November 23, 2010

Pity the Prez: NYT Blog Hauls Out the ‘Distraction’ Meme Again (Update: NoKo Was a ‘Distraction’ in April 2009

WorldsSmallestViolin

I heard Rush mention this Caucus Blog item at the New York Times on his program today.

It seems that the Times’s Michael Shear is disappointed that Dear Leader is yet again caught up in a “distraction” (“Pat-Downs Ensnare White House in New Distraction”). It’s headlined in the item’s browser window as “Pat-Downs Ensnare White House in New Controversy.” Interesting edit, don’t you think? If it’s a “controversy,” the President owns it. If it’s a “distraction,” well, it’s an unfair intrusion. Clever.

Shear wrapped it in a narrative whose theme was that “It all felt vaguely familiar.” Well, yeah. What’s more than vaguely familiar has been the press’s tendency to lament the distractions our supposedly otherwise focused like a laser beam chief executive must endure. On April 9, 2009 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that “The words ‘Obama’ and ‘distraction’ have both appeared in 2,425 articles in just the past 30 days; excluding duplicates, it’s about 450.”

In his blog entry, Shear listed many other awful distractions the president has encountered. What’s interesting are how many of them escalated because of Obama or people working directly for him:

Mr. Obama has repeatedly found himself off message and embroiled in events that quickly capture the imagination of the public, the news media and his adversaries.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama was caught up in the whirlwind surrounding the arrest of an African-American professor in Cambridge after he said the officer in the case had “acted stupidly.” The media frenzy didn’t end until the three men shared a beer at the White House.

There was the flap over the mosque to be built near ground zero in New York, which for a time became the primary focus of attention in the White House briefing room. Mr. Obama contributed to the spirited public debate by weighing in on the subject during an iftar dinner at the White House.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico strained the physical resources of the federal government as containment efforts failed for months. But the issue became political and strained the communication resources of the White House, which was repeatedly diverted from focusing on the economy to explain the government’s actions.

In July, the odd case of Shirley Sherrod, the agriculture department employee who was fired, again pulled Mr. Obama into a sideshow about race and politics. In September, a Florida pastor threatened to burn a Koran, once again pulling the White House into a national conversation.

Like those incidents, the furor over the pat-downs started outside the White House. In this case, a San Diego man refused to submit to a full-body scanner and then secretly recorded the pat-down that he received instead.

Geez, Michael, Obama hasn’t “found himself off message”; he or people who supposedly directly report to him have caused it:

  • Obama is the one who said the Cambridge cop (by the way, he has a name: James Crowley) “acted stupidly.”
  • Obama is the one who decided that making a statement about the Ground Zero Mosque was so important (Mr. Shear might get a call from someone at the Times about using the politically incorrect term “Ground Zero Mosque”).
  • The BP oil spill’s fallout arose largely when Carol Browner, who if she isn’t in the White House definitely is one the president’s dozens of unaccountable czars, played editing games with a report whose apparently predetermined goal was to support an oil drilling moratorium that was opposed by the scientists whose opinions and assessments were originally sought.

As to the “pat-down furor,” a cleansed term for what are in essence computerized strip searches, occasionally accompanied by the functional equivalent of physical strip searches, if intrusions on the public’s personal privacy and dignity represent an unimportant distraction, you have to start asking yourself what this guy thinks is important. I’d be tempted to give him a pass given what’s going on with North Korea, but Obama already is starting to seem strangely detached from those dangerous developments too.

One of these days the press, and the President, will realize that distractions come with the job, and that it’s a waste of time, energy, and effort to lament their existence. That time will probably arrive when the Republican or conservative occupies the Oval Office.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: One Man World Content Provider Mark Steyn picked up on my April 2009 “distraction” post at NewsBusters referenced above, and had this to say:

Tom Blumer of Newsbusters notes that in the past 30 days there have been some 2,500 stories featuring Obama and “distractions,” as opposed to about 800 “distractions” for Bush in his entire second term. The sub-headline of the Reuters story suggests the unprecedented pace at which the mountain of distractions is piling up: “First North Korea, Iran – now Somali pirates.”

Er, OK. So the North Korean test is a “distraction,” the Iranian nuclear program is a “distraction,” and the seizure of a U.S.-flagged vessel in international waters is a “distraction.” Maybe it would be easier just to have the official State Department maps reprinted with the Rest of the World relabeled “Distractions.”

In light of current news, it’s certainly interesting what the press considered to be a “distraction” 19 months ago, isn’t it?

Searching for Christmas, and the Missing Layoff Stories

Xmas2010This is the sixth year I have looked into how the media treats these two topics:

  • The use of “Christmas shopping season” vs. “holiday shopping season.”
  • The frequency of Christmas and holiday layoff references.

I have done three sets of simple Google News searches each year — the first in late November, followed by identical searches roughly two and four weeks later.

A graphic containing key results from the past five years is here.

The results of this year’s first set of searches, done at roughly 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, largely reinforce the trends noted last year:

XMasShoppingLayoffs112310

The red boxes demonstrate that, although there has been a bit of a recovery this year, the relative frequency of references to the phrase “Christmas shopping season” vs. “holiday shopping season” is still down by a little more than half in the past five years. That the establishment press has become congenitally reluctant to use the word “Christmas” when referring to the upcoming weeks of commerce where the vast majority of the American people will buy gifts for each other, their loved ones, and the less fortunate, and then unwrap them on December 25 or possibly on the previous evening, is basically beyond dispute.

The total number of shopping-related results — down by roughly one-third from last year from 8,703 to 5,854 — seems to indirectly confirm anecdotal observations I’ve heard from many and seen for myself that there isn’t nearly as much emphasis (yet) on the Christmas shopping season as there has been in previous years. One trend influencing this which has mostly flown under the radar is that stores have been delaying their Christmas season hires until the last possible minute. If the person trying to help you in the coming week seems to have no idea of what they’re doing, you’ll know why.

The results of the layoff-related searches are more interesting in how they compare in absolute numbers to previous years. Yes, it’s important to note that Christmas about five times as likely to be mentioned in a story containing the word “layoffs” (36.4% divided by 7.4% is 4.92). mentioned. But it’s the fact the total number of layoff references is so low that is stunning. They’re down almost 95% from 2008, which was of course an awful year; but is this year only 5% as bad? I don’t think so.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Imagine a Military Board With the Power of the Very Real ObamaCare Medicare Board

NoObamaCare0809

Imagine the (justifiable) media and other outcry that would result if a previous presidential administration and congressional leadership had convinced gullible House and Senate members to pass a law which they weren’t given time to read specifying the following about a new Military Spending Board.

First, the Board appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate) sets a predetermined (by the Board) target for military spending growth. If the Board determines that the growth of military spending will not match this predetermined target, it has the power to enact a remedy through “fast track” legislation, which will work like this:

  • By January 15 each year, the Board must submit a proposal to Congress and the president for reaching military spending targets in the coming year. The majority leaders in the House and Senate must introduce bills incorporating the board’s proposal the day they receive it.
  • Congress cannot “consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report  …  that would repeal or otherwise change the recommendations of the Board” if such changes fail to meet the board’s budgetary target.
  • By April 1, the committees of jurisdiction must complete their consideration of the proposal. Any committee that fails to meet the deadline is barred from further considering the bill.
  • The defense secretary must implement the Board’s proposal, as passed by Congress and signed by the president, on August 15 of the year in which the proposal is submitted.
  • If Congress does not pass the proposal or a substitute plan meeting the Board’s financial target before August  15, or if the president vetoes the proposal passed by Congress, the original Board recommendations automatically take effect.

Additionally, Congress cannot consider any bill or amendment that would repeal or change this fast-track congressional consideration process without a three-fifths vote (60) in the Senate. Not only that, but the implementation of the Board’s budget is exempted from administrative or judicial review.

To be clear, based on the second bulleted item above, what the Board says about the military spending would be what goes, even if Congress jumped through the hoops described above. All Congress could possibly do is reallocate funds, say, between branches of the military or among weapons programs.

As I noted at the beginning, the establishment media outcry would be fierce — and justified.

Well, as described by Wesley Smith at the Weekly Standard (“Our New ObamaCare Masters”), what I’ve described above concerning a mythical Military Spending Board is what is really in ObamaCare, and it will have a virtually iron grip over Medicare spending. Here is Smith’s description:

(If) the 15 “expert” members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board … (determine) that the growth of Medicare costs will exceed a predetermined target, it (the Board) has the power to enact a remedy through “fast track” legislation, which works like this:

• By January 15 each year, the Independent Payment Advisory Board must submit a proposal to Congress and the president for reaching Medicare savings targets in the coming year. The majority leaders in the House and Senate must introduce bills incorporating the board’s proposal the day they receive it.

• Congress cannot “consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report  …  that would repeal or otherwise change the recommendations of the board” if such changes fail to meet the board’s budgetary target.

• By April 1, the committees of jurisdiction must complete their consideration of the proposal. Any committee that fails to meet the deadline is barred from further considering the bill.

• The secretary of health and human services must implement the Independent Payment Advisory Board’s proposal, as passed by Congress and signed by the president, on August 15 of the year in which the proposal is submitted.

• If Congress does not pass the proposal or a substitute plan meeting the Independent Payment Advisory Board’s financial target before August  15, or if the president vetoes the proposal passed by Congress, the original Independent Payment Advisory Board recommendations automatically take effect.

Further demonstrating the Star Chamber-like powers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, Congress cannot consider any bill or amendment that would repeal or change this fast-track congressional consideration process without a three-fifths vote (60) in the Senate. Not only that, but the implementation of the board’s remedy is exempted from administrative or judicial review.

So … where’s the media outrage over this clearly antidemocratic creation and its related mechanisms?

Answer: The establishment press’s democratic impulses are selective. Effectively taking control over military spending away from Congress through heavy-handed means? Bad. Taking control over and judicial review of the amount of money spent by Medicare? Apparently, that’s no problem — oh, and let’s make sure we never describe how it will really work to news readers and watchers, lest they get some kind of crazy notion that it isn’t the greatest thing in the world.

One example: Here’s longtime alleged money-smart maven Jane Bryant Quinn’s description of the Independent Payment Advisory Board published on the day after the midterm elections. Quinn, in objecting to anticipated antiObamaCare efforts by the new Republican House majority, wrote:

[L]egislators have vowed to get rid of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, set up to study ways to save money on Medicare. That’s right, it’s a board created to try to slow down the increase in future federal spending. And yes, the “conservatives” are against it.

No ma’am. It’s a board that will virtually dictate spending, regardless of the consequences for quality care, up to and including rationing. Of course sensible, constitutional conservatives are against it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

3Q10 GDP First Revision: An Annualized +2.5%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:10 am

From Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the third quarter of 2010, (that is, from the second quarter to the third quarter), according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 1.7 percent.

… The increase in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, exports, and federal government spending that were partly offset by a negative contribution from residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The acceleration in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected a sharp deceleration in imports and accelerations in private inventory investment and in PCE that were partly offset by a downturn in residential fixed investment and decelerations in nonresidential fixed investment and in exports.

That’s nice.

As you can see from the graphic in the far right column (or click here to see a larger version), annualized growth in Quarter 5 of the Reagan Recovery was an annualized 8.5%. What a difference applying supply-side econ policy could have made.

That’s why, though it beats the alternative, I won’t go beyond “nice” in describing today’s news.

Lucid Links (112310, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:46 am

Wow, this guy was a crass political opportunist when he ran for president 10 years ago:

(This presidential candidate) said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was ‘not a good policy,’ weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.”

… “It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol.”

… He explained his own support for the original programme on his presidential ambitions.

I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

… The U.S. ethanol industry will consume about 41 percent of the U.S. corn crop this year, or 15 percent of the global corn crop, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.

The presidential candidate involved is Al Gore, essentially saying that he staked out an issue position based on craven, brazen self-interest.

Over 40% of our corn crop goes to something that is inefficient, totally unnecessary (see next item), and heavily subsidized. What the article doesn’t tell you is that the vast majority of the 60% remainder goes to feeding farm animals, not humans, so the displacement effect, and the impact on many other prices at the consumer level, has been pervasive.

We are incalculably fortunate, for reasons that go well beyond corn, that Al Gore did not prevail in 2000.

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Meanwhile, in the real world, even the New York Times seems to be working on jumping off the human-caused global warming — known around here as “globaloney” — bandwagon:

Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, giant oil fields were discovered off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States has increased domestic oil production for the first time in a generation.

… Energy experts now predict decades of residential and commercial power at reasonable prices. Simply put, the world of energy has once again been turned upside down.

Even though the item went up at the paper’s “Green” blog, the term “climate change” doesn’t appear in the article, nor does any other reference to global temperatures, ocean levels, Arctic ice, glacier melts, or any of the other nonsense globaloney proponents — known around here as “globalarmists” — have dishonestly promoted for about two decades. The word “climate” only appears in a sentence noting concerns about shale oil and groundwater supplies.

The browser window title at the Times is “Energy, and Plenty of It, for Decades to Come.” You can almost hear the Peak Oilers scream. Peak Oil, Schmeak Oil.

Even though they won’t acknowledge it, what a difference a year of Climategate makes.

Let’s also note that this is a “See I told ya” moment going back to 2006 — “We’ve Always Been ‘Running Out’ of Energy Sources; We’re Always Finding More”).

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I stumbled across this in doing work on the story that four Alabama legislators switched parties to become Republicans, leavining Democrats there in a non-influential minority:

Under Article IV, Section 46, all seats of the Alabama Legislature were filled by election on November 2, 2010, and all Members elected to seats in the Legislature took office the day after the general election, that being November 3, 2010.

In other words, there cannot be lame-duck legislative sessions.

That’s a good thing; it should be imitated elsewhere.

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Another one for the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” file — The guys trying to build the Ground Zero Mosque, who have said they will to need to make eight more quarterly payments to take care of about $270,000 in back taxes, have applied for a $5 million federal grant (HT Kyle-Ann Shiver at PJM via the Weekly Standard):

The application was submitted under a “community and cultural enhancement” grant program administered by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation (LMDC), which oversaw the $20 billion in federal aid allocated in the wake of 9/11 and is currently doling out millions in remaining taxpayer funds for community development. The redevelopment board declined to comment on the application (as did officials from Park51), citing the continuing and confidential process of determining the grant winners.

… “If Imam Feisal and his retinue want know why they’re not trusted, here’s yet another reason,” says Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam and director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU, when I asked her about the grant proposal. “The New Yorkers I speak with have questions about Park51. Requesting money from public coffers without engaging the public shows a staggering lack of empathy—especially from a man who says he’s all about dialogue.”

I’d say it’s really an application for a $4.73 million grant and a $270,000 bailout.

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Wesley Smith, on yet another tyrannical aspect of ObamaCare:

The creators of Obamacare saw the ability of constituents to influence their representatives as a problem. Saying, in effect, “Stop us before we spend again,” Democrats transferred most of Congress and the president’s policy-making authority to the 15 “expert” members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. If this board determines that the growth of Medicare costs will exceed a predetermined target, it has the power to enact a remedy through “fast track” legislation, which works like this:

• By January 15 each year, the Independent Payment Advisory Board must submit a proposal to Congress and the president for reaching Medicare savings targets in the coming year. The majority leaders in the House and Senate must introduce bills incorporating the board’s proposal the day they receive it.

Congress cannot “consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report  …  that would repeal or otherwise change the recommendations of the board” if such changes fail to meet the board’s budgetary target. [1]

• By April 1, the committees of jurisdiction must complete their consideration of the proposal. Any committee that fails to meet the deadline is barred from further considering the bill.

• The secretary of health and human services must implement the Independent Payment Advisory Board’s proposal, as passed by Congress and signed by the president, on August 15 of the year in which the proposal is submitted.

If Congress does not pass the proposal or a substitute plan meeting the Independent Payment Advisory Board’s financial target before August  15, or if the president vetoes the proposal passed by Congress, the original Independent Payment Advisory Board recommendations automatically take effect. [2]

Further demonstrating the Star Chamber-like powers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, Congress cannot consider any bill or amendment that would repeal or change this fast-track congressional consideration process without a three-fifths vote (60) in the Senate. Not only that, but the implementation of the board’s remedy is exempted from administrative or judicial review. [3]

Points:

  • [1] — An “independent” board determines the budget, not Congress.
  • [2] — The board gets its way unless Congress, which as noted in [1], can only pass legislation affecting the allocation of the budget, not its size, doesn’t act.
  • [3] — The board doesn’t have to worry about what the courts think. Exempting from judicial review could be a good idea for actual legislation actually passed by Congress. It’s an antidemocratic outrage when such an exemption is not based in duly passed legislation.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board’s described powers, like so many other things in ObamaCare, fit the dictionary definition of “tyranny” (“arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority”).

Positivity: Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto wins National League MVP

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

This is especially noteworthy, in my opinion, because of this quote:

“When I was in high school, I was never the best player,” he said earlier this season. “When I was in the minor leagues, I was never the best player. Even when I was called up, I didn’t get a lot of attention. Nothing was given to me. I’ve always earned it. I’ve always worked hard since I was very young.

“I learned that from my parents. I learned that from trial and error. I tried to get by before, and that didn’t work well for me. I’m driven. I want to be the best. I want to reach my potential. The times when I feel myself giving in, getting sluggish or lazy, that’s when I know I’m not doing the right thing.”

Words to live by.