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.