Watching Associated Press reports evolve, or as is all too often the case, devolve, can be a revealing exercise.
Example: What happened between 8 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday that would have caused the Associated Press and writer Nancy Benac to water down the headline and opening paragraphs of their story about the Obama-Gates-Crowley situation from this ....
In late April, the Associated Press's Calvin Woodward, in a "Fact Check" report ("Obama disowns deficit he helped shape"), hit President Barack Obama's claims that he and his party don't deserve much of the blame for the size of this year's deficit pretty hard. It was such a surprise that I wondered who had put truth serum in his coffee.
Well, you might have guessed it would be Calvin Woodard doing the primary honors in an AP Fact Check that again takes aim at the President, this time over his health care bill. With the co-bylined help of Jim Kuhnhenn and contributions from Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Woodward and his team went after several claims made by Obama at his Wednesday press conference that don't stand up to scrutiny.
Someone at the Associated Press got a headline mostly right ("Obama rushes to quell racial uproar he helped fire") -- although you still have to wonder if it had been almost anyone else, if something along the lines of "xxxx stops short of full apology" would have been used instead.
AP writer Nancy Benac's story does note a couple of clear negatives in Barack Obama's behavior in the Henry Gates matter, but it also lapses into blather about "the nation's keen sensitivities on matters of race."
Benac also blew by an incendiary comment by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the President's police union critics reported earlier today at the Politico -- "I think the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed McCain, if I'm not mistaken" -- that surely would not have been ignored had a Republican president's PressSec had made a similar statement about a Democrat-endorsing group. It as if, in Gibbs's world, partisanship is the only reason the FOP defended officer James Crowley.
This morning, some 30 people were arrested in New Jersey, the fruit of a two-year federal investigation into a international money laundering scandal. Among those arrested were Democratic Mayors Peter Cammarano III (Hoboken) and Dennis Elwell (Secaucus), as well as Democratic deputy mayor of Jersey City Leona Beldini and Republican state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt.
But if you only got your news of this mass arrest from the Associated Press, you would not learn the party affiliation of these politicians. To their credit, other news outlets readily accessible to New Jerseyans such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal noted the party affiliations of these allegedly crooked pols.
Noel characterized Raum's report as suggesting that "the White House's delay in releasing an update about the budget might be tied to the administration's desire to get controversial bills on healthcare reform and cap and trade passed before Congress and Americans know just how large the deficit really is." That's because the delayed report would more than likely tell the nation that this year's deficit is expected to be even bigger than expected (using proper cash-flow reporting, which I'll get to), and future years' projected deficits are even more likely to be unsustainably high.
Two important things were missing from Raum's report. First, there was a total dearth of detail about how badly the current fiscal year that began on October 1 of last year has gone -- most especially the last quarter. Second, Raum saved until near the end of his report a prediction by one of the wire service's go-to "experts" -- the first such prediction I've seen -- that Gross Domestic Product will contract yet again in the third quarter.
No one can finish Saturday's report by Sam Hananel of the Associated Press without knowing the side of the political aisle on which he resides (surprise -- not -- it's decidedly on the left), and that he is more sympathetic to the interests of organized labor than he is to those of management at non-union firms.
Additionally, no one can doubt that Hananel, and perhaps his editor(s), have little respect for AP's stated policies of relying on more than one source, attempting to avoid anonymous sources, and when using them, clearly describing "the source's motive for disclosing the information."
That's a pretty remarkable achievement for a roughly 750-word report.
First, here are three word choice examples that give away Hananel's political biases:
Perhaps inadvertently, the text of the Associated Press's earliest video coverage (scroll down the right frame at the link) of Walter Cronkite's death would appear to say a lot about how journalists see themselves -- and it's not as objective communicators of what is occurring in the world:
Cronkite: "Hello, I'm Walter Cronkite."
AP's Diane Kepler, narrator: He was the most trusted man in America.
Cronkite (November 22, 1963): From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1PM Central Standard Time, 2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.
DK: Walter Cronkite, for many the quintessential TV journalist, has died. For most Americans he was the man to turn to on everything from the assassination of President Kennedy to what to think about the war in Vietnam.
This post proves the point, as if it even needs to be proven, that you have to go to the editorial pages of publications like the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily to get your news when leftists are in control of the government.
When the topic is statist health care, that's doubly true.
IBDeditorials.com got to Page 16 of the House's health care bill, did the investigative work the establishment media was either too lazy to do -- or worse, other outlets did the work and didn't think readers should know what IBD found.
Yesterday afternoon, IBD laid the following bombshell on its readers (HT to dscott; I also heard Rush mention this a short time ago; bolds after title are mine):
It's Not An Option
Congress: It didn't take long to run into an "uh-oh" moment when reading the House's "health care for all Americans" bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.
Might Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have some "'splainin' to do" about racial insensitivity? Both Associated Press editor Michael Giarrusso and Politico's Glenn Thrush raised the question in blog posts filed this morning.
Shortly before noon, Giarrusso noted that "Sen. Tom Coburn evoked a 1950s TV show in a quip responding to Sonia Sotomayor’s scenario about what he might do if she -- hypothetically, of course -- attacked him."
For online readers unaware of the half-century-old pop culture reference, Giarrusso explained:
In his report's apparent final incarnation early Tuesday morning, the AP writer:
Told us the amount of June's deficit ($94.3 billion), but didn't disclose the figures for June's receipts ($215.4 billion) or "outlays" ($309.7 billion), or how they compared to June of last year. In doing so, he "succeeded" in concealing the accelerating decline in tax collections.
Didn't tell us that the past month's deficit is by far the worst June ever.
"Forgot," as he did in May, to tell readers that the deficit would be hundreds of billions of dollars higher if it weren't for an "accounting change" retroactively put into place by Treasury in April that changed the definition of "outlays."
Cited the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as contributors to the deficit situation, while not identifying several other expenditure categories that have been worse offenders by far.
Found an economist, without dissent, to support the claim that what the Obama administration has done had to be done.
And that doesn't even count Crutsinger's Krugmanesque rewrites of the history of the 1930s Depression era and 1990s Japan, or the apparatchik-like tone present in a few of his paragraphs.
If you listened to any top-of-the-hour radio newscast yesterday, you probably heard that General Motors has exited from bankruptcy, with the company promising to really, really do better this time around.
You more than likely didn't hear anything about how much government money it has taken to enable GM to survive and reemerge. That's because original story sources like the Associated Press put off such troublesome disclosures until later in their reports.
In the AP's case, even when writers Tom Krisher and Ken Thomas, assisted by three other contributors, finally got around to discussing taxpayer funding in the 25th paragraph of their 29-paragraph report, they understated the amount of government money expended. The pair also seemed to imply that creditors of the "old GM," consisting of the parts the emerging company left behind, would be made whole, which is of course far from the case.
Here are the paragraphs from the story that relate to my observations:
In a wildly meandering report on the status of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Alliance's attempt to enact statist health care this year, Associated Press writers David Espo and Erica Werner:
Told us that the House wants to slap a surtax on "highly paid" Americans without disclosing the percentage of the proposed surtax or how much it might raise.
Forgot to tell us that wealthy wage earners already pay a "surtax" designed to fund others' health care that has failed to solve any long-term financial issues (maybe you've forgotten too, so I'll remind you).
Acted as if the legislation under consideration will instantly zero out the number of uninsured Americans, which they falsely claimed is currently 50 million.
Here are the relevant paragraphs from the AP report:
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.
In the later paragraphs of a story today about the latest hurdle bailed-out General Motors has managed to jump to get out of bankruptcy, the Associated Press's Bree Fowler almost totally ignored the impact of Ford's improvement largely at GM's expense during the first half of 2009, acting as if GM's decline has almost solely been the result of defections to foreign competitors.
Fowler's only mention of Ford comes in connection with its new, apparently redesigned Fiesta. Fowler makes it appear to the relatively uninformed reader that the Fiesta is appearing on the market for the first time.
Oh. So. Predictable -- Both what is happening, and how it is being "covered."
Chrysler is barely out of bankruptcy, and there is already concern as to whether the money Uncle Sam, (i.e., U.S. taxpayers) funneled into the company -- while in the process of ripping off and intimidating its secured creditors, capriciously terminating plants and dealers, and running roughshod over long-held notions of fiduciary duty -- will be enough.
Beyond that, how many people know that the magical technology its new owner Fiat, which put no money of its own into the deal, is "more than a year away" from making its way to Chrysler?
"Somehow," the Associated Press's Obamacized news prioritizers decided that the info nuggets contained in the previous two paragraphs should be relegated to the final paragraphs of an unbylined report (also saved at host) this afternoon. The report, including its headline ("Chrysler names remaining directors to new board"), appeared to be merely a droll recitation concerning certain Board members. Only readers getting to the last three of the report's eight paragraphs would have any idea that Chrysler's situation is already a cause for renewed concern about its viability.
Readers here can make what they will of the Board's make-up, but, as noted, the real beef in the AP story is in those final paragraphs (bolds are mine):
We are now six months into the failed Auto Bailout Era. Looking at the industry's four biggest companies, it has become clear that Ford is on the rise, General Motors continues to slip badly, Chrysler is fading into minor-player status, and Toyota's ongoing struggles continue.
In May, after April's sales results came out, two Associated Press writers noted Ford's ascendancy and uniquely hinted at its likely basis:
Detroit’s Big Three is becoming Ford and the other two.
While its rivals stay afloat with billions in government aid, Ford grabbed a bigger slice of the American car market in April .....
..... Most of ..... (Ford's) gains came at the expense of General Motors and Chrysler, which unlike Ford are dependent on federal help.
Other than that, there has been virtually no press recognition of what has to be seen as the most likely reason for the shift: Enough consumers to matter are continuing to shun the unsuccessfully bailed-out.
Today's dispatch from the Associated Press about the Chinese Communist government's attempt to require that a state-developed program called "Green Dam Youth Escort" be installed on all new personal computers sold in that country is all too typical of the awful reporting on this potentially frightening development.
I will refer to Green Dam Youth Escort as "the GD software" for the balance of this post. Many readers will find this abbreviation particularly appropriate once they fully understand everything the GD software could potentially do.
The latest news about the GD software is that the government has delayed what was to be a July 1 installation requirement, but that it intends to go forward with that mandate at some point. In the meantime, for reasons not fully vetted, many PC makers have begun shipping units with the GD software either already installed or included on an accompanying CD.
Considering the gravity of what the Chinese Communist government is trying to do to its people, worldwide media coverage of the GD software has been much lighter than justified. Somehow, what may happen to the free speech and free expression rights of 1.3 billion people isn't anywhere near as important as what's happening in connection with an entertainer who has been dead for a week.
For the Associated Press, Tim Klass shows that taking liberties with facts by enveloping them in wild hyperbole can sex up a boring story into something much more alarming. Unfortunately, what one ends up with is not a presentation of news, but a promulgation of a narrative that befits a particular political agenda. And this time writer Klass uses his hyperbolic style to advance the guns-are-evil story line.
The headline startles the reader by screaming out "Powerful weapons found in Northwest drug raids." One immediately imagines an image of dozens of high powered and dangerous guns, those above and beyond the norm, in the hands of these felonious drug dealers. One imagines enough guns to arm an army with the police sorely out numbered. But, when the story is read in its entirety, it becomes obvious that "powerful weapons" turns into one high powered pistol, the rest being your average, everyday firearms seen all over the place.
In a passionate Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning ("Silence Has Consequences for Iran"), former Spanish Prime Minister José Aznar who, in case anyone cares, serves on the board of WSJ parent News Corp., says that "It would be a shame .... if our passivity gave carte blanche to a tyrannical regime to finish off the dissidents and persist with its revolutionary plans."
Shaking off passivity requires visibility. America's media establishment almost across the board is providing very little. The Associated Press and the New York Times reports exist, but their distribution is dwarfed by the death of a pop star and a governor's infidelity.
Here are useful comparisons (all searches were done at Google News at about 8:45 a.m. for June 23-27, limited to USA sources):
Clearly, the most important takeaway from ABC's low-rated White House forum on health care was President Barack Obama's admission that he would go outside the constraints of a nationalized system to get the "very best care" if necessary for his own family.
It struck me, in reading this AP dispatch from Tehran by Nasser Karimi and William J. Kole, that the political and media establishment has, in the two decades since the death of the very visible Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni, allowed Ali Hoseyni Khamenei, his successor as the Supreme Leader of Iran, to fade comfortably into the background, while still pulling all the meaningful levers of power in that country.
Only now, with Tehran in turmoil, and of all things during an attempted media blackout, do we directly learn from Karimi and Kole that election winners are in most meaningful ways mere puppets who serve at Khamenei's pleasure, and that the elections themselves are mere spectacles designed to convince the populace, and perhaps more importantly the West, that Iran, though Islamic fundamentalist to the core, is still somehow a sort-of democratic country.
It is, of course, anything but that. I daresay that most in the West, up to and including many politicians and establishment media elites, and even presidential candidates, haven't even the faintest appreciation of this fact.
In their report, Karimi and Kole communicated the essence of Iran's reality in one concise phrase, referring to "the virtually limitless authority of the country's most powerful figure." Now they tell us.
Imagine, if you can, that George W. Bush made a clearly and deliberately false statement (by the way, what the left claims are his five major lies weren't, and still aren't).
Now further imagine if the Bush administration's response to criticism of the statement, if not true, had been, "Oh, the president's rhetoric shouldn't be taken literally." The press uproar over such a dismissive response would have been justifiably immediate and furious.
In his address to the American Medical Association this past Monday, President Barack Obama promised that:
.... no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.
Well, Richard Alonzo-Zaldivar at the Associated Press at least noticed that Dear Leader's promises can't possibly be kept. But wait until you see his nonchalant reaction to what a conscientious press would immediately decry as a series of obvious falsehoods.
Maybe reporters Brian Faler or Nicholas Johnston at Bloomberg asked Barack Obama some really challenging questions when they had a chance to interview the President at the White House. Maybe they even did some basic fact-checking. If so, there's precious little evidence of either in their June 16 report.
They allowed the president to blame most of the current year's deficit on George W. Bush. They let him speak of "robust" growth when the best guesstimates they quoted for the second half of this calendar year and all of next year are anemic -- at least as the press benchmarked growth during the Bush 43 years.
The Bloomberg pair also ignored the alarming deterioration in federal receipts from economic activity that has continued into June, one of the four biggest collections months of the year.
Here are key paragraphs from Faler and Johnston's failed filing (bolds are mine):
Question: How do you water down the possible significance of a statement by an Iranian diplomat?
Answer: Wait for an AFP journalist to revise a previous raw report.
A short unbylined dispatch from the wire service reported that the diplomat "apparently misspoke" when he said that Iran has "the right to a nuclear weapon" not long after the incident occurred. (Dictionary.com tells us that "Used before a noun, apparent means 'seeming.'")
In a later full story ("Iran denies wants nuclear weapon as insurance"), AFP's Simon Morgan reassured readers that the statement by Ali Asghar Soltanieh "was clearly a slip of the tongue."
How can he be so certain?
Here is most of the brief early report after the incident (note that the headline, "Bombshell: Iran envoy in nuclear weapon slip-up," already had the excuse down pat; bolds are mine):
Mia Farrow's brother, artist Patrick Farrow, committed suicide Tuesday, June 16. As expected, on the following day the Associated Press released a wire story about the incident. But, the odd thing about the short recount of the Farrows's lives and the account of the discovery of Patrick's lifeless body is that that the AP found some reason to slip in an attack on George W. Bush into the story. Worse, the AP used the fact of a U.S. soldier's death in Iraq as a vehicle to slam the past president. What did BDS have to do with the Farrows, Patrick's death, and a report on the same?
The customary information about Patrick Farrow's death was duly reported, of course. We were informed of the laundry list of facts. We got Farow's relation to actress Mia Farrow; a bit about her life; some on Patrick's life's work in sculpture and art; and some of the initial findings surrounding his death also appear. All good and proper reporting, of course. But then, at the very end, we get to the anomaly of the story, a lapsing into Bush Derangement Syndrome that is completely out of place with the rest of the tale.
And now another episode of Name That Party where the news customer reads a story and tries his darndest to discern from what party a scandal plagued politician hails. We have many times said that one of the main rules of the Name That Party parlor game is that if the Old Media is talking about a troubled Democrat, often times the pol's party is either not mentioned at all or is buried way down in the story. On the other hand, if it is a troubled Republican, why the party affiliation often leads the story if it isn't right in the headline itself. Today we have a pair of stories that proves this axiom well.
First up is the mysterious case of Detroit City Council Member Monica Conyers (wife of Representative John Conyers) who the Associated Press reports is "snarled in bribes probe." All the sordid details about the tale are laid out for us... except one. It seems the AP somehow forgot to mention that Monica Conyers is a Democrat.