Update - 5/27, 3:08 PM | Lachlan Markay: A new Harvard study finds that increased government spending actually reduces economic activity, contradicting the basic premise behind CBO's assumptions. Details below.
Good economic news is so rare for the current administration, that when some does emerge, many in the media parrot it as fact without really examining the claims that undergird it. New CBO numbers on the stimulus, for instance, have been trumpeted as proof the legislation at least helped, despite the fact that the numbers have little to no basis in reality.
Congressional Budget Office models are based on the assumption that stimulus spending will create jobs. They assume the conclusion they purport to demonstrate, and then claim they've demonstrated it. But if the model is inaccurate or simply based on false premises, it simply goes on tallying jobs "created or saved" without regard to the actual employment rate.
In March, a reporter asked CBO director Doug Elmendorf: "If the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis, right?" His response: "That's right. That's right." Yet despite those numbers' disconnect from reality, the media continue to report them as fact, and proof that the stimulus is working.
Comments on two Sunday shows reflected an emerging new liberal line of reasoning, which uses the lack of opposition to Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law, as a means to discredit conservatives and Tea Party activists as hypocrites and/or racists. HBO’s Bill Maher on ABC’s This Week:
Government intrusion, government power is something that really bothers conservatives, unless it's directed toward people who aren't white, you know, I mean it does seem like there’s some of that going on there.
Chrystia Freeland of Reuters on the McLaughlin Group:
What I think is really important to notice here is the hypocrisy, the intellectual hypocrisy because we have...a lot of the same people who are very exercised right now...about big government and pointing out the American tradition of liberty, of individual rights, are also the people who are on the side of allowing the government to intrude much more into individuals' lives on immigration.
A truly extraordinary thing happened on CNN Sunday: a mainstream media representative actually took Rush Limbaugh's side in a dispute with Bill Clinton.
As readers are likely aware, the conservative talk radio host and the former President exchanged words last week over who was to blame for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
"Reliable Sources" host Howard Kurtz broached this subject in Sunday's second segment eliciting a rather surprising response from Reuters' global editor-at-large Chrystia Freeland:
I have to say, on this one I'm on Rush Limbaugh's side...I'm not accusing Rush Limbaugh of being guilty of too much balance, but I do think blaming the media is a very weak thing for politicians and businesspeople to do. And I think we in the media should really be pretty, pretty careful before we agree with the criticism.
Not surprisingly, Salon's Joan Walsh didn't agree, and once again found herself alone in her perilously liberal views as the cameras were rolling (video follows with transcript and commentary):
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has announced that it is disbanding.
Though the hard-leftists that formed or were running it are likely to show up in some other venue and perhaps in a successor organization down the road (Update: or perhaps burrow themselves into the government, as NB commenter "Hunter 12" suggests), this is a moment to savor. Two twenty-somethings, acting entirely on their own, assisted later by a skilled mentor who knew the value of their work and how to maximize the mileage to be gained from it, brought down what had turned into a pretentious, intimidating, fraud-riddled wing of the Democratic Party's get out the vote effort. All that remains -- frankly more than should be allowed to remain -- is ACORN Housing Corporation. According to USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, whose related article is behind its subscription wall, is saying that ACORN Housing "has a separate budget and board."
In one last act of sympathy, most of the press is giving ACORN's leaders a chance to vent without rebuttal and in some cases supplying their own sour grapes. Here are some examples:
Former Birmingham, Alabama mayor Larry Langford (pictured at right in AP photo), who is a Democrat, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday for bribery.
In reporting the story, Reuters did what a competent wire service should do, informing readers of Langford's party affiliation early on:
The former mayor of Alabama's largest city, Birmingham, was sentenced on Friday for his role in corrupt bond deals that threaten to mushroom into a massive U.S. bankruptcy case.
Larry Langford, a 63-year-old Democrat, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Prosecutors had sought a term of at least 24 years after Langford's conviction on an array of fraud and bribery charges last year.
As has sadly come to be expected, the same cannot be said for the Associated Press. Though it eventually got around to identifying two associates of Langford as "former Democratic Party" officials, it avoided tagging Langford. In the process, the wire service may have set a "Name That Party" record for most felony convictions (60) handed to a politician whose party affiliation was never identified.
The adverb that begins with a "U" made yet another appearance yesterday in connection with an economic report. The related noun that begins with an "S" came along for the ride.
The news concerned sales of new homes. They fell "Unexpectedly" to their lowest level since 1963, when the U.S population was about 40% lower. The decline was a "Surprise" to economists, who had predicted an increase.
It continues to fascinate that the "Unexpected" news that came as a "Surprise" to economists during a large portion of the Bush 43 administration more often than not was to the upside, while the trail of "Unexpected Surprises" during the current administration is littered with downers.
Ahead of the news, the Associated Press appeared ready to play up what it thought would be good news, and then exiled its reports to remote corners when things didn't go as expected.
In a Thursday afternoon story on the small rise in the Case Schiller home price index, the AP's Adrian Sanz was talking of recovery, while inventing a new economic concept (bold is mine):
East Anglia University, which came under fire a few months ago for the now infamous ClimateGate email scandal, announced yesterday that it is launching an independent probe into the work of its Climate Research Unit (CRU).
Wall Street Journal's Guy Chazan reports the story today -- found on page A15 of the print edition -- noting that the independent review led by Sir Muir Russell will "reappraise the CRU's scientific conclusions."
But Chazan noted that some critics argue that a deeper problem underpinning ClimateGate is not addressed by the probe:
A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the recovery this week: The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday that initial claims for unemployment benefits jumped "unexpectedly" by 36,000 to 482,000, when analysts had predicted a slight drop.
What's more, it turns out that data reported in previous weeks was understated because of "administrative issues" relating to paperwork processing during the holidays. In other words, things have been a bit worse than originally portrayed during the past several weeks.
Not unexpectedly, Reuters seized on the "administrative issues" excuse in an attempt to minimize the damage. Reuters' primary headline ("Jobless claims rise on administrative issues") seemed specifically designed to tell readers that "Hey, it's really no big deal."
The headlines and excuse-making are all the more galling because the same administrative problems occurred at the same time last year -- and almost no one in the press headlined it.
Let's start with Reuters' report from January 22, 2009 (i.e., a year ago), starting with its excuse-free headline (bold is mine):
Blogger Doug Ross got to the news of the Congressional Budget Office's Monthly Budget Report (PDF) over the weekend, quite accurately observing that the establishment news coverage of its content barely existed.
With global warming-obsessed media pushing for cap and trade legislation to pass here next year as well as for something positive to come out of the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen, it's going to be very interesting to see how this gets covered in the next 24 hours:
So much for politics ending at the water's edge . . .
Hillary Clinton has gone to Pakistan and bragged of having opposed Pres. Bush during her entire Senate career. Clinton also depicted the difference between Barack Obama and George W. Bush as being "like daylight and dark."
For good measure, Clinton played the moral equivalency card, declaring "we cannot let a minority of people in both countries determine our relationship." The Pakistani minority she had in mind is presumably composed of al Qaeda and its sympathizers. Clinton didn't specify which Americans she would equate with them.
Three weeks after their gushing praise of President Obama's meeting with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the media have taken a cue from the lack of action that followed.
It was a good run while it lasted.
Word from the conflict became more dire almost by the day as Obama's cabinet squabbled. The American media, having sensed Afghanistan could be lost without action, chose to cover for their favorite president and begin the process of mentally preparing the public for defeat.
The Washington Post published a perfect example of the new meme in Howard Kurtz's column on October 23. Kurtz attacked Republicans as "armchair quarterbacks" for their criticism of Obama's stalling and said it was "rich" of Dick Cheney to demand a new plan. As for what that plan might be, Kurtz's Vietnam defeat song sounded all too familiar:
Reviewing September's detailed sales results in the car business carried at the Wall Street Journal, three things stick out immediately:
The awful performance at General Motors -- down 45% from September 2008.
Chrysler's even worse performance -- down "only" 42% from September 2008, but a mind-boggling 61% from September 2007 (62,197 in 2009, 156,799 in 2007)
Ford's tiny decline of only 6% from a year ago, despite the end of the Cash For Clunkers program in August.
No other major maker had a year-over-year September decline that was even half of that seen at GM or Chrysler.
Yet the press, while beginning to acknowledge serious problems at the companies, both of which were first bailed out by the government and then taken through government-orchestrated, contract law-violating, UAW-favoring bankruptcies (GM discussed here, Chrysler here), still will not entertain the possibility, despite the evidence, that consumers are shunning them because of their bailed-out status and their heavy-handed tactics in bankruptcy.
What follows are excerpts from three reports that covered September's industry results.
Take a look at almost any global warming alarmism story and you are likely to see a plethora of those speculative weasel words. It happens so frequently that your humble correspondent, in his previous global warming story about the "Modoki," labeled a new term incorporating those words: "Couldifmite."
It was my recommendation that a mineral rock be given the name of Couldifmite. Any MSM reporter in the vicinity of of Couldifmite will be subjected to the uncontrollable urge to overload his global warming stories with "could," "if," and "might" along with the related speculative weasel words of "may" and "should." Okay, there probably won't be a rock that would be given that name but it could happen if some geologist out there might have a good sense of humor. See, even I can play the Couldifmite game.
However, Gerard Wynn of Reuters isn't joking. He goes full scale Couldifmite in this latest global warming story. Even the intro to his story is chock full of Couldifmite:
As climate extremists, Democrats, and President Barack Obama (but I repeat myself) push for nonsensical cap-and-trade legislation and prosperity-killing, sovereignty-threatening treaties, at least some of the data undergirding the supposed science backing their efforts seems to no longer exist. I'm not kidding.
.... the data needed to verify the gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared.
Or so it seems. Apparently, they were either lost or purged from some discarded computer. Only a very few people know what really happened, and they aren’t talking much. And what little they are saying makes no sense.
There have been many questions about the integrity of the science behind global warming, but what Michaels describes may be the most troubling example yet cited.
Woo! Hoo! Break out the victory champagne! Wonderful news on the diplomatic and economic fronts!
Obama's expressions of deep concern have caused Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wilt under the pressure and announce that Iran will destroy its nuclear plants. On top of that there is news of soaring employment numbers as well as a booming economy.
Okay, so maybe none of this is really happening but one could be forgiven for believing these fantasies if his reading material were limited to Reuters which jubilantly published a story by Steve Holland titled Obama Scores Twin Coups on Iran, Economy:
PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - President Barack Obama scored twin diplomatic coups on Friday, seizing the world stage to forge a new allied call for action against Iran and a framework for global economic growth.
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a study entitled "2009 Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Infections: Chicago, Illinois, April-July 2009."
In a report Rush Limbaugh criticized on the air, Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press ("Swine flu sends more blacks, Hispanics to hospital") irresponsibly framed CDC's results in racial terms, and then used them as evidence of health care system "inequities."
By contrast, Julie Steenhuysen of Reuters ("In Chicago, swine flu hit children hardest") went right to the study's key finding, namely that H1N1 appears to be more likely to affect children compared to other flu viruses, which have tended to hit the elderly harder.
The opening paragraphs of Steenhuysen's work makes you wonder how the AP and Stobbe could have looked at the same CDC study and not have done anything with its critical age-based finding:
Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades HQ has a great "name that party" catch today. Malor noted that at least three major news outlets all failed to note the high-powered Democratic Party ties of one Hassan Nemazee, a businessman arrested this morning on a charge of bank fraud against Citigroup:
The “Cash For Clunkers” bill that became law on June 24, “has a lot of squeaks and rattles” according to Business Week, but the main stream media has ignored these and instead praised and promoted it.
The law was meant to promote smaller, more fuel efficient cars by subsidizing dealers to buy back gas guzzlers so that drivers could buy environmentally friendly cars. It fails in practice, according to the July 13 & 20, 2009 issue of the magazine, and may even do the exact opposite of its purpose.
“The problem with the law is that it is both underfunded and too narrow to generate a spike in showroom traffic,” David Welch wrote in the July 13&20 edition of Business Week, “Plus, the law makes little sense for most passenger-car owners.”
That’s not how ABC’s “World News Sunday” portrayed the idea on June 14, before the bill even passed. The network compared it to a similar law in Texas, one that according to David Muir “has been a smashing success.”
“Advocates say it will clean up the environment and help the struggling auto industry,” Ryan Owens reported as he interviewed proponents of the plan. He didn’t interview anyone opposed to the bill.
Two major wire services- AP and Reuters- cherry picked excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical (a teaching document of the Catholic Church) on Tuesday to support left-wing economic and political positions, and all but ignored the pontiff’s traditional stances on the family, bioethics, and the environment. The AP also went so far to bring up “the state of the Vatican’s own [financial] books.”
Both Philip Pullella, who regularly writes about the Pope and the Vatican for Reuters, and the AP’s Nicole Winfield zeroed in on paragraph 67 of the encyclical, which is titled “Caritas in Veritate,” or “Charity in Truth,” which was released was signed by the Bishop of Rome on June 29, and released on Tuesday. In this paragraph, to use Pullella’s lede, “Pope Benedict…called for a ‘world political authority’ to manage the global economy.” Winfield put it this way near the beginning of her article: “In the third encyclical of his pontificate, Benedict pressed for reform of the United Nations and international economic and financial institutions to give poorer countries more of a say in international policy.”
While Pope Benedict did call for a “world political authority” and a “reform of the United Nations,” both authors (not to mention spectators on the left and the right) missed the context of this call. Later in his article, Pullella speculated that “the pope appeared to back government intervention ‘in correcting errors and malfunctions’ in the economy, saying ‘one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally.’” But this “government intervention” would not go so far to the level of a micromanaging/centrally-planning regime, if one goes by the pontiff’s own words in the encyclical.
If you heard the leader of a country cursing in public like a drunken sailor (or Randi Rhodes), you would think he is somewhat unbalanced. However, according to Reuters writer, Charlie Devereux, a foul mouth in a nation's leader is something to be lauded if that leader happens to be Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. In fact, Devereux even cites Chavez's foul mouth as a key to his success in a story that brings up topics and words in a bid to attain a level of crudity rarely heard in a wire service article:
CARACAS (Reuters) - A head of state describing a mobile phone by using a crude term for male genitalia would spark outcry in most countries, but in Venezuela such language is a big part of President Hugo Chavez's popular appeal.
Chavez has made vulgar language and insults a trademark of his decade in power. He once told the country he would have sex with his wife when he got home that day, has called Americans "sh**s" and described former U.S. President George W. Bush as "the devil" and a "donkey."
Reuters, the wire service who doesn't like "emotive" words in their dispatches like "terrorist," since they compromise "editorial integrity" and endanger reporters, is at it again Wednesday in reporting a truck bombing at a hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan. Reporter Robert Birsel used the word "militants" 11 times in the story, and never used "extremist" or "terrorist."
This anti-emotive words policy is not universal, however, since as James Taranto pointed out, Reuters recently found it okay to characterize Bush in emotive words as a "belligerent, Muslim-hating cowboy." (In that story, al-Qaeda was merely a "militant network.")
Birsel began by noting someone let security barriers down outside the hotel just before the attack and then added:
Taliban militants have stepped up attacks in cities since the army launched a campaign in April to clear Taliban fighters from a stronghold in Swat and other parts of northwest Pakistan.
In his Best of the Web Today column at the Wall Street Journal editorial page site on Wednesday, James Taranto noticed how Reuters had two very different takes on how Osama bin Laden attacks American presidents. He attacks Obama to protest his persuasive skills, while Bush is easily cartooned as a belligerent cowboy:
"A double blast from al Qaeda against Barack Obama shows the group is as worried as ever by the persuasive skills of the U.S. president, who makes a speech to Muslims on Thursday," Reuters "reports" from London:
Earlier today at my blog, I noted in a post updating the sad situations at bankrupt Chrysler and headling-for-bankruptcy General Motors, that GM is, according to a Wednesday Reuters report, offering secured bondholders a much better deal than the 29 cents on the dollar Chrysler's secured creditors have been offered. Chrysler's "non-TARP secured lenders," after what they allege with much evidential support was a campaign of threats and intimidation by President Obama and the White House, abandoned their efforts to have their first-lien rights recognized in bankruptcy court.
But Indiana pension funds holding some of that secured debt representing teachers, police, and other workers have taken legal action objecting to the terms of the Chrysler bankruptcy that don’t give first-lien lenders their proper and legal due.
It thus appears, despite a chest-thumping May 2 assertion in the New York Times that the White House's Chrysler hardball might have taught GM lenders a "lesson," that Obama and his car guys don't have the stomach for riding roughshod over the rights of GM's secured bondholders and ending up with the possibility of another bankruptcy moving into a regular federal district court (the Indiana situation could be the first).
Now what? Well, if you're Team Obama, you instead try to put the screws to GM's unsecured bondholders -- to the benefit of the United Auto Workers' Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA) trust.
Since when is the media so interested in keeping America abreast of the latest news coming out of Ireland? A commission in Ireland just released a report detailing awful abuse of children who attended Catholic schools "from the 1930's to the 1990's, when the last of the institutions closed." And what's ensued is practically an all-out media frenzy.
The AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the LA Times, Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and many others are all over the story. At Google news, the story returns "about 1,531" results.
Yes, the stories of abuse are quite troubling, but it sure seems that the media is singling out the Catholic Church's misdeeds - again.
Today - not decades ago - there is egregious abuse happening with far-greater occurrence in our nation's schools. Yet where's the coverage?
A former U.S. Democratic Party fundraiser whose 2007 arrest prompted Hillary Clinton to return $850,000 in campaign contributions was found guilty on Tuesday of breaking federal campaign laws.
Businessman Norman Hsu, 58, was convicted by a jury in federal court in New York of violating election laws by making donations to political campaigns in other people's names. Hsu also pleaded guilty on May 7 to charges of mail fraud and wire fraud in running a Ponzi scheme of up to $60 million.
Jurors convicted Hsu of violating four counts of federal election law between 2004 and 2007. During the trial, prosecutors said Hsu pressured some of the investors involved in his Ponzi scheme to make thousands of dollars in contributions to political candidates on his behalf.
The story runs nine paragraphs, but only one reference to Barack Obama is made:
Clinton lost her bid for her party's presidential nomination last year to Barack Obama. She now serves as a prominent member of her former rival's Cabinet.
In a report this morning on the situation off the coast on Somalia, Associated Press reporters Elizabeth A. Kennedy and Paul Jelinek seemed oddly sympathetic to the cause of the terrorists in training the world insists on calling "pirates," almost to the point of grudging admiration.
Check out some of the words the AP pair used in their 9:15 a.m. dispatch (saved at host for fair use and discussion purposes, and for future reference if or when the text changes) following the "breaking news alert" at the link:
Undeterred Somali pirates hijack 4 more ships
Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues that killed five bandits, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked three more ships in the Gulf of Aden, the waterway at the center of the world's fight against piracy.
..... The latest trophy for the pirates was the M.V. Irene E.M., a Greek-managed bulk carrier sailing from the Middle East to South Asia, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
The Irene was attacked and seized in the middle of the night Tuesday - a rare tactic for the pirates.