September 26, 2008

AP’s Palin Derangement Extends to Her Parents

The Associated Press apparently isn’t satisfied going after Sarah Palin full throttle.

The GOP Vice-Presidential nominee’s visit to New York City apparently went so well that an ABC pictorial series is called “Sarah Palin Takes News York” — though the last slide takes a shot at the McCain campaign for setting boundaries on access to Palin during her meetings with foreign leaders. ABC claims that the media threatened to boycott covering her (yeah, right).

Both the New York Times and the AP chose to address Palin’s observation that her parents had involvement in the recovery effort in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. In a surprisingly pleasant development, the Times’s story covered that angle reasonably well. But the AP’s story (as carried at the Times web site), was incomplete, nasty (“rat-killers”), and condescending.

Here’s how the Times’s coverage started:

Palin’s Parents Aided in Sept. 11 Cleanup

Gov. Sarah Palin visited ground zero on Thursday and said her parents had come to New York after 9/11 to help with the recovery effort.

Her parents, Chuck and Sally Heath, worked at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island in January and February 2002 as part of a federal Department of Agriculture program.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Mr. Heath said he and his wife had worked to keep sea gulls and rats from scavenging remains in the debris. Mr. Heath, 70, a retired science teacher, and Mrs. Heath, 68, a retired secretary, have worked for the Agriculture Department for 15 years. They travel around the world dealing with “nuisance” animals like rats and bears.

All in all, not bad.

The same can’t be said for how AP handled it:

Palin’s parents: Retirees, part – time rat killers

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — More than six years before Sarah Palin visited ground zero as the Republican vice presidential nominee, her parents were there as part of the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — trapping rats.

Chuck and Sally Heath have been part-time U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife specialists for the past 15 years, traveling throughout Alaska trapping or killing animals. They’ve eradicated rat infestations, shooed geese from runways and killed foxes that were keeping threatened Canada geese from nesting.

In January 2002, they went to New York City for a two-week assignment that fit their specialty. Their job was to make sure birds and rats did not disturb the debris from the collapsed World Trade Center towers that was being searched by forensic teams for human remains in Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill.

My take:

  • The AP’s headline and first paragraph were deliberately incomplete, negative, and designed to make Palin’s parents come off looking like a couple of sadists. That’s especially obvious when you see from the Times article that “trapping rats” isn’t all the Heaths did. In fact, the Times piece mentions rats after seagulls.
  • More on the headline — Since Palin was visiting Gotham and made the comment about her parents, the story was what the Heaths did in connection with 9/11. The AP article’s eighth paragraph noted that the rats at Fresh Kill were “dispersed,” and apparently not killed. So why is “rat-killers” in the headline? The Heaths’ involvement in rat eradication, which AP decided to call “killing,” actually took place on an unrelated assignment thousands of miles away.
  • The AP, in unexcerpted text, mentioned that Mr. Heath was a retired teacher, but despite their article running twice as long as the Old Gray Lady’s, never mentioned what Mrs. Heath did for retirement (she was a secretary).

I learned by going to this AP-Google link that the pitiful headline was the same, and that the story’s author was Matt Volz.

Volz has been exhibiting ever more serious symptoms of Palin Derangement. NewsBusters’ Jason Aslinger observed earlier this week that:

Volz has been a busy bee covering the Troopergate anti-scandal over the last two weeks. Not surprisingly, he continues to write story after story without citing to the obvious bias underlying the entire investigation.

By extending the vitriol to her parents, Volz is demonstrating that his strain of PDS is particularly virulent. I fear for the AP reporter’s stability if Palin takes up residence where Dick Cheney currently lives.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Uncle Sam’s Multi-Trillion-Dollar Oil Lockup’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:55 pm

It’s here.

It will go up at BizzyBlog early Sunday afternoon (link won’t work until then) after the blackout is lifted, under the title “Trillions Left on the Table.”

A very belated hat tip to reader and Publius’ Forum blogger Dan Scott (his latest is here) for the original tipoff to Congressman Peterson’s work, originally referenced here in early August.

Top Economists, Including 3 Nobels: Henny and Benny, Cool Your Jets

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:07 am

From Bloomberg, while I search for the letter’s full text:

More than 150 U.S. economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, urged Congress to hold off on passing a $700 billion financial market rescue plan until it can be studied more closely.

In a Sept. 24 letter to congressional leaders, 166 academic economists said they oppose Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s plan because it’s a “subsidy” for business, it’s ambiguous and it may have adverse market consequences in the long term. They also expressed alarm at the haste of lawmakers and the Bush administration to pass legislation.

“It doesn’t seem to me that a lot decisions that we’re going to have to live with for a long time have to be made by Friday,” said Robert Lucas, a University of Chicago economist and 1995 Nobel Prize winner who signed the letter. “The situation may get urgent, but it’s not urgent right now. Right now it’s a financial sector problem.”

The economists who signed the letter represent various disciplines, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, behavioral and information economics, and game theory. They also span the political spectrum, from liberal to conservative to libertarian.

The bolded text from Lucas is important. He and certainly some of the other letter signers are saying, in the face of certain ridicule, that the fundamentals of the economy are basically sound, and that the problem, while serious, is for the time being confined to the financial and housing sectors.

If you don’t mind, I’ll take the word of economists such as these over that of the Associated (with prematurely declaring recessions) Press.

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UPDATE: Here’s the letter (note the last part of the link’s URL; who said economists can’t be pithy?):

To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate:

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America’s dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.

Signed (updated at 9/25/2008 8:30AM CT)

(list of signers is below the fold if you’re on the home page)

(more…)

Bailout Brainstorms

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:13 am

Though I’m still not sold on the idea that doing nothing won’t force a necessary sort-out, and set an important precedent that Uncle Sugar won’t rescue anyone and everyone who wants it, here’s a roundup of some of the more credible proposed alternatives I’ve seen.

Brian Wesbury, who has been referenced frequently here, says that he is “not so certain we need draconian action to get through this.” Instead, Wesbury says “temporary” changes need to be made to mark-to-market accounting, “where the majority of the problem” lies.

John Paulson, clearly no relation to Hank, suggests in the Wall Street Journal that the government should:

Invest the $700 billion of taxpayer money in senior preferred stock of the troubled financial institutions that pose systemic risks. Let’s call this the “Preferred plan.” In fact, it is the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac model — which the Treasury Department has already endorsed and used in practice. It is also the approach Warren Buffett used for his investment in Goldman Sachs.

Paulson (again, John, not Hank) also warns that:

There are major problems with the Treasury plan. First, by buying banks’ worst assets at above-market prices, taxpayers take an immediate economic loss — while transferring wealth to shareholders and executives of the very institutions that brought on the financial crisis.

Second, this plan puts too much discretionary power in the hands of Treasury officials. Who determines what financial assets are purchased and at what prices? Who determines which bank gets to benefit from these taxpayer subsidies? Will bank shareholders continue to receive dividends, and executives continue to get paid huge bonuses?

The answers should be “no” and “no.”

Dave Ramsey thinks (mp3 audio link here) that the government should guarantee the debt to anyone that buys it, but not do the buying itself, and that the cost to the government of doing so would be a relatively minimal $40-$50 billion.

Here’s Holman Jenkins at the WSJ:

Let the government be a buyer of last resort for mortgage derivatives for a set price (say, 25 cents on the dollar), hoping others will gain confidence to step in. Hope, too, that this whets the appetite again for investors to recapitalize hurting banks. If banks continue to falter even with the option to dump their mortgages on government for a deep discount, deal with those challenges as they occur, with forbearance where possible. Meanwhile, use taxpayer dollars to clean up the housing mess in the Southwest and Florida — the surprisingly confined source of all our troubles.

Add in Cleveland and Detroit, and he may be about right.

‘Obamazebo’ Project Under Investigation; Sun-Times Follows Up, Drudge Takes Note

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:01 am

obamazebosign

Note: This post originally went up just after midnight.

This post updates primary work done by the Chicago Sun-Times in July (accompanying video is here), this September 7 post at NewsBusters, and two related posts (here and here) at BizzyBlog. Graphics are mostly courtesy of NewsBusters commenter “tnculp.” Hat tips go to all who tipped me to the news.

In a Thursday story by Chris Fusco and Dave McKinney that has been linked by Drudge, the Chicago Sun-Times reported on the latest developments relating to what was supposed to be a Barack Obama-sponsored $1.1 million botanical garden in an economically blighted area on the South Side of Chicago — complete with “a gazebo, a parrot sanctuary, and a walk of fame.”

While an Illinois state senator in 2001, Obama, as the Sun-Times reported in July, “gave $100,000 in state money to a campaign volunteer who failed to deliver” on the initial phase of the work or to garner additional community funds, leaving “what was supposed to be a six-block stretch of trees and paths ….. a field of unfulfilled dreams, strewn with weeds, garbage and broken pavement.”

Now Illinois’ Attorney General is investigating, and has determined where much of the money went — sort of (bolds are mine throughout this post):

A $100,000 state grant for a botanic garden in Englewood that then-state Sen. Barack Obama awarded in 2001 to a group headed by a onetime campaign volunteer is now under investigation by the Illinois attorney general amid new questions, prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports, about whether the money might have been misspent.

The garden was never built. And now state records obtained by the Sun-Times show $65,000 of the grant money went to the wife of Kenny B. Smith, the Obama 2000 congressional campaign volunteer who heads the Chicago Better Housing Association, which was in charge of the project for the blighted South Side neighborhood.

Smith wrote another $20,000 in grant-related checks to K.D. Contractors, a construction company that his wife, Karen D. Smith, created five months after work on the garden was supposed to have begun, records show. K.D. is no longer in business.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan — a Democrat who is supporting Obama’s presidential bid — is investigating “whether this charitable organization properly used its charitable assets, including the state funds it received,” Cara Smith, Madigan’s deputy chief of staff, said Wednesday.

In addition to the 2001 grant that Obama directed to the housing association as a “member initiative,” the not-for-profit group got a separate $20,000 state grant in 2006.

Madigan’s office has notified Obama’s presidential campaign of the probe, which was launched this week. But Obama’s actions in awarding the money are not a focus of the investigation, Smith said.

….. Obama vowed to “work tirelessly” to raise $1.1 million to help Smith’s organization turn the City of Chicago-owned lot into an oasis of trees and paths. But Obama lost the congressional race, no more money was raised, and today the garden site is a mess of weeds, chunks of concrete and garbage. The only noticeable improvement is a gazebo.

….. Citing the garden’s failure to take root, NeighborSpace — an umbrella group for dozens of community gardens citywide — moved Sept. 9 to return the site to the city. Its action followed a July 11 Sun-Times report on the grant.

….. Neither Smith nor his wife has been accused of any wrongdoing. Smith and his lawyer did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Fusco and McKinney further reported that they found one contractor on the project who apparently received no more than $3,000 for work that contractor as “Clean up the area and cut the trees — that’s all.” Smith claimed in July that this contractor did “underground work, but the original Sun-Times report “found no evidence of the work Smith cited.” Regardless, what Mr. and Mrs. Smith did with the remaining $97,000 (perhaps minus the cost of the now-decaying gazebo) remains unexplained.

Readers can go to a new video at today’s Sun-Times story and decide for themselves how credible Mr. Smith is. I’ll just say that where Mr. Smith thought the rest of the money was going to come from is totally different from what he was telling people in 2000 and 2001.

The Sun-Times has clearly done very thorough and tenacious work over the past few months, and I don’t want to minimize that. At the same time, I hope the Sun-Times doesn’t mind it if I question whether NeighborSpace’s move to give up the site was in reaction the paper’s July story, or to the heavily-trafficked September 7 NewsBusters and BizzyBlog posts that gave the situation wider distribution.

The referenced gazebo is what “tnculp” famously dubbed the Obamazebo:

obamazebo.jpg

Maybe Obama’s “actions” aren’t under investigation by the state’s Democratic Attorney General, but his vaunted “Judgment to Lead” should be.

Paraphrasing what I wrote earlier this month and back in July, this sad saga is no trifling matter, but rather goes directly to the Illinois Senator’s fitness to be president:

  • In July, Obama claimed that the state governor’s staff should have been monitoring the grant. This shows that he felt no sense of responsibility for the results of money directed to someone HE chose, and despite a previous promise to “work tirelessly” to ensure that the project came to fruition. This isn’t “the buck stops here” of Harry Truman fame; this is “the buck went somewhere else.”
  • Gubernatorial staffs aren’t responsible for monitoring projects like this. The blame-shifting to other pols is either hopelessly naive (a legitimate possibility, given the Obama’s seemingly endless well of ignorance) or irresponsible.
  • If you look at the full text of the press release that announced the project in 2000, you’ll see that Smith was on hand, that he made representations about how he was “work(ing) with a variety of governmental agencies and not-for-profit groups to secure funding this project,” and that he had “made some progress.” My bet: Smith had, at most, met with a few organizations once or twice, and was blowing smoke about his realistic chances of getting money. For a nominal $550 in campaign contributions and some volunteer hours, Smith got 100 grand, which “somehow” mostly made its way to him and his wife, with no real accountability thus far. Face it: Obama got hustled. I doubt that he even looked into how the rest of the “fund-raising” was going before directing the release of the grant funds.
  • Perhaps that’s why Obama seems oddly indifferent to what ultimately happened. The response from his spokesman (and not the candidate) is tired boilerplate about “provid(ing) residents with a livable neighborhood.” Zzzzzz.

The larger point is this: The guy is hopelessly gullible, can’t even get a $100,000 grant right, and now wants to have the final say in matters relating to a $3-plus trillion federal budget and a $14-trillion economy in a town chock full of con artists and tricksters.

Yikes. We’re talking about something that, using Obama’s own words on a different matter, is way above his pay grade — and his abilities.

The Obama campaign’s reaction to the latest developments is more snooze material, as Fusco and McKinney noted:

Obama spokesman Michael Ortiz said Wednesday the senator’s staff in Washington will monitor the Madigan probe and an additional review under way by Gov. Blagojevich’s administration to make sure “the taxpayer funds allocated for the construction of the garden are recuperated from CBHA if the agencies determine that the funds were not properly spent.” Obama’s goal is to ensure the site “be used in a way that benefits the community and that any taxpayer dollars allocated are spent wisely,” Ortiz said.

Well, that would be a switch.

Thank goodness that Drudge is helping get the Obamazebo snafu a bit more of the national visibility it deserves. I’ll bet that very few traditional media outlets, if any, will.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

______________________________________________

UPDATE: Drudge screencap, for posterity (garden link to Sun-Times at bottom right –

DrudgeWithObamaGarden0908

UPDATE 2: Michelle “She’s Everywhere” Malkin was on this Wednesday morning.

Positivity: Minneapolis cancer survivor meets German man who saved her life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Minneapolis, and Germany (video is also at link):

Updated Sept. 19, 2008

Three years after undergoing a bone marrow transplant, Betsy Lucas was able to hug the man who saved her life. No small feat, considering Tobias Hofmann arrived at her front door all the way from Germany.

“Very big day. I think it’s on the same level as getting married and having children, I have those same feelings,” said the mother of two young girls as she awaited the German’s arrival.

Hofmann, just 19 at the time, showed up as a match as doctors searched the international bone marrow registry for a donor for Lucas – recently diagnosed with Leukemia.

Without treatment, doctors had given Lucas three months to live. She’s been cancer-free since the bone marrow transplant.

“You know someone saves your life, you want to make sure that they’re well and they’re okay and you want them to know how grateful you are,” said Lucas.

That became possible when Hofmann and his girlfriend Marleen were flown to the Twin Cities to take part in a Thursday evening tribute to former Twins player Rod Carew, sponsored by the National Marrow Donor Program.

A few hours after touching down at MSP International Airport, Hofmann was at Lucas’ front door. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.