April 1, 2008

Business Press Spinsanity Over March’s ISM Manufacturing Index

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 2:51 pm

The Institute for Supply Management issued its March Manufacturing Report on Business today:

PMI at 48.6%

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector failed to grow in March, while the overall economy grew for the 77th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Norbert J. Ore, C.P.M., chair of the Institute for Supply Managementâ„¢ Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “The manufacturing sector failed to grow in March as the PMI fell below 50 percent for the second consecutive month.

Just because the ISM says the economy has grown won’t necessarily make it so when Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis releases the first quarter 2008 GDP report late this month, but it beats the alternative.

The real fun comes in looking over the reporting on the ISM results. Were they better or worse than “expected”? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Here’s AP’s Eileen Alt Powell, as of 11:35 a.m. (link is dynamic, so text may change at link; bolds are mine throughout):

The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its manufacturing index registered 48.6 last month, compared with 48.3 in February. February’s reading had been the weakest in five years.

Readings below 50 indicate contraction, while those above 50 show growth.

The latest index was roughly in line with expectations by Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson/IFR.

Powell has an interesting definition of “roughly in line” — the index went up, while as you can see from this Google News partial capture, Thomson’s expectations were that it would go down:

ISMmarch08ThomsonPredix

This might explain how Powell “somehow” forgot to report the predicted number.

Perhaps Ms. Powell got the hook, because a bit less than 2 hours later, Joe Bel Bruno had a different take (link is also dynamic):

Meanwhile, Wall Street got another boost when the Institute for Supply Management said its March index of national manufacturing activity rose to a reading of 48.6 – indicating a contraction, but a slower one than in February and tamer than many analysts had predicted.

Reuters surveyed its own set of economists, who predicted a bigger drop. But it waited until the fifth paragraph to tell us that, and, “cleverly,” found an economist who assumes we’re already in a recession (bold is mine):

….. “The ISM manufacturing index gave a choppy sideways picture of manufacturing which is better than might have been feared but doesn’t give conclusive indication whether export strength will sustain overall activity in the face of domestic spending,” said Pierre Ellis, senior economist at Decision Economics in New York.

“That kind of offset is critical to keep the recession relatively mild.”

Wall Street cheered the report, however, since the reading on manufacturing was higher than the 47.5 foreseen in a Reuters poll of economists.

All reports sorely lacked historical context, so I’ll provide some, from ISM’s Manufacturing Index history:

ISMhistory1998thru0308

The orange area shows that during the reportedly wonderful economy of 1998, there was a 7-month contraction in manufacturing. We’re not there yet currently. It’s a virtual certainty that no one was claiming a “manufacturing recession” during that time period, as one economist in Powell’s article did to characterize the current situation (the idea of a sector being in a recession runs against the definition of the word in any event).

In 2000 (red area), there were three reported declines in the runup to the presidential election as the NASDAQ/dotcom bubble burst, followed by 15 more months of contraction traceable first, to that bubble, and then, to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I don’t recall anyone in the general or business press using the word “recession” during the initial three-month time frame.

The current 5-month semi-rough patch (green area) is not as serious as the other two — yet. It would be nice if the business press weren’t so presumptive about the idea that things will get worse (or even are that way already), when there’s no good reason right now to believe that “worse” or “better” is the more likely outcome.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Update: NY Times Iraq Reporter Is Admitted Former Saddam Officer — And Has Been Very Busy

To refresh from what I posted on earlier this morning (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog [third item at post] — here’s the admission from New York Times reporter Qais Mizher, in his report from Basra in yesterday’s Times:

Early last week, when the assault started, I happened to be in Diwaniya, another southern city, as part of my work as a reporter and translator for The New York Times.

Calling on my experience as a captain in the Iraqi Army before the 2003 invasion and essentially a war correspondent since then, I headed to Basra to see if I could make my way into the city and see what was happening there.

Yesterday, Richard Miniter at Pajamas Media pointed out that Mizher’s self-professed “experience” means that he “was an officer in Saddam’s army.”

A search on Mizher’s full name in quotes at the Times shows that it comes up in 313 stories, going all the way back to September 2004. Mizher’s regular reportorial contributions appear to have begun in late August 2005. He has rarely, if ever, had his byline alone on a story; the one excerpted above is either the first instance, or a rare exception.

Points/questions:

  • Someone with more time than I have ought to go through the reports to which Mizher has contributed to see how a former Saddam officer might have colored them.
  • How many other former Saddam officers are in Old Media’s employ over in Iraq?
  • Those skeptical of the need for folks like Yon, Totten, Ardolino, Dollard, et al need to remind me again — Why should Old Media’s wire services and “newspapers of record” deserve the presumption of greater credibility than the milbloggers?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (040108)

I didn’t miss this item from a week ago, but haven’t blogged on it until now:

Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The three anti-war Democrats made the trip in October 2002, while the Bush administration was trying to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Iraq. While traveling, they called for a diplomatic solution.

Prosecutors say that trip was arranged by Muthanna Al-Hanooti, a Michigan charity official, who was charged Wednesday with setting up the junket at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Iraqi intelligence officials allegedly paid for the trip through an intermediary and rewarded Al-Hanooti with 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil.

Now that it’s been over a week, I have three questions:

  1. Isn’t it amazing that the duped (Congressmen “Baghdad Jim” McDermott of WA, Thompson of CA, and former Congressman David Bonior of MI) have, as far as I can tell, expressed absolutely no shame or regret over being duped by our enemy into being his puppet-spokesmen?
  2. How typical is it for a congresscritter to just jump on a plane without vetting who is paying for the trip?
  3. Isn’t it remarkable how quickly the story dropped off the radar?

________________________________________

I did miss this when it was first reported — from the March 22 Toronto Globe and Mail:

Taking Christ out of Christianity

That triumphal barnburner of an Easter hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today – Hallelujah, this morning will rock the walls of Toronto’s West Hill United Church as it will in most Christian churches across the country. But at West Hill on the faith’s holiest day, it will be done with a huge difference. The words “Jesus Christ” will be excised from what the congregation sings and replaced with “Glorious hope.”

Thus, it will be hope that is declared to be resurrected – an expression of renewal of optimism and the human spirit – but not Jesus, contrary to Christianity’s central tenet about the return to life on Easter morning of the crucified divine son of God.

(There are ) No references to salvation, Christianity’s teaching of the final victory over death through belief in Jesus’s death as an atonement for sin and the omnipotent love of God. For that matter, no omnipotent God, or god.

….. Ms. (Rev. Gretta) Vosper does not want to dress up the theological detritus – her words – of the past two millennia with new language in the hope of making it more palatable. She wants to get rid of it, and build on its ashes a new spiritual movement that will have relevance in a tight-knit global world under threat of human destruction.

The entire article is no longer available. The first paragraph is at the link; the others were excerpted at The Anchoress, who got to the root of the problem (HT Sister Toldjah):

….. it takes a lot to offend my Christian sensibilities.

….. Do you know why these “progressive” Christians want to “progress” right through the tenets of Christianity into the grim world of neither-faith-nor-reason but self-actualizing instinct and “hopeful” feelings? Why they want Jesus with no Christ, God with a small g and all that? Can you take a guess?

If you said “it is the logical culmination of baby-boomer narcissism and that generations’ tireless effort to deconstruct the universe and put itself at the center of all things” then ding, ding, ding! You win the daily double!

….. Meanwhile – don’t let this freak you out. Don’t be afraid of children-of-all-ages playing dress-up, or the pranks and guffaws of those who are taking the wide road and pretending it’s a martyrdom. We live in an interesting age, where the meaning of things – even of martyrdom – is being muddied up. Nothing to fret about – it’s only what Jesus promised us, after all.

Well, yes and no, ma’am — I don’t freak over the adults’ self-delusion; I do worry about their kids.

________________________________________

Richard Miniter at Pajamas Media caught the jaw-dropping significance of these two paragraphs in a New York Times report by Qais Mizher out of Basra (HT Instapundit; bolds are mine):

Early last week, when the assault started, I happened to be in Diwaniya, another southern city, as part of my work as a reporter and translator for The New York Times.

Calling on my experience as a captain in the Iraqi Army before the 2003 invasion and essentially a war correspondent since then, I headed to Basra to see if I could make my way into the city and see what was happening there.

Miniter, while noting how vapid and misleading Mizher’s reporting is, emphasizes the jaw-drop:

Got that? The New York Times reporter was an officer in Saddam’s army. Nice. ….. (Iraqi) Officers had to be selected and regularly vetted for loyalty and effectiveness. So Saddam decided that he could trust our intrepid correspondent and so did the New York Times.

Makes you wonder: Would the Times have hired former Nazi officers to cover the three-year insurgency against the American presence in Germany in the late 1940s? Even if they spoke the language, knew the countryside well and said they “never really believed” in that evil ideology?

My question: Who can be confident that the newspaper that gave us Walter Duranty didn’t do that?

Cross-posted in longer form at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Bible kept WWII soldier safe for ‘perfect’ 65-year marriage

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

From Belleville, Illinois (video is at link):

Posted on Sun, Mar. 30, 2008

BELLEVILLE — On Sept. 11, 1944, Margaret Woodrome bought her husband, Harold “Woody” Woodrome, a pocket-size Bible to carry while fighting overseas. “I found this Bible and I just knew I had to have it,” she said. “I just wasn’t sure that he would come home.”

“To My Beloved Husband,” Margaret wrote inside the Bible’s metal front cover. “Hurry and come home, home to your wife and your expected child. We will be waiting forever for the sweetest, most lovable husband and father in the world. May God watch over you constantly and bring you home safely to us. I love you, my darling, forever and ever. Margie.” They’d met in grade school and had their first date on a small bridge near what ended up being their home, where Margaret still lives today.

Woody was drafted into the Army in January 1941, seven months after he and Margaret married. He was deployed to Europe in August 1944, serving in Company K of the 290th Infantry Regiment’s 75th Division.

Margaret said she sent the Bible to Woody while he was in England, where he stayed after completing a training program in South Wales. He kept it in one of his coat pockets, near his heart.

He left England in December 1944. His division headed to France for the Battle of the Bulge.

….. in late December he was hit in the chest during combat. When he checked to see whether there was any bleeding, he found the Bible that Margaret had sent him, its metal cover dented.

“It saved his life,” Margaret said. “Thank God it helped and did the trick.”

….. Margaret still has all of Woody’s war artifacts on display in their home or archived in her extensive collection of photo albums and scrapbooks. Brandon Woodrome, their grandson and a Belleville West High School history teacher, documented their story for his college thesis paper.

And the life-saving Bible? It is locked away in a safe place in Margaret and Woody’s home in Belleville, its metal cover stating, “May the Lord be with you.”

Woody died March 28, 2005. After 65 years of marriage, Margaret described their life together as “perfect.”

“Nobody in this whole wide world had a better life than we have had. It’s been a terrific, terrific life.”

Go here for the full story.