August 31, 2010

Not Looking Good: August Vehicle Sales

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 6:40 pm

It’s not official yet, so we haven’t gone to the crying towel yet. But it doesn’t look good:

U.S. auto sales in August probably were the slowest for the month in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to entice consumers concerned the economy is worsening and they may lose their jobs.

Industrywide deliveries, to be released tomorrow, may have reached an annualized rate of 11.6 million vehicles this month, the average of eight analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would be the slowest August since 1982, according to researcher Ward’s AutoInfoBank. The rate would be 18 percent below last year’s 14.2 million pace, when the U.S. government’s “cash for clunkers” incentive program boosted sales.

That would seem to be a turnaround from July, when, at least according to this AP item, “A busy month for car dealerships and higher gas prices lifted overall retail sales 0.4 percent last month.” Without cars and gas, the retail sales change was -0.1%.

Specifically, the consensus year-over-year sales change predictions, based on my review of the link noted at the beginning of this post, are:

  • Government/General Motors, -19% (that’s not how you set the stage for a successful, coercion-free IPO)
  • Ford, -5%
  • Chrysler, +3%
  • Toyota, -29%
  • Honda, -27%
  • Nissan, -24%

The fallback by the Japanese companies is largely a reversal of the big pickups they experienced last year during Cash For Clunkers. Chrysler’s increase may be fueled by lots of relatively low-margin fleet sales.

We’ll see tomorrow, when a pretty intense three days of econ-related info, most of which does not promise to be cheerful, starts pouring in.

QE2 (Quantitative Easing, Round 2) Is a Go

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:48 pm

From the AP, the Fed is going where no central bank has gone before:

In the end, the Federal Open Market Committee, the panel of Fed board members and regional bank presidents who set interest rates, voted 9-1 to support the modest easing move. The only dissent came from Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig.

The minutes said that the committee believed that the most likely outcome for the economy was that it would continue to grow and would avoid a destabilizing bout of deflation – when prices and wages decline.

But the panel said it was prepared to go further to guard against either a return to recession or deflation.

The minutes said the Fed panel agreed it would “need to consider steps it could take to provide additional policy stimulus tools if the outlook were to weaken appreciably further.”

Big Ben & Co. can only do so much when fiscal policy is a wreck. Right now, they’re buying time and hoping the Team Obama doesn’t do any more serious damage.

AFSCME’s Weasels

Filed under: Activism,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:23 pm

AFSCMEbizzyblogAd083110Longtime BizzyBlog readers may be wondering what’s going on upon seeing the ad containing the three graphics near the top right.

Never fear, yours truly hasn’t gone all union thug or anything. There is a method to the seeming madness.

When I was reviewing the ad for approval, three things struck me (other than the fact that the party of Wall Street has been the Democrats for years — or at least was until Wall Street experienced 1-1/2 years of Democrat control in Washington; now that worm is turning, according to this Reuters item).

First, the “click here” on the right graphic doesn’t work, nor does clicking anywhere else in any of the three graphics. That’s pretty weak.

Clicking on “Read more” does work, and takes you to a link with the following header and a graphic further down the page:

AFSCMEtheaterPromo.jpg

Notice how the Wall Street and Main Street signs now have the symbols of the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively — unlike the Blogad tease. Subtle, eh?

Second, the link shows two events a day taking place this week on Monday through Thursday. But there is no further information about those events, nor any link to another page describing them.

Events allegedly occurred in Lansing, Michigan and Manchester, New Hampshire yesterday and in Cleveland, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania today. If anyone attended, comment below or e-mail me and tell me what (if anything) you saw.

Columbus is on tap for tomorrow, along with Fort Collins, Colorado. Cincinnati and Orlando are supposedly happening on Thursday.

As to Cincinnati, they’re either playing this really low key, or it’s not really happening. A Google News search on “AFSCME Cincinnati” (not in quotes) returned only one item: “AFSCME President in Cincinnati Pleads Guilty to Theft, Sentenced” (imagine that). I also found nothing relevant in a search on AFSCME at Cincinnati.com.

The third thing that struck me about the ad isn’t visible to readers.

AFSCME is well-off, and intends to flex its political muscle this year:

Unions to spend $100M in 2010 campaign to save Dem majorities

At least two influential unions will spend close to $100 million on the 2010 election, with most of those funds going to protect incumbents.

Union officials told The Hill they plan to help endangered members — particularly freshmen — who made politically difficult votes in a year during which an anti-incumbent mood has filled the country.

… The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) plans to spend in excess of $50 million during the 2010 campaign, part of which will fund “a massive incumbent protection program,” according to Gerry McEntee, president of the union.

AFSCME spent roughly $67 million on its political activities in 2008. But the $50 million slated for the 2010 elections is the largest expenditure the union will make in a midterm election, according to union officials. The money will go to help defend the union’s top tier of eight Senate seats and 34 House members.

Throwing those kinds of numbers around, you would think that cash flow isn’t a problem, but … well, I don’t know.

You see, the vast majority of Blogads are paid in advance, as they should be. Blogads was paid in advance for the other three ads currently appearing here. Any ad that promises later payment raises eyebrows. This one is cause for real suspicion, because Blogads hasn’t been promised payment until … wait for it … October 26:

AFSCMEadstripPayment

Yes, I realize that Blogads tells us that this happens from time to time, and that “Agencies place ads on 30, 60, or 90 day payment terms and have to secure payment from their clients before they pay us.” Blah blah. But I don’t ever recall getting a Blogad promising payment 60 days later. In the past, I have turned down several (but not all) promising payment 30 days later.

So, I guess there are four possibilities, the first three of which are not mutually exclusive:

  1. AFSCME’s political fund either didn’t have the money to pay in advance, or it didn’t want to.
  2. They’re a bunch of habitually slow-paying weasels.
  3. If they don’t have the money to pay on October 26, they’ll welch on the deal.
  4. All of the above.

If forced to choose, I would select Door Number 4. I’m not counting on getting the pittance they’ve promised, but it’s been worth every penny I haven’t received to get the raw material for this post.

When’s the last time these guys negotiated a union contract calling for workers to get paid for what they’ve done 60 days later?

Lucid Links (083110, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:38 am

“Your” Department of Education, not at work:

“ED staff are invited to join Secretary Arne Duncan, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other leaders on Saturday, Aug. 28, for the ‘Reclaim the Dream’ rally and march,” began an internal e-mail sent to more than 4,000 employees of the Department of Education on Wednesday.

…. Education Department spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya defended Duncan’s decision. “This was a back-to-school event,” she said.

Sharpton’s pathetic public gathering only came about as a counter to Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. Sharpton’s achievement of perceived legitimacy as a “civil rights leader” after the Tawana Brawley case (more here) is something I’ll never understand.

“ED” apparently stands for Educational Dysfunction.

________________________________________________

Historical revisionism in progress:

At Monday’s White House briefing, spokesman Robert Gibbs gave reporters a preview of President Obama’s speech on Iraq. Obama will apparently take credit for withdrawing U.S. troops — “We are completing a drawdown of almost 100,000 troops that…many did not think was possible,” Gibbs said — but is unlikely to acknowledge any special role played by George W. Bush’s troop surge. Gibbs said Obama plans to call Bush before the speech, but through repeated questioning would not admit that the surge played any especially important role in the war’s progress.

I don’t expect that Obama will recognize that our troops achieved victory in Iraq even before he took office thanks to the surge strategy that apparently won’t be cited, or that the majority of Iraqis don’t like the fact that our combat troops are gone. With violence escalating, the possibility that ultimate defeat might be snatched from the jaws of victory now exists. If so, it won’t be George W. Bush’s fault.

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Related grim milestone: Did you know that more U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan so far this year than in any other full year of the war there?

I’m surprised the media isn’t all over this (/sarc).

Related, from Mark Steyn in early July:

And so here we are, nine years, billions of dollars and many dead soldiers later, watching the guy we’ve propped up with Western blood and treasure make peace overtures to the Taliban’s most virulently anti-American and pro-al-Qaeda faction in hopes of bringing them back within the government. Being perceived as the weak horse is contagious: today, were Washington to call Moscow for use of those Central Asian bases, Putin would tell Obama to get lost, and then make sneering jokes about it afterwards. Were Washington to call Islamabad as it did on Sept. 12, the Pakistanis would thank them politely and say they’d think it over and get back in 30 days. The leaders of Turkey and Brazil, two supposed American allies assiduously courted and flattered by Obama this past year, flew in to high-five Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The new President wished to reposition his nation by forswearing American power: he thought that made him the nice horse; everyone else looked on it as a self-gelding operation—or, as last week’s U.S. News & World Report headlined it, “World sees Obama as incompetent and amateur.”

If the Taliban return to even partial power in Afghanistan, the unctuous State Department spokesmen will make the best of it. But the symbolism will be profound, and devastating in what it says about American will.

It’s amazing what can be undone in 19 months.

___________________________________________________

Kathleen Sebelius thinks we need “reeducation” on the wonders of ObamaCare.

With a number of polls showing a sustained level of opposition to the Democrats’ health care reform efforts more than five months after passage, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Obama administration has “a lot of reeducation to do” heading into the midterms.

By all means, Ms. Sebelius should introduce us to ObamaCare’s de facto 100%-plus marginal tax rates.

Positivity: Over 3,600 attend annual Catholic conference in Wichita

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:38 am

From Wichita:

Aug 29, 2010 / 01:25 pm

Over 3,600 people from 17 states and Mexico attended this year’s Midwest Catholic Family Conference Aug. 6-8 in Wichita, Kansas. Kevin Regan, co-director of the conference, said 800 youth and teens also participated in the programs.

“We had rave reviews about all our speakers,” Regan said a few days after recovering from the event. “I get calls from people across the U.S. and they ask what we are doing because they hear great things about us.”

One couple from Sharon, Kan., said the weekend was one of the greatest experiences of their lives.

“We didn’t want to leave, especially after the beautiful Mass on Sunday,” they wrote in an evaluation. “It was awesome and we cannot wait to register for all three days next year.”

Regan is currently planning next year’s event which is scheduled for Aug. 5-7. The speakers should be contracted in about 60 days, he said.

Eduardo Verástegui, star of the pro-life movie Bella, talked about his rise to stardom and his realization that despite his success, something was wrong.

I was very confused, he said, “because I thought I had everything in my life. But at the same time I had nothing. I was very empty. Something was missing.”

That something, of course, was God.

He made that realization while studying English with a devoutly Catholic teacher. Verástegui also told those attending that he understood he was setting a bad example for young men and realized that he had hurt many women as his career ascended. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

August 30, 2010

On GM’s IPO: Taxpayers ‘are poised to get royally screwed’

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:31 pm

GovernmentMotors0609Geez, Shikha Dalmia, how do you really feel?

Also note that Ms. Dalmia, in the midst of describing the IPO’s possible valuation at Forbes, pretty much gives away the fact that Ed “We Don’t Want to Be ‘Government Motors” Whitacre more than likely was shown the door for griping (bolds are mine):

(The IPO’s) timing is driven not by the financial needs of the company– or the interests of taxpayers who are poised to get royally screwed–but the election-year needs of the Obama administration.

… in its application to the Securities and Exchange Commission–which, guess what, will come through just in time to make an IPO possible before the November elections!–GM admits that its “disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting are currently not effective.” And this “could materially affect our financial condition and ability to carry out our business plan.” Companies include all kinds of outlandish mea-culpas in their IPO applications to cover their derrières in the event of investor lawsuits. However, this one goes to the heart of the information that investors need to determine whether GM is a good investment, especially since it is going public after only two good quarters as opposed to the usual four. If GM can’t guarantee its own numbers, how exactly are investors supposed to evaluate its worth?

… potential investors are likely to take a dim view of the company’s prospects right now, making it nearly impossible for taxpayers who still have somewhere between $40 billion to $60 billion “invested” in it to come out whole. For that to happen, the Treasury’s 304 million of the company’s 500 million common shares would need to average $131 to $197 per share, notes Brad Coulter director at O’Keefe & Associates, a Michigan-based corporate finance firm. That would put GM’s implied valuation at somewhere between $65 billion to $98 billion.

To understand just how absurdly high this is consider that Ford Motor Company, whose earnings are expected to be six times those of GM, has a market value of only $40 billion. “There is no rational reason for investors to choose GM relative to Ford right now,” notes Francis Gaskin of IPODesk.com. But even if investors valued both companies the same that would still represent a 50% loss for taxpayers. It was always unlikely that taxpayers would ever recover their entire investment, but a more auspiciously timed IPO might at least have limited their losses.

Nor is the IPO’s timing good for GM. The company is–rightly–eager to shed the sobriquet of Government Motors. So eager in fact that its outgoing CEO Ed Whitacre launched a campaign this spring misleadingly claiming that GM had paid back its government “loan” in full after returning only $6.7 billion. But even he thinks that the IPO is a dumb idea. He apparently wanted to wait until GM could command a better share price and then have the company go fully public at once instead of in several installments as per the current plan.

Whitacre expressed his misgivings at a recent Management Briefing Seminar in Michigan’s Traverse City, according to Sean McAlinden of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. “And then 48 hours later he was gone,” McAlinden says.

But Whitacre’s departure won’t change the risk–”a big risk in my mind,” says O’ Keefe’s Coulter–that the IPO could turn into a PR nightmare for GM if its opening price is too low.

Read the whole thing.

To be fair, one could argue that Ford might be seriously undervalued; its P/E is currently only 6.2. But even if Ford’s P/E were double that, you still can’t justify your way to a taxpayer-relieving valuation for GM without some form of yet to be defined coercion. It should be interesting.

Lucid Links (083010, Afternoon)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 1:04 pm

We told you, but you voted for him anyway, Part 1: Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal

We Just Don’t Understand
Americans look at the president and see a stranger.

Instapundit’s reax: “Of course, if Obama is such a mystery, maybe people in the press — like Peggy Noonan — should have given him closer scrutiny before the election.”

They didn’t. A lot of us on the center-right did. We know him better than so-called “progressives” do. So do most Tea Partiers. That’s why, so far, the elections are shaping up to be what they are.

_____________________________________________

We told you, but you voted for him anyway, Part 2: Mort Zuckerman, at US News

The Most Fiscally Irresponsible Government in U.S. History
Current federal budget trends are capable of destroying this country

It’s a nice screed in a sense, but Zuck’s attempted solutions are pretty weak: “We will have to think of ways to reduce the cost-of-living increases on Social Security benefits for wealthy seniors by slowly increasing their Medicare premiums and leaving everybody else’s untouched. We may have to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, certainly for households earning more than $250,000.” That money needs to be invested in commercial enterprises that will grow and create jobs. Measures such as Zuck proposes might work in a less volatile time, but given the very lack of confidence that Washington will ever reform and keep us from being the next Greece, they’re more likely to lead to capital flight to more hospitable climes, like (it’s hard to believe I’m typing this) Germany and India.

Zuck also voted for Obama. He should have known better. So much of the ruling class was completely, utterly duped.

_____________________________________________

The “Obama as Muslim” poll result is not as outrageous as it seems, at least to anyone who aw the following in May’s issue of Israel Today (I have the full PDF, but bandwidth limitations prevent posting it) a couple of months ago:

ObamaAsMuslimIsraelToday0610

The person quoted as having said that on Egyptian TV, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, really is a very high-up Egyptian government official.

Did Mr. Gheit possibly misinterpret what the president told him through an interpreter, or did the interpreter(s) fail to properly communicate when Mr. Gheit and the President “spoke” to each other? Of course it’s possible.

If Obama indeed said what is alleged, was he just saying that he is “Muslim” by birth or ancestry but not by current religious belief? Of course that’s possible.

Is Gheit possibly making it up? Yeah, but that seems much less possible. Not that it could easily be found, but I haven’t located any evidence that Gheit has walked back any of what he said.

Is the Israeli source who watched the broadcast and published the potentially explosive quote making it up? I wouldn’t think so.

I don’t believe Barack Obama currently practices the Muslim faith (which is what the poll question was asking), but people who are aware of the facts above and conclude that he is, or who “incorrectly” answered the poll question based on their knowledge of his ancestry (which, don’t forget, is NOT as is commonly represented) aren’t pulling it out of thin air.

More substantively, there is little doubt that this administration is devoting a lot more than 1% of its attention and clear favoritism towards a group that is less than 1% of the nation’s population, and in sometimes troubling ways. A brief litany is here. The NASA thing was one such annoying example, but what follows is much more disturbing (HT Powerline via an e-mailer)

Coming August 31: ‘Direct Access’ Stimulus Grants for the Muslim Brotherhood

On August 31, this coming Tuesday, the Muslim Brotherhood-associated “Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations” (CCMO) will bring 25-30 Muslim leaders of 20 national Muslim groups to attend a special workshop presented by the White House and U.S. Government agencies (Agriculture, Education, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services etc.) to provide the groups “funding, government assistance and resources.” The workshop will apparently provide special access for these Muslim Brotherhood organizations: the organizers pledge to provide “direct access” and “cut through red tape.”

Read the whole thing. The associations with terror groups and terror sympathizers will become obvious.

I bet there are a lot of non-”Muslim Brotherhood-associated groups” — like small businesspeople who could actually take on new employees and help bring the economy out of its malaise — who would love to have “direct access” and “cut through red tape” in dealing with the government, or even take on one more of the many functions the government isn’t carrying out too well. But nooooo.

GZM Developer, Imam Have Tax, Financial Issues; Will National Media Care? (Updates: NYT Covers on Pg. A17; NY Daily News Nails Gamal’s Criminal Past)

GZMelGamalAndImamRauf0810Note: This post originally went up shortly after midnight, but has been carried forward because of the content of the updates.

___________________________________________

This past weekend, intrepid journalists at the New York Post and NorthJersey.com released information they unearthed about proposed Ground Zero Mosque “organizer” Sharif El-Gamal and frontman Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, respectively, that the wire services, the New York Times and the national TV networks would likely have run with by now had the items related to a major church or synagogue.

But since the news has to do with what has turned into the PC crowd’s cause celebre and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s personal pet project, you may not see these stories covered anywhere else (see Update below).

The arguably more important story of the two concerns the tax problems of Mr. El-Gamal (pictured above via the Post) and his company, because they directly related to the GZM’s property. The story by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein went up early Sunday morning:

Mosque big owes 224G tax

The mosque developers are tax deadbeats.

Sharif El-Gamal, the leading organizer behind the mosque and community center near Ground Zero, owes $224,270.77 in back property tax on the site, city records show.

El-Gamal’s company, 45 Park Place Partners, failed to pay its half-yearly bills in January and July, according to the city Finance Department.

The delinquency is a possible violation of El-Gamal’s lease with Con Edison, which owns half of the proposed building site on Park Place. El-Gamal owns the other half but must pay taxes on the entire parcel.

… Before any building can go forward, the developers also must get approval from the MTA because the 2 and 3 subway lines run under a portion of the Park Place property, The Post has learned.

… El-Gamal’s spokesperson insisted to The Post that the taxes had been paid and that the “subway lines do not pose a problem.”

The Post revealed this month that El-Gamal owned only half the site.

The news about Imam Rauf (picture above is an AP file photo) comes from Peter J. Sampson and Jean Rimbach at NewsJersey.com (“Ground Zero Imam has history of tenant troubles; N.J. apartments in need of repair”). In addition to the problems noted in the headline, it seems that Rauf has experience squeezing money out of the political system:

The Muslim cleric at the center of the proposed mosque and community center near Ground Zero is also a New Jersey landlord who got more than $2 million in public financing to renovate low-income apartments and has been beset for years by tenant complaints and financial problems.

Imam Feisal A. Rauf won support for his Hudson County projects from powerful politicians, among them Robert C. Janiszewski, the disgraced former county executive. He also was awarded grants from Union City when U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez was mayor.

… Rauf forged ties with Fred Daibes, the prominent waterfront developer and bank chairman. Additionally, Rauf is a onetime business ally of a Daibes associate who sued the imam for alleged mortgage fraud. The 2008 suit was quietly settled in June.

The revelations about Rauf, who lives in North Bergen, add another dimension to the public profile of a man both lauded as a builder of bridges between diverse religions and cultures and vilified as being insensitive to the survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack by proposing a mosque near the World Trade Center site.

… Page after page of municipal health records examined by The Record show repeated complaints ranging from failure to pick up garbage, to rat and bedbug infestations and no heat and hot water.

Cynthia Balko, 48, of Union City — a longtime tenant of Rauf’s — said she’s had to live with rats, leaks and no heat: “I don’t have anything nice to say about the man.”

She finds it hard to believe Rauf’s going to build a world-class Islamic community center, with fitness facilities, auditorium, restaurant, library, culinary school and art studios, as well as a Sept. 11 memorial and space for Muslim prayer services.

“He can’t even repair the bells in the hallway. He doesn’t take care of his properties. But he’s going to take care of a mosque?”

The biggest tax involved in all of this may be on the establishment press’s cover-up mechanisms.

So far, they’re holding. As of shortly after midnight Eastern Time, three stories at the Associated Press time-stamped with Monday’s or Sunday’s date that mentioned the Ground Zero Mosque, which the AP refers to as the “Park51 project” (here, here, and here) had no reference to either gentleman’s difficulties. The New York Times also had nothing beyond the AP items just noted.

So far, they’re holding. As of shortly after midnight Eastern Time, three stories at the Associated Press time-stamped with Monday’s or Sunday’s date that mentioned the Ground Zero Mosque, which the AP refers to as the "Park51 project" (here, here, and here) had no reference to either gentleman’s difficulties. A search on "Park51" at the New York Times returned nothing beyond the AP items just noted.

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UPDATE: A BizzyBlog commenter informed me that the Times has a story on Rauf and the GZM that it published online last night, and which appears in today’s print edition on Page A17 (“Imam Says Politics Has Stoked Controversy Over Center”). I missed it because the project name of “Park51″ is not in Michael Grynbaum’s article (nor is the word “mosque”).

Grynbaum included the following about the property tax issue:

Even as the project’s developers collected $10,000 at a fund-raiser this weekend, they were working to settle an outstanding property tax bill of more than $200,000 on the site where the center is expected to be built.

Representatives of the real estate concern run by Sharif el-Gamal, the developer on the project, said they had delayed the payments while negotiating with the city for a lower tax.

Mr. Gamal plans to buy the land from Con Edison, the current owner, which has said the transaction would proceed as long as Mr. Gamal agrees to a price set by an appraiser.

But a local property tax dispute may pale next to the bigger challenges faced by Mr. Gamal, 37, a relative novice in the New York real estate world, as he embarks on what is likely to be a difficult and protracted round of fund-raising.

That’s nice. Only 21 more such fund-raisers, and they’ll be out from under that problem. Then Mr. Gamal can start working on the 10,000 additional fund-raisers needed to finance the project’s $100 million cost.

There’s also this about Mr. Gamal, who is 37:

His late-blooming real estate career came after a difficult youth: Mr. Gamal pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors in his late teens and early 20s, including charges related to disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting. He was once arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Manhattan, according to a law enforcement official.

In 2005, Mr. Gamal was arrested after he punched a man who owed rent to his brother, who is also a property owner. Mr. Gamal later settled the matter for about $15,000.

“I regret many things that I did in my youth; I have not always led a perfect life,” Mr. Gamal said in a statement issued Sunday by his spokesman.

In 2005, Mr. Gamal would have been roughly 32 years old.

UPDATE 2: It turns out that the Times is also playing catch-up on Mr. Gamal’s criminal history. On Saturday, James Fanelli at the New York Daily News covered that topic (“Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal has a history of run-ins with the law”). Holy moly (so to speak). Read the whole thing (“Sharif El-Gamal has a history of at least seven run-ins with the law, including a 1994 bust for patronizing a prostitute.”).

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Glenn Beck’s Rally to ‘Restore Honor’ Gathers Half a Million Americans, Makes History

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

beck-crowd-APVia Deacon Keith Fournier at Catholic Online (HT Instapundit):

8/29/10

The crowd easily exceeded 500,000 people

On Saturday, August 28, 2010, a massive crowd of people gathered in Washington, D.C. for a “Restoring Honor” Rally. The Rally was called by Glenn Beck, who has captured the heart of many Americans and raised the ire of some in the main stream media. The sheer numbers demonstrated that the rally had support well beyond the persistent efforts by some in the media to marginalize it.

On Saturday, August 28, 2010, a crystal clear, sunny day in Washington D.C. a massive crowd of people gathered for a “Restoring Honor” Rally. The Rally was called by Glenn Beck, the popular radio and television personality who has captured the heart of many Americans and raised the ire of some in the main stream media.

The sheer numbers demonstrated that the rally had support well beyond the persistent efforts by some in the media to marginalize it as a “tea party” event. Of course, in their condescension these same people used that term in a disparaging manner. The crowd easily exceeded 500,000 people. The event stage was set up at the base of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. However, the massive crowd stretched along the Lincoln Memorial, on both sides of the reflective pond stretching all the way to the Washington Monument.

An opening song, reflecting on the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11, was written for the event and beautifully performed by a woman named Angelica Tucker. It set the theme: “We must rebuild our lives, our strength, and our hearts. not just the buildings we lost.” It was followed by an eloquent prayer by Evangelical Bishop Harry Jackson of Washington’s Hope Christian Church who is emerging as one of many men of courage, honor and character unafraid to speak and live the truth in our day.

The address given by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, secured this heroic and inspiring woman’s place in American history. This is the 47th anniversary of her uncle, the late, great Christian minister and human rights hero, Dr Martin Luther Kings’ famous “I Have a Dream” Speech. He would have been proud of his niece. She is an heir of his legacy and certainly has his extraordinary gift for prophetic rhetoric which can rouse the heart of a Nation.

This was a masterful and inspired speech, given on the day when the Nation honors one of our greatest Americans. Dr Alveda King candidly and honestly declared that “our material gains seem to be going the way of our moral losses” but then insisted “We are Not without Hope!”. She referenced the iconic words of her uncle, adding “I Still Have a Dream”. She roused the crowd and called the Nation to unity through the restoration of the guiding principles which inspired her uncle’s heroic life and death and informed the American experiment.

The pundits who condescendingly sought to marginalize the event for weeks before it happened – going so far as to attempt to paint it with allegations of racism – should have been ashamed. The stage was filled with men and women of color, who, with the raucous support of the hundreds of thousands gathered, affirmed our solidarity as Americans. Dr. Alveda King reminded the crowd that we are ” united by blood as one race, the human race.”

The address given by Glenn Beck followed, calling the Nation to ‘Wake Up’. He told the hundreds of thousands gathered in the Nation’s Capitol that it was time to “Start the Heart of America again.” Framing his address with copious references to the founders and founding documents he used the backdrop of the Lincoln memorial and the Washington Memorial to accentuate his message. He honored the heroism of the founders and the genius of the American experiment. However, he also acknowledged the limitations and the scars of those who helped found the American experiment. This was the most significant part of Beck’s address. He repeatedly explained to the crowd that scars and mistakes are invitations to learn, change, grow and improve – insisting that this is true for people and for Nations. He is correct.

He invited the crowd to continue the “unfinished work” which Abraham Lincoln referred to in his Gettysburg Address, telling those gathered to make a choice for the future. He proclaimed it is “…what we do from here that matters. This is the point of choice!” …

Go here for the rest of Mr. Fournier’s column.

August 29, 2010

AP Outrageously Asserts that Beck ‘Borrowed’ Obama’s Lines

GlennBeckOnFox0810It would appear that the development of persuasive rhetoric began and ended during the 2007-2008 presidential campaign of now-President Barack Obama.

That’s the nearly inevitable conclusion one must reach based on a breathtakingly absurd contention in a (I can’t believe I’m typing this) “Breaking News Update” that appeared at the Associated Press at 3:40 p.m. yesterday.

When Glenn Beck spoke yesterday at his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, he told his audience: “One man can change the world. That man or woman is you. You make the difference.”

The AP’s reaction was to assert that “Beck is borrowing some lines from President Barack Obama.” By using the word “borrowing,” AP in essence arrogantly, ignorantly and insultingly contended that Beck couldn’t possibly have come up with those sixteen words on his own, and that Barack Obama is the only historical repository of such profundity. From here, it looks like the wire service might be accusing Beck of plagiarism. My goodness, “The Essential Global News Network” should be thoroughly embarrassed.

When you take a look at the full AP item, you further realize that whoever prepared the unbylined story didn’t even bother to try to prove that Barack Obama has ever used the words Beck allegedly “borrowed”:

APonBeckBorrowingFromObama082810

Contrary to the story’s barely disguised contention, there are plenty of other people who have previously strung together the three sentences Beck used.

Putting aside the likely countless references one could compile if all the religious sermons, meeting orations, political speeches, and mealtime discussions in human history were assembled, Google Web searches on the three exact sentences the AP quoted return the following results:

As hard as it may be for the AP to believe, I can confidently contend that not every one of the results cited originated from the mind of Barack Obama. Though readers will have to forgive me for not being in the mood to go through the over 280,000 results found to prove it, the possibility exists that that Barack Obama has rarely if ever exactly said any of them.

AP’s rendition of Obama’s thought pattern, if one is to believe it, is vastly different from that of Beck, whose message is far more empowering.

Under Obama’s logic as AP has laid it out, one person can’t make a difference on their own. They need a room to be able to change a city. One room on its own can’t change a state; only a city can. A city can’t change a country; only  a state can. The logic is that of the collective; one person really can’t make a big difference without a host of others assembled into ever larger formally organized entities.

Beck skips all of the intermediate steps. One person, by himself or herself, can change the world. Sure, people can and do work together in groups to make change happen, but unlike what is strongly implied in Obama’s logic, they don’t have to submit themselves to the will of a collective entity to accomplish great things. The difference between Obama as AP explains him and Beck in his own words could not be more profound.

Finally, a 9 PM ET Google Web search on this exact phrase — “One man can change the world. That man or woman is you. You make the difference.” — returns 51 results without “similar” ones. Beck is the source of all 51.

P.S. Yes, I also noticed the complete-crock reference to a crowd of “tens of thousands.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

The ‘Recovery Summer’ has been found! — In Germany

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:45 pm

This post went up at the Washington Examiner’s OpinionZone blog and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday afternoon.

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It turns out that the “Recovery Summer” the Obama administration has turned into a national joke really is taking place — just not here.

Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported its first revision of second-quarter economic growth earlier this morning, estimating that the economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.6%. That’s down by one-third from last month’s initial report of 2.4%.

The good news is that the hit wasn’t as big as expected. Most estimates ahead of the news ranged from 1.2% to 1.4%. CNBC’s Jim Cramer notably predicted +0.5% and an ensuing “market panic.” Fortunately, we’ve been spared from that.

The bad news is that it’s still a pretty serious drop, and that the revised second-quarter result is less than half of the first quarter’s annualized +3.7%.

Beyond that, the rest of the year looks like it will be no better, and could end up being significantly worse.

Nouriel Roubini, Economist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is with what seems to the current consensus that second-half growth will come in at an annualized 1.5%. But he goes further, warning that 2011 will be no better, and will seem worse: “Even at 1.5%, it’s going to feel like a recession even though technically it’s not a recession.” The way things are going, we’ll be lucky to hit that 1.5%.

Meanwhile, Germany’s economy grew at an annualized rate of over 8% during the second quarter, tripling analysts’ expectations (the 2.2% figured noted at the link is not annualized). Its government crowed: “Reunified Germany has never seen such quarterly growth before.” Expectations are that German growth will continue to be strong, though not as robust as the breakout second quarter.

Why is Germany doing so well? I suspect that it’s largely because Chancellor Angela Merkel pointedly rejected President Obama’s advice in March:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated that she does not favor a new package of economic stimulus measures despite US calls for more spending as world leaders prepare for a G20 meeting in London.

Largely as a result, in my view, Germany has a genuine “Recovery Summer” in progress. We don’t, and we won’t, as long as this administration continues down its current path.

A Revealing AP Slip? A Strange Stray Question Mark Appears in Report on Ground Zero Mosque Imam (Update: Removed at AP Main’s Site)

RaufWithQuestionMark082710An interesting character made an appearance in a Saturday evening Associated Press report by Cristian Salazar on Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf:

APonRaufAtAPsite082810

It’s not a one-time accident. The same paragraph carried at Google’s version of the story has the same extra character:

APonRaufAtGooglesite082810

The question mark is actually well-placed, as the following paragraphs from Salazar’s report demonstrate (bolds are mine throughout this post):

… With Rauf largely absent from the debate, opponents have scoured past statements and critics portray the imam as tone-deaf to the sensitivities of families who lost relatives on Sept. 11. They argue he should forthrightly condemn Arab political movements such as Hamas that the U.S. government has designated as terrorist organizations.

Asked in June by WABC-AM whether he believed the State Department was correct in designating Hamas as a terrorist organization, Rauf gave a winding response: “I am not a politician. … The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. … I do not want to be placed … in a position of … where I am the target of one side or another.”

… After the Sept. 11 attacks, Rauf was called on repeatedly by news organizations to help explain to Americans why the U.S. was so hated by some factions in the Muslim world.

Some of his comments then have now been seized on by critics as evidence of anti-American views.

“We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims,” he said in a 2005 lecture in Australia. “You may remember that the U.S.-led sanction against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations.”

Salazar and the other AP contributors to the report (Religion Writer Rachel Zoll, AP writer David B. Caruso, and AP Investigative Researcher Randy Herschaft) “somehow” missed this item from just three weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in a 60 Minutes interview:

BRADLEY: Are — are — are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?

Imam ABDUL RAUF: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

BRADLEY: OK. You say that we’re an accessory?

Imam ABDUL RAUF: Yes.

BRADLEY: How?

Imam ABDUL RAUF: Because we have been an accessory to a lot of — of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it — in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.

As to the stray question mark, I’d like to think that an AP gremlin– or perhaps one of the report’s three other contributors — is asking Salazar, “Who do you think you’re fooling?”

The story as carried at both sites has been saved at my web host (here and here) for fair use, discussion, and future heckling purposes.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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Update, 8:00 p.m: After leaving the story alone for about 22 hours (since 9:27 last night), the wire service has updated the story at its main site as of 7:21 p.m. The only change made was to remove the stray question mark. The stray question mark is still present in the story as carried at Google.

Positivity: ‘Glenn Beck 8/28 rally — It’s a matter of honor’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:05 am

beck-crowd-APFrom Alveda King, written on the day before yesterday’s Glenn Beck “Restore Honor” rally in Washington:

… Americans are hungry to reclaim the symbols of our liberty, hard won by an unlikely group of outnumbered, outgunned, underfunded patriots determined not to live in servitude to the British Empire. If we want to sing the national anthem at a memorial to the man who led this fledgling nation out of slavery, and made my people free, we should be able to send our voices soaring to the heavens.

Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor” this Saturday will give us that chance, and that’s why I feel it’s important for me to be there.

Before the words were out of Mr. Beck’s mouth announcing the Aug. 28 rally, The New York Times noted that it would be at the same place and 47 years to the day since my Uncle Martin gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.” When asked why he chose that date in particular, Beck said he had not realized its significance, but in thinking about it, he saw it is an auspicious day to rally for the honor of the American people. He has said, and he’s right, that Martin Luther King didn’t speak only for African-Americans. He spoke for all Americans, and his words still ring true.

Other groups are planning rallies and demonstrations in Washington that day, and freedom of speech gives them the right to do so – and to criticize me for not jumping on their bandwagon. But Uncle Martin’s legacy is big enough to go around.

A rally about character, not politics

Though critics see it as partisan, Beck’s rally is not a political event, per se. Instead, it is designed to be a refreshing exercise of freedom of speech.

The rally will be a celebration of who we are as a nation and a chance to stop for a moment, reflect, reorganize, and re-energize. It’s a chance to think about character; both our character as a nation and our character as individuals.

Delineating ourselves as red state or blue, liberal or conservative, minority or majority, we have not quite reached the day when men and women are “judged not by the color of their skin but on the content of their character.” We are still marching toward that day. As Uncle Martin said, “we cannot turn back.”

The rally will also give America another chance to honor and thank the men and women in our armed forces for the dangers they face every day in our stead. Unless you have a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, it’s too easy to forget that tens of thousands of Americans are far from the comforts of home, are directly in harm’s way, facing an enemy who hates us precisely because we are free. And coming just days before the ninth anniversary of 9/11, the day that roused us from our complacency, we could use another wakeup call, one of our own devising.

When I join Beck and all gathered at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend, I will talk about my Uncle Martin and the America he envisioned. I will talk about honor and character and sacrifice. I will be joined by those who represent the diversity of the human race.

On Saturday, Uncle Martin’s dream of personhood and human dignity will resound across America. And the Park Police should consider themselves forewarned: As we stand in the symbolic shadow of the great American who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, we just might sing.

Dr. Alveda King is the director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life, and the founder of King for America.

Go here to read Ms. King’s full column.

August 28, 2010

WSJ Grills Geithner and Obamanomics (Update: Govt. Share of GDP has Grown; Private Sector Shrinks)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:18 am

RecoveryComparison1980sVs2009to2010In an editorial today (“The 1.6% Recovery”):

… As recently as August 3, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took to our competitor’s pages to declare that this couldn’t happen. “Welcome to the Recovery,” he wrote, describing how the $862 billion government stimulus was still rolling out, business investment was booming, and the economy was poised for sustainable growth.

We all make mistakes, but the problem for the American people is that Mr. Geithner’s blunder is conceptual. He and President Obama and their economic coterie really believe that government spending can stimulate growth by triggering private “demand,” that tax rates are irrelevant to investment decisions, that waves of new regulation can be absorbed by business with little impact on costs or hiring, and that politicians can assail capitalists without having any effect on the movement of capital.

This has been the great Washington policy experiment of the last three years, and it isn’t turning out too well. If prosperity were a function of government stimulus, our economy should be booming. The Fed has kept interest rates at near-zero for nearly two years, while Congress has flooded the economy with trillions of dollars in spending, loan guarantees, $8,000 tax credits for housing, “cash for clunkers,” and so much more. Never before has government tried to do so much and achieved so little.

Now that the failure is becoming obvious, the liberal explanation is that things would have been worse without all of this government care and feeding. The same economists who recommended the stimulus are now producing studies, based on their Keynesian demand models, claiming that it “saved or created” millions of jobs, even as the overall economy has lost millions of jobs. The counterfactual is impossible to disprove, but the American people can see the reality with their own eyes.

The nearby table compares growth in the current recovery with the recovery following the recession of 1981-82, the last time the jobless rate exceeded 10%. The contrast is stark.

Then after three quarters the recovery was in high gear. Now it is decelerating. Then tax rates were falling, interest rates were coming down and the regulatory state was in retreat. Now taxes are poised to rise sharply, interest rates can’t get any lower, and federal agencies are hassling business at every turn. Then business investment was exploding. Now companies are sitting on something like $2 trillion, reluctant to take risks when they don’t know what new costs government might next impose on them.

“Three years.” (Almost) exactly.

It has actually been 35 months since September 30, 2007, the last day of the final budget passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2006. Since then, it’s been on Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, with disastrous results. When Barack Obama became the presidential nominee, we entered the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, which gave us the POR Recession as normal people define it, followed by what has clearly been a “Rebound? What Rebound?” alleged “recovery.”

Ronald Reagan faced arguably far more challenging circumstances: 13% inflation, 20%-plus interest rates, and double-digit unemployment. When he finally got 83% of the tax cuts he wanted (he was going for 10-10-10, he got 5-10-10), the economy boomed, as the WSJ’s table at the top right clearly demonstrates.

What this bunch is doing isn’t working. We’re nearing a bust — and from here, when you look at their substance instead of their statements, it seems that they really don’t care. If they did, they would start practicing Reaganomics, and abandon Obamanomics.

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UPDATE: The graphic below follows up on the issue raised by the first commenter —

GovtVsPrivateGDP2Q08to2Q10

Purchases of goods and services by the private sector have declined by over 2.2% since the beginning of the recession as normal people define it, as have purchases of goods and services by all entities (including state and local governments) except the federal government.

AP’s Econ Coverage Continues Singular Focus on Bernanke, Non-Naming of Others in Govt.

APonBernankeInCharge082710Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s first full day as the only person in the whole wide world with any kind of influence over what happens in the economy didn’t go too badly.

That’s the impression one might get from consuming two Friday Associated Press dispatches and a related AP Video.

Bernanke apparently took full charge of anything and everything having to do with the economy on Thursday evening. As noted early Friday morning (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), two Thursday afternoon dispatches from the wire service in advance of the government’s Friday morning GDP report widely predicted to contain news of a significant downward revision to second-quarter economic growth placed surreal importance on the content of a speech he was to give Friday morning shortly after that report’s release. The names of President Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Geithner, and Larry Summers were totally absent from both reports.

Friday, in the wake of the downward revision of second-quarter GDP from an annualized 2.4% to 1.6%, AP’s primary economic report about Bernanke’s apparent first day as Emperor-in-Chief again failed to name the five folks just mentioned, as did a one-minute video from Mark Hamrick found here (after a 30-second commercial).

Here is some of what Christopher Rugaber, with assists from Jeannine Aversa and Alan Zibel, wrote about Ben’s big day:

Economy edges closer to stalling, government says

Shortly after the government’s revision, Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke said the Fed was ready to take additional steps to prevent a second recession, if the economy deteriorates further. But he stopped short of promising any action.

The Fed “will do all that it can to ensure continuation of the economic recovery,” he said.

… Bernanke, speaking to a Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., acknowledged the economy has slowed more than policymakers had anticipated and said it is “vulnerable to unexpected developments.”

He did say he expects growth will pick up next year. The central bank chairman also sought to reassure the financial markets that he has the tools needed to bolster the economy and will use them if business activity slows further.

Bernanke outlined several options, including having the Fed buy more securities, most likely government debt or mortgage investments, as a way to drive down interest rates on all sorts of debt and spur more spending that might get the economy going.

Bernanke made clear “he is willing to act to ensure that the recovery remains on the right path,” said Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities.

That reassured the financial markets, which rose sharply after the Fed chairman’s speech.

… How much the government could help at this point is an open question. The Fed has already lowered its key short-term interest rate to nearly zero, but that has yet to rejuvenate the economy. The benefits of federal stimulus programs are fading, and Congress has declined to pass any major new aid.

… The Fed chief said the foundation is being laid for stronger growth in 2011: Households are saving more and healthier banks are more willing to lend. That should boost consumer spending, which makes up 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Once again, it’s as if Ben Bernanke is the only guy with any kind of influence on the course of the economy. Obama, Geithner, Summers, anyone else in the White House, Pelosi, Reid, or anyone else in Congress’s Democratic majority? Even though they are collectively responsible for fiscal policy, taxes, spending, regulation and oversight, we’re apparently supposed to believe that they’re all just spectators now, and that they’re as powerless as you or I to influence growth or employment. These people couldn’t possibly have anything to do with why we are where we are, or with why the economic outlook is so grim, could they? Zheesh.

As to President Obama, the AP’s Mark S. Smith took a transparently sympathetic tone in a separate Friday evening missive:

Vacationing Obama can’t escape economy

President Barack Obama biked and golfed under a brilliant New England sun Friday, yet he couldn’t escape the cascade of dour news on the economy as his vacation neared its end.

The Commerce Department reported the economy grew at a much slower pace this spring than previously estimated, a mere 1.6 percent. That followed reports earlier in the week on badly slumping home sales and tapering business spending on manufactured items.

Obama has conferred with his economic team on the phone while vacationing. And before his latest round of Martha’s Vineyard golf Friday, he met for about 15 minutes in the clubhouse with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss the economy.

… The economic news brought renewed criticism for the administration.

… But with cloudless skies over Martha’s Vineyard after rain earlier in the week, the president did what he could to seize some downtime.

“The White House” did comment on Friday’s GDP news, but the AP didn’t mention it, at least based on searches at its main site on “White House GDP,” “White House growth,” and “White House grew” (each entered without quotes), all of which returned nothing relevant. An AP search on “Obama grew” (without quotes) returned only the Smith report just cited.

AFP did cover the administration’s reaction, such as it was:

The White House said Friday the latest US economic growth data represented “positive news” but that the lowered estimates mean more work is needed to keep the recovery on track.

“Four consecutive quarters of economic growth is positive news, but the revised numbers mean there is still much more we need to do to continue on the path to recovery and that remains the focus of the president and the economic team every single day,” said a senior administration official with the vacationing President Barack Obama.

… “President Obama is focused on taking the next steps to keep the economy growing including assistance to small businesses, export promotion, the extension of tax cuts to the middle class, and investments in areas of our economy where the potential for job growth is greatest, like clean energy,” the administration official said.

The “senior administration official” tasked with announcing this blather seems to have requested anonymity. If so, I can’t say I blame him or her. When no one else is getting named, why would anyone volunteer to be the only person in the Washington establishment besides Big Ben associated with the economy?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.