March 8, 2008

Anyone Wishing to Evaluate John McCain Won’t Get Old Media Help

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:09 pm

It’s not exactly a secret that the presidential candidate I refer to as JS3M3 (John Sidney the Mad Maverick McCain III) is not admired by conservatives for a variety of reasons.

The conventional wisdom is that the Arizona Senator and GOP presidential nominee needs to mend some, uh, fences (warning: profanity at link) with many in his party.

Fair enough, but a word to the wise, and this is relevant regardless of personal ideology: If either McCain himself, or anyone who wishes to give him a fair shake, thinks Old Media is going to help them out, they’re sadly mistaken. The candidate is going to have to go around the media types he may still believe are his friends. Voters in general should not be satisfied saying, “Well, I haven’t seen or heard anything from him,” because Old Media will work to minimize his visibility.

Case in point: Last Tuesday, McCain clinched the Republican nomination. No matter what you think of the guy right now, it was a historic moment, and from a pure-news perspective, completed a remarkable political comeback. Conventional wisdom had McCain’s candidacy dead last summer; the only greater turnaround in my lifetime that I can think of is Richard Nixon’s in the 1960s.

McCain’s victory was his first opportunity to speak to the American people as a whole. He did that, and gave a pretty good speech — which got relatively little press coverage on Tuesday night. It was then followed, as NewsBusters’ Scott Whitlock noted, by virtually no coverage on the networks’ Wednesday morning shows.

Full transcripts of McCain’s speech can be found at the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times (link may require registration), All Headline News, the UK Guardian, at JohnMcCain.com (with partial video), and of course at a few forum and blog sites.

As far as I can tell, that’s it. I wouldn’t have learned of McCain’s good speech myself if I hadn’t read this post at National Review’s The Corner.

Further, as NewsBusters’ Brent Baker noted Tuesday, “A new study of positive versus negative campaign coverage found ….. that John McCain’s coverage grew more negative as he got closer to winning the GOP presidential nomination.” Don’t expect it to get any better now that he’s the nominee.

Passivity and waiting for McCain to come to you would be justified if we were in a fair and balanced media environment, but anyone who has spent more than a few minutes here knows that isn’t the case. McCain owes it to us to try his best, but voters of all ideologies owe it to themselves to be proactive. Perhaps a good start would be reading McCain’s Tuesday night speech. Old Media is hoping you aren’t interested enough.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

MarketWatch Reporter: We Got ‘Poorer’ Last Year

Rex Nutting of MarketWatch was predicting a housing bubble way back in the fall of 2006. He may finally have begun to get his way in the third quarter of 2007, which is the first quarter in which the comprehensive Housing Price Index of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight went negative.

Yours truly had a memorable series of exchanges with him roughly 18 months ago. At one point, he appeared to reveal an expectation (otherwise, why provide a graph of it?) that home prices might actually fall like the NASDAQ did from 2000-2002 — which, for the record, was almost 78%, from a peak of 5048 in March 2000 to a trough of 1114 in October 2002). He also described the housing market, which was still advancing nicely, as “in a free-fall.”

So at the time, despite the reality, Mr. Nutting saw bad, and clearly expected a lot worse.

Therefore, based on the background above, we shouldn’t be surprised that Nutting, the news organization’s Washington Bureau Chief, pounced on the Fed’s latest household net worth report, producing the following (link requires free registration):

MarketwatchOnNetWorth0308

Darn it, this is really weak:

  • The headline assumes that Americans on the whole were poor even before the fourth quarter drop in household net worth (you can’t get “poorer” unless you were “poor” already). This is beyond ridiculous and crosses the line into insulting our intelligence. Poor? Americans are clearly the richest “poor” people in human history. My math shows that the average person in America is worth $190,000 ($57.7 trillion divided by a population of 303 million).
  • The subheadline (“net worth down 3.6% in fourth quarter”) is flat-out wrong; the text of the article itself tells us that the drop is a “3.6% annual rate.” But what’s with the annualizing, anyway? The drop in household net worth during the quarter was 0.91%; the only reason to annualize it as Nutting did is to make the decline look worse than it really was.
  • Later in the article (not pictured), Nutting got hung up in his terminology underwear, as he erroneously described one-quarter changes in quarter-ending balance-sheet amounts as “annualized” (e.g., total household assets, home-equity loans).

Nutting does make a valid point: The 3.4% increase in household net worth during 2007 is less than the year’s reported 4.1% inflation, meaning that real net worth indeed declined during last year. But though he referenced debt growth that took place between 2003 and 2005 (see last paragraph pictured), he “somehow” never got around to telling us what happened to real net worth during the previous 4 years.

So I will, first showing current-dollar results, followed by those same results adjusted for infation, expressed in 2007 dollars:

HouseholdNetWorthCurrAndReal2002to2007

Real household net worth increased almost 28% between 2002 and 2006, before falling back a “whopping” 0.7% in 2007.

Poorer, schmoorer, Rex.

Cross-posted in slightly abbreviated form at NewsBusters.org.

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ALSO: It appears that Nutting’s hysterical “we’re all poorer” outlook is having an impact. Look at the far right in the picture at the commenter-supplied tags (class, elitism, enslavement).

Hope you’re proud of yourself, pal.

As Dem Candidates Continue to Play with Fire on Trade, the Country Risks Getting Burned

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:31 am

Note: This column was originally posted at Pajamas Media on Thursday under the title “Hillary and Obama Play with Fire on Free Trade.”

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All of the whys and wherefores of Tuesday’s stunning “Super Tuesday Junior” results, which collectively retrieved Hillary Clinton’s candidacy back from its appointment with the deathbed, will probably be the subject of scrutiny for years to come.

We saw GOP crossovers to vote for Democrats in Ohio and Texas on an apparently grand and possibly unprecedented scale. Does Mrs. Clinton owe her very survival to, of all people, renegade Republicans?

There was the “Saturday Night Live” effect. First, the program had a segment mocking the press’s alleged favoritism towards Obama that was not only seen or referred to a zillion times by New and Old Media alike in the days following its February 23 broadcast, but was also co-opted by the Clinton campaign as campaign fodder. Then this past Saturday, Mrs. Clinton put in an unexpected and well-received opening-skit appearance.

Other factors, all working in Hillary’s favor: Her “3 a.m.” ad, which played on her supposed ability to handle a crisis based on her “experience”; the continuing saga of Obama mentor Tony Rezko, and the candidate’s petulant reaction to reporters’ questions over his relationship with him; the negative resonation from Michelle Obama’s “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country” statement; and several others.

But Barack Obama wasn’t the only overall loser on Tuesday night. Free trade took a beating, and I fear that the flogging is not yet over.

In last week’s debate in Ohio, and in their campaign stops in the week leading up to Tuesday’s elections, both Clinton and Obama raced to the bottom to see who could give the most disrespect to free trade in general, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in particular. Each embraced “renegotiation,” but as Rich Lowry at National Review writes:

Obama won, at least rhetorically, by promising to “use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage” to renegotiate NAFTA on his own terms.

If there’s any consolation, it’s the fact that the candidate who was the more stridently opposed to free trade and NAFTA is the one who had the bad day at the polls. He should consider whether or not there’s a correlation between the two.

In fact, we basically know that Barack Obama knows better, as Lowry reports in the same piece:

Canada’s CTV television network reported that, in early February, a representative of the Obama campaign assured Canadian officials that they need not take Obama’s NAFTA threats seriously, that those threats were just political rhetoric intended to win Midwestern primaries. The campaign, and the Canadian government, initially denied everything.

….. But it turned out that there had been contact, and something did indeed happen. Later news reports identified the Obama adviser as Austan Goolsbee, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who serves as a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.

Lowry has more of the “he said, they said” details at his column for those who relish that sort of thing. The relevant point to take from the incident is that, despite the heated debate rhetoric, the adults who might actually be involved in economic policy under a President Obama, or for that matter a President Hillary Clinton, know full well that free trade is not something that can be thrown overboard, especially when it involves a good-faith treaty designed to be permanent made with our own neighbors.

Sebastian Mallaby, who directs the Center for Geoeconomic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, clearly leans left, but is not at all pleased with where the two candidates are going. In a March 2 Washington Post column, he wrote that:

….. it’s one thing for Democrats to call for a timeout on negotiating new trade treaties and another to threaten violence to existing ones. ….. the Democrats’ anti-trade rhetoric has become so vitriolic that it is setting the stage for an attack on the World Trade Organization, the most significant addition to the international system since the end of the Cold War.

Then Mallaby went on to make some of the same points that I made in my column last week — points that the two Democrats need to hear again and again until they acknowledge them:

The pity is that the Democrats didn’t have to go this way. It’s not that difficult to explain that U.S. manufacturing output has gone up, not down: It simply isn’t true that production has been shifted en masse to Mexico or even China. Manufacturing employment has fallen not because of trade but because of technological progress, and there’s no mystery about the policies needed to assist losers: wage insurance, a more progressive tax structure and better access to health care.

If either candidate wins the presidency, there is now more than a small chance that he or she will give in excessively to trade restrictionists. They would do so at our long-term economic peril.

Positivity: Investigator tracks down reluctant hero who pulled girl from flames in 2002

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:54 am

From Grand Rapids, Michigan (HT Good News Blog):

February 26, 2008

It’s a Friday afternoon in August of 2002, and Marion Smith and his wife are chatting with their pastor and his wife in front of the Smiths’ home on Dickinson Street SE.

Suddenly, the pastor’s wife notices smoke coming from a home down the block. Marion figures it’s nothing more than an over-stoked barbecue, but he ambles down to see anyway.

Within seconds, he’s bolting up the stairway of a house whose second floor is engulfed in smoke. He can hear a youngster’s voice calling for help, and he drops to his hands and knees at the entrance to the west bedroom.

“Stick out your hand,” he yells into the blackness. “I’m comin’ in.”

Nearly six years later, Grand Rapids Fire Investigator Pablo Martinez is working through the bottom drawer of a file cabinet in his office on LaGrave Avenue SE.

He’s fishing through a stack of unkempt business cards when he spots something vaguely familiar. “What the heck is this?” he whispers to himself. “Omigosh, I still have this?”

It’s a plaque made of Lucite. It honors a hero, and Martinez sits back in his chair to wonder why the thing is still here, buried in his office.

He dusts it off and starts making phone calls, trying to track down a man who has since moved. He calls friends in the police department and goes with a modicum of hope to an address on the city’s north end.

Martinez is flabbergasted to find the wrong man — a white man who owns the same name and birth date as the black gentleman he’s seeking.

He spends the better part of the day playing detective and finally pins down a residence where the man, now undergoing a divorce, at least used to live. A boy of perhaps 15 answers the door, and Martinez establishes it’s the man’s son.

The kid is put off some by Martinez’s uniform, so the fire investigator tells him he has something for his dad, and does he want to see what it is?

Martinez unveils the plaque, relates how the kid’s dad saved a life years ago, and can you help me find him?

The kid’s eyes go wide as saucers. “Daaang,” he says in wonderment. “My daddy did that?” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.