February 17, 2011

In Wis. Standoff, AP Reporter Claims Pending Legislation Would ‘End a Half-Century of Collective Bargaining,’ Then Contradicts Himself

WisconsinHosniMubarakSignThe Associated Press’s Scott Bauer opened his report (“Wis. lawmakers flee state to block anti-union bill”) from Madison, Wisconsin today by completely misrepresenting the nature of the legislation involved in the current standoff:

Faced with a near-certain Republican victory that would end a half-century of collective bargaining for public workers, Wisconsin Democrats retaliated with the only weapon they had left: They fled.

Wow. That’s pretty serious. Any reasonable reader of that paragraph would believe that evil Republican Governor Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature aim to end all collective-bargaining rights, break up the Badger State’s public-sector unions and relegate them to the ash heap of history.

But that’s not what’s at stake, as Bauer himself, after repeating the falsehood in his 34th paragraph, finally revealed what his definition of “elimination” is in Paragraph 36:

In addition to eliminating collective-bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage – increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.

Republican leaders said they expected Wisconsin residents would be pleased with the savings the bill would achieve – $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.

Geez, Scott, if “unions could still represent workers,” they still have “collective-bargaining rights” — perhaps not as extensive as before, but they still have ‘em. Zheesh.

What Bauer’s opener does is ensure that news readers, listeners, and viewers around the country who are fed the AP’s copy at subscribing outlets tonight and tomorrow will get a false impression that the dispute in Wisconsin is all about completely ending union representation of all public-sector employees. Clearly, that’s not the case — but almost no one will get to Paragraph 36.

A paragraph from the middle of Bauer’s report which might as well have come from a joint Democrat-union press release (maybe it did) shows that it’s not exactly difficult to determine where his sympathies lie:

Across the Wisconsin Statehouse, Democrats showed up in the Assembly chamber wearing orange T-shirts that proclaimed their support for working families.

As would be expected, Bauer also glossed over the incivility of the legislation’s opponents, only acknowledging that:

  • “Protesters unleashed venomous boos and screams at Republicans.”
  • “Some others even demonstrated outside lawmakers’ homes.”
  • “Nine people were given citations for minor acts of civil disobedience.”

Bauer “somehow” missed hateful protest signs (here and here; Update: much more here), the recruiting of out-of-state demonstrators by the unions, and the mess the demonstrators left behind.

Bauer also did not identify the level of Wisconsin public-sector wages. Michelle Malkin did, with averages and hundreds upon hundreds of specifics. That’s ironic, because if we are to believe FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, it’s the AP that’s practicing “real journalism,” and folks like Malkin are only providing “too much opinion based on opinion and too little news based on fact.”

Hardly.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Missing From AP’s Report on January Housing Starts and Permits: January 2011 Trailed January 2010

On Wednesday, with a bit of an assist from the Census Bureau’s seasonalizers, the Associated Press’s Derek Kravitz, with the help of Martin Crutsinger, covered the Bureau’s just-published January data on housing starts and building permits. Though no one could accuse the AP pair of excessive cheerleading, they missed the most important comparison: How did January 2011 compare to January 2010? The answer: It was worse.

Here are key passages from their writeup:

Apartments pushed home construction up in January

Home construction rose at the fastest rate in 20 months, pushed up by a spike in apartment building. But construction of single-family homes declined, a sign that demand for housing remains weak. [1]

Builders broke ground on new homes and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 596,000 units, a 14.6 percent jump from December.

Single-family homes, which make up nearly 70 percent of new construction, fell 1 percent to an annual rate of 417,000 units. [2] Multifamily construction, a more volatile category, skyrocketed 80 percent to an annual rate of 171,000 units.

Last year, builders worked on 587,600 new homes, just barely better than the 554,000 started in 2009. [3] … The housing industry is coming off the worst two years for home construction dating back to 1959. [4]

… Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist with Barclays Capital, said home building is unlikely to see a turnaround until builders can sell off most of the homes sitting idle on the market and there are fewer foreclosures to compete with.

Economists are watching the pace of multifamily construction, which includes housing with five or more units, to see if it continues to rise throughout 2011.

… Building permits, an indicator of future construction, fell more than 10 percent in January. Code changes in California, Pennsylvania and New York caused an artificial spike the month before. Builders in those states rushed to file new permits before those changes went into effect in the new year.

Notes:

  • [1] — This may seem like quibbling, but as you’ll see, it’s not. An “apartment” is not a “home.” The Census Bureau refers to “housing units,” which is the term the pair should have used. Readers can see how misleading the report’s first phrase is when used in isolation (especially without the term “seasonally adjusted”), as I would think occurred in many radio and TV broadcasts throughout the country at AP-subscribing outlets.
  • [2] — Derek and Marty seemed impressed with the idea of reporting the best news in 20 months about seasonally adjusted total starts, but “somehow” missed the fact that seasonally adjusted single-family starts were the lowest since May 2009′s figure of 406,000. That’s also 20 months, guys. The raw number of 25,600 single-family starts (i.e., the not seasonally adjusted number, as in what really happened) is the third-lowest in any reported month in the 52 years related records have been kept.
  • [3] — AP’s 2010 figure for starts is not correct. As shown here, it’s 586,800, because November and December were both revised downward. AP did not mention any downward revisions. Also, the term “worked on” as a synonym for starts is incorrect, as it assumes that the only homes “worked on” were those that were started during 2010. What about the 495,400 homes that were under construction at the end of 2009? I’m pretty sure that builders didn’t just snap their fingers and finish them without any effort.
  • [4] — Kravitz and Crutsinger, in quoting figures only for starts, are trying to imply that 2010 was a better year for the housing industry than 2009. It wasn’t:

    HousingData2010v2009021611

    While permits and starts were up slightly, two much more important numbers, completions and sales, seriously tanked. Additionally the December 2010 figure of 410,700 homes under construction at the end of 2010 was 17% lower than the 2009′s 495,400. Sorry, Derek and Marty, 2010 was easily the worst year in homebuilding — not since 1959, which you are implying was even worse (which it wasn’t), but since World War II.

Also worth noting, which Kravitz and Crutsinger didn’t: January’s total starts and permits trailed January 2010 by 2% and 9%, respectively. Completions, a number the press chooses to consistently ignore, were down by a stunning 24% (35,200 vs. 46,300) from January 2010.

Though the news on January new home sales is still pending, the Census Bureau’s information to date tells us that the housing industry’s 2011 started off even worse than 2010. That’s the real story. It’s not in the AP’s coverage.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Nir Rosen, Per AP: ‘Tweets about Egypt assault (of Lara Logan) not serious’; Did AP See What Happened?

brief unbylined Associated Press item today with a 9:15 a.m. time stamp, which appears to be based solely on an e-mail to an AP reporter (no other source for the quotes are cited), tells us that Nir Rosen seems to be backtracking from his Twitter claim of being “ashamed of how I have hurt others” in his comments about CBS reporter Lara Logan, who was sexually assaulted by a Cairo mob on February 11.

The report also has an odd final sentence (not in the screen grab which follows) that could reasonably be interpreted as an admission that wire service personnel either saw or knew of what happened to Logan, and failed to report it:

APonNirRosen021711

The wire service describes Rosen as having held “a fellowship at New York University’s Center on Law and Security” before he resigned.

In the final paragraph of the report, the AP also seems to be preemptively defending itself against a potential charge of being complicit in covering up the story of Logan’s assault, which CBS kept quiet for four days:

The Associated Press does not name victims of sexual assault unless they agree to be identified.

The New York Post and the New York Daily News appear to be the outlets that carried the first news of the assault on Tuesday.

The likelihood that an AP reporter or stringer saw a part of what happened, or at the very least knew about it, is not small. The wire service’s Sarah El Deeb and Hadeel El-Shalchi were in Cairo on the 11th. Here are samples of what they reported:

Mubarak leaves and Egypt celebrates

One Egyptian kissed the ground. Another rolled in ecstasy in the grass outside a presidential palace. People wept, jumped, screamed and hugged each other with a shared joy they had never known. Cairo erupted in a cacophony of celebration: fireworks and car horns and gunshots in the air.

… “The people have toppled the regime,” chanted protesters, whose 18 days of swelling protests tipped Egypt into a crisis that the autocratic government could not undo.

“This is the happiest day in my generation,” said Ali al-Tayab, a demonstrator who paid tribute to those who died in clashes with police and Mubarak supporters. “To the martyrs, this is your day.

… At a presidential palace in Cairo, where demonstrators had gathered in the thousands, people flashed the V-for-victory sign and shouted, “Be happy, Egyptians, today is a feast” and “He stepped down.”

Crowds packed Tahrir Square, the scene of massive protests against Mubarak that began on Jan. 25. The celebrations continued early Saturday, with throngs of people milling around in downtown Cairo.

In Tahrir Square, protesters heard the announcement on mobile telephone radios that they passed back and forth. They broke into cheers and some formed a conga line, winding through the packed area.

… Mohammed el-Masry, who marched to the presidential palace, said he had spent the past two weeks living in the protest encampment at Tahrir Square. He also wept.

According CBS, as quoted in the New York Post, Logan’s assault occurred “in Cairo’s Tahrir Square when ‘her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.’”

It seems more than a little likely that the AP reporters who we know were in Tahrir Square as well as stringers they may have also used would have seen something. The odd paragraph at the end of the AP report seems to be a backhanded acknowledgment that they did, and failed to report it. If that’s the case, given that their coverage presented an undiluted portrait of a “cacophony of celebration,” that’s negligent journalism, plain and simple.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Lucid Links (021711, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:58 am

John Kasich is in richly deserved hot water for “call(ing) a Columbus police officer an ‘idiot’ for giving him a traffic ticket in 2008.”

Six words, John, that are four weeks overdue: “I was wrong. I am sorry.” From your mouth, not your spokesman’s mouth.

Update, Feb. 18: Kasich did the right thing on Thursday —

Kasich Apologizes to Traffic Cop for Calling Him an ‘Idiot’

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday personally apologized to the police officer he repeatedly called an idiot last month for pulling him over in a traffic stop three years ago.

“Today Gov. Kasich met with Officer [Robert] Barrett and apologized and that apology was graciously accepted,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said in a statement to FoxNews.com. It was a friendly meeting during which the governor reiterated his support for law enforcement officers and for the dangerous and important work they do.”

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Speaking of politicians acting badly:

By a 233 to 199 vote, the House approved a budget amendment stripping funds for the F-35’s backup engine. The vote does not mean that the measure is dead; after the House votes on hundreds of other amendments, the temporary spending measure for this year goes to the Senate. That body rejected the funding last year, but the funding was restored in a compromise budget measure.

Still, the vote threw into sharp relief the power of the new GOP freshman in the House, many of whom were elected with Tea Party support on promises to end earmarks and cut spending. Many also saw the vote as a test of their willingness to reduce military spending.

Some of those freshman have aligned with opponents of the extra engine, which include President Obama and the Pentagon, in decrying the engine as a waste of taxpayer money. On Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Gates reiterated his opposition to the House Armed Services Committee, calling it an “unnecessary and extravagant expense.”

The backup engine is a GE-Rolls Royce project. Bot the Bush Pentagon and the Obama Pentagon have said they don’t need it and don’t want it.

A review of the roll call vote indicates that Ohio’s and Indiana’s entire congressional delegations voted to continue the funding (that’s what “No” meant in this case), apparently in the name of preserving Ohio jobs. That includes alleged fiscal stalwarts like Pence, Boehner, Latta, Burton, Chabot, and Jordan, as well as knee-jerk anti-Pentagon types like Kucinich and Kaptur. Sorry, guys and gals, there isn’t a justification for continuing what the Pentagon says is a totally wasteful effort.

If the reps are smart, they’ll tell GE and Rolls Royce that they gave it their best shot, give up the fight, and hope that no one besides yours truly notices how badly everyone has acted on this.

Update, Feb. 18: From the Cincinnati Enquirer, John Boehner is being smart. Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown aren’t —

But House Speaker John Boehner, whose district is just north of the plant, declined to say whether he’d exert his own pressure to restore the funding.

“I am committed to the House working its will,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference. “This is not about me. This is not about my district.”

… Portman, of Terrace Park, and Brown, of Lorain, said they’d work to restore funding once the spending bill reaches the Senate. It was expected to pass the House late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

”I’m going to continue to fight for it because I think it’s the right thing,” Portman told reporters Thursday. ”Not only because it represents jobs in Ohio … but it’s the right thing for the taxpayers and the right thing for the military.”

Rob Portman apparently knows more than two defense secretaries, Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates — both of whom are opposed to the alternative engine — combined.

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More politicians acting really badly:

The Obama administration’s statement that the government will not be adding to the debt by the middle of the decade clashes hard against the facts, Republicans say, leaving officials straining to justify the budget claim they’ve pushed repeatedly over the past few days.

As it turns out, the administration is not counting interest payments.

… To put the scenario in everyday terms, it’s like a family claiming that they’ve balanced the family finances, but neglecting to mention that they’re taking out a new loan every month to pay off credit-card interest. As a result, the family keeps going deeper into debt.

For an $80 interest payment, that might be manageable. But this is the United States budget. If the government does what the Obama administration is recommending, net interest payments will go from about $200 billion this year to $844 billion in a decade. That’s more than the country spends now on Social Security.

As I wrote in my column yesterday, the White House budget is an “utterly unserious” document.

Positivity: 64-Year-Old Kayaker Completes Trans-Atlantic Voyage

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Acarau, Brazil:

February 10, 2011 | 6:25 pm

These days, thanks to technological advancements in air and sea travel, crossing the Atlantic is usually no big deal. But crossing the Atlantic by yourself in a kayak? Now that’s still something worth celebrating.

Aleksander Doba, a 64-year-old native of Poland, took off from Dakar, capital of the west African nation of Senegal, back on Oct. 26. After 98 days, 23 hours, 42 minutes at sea, Doba and his custom 23-foot-long, 39-inch-wide human-powered kayak landed at Acaraú, a city on Brazil’s northeast coast. The trip covered some 3,320 miles in all, and Doba became only the fourth known person to accomplish such a feat, and the very first to do it nonstop.

Of course, Doba encountered his fair share of obstacles along the way — age, a broken desalination unit, 20-foot swells and stifling equatorial heat — but none of that would deter him, as he survived on dehydrated food products, candy and fish (which he caught along the way). He also made time to collect rainwater for drinking, communicate by sat phone (recharged by solar panels lining his vessel), and even send out a few tweets. …

Go here for the rest of the story.