June 11, 2008

Is NYT Writer Sympathetic to Conservative Speech Suppression?

The New York Times is in the midst of publishing a series of articles called “American Exception.” Its purpose is to “examine commonplace aspects of the American justice system that are virtually unique in the world.”

The latest in the series is by Adam Liptak. It carries a June 12 date, and is called “Out of Step With Allies, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend.”

If you think this is yet another “we should be like ‘the rest of the world’” piece (in reality, referring to countries overrun by political correctness that have lost their way), you’ve about got it right.

Here is how Liptak opens (bold is mine):

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A couple of years ago, a Canadian magazine published an article arguing that the rise of Islam threatens Western values. The article’s tone was mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States do not say every day without fear of legal reprisal.

Things are different here. The magazine is on trial.

Excuse me for thinking that Mr. Liptak might believe that what is happening in Canada is a good thing, and that he is in the vanguard of those who wish to hollow out our country’s First Amendment.

Liptak is, of course, referring to the situation Mark Steyn and MacLean’s Magazine face in British Columbia. Mr. Liptak “cleverly” makes Steyn, and by inference MacLean’s, appear guilty of racism:

In the United States, that debate has been settled. Under the First Amendment, newspapers and magazines can say what they like about minority groups and religions — even false, provocative or hateful things — without legal consequence.

The Maclean’s article, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” was an excerpt from a book by Mark Steyn called “America Alone.” The title was fitting: The United States, in its treatment of hate speech as in so many areas of the law, takes a distinctive legal path.

“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”

Note that Liptak surrounds the paragraph about Steyn with descriptions of extreme utterances — “provocative or hateful things” in the preceding paragraph, “racial epithets” and “Nazi regalia” in the one that follows. Yet he never gets around to describing exactly what Steyn wrote that brought him to this point.

At Pages 17-20 PDF of the complaint filed in British Columbia (saved and posted at my host for future reference purposes) is a list of 42 “Details of the alleged Discrimination.”

The complainant, Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, claims that Steyn’s book excerpt in MacLean’s:

….. discriminates against Muslims on the basis of their religion. It exposes Muslims to hatred and contempt due to their religion. Under the British Columbia Human Rights Code, publication of material of the nature described above is prohibited and clearly exceeds the scope of free speech.

Nowhere does Liptak tell us that the BC-based action against Steyn is “only” about speech-based “discrimination,” not hateful or racist speech.

Liptak also conveniently “forgot” to include a story hot off the presses — excuse me, I mean an important story about a development in Canada that should have been carried in the press, but wasn’t.

Rev. Stephen Boisson has been fighting for his right to speak, and is losing. Ezra Levant, who has also had run-ins with the Canadian provincial speech police, explains (bold is mine; link is in original):

(quoting from B.C. Human Rights Tribunal order)

Mr. Boissoin and [his organization] The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.

….. look at the staggering order there. Boissoin can never — ever — communicate anything “disparaging” about gays. It’s a lifetime ban — and it applies to every conceivable medium, including his private e-mails.

But nothing “disparaging“? That means nothing critical.

She didn’t order him not to communicate anything “illegal” or even anything “hateful”. She ordered him to say nothing disparaging. Ever. For the rest of his life.

“Somehow,” Mr. Liptak didn’t notice (or if he did, he didn’t care to tell us) that the Boisson case may very well exemplify where “the rest of the world” is heading. Disagreeable free speech, particularly religion-based expressions and conservative thought, is being transformed into punishable “discrimination.”

This country doesn’t do that. I think that Adam Liptak might prefer to see the situation here change.

I believe it is no accident that Liptak selectively identified “conservative magazines and blogs in the United States” in his opening paragraph, while ignoring the virulent hatred that is a daily staple in parts of the US mainstream left.

Perhaps the New York Times writer is nudging politicians towards silencing dissent in 2009 if the 2008 presidential election goes Old Media’s way.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Is the Associated Press Up to the Task of Reporting on the Economy?

Note: This column was posted at Pajamas Media on Monday afternoon with the title “AP Clueless About Economic News.”

____________________________________________

Last week’s economic news started off on a pretty good note.

Many key reports — Monday’s Manufacturing Index from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM); Tuesday’s Orders Report from the government; and Wednesday’s Non Manufacturing Index from ISM, to name just three — beat expectations. But Friday’s Employment Situation Report left us right where we had started.

APlogoUpsideDown

The Associated Press’s economic reporting last week was another matter.

The wire service’s coverage contained clear errors of fact and obvious misunderstandings of the underlying data — enough of them to make it reasonable to wonder if the business reporters working at the self-described “Essential Global News Network” are up to their assigned tasks.

First, here’s an obvious bust, courtesy of Martin Crutsinger, as he covered the Orders report (bolds are mine):

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that orders were up 1.1 percent in April following a 1.5 percent increase in March. Those gains followed big declines in January and March that raised concerns about how much pain manufacturing industries would feel from the severe economic slowdown hitting housing and the financial sector.

Yes, Crutsinger told us that March went up and down in successive sentences. In fact, it was February that declined (first 2008-labeled row at link).

This was far from AP’s worst error of the week.

In an unbylined article on ISM’s Non Manufacturing Index, the AP’s reporter betrayed stunning ignorance of the meaning of a couple of key numbers:

The service sector grew at a better-than-expected pace in May but slower than in April, suggesting that higher prices for food and fuel may be crimping business in retail, entertainment and agriculture.

….. Another worrisome reading in the service report was that inventories rose 7 percent, while order backlogs fell 1 percent. If that imbalance persists, companies may have to cut production or buying as they reduce excess inventories.

That is not what the ISM report told us. Anyone who understands ISM’s reports would never have written the bolded sentence above.

If the unnamed reporter had bothered to scroll down the report, he or she would have seen the following:

Inventories

ISM’s Non-Manufacturing Inventories Index registered 54 percent in May, indicating that inventory levels grew in May after contracting in April. …..

ISMinventoryPoll0508.jpg

Backlog of Orders

ISM’s Non-Manufacturing Backlog of Orders Index contracted in May. The index registered 49 percent, 1 percentage point lower than the 50 percent reported in April. …..

ISMbacklogPoll0508

ISM’s report said that more respondents in May said that their inventories were increasing than said they were decreasing (in April, more were reporting decreases than increases). That’s it. The 7% change revealed nothing about the actual dollar amount of increase or decrease in inventories. Anyone even remotely familiar with business and commerce would know that a seasonally adjusted increase of 7% in inventories in one month across the entire economy would be cause for huge concern.

The point is similar with orders backlog. Barely more respondents in May said their backlogs had declined. Again, the result had nothing to say about their dollar amount.

The two results take together aren’t an indication of “imbalance.” There’s nothing necessarily “worrisome” about them. What’s really worrisome is that an AP reporter knows so little about what he or she is covering.

Finally, on Friday, reporter Jeannine Aversa repeated the error she has made for several months running of treating seasonally adjusted jobs data as if it reflects what actually occurred in an individual month.

Aversa’s tone was especially shrill, even for her:

Pink slips piled up and jobs disappeared into thin air in May as the nation’s unemployment rate zoomed to 5.5 percent in the biggest one-month jump in decades. Wall Street swooned, and the White House said President Bush was considering new proposals to revive the economy.

….. Help-wanted signs are vanishing along with jobs, so the unemployment rate is likely to keep climbing, a government report indicated …..

The trouble is, BLS’s best estimate is that 648,000 more Americans were actually working in May than were working in April:

BLSnotSeasJobsAdded0508

Aversa should have told us that May hiring was disappointingly low for the fourth straight month, leading to a net loss in seasonally adjusted jobs of 49,000. Her claims that “pink slips piled up,” and of “jobs disappearing into thin air,” are patently false.

Aversa’s “vanishing help-wanted signs” assertion probably doesn’t stand up in the real world either. Though the Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index has been trending downward, the fact remains that as of April, the most recent report available, 35% of labor markets were reporting rising help-wanted volume. That’s hardy “vanishing.” I’ll bet those markets also have plenty of non-vanishing and quite visible help-wanted signs.

What’s really vanishing is the reliability of AP’s business coverage.

Many of AP’s subscribing news outlets accept and run the wire service’s reports on business and the economy without questioning them. If AP gets it wrong, much if not most of the country will be misinformed — and AP is all too frequently getting it wrong.

That’s unacceptable.

‘Ask AP’ Recession Question Response Contradicts Writer’s Own Reporting

AskAP060608

Here is the full text of, and response to, a question directed to Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington, in an “Ask AP” item four days ago (second question-answer segment at link; bolds are mine):

Why is it important whether we are or are not in a “recession”? I have read a technical definition of the word, and I have seen and heard many news reports in which economists and government officials opine on whether we are or are not in a recession. What is resting on that determination?

Ed Hein
Juneau, Alaska

The determination of a recession — usually made well after the fact — can be thought of as an economic, political and historical yardstick. It is used to judge how policymakers — in the White House, at the Federal Reserve, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere — handled the economy and its problems on their watch. It also represents a lasting page in the country’s economic history.

The end of a recession, meanwhile, signals the start of an economic recovery, which also can have implications for decisions made by policymakers, businesses, jobseekers and others.

Jeannine Aversa
AP Economics Writer, Washington

But on April 5, Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington, wrote this:

It’s no longer a question of recession or not. Now it’s how deep and how long.

Thus, two months before she wrote her “Ask AP” answer, Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington, declared that the country was currently in a recession.

The April 5 recession determination by Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington, was made not “well after the fact,” but that day, even though at that point there was no published evidence of nationwide negative economic growth. There has been no subsequent published evidence of nationwide negative economic growth.

Thus, there’s a pretty good chance that Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington, was not only premature in her determination that the country was currently in a recession, but also was, and still is, incorrect.

Note that Jeannine Avera, AP Economics Writer, Washington, also informed her questioner that a recession determination “is used to judge how policymakers — in the White House, at the Federal Reserve, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere — handled the economy and its problems on their watch.”

Does Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington, believe she is entitled to prematurely “judge how policymakers — in the White House, at the Federal Reserve, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere — handled the economy and its problems on their watch”?

If so, who put Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington in charge of making that judgment?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Last Night at Work Spared Storm Survivor

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Madisonville, a Cincinnati neighborhood:

Last Update: 6/05 2:01 am

Every weather emergency brings at least one amazing story of survival.

Wednesday night was no exception.

A Madisonville woman owes her life to getting stuck late at work.

Police and rescue crews darted from one toppled tree to another as limbs brought down power lines and entire utility poles snapped in two.

One of those poles not only knocked out electricity, but also shut down Plainville Road in Madisonville.

And while the large tree that fell in front of Hyde Park Community Church spared the house of worship – there was an even bigger miracle down the road.

“Tree fell on the house and the house was split in half,” said homeowner Dianna Wallace.

Wallace is alive tonight, simply because she had to stay late at work.

She would have been right in the line of the tree when the storm hit, in the kitchen now covered by a pile of rubble.

“Yes, yes. I would have. I would have been fixing something to eat,” said Wallace.

The same violent storm that took down a 250-year-old tree in Norwood, ripped through Wallace’s Madisonville neighborhood.

The tree that fell on her house flattened the kitchen, the dining room and two bedrooms.

She was spared, along with her children.

“So, I thank God. I really do,” said Wallace. “Thank God that I was not here.” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.