It's hard to be upbeat about that but since it occurred during a Democrat administration, Reuters does its best to accentuate whatever positive it can find in its report. First the downbeat news as relayed by Reuters reporter Lucia Mutikani:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Economic growth slowed more than expected in the first quarter as higher food and gasoline prices dampened consumer spending, and sent a broad measure of inflation rising at its fastest pace in 2-1/2 years.
And now the first of several Reuters exercises in excuse making:
But the pull back in output, which was also the result of harsh winter weather, a widening trade gap as well as weak government spending, will probably be fleeting given a firming labor market.
Chrystia Freeland has called the US prison system an "American Gulag Archipelago." The Global Editor-at-Large of Reuters made her comment during today's Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC.
The context was a discussion of the recent WikiLeaks document dump about Gitmo, but Freeland was clearly speaking of the domestic US prison system, not our military prisons. Ratigan picked up on her theme, saying we could cut our prison costs in half if marijuana were legalized.
In a business that is supposed to treat record achievements, dubious or otherwise, as news, it's more than a little curious to note that the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger, along with Reuters and AFP, all "somehow" forgot to tell readers that March's reported federal outlays, as seen in the Monthly Treasury Statement released today, came in at an all-time record of $339.047 billion, and that this year's spending through six months of $1.849 trillion -- also an all-time record -- is 3.5% higher than last year's comparable figure of $1.786 trillion ($1.671 trillion plus a non-cash credit of $115 billion explained here last year).
This year's six-month spending total annualizes out to $3.7 trillion, an amount that is almost $1 trillion, or 36%, higher than fiscal 2007. Though spending is the self-evident real problem, frontline reporters and their bosses would apparently prefer that news consumers not see how ugly those numbers really are.
UPDATE, April 1: Joshua Shapiro, who is "quoted" in the AP article covered in this post, has emailed me and informed me of the following --
Christopher Rugaber did not speak with him, but instead used text from "a written note that I (Shapiro) produced after the jobless claims report was released."
Shapiro is unhappy at my making it appear that he is fooled by establishment press reports. Although I framed my assertions in "if" and "might" to make it clear that I really didn't know, I regret implying that possibility, though of course I had no idea that Rugaber didn't even speak to him.
By using the word "said" without contextualizing it, Rugaber gave readers every reason to believe he spoke with Shapiro. Per Shapiro, he didn't. Rugaber used information that Shapiro framed in a much longer-term context to make current news appear better than it really is. Rugaber's AP report is even more risible than indicated in the post which follows.
This morning, the Associated Press's Christopher Rugaber, in his 9:14 a.m. coverage (saved here at my web host in case it's revised, as well as for fair use and discussion purposes) of today's weekly unemployment claims release by the Department of Labor, found an economist whose reaction was to get all pumped up about the job market:
"The downtrend ... is undeniable," Joshua Shapiro, chief economist at MFR Financial Inc., said. "We believe that this improvement will continue in the weeks and months ahead."
While one of course hopes for improvement in the coming weeks and months, the existence of an "undeniable" downward trend is questionable, as seen below:
On Thursday at Reuters, Andrew Quinn, with the help of Caren Bohan, cobbled together a pathetic "analysis" full of sympathy for a "struggling" Barack Obama and recognition of the need to keep oil flowing from Saudi Arabia. It also contained a false jab at George W. Bush and the War in Iraq.
First, let's look at Quinn's Bush jab:
Obama is committed to partnering with other countries rather than going it alone as did his predecessor George W. Bush, which both broadens and complicates the decision-making process.
This got the attention of Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic (HT Instapundit), who linked to the identical but unbylined Reuters item at the New York Times. Goldberg's response:
In a Wednesday story at Reuters ("Bombing near Jerusalem bus stop kills woman, 30 hurt") describing the aftermath of "a bomb planted in a bag exploded near a bus stop in a Jewish district of Jerusalem," reporter Crispian Balmer wrote the following (bold is mine):
Medics said three people were seriously hurt by the explosion, which hit one of the main routes into central Jerusalem in the afternoon, shattering the windows of a nearby bus. A woman in her 60s died in hospital.
Police said it was a "terrorist attack" -- Israel's term for a Palestinian strike. It was the first time Jerusalem had been hit by such a bomb since 2004.
My, my. It's as if the word "terrorist" was invented by the Israelis just for the occasion.
Yesterday was supposed to be a day of massive pro-union demonstrations nationwide designed to give Wisconsin public-sector employee moral support from hordes of their union and non-union "brothers" and "sisters" around the country.
Uh, that's not exactly what transpired.
The establishment press's fallback position in matters such as these when the protesters involved have their sympathies is to cite decent numbers where available, while otherwise referring to "large crowds," leaving it to the imaginations of readers, listeners, and viewers what that really means. Call it "creative crowd reporting." With some slip-ups, the New York Times and the Associated Press each employed this tactic yesterday.
Unfortunately for them, many local reporters did estimate crowd sizes in cities other than Wisconsin's capital of Madison, and they aren't particularly impressive (while still being suspect, as will be seen later). William Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection (HT Instapundit) compiled press reports from other cities as follows:
Muammar Gaddafi has resorted to the oldest trick in the Arab-dictator book: distract attention from authoritarian rule at home by beating the Palestinian drum. Nothing new there. But what is noteworthy is how Reuters seems happy to march to the Libyan strongman's beat.
Reuters' article "Gaddafi tells Palestinians: revolt against Israel" [h/t Drudge], fails to note the irony of an iron-fisted dictator calling for "popular uprising" and "revolution" . . . elsewhere. Indeed, the Reuters article, authored by Ali Shuaib and Salah Sarrar, fails even to identify Gaddafi as the dictator he is, referring to him respectfully as the Libyan "leader."
On Friday, a Reuters report at CNBC noted the Federal Reserve's journey into the accounting and reporting twilight zone earlier this month. In doing so, it conducted a clinic in how to make unreality look acceptable and make a dangerous situation appear palatable.
In the el bizzarro world at Reuters and those the wire service interviewed for its article:
A change in how one accounts for things can magically make a functionally insolvent entity solvent again.
Such a change can also mean that an entity which has run out of cash and has to beg for funds no longer has to.
Calling a genuine erosion of capital something other than an erosion of capital means that it's no longer an erosion of capital.
Gee, why didn't they just do this at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers 2-1/2 years ago and let things go on as usual?
Here's most of the Reuters report (bolds supporting the bullet points above are mine):
Tuesday's "Morning Joe" panel on MSNBC played the class warfare card, highlighting tension between the American middle class and the richest Americans who profit from the global economy. Impassioned co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski gave credence to middle class frustration at the widening gap between them and the ultra-rich.
The Atlantic magazine's editor-in-chief James Bennett referenced a poll touting that 60 percent of Americans advocate higher taxes for the wealthy as the best solution to the budget crisis. "I think part of that is a response to the sense that they're being left behind by these people," Bennet explained.
Bennet pointed out top hedge fund managers making over a billion dollars a year, and suggested Americans would like to see more of that money back. "You'd think," huffed Mika Brzezinski. "Good luck getting it from them," Joe Scarborough warned. Scarborough was a critic of the recent tax deal between Obama and the GOP, arguing that millionaires did not need the tax cuts as much as the country needed their tax revenue to pay down the deficit.
Appearing as a guest on Monday’s Parker-Spitzer on CNN, Chrystia Freeland of Reuters claimed that the European economy is at an advantage compared to the U.S. because of America’s lack of universal health care. But, when fellow guest Will Cain of the National Review pointed out that America’s economy outperforms Europe, Freeland was only able to name one nation in Europe - Germany - whose economy is performing impressively. Freeland: "I also think it’s a little bit of a mistake to be talking about how bad European economies have been doing recently. ... if you look at the industrialized nations, Germany is racing ahead. German economic growth is on a tear, so is Canadian-
Cain jumped in: "I commend you on your choice of Germany, but you picked the one out of about 12."
Freeland persisted in promoting Germany as co-host Eliot Spitzer jumped in to agree:
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Yeah, but Germany is doing fantastically well.
ELIOT SPITZER: And Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the one that is driving the export-driven economy where their labor capital relationship is very much one that follows the blueprint of a global, of universal health care.
Cain quipped: "Good job, guys, on using Germany. I’ve got Greece, Spain, U.K., France, all with universal health care, expansive health care coverages, and their economies are literally imploding."
In a Reuters story ("Venezuela assembly gives Chavez decree powers"), reporters Daniel Wallis and Frank Jack Daniel took note of outraged "opponents who accuse him of turning South America's biggest oil producer into a dictatorship," relieving them of the responsibility for stating the obvious themselves.
Romero's item at the Times is particularly galling in its borderline admiration for the tactics employed by the man who is now Venzuela's virtual dictator (bold is mine):
At the Associated Press late Sunday afternoon, reporter Paul Wiseman, who may have the most inappropriate last name in the history of business journalism, engaged in a brazen "It's really not that bad" excuse-making exercise on behalf of the economy Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Ben Bernanke have created. In the process, he joined a Reuters reporter in questioning the validity of the information Friday's Employment Situation Report.
The unemployment rate jumped to a seasonally adjusted 9.8% in November and only 39,000 seasonally adjusted jobs were added during the month, according to the Employment Situation Report released yesterday by Uncle Sam's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Although she at least recognized the report's negativity, Lucia Mutikani at Reuters seemed bent on downplaying its impact, even finding an "expert" who characterized the BLS's work as an "outlier" in her Friday evening write-up. Nobody's claiming the folks at BLS are perfect, but I cannot recall a time when an establishment press wire service reporter has questioned the Employment Situation Report's underlying validity. Despite its supposed lack of credibility, Ms. Mutikani still used the information provided as an excuse to insert a point about how it should cause Fed chief Ben Bernanke to continue the "money from nothing" enterprise euphemistically referred to as "quantitative easing."
Of special note was Ms. Mutikani's bizarre contention that the seasonal adjustment calculations might be flawed. Unfortunately for her, comparisons of actual results on the ground (i.e., the not seasonally adjusted numbers) to the seasonally adjusted numbers that resulted were consistent with November 2004, the last comparable year. This has not always been the case in the volatile economy of the past 2-1/2 years.
An Oxford University think tank is taking the media to task for not doing more to whip up a frenzy about global warming.
Apparently the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism crunched the numbers and found that "[l]ess than 10 percent of the news articles written about last year's climate summit in Copenhagen dealt primarily with the science of climate change."
The study lamented the attention that was given to the ClimateGate scandal.
In an op-ed posted on our site CNSNews.com on "Obama's Clever Use of Catholics," Judie Brown wrote about how Barack Obama’s being pictured happily engaging with Catholic clergy to undergird his proclamation at an Albuquerque event that he was a "Christian by choice." But sometimes the media's willingness to promote Obama themes means the pictures are utterly unrelated to the news event:
Reuters, one of the news services covering that particular meeting in Albuquerque, used a stock photo to accompany its report.
The photo, which depicted the president with Catholic priest, Father Vien Nguyen, who leads the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans, was taken during a reception at the White House earlier this year in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Father Nguyen was also honored for his help within the community after Hurricane Katrina.
UPDATE (9/30 - 1:13 pm): The Society of Professional Journalists emailed me requesting a correction. Clarification - though no correction - below the fold.
When American religious leaders spoke out against the planned burning of Korans by a crazy Florida pastor, it was a hot news item. Likewise, when another group of clergy condemned the supposed "anti-Muslim frenzy" in the United States, the media ate it up.
But when, on Tuesday, scores of prominent American and Canadian Muslims spoke out against "threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims" with the express purpose of silencing speech, the media was conspicuously silent. It remains so today.
"We, the undersigned," declares a petition at the website of The American Muslim, "unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible."
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):
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):
File the news in this report filed late yesterday afternoon by Michael Calderone and John Cook at Yahoo's Upshot Blog under "D" for Double Standards:
White House reporters mum on Obama lunch, even as papers back transparency
White House reporters are keeping quiet about an off-the-record lunch today with President Obama — even those at news organizations who've advocated in the past for the White House to release the names of visitors.
But the identities of the lunch's attendees won't remain secret forever: Their names will eventually appear on the White House's periodically updated public database of visitor logs.
... The Obama White House began posting the logs in order to settle a lawsuit, begun under the Bush administration, from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which sought the Secret Service's White House visitor logs under the Freedom of Information Act.
... And guess who filed briefs supporting that argument? Virtually every newspaper that covers the White House.
Wednesday evening, Brent Baker at NewsBusters noted that two of the Big Three television networks failed to tag Dan Rostenkowsi, the former long-time congressman from Chicago who was ousted from his seat in 1994 over corruption charges and ended doing prison time, as a Democrat. Rostenkowski (RIP), who was 82, died yesterday.
At the five major wire services whose reports I reviewed -- The Associated Press, Reuters, UPI, AFP, and the business-oriented Bloomberg News -- Rosty's Democratic affiliation made at least one appearance. But the prominence and directness of those appearances varied widely.
Not surprisingly, the Associated Press and writer Don Babwin did the worst job of identifying Rosty's party, waiting until the eleventh paragraph to directly tag him (the eighth paragraph contains a generic reference to the "Chicago Democratic machine"), and poured it on the thickest when referring to the supposedly beloved bygone days of bipartisanship:
Thanks to Shirley Sherrod, Andrew Breitbart, and the NAACP, political journalists have supposedly discovered the importance of "context" (though they strangely seem to lost interest once fuller context items like this and this became known). It would be helpful if such an interest in full context would legitimately and consistently spread to business reporting.
Full context would include looking at the raw business and economic data before it gets seasonally adjusted and reporting it when it is significant. Given the information the press would then have to report in the current economy, I'm not holding my breath waiting for journalists to even look at it, let alone report it. (Update: See this comment below for another important contextual element.)
Take the housing market, particularly housing starts and new single-family home sales. During the past week, the Census Bureau released statistics on each of these important metrics. Let's look at an excerpt from reports about each.
Many readers may already be familiar with recent exposure of the treasury plunderers disguised as public officials serving up hefty salaries to themselves while allegedly serving their constituents in the LA suburb of Bell, California.
Here's some of the latest from the Associated Press, carried at the Los Angeles Times, which broke the original story, for those who need a quick catch-up. Almost as night follows day, the news doesn't answer a question many readers here and elsewhere will naturally have:
Several hundred angry residents from a modest blue-collar Los Angeles suburb marched Sunday to call for the resignation of the mayor and some City Council members in a protest sparked by the sky-high salaries of three recently departed administrators.
The residents of the city of Bell marched to Oscar's Korner Market and Carniceria, owned by Mayor Oscar Hernandez, then to his home, demanding that he reduce his own six-figure compensation or quit.
They then did the same with some members of the City Council, with many marchers wearing T-shirts that read "My city is more corrupt than your city."
(Update: Reuters quietly improves statement by eliminating the word 'often'. Thank you Reuters, for being forthright in the error, er, slipping this in, in the hopes that your readers won't notice. We're certain that all of the Tea Party Patriots being wrongfully portrayed as racist appreciate the effort.)
Reuters recently ran a piece that analyzed persistent race issues amidst the Obama presidency, and managed to take a racial swipe at the Tea Party in the process.
As always, the piece diverts attention away from the President and toward conservatives. Any controversy involving the administration is portrayed as a mere distraction for the President in his alleged post-racial presidency. The analysis draws a conclusion that the ‘right-wing noise machine', conservative groups, conservative media, and the Tea Party/NAACP debate are all implicit in creating this racial distraction - and ultimately taking the spotlight off of Obama and his ‘biggest achievements'. (Is consistently usurping the will of the American people an achievement?)
But what stands out in the article (h/t NewsBuster reader Texndoc) is an obvious misstatement of facts. An implication that racist imagery at Tea Party rallies is prevalent, has been presented as truth. Patricia Zengerle, the White House correspondent at Reuters, writes (emphasis mine), "Images such as Obama with a bone through his nose and the White House with a lawn full of watermelons are often displayed at Tea Party rallies."
Reuters and Zengerle were contacted via e-mail several times for clarification on the statement, but the only response thus far has been ...
Chrystia Freeland, global editor-at-large for Reuters, believes the new financial regulations are still pretty loose.
"It is still a very feudal, very Byzantine regulatory system," Freeland complained on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, referring to the Senate's approval of a financial regulations bill yesterday.
A radical policy, Freeland maintained, could have done away with the current "fractured" group of regulators and established a much stronger, more unified single regulator.
However, Freeland said the bill succeeds in tempering the rapid movement of capital. She did acknowledge that Main Street folks will have more trouble getting mortgages than they did in the past. "That's the price of having a safer financial system," she said.
Freeland's championing of the new regulations does not diminish some other aspects of the bill, which include no additional regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, tougher times ahead for small businesses trying to procure loans from banks, and tough times for small banks themselves, who lack the resources of Wall Street to deal with the new regulations.
In a June 30 interview with "Talk to Al Jazeera," NASA administrator Charles Bolden revealed that President Obama had tasked him with "find[ing] a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."
Among the media outlets that blacked out the controversy was the Washington Post, which didn't cover the Bolden controversy until today. Even then, the paper printed on page A13 a brief 8-paragraph item by the Reuters news wire:
The Israeli commandos who intercepted a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip on May 31 were cleared of wrongdoing by a military inquiry into the matter. The same panel faulted the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for "mistakes that were made in decisions, including some taken at relatively high levels," according to retired Israeli Major General Giora Eiland.
While we at NewsBusters have taken Reuters to task before for their biased coverage of the Middle East, the news wire actually broke from the pack a bit in its portrayal of the story, focusing on the conclusion that there was no wrongdoing by the Israelis in the now infamous raid.
By contrast, the Washington Post and Associated Press opened their stories focused on the negative. Below are the lede paragraphs for the respective news agencies:
On Thursday, a new unemployment bill died in Congress as Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) joined Republicans on the grounds that government spending can't go on forever.
Instead of reporting both sides, the media couldn't seem to hide their anger.
The bill was called a "jobless aid" package that "governors were counting on" to help "the poor" across the nation. Almost all news reports began from the Democrat perspective and waited several paragraphs before weakly defending Republicans.
Worse yet, a consensus with far more damaging impact began to grow: the loss will cause the nation's economy to fall into a double dip recession, and it will be entirely the Republicans' fault.
Never mind last year's stimulus bill worth $700 billion, or the bank bailout of 2008, both of which have failed to live up to promises of recovery. No, our economy is suffering because fiscal conservatives won't spend even more.