February 14, 2011

‘Name That Party’ Business As Usual: AP Report Fails to Tag Bell, Cal. ‘Pigs’ As Dems

namethatparty

Back in August and September, Lachlan Markay at NewsBusters did roundups of media infamy in connection with the exposure and subsequent arrests of eight officials and politicians associated with Bell, California. The cases involve abusively excessive salaries and benefits paid and allegedly kept secret from the city’s residents.

During the August episode of media malfeasance when the story was first breaking, Markay found that “of the 351 stories (found vis Lexis Nexis) on the then-brewing controversy, 350 had omitted party affiliations, and one had mentioned they were Democrats only in apologizing for not doing so sooner.” In September, when eight arrests were made, he further noted that “ABC, CBS, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and the San Francisco Chronicle all reported on the arrests today without mentioning party affiliations.”

Naturally you would expect, in reporting some of the seamier details found in court documents filed on Monday, that the Associated Press’s John Rogers would again fail to tag Bell officials as Dems, and of course he didn’t. Too bad — he could have noted how these donkeys described themselves as pigs (bolds, which should not be missed, are mine):

E-mail: City officials joked of acting like pigs

The two top officials in the scandal-ridden California city of Bell illegally paid themselves hugely inflated salaries and created a paper trail to hide their actions while joking that they were acting like pigs, according to a document filed in court Monday by the district attorney’s office.

E-mails and other documents from former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia’s computer will show that beginning in 2005 she and former City Manager Robert Rizzo created phony contracts never approved by the City Council that raised their salaries to “outrageous” levels and made it difficult to determine exactly how much they were being paid, according to the 19-page memorandum from District Attorney Steve Cooley.

What’s more, prosecutors said, when the city began receiving state public records requests for the officials’ salaries last year, Rizzo had Mayor Oscar Hernandez sign backdated contracts approving the payments, although Hernandez was not the mayor when the contracts were written.

The memorandum was submitted for a preliminary hearing scheduled later this week to determine if there is sufficient evidence for Rizzo, Spaccia, Hernandez and former Councilman Luis Artiga to stand trial on charges of looting the blue-collar suburb of $5.5 million.

… The document filed Monday called Rizzo a “godfather of sorts” who was able to bilk the city that employed him for years because he used nearly $2 million of public money to make loans to dozens of people, including Hernandez and Artiga, when they were going through hard economic times. In exchange, prosecutors say, the elected officials and numerous other people did his bidding.

The two (Spaccia and Bell’s former police chief Randy Adams) also joke by e-mail of enriching themselves at the expense of Bell, a modest, working-class suburb of Los Angeles where one in six people live in poverty.

“I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell’s money,” Adams writes at one point, according to the memo.

“LOL . well you can take your share of the pie . just like us,” Spaccia allegedly replies. She goes on to say that one of Rizzo’s favorite sayings is that pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered.

These donkeys who joked about being pigs didn’t seem to comprehend that they were already living like hogs at the expense of Bell’s taxpayers for years. I hope it’s not considered uncivil (actually, I don’t care) to suggest that a quite a few years in the hogs’ hell known as prison would be useful lesson for these parasites — and other donkeys inclined to imitate them.

As to the AP, for the umpteenth time, here is the Stylebook standard of “The Essential Global News Network”:

Party Affiliation – Let relevance be the guide in determining whether to include a political figure’s party affiliation in a story. Party affiliation is pointless in some stories, such as an account of a governor accepting a button from a poster child.

It will occur naturally in many political stories. For stories between these extremes, include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is.

No one can credibly argue that party affiliation is irrelevant in this story, that readers don’t need to know it, or that they aren’t likely to be curious. It is credible to argue that John Rogers and the wire service would prefer that readers not know that eight of the most crooked pols in recent memory are members of the so-called party of compassion.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Looking Back at Recent Federal Spending, AP’s Andrew Taylor Only Counts ‘Two Years of Big Increases’

It’s going to be a long year for those of us who review Associated Press reports Uncle Sam’s finances for evidence of bias and ignorance. Sometimes it seems that it would be easier to highlight the rare examples of fairness and balance.

Take the first sentence of Andrew Taylor’s report on President Obama’s 2012 budget (please; that goes for his report and the budget). It, in combination with the oh-so-predictable headline, makes you want to stop reading on in disgust (for the purposes of this post, I did endure the whole thing; bold is mine):

Obama budget: Some cuts, not the slashes GOP asks

Putting on the brakes after two years of big spending increases, President Barack Obama unveiled a $3.7 trillion budget plan Monday that would freeze or reduce some safety-net programs for the nation’s poor but turn aside Republican demands for more drastic cuts to shrink the government to where it was before he took office.

It’s pretty bad when you can’t get past the opening clause without detecting an obvious howler.

“Two years” of big spending increases? We wish (sources: 2011-2013; White House Budget Summary Tables; 2007-2010; Sept. 2008 and Sept. 2010 Monthly Treasury Statements):

WhiteHouseProjs2011ti2013andReported2007to2010

I count three out of four, which would turn into four out of four if the administration hadn’t played accounting games in 2009 and 2010:

  • 2007 to 2008, the first budget year where Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House and Harry Reid was Majority Leader of the Senate (with Barack Obama and Joe Biden as members): +9.2%
  • 2008 to 2009: +18.2%
  • 2009 to 2010: -1.8%
  • 2010 to 2011, the last budget year where Pelosi and Reid were in theory supposed to pass a budget, but never did: +10.5%

But if the non-cash accounting entry games described here are incorporated into the numbers, fiscal 2009 spending would have been (i.e., should have been) $115 billion lower, and fiscal 2010 spending would have been $115 higher. Reflecting those adjustments, the spending increases, in order, would be 9.1%, 14.4%, 4.8%, and 6.9%. All of these qualify as “big,” when one considers that inflation during the respective 12-month periods ending in September was 4.9% in 2008, -1.4% in 2009, 1.1% in 2010, and after one quarter is on track to be about 1.4% in 2011.

The administration’s projected fiscal 2011 spending represents a 40% increase over fiscal 2007, and 28% over fiscal 2008. Its fiscal 2012 spending proposal of $3.73 trillion is a 37% increase over fiscal 2008, and 25% over fiscal 2012.

Would someone please tell Andrew Taylor that all of these numbers are, like, really big?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

License to Gouge Consumers (Robert Roll Column)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Rob Roll @ 3:36 pm

Did you know that cat groomers pose a threat to the public safety? Apparently so do music therapists, caterers, hairstylists, florists, interior designers, private detectives, retailers of frozen desserts, glass installers, and, my personal favorite, boxing promoters. What do all of these professions have in common? They are professions in which a state license is required to provide the service.

The theory behind licensing is that it ensures that people who are in jobs that could cause harm to the public were competent. I tend to agree with this line of logic. I do not want a semi-truck operator barreling down the highway unless he knows what he is doing. I do not want an incapable engineer building a bridge that I have drive on. Where I have a problem with required licensure is when it deals with those professions that have no bearing on public safety. I am not aware of any conceivable situation in which an inept hairstylist could cause mass death or destruction.

The problem with licensure is that it prevents entrepreneurship and drives up prices for consumers. Most licensing programs require people to attend a certain number of hours of class and pay fees. These requirements discourage people, especially those with low incomes, from trying a new trade and becoming proficient in a skill.

Requiring certain professionals to get and maintain licenses drives up prices for consumers for two reasons. First, those who are required to get licenses pass the costs of their classes onto the consumers. In addition to that, licensure requirements increase start-up costs and therefore prevent competition, once again driving up prices to the consumer. It is for this reason that those who argue for an industry to be licensed are already employed in that industry. They try to protect their profits by erecting barriers to keep out would-be competitors.

I think it also should be noted that all of these licensure regulations requires government bureaucrats to enforce the regulations, which costs the taxpayers money. While I admit that these costs are small in comparison to the size of the government, they are a drain on the taxpayer nonetheless.

There are those who say “what is the problem with ensuring that the services we get are quality?” There is no problem with that at all. It is just that we do not need the government to do it for us. You do not need the government to tell you that a person is a good florist. You can do that yourself by looking at a bouquet and seeing if you like the way it looks. If you do not, then you do not have to buy the bouquet. The bad florist loses the sale and, if enough people think their bouquets are ugly, they go out of business. This is how a free market regulates itself and insures the quality of products.

Most of these the professions that I have mentioned are basic, blue-collar service jobs. But what about white-collar jobs like lawyers or CPAs? Why must they be licensed? Isn’t it an affront to my rights as a consumer not to have the choice between a certified and uncertified professional? If I hired a person who has not passed the bar exam to represent me in court, and I lose, who is harmed except me? To be clear, I am not saying that we should do away with certification exams and procedures. I am just saying they should be voluntary. If a person goes through law school and passes the bar exam, they would definitely enhance their résumé enhancer and lend their abilities more credibility. Therefore they could demand higher pay.

Some will worry that not requiring a company’s books to be audited by CPAs will encourage fraud and misrepresentation of financial reports. This is once again a place where the market can regulate itself. Let us say that a company hired an uncertified accountant to audit their records, who would put trust in that company’s financial statements? No one. If no one trusted the accuracy of a firm’s financial statements, who would invest in that firm company? This is why a company would still hire CPAs to audit their books even when they are not forced to by the law.

The question of why certifications exist is sure to upset more than a few people who are enjoying the higher pay (at the expense of the consumer) and the limited competition that comes from shutting competitors out of the marketplace. But it is a question that should be asked.

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Robert Roll is a freshman majoring in Finance at Ohio Northern University, and the blog owner’s nephew.

Watch This: Who’s Watching the Fed?

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:35 pm

It will be difficult and it will be a bit boring, but it will be revealing (original link).

The questioner is obviously not one of my favorite people, but that doesn’t change the fact that in May of 2009 he was asking good questions, and getting nothing but pathetic non-answers and stalling from the Inspector General of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve:

I tried to pick the lowest of the lowlights. The whole thing is so appalling that I couldn’t do it.

Almost two years later, who wants to bet that anyone with oversight responsibility at the Fed has any clue about what the Fed has been doing in its quantitative easing programs and off-balance sheet transactions?

Ron Paul is not necessarily one of my favorite people either. But it should be drop-dead obvious that the Fed needs the top-to-bottom audit by an independent public accounting firm Paul has called for and is continuing to pursue. I certainly haven’t heard a credible reason why that shouldn’t happen — ASAP.

Funny With Numbers: AP’s Crutsinger Minimizes Federal Spending Level, Avoids the Term ‘Tax Increase’ (See ‘We Get Results’ Update)

Note: This post has been brought to the top so the update below would have greater visibility.

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Sadly, one could write a term paper identifying and correcting the clever misstatements and obfuscations contained in Martin Crutsinger’s Sunday report (since updated; original is still present here) for the Associated Press on the impending submission of the President’s 2012 budget by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Lacking such space, I’ll concentrate on what I believe are the two worst examples, both of which are present in his opening paragraph. Crutsinger significantly misleads about the total spending the administration is proposing for fiscal 2012, and fails to call a tax increase by its proper name, i.e., a tax increase.

That first paragraph reads as follows:

President Barack Obama will send Congress on Monday a $3 trillion-plus budget for 2012 that promises $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade by freezing many domestic programs for five years, trimming military spending and limiting tax deductions for the wealthy.

The obvious question is: “$3 trillion plus what, Martin?” A reasonable reader would believe that the “plus” part would be somewhat small. I would ordinarily expect that amount to be less than $100 billion; beyond that point, it should be described as “$3.1 trillion.”

The real number is almost undoubtedly north of $3.5 trillion.

That’s because the January 2011 projection from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that it expects fiscal 2012 spending to come in at $3.655 trillion:

CBO2010to2013

The reductions in anticipated spending OMB proposes, per Crutsinger’s paragraph, amount to $1.1 trillion over 10 years, or an average of $110 billion a year. If OMB’s projected impact on fiscal 2012 is 10% of the total (my guess is that it’s less, because the Washington game is to push as much spending reduction as possible into far-off years), the $110 billion result would leave spending at $3.545 trillion. Only in AP-Land is it acceptable to round a number that is closer to $4 trillion down to “$3 trillion-plus.”

Obviously, the idea of “limiting tax deductions for the wealthy” is simply a “tax increase” by a fancier name. Later in the report, Crutsinger cites an anonymous source who “said (that) one-third of the $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction the administration is projecting over the next decade would come from additional revenue with the bulk of that reflecting the limitations on tax deductions by the wealthy.” Again, note the failure to use the phrase tax i-i-i-i … increases.

But wait a minute. If the mix of deficit reduction is 1/3 tax increases and 2/3 spending reductions, then the $110 billion reduction in spending estimated above is really only about $75 billion, leaving spending closer to $3.6 trillion (actually, $3.58 trillion). You can see why I make such a fuss over “$3 trillion-plus.”

I’ll have to stop here, or this will turn into a term paper. It would appear that any adequately disclosed federal fiscal truth that comes out of the AP in the coming weeks will occur only by accident.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: For possible inclusion in the “We Get Results” file, the original AP link above has now been updated for today’s White House budget submission.

Marty Crutsinger’s headline: “Obama sends Congress $3.73 trillion budget.”

The first sentence: “President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion budget Monday that holds out the prospect of eventually bringing deficits under control through spending cuts and tax increases.”

Wow, he even wrote “tax increases.” That’s much better, Marty — but you still didn’t get it right when it mattered most.

30-Minute Drill: Quick Hit Headlines (021411, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 10:27 am

30 minutes, no timeouts:

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The Obama administration predicts a deficit of $1.65 trillion in fiscal 2011, which includes $3.73 trillion in spending. This is the amount the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger, who reported that he had access to the White House’s information for a Sunday evening report, described as “$3 trillion-plus.”

Related, from Bloomberg: “Barack Obama may lose the advantage of low borrowing costs as the U.S. Treasury Department says what it pays to service the national debt is poised to triple amid record budget deficits.”

Also related, from the House Speaker’s web site: “150 Economists Call for Spending Cuts to Boost the Economy.”

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From Reuters, not exactly a pro-democracy wave: “Gaddafi tells Palestinians: revolt against Israel.” Claudia Rossett at Pajamas Media believes this he is saying this because he is scared.

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Nanny State Gone Wild: “Use of e-cigs not allowed on US flights”

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John at Powerline reacts to Time’s blunder in falling for the Palin-Aguilera anthem satire, and then not really admitting they were fooled — “Newsweek recently sold for a dollar. At the rate Time is going, Newsweek may soon be eyeing it as a takeover target.”

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Shirley Sherrod is suing Andrew Breitbart. Well, she has deep pockets.

Official AG Office Response from Ohio AG Mike DeWine Concerning Obamacare Implementation (Re-post)

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:23 am

Note: This item went up on Friday evening. I have re-posted it to give it deserved visibility.

Mike DeWine won the Attorney General’s race by roughly 50,000 votes in November, largely on his promise to fight Obamacare and “not sit on the sidelines.” His office’s response on Friday demonstrates that he is not keeping that promise.

The Obama administration IS acting “contrary to his (Judge Vinson’s) determination,” yet Ohio’s Attorney General give no indication that he has any interest in doing something about it. From here, it looks like dereliction of duty.

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Received at 4:45 p.m. from Lisa Hackley of the Attorney General’s press office, looked at for the first time at 8:15 p.m.:

We are aware of the concerns, and the Attorney General will continue to monitor events closely to see what in fact develops. Judge Vinson in our case said that he expects that the federal authorities will not act contrary to his determination, and we will be watching the Obama Administration’s conduct. The Attorney General fully expects the issue of Obamacare’s unconstitutionality will go to the Supreme Court, where he believes that we have a very strong case.

This response is not acceptable in the circumstances.

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Previous Posts:

  • Feb. 10 — “TIB Radio Preview: AG DeWine and the Federal Court Ruling Voiding Obamacare”
  • Feb. 7 — “Mike DeWine’s Core Campaign Promise to Fight ObamaCare Remains Unkept (UPDATE: AG’s Response Requested)”
  • Feb. 4 — “Mark Levin: ‘Barack Obama … the Attorney General … the Secretary of HHS … Are Conducting Themselves in a Lawless Fashion’”

Positivity: Couple gets married on a real love train in Philly

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Philadelphia:

Feb 13, 8:10 PM EST

When people ask Krisy Plourde and Tom Golden where they got married, their answer will be a rough estimate: somewhere around 46th Street.

Plourde and Golden said their vows aboard an elevated train on Sunday, just ahead of Valentine’s Day.

The nuptials, performed by Mayor Michael Nutter, took place on a special train from City Hall to west Philadelphia. While Plourde and Golden, both 28, were being wed in the first car, about 360 other riders were getting a narrated tour of the “Love Letter” series of rooftop murals that parallel the tracks.

It was perhaps the most memorable Love Train in the city since the early 1970s, when Philadelphia International Records released the O’Jays’ hit song by the same name.

Operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the Market-Frankford line train was decorated Sunday with red hearts on the outside and white garlands on the inside. It was a sharp departure from the couple’s original plan to wed on an ocean liner.

“People get married on cruises all the time,” Golden, an engineer, said after the ceremony. “Who gets married by the mayor of Philadelphia on the SEPTA El?”

The Love Train was sponsored by the city’s Mural Arts Program to promote a mammoth project by artist Steve Powers. Mixing graphics with funky, bright lettering, Powers painted on upper-story row house walls about 50 larger-than-life love notes, such as “Forever begins when you say yes” and “Holler and hear my heartbeat.”

The murals, which run along 20 blocks of El track, are a tribute to what Powers has called the lost art of sign painting. He also describes them as his love letter to west Philadelphia, where he grew up as a graffiti tagger before going legit.

The art already has a reputation for romance. A few months ago, Mural Arts officials arranged an on-board serenade for a man who wanted to propose to his fiancee as they rode out to see the murals.

Mural program executive director Jane Golden, no relation to the groom, called Sunday’s Love Train event “a combination of public art, romance and the incredible spirit of Philadelphians.”

Plourde and Tom Golden met several years ago on their first day as freshmen at Drexel University in Philadelphia. They became friends but didn’t date, and they lost touch after graduation. They reconnected through mutual friends in 2008 and have been together ever since. …

Go here for the rest of the story.