December 31, 2010

As NY Post Builds on Snow Removal Slowdown Story, NYT Calls It All ‘Rumored’

The dictionary says that a rumor is:

- a story or statement in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts.
- gossip; hearsay

The dictionaries in use at the offices of the New York Times must include the following backup definition: “Any set of facts and/or allegations reported by the New York Post.”

After yesterday’s blockbuster report (“Sanitation Department’s slow snow cleanup was a budget protest”) Reporters at the Post piled on today, so to speak, with additional news relating to the snow removal slowdown in which New York City’s unionized sanitation workers allegedly engaged:

Sanitation workers targeted specific neighborhoods

There was a method to their madness.

The selfish Sanitation bosses who sabotaged the blizzard cleanup to fire a salvo at City Hall targeted politically connected and well-heeled neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn to get their twisted message across loud and clear, The Post has learned.

Their motives emerged yesterday as the city’s Department of Investigation admitted it began a probe earlier this week after hearing rumblings of a coordinated job action.

Sources told The Post several neighborhoods were on the workers’ hit list — including Borough Park and Dyker Heights in Brooklyn and Middle Village in Queens — because residents there have more money and their politicians carry big sticks.

“It was more targeted than people actually think,” said a labor source. “Borough Park was specifically targeted [because of] . . . its ability to sort of gin up the p.r. machine.”

The plan worked. Residents of those neighborhoods — who, after three days, were still trying to dig out their cars — are apoplectic.

… The revelation came as:
* A Queens baby was brain dead last night after poorly plowed roads hampered efforts to rescue him.
* Sources said Sanitation bosses issued verbal directives during the clean-up to give priority to streets near the homes of agency heads and other city bigwigs.
* … Even as streets in the outer boroughs waited for a single plow to arrive, crews were clearing bicycle lanes on the Upper West Side.

Yesterday (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the Times played defense for the Mayor and the union and relayed gratuitous shots at private contractors who weren’t there to help primarily because the city didn’t ask for it quickly enough. Today, the Times decided that it would be a great idea to produce a glowing report on the city’s sanitation commissioner, and to dismiss what the Post has reported as “rumored” — without having the guts to name where these so-called rumors were reported, or even originated (bolds are mine):

For City’s Sanitation Chief, Fighting Snow and Taking Heat

… Since the snow stopped falling on Monday morning, local politicians have competed to see who could condemn his department most harshly, with the City Council scheduling hearings to investigate what went wrong. Hours after Mr. Doherty got his car out of the snow (the story indicates that Doherty had to hire “two men with shovels” to dig out his own stuck vehicle –Ed.), Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he was “extremely dissatisfied” with the cleanup effort and vowed to conduct a review of his own — with Mr. Doherty at his side. Newspapers have railed against Mr. Doherty’s street crews and published photographs of his well-plowed block on Staten Island.

“I keep waiting for the picture to be in the paper with the goat’s horns sticking out of my head, like I’m the goat of the storm,” Mr. Doherty said. “We got a black eye. I think my reputation, and the reputation of the department, has been seriously tarnished.”

Mr. Doherty said it was too soon to tell why so many streets remained unplowed days after the snow ended. Faulty equipment, insufficient training and poor communication are all possibilities.

He vowed to investigate whether the rank-and-file deliberately slowed down work to protest budget cuts, as has been rumored, but said he doubted it.

“The only time you’re going to be a hero in this department is when there’s a snowstorm,” he said. “This is the battle we have to win. It didn’t work out.”

“We’ve got to go out there and work hard and get our reputation back,” he added.

I’d be more impressed if Mr. Doherty didn’t seem to be giving hints of a pre-ordained conclusion even before the investigation begins.

As to the Times, there was a period in the history of journalism when reporters, their editors, and publishers would be upset about being scooped on a big story like this. The Times’s behavior during the past two days would seem to indicate that journalism is something the paper no longer practices, and that it really hasn’t been doing so for a long, long time.

Cross-posted at NewBusters.org.

Final Pajamas Media Column of 2010 (’2010 a Banner Year for MSM’s Ministries of Mistruth’) Is Up

It’s here.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Sunday morning (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

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More: The column identifies ten stories preemptively massaged or ignored by the establishment press. As I noted therein, the press’s treatment “prevented the vast, relatively disengaged majority of the population (probably 85%, but perhaps as low as 80% thanks to the Tea Party movement) from getting their arms around the truth without doing a great deal of independent research.”

I didn’t include dozens of other clear examples. Later this morning, I will identify and describe just a few which didn’t make the cut.

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UPDATE: Here are some other examples –

  • The self-acknowledged and clearly illegal Sestak job offer, intended to convince the Pennsylvania congressman not to run for U.S. Senate against recent party-switcher Arlen Specter, and Bill Clinton’s involvement in it, were barely explored, not doggedly pursued, and quietly dropped by the establishment press. A conservative or Republican administration and its president would be facing prosecutions and impeachment in similar circumstances.
  • Media non-coverage of Eric Holder’sI haven’t read it” in reference to Arizona’s commonsense law dealing with illegal immigrants made the PJM cut. In regards to ObamaCare, the fact that lawmakers clearly hadn’t read that bill came back to haunt them when they later realized that the law would require businesses to track and prepare billions of additional 1099 forms each year. The press cover-up was a sight to behold. The New York Times only noted that “Lawmakers were apparently unaware” of the new requirements without explaining why. Similarly, the Associated Press cited the “paperwork nightmare” without telling readers how it came to be.
  • Kelo Calamity — 4-1/2 years after the odious Kelo v. New London ruling, during which the City of New London, Connecticut convinced the Supreme Court that it had “a carefully considered development plan,” the city finally got its first project past the talk stage on the affected land. In an area where perfectly good homes that had largely been owner-occupied once stood, the city, which had the authority to remove those homeowners from their long-held land as result of Kelo, approved a developer who wishes “to build 80 rental townhouses in the Fort Trumbull peninsula.” The press outside of Connecticut has almost totally ignored what has happened in the affected area post-Kelo.
  • The Associated Press and the New York Times downplayed the role of U.S. firms and U.S. technology in helping rescue trapped Chilean miners. The Times even characterized the proactive role Chile’s president took in the effort as a (cynicism implied) “political calculation.” The inconvenient truth for the statist-loving media is that capitalism saved the miners. While on the topic, Jeff Hart should have been up for consideration as Time’s Person of the Year.
  • The Gangster Government tactics employed in the early stages of ObamaCare got kid-glove press treatment. To the AP, Kathleen Sebelius’s attempts to intimidate insurers who dared to cite ObamaCare as a reason for rate increases, including threats to exclude them from ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges, represented a mere “war of words.” Michael Barone, who first coined the term “Gangster Government” to describe the Obama administration, was much more accurate: “The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery.”

That’s only five. There are dozens more I could have cited. Sadly, I can say with confidence that there will be dozens more in 2011.

Positivity: Woman thanks rescuers with all her heart

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Laconia, NH:

Friday, Dec. 24, 2010

Only 2 percent of people whose hearts stop live to tell about it, and one of them is 48-year-old Denise Cogswell.

The Wolfeboro resident traveled to the state’s Bureau of Emergency Communication on Thursday to thank the Emergency 911 dispatcher who calmly led her husband and son through the steps of cardiopulmonary resuscitation that saved her life.

“It made the difference in my life,” Cogswell said after meeting and hugging Steve Harris, the dispatcher whose simple instructions from a cubicle at his employer’s Lakes Region office helped save her life.

In the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, Cogswell woke in the throes of ventricular fibrillation, thrashing and seizing. By the time her husband, T.J. Cogswell, called 911, she had stopped breathing.

Her son, Derek Brockney, 18, awoke, heard the commotion and ran into the bedroom.

“It was the scariest thing I have had to go through,” Brockney said. When he took the phone, Harris told him to help T.J. get his mother on the floor. She had no pulse. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

December 30, 2010

NYT Begins Playing Defense for Bloomberg, Union in Snow Response Coverage

Today, New York Post reporters delivered a bombshell story addressing why New York City’s snow cleanup performance has been so poor:

Sanitation Department’s slow snow cleanup was a budget protest

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts — a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

In response to this outrage, the New York Times has swung into frantic action — by scolding Gotham residents for expecting perfection, portraying the mayor as getting a handle on things, and criticizing private snow removal contractors who didn’t drop everything when a late-to-the-problem city called them for help. Meanwhile the Times will only acknowledge that the city will “look into” the slowdown allegations.

Here’s the scolding, via Times reporter Michael Wilson (“Outrage at Unplowed Streets? It’s a New York Tradition”):

It is as much a part of a New York City blizzard as slush and cold and the color white itself: postblizzard outrage over the municipal response to said blizzard. One can imagine the very earliest settlers of New Amsterdam railed at their Dutch leaders after blizzards. The path to my farm is not plowed! It’s been three days! Het sneeuwt!

The Outrage That Followed the blizzard this week is no exception, and actually suggests that the level of outrage is an accurate barometer of the severity of the storm. This was a big one, and so the outrage is pouring forth on the streets of the city — like the salt that should have been more widely used if someone upstairs was doing his job, thinketh the outraged citizen.

To be clear, the sentiment does not appear to be without merit.

… Does the outrage seem to ever do any good? Would that it could melt snow. The city has tweaked its snow-removal plan here and there after postblizzard complaints, only to be stymied again by the next storm, as was the case this powdery, windy week.

Here’s the beginning of the Bloomberg rehabilitation, via a Sam Dolnick City Room blog post (“Bloomberg Says Plows Have Hit Every Street”):

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that snow plows had been down every street in the city except for those still blocked by stuck cars. He said that tow trucks would have those vehicles clear in the afternoon, and that plows would return to streets still buried.

But, as he did the day before, Mr. Bloomberg acknowledged that the city’s response was “inadequate and unacceptable” and said that his office would conduct an extensive review of what went wrong.

Here’s the hit at private contractors, from a long report by three Times reporters, delivered in it final two paragraphs by … (wait for it) … the Sanitation Workers Union’s President:

Still, Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, said the problems late Sunday underscored how the city could not rely on outside contractors to help with snow removal and other jobs in such storms, particularly during a holiday weekend.

“You can never count on the privates, because they don’t have to show up,” he said. “What obligation do they have? The mayor can’t order them out. The commissioner can’t order them out.”

The real problem, mentioned in earlier paragraphs, is that the city didn’t get its requests for private help out quickly enough, and then were apparently surprised when others who needed help got there first. But even that admission includes a couple of shots at the private resources (bolded by me):

“Why did we wait so long?” he asked. “Well, maybe that is something we have to look at, no questions about it.”

There are, though, an array of questions about the system for soliciting private assistance. The city’s list of reliable, proven, untainted businesses has shrunk. Any new volunteers have to be vetted; it can take 12 hours to get them rolling.

Unlike years ago, Mr. Doherty said, the private workers just do not seem “interested in the work anymore.”

“Are we paying enough?” he said. “It may be the reason.”

In fact, it seems that some of the more proven contractors had been signed up by the local airports before the city made its appeal.

Meanwhile, here’s the extent to which the Times has acknowledged the union-slowdown problems the Post noted, contained at the end of the City Room blog post noted earlier:

John J. Doherty, the sanitation commissioner, said he would look into claims that his department’s rank-and-file deliberately slowed down the cleanup work to protest budget cuts.

“We have to look into that,” Mr. Doherty said. “I have not seen that. I’ve seen a lot of dedicated people out there.”

The acid test of the sincerity of Doherty’s “look into” will be if he bothers to confidentially talk to the people who met with councilperson City Councilman Dan Halloran, who spoke with the Post:

… Halloran … was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department — and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan — at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.

I’m not expecting much follow-up by the Times on what, if anything, Doherty learns — unless it’s a whitewash.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

A Tactic the GOP Should Consider Using Liberally

Filed under: Activism,Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:58 am

Here’s a New Year’s Resolution for Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

Use something called the “disapproval resolution” (HT PCMag.com) frequently, with an obvious first target being the FCC’s Internet power grab (bolds are mine):

The Congressional Review Act of 1996 established expedited (or “fast track”) procedures by which Congress may disapprove a broad range of regulatory rules issued by federal agencies by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval. For initial floor consideration, the Act provides an expedited procedure only in the Senate. (The House would likely consider the measure pursuant to a special rule.) The Senate may use the procedure for 60 days of session after the agency transmits the rule to Congress. In both houses, however, to qualify for expedited consideration, a disapproval resolution must be submitted within 60 days after Congress receives the rule, exclusive of recess periods. Pending action on a disapproval resolution, the rule may go into effect, unless it is a “major rule” on which the President or issuing agency does not waive a delay period of 60 calendar days.

If a disapproval resolution is enacted, the rule may not take effect and the agency may issue no substantially similar rule without subsequent statutory authorization. If a rule is disapproved after going into effect, it is “treated as though [it] had never taken effect.” If either house rejects a disapproval resolution, the rule may take effect at once. If the President vetoes the resolution, the rule may not take effect for 30 days of session thereafter, unless the House or Senate votes to sustain the veto. If a session of Congress adjourns sine die less than 60 days of session after receiving a rule, the full 60-day periods for action begin anew on the 15th day of session after the next session convenes.

Except for submission of disapproval resolutions and final congressional action thereon, the expedited procedures under the Act apply only to Senate consideration. The House would consider a disapproval resolution under its general procedures, very likely as prescribed by a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules. In the Senate, once the resolution has been before committee for 20 calendar days, the panel is discharged if 30 Senators submit a petition for the purpose. Once the committee has reported or been discharged, a motion to proceed to consider the resolution would in practice be nondebatable, and the Act prohibits various other possible dilatory actions in relation to the motion and the resolution. Floor debate on the resolution is limited to 10 hours, and no amendment is in order.

The Act does not preclude amendment of a disapproval resolution in the House, and means may exist of overcoming the prohibition on amendment in the Senate. For these reasons, and because the initial texts could differ, the resolutions initially adopted by the two houses might not be identical. The Act enables Congress to avoid the need to resolve differences between the two versions by providing that, when either house adopts a disapproval resolution, the other shall first consider its own disapproval resolution and then vote on the resolution received from the first. As long as the substantive effect of both is similar, the difference in text should not affect the ultimate effect of the legislation.

Points:

  • This doesn’t seem to be subject to cloture rules in the Senate, i.e., I don’t think it can be filibustered.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to have limited ability to bottle up disapproval resolutions, but it’s too early to tell.
  • For a joint resolution to work, assuming the GOP members of the Senate would hold firm (a brave assumption), it would have to peel off a few Democrats. This would more than likely happen in the FCC situation and with the EPA’s carbon emission regs.
  • The previous point might tempt the House GOP majority and Senate GOP minority to use the tactic sparingly. I say no. Get Democrats on the record at every opportunity supporting every significant instance of regulatory overreach, and ram those votes down their throats during the next election campaign.
  • The same point applies to the presidential veto. Sure, they’ll be frequent, but it important to get Barack Obama on the record actually supporting the statist initiatives he so cherishes instead of allowing him any kind distance between his cabinet agencies, czars, and other apparatchiks. Turn what is perceived as a government power grab into his power grab.

Finally, I don’t think that the law involved has ever been tested in court, but it seems unlikely that it would be overturned if it were.

Positivity: Truck driver speaks about rescue

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:35 am

From Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (video also at link):

Posted: Dec. 29 at 6:35 am EST
Last Updated: Dec. 29 at 11:39 am EST

A truck driver is talking about the two Good Samaritans who saved his life after he was trapped inside his burning rig following a near collision.

At around 12:30 a.m., last Friday, Larry Thompson, 50, was driving a tractor-trailer with about 24,000 pounds of linen southbound on Interstate 95. Thompson was passing the Hallandale Beach Boulevard exit when a car cut him off. “I tried not to hurt him and caused myself almost to get killed,” Thompson said. He doesn’t cut me like this, he cuts me like this. He was going to try to go back, I guess, to the Hallandale Beach Boulevard exit. He tried to go around me to get back to that exit. Actually, you couldn’t even see the sign that said ‘exit’ anymore. I got that far, and he took off.”

Thompson was trapped in the cab of his truck as a fire ignited in the vehicle. He was trying to untie his boots to get his feet from under the control pedals of the truck. Smoke and flames filled the truck. Then, two other drivers rushed to rescue Thompson from the burning vehicle. Brian Clark, one of the men who rescued Thompson, said, “He swerved over to keep from hitting this car. He scraped along the side there and hit that pole and just exploded.”

The Good Samaritans pulled out one of the truck’s windows and dragged Thompson out of the fiery rig. “I yanked on the latch to the door, and the door handle broke. He runs up. I’m like, ‘Hold on a second.’ We pulled him through the window, carried him over to the side there,” Clark said.

Thompson admitted that he thought he would not survive. “At that moment, I was thinking about, I saw the face of my kids,” he said. “You know, I could have not made it for Christmas. I could have died in this truck, and this could have been it for me, you know?” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

About Last Night’s Time Mag ‘Ice Age’ Cover Post

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:01 am

Doug Powers relied on a graphic of a Time Mag 1977 cover than ended up being a Photoshop of a 2007 cover. Because of where it appeared, I didn’t do something I virtually always do: Verify the original source material.

So I have pulled the post.

I regret the reliance on Doug’s post.

December 29, 2010

NYT Post-Christmas: ‘Americans Are Splurging As If It’s 2007,’ But Wasn’t Impressed in 2007, 2006, or 2005

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 11:27 pm

Not that it’s a big surprise, but it seems that the answer to “How do we spin Christmas shopping season?” at the New York Times depends on which party occupies the Oval Office in Washington.

Monday, The Times’s Stephanie Clifford, with the help of two other reporters, blew the holiday sales horn. Here are the first few paragraphs of her report, entitled “Retail Sales Rebound, Beating Forecasts,” with a browser window title of “Holiday Sales Return to Prerecession Level”:

Americans are splurging as though it’s 2007 again.

Shoppers spent more money this holiday season than even before the recession, according to preliminary retail data released on Monday.

After a 6 percent free fall in 2008 and a 4 percent uptick last year, retail spending rose 5.5 percent in the 50 days before Christmas, exceeding even the more optimistic forecasts, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks retail spending.

The rise was seen in just about every retail category.

Gosh, this must mean that the Times was impressed when the final bell rang on the Christmas season in 2007.

Uh, not exactly. Two very similar December 26 items by Michael Barbaro were downright dour, and opened with the following paragraphs:

Article 1: Disappointing Sales During Holiday Season
Article 2: Holiday Spending Is Weak, as Retailers Expected

American consumers, uneasy about the economy and unimpressed by the merchandise in stores, delivered the bleak holiday shopping season retailers had expected, if not feared, according to one early but influential projection.

Spending from Thanksgiving to Christmas rose just 3.6 percent over last year, the weakest performance in at least four years, according to MasterCard Advisors, a division of the credit card company. By comparison, sales grew 6.6 percent in 2006 and 8.7 percent in 2005.

“There was not a recipe for a pickup in sales growth,” said Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors, citing higher gas prices, a slowing housing market and a tight credit market.

Well, okay, the Times simply had to be impressed with the big increase in 2006, right? Get with the program; of course not. Here’s Mr. Barbero playing the expectations game on December 26 of that year:

Rush at End, but Holiday Sales Fall Short

There is always next year.

Shoppers swarmed discount stores and mobbed suburban malls over the crucial holiday weekend, but the final burst of buying is expected to fall short of retailers’ expectations.

Visa USA, the credit card company, said yesterday that it would lower its closely watched forecast for holiday spending. Based on purchases by credit and debit card holders, Visa said sales rose 6.5 percent in November and December, compared with the same period last year, down from its initial forecast of a 7.5 percent gain.

The company’s unexpected downward revision — and the millions of dollars in lost sales it represents — could have broad implications for the nation’s merchants, who count on purchases during the holiday season for nearly half of their business.

2005? Smart-aleck Barabaro also had an “answer” for that very good year:

The Day After Christmas, Shoppers Take a Holiday

Better luck later this week.

Many retailers hoping for a big finish to the holiday season instead had lighter-than-expected crowds over the long Christmas weekend, according to anecdotal reports, leaving stores to rely heavily on the next few days to pump up December sales.

Explanations for the lackluster finish varied: an unusually warm winter hurt cold-weather clothing sales, greater gift card use delayed purchases and higher energy costs discouraged splurges.

… Though final results for the holidays will not be available for several weeks, analysts and retail executives are projecting a respectable but not stunning season. November and December sales are estimated to grow 6 percent over a year earlier, compared with 6.7 percent in 2004.

As to the core contention in this year’s report by Ms. Clifford above that sales came back to pre-recession levels: After adjusting for inflation during the past three years and finalizing the information from various data trackers, the verdict could still go either way.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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BizzyBlog Add-on: A look back all the way to the early 1990s at the Times’s partisan-driven treatment of the Christmas shopping season is here.

Lucid Links (122910, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 5:58 am

IcasualtiesAfghanChartAt122810A record number of U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year, almost 500 as of last night, far eclipsing the previous worst year, which was last year.

Gosh, the press has been relatively quiet about this.

How quiet? A Google News Archive search on ["grim milestone" 1000 US afghanistan] (typed as indicated between brackets) has “about 37″ results. If you count the items listed under each entry, there are actually 738 articles, with only a couple that weren’t relevant to the topic.

By comparison, A Google News Archive search on ["grim milestone" 4000 US afghanistan] has “about 43″ results. Counting all items in all entries, the total is 1,182.

Given that many articles drop off with the passage of time, the fact that the latter figure found in searches of articles that appeared about 14 months earlier is 60% higher than the former is strong evidence that “grim milestone” writers were a lot more interested in marking them off for Iraq. Also, Afghanistan should have garnered far more attention because its “grim milestone” was its first.

Let’s hope that General David Petraeus really has free rein to do what’s needed, and that his Afghanistan version of the surge succeeds — despite our president’s allergy to the “V-word” (victory, for those unfamiliar with the concept of winning).

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Evidence that the happy talk exemplified in this pathetic December 23 AP report (“Economy brightens as consumers spend, layoffs slow”) may not be working is in this AP report from yesterday (related press release is here):

(The Conference Board) said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 52.5 in December, down from a revised 54.3 in November. Economists were expecting 55.8. The decline reverses two consecutive months of increases. It takes a reading of 90 to indicate a healthy economy, a level not approached since the recession began in 2007.

People are less confident even though layoffs are slowing, businesses are buying more goods, and consumers are spending more money.

Translation of the second excerpted AP paragraph: “What’s wrong with you people? Things are getting better, because we say they are!”

It’s relatively easy for the press to convince people that things are bad when they’re not; after all, people can always imagine that there are folks “out there” who are hurting if they’re told enough such stories. Persuading people that things aren’t really that bad when they really are is another matter, especially when just about everyone knows people, perhaps several, who have been legitimately trying to find work without success, or who have had to settle for low-paying jobs that don’t utilize their higher-level talents.

It’s also tough paint on a smiley face while home values continue to fall. Zero Hedge’s take on the Case Schiller home price decline: “This data flatly continues to refute claims that there is any economic recovery going on, as the primary source of middle class wealth continues to decline in value.” Agreed.
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PBS must stand for “Pure (well, you know),” based on a review of a that network’s report on Cuba’s health care system by Mary Anastasia O’Grady at the Wall Street Journal (subscription or other form of authorized access may be required):

In his memoir covering four years in Cuba as a correspondent for Spanish Television, Vicente Botín tells about a Havana woman who was frustrated by the doctor shortage in the country. She hung a sheet on her balcony with the words “trade me to Venezuela.” When the police arrived she told them: “Look, compañeros, I’m as revolutionary as the next guy, but if you want to see a Cuban doctor, you have to go to Venezuela.”

… The series was taped in Cuba with government “cooperation” so there is no surprise that it went heavy on the party line. Still, there was something disturbing about how Mr. Suarez allowed himself to be used by the police state, dutifully reciting its dubious claims as if he were reporting great advances in medical science.

Castro’s military dictatorship marks 52 years in power next week. But the “revolution” is dead. A new generation of angry, young Cubans now vents on Internet blogs and through music, mocking the old man and his ruthless little brother.

… Dissent is spreading in Cuba like dengue fever because daily life is so onerous. One of the best documented sources on this subject is the Botín narrative (“Los Funerales de Castro,” 2009, available in Spanish only), which pulls back the curtain on “the Potemkin village” that foreigners see on official visits to Cuba. Behind the façade is desperate want. Food, water, transportation, access to health care, electricity, soap and toilet paper are all hard to come by. Even housing is in short supply, with multiple families wedged into single-family homes. The government tries to keep the lid on through repression. But in private there are no limits to the derision of the brothers Castro.

… Mr. Suarez’s report, by contrast, is like a state propaganda film.

cubaho5I didn’t see it myself, but Mr. Suarez and PBS probably didn’t include these other participants in Cuba’s health system seen at the right:

Ed Morrissey explained the photo a half-decade ago at his original Captain Quarters blog:

Reporters from Gentiuno managed to get into the actual hospital (Clinico Quirirgico) with a camera, and they found a much different situation. For example, this (the photo above) is what they found in the emergency room.

Yes, those are cockroaches, at least the Darwin Award winners that got caught under the feet of patients, doctors, and staff. Lord knows how many smarter ones have managed to stay alive.

Morrissey has several more photos from the unmasked Potemkin hospital at his original link.

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At Pajamas Media, at the conclusion of a column on how successful left-favored groups and leftists are able to manipulate and manage their public personas and related terminology with the willing cooperation of the establishment press — complete with five spot-on examples — Victor Davis Hanson makes a telling point that trumps thoughts some of us occasionally entertain that New Media might be gaining the upper hand over the Old:

Lurking somewhere behind all these improbables is a rather small Western elite that is enormously influential in the media, government, the arts, universities, and Hollywood. And what it would like to believe, often simply must be believed — and so it usually is.

That they can still usually enforce the images and nomenclature as they please shows how much power they still have, and how difficult it will be to marginalize them. Their grip is nowhere near as ironclad as it was in the 1960s through roughly the late 1980s, when, as the Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott notes, “newsroom decision-makers and followers represented an elite class of professionals who decided what was news and how to report it.” But Hanson correctly observes that it is still very strong. The weakening must go on.

December 28, 2010

The Annual Yawn: GAO Disclaims Opinion on Uncle Sam’s Financials For the 14th Straight Year; Press Ignores

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:16 pm

When the legislators and good-government people who drafted the law requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit and render an opinion on the financial statements of the federal government as a whole and the major departments within it, they must have known that early-year results would not be very pleasant. But I also suspect that they thought the shame of being exposed as having unauditable records would be lead to constructive action and improvement.

Maybe on the margins, but not on the whole, as this GAO press release addressing its report on Uncle Sam’s financial statements last week tells us:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2010 consolidated financial statements of the federal government, because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations.

“Even though significant progress has been made since the enactment of key financial management reforms in the 1990s, our report on the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statement illustrates that much work remains to be done to improve federal financial management. Shortcomings in three areas again prevented us from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based financial statements,” said Gene Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General of the United States.

The main obstacles to a GAO opinion were: (1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.

Accounting Today notes that this is the fourteenth consecutive year that GAO has had to disclaim an opinion, obviously crossing both Democratic and Republican administrations.

The element of shame appears not to be a factor. That’s at least partly because the establishment press really doesn’t care.

A Google News search for December 20-28 on “GAO government financial statements” (not in quotes), sorted by date (necessary because unsorted results were misleading), came up with (get this) eleven items, only five of which were relevant to the overall audit of the government.

At the Associated Press’s main site, a search on “GAO government financial statements” (not in quotes) returned nothing. Searching the AP on “government accountability office” without using quotes returned nothing relevant. At the New York Times searches on the same two strings without quotes entered (“government accountability office“; GAO government financial statements) come up similarly empty of anything relevant.

If the press doesn’t care to report ongoing pathetic developments such as these, the reporting of which falls squarely into the realm of its supposed watchdog role, why should the bureaucracy? It’s pretty hard to come up with a defensible excuse when we’re talking about an entity that gobbles up 20%-25% of the nation’s annual output.

Maybe it will take the press as long as it took Rip Van Winkle to wake up. I doubt we’ll be that lucky.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Oh the Humanity! Per AP’s Julie Pace: Congress Is ‘Heavily-Laden With Republicans’

To those who have spent time following new reports emanating from the Associated Press, it’s not exactly a secret that many of the alleged journalists who work there are having difficulty with the idea that there will be a new Republican majority in the House during the next two years. A further annoyance is that many members of that majority, especially the newer ones, hold sensible, Constitution-based views inspired by Tea Party movement. But as supposed professionals, you would think that the folks at the wire service might try a little harder to avoid blatantly revealing their bias.

If the AP’s Julie Pace was really trying to stay within the bounds of the patently obvious, she failed miserably, as the bolded words in the following paragraph from her 2:31 p.m. report (also saved here for future reference, fair use, and discussion purposes) on President Obama’s decision to delay submitting a budget to Congress until mid-February indicate:

Lawmakers left Washington last week without a plan to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2011, which ends in October. They did pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through early March, meaning the president will have to negotiate with a Congress more heavily-laden with Republicans to fund the government through the rest of 2011 and 2012.

As was the case earlier today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) when I researched the clearly unusual use of the word “bold” by an AP reporter describing the latest authoritarian moves by Venezuela’s Huge Chávez, a trip to the dictionary is required to guard against possibly overreacting. Here, from dictionary.com, are the relevant possible meanings of the adjective “laden” and the verb “lade”:

laden — “burdened; loaded down.”

lade –
- “to put (something) on or in, as a burden, load, or cargo; load.”
- “to load oppressively; burden”

Neil Diamond, 1970, and The Hollies, 1969: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

Julie Pace, 2010: “They Are Heavy, They’re a Bunch of Republicans.”

There is a relatively obscure meaning of “laden,” which is “to fill or cover abundantly,” but Ms. Pace won’t be able to sell me or other readers here that this alternative meaning is what she meant. She’s telling readers that Republicans are big, oppressively loaded pain in the Beltway. Oh, the agony.

Not that anyone will be surprised, but a a Google News search on “heavily-laden with Democrats” (in quotes) returns no results. The same search of Google News’s Archives returns a grand total of three results. One is a seemingly light-hearted item at the Christian Science Monitor published in 1958 (“Dodgers Drive In Democrat Runs?”). The second and third contain a quote from election commentator Larry Sabato in a single column written by Andrew F. Tully. The point is that I could find no allegedly serious journalist in the past 50-plus years — perhaps none ever, if the CSM item is really not meant to be a serious piece — who has directly used the phrase “heavily-laden with Democrats.” Most journalists, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, would be inclined to replace “laden” with “blessed.”

A similar Google News Archive search on “heavily-laden with Republicans” also comes back with nothing relevant, which is good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s never been done before. The bad news is that the AP and Pace appear to be opening up a new frontier for labeling their perceived opposition.

I would suggest that if Ms. Pace and any of her other colleagues at the AP and elsewhere in the establishment press find dealing with the reality of a Republican-controlled House such a heavy load to have to carry for the next two years, they should find an alternative, less burdensome lines of work. After all, especially as it applies to the AP, according to you guys, (cough, cough) the economy is “brightening.” By all means, have at it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

AP Reporter: Chávez Power Grab Is ‘One of the Boldest Moves of His Presidency’

A Christmas Eve report from Ian James at the Associated Press on developments in Venezuela caused me to go to the dictionary to make sure my understanding of the word “bold” is correct.

In context, here are the two most relevant definitions of the word found at dictionary.com:

  • (first listing) “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring: a bold hero.”
  • (third listing) “necessitating courage and daring; challenging: a bold adventure.”

One thus has to take the following sentence, the first in James's report, as a virtually explicit expression of admiration for the latest authoritarian moves by the country's "El Presidente," Hugo Chávez:

Flurry of laws boost Chavez’s power in Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez has given himself the equivalent of a big Christmas present in congress: a package of laws that dramatically expand his powers and allow him to undermine opponents in one of the boldest moves of his presidency.

Someone should ask Ian James and his editors how they can believe that an authoritarian “president” who has created his own street army and who then “persuades” a bunch of lame duck legislating Chavistas to give him more power is demonstrating “courage” and “daring.” The better explanation of Chávez’s moves is that they represent the actions of a coward who is so afraid of his opponents that he isn’t willing to face a new legislature where the opposition will only comprise 40% of its membership. A journalist attempting to be objective would have at least settled for “aggressive” — or, even better, “controversial,” a word the establishment press routinely applies to mainstream sensible conservative ideas — instead of the clearly complimentary “bold.”

Here are a few more paragraphs from Mr. James:

In a single week, he has used an outgoing National Assembly packed with loyalists to gain new abilities to crack down on critics – over the air, on the Internet, in universities and from independent organizations that get foreign funding. He also has obtained broad powers to bypass Venezuela’s legislature and enact laws by decree for the next year and a half.

Chavez is likely to use the new powers to try to strengthen his political footing as he prepares for the next presidential election in less than two years.

Opponents are denouncing the maneuvers as a virtual “coup d’etat” before a new legislature takes office Jan. 5 with enough opposition lawmakers to prevent passage of some types of major laws.

“What the outgoing National Assembly is doing is taking advantage of Christmas to legislate behind the country’s back,” said Julio Borges, an opposition congressman-elect. “They’re approving a bunch of laws that are aimed solely at concentrating power.”

“We are advancing toward a dictatorship,” Roman Catholic Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino told Globovision television on Friday. He said officials should consider “the very great responsibility they will have before history and before God if they try to impose a totalitarian dictatorship.”

Sadly, James’s “bold” report is yet another in a very long list of examples of the establishment press’s fascination and nearly explicit support for Latin American dictators and thugs. Current or previous examples include Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Chile’s Salvador Allende in the 1970s, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Recently Manuel Zelaya, who “was (justifiably) removed from the Honduran presidency by that country’s Supreme Court and Congress on June 28 for violations of the constitution,” was supported by Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the Obama administration and treated with general sympathy in the U.S. establishment press.

It is reasonable to ask how we can trust the AP or others in the establishment press to perform their alleged watchdog function in the U.S. in the face of authoritarian moves by the Obama administration when their sympathies with Latin American and other thugs are so consistent and obvious. The answer, of course, is that we can’t.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.