March 25, 2008

AP Reporter’s Tone and Stats Obscure Housing Market in Possible Recovery

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 3:16 pm

Yesterday’s Existing Home Sales report for February issued by the National Association of Realtors had better than expected news: On an annualized basis, sales were up. They were expected to go down. Someone interested in getting to the bottom of things would have found that the improvement reported by the NAR may be an early indicator a broader recovery in existing-home unit sales and sales prices.

That appears to be the last thing the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger was interested in yesterday. In his report, he instead seemed determined to do all he could to portray the increase as a one-month respite in a long-term gloomy scenario. Additionally, he, in my opinion, presented changes in annualized sales volume as if they were one-month changes in actual sales, causing readers to possible believe that the housing market remains more in the doldrums than it really is.

Here is how his report began:

Sales of existing homes increased unexpectedly in February after six months of decline, but private economists said it was too soon to say the prolonged slide in housing is coming to an end.

The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes rose by 2.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million units. It marked the first sales increase since last July, but even with the gain sales were still 23.8 percent below where they were a year ago.

Prices continued to slide. The median sales price for single-family homes and condominiums dropped to $195,900 (not seasonally adjusted — Ed.), a fall of 8.2 percent from a year ago, the biggest slide in the current housing slump. The median price for just single-family homes was down 8.7 percent from a year ago, the biggest decline in four decades.

“The hemorrhaging has stopped but the recovery will be long, slow and painful,” said Bernard Baumohl, managing director of the Economic Outlook Group. “It’s unlikely that we will see any sustained jump in home purchases, must less higher prices, until mid 2009 at the earliest.”

Brian Bethune, an economist at Global Insight, said, “A quick bounce-back in the housing markets is simply not in the cards.”

The “not seasonally adjusted” note I inserted is there for two reasons: First, anyone who downloads the related NAR spreadsheet (the download link for it is at this NAR page) will see that the sales-price data is clearly labeled “not seasonally adjusted.” Since Crutsinger correctly labeled the sales rate of 5.03 million as seasonally adjusted, he should have changed the label when switching topics to the national median sales price.

The second and more important reason for the note above is that Crutsinger erroneously gave his readers the impression that the sales figures he recited later in his report were actual one-month sales changes:

By region of the country, sales surged by 11.3 percent in the Northeast and were up 2.5 percent in the Midwest and 2.1 percent in the South. The only region of the country to see a sales decline was the West, where sales dropped by 1.1 percent.

But the percentages he cited are not the one-month changes in actual regional sales — they are changes in much-less volatile annualized, seasonally adjusted sales.

With all due respect, readers deserve to know that changes in actual sales in February compared to January, and compared to February 2007, were as follows (figures Crutsinger reported [or would have reported had he disclosed every region's annual sales change] are in parens for comparison purposes):

South:
Feb. v. Jan., +8.7% (+2.1%)
Feb08 v. Feb07, -18.3% (-22.0%)

Midwest:
Feb. v. Jan., +22.6% (+2.5%)
Feb08 v. Feb07, -14.6% (-19.5%)

Northeast:
Feb. v. Jan., +24.4% (+11.3%)
Feb08 v. Feb07, -23.3% (-26.4%)

West:
Feb. v. Jan., -1.8% (-1.1%)
Feb08 v. Feb07, -23.6% (-29.2%)

All USA:
Feb. v. Jan., +12.2% (+2.9%)
Feb08 v. Feb07, -19.4% (-23.8%)

Now stay with me on this: Actual sales of existing homes in February, the figures Crutsinger is purporting to be passing on to his readers, were really 12.2% higher than than they were in January, compared to the 2.9% the AP reporter claimed. It’s hard to gauge the real-world significance of the actual February vs. January increase, because the NAR spreadsheet did not have January 2007 data. But it may be that the increases noted, especially those of over 20% in the South and Midwest, are significant enough to lead to firmer home prices in future months — sooner instead of later. These are the kinds of things AP reporters are supposedly being paid to find out.

Comparing February of 2008 to February of 2007, you’ll see that every region of the country had a smaller decrease in year-over-year unit sales than the one Crutsinger reported for the entire country.

Either what you see above is what Crutsinger should have reported, or he should have clearly said that the sales figures he was presenting were annualized.

It “just so happens” that the actual sales figures are, with only one exception (the West, Feb. v. Jan.), either more favorable or less unfavorable than those the AP’s Crutsinger reported.

How convenient.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Quotes of the Day: Christopher Hitchens and Lionel Chetwynd on Obama’s Speech

Filed under: Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:20 pm

Hitchens’s unsparing column (HT Instapundit) on the politician I refer to as BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) contains this priceless passage:

You often hear it said, of some political or other opportunist, that he would sell his own grandmother if it would suit his interests. But you seldom, if ever, see this notorious transaction actually being performed …..

Then there’s Lionel Chetwynd:

….. the teaching opportunity I hoped you would evoke ….. (was) not explaining Wright’s outrage to me, but explaining his outrageousness to him. That’s how we’ll reach the postracial era: by no longer justifying ourselves with what was, instead speaking to what now exists. Not deny the past, but recognize that’s what it is: past.

Do read, and save, the whole things.

AP Joins the Kwame Kilpatrick ‘Name That Party’ Parade

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:23 am

At NewsBusters yesterday, Brent Baker, Ken Shepherd, and Scott Whitlock noted now the TV networks, with rare exception, avoided calling indicted Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick a Democrat.

On the print and online side of Old Media, the Associated Press also avoided identifying Kilpatrick’s party (HT to an anonymous e-mailer). This follows on the heels of another such example almost a week ago.

AP writer Corey Williams, in a 400-plus word article carried at Breitbart and posted just before noon yesterday, missed clear opportunities in at least the first, second, and sixth paragraphs of his report to tell readers that Kilpatrick is a Democrat:

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a one-time rising star and Detroit’s youngest elected leader, was charged Monday with perjury and other counts after sexually explicit text messages contradicted his sworn denials of an affair with a top aide.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also charged the popular yet polarizing 37-year-old mayor with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.

Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick had a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

“Some have suggested that the issues in this case are personal or private,” Worthy said.

“The justice system has been severely mocked and the public trust trampled on. … This case is about as far from being a private matter as one can get,” she said.

The charges could signal the end of Kilpatrick’s six-year career as mayor of one of America’s largest cities.

This party-label avoidance by Williams follows a similar effort by AP in an unbylined report carried in the Toledo Blade on March 18. That report is also noteworthy for its failure to note the party of two other prominent Democrats (bolded in excerpt):

Detroit city council calls on mayor to resign

DETROIT — A nearly unified City Council voiced its displeasure with Kwame Kilpatrick on Tuesday, calling on the scandal-tainted mayor to resign.

A resolution, which passed on a 7-1 vote in the early afternoon, was more of a “no-confidence” vote. The council doesn’t have the power to force Kilpatrick to step down.

Kilpatrick Chief of Staff Kandia Milton said after the vote that the mayor has no intention of quitting despite the council’s resolution.

The lone vote against the resolution came from Monica Conyers, the council’s president pro tem and the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers. Councilwoman Martha Reeves was absent due to an illness.

Prediction: Years from now, historians who search through newspaper and video archives will attempt to claim that the early part of this century was one of Republican and conservative corruption and malfeasance, and will point to LexisNexis-type search engine results as “proof” of that.

Thanks to what I believe are conscious efforts by wire services like AP, and by the TV networks, to prominently label Republicans and conservatives, while avoiding party labels of Democrats and liberals, the Republican/conservative narrative will have undeserved currency — and will require that’s era’s NewsBusters equivalent to refute it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (032508)

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:36 am

Those darn fact keep getting in the way of the globalarmists (those who believe in “globaloney” — the idea that global warming is taking place and that it’s caused by man — and that radical steps must be taken to deal with it).

Here’s the latest (HTs to Captain Ed at Hot Air and to James Murray at NewsBusters):

(ABC Counterpoint host Michael) Duffy asked (biologist) Marohasy: “Is the Earth still warming?”

She replied: “No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you’d expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years.”

Duffy: “Is this a matter of any controversy?”

Marohasy: “Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued … This is not what you’d expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you’d expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up … So (it’s) very unexpected, not something that’s being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it’s very significant.”

This is in sync with a September 2006 UK Telegraph article by Bob Carter (“There IS a problem with global warming… it stopped in 1998″) that I have referred to several times in the past 18 months (one is here).

Would somebody please-please-please tell the three presidential candidates that it’s all a bunch of globaloney, before they see their election as a mandate for actions that will cause serious economic harm and stop the capitalistic march towards eliminating world poverty that has made such remarkable progress?

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The track record of the Left letting go of its myths long after they are disproven is not good. One of the most annoying and enduring of them (HT NixGuy) is the antiwar crowd’s claim that returning servicemen from Vietnam weren’t mistreated, including being spat upon — never mind the overwhelming anecdotal and reported evidence that they were. Heck, as Nix reminded us, it doesn’t even matter that someone admits to having done the spitting.

So, referring back to the first item here today, don’t expect globaloney to go away quietly. There’s too much emotional and career investment for that to occur.

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Uh-oh alert: Hugh Hewitt is promoting Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney as McCain’s Veep. The fact that Hewitt is doing so indicates that it may actually be under serious consideration.

Three people provide more than enough reasons why that would be nuts:

  • Janet Folger — “McCain: How to lose the White House”
  • Gregg Jackson — “McCain Must Resist Increasingly Surreal Hubris of GOP Elites
  • Yours truly — “The Comprehensive Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney Index”

Update: And there’s this (HT Gregg Jackson in an e-mail) — “It seems someone close to Gov. Romney has admitted to the fact Romney indeed was using an earpiece in that January debate. Well, the former Romney aide hasn’t signed an affidavit attesting to the fact his former boss needed to be told when an answer to a question had something to do with lower taxes. However, it sounds like something Romney would do.”

Positivity: Subway Miracle — Hero Beats Long Odds To Make Save

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From New York City:

Columbia U. Worker Leaps Across 3 Tracks During Rush Hour To Save Much Bigger Man
Mar 20, 2008 11:45 pm

You’re about to meet a subway hero, who jumped onto the tracks to save a man. But as CBS 2 HD has learned, his leap of faith was just the beginning.

Veeramuthu Kalimuthu — or Kali – is a mechanic at Columbia University. His recent actions make him a hero in the truest sense of the word. And if not for someone else coming forward to tell his story, the public would never know what he did on March 14.

At around 5 p.m. that day he headed to the downtown No. 1 train at 116th Street in Morningside Heights to go home to Jamaica.

“I heard everybody was screaming, you know, and everybody was running in different direction,” Kalimuthu said.

A man had fallen onto the tracks from the opposite platform, all the way on the other side of the station.

“People were getting their cell phones out trying to call the police, somebody’s got to help him and then I looked over and I saw the gentlemen Kali jump down, hop over the rails,” said witness Ed Dijoseph, who brought Kali’s story to CBS 2 HD.

Kali made it across three sets of tracks, and knew about the three third rails, which are electrified with 600 volts — enough to push a 400-ton train.

“I was jumping from one over one rail, to over the next rail, over the next rail until I get to him,” Kali said.

Just getting to the man was hard enough, but once he got to him he had to deal with the fact that the victim was a good 30-40 pounds heavier than he was. Kali is just 5-foot-5 and 150 pounds. Add to that the fact that at 5 p.m. rush hour trains come through that section of track every three minutes. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.