vieira gamely tried to get Clinton onto other subjects during her interview. But no matter the question, the answer was almost invariably the same: I Hate Big Oil. Since the questions were irrelevant, let's dispense with them and simply count the ways in which Hillary expressed her wrath at those evil purveyors of oil.
I always find it amazing when writers in the mainstream press seem to have so little knowledge of America and its history. Of course, I suppose that being blissfully ignorant of US history does help paper over their betrayal, substituting the feeling that they can maintain allegiance to American "ideals" as they attempt to advocate for the sort of socialist/communist vision that they want America to become, quite despite its true character and principles. Heck, if you don't know you are betraying your own country, you can't be ashamed of yourself for it, right? In any case, here we have another prime example of such a betrayal by The New York Times' Thomas Friedman from his May 4 piece where he has decided that America is finished, done, kaput. And guess what? It's all George W. Bush's fault -- shocking, I know.
Freidman imagines that he has found the pulse of the people and he has found that they are aching for nation building. Not nation building in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in the USA. He says we have little to show for our efforts in Iraq, that "we’re just not that strong anymore." He also claims that we have no "leverage" in Iran.
Heck, he should know. After all he and his paper have been attempting to foster these very situations for 8 years. If what Friedman is saying is true, then he and his anti-American paper deserve hearty congratulations for their success at nation destroying -- ours.
My two cents say George Stephanopoulos gave Hillary a harder time than Tim Russert did Obama during their respective appearances on This Week and Meet the Press today. Russert never pinned Obama down on exactly what he knew of Rev. Wright's most controversial assertions and when he knew it.
Over on ABC, Stephanopoulos twice challenged Hillary to name a single economist who supported her proposal for a gas-tax holiday, and threw in her face the fact that even her big admirer in economist ranks, Paul Krugman of the NY Times, has criticized her over it. In exposing her inability to name a single practitioner of the dismal science who supported her plan [McCain, who's also called for a gas-tax holiday would presumably be similarly hard-pressed], Stephanopoulos left Clinton looking like a panderer. Stephanopoulos raised the issue right out of the box.
On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter, also of Newsweek, suggested that voters who support Hillary Clinton's call for a temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax are "stupid" as he contended that the Clinton campaign team are "assuming that people are too stupid to realize that this is a bad idea that won't save them any money at the pump." Alter later argued that the tax cut strategy may end up succeeding politically for Clinton because "there are a lot of what are called 'low information' voters" who are "not reading the unanimous, unanimous newspaper editorials against this. They're not talking to the environmentalists, the economists, everybody who unanimously believes this is a bad idea. They're, you know, understandably struggling, and at the pump, they're paying a lot for gas, and they want some relief." (Transcript follows)
ABC’s Nightline featured yet another Cynthia McFadden trip with Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail Thursday, but it wasn’t all sympathetic questions about how hard it is to be a feminist pioneer. (There was one about how all the criticism must be hard on her mother.) Instead, on the trail in Indiana, McFadden pushed hard from the left on how Barack Obama thought her gas-tax holiday proposal was "phony" and "pandering," and how columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times thought it was "ridiculous," and how Iran thought her remarks about them were irresponsible. She also wondered if the Reverend Wright issue was "guilt by association...Does it worry you a little bit about the taint of association? Because, you know, you’ve been tarred by the same brush over the years."
McFadden began somewhat sympathetically, although it wasn’t good news, about how Indiana superdelegate Joe Andrew switched sides to Obama, despite President Clinton making him DNC chairman in the late 1990s. Then she switched to arguing against any gas-tax relief:
On the day the government reported a tenth of a point drop in the unemployment rate and two days after news of a second straight quarter of 0.6 percent GDP growth proved the nation is not in a recession, Friday's NBC Nightly News delivered a ridiculously shallow story, based on two anecdotes and a couple of advocates, to prove rising prices are forcing the elderly out of their homes and into vans and soup kitchens. Anchor Brian Williams promised “an interesting look...at the toll that rising prices, of things like gas and food, is taking on Americans living on fixed incomes.” [audio available here]
Chris Jansing [that's her by the van] traveled to Northridge, California, just north of Los Angeles, where she found 82-year-old Betty Weinstein, stunned by a water bill, turning to a second reverse mortgage to stay in her home. But she at least still has a home. Jansing then highlighted an even sadder case:
Rising rents forced Scott and Kate Bishop to move out of this blue house and into their van, sleeping on a mattress in the back.
But it got worse: “And now high food costs have meant, for first time in their lives, the Bishops have gone hungry.” Jansing cited no source for her claims as she asserted: “Soup kitchens and food banks are seeing record numbers of seniors asking for help for the first time in their lives,” but “now donations here are down as middle class donors struggle to feed their own families.”
Big bad oil company ExxonMobil is "on the defensive in the face of consumer ire and congressional indignation" as it raked in a "huge" first quarter profit, Washington Post's Steven Mufson informed readers of his front page May 2 article.
Mufson later noted that "[d]espite Exxon's colossal profit, the company's stock fell yesterday." Mufson blamed investors "shift[ing] gears" to turn to other stocks and pull out of commodities. Yet Mufson made no attempt to explore how "new congressional vows to come up with legislation" to tax oil company profits might play into investors being skittish about the company, a favored bogeyman of left-wing populist politicians in election years marked by high gasoline prices.
By contrast, the May 2 Financial Times took a less political, business-oriented look at ExxonMobil with a front-pager by Sheila McNulty and Carola Hoyos entitled, "Exxon oil production struggles for growth":
Two segments that aired on two days straight on CNN underscored the network’s alignment with those who stand against a gasoline tax holiday during the summer driving season. First, Carol Costello’s segment on Wednesday’s "Newsroom" program used last year’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis to advance the idea that "things like road construction and bridge repair" would suffer as a result of the lost revenues. The following day, on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," host Wolf Blitzer pressed McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina, a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, on McCain’s proposal, asking, "So when you say that he would take the money from reserves, in other words, we would go further into debt to pay for this tax break?" During the interview, a chyron or graphic on the screen claimed, "Saving on Gas Could Cost You: Whether to Suspend Fed Gas Taxes."
On the April 30 edition of "BBC World," Justin Webb reported on rising fuel costs and how the increase in prices affect the American public. According to Mr. Webb, many Americans drive cars nearly the size of big rigs, and will need to spend their tax rebate on fuel, thereby doing little for the economy at large. After all, if a big rig tank takes over a thousand dollars to fill, many American cars must face similar costs. [Audio available here] Transcript below:
“Many Americans drive private cars not much smaller than this truck, and the risk is that they use their tax rebate simply to buy fuel, boosting the profits of the oil companies but doing little or nothing for the wider American economy.
Hillary Clinton's tax policy on gas and oil is "pointless" while John McCain's is "evil," according to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. But in explaining the difference, Krugman betrays either his ignorance of the flawed history of the so-called "windfall profits tax" on petroleum or his tacit approval of the tax despite its folly as public policy.
Anyway, John McCain has a really bad idea on gasoline, Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no. [...] The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.
Far from being pointless, a windfall profits tax produces negative effects on consumers and investors, as well as the health of the energy industry, say many economists, including former Bill Clinton economic advisor Robert J. Shapiro who focused his fire on the policy's damage to retirees' investments (see PDF of study here).
Washington Post reporters Alec MacGillis and Steven Mufson found another liberal economist with nothing positive to say for a windfall profits tax in their May 1 front-page article (emphasis mine):
Fresh off its controversial Iwo Jima cover with Marines raising a tree, Time magazine's May 5 issue celebrates with an Earth Day roundup. The cause for celebration? That in 2008, "every day is Earth Day," exulted Nancy Gibbs.
Gibbs celebrated, among other things, the banning of DDT, which led to millions of preventable deaths from malaria. "Back in 1970, there was ... poison in our pesticides," she said, but after the Environmental Protection Agency was created, "DDT was banned."
Perhaps she missed the fact that DDT was reinstated for use in malaria-ridden countries by order of the World Health Organization in 2006.
Another part of this year's Earth Day roundup: "Bolivia's socialist President Evo Morales told the U.N. that 'if we want to save our planet Earth, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system.'" Meanwhile, Gibbs wrote, "capitalists polished their image to a green sheen."
My bottom line analysis (11:25): The two R's of bias from this Rose Garden presser: Martha Raddatz on Syria and numerous reporters on the dreaded R-word, recession. Of course a recession is two consecutive quarters of NEGATIVE economic growth, and we've yet to see one quarter of negative growth, much less two. But all the same, NY Times's Stolberg made it sound like Q1 numbers on GDP tomorrow will show a recession.
The questions below will be posted in reverse chronological order:
High food prices may be affecting middle-income families, but an anecdotal report on CBS's "The Early Show" April 28 made the situation seem as if one family's use of a food bank was "the new face of hunger."
CBS reporter Priya David highlighted Pablo and Ada Melecio, a couple who recently lost their jobs and have elected to use a food bank to make ends meet. Ada Melecio said their "mortgage payments started falling behind and all the interest on that plus all the credit cards" were making their situation even worse.
Washington Post staffer Eli Saslow introduced readers of his April 28 front-page article to a handful of newly registered North Carolina Democrats. But the hype about gas prices from the plight of one of the Democrats from Raleigh struck me to be a probable case of fuzzy math.
Meet 18-year-old Kyla White, a senior at Raleigh's Enloe High School and a part-time receptionist at a local Sports Clips hair salon who drives a 1997 Honda (emphasis mine):
She wanted to vote for a multiracial America, one in which peers wouldn't call her "too white" for being one of a handful of black students in the Enloe honors program. She wanted to vote for no more Code Reds. She wanted to vote for lower gas prices.
In the past couple of weeks, NewsBusters has reported the media's sudden negative opinion of ethanol as a result of rising food prices and rationing of rice by certain retailors.
You can now add NBC to the list, and, in particular, the host of CNBC's "Mad Money," Jim Cramer, who on Friday's "Today" show actually blamed ethanol for the current crisis while stating emphatically, "You drop the mandate, prices plummet."
With this in mind, strap your seatbelt tightly across your waist, and prepare yourself for an alternate ungreen reality (video embedded upper right, use scroll bars to properly center):
Regardless, the good news is that press outlets continue to recognize this unholy connection, and that someone, even at the conservative New York Sun, would deign to report it (emphasis added throughout):
As food prices soar, and rationing of such things as rice begin, America's media are finally starting to wake up to the inconvenient truth that ethanol is not the energy panacea folks like Nobel Laureate Al Gore proclaim.
Leading the charge is conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck, who invited the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Iain Murray on his program Tuesday to discuss the looming crisis.
Indeed, the only thing to justify the "no end" language was citing gasoline analyst Trilby Lundberg as saying "she does not expect the prices to go down anytime soon," hardly a dire "no end in sight" forecast that conjures up notions of never-ending price increases rather than an eventual price plateau.
“Tonight, $3.51 – that’s the average price nationwide of a single gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. That means a 15-gallon tank now costs more than $50 to fill. As a little reference point, the week George W. Bush was sworn in as president, the price of a gallon of gas was $1.47.”
Update at end of post: did ABC get these numbers from the DNC?
Tuesday's "Good Morning America" went into hyperbole meltdown over high gas prices. According to various anchors and reporters, Americans are foregoing church, prescription drugs and breakfast in order to cope. In a tease at the show's open, Co-host Diane Sawyer fretted, "As gas prices balloon, 12 cents in just one week, some Americans tell you how they skip breakfast and drugs just to drive." News anchor Chris Cuomo solemnly informed viewers of the "tough choice" many Americans face: "Food or fuel?"
Cuomo then introduced reporter Bianna Golodryga to explain "the sacrifices people are now making." Included in those sacrifices was one Juan Martinez who told Golodryga "Our church is approximately 35, 40 miles away. We've really cut down on the amount of times that we've come into service since the price has gone up." Now, as Golodryga admitted, this clip was actually from November of 2007, during a previous GMA segment about gas prices causing people to skip church and possibly cancel Christmas. So, ABC has resorted to recycling gas horror stories? Could that mean, perhaps, there's not enough of them to go around?
For months, NewsBusters has been warning readers of the likelihood that media will adopt the 1992 Clinton playbook of regularly depicting the economy as being far worse than it really is.
On Sunday, the Democratic National Committee released a new television advertisement attacking GOP presidential candidate John McCain with economic statistics that don't measure up to even the slightest scrutiny.
With this in mind, will press outlets this campaign season investigate the economic claims being made by the candidates and their supporters, or allow inaccuracies present in this ad (embedded video to the right), and likely others in the months to come, to go completely unchallenged?
Consider the following written statement in this ad supposedly answering the question "Are Americans better off than they were 8 years ago?":
Barack Obama has been airing a shamelessly anti-business TV ad in Pennsylvania for a while now. In the ad Obama himself, in his own voice, makes the claim that he doesn't "take money from oil companies." But there is a two-fold deception in this claim that Obama doesn't tell his sycophantic fans. So where is the media to pounce on these cynical deceptions? They’re nowhere to be seen.
Recently I saw the ad where Obama claimed he didn't take contributions from oil companies and the claim struck a chord in my memory. I was under the impression that oil companies could not legally donate to a campaign at all. So, I did some checking and it seems that FactCheck.org did an entire page on Obama's deceptive Pennsylvania ad.
Friday's Washington Post displayed that annoying trend of hyping already high gas prices with a photograph of astronomical gas prices. As reporter Steven Mufson reported that AAA marked that regular gasoline price at $3.36 a gallon, a photograph right next to it online (and on an inside page in the paper) displayed a gas station sign marking the regular price as $4.19. Mufson explained the prices this way:
On the eve of the summer driving season, crude prices defy gravity, hovering around $110 a barrel, keeping gasoline prices at record levels and sapping money from cash-strapped consumers. Yesterday, the AAA auto club said prices at the pump set records of $3.357 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline and $4.045 for diesel, even though U.S. gasoline consumption fell 0.6 percent in the first quarter.
That could make oil prices a politically volatile issue this year among voters who think prices are excessive and are looking for someone to blame.
In other words, the oil companies could be a big target this year of Democrats. Mufson began the piece:
CNN's senior business correspondent Ali Velshi let viewers in on an underreported fact about rising commodities prices: the government mandate for ethanol production is making corn and other agricultural products more expensive-making inflation a top priority for Americans.
"Several years ago, we made some decisions about how corn is going to be used to make ethanol, which is added to our gasoline," said Velshi on "American Morning" April 4. "A number of people think that that was meant to reduce our dependency on crude oil. What is does is it takes what is fundamentally a food source and makes it into a gasoline source. That's caused corn to go up."