November 28, 2010

Partisan Inconsistency: In Close Congressional Races, AP Gives Two Paragraphs to GOP Win in IL-08, 14 to Dem in CA-11

I’ve noted an interesting disparity in how the Associated Press, the so-called Essential Global News Network, has covered Democratic and Republican congressional victories in situations where the counting has gone on well past Election Day.

Let’s contrast the amount of ink and bandwidth devoted to Republican Joe Walsh’s victory over incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean in Illinois compared to the coverage accorded California Democrat Jerry McNerney in his victory over the GOP’s David Harmer.

First, in Walsh vs. Bean, the following is the only item that comes up in a search on Ms. Bean’s name at the AP’s main site:

US Melissa Bean concedes to challenger

Democratic U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean has conceded to her Republican challenger, Joe Walsh.

Following the completion of ballot counting in each county in Illinois 8th Congressional District, Bean called Walsh Tuesday night upon her return to Illinois.

That’s it. Gosh, don’t overwork yourselves or anything, guys.

The headline doesn’t even give us the name of the election’s winner, or his party, and one can be excused for thinking that “US Melissa Bean” might really be a yacht involved in competitions.

By contrast, in a Tuesday report, the AP’s Judy Lin gave McNerney’s win 14 paragraphs, as well as a far clearer headline:

California Democrat McNerney retains House seat

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney has been re-elected to a third term in a Northern California congressional district, fending off a challenge from Republican David Harmer.

McNerney held a lead of nearly 2,500 votes on Wednesday with less than 1,900 ballots left to be counted.

His re-election means no California congressional seat changed party hands, even as Republicans took back the U.S. House of Representatives with a national GOP landslide on Nov. 2.

“Congressman McNerney is honored to be re-elected to the 11th congressional district,” spokeswoman Sarah Hersh said. “He looks forward to the opportunity to serve the people of this area, to work to create jobs and to work to improve benefits for veterans.”

… Hersh said McNerney has always made bipartisanship a part of his tenure and “will work across party aisles to serve the people he represents well.”

I had no idea that CA-11 was seven times as important as IL-08, did you?

For those who think I’m catching an aberration, consider the following:

Why, if you didn’t know better, you might think that the folks at the Associated Press are quite pleased when Democrats win razor-thin Congressional elections. When Republicans prevail? Not so much.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

AP’s Crutsinger Downplays Worst New Home Market Ever, Lowers the Recovery Bar

There are many annoying aspects of the sea change in media coverage of the economy since Barack Obama became president. At or near the top of the list is how the business press has downplayed the unprecedented housing industry disaster, while lowering the bar that will supposedly represent a real recovery to ridiculous levels.

According the the Census Bureau (12-page PDF), 23,000 new homes were sold nationwide in October. That figure ties August 2010 and December 1966 (when the population was 35% smaller) for is the lowest single month since records have been kept. More extensive evidence of how bad things are will come later in the post.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger provided as good an example as any of the press template for housing coverage — acknowledge that, yes, things are really bad; give readers an absurdly low benchmark for what would represent real improvement and how long it should take to get there; locate some “expert” to say it’s really not all that bad; and find some kind of anecdote somewhere, anywhere, that will leave the impression that things might somehow be getting better:

October new home sales drop 8.1 pct., prices fall

New home sales tumbled in October while the median home price dropped to the lowest point in seven years.

Sales of new single-family homes declined 8.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 283,000 units in October, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

It was the fourth time the sales rate has dropped in the past six months. New home sales are just 2.9 percent above August’s pace of 275,000 units – the lowest level on records dating back to 1963.

Many economists believe it could take three years for the industry to get back to a healthy annual rate of sales of around 600,000 homes.

… Some analysts downplayed the drop in sales, saying that when the market is this low it is vulnerable to high volatility.

“Sales are bumping along the bottom, showing no real inclination to start recovering or, thankfully, to fall any further,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

… Despite the overall weakness, some individual builders are seeing signs of hope.

Meridian, Idaho homebuilder CBH Homes saw sales pick up in October after a slow summer. But that came only after hefty discounts ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 per house. It offered them during a three-day weekend sale.

“There are buyers out there, but they just needed that little push to kind of get them convinced to buy,” said Ronda Conger, CBH Homes’ vice president.

I do sympathize with CBH’s Ms. Conger. She’s in sales; she needs to say something that seems positive. Unfortunately, what buyers need to “get them convinced to buy” is an economy that creates jobs and the kind of confidence that will enable people to be comfortable with making the kind of long-term commitment buying a home represents. We’re not there.

I don’t know how Mr. Shepherdson can be so confident that new home sales aren’t going “to fall any further,” especially given the data in the following chart (build on annual sales data found here at the Census Bureau):

NewHomeSalesDataThru1010

New home sales from May through October 2010 totaled 150,000 (see red boxes above). Even though May-October is supposed to represent the peak selling season, that is the lowest consecutive six-month total on record. The annualized sales rate of 97 per 100,000 is by far the lowest rate ever seen for any six-month period since records have been kept. Crutsinger’s reported stats barely scratched the surface in describing how bad things really are, and have been.

The stats presented above also make a mockery of the AP reporter’s 600,000-unit benchmark for a “healthy annual rate.” Every decade back to the 1970s had an average annual sales rate above that, even though the nation obviously had far fewer residents. Adjusting for population, no previous decade has come in below 250 annual sales per 100,000 in population. To get to even that historically low level in a population of 310 million, annual sales would have to be 775,000, a threshold almost 30% higher than Crutsinger’s absurdly low bar. In full historical context, a “healthy annual rate” should be at least 800,000-850,000. And who in the world believes that it has to take three years for a recovery to arrive?

One final cover-up indicator is found in this additional sentence in the AP’s coverage: “Government tax credits had propelled the market earlier this year but those expired in April.” Whose government and whose tax credits, Marty? Even though he championed those credits, as well as other initiatives that have only made things worse, the President Obama’s name is found nowhere in Crutsinger’s report. How convenient.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Woman fighting sex slavery named CNN Hero of the Year

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Los Angeles:

November 22, 2010 3:54 p.m. EST

A woman whose group has rescued more than 12,000 women and girls from sex slavery has been named the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year.

Anuradha Koirala was chosen by the public in an online poll that ran for eight weeks on CNN.com. CNN’s Anderson Cooper revealed the result at the conclusion of the fourth annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.”

“Human trafficking is a crime, a heinous crime, a shame to humanity,” Koirala said earlier in the evening after being introduced as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010. “I ask everyone to join me to create a society free of trafficking. We need to do this for all our daughters.”

Koirala was introduced by actress Demi Moore, who along with her husband, Ashton Kutcher, created DNA, The Demi and Ashton Foundation, which aims to eliminate child sex slavery worldwide.

“Every day this woman confronts the worst of what humanity has to offer,” Moore said of Koirala. “She says, ‘Stop. Stop selling our girls.’ By raiding brothels and patrolling the India-Nepal border, she saves girls from being sold into the sex trade, where they are being repeatedly raped for profit, tortured and enslaved.

CNN Hero fights sex trafficking

Gallery: CNN Heroes red carpet

Gallery: The Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010 “Since 1993, she has helped rescue more than 12,000 women and girls. Through her organization Maiti Nepal, she has provided more than a shelter for these girls and young women, she has created a home. It is a place for them to heal, go to school, learn a skill, and for some who are infected with HIV/AIDS, it is the place where they can spend their days surrounded by love.”

See Koirala’s fan page on CNN Heroes

Koirala will receive $100,000 to continue her work with Maiti Nepal, in addition to the $25,000 awarded to each of the top 10 Heroes honored.

“This is another responsibility to me to work with all your support,” Koirala told the audience after being named Hero of the Year. “We have to end this heinous crime. Please join hands with me to end this crime. … Please try to respect the youth. They are the ones who are going to build the next generation. Thank you so much.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.