March 1, 2007

A Brief Primer on the New York Times’ Economic Terminology: Today’s Lesson — What Is a ‘Manufacturing Recession’?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 1:42 pm

According to the Times, the most recent four-month period, boxed in red below, represents a “manufacturing recession”; The Times has already declared it (“For Manufacturing, a Recession Has Arrived”; link may require registration):

ISMpmi2006to2007

But the following periods boxed in orange from 1995-2000 did not:

ISMpmi1995to2000.jpg

Any questions?

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Source and Explanation: Historical Table of the Institute for Supply Management’s Monthly PMI Manufacturing Index. Readings above 50 represent expansion. Those below 50 represent contraction. According to ISM (scroll down at link), “A PMI in excess of 41.9 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the PMI indicates that both the overall economy and the manufacturing sector are growing.”

Also: In a Proquest Library search of the Times for articles containing both “manufacturing” and “recession” from 1/1/1995 to 1/1/2001, I found no declarations that the manufacturing sector was actually in a recession — only a few saying that it might get to that point.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Here’s a link that I used at the previous post for the commonly accepted definition of “recession” — at places other than the New York Times.

UPDATE 2: Don Luskin, in his inimitable style — “How stupid (Times writer David) Leonhardt thinks we all are.”

UPDATE 3: NewsBusters commenter jdhawk — “From a financial point of view, every day is a recession at the NYT!”

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Previous PostExactly Why Should I Believe That the Formerly Mainstream Media Isn’t Rooting for a Bad Economy?

Exactly Why Should I Believe That the Formerly Mainstream Media Isn’t Rooting for a Bad Economy?

Two reports from earlier this week, one that warned of a “likely recession,” and another that flat-out declared a non-existent “manufacturing recession,” have to make you wonder, especially considering a positive report from the real world that came out earlier today.

First — On Monday, the Associated Press turned murky comments by Alan Greenspan into “Greenspan warns of likely U.S. recession.” Hundreds of papers, including The Washington Post, published the headline online and in print. Only a day later, AP issued a “never mind” report (“Economists: Recession unlikely”).

Second — On Tuesday evening, the New York Times (may require registration), in an article by David Leonhardt, declared:

For Manufacturing, a Recession Has Arrived

The nation’s manufacturing sector managed to slip into a recession with almost nobody seeming to notice. Well, until yesterday.

Wall Street was caught off guard when the Commerce Department reported yesterday morning that orders for durable goods — big items like home computers and factory machines — plunged almost 8 percent last month. That’s a big number, but it really shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. In two of the last three months, the manufacturing sector has shrunk, according to surveys by the Institute for Supply Management that have been out for weeks.

It sure looks as if Leonhardt was engaging in wishful thinking:

  • The two months where manufacturing “shrunk” (November and January) had readings above (49.5 and 49.3, to be exact). But December came in at 51.4 (second item at link); average the three, and you have 50.1. Anything above 50 means “expansion.” Not that being barely above 50 is anything to throw a party over, but it’s NOT a contraction.
  • Give Leonhardt (an undeserved) benefit of the doubt. Maybe January’s reading plus January’s crummy durable goods report signaled bad news for the manufacturing sector. Surely these are signs of a possible “shrink,” but do they mean recession already exists? Call me old-fashioned, but a recession is supposed to mean two consecutive quarters of contraction, not one single month. (Yes, I know that there is a group of sage oracles whose job it is to tell us if we’re “really” in a recession or not. I questioned the work, and especially the objectivity, of that supposedly “nonpartisan” group, the National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER], last year.)
  • There’s more — Every month, when ISM publishes its “PMI” Manufacturing Index, the announcement has this explanation (link is to January’s report; scroll down) that Mr. Leonhardt and his multiple layers of fact-checkers at the New York Times “somehow” neglected to notice:

    A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting. A PMI in excess of 41.9 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the PMI indicates that both the overall economy and the manufacturing sector are growing.

    Last time I checked, “an expansion of the overall economy” meant “growth,” the opposite of “contraction,” and well short of a “recession.”

Now, from the real world – The ISM Manufacturing Index for February came in at 52.3. Memo to the Times and the other media vultures waiting for the economy to tank: This means “expansion.” You’ll have to find your red meat somewhere else.

The first response at the ISM link from someone in the Chemical Products industry inadvertently says it all about Formerly Mainstream Media coverage of the US economy in the past few days:

“Business is booming in the fertilizer business.”

With all the economic reporting manure being produced by the business press, it’s no wonder.

Recession, reschmession.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: A follow-up: A Brief Primer on the New York Times’ Economic Terminology

UPDATE 2: The Times looks weaker by the moment. This report from AP says that Wall Street expected a neutral reading of 50 — which the Times could have and should have known at the time the “manufacturing recession” article was written.

The Vietnam ‘No Spitting on Soldiers Occurred’ Myth: Jim Lindgren Piles on (Yours Truly Adds a Little)

It has taken him a couple of weeks, but most of the follow-ups to Jim Lindgren’s report from a few weeks ago (the one that, among other things, had Pulitzer Prize winner James Reston report on the spitting that took place at one of the earlier antiwar demonstrations in Washington in 1967) are now posted at Volokh.

Here’s the Lindgren chronology:
- Feb. 3 — Vietnam Spitting
- Feb. 8 — Many 1967-72 Spitting Incidents Are Documented in the Press
- Feb. 21 — Spitting Report, Part II: Of Civilian Airports and Attempted Debunkings
- Feb. 21 — SPITTING REPORT III: EVIDENCE RELEVANT TO ONE OF BOB GREENE’S SPITTING ACCOUNTS
- Feb. 21 — Spitting Report IV: Opposition To The Troops
- Feb. 22 — Spitting Report V: Servicemen and Anti-War Activists at the Airport
- Feb. 23 — Spitting Report VI: Academic Folklore

Lindgren also has an “all on one page link” that, as of post time, goes through the February 21 posts.

Lindgren apparently has even more to come.

Lembcke has posted a response here. I would characterize it as very lame.

Just for starters, his first point is “I’ve never said I knew that spitting did not happen.” Technically true, but Lembcke said this in 2005 in the Boston Globe (bolds are mine):

For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.

Lembcke’s response point is Clintonesque parsing; the Globe column text is clearly written with the goal of making us THINK that the the supposed “spitting did not happen.” This is doubly ironic — Now he claims not to KNOW that spitting didn’t happen because he wasn’t “there,” but people who do say they were spat on (i.e., that they WERE there) don’t count unless they have courtroom-level proof.

The rest of Lembcke’s response doesn’t get any better, and I’ll leave it to Lindgren, who has said he will deal with it, to do just that.

Meanwhile, I’ve been tipped by Right in a Left World to the following tidbits, which originated in a comments at the SwiftVets site.

The first comes from former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, and is found in an article that originally appeared in the Boston Globe in 2001. It is still posted at the Senate web site of (…. savor the moment ….) John Kerry. About 2/3 of the way through, Bob Kerrey writes:

We returned home to an America that was indifferent, even hostile. There were no parades, only nightmares. Veterans were spat upon, called baby-killers, our uniforms themselves targeted us for ridicule from those who could never understand our pain. The war stories we had did not uplift, but rather repelled. For many vets, it was simply impossible to explain, so silence became the only option.

Yeah, I know. It’s not contemporaneous. It’s not “first-hand.” It’s “only” a former US Senator and 1992 presidential candidate, who in his travels and his campaigning must have “only” spoken to hundreds, if not thousands, of other former Nam vets. For the holdouts, it doesn’t “count,” even if they in essence have to call a former US Senator a brainwashed dupe in the process.

The second item truly is a choice one. The SwiftVet commenter wouldn’t link it because it goes to the web site of a Jane Fonda documentary (“Sir! No Sir!”). I appreciate the sentiment, but I will link to this. It is the third listing in this search of the documentary’s library database on the word “spit.” We are indebted to Ms. Fonda and the documentary’s conscientious librarians for being so thorough. The excerpt is from the link’s 1st, 2nd, and 4th paras:

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win. The war in Vietnam has dragged on now for over seven years. Countless numbers of American youth have died there and still die there today…..

Now we go into Cambodia as frontline soldiers under Nixon…..

….. Last summer M.D.M. had its beginnings in Duck Power and Attitude Check. In the fall M.D.M. became official. What was it? It was a group of these GI’s who were tired of all the shit they were getting, tired of all the killing and seeing their friends dying, tired of getting hassled every day, tired of getting spit on in the streets of America. So they met and drew up twelve demands, and set out to gain those demands. They dared to struggle, they dared to win control of their own destiny. We are still struggling and still winning. M.D.M. now has eight chapters and is still growing.

Placed in historical context, the publication is almost definitely from 1970 (Nixon sent troops into Cambodia on April 30, 1970). That’s quite a bit before 1980, when Jerry Lembcke says the spitting stories began to appear.

Yeah, I know. “Not first-person.” “Not a real publication.” I suppose someone out there will even try to stretch and say that those involved in MDM were being spat on by supporters of the war.

Oh please, stop it already. A much better idea would be for the holdouts to utter the six magic words: “We were wrong. We are sorry.” Whether y’all apologize or not, you’re definitely wrong, and you’re the sorriest bunch I’ve come across in quite a while.

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Previous Posts:

  • Feb. 9 — Jim Lindgren Smashes the ‘Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus’ Myth
  • Feb. 6 — More Vietnam-Era Spitting Stories (from Library Database Research Jerry Lembcke Has Chosen to Ignore)
  • Feb. 5 — ‘Spittle-ize THIS’ Update: Jerry Lembcke’s ‘Search for Evidence’ Appears Not to Have Gone Very Far (copied Post)
  • Feb. 4 — ‘Spittle-ize THIS’ Update: Jerry Lembcke’s ‘Search for Evidence’ Appears Not to Have Gone Very Far (Original Post)
  • Feb. 4 — A Lot of People Need to Start Walking The ‘No Spitting on Viet Vets’ Claim Back, and Quickly

Consider the Source

Filed under: Business Moves,Scams — Tom @ 7:31 am

I’m not at all surprised that someone who would call himself “the king of the world” after winning an award for making a movie is attempting a clumsy debunk of the real King.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (030107)

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:19 am

Cal Thomas made some great points earlier in the week about the relevance of Bill Clinton’s speaking engagements to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and potential conflicts of interest that may be involved.

What is striking is the contrast between the press’s treatment of Clinton’s serial speechmaking-moneymaking machine (i.e., stone cold silence) and the faux outrage over ONE set of speeches and public appearances in Japan by Ronald Reagan (described as “controversial” in this book excerpt) after he left office.

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Okay, almost a week has gone by since the news from Centcom about the improvements in the security situation in Baghdad’s northwest Al-Doura neighborhood (HTs to Kings Right Site [here and here]).

So how much news about it has appeared anywhere else? See for yourself: Google News search on “Al-Doura” (not in quotes); Google News search on “Al Doura” (in quotes).

Some comfort can be taken in the fact that some military sites are getting Google News visibility — but, unfortunately, almost all of centcom.mil is STILL not among them (except for the Horn of Africa; go here and see for yourself by entering “centcom.mil”). It should be, in its entirety.

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Take public handouts with no public accountability: I want the deal the Underground Railroad Freedom Center expects. And this money pit expects the money flow to continue unquestioned? Ridiculous.

Yeah, But (FL-13 Vote Dispute Over)

Filed under: Biz Weak — Tom @ 6:14 am

It’s nice that the dispute over Florida’s 13th Congressional District has been decided (Wall Street Journal link requires subscription):

Republican Vern Buchanan won his seat by a mere 369 votes over Democratic challenger Christine Jennings, who has nonetheless refused to concede and has sued to demand a new election. Ms. Jennings claims that faulty software was the cause of 18,000 “undervotes,” or incidences where voters cast ballots in other races but not in the Congressional contest, in what is a mainly GOP district on the Florida Gulf Coast south of Tampa.

However, eight computer experts from several universities looked at the iVotronic software and last week concluded unanimously that it “did not cause or contribute to the CD13 undervote.” Ms. Jennings and her allies at People for the American Way aren’t giving up and are demanding to see the source code themselves. Naturally, they’re also claiming that one of the scientists who conducted the audit is known to have voted for President Bush. Some people will believe anything, but Ms. Jennings looks worse with each day she continues to rage against the machines.

That’s fine as far as it goes, but the dispute’s origins and length should be enough to convince any holdouts that e-voting systems must have a paper trail, as Florida now mandates.

Businesses Like This One Do Not Deserve to Be Aided or Abetted

When you’re fined for employing deceptive business practices, the response should not be simply to pay the fine involved and to keep on doing it (HT Techdirt) — especially if you’re one of the three major credit bureaus. But that’s what Experian is doing, and apparently intends to keep on doing, with its freecreditreport.com efforts.

Media outlets carrying commercials for this disgraceful and apparently ongoing enterprise should seriously reconsider doing so.

Consumers need to know that, as noted here two years ago, the only site where you can get an annual, no-strings-attached free copy of your credit report is annualcreditreport.com.

The ‘Forever’ Stamp Is a Good Idea, But ….

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:04 am

….. the existence of the “Forever Stamp” would appear to imply that the government-run Postal Service will last forever.

Positivity: Hero disappears after rescuing man from fire

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From Niles, Ohio:

By AMY McCULLOUGH Tribune Chronicle
Monday, February 26, 2007

NILES — An unidentified good Samaritan may have saved a disabled man’s life when a fire broke out in his Sheridan Avenue home early Friday morning.

Robert Lowe, 52, 26 Sheridan Avenue, said he was sleeping on the first floor of his home when fire started in the basement. He said a man he had never met was walking past the house about 2 a.m. saw the smoke rolling out of the home, and checked to see if anyone was hurt.

Though the smoke detectors were working, Lowe said it was the Samaritan’s consistent knocking on the door that woke him up.

‘‘I tried to get out as fast as I could, but I had to get my feet, which takes about 10 minutes to put on,’’ said Lowe who lost both his feet as a result of diabetes and uses prosthetics to walk.

Lowe said the man, who he estimates was in his 30s, left before he had a chance to find out his name.

Firefighters said the cause of the fire was accidental and was likely started by an electrical system in the basement. The blaze caused about $5,000 in damage.

Lowe lived in the house with his ex-wife, who is in Florida. He said he had a floppy-ear rabbit, but gave it away Thursday because he was planning to move out next week and couldn’t take the rabbit with him.

The Trumbull County American Red Cross helped Lowe find shelter and is helping with his bills temporarily.

‘‘That young man saved you. (Lowe) was on medication and didn’t even hear the alarm going off. You are really lucky,’’ said John Scott with the Red Cross.