April 21, 2007

Greenspan’s Recant Last Week: Coverage Plays Up the R-Word, Even Though He Didn’t Say It

In late February and early March, Alan Greenspan’s musing and odds-making on whether the US economy would go into a recession later this year was all the rage in the Formerly Mainstream Media.

Here’s how Craig Torres of Bloomberg News started out his March 7 report carried in the Washington Post:

‘One-Third Probability’ in ’07, Former Fed Chief Says

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday that there is a “one-third probability” of a U.S. recession this year and that the current economic expansion won’t have the staying power of its decade-long predecessor.

“We are in the sixth year of a recovery; imbalances can emerge as a result,” Greenspan said in an interview at his District office. “The historically normal business cycle is much shorter” than a decade and is likely to be this time, he said.

Greenspan’s outlook contrasts with the prediction of his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, who told Congress last week that the economy might strengthen this year. Bernanke’s upbeat assessment helped steady stock markets on Feb. 28 after a plunge the day before that some traders attributed partly to Greenspan’s musing that a recession could not be ruled out.

What a difference about 40 days makes.

Early last week in Tokyo, Greenspan effectively recanted. As with the post earlier today about the state of Maryland abandoning its effort to mandate health benefits at Wal-Mart, one could argue that the rush of other events this week might have crowded Greenspan out.

But what coverage Greenspan’s remarks received, what he said was distorted. For example, CNN/Money’s headline writer couldn’t resist using the word “recession,” and the article’s writer (as did most) emphasized that same “R word” — even though in the body of the report, it’s obvious that the former Fed Chairman did not:

Greenspan plays down recession fear comments
Former Fed softened his stance on earlier comments about possible U.S. recession, saying that global growth is boosting demand for U.S. goods and services.
April 16 2007: 6:13 AM EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) — Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was quoted as having played down his earlier concern about a possible U.S. recession, saying the world economy would provide a cushion, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Greenspan was speaking via satellite link from Washington to a financial forum in Tokyo and his comments were quoted by a few of the participants, Bloomberg said.

Greenspan said growth in the rest of the world is creating demand for services from firms such as Microsoft (Charts), according to Vaseehar Hassan Abdul Razack, chairman of Kuala Lumpur-based RHB Islamic Bank, who attended the meeting and whose remarks were cited by Bloomberg.

Greenspan didn’t mention recession on Monday, according to Anne Okko, who works in funding administration at the Nordic Investment Bank, Bloomberg said.

Okko quoted Greenspan as saying the world economy is on a positive trend, Bloomberg said.

Mr. Greenspan wasn’t “playing down” recession fears; by not even mentioning the word, he was saying that the fears aren’t justified.

Old Media just can’t seem to stop rooting for economy to hit a rough patch, and won’t even let go of the possibility long enough to ensure that it accurately covers what a former Fed chairman says.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Quote of the Day: NOT ‘Only in America’

Filed under: General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:11 pm

Not even close, says Steven Stanek in the final paragraph of his Friday TCS Daily column:

I’ve heard people say “only in America” in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. Clearly, though, it’s not only in America. Terrible incidents like these have occurred and are occurring in countries across the world, including countries that severely restrict or ban the private ownership of firearms, and countries with a reputation of peace and harmony.

Read the whole thing.


UPDATE: It’s going to be a while before the “Europe is safer than the US” meme gets exposed as the myth that it most certainly is, but James Q. Wilson in the LA Times has some stats that will hasten that day:

AS FOR THE European disdain for our criminal culture, many of those countries should not spend too much time congratulating themselves. In 2000, the rate at which people were robbed or assaulted was higher in England, Scotland, Finland, Poland, Denmark and Sweden than it was in the United States. The assault rate in England was twice that in the United States. In the decade since England banned all private possession of handguns, the BBC reported that the number of gun crimes has gone up sharply.

Some of the worst examples of mass gun violence have also occurred in Europe. In recent years, 17 students and teachers were killed by a shooter in one incident at a German public school; 14 legislators were shot to death in Switzerland, and eight city council members were shot to death near Paris.

The main lesson that should emerge from the Virginia Tech killings is that we need to work harder to identify and cope with dangerously unstable personalities.

It is a problem for Europeans as well as Americans, one for which there are no easy solutions — such as passing more gun control laws.

Quiet Story of the Week: Maryland Abandons Wal-Mart Law Appeal

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:05 am

Of course there were many other newsmaking events this week, but the relatively silent treatment this story received from Old Media is still not a surprise (the link is to a story at a trade publication’s web site; very few papers had a related story written by the Associated Press):

Maryland Abandons ‘Fair Share’ Health Care Fight

Maryland is giving up on its effort to require Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to spend more money on employees’ health insurance benefits.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said Monday, April 16, that the state will not seek U.S. Supreme Court review of an appeals court decision earlier this year—upholding a lower court ruling—that the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act pre-empted the Maryland law.

“The reason we are not seeking review is not because we think the law is unconstitutional. What the courts found was that the law was pre-empted by a very broad federal law called ERISA. We believe that seeking further review would not be successful,” Gansler said in a statement.

Mr. Gansler must have been absent the day in law school where he would have learned that because ERISA is constitutional, a state law that violates ERISA isn’t.

Now that what was a cause celebre has been decisively thwarted, Old Media, in typical fashion, as shown in this Google News search, gave it relatively little play.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: 102-year-old woman hits hole-in-1

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:57 am

From Chico, California (HT FYI News):

Sun Apr 8, 6:44 AM ET

Elsie McLean thought she might have lost her ball on the par-3, 100-yard fourth hole at Bidwell Park. Instead, the 102-year-old Chico woman became the oldest golfer ever to make a hole-in-one on a regulation course.

Because of the slope of the green, McLean and her partners couldn’t see where her ball landed after she teed off.

“Where’s my ball?” McLean asked.

Her friends, Elizabeth Rake and Kathy Crowder, found it in the cup.

“I said, ‘Oh, my Lord. It can’t be true. It can’t be true.’ I was so excited. And the girls were absolutely overcome,” McLean said.

It was McLean’s first ace.

“Well everybody wants a hole-in-one, and I said, ‘Why can’t I have a hole-in-one?’ I came within inches once,” McLean told television station KNVN.

McLean, who used a driver, broke the age record of 101 set by Harold Stilson in 2001 at Deerfield Country Club in Florida.

McLean, who has been featured in golf magazines before, will appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on April 24 to celebrate her accomplishment.

“For an old lady,” she said, “I still hit the ball pretty good.”