March 9, 2008

AP’s ‘Workers Giving Up’ Claim Goes from ‘Perhaps’ to ‘Fact’ in 24 Hours, with No Credible Support

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 3:15 pm

In a report from the presidential campaign trail in Wyoming early Saturday morning, Sara Kugler of the Associated Press picked up on an economic meme created out of whole cloth by one of her colleagues, and treated it as an undisputed fact — all in the name of creating support for campaign rhetoric coming from one of the two remaining Democratic presidential candidates.

The meme got its start on Friday morning shortly after Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly Employment Situation Report, when AP’s Jeannine Aversa offered up the following (bold is mine):

The Labor Department’s report, released Friday, also showed that the nation’s unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent as hundreds of thousands of people — perhaps discouraged by their prospects — left the civilian labor force. The jobless rate was 4.9 percent in January.

NewsBusters’s Noel Sheppard specifically pounced on that nonsense within an hour after Aversa’s claim, as did yours truly a short time later at at NewsBusters and at BizzyBlog. My post also noted that the number of unemployed has dropped significantly — by 195,000 during February, and 284,000 in the past two months — changes that Aversa totally ignored.

Here’s how Kugler wove the false “discouraged worker” meme into three of the final five paragraphs of her report, and expanded on it (bold is mine):

(Hillary Clinton) told audiences in both states on Friday that the Labor Department’s report on Friday showing a loss of 63,000 jobs nationwide in February is an alarming sign of economic troubles.

“The economic policies of the Bush administration are failures. People are out of work, and the work they have doesn’t pay what it used to pay,” Clinton said in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The Labor Department’s report also indicated that the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent as hundreds of thousands of people gave up looking for jobs. The jobless rate was 4.9 percent in January.

Kugler thus transformed something that Aversa said might “perhaps” be happening into an established fact. Nice.

As Sheppard and I both noted on Friday, there is no credible evidence that “hundreds of thousands of people gave up looking for jobs” in February. The only point anyone can come in trying to defend that line of argument is to note that the number of adults not working went up a seasonally adjusted 644,000 (the not seasonally adjusted raw increase was 518,000).

That’s a weak argument. The fact is, despite Aversa’s near-assurance that Kugler converted into an assumption, we don’t know why February’s number went up as much as it did. There are plenty of other reasons, besides “giving up,” why folks might leave the workforce.

One reason might very well be increased retirements. The AP writers overlooked the fact that early members of the Baby Boom that began on January 1, 1946 are turning 62 this year, and are thus eligible for early-retirement benefits in Social Security’s Old Age program. Many early Boomers may actually be retiring a bit sooner than 62 because they can afford to wait a few months for Social Security to kick in. Another factor might be voluntary and involuntary departures from existing jobs after a pre-Christmas ramp-up in the retail and shipping sectors; most retailers’ year-ends take place on or around January 31. It could also be that more young people are choosing to stay in school and are delaying their entry into the workforce.

None of the very real possibilities just mentioned has a darn thing to do with “giving up.”

Aversa’s argument, as both Sheppard and yours truly pointed out, runs smack into the contradictory reality that the number of discouraged workers — those who have “given up,” if you will — hasn’t changed much. In fact February 2008′s discouraged-worker estimate of 396,000 was 15% lower than January’s 467,000, and was not much higher than February 2007′s 375,000.

But it would appear that the AP and its reporters aren’t about to let the truth get in the way of a good, yet made-up, story — especially if it enhances Democratic candidates’ opportunities to demagogue the economy.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Michelle Obama’s ‘Mean America’ Statement Gets a Near-Free Media Pass

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:41 am

On Wednesday, NewsBusters’ Noel Sheppard noted the following comments by Michelle Obama, wife of the presidential candidate I refer to as BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama), in her recent New Yorker Magazine profile by Lauren Collins:

Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we’re a divided country, we’re a country that is “just downright mean,” we are “guided by fear,” we’re a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. “We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,” she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. “Folks are just jammed up, and it’s gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I’m young. Forty-four!”

Sheppard said that “Given how (the) media made excuses for her comments in Wisconsin (She said, “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.” — Ed.), it will be quite interesting to see just how much of (the) interview ….. will be reported in the next 24 hours.”

Well, Noel, I looked at the next 72 hours, and the answer is, with one enjoyable exception, “precious little” (result is from a Google News search on “Michelle Obama” “New Yorker” “mean” [typed exactly as indicated] for the date range March 5-8; all relevant results are in the graphic):

MichelleObamaMeanNYorkerSearch0308

The one delicious morsel in the above list is Brit Hume’s “Political Grapevine” piece, because it makes the linkage the rest of Old Media should have made, and didn’t:

New Information

A profile of Michelle Obama in the upcoming issue of The New Yorker magazine may help explain why she said last month that — “for the first time in my adult lifetime I am really proud of my country.”

The article quotes from a speech Mrs. Obama made to a crowd in a South Carolina church in January. …..

The remaining Google News results consist of Noel’s NewsBusters post; a brief WorldNetDaily item; briefer blog posts at the Boston Herald and the San Diego Union Tribune; a Frank James post at the Chicago Tribune’s “The Swamp” blog that was also carried at the Baltimore Sun; and a great historical context piece at AOL’s Political Machine by Justin Paulette.

What did the “papers of record” do with Mrs. Obama’s comments? The same search done at the respective web sites, with no date range specified, came up with nothing relevant:

If the “papers of record” did nothing with her comments, you can be reasonably assured that the Old Media TV networks also ignored them.

The Associated Press’s Calvin Woodward did note the New Yorker interview, but went nowhere near the controversy. Instead, he referred to a very odd thing Mrs. Obama said in reference to Bill Clinton (“Michelle Obama recently said this of Bill Clinton in The New Yorker magazine: ‘I want to rip his eyes out!’ She added: ‘Kidding.’”), and speculated on whether Clinton-Obama could be a “Democrat Dream Team.”

So it would appear that Mrs. Obama’s “mean” New Yorker musings did not make the print edition of any major newspaper.

Geez, at least Old Media did something with Hillary Clinton’s infamous “baking cookies” tantrum in 1992. Mrs. Obama’s virtual free pass for much more offensive verbiage is a useful reminder of how much worse Old Media bias has become in the intervening 16 years.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Indians receive news of first saint from their country with joy

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

From New Delhi, India (video also at link):

Mar 6, 2008 / 06:02 pm

India will have its first saint on October 12 when Pope Benedict XVI canonizes Blessed Alfonsa of the Immaculate Conception, who is believed to have interceded in the miraculous cure of a child.

“One of the child’s legs was left motionless after a bomb exploded nearby and Alfonsa cured him. The exam by doctors confirmed it,” said Father Antony of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He said the local church is elated, noting that she would be the first saint of India.

Ana Muttathupadam was born on August 19, 1910 in Kundamaloor, India. Her mother died when she was only three months old, and she was raised by a Catholic family of the Syro-Malabar rite.

At the age of 18 she joined the Poor Clares and was given the name Alfonsa of the Immaculate. Her religious life was marked by grave illnesses that kept her from carrying out her apostolic work. She offered all of her suffering for the conversion of sinners.

During the last year of her life, she fell ill with cancer and suffered great pain. She died on July 28, 1946 at the age of 36. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1986 and will be canonized on October 12, 2008. Sister Alfonsa’s motto was “Be consumed as a fire to illuminate others.” Her profound spiritual life even moved the hearts of non-believers. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.