December 22, 2009

Split Personality: One Hour After Cheerleading, AP’s Aversa Goes Dour on Economy

APabsolutelyPathetic0109In an item time-stamped at 1:16 p.m. today (in case updated, here is a graphic capture of the first six paragraphs as they then appeared) covered by yours truly a short time ago (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the Associated Press’s Jeannine Aversa discounted today’s weaker than expected economic growth report from Uncle Sam showing that gross domestic product only grew by an annualized 2.2% during the third quarter (two months ago, that growth was thought to have been 3.5%.

Not to worry, Aversa said, because the fourth quarter is going to be really good (“[possibly] the strongest showing since 5.4 percent growth in the first quarter of 2006″), and the first quarter of 2010 will be okay (“growth will slow to a pace of around 2 or 3 percent in the first three months”). To be fair, she did entertain the possibility of a double-dip recession in 2011 in her 18th of 21 paragraphs. But of course most readers won’t get that far, and most editors trimming her piece down will leave it on the cutting room floor.

Strangely, Aversa made no attempt to hide her near gloom in a dispatch time-stamped at 2:22 p.m. (first section graphically saved here), barely an hour after her paean to fourth quarter growth.

It’s also more than a little odd that after years of the establishment media telling us that the future of the economy as we know it depends on a robust Christmas shopping season, Aversa tells us that this time it’s really no big deal:

Strong economic rebound depends on more than Santa

Don’t count on holiday shoppers to fuel the economic recovery.

…. Even if holiday sales exceed expectations, the broader recovery is expected to remain weak – for the rest of the year and beyond.

…. usually as recoveries begin, the economy roars to life as pent-up spending is lavished on cars, clothes, homes and appliances. Consumers become an engine of economic strength.

Not likely this time.

…. Despite the glimmer of optimism on the surface … the economic fundamentals are weak,” said Sung Won Sohn, economist at California State University’s Smith School of Business.

Many economists do think the economy is growing faster now than it did last quarter. JPMorgan Chase Bank, for instance, has bumped up its forecast for growth this quarter from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent.

…. But that’s no thanks to consumer spending, which is forecast to slow compared with last quarter. Growth is instead being driven by companies restocking shrunken stockpiles of goods.

Yet that benefit could be fleeting.

…. The economy isn’t usually this weak early in recoveries.

…. As long as consumers and small businesses remain unable or too cautious to borrow and spend – during and after the holidays – the recovery is likely to make only fitful gains.

How odd, considering that Aversa’s 1:16 p.m. GDP report waved around the possibility of 5% annualized fourth-quarter growth under our noses:

The economy is probably growing at nearly 4 percent in the October-to-December quarter, analysts say. A few peg it closer to 5 percent. If they’re right, that would mark the strongest showing since 5.4 percent growth in the first quarter of 2006 – well before the recession began. The government will release its first estimate of fourth-quarter economic activity on Jan. 29.

Whether it’s bias or something deeper, you’ve got to admit that it’s a long way from “Recovery likely strengthening after weaker 3Q” to “The economy isn’t usually this weak” barely an hour later.

If there’s an explanation for this outside the realm of psychiatry, it may be that Ms. Aversa wants to be able to cite items such as her later report and say, “See, I’m perfectly fair!” — knowing full well that her coverage of today’s GDP result will be much more widely used by AP’s subscribers than any analysis she attempts.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Economy Not Impressing? Never Fear, the AP’s Jeannine Aversa Is Here

weak-things

Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis today revised economic growth in the third quarter downward a second time. After originally estimating annualized growth of 3.5% in October and then reducing it to 2.8% in November, the bureau’s “third estimate” issued today came in at 2.2%.

If that “third estimate” term seems odd, it’s because this is only the second quarter the BEA has labeled its reports “first estimate,” “second estimate,” and “third estimate.” Previously, the respective terms for the three monthly reports were “advance,” “preliminary,” and “final.”

If you’re thinking that today’s BEA figure is bad news, you obviously haven’t gotten the word from Associated Press reporter Jeannine Aversa, who after a brief “not to worry,” seemed to wax almost rhapsodically over how great the current quarter and next year will be (a partial screen cap of Aversa’s first six paragraphs is saved here for future reference, fair use, and discussion purposes; bold is mine):

Recovery likely strengthening after weaker 3Q

All signs suggest the economic recovery will end the year on firmer footing despite a report Tuesday that the economy grew at a 2.2 percent pace in the third quarter, less than previously thought.

The Commerce Department’s new reading on gross domestic product for the July-to-September quarter was weaker than the 2.8 percent growth rate estimated a month ago. Economists had predicted this figure would remain the same in the final estimate of the quarter’s GDP – the value of all goods and services produced in the United States.

The main factors behind the downgrade were that consumers didn’t spend as much, commercial construction was weaker, business investment in equipment and software was softer and companies cut back more on their stockpiles of goods.

Based on the recitation in the bolded paragraph, that may leave artificial and unsustainable government efforts like the so-called stimulus and Cash for Clunkers as the only reasons why there was any growth at all. Whoopee.

Continuing, we find Aversa reporting on fourth quarter guesstimates, and cites another government stimulant as an important factor:

And many analysts still think the economy is on track for a better finish in the current quarter. One sign was a separate report Tuesday that home resales surged last month to their highest level in nearly three years, thanks to an extraordinary level of federal support. The report added to evidence that the housing market, which led the country into recession, is on the mend.

The economy is probably growing at nearly 4 percent in the October-to-December quarter, analysts say. A few peg it closer to 5 percent. If they’re right, that would mark the strongest showing since 5.4 percent growth in the first quarter of 2006 – well before the recession began.

…. Much of the third quarter’s growth was supported by government stimulus spending. The Cash for Clunkers rebates and a tax credit for first-time home buyers buoyed sales of cars and homes. The clunkers program ended in August, though the tax credit has been extended and expanded beyond first-time buyers.

Aversa waited until the 18th of her 21 paragraphs for her reality check:

It’s unclear how much the recovery might weaken once the government withdraws stimulus programs put in place to combat the financial crisis and the recession. If consumers pull back on spending, the economy could tip back into recession. Economists at Capital Economics predict the recovery will slow, with the economy’s growth fading to just 1.5 percent in 2011.

Today’s GDP report really reinforces the point so many sensible observers from the Wall Street Journal to Investors Business Daily to yours truly (not necessarily in that order :–>) have been making for quite some time. A Journal editorial puts it most succinctly:

The …. biggest problem is that Congress and the President have erected the biggest overhang of economic policy uncertainty that anyone can remember.

As long as that overhang remains, it’s likely that actuals will continue to underperform expectations, and that reporters like Jeannine Aversa will have to reach ever deeper into their wells of false enthusiasm.

Graphic found at LostWackys.com.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Fox News carried Aversa’s report, and did a much better job with the headline —

Economic Growth Not as Strong as Thought in Third Quarter

AP Word Games: ‘Pork’ and ‘Earmarks’ Transformed Into ‘Local Projects’

hurtpork2000

In connection with the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending monstrosity signed into law last week, an unbylined AP report on December 16 told us the following (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Most Republicans opposed the bill, citing runaway federal spending. They also pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion for more than 5,000 local projects sought by lawmakers from both parties.

The AP writer involved did something even the worst football quarterback couldn’t pull off, namely committing two incompletions in one attempted sentence.

First, though there’s always the question of genuine sincerity when it comes to a Democrat speaking out against spending, three Democratic senators did make strong statements against the bill, specifically Evan Bayh of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. In a December 14 item at Politico, which seems to be the place where stories noticed by the establishment media that should go further instead go to die (while the rest of the press says, “See, ‘we’ covered it. It’s at Politico, so the rest of us can leave it alone”), Bayh was quoted as saying that “are totally out of touch with the sacrifices middle-class Americans are making.”

Second, where did the term “local projects” come from? It seems to be “creative” formulation to facilitate moving away from using the perfectly fine traditional labels of “earmarks” and “pork.”

The AP seemed to fumble around a bit before settling on a preferred term it can employ to avoid using those two suddenly dreaded words.

Blogger Doug Ross first noted the AP’s new evasiveness, citing Andrew Taylor’s December 12 report on the spending bill’s progress. Taylor tailored his terminology thusly:

(The bill) wraps together six individual spending bills and also contains more than 5,000 back-home projects sought by lawmakers in both parties.

How innocuous.

A day later, in a brief unbylined summary of the bill’s provisions, the AP betrayed its squeamishness about using the proper wording:

- $3.9 billion for more than 5,000 “earmarks,” or home-state projects sought by lawmakers.

Hey guys, they really are called “earmarks.” There’s no need for scare quotes.

On December 14, AP reporter Jim Abrams, in an item about the Senate’s passage of the bill, then modified Taylor’s “back-home projects” term further to make it appear even more benign:

Republicans decried what they called out-of control spending and pointed to an estimated $3.9 billion in the bill for more than 5,000 local projects sought by individual lawmakers from both parties.

Based on the December 16 AP item noted at the beginning of this post, it looks like the wire service has settled on “local projects” as the term of choice. Since AP dispatches are a primary driver of most of the news you see, hear, or read, its apparently newly-honed terminology will likely work to ensure that “pork” and “earmarks” disappear from most news reports — at least while Democrats control Washington. After all, what kind of meanie could oppose something as sweet and innocent as a local “project”?

One element of the various AP reports is sadly true, according to a watchdog group spokesperson I spoke to this morning. He hasn’t run the numbers yet, but he has no reason to believe based on what he’s seen and work they’ve done in the past to believe that the allocation of the “5,000 local projects sought by lawmakers from both parties” is anything other than the traditional roughly 60% going to the party in power and 40% to the minority party.

Clearly, almost nobody in Washington gets it, including the President, whose press secretary claimed that 5,000 earmarks represents “progress.” Obama signed the bill, which also gave most federal bureaucracies increases that far exceeded inflation (described by Abrams as “increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government”), despite his January pledge to eliminate earmarks.

Unsurprisingly, no AP report I located referred to Obama’s broken post-election promise.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, Dec. 24: Picked up at Liberal Whoppers.

Lucid Links (122209, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 9:25 am

This Is How Tyrants Think and Operate:

  • Erick at RedState“Senate Sets Up Requirement for Super-Majority to Ever Repeal Obamacare.” Specifics: “Reid has slipped in a provision into the health care legislation prohibiting future Congresses from changing any regulations imposed on Americans by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards, which are commonly called the ‘Death Panels.’” That’s only a mild overstatement. It would require a 2/3 majority to make a change, which might as well be a prohibition. To make it happen, Reid defied the Rules of the Senate and hundreds of years of precedent. Read the whole thing.
  • Washington Times, December 17 (HT to an e-mailer) — “…. dirty deeds may have been employed to hide extensive involvement in the affair (the firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin) by the office of first lady Michelle Obama, whom the White House months earlier had announced would play “a central role in the national service agenda.” …. White House aides reportedly cut short congressional staff questioning of Mr. Solomont when the line of questioning began to lead to Mrs. Obama.”
  • Byron York“Who’s responsible for the Senate’s middle-of-the-night vote?”

Update: John David Lewis at Pajamas Media (“Arbitrary Power, Dictatorship, and Health Care”) frames the fundamental question —

Does a law or a bill constrain the power of officials — both elected and appointed — by the principles of the law? Or does it empower the officials to define the meaning of the law as they wish, to apply it in an open-ended manner, and to write regulations in order to expand their power?

The latter, clearly undemocratic choice represents how regulatory bodies have been empowered since FDR began going in that direction in the 1930s. The health care bill not only exponentially expands those powers beyond FDR’s wildest, aggressively socialist dreams, but as noted in the first item above, it severely restricts elected legislators’ ability to rein them in. The bill’s 100-plus new bureaucracies would be bastions of arbitrary power acting as de facto dictatorships over their prescribed domain. In fact, as designed and as insulated from accountability, their strongest competitors will be their bureaucrat fellows at other agencies.

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This is what tyrant-apparatchik wannabes do, via Lawrence Solomon: “Wikipedia’s climate doctor.”

It’s far worse than Solomon’s title indicates (HT Matt Sheffield at NewsBusters):

The Climategate Emails describe how a small band of climatologists cooked the books to make the last century seem dangerously warm.

The emails also describe how the band plotted to rewrite history as well as science, particularly by eliminating the Medieval Warm Period, a 400 year period that began around 1000 AD.

The Climategate Emails reveal something else, too: the enlistment of the most widely read source of information in the world — Wikipedia — in the wholesale rewriting of this history.

…. U.K. scientist and Green Party activist William Connolley …. took control of all things climate in the most used information source the world has ever known – Wikipedia. Starting in February 2003, just when opposition to the claims of the band members were beginning to gel, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. He rewrote Wikipedia’s articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug.11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.

All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.

Connelley is (hopefully was) Wiki’s climate science censor, not its doctor.

It seems that everything the promoters of globaloney have touched, they’ve corrupted. These people are modern-day scientific and intellectual Luddites.

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From the “Wish There Were 48 Hours in a Day” Dept. — Among the recipients of honorary degrees at the University of Cincinnati’s graduation ceremony on December 12 was Phillip R. Cox.

Cox, a former chairman of UC’s Board of Trustees, says he played football at Xavier University and graduated from XU in the late 1960s. In December 2007, Bill Sloat at the Daily Bellwether learned from school officials that, in Sloat’s words, “he attended the school, but is not a graduate.”

That’s only a warmup. Earlier this month, a blog called UC Academic Fraud Protest called attention to the XU discrepancy and other issues relating to Cox’s publicly claimed credentials and resume in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent UC from issuing him the honorary degree. If even a quarter of what is documented there is true, Cox is a world-class resume enhancer, and shamed the school even further than he already has by accepting the plaudit.

Positivity: Co-workers give Reading man gift: second chance at life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Reading, Pennsylvania:

Originally Published: 12/21/2009

When heart attack fells 55-year-old at work, folks at Teleflex Medical stay cool, save him

Michael J. Senishen woke up in a hospital bed at St. Joseph Medical Center on Nov. 10, oblivious to the previous 24 hours.

A nurse peered into his bleary eyes and said, “Mike, you’ve had a bad heart attack.”

Bad, indeed.

Mike, who’s 55 and lives in Reading, had 100 percent blockage in an artery. He was rushed to the operating room, where surgeons performed an angioplasty and implanted a cardiac shunt to keep the artery open.

What he was hearing, Mike thought, somehow didn’t make sense. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink alcohol and wasn’t overweight. He worked out six days a week, pumping 100-pound weights at World Gym in St. Lawrence.

“To call it shock and disbelief would be an understatement,” Mike said. “You think it won’t happen to you, then boom.”

But the initial shock was nothing compared with what Mike would discover as he filled in the gaps of his memory.

To his utter and everlasting astonishment, amid this season of birth and renewal, Mike would discover he had been given the gift of life.
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