March 18, 2011

AP U.S. Reporters Withholding Their Bylines, Not Their Bias

Most readers here aren’t aware that Associated Press reporters began withholding their bylines this week in support of their union’s “quality journalism proposals.” Participating reporters are refusing to have their name placed on AP stories. It appears to apply to stories datelined in the U.S. and not overseas (as seen here).

It is truly a wonder that the world has gone on while AP reporters refuse to tell us who wrote the wire service’s U.S. stories (/sarc).

The byline strike springs from the wire service’s refusal, according to the News Media Guild, the union which represents AP newsroom personnel, to accept a “fixed-cost pension plan.” The AP wants a defined-contribution plan (i.e., something similar or identical to a 401(k)).

Here are some economy, business, and political “gems” appearing at AP during the past few days which can’t be traced to a specific reporter:

March 18, 11:33 a.m. version, “Why inflation hurts more than it did 30 years ago” — the writer asserts that “Social Security recipients have gone two straight years with no increase in benefits.” Well, yeah. That’s because they got a 5.8% increase late 2008 for 2009, because the calculations were based on Consumer Price Index values reflecting sky-high energy costs. The costs came down, but Social Security benefits didn’t. They may not like hearing it, but beneficiaries got artificially high payments during 2009 (to a large extent) and 2010 (to a lesser extent). The jury is out on 2011, as the year has just begun, but in the past two years Social Security recipients and a large percentage of federal, state, and local government workers have been among the relatively few to get benefits and wage payments, respectively, exceeding inflation.

March 18, 3:19 p.m. version, “Activist O’Keefe won’t be videotaped himself” — You would think from the headline that O’Keefe never wants to be videotaped. There was only one incident in question, on Thursday in New Jersey. Somehow we’re supposed to think it’s hypocritical of O’Keefe to make such a decision. The AP reporter involved is either unaware or not at all bothered that this past weekend the Gridiron Club refused to let CSPAN tape the annual dinner held with the President and hundreds of journalists.

March 16, 6:20 p.m. version, “New-home construction plunges in February” — Though the report was about as gloomy as it needed to be, as usual (and to be fair, this is a pervasive problem in the business press), the AP writer stuck to reporting on seasonally adjusted annualized numbers from the Census Bureau and ignored the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) monthly data. As noted here, February’s on-the-ground total of 32,700 was the the lowest for any February in over 50 years of recordkeeping, and the second lowest for any month ever. The 35,900 building permits issued was the lowest for any recorded month ever, lower than January’s 36,000, which was the previous record low.

March 17, 4:32 p.a. version, from the cheerleading section — “Strong economic data points to more hiring.” Key sentence: “Economic data released Thursday suggest that March will be the second straight month of strong job growth.” First, the data isn’t that clear cut (unemployment claims came in at a seasonally adjusted 385,000, while the prior week was revised upward to 401,000), and second, we’re only halfway through the month, making it way too early to break out the pom-poms.

March 17, 1:34 p.m. version, “Consumer prices rise 0.5 pct., most since June ’09 — The reporter reassured us “economists said there is little sign that price increases outside of food and energy will get out of hand,” and quoted one person to support that assertion, with no rebuttal. Meanwhile, over at the more measured Wall Street Journal, Kathleen Madigan wrote that “Price increases have already spread beyond gas and food.”

March 16, 1:54 p.m. version, “Republicans say new consumer bureau too powerful” — Once again, in reporting that “GOP lawmakers also challenged the bureau’s role in a push by federal agencies and the 50 state attorneys general to force five large U.S. banks to agree to make it easier for struggling homeowners to avoid foreclosure and rework their mortgages,” the AP’s reporter failed to identify the shakedown — er, amount — involved. It’s about $20 billion. Readers would be interested in knowing that.

One can clearly see that even as they withhold their bylines, AP reporters aren’t withholding their bias and ignorance.

Certain of AP’s reporters may see the byline withholding effort as a nice thing to hide behind for the time being, and may be relishing not having their names associated with their dreadful work. For that reason, perhaps the impasse will last a while. We shall see.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Reax to ‘Unemployed Need Not Apply’

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:06 am

As I noted on Tuesday in the tease, I had a few conversations this past weekend about my then-pending Pajamas Media column (now posted here; at BizzyBlog here) which led me to believe that it might generate “a bit of good old-fashioned rancor.”

Well, it did, with lots of strong support and passionate, usually thoughtful objection.

Here are some of the comments (PJM comments are mostly excerpts of longer comments found at the respective links, in order of appearance as of mid-morning today; obviously, merely listing them doesn’t constitute agreement or disagreement):

At the 1389 Blog — What our government has done to us (long-term unemployed), by deliberately destroying one sector of the economy after another, is truly evil.

(PJM) Your article does make sense, and thanks for the reminder that it is the government, not the employers, that is the source of the problem and to recognize that kind of spin.

(PJM) Excellently well put, and terribly depressing for anyone currently on the short end of the economic stick.

(PJM) Tom, you’ve provided a fair and accurate description of the realities of business. The longer this lackluster “recovery” stutters along, the more difficult it will be for the long-term un- and under-employed. And it’s difficult enough as things stand today.

(PJM) I disagree with the generalization that it is bad business to hire the long term unemployed. In my, opinion, it is the HR management theory “flavor of the month” that the long termed unemployed are bad for business.

(PJM) While I agree that government is primarily responsible, business must share the responsibility as well. When you reject someone out of hand, just because they were laid-off (not fired, to be fired is a disciplinary action taken by an employer against an employee for wrongdoing) because the company can no longer afford to keep them, you destroy that person’s humanity a little at a time.

(PJM) It is a crock. The ‘it’s just business’ method of downsizing has as many negative consequences as hiring someone that’s been out of work for an extended period (keeps the peter principle alive and well). It’s self fulfilling to exclude people from work because they’ve been out of work awhile. Anyone with any level of competence can quickly come up to speed and exceed their peers.

(PJM) Your column only adds fuel to the fire and shores up anyone who might have read stories here and there about the unemployed as being part of the new undesirables in the employment caste system of Oabama’s America. Repeat something often enough and it becomes acceptable. You did not do your readership any favors with this. You have injected fear and have more than likely demoralized many who are trying to put their lives back together. And the logic of the argument of some of these employers is mind boggling.

(PJM) You need not have given it your imprimatur.

(PJM) *sigh* The “unemployed need not apply story” has been true for approximately forever and three days, by my count.

(PJM) I’m totally unconvinced, and I don’t believe that there is any other explanation besides superficial thinking. (For the record, I’m not a liberal).

(PJM) thx sadistic Tom, hope YOU never have to sleep in your car after 20 years as a professional in IT with two university degrees…

(PJM) I know a business that made a killing out of hiring talented people with problems on their resumes, such as employment gaps. It was a brilliant decision.

(PJM) Employers resorting to not hiring long-term unemployed people who still have skills and experiences is discriminatory, unacceptable, and absolutely stupid.

(PJM) Let’s face a simple rule of thumb. A good worker is going to find a job within a few months, certainly in a year. So (true or not) most long term unemployed are going to be looked at as losers.

(PJM) I too have been unemployed for over 2 years. I have sent out over 6,800 resumes looking for a job. If I was less qualified I wouldn’t have as much trouble getting a job, or if I was more qualified I would not have trouble getting a job either. I am the “Middle Skilled” worker who used to make about 75-90K two years ago when I got laid off. … We need to make this illegal for companies to do.

(PJM) I agree with this guy 100%..after working at 1 place for 35 years they closed the doors in 2003.For the next year I drew the basic unemployment plus one whole extension. When I went back to work I had a very hard time getting into the work groove again. I know that my attitude about it had changed immensely.

(PJM) Tom, You have proven once again that those who can’t…Teach. The government is not responsible for the unemployment rate, the boys on wall street are.

(PJM) This article is obviously written by one who has never had their livelihood jerked out from under them.

(PJM) I do not see Not Hiring the Unemployed as a new phenomenon. There has always been reluctance by Corporate America to accept or hire applicants that have large gaps in their resume. Business moves so fast today; especially in the IT field that any applicant, current employee, or one who has just been laid off, must stay on the “Tools Treadmill” to remain current in their career path.

(dscott at BizzyBlog) The individual unlike the government has a choice of location. The solution to the over supply of labor in your geographic labor market is to move to one that doesn’t have that problem.

If I had free rein to revise I would probably add the bolded words to one sentence early in the column:

First, let’s grudgingly and reluctantly acknowledge that employers are mostly acting rationally.

I would also have preferred my brief title (“Unemployed Need Not Apply”) instead of the one PJM used, but it’s their site, and their decision.

I’m not happy that employers are doing this (there is no good reason why anyone would think I am). Based on their experience, businesses are doing what they believe they have to do to keep their job searches efficient and effective, thereby in many cases excluding the unemployed from consideration. It’s not a stretch to believe that many of them are not happy to have to do things this way.

But, as several commenters above indicated — as have several others with whom I have separately spoken, though many of them believe that employers are making the wrong call — the reality is what it is, and we shouldn’t be hiding from it.

The ultimate point is that if the Obama administration had embarked on policies designed to generate a legitimate recovery, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Employers would have to abandon their natural inclination not to hire the unemployed to meet increased customer demand for products and services in a quickly-growing economy.

We don’t have that, and it’s nobody’s fault but the creators and perpetuators of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy.

Lickety-Split Links (031811, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:35 am

Harry Reid doesn’t think we need to do anything about Social Security for 20 years (HT Steve at NRE).

As I noted last Friday, Charles Krauthammer negated this nonsense about a week ago.

Steve also points out that Reid may even be wrong on his 20-year claim. Thanks to the ongoing POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, Social Security’s actuaries have blown their near-term cash flow forecasts by $82 billion, with the system consistently paying out more in benefits than it is collecting in taxes right now. The full impact of this ongoing shortfall was not known when the system’s trustees issued their report last year, when they projected the need for a 25% across-the-board benefit reduction in 2037 if nothing is done. Steve thinks that the year of the draconian benefit cut is now more like 2029. That’s 18 years, Harry.

Beyond that, Harry missed the part of last year’s report where the Trustees said that the Disability Fund would be totally depleted by 2018. That’s only seven years, Harry.

This train wreck has been at the station for well over a year, and Reid’s walking around the debris as if there’s been no damage. The irresponsibility is breathtaking.

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Even libs are having a hard time with our President engaging in bracketology in the current domestic and world circumstances. One of them freely admits the obvious — that if Bush 43 had done so in a similar situation, he “would have gotten more barbecued for this …. Anyone who thinks that he didn’t – he wouldn’t – is crazy.”

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The person or people who issued this threat to serially stalk Ann Althouse and Meade in Madison need to be arrested and locked up.

This would be national news if done by a conservative or Republican person or group.

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Huffington-heisted AOL stock closed at $18.54 yesterday — down $3.40, or 15.5%, from its $21.94 close on February 4, the last trading day before Arianna Huffington became the queen of AOL.

A week ago, the new, improved, HuffPo-energized AOL laid off 900 people (200 in the U.S., 700 in India) — “insiders said most of the (AOL news) sites have been gutted.”

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Michael Ledeen at Pajamas Media“What Would a Desperate Wimp (President) Do?”

A wimp is a “a weak, ineffectual, timid person.”

Ledeen isn’t name-calling. He’s observing.

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Speaking of reality-based labels, I’ve been meaning to share a couple of comments I found on a lefty web site earlier this month (the site won’t get any traffic from me, but if you need to see the originals, copy about ten words, paste them into a search engine, and you’ll find ‘em; both commenters are clearly active, consistent hardline libs; bolds are mine):

March 7th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
LOL…I now see Barry as a punk guy, who got offered power and took it. He’s workin’ for the other side of midnight…we got duped, and he has no shame or remorse at all. The other one another narcisstic liar and cheater….kchchkcht…spitooey…in their general direction..

March 7th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
That makes at least 2 of us seeing this guy as a punk.
He has no liberal core beliefs as he will compromise these in a heartbeat. He’s a reagan kid trying to gauge what suits his political interest , thus:
Ignore black constituency because they’ll vote for me regardless,
Toss the gays a few bones because there vote and money aren’t for sure,
Say a few nice words about unions but don’t get too passionate about it because a few independents might hate unions,
speaking of independents, better keep some of the bush stuff cause the indies may like it,
Suck up to corporations and the chamber of commerce because mucho moola is always a good thing.

Who said that far-lefties and sensible conservatives couldn’t find common ground? There is clear agreement that our president is a punk.

Positivity: Family cat saves boy’s life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Brockport, New York:

Posted at: 03/14/2011 11:07 AM | Updated at: 03/14/2011 5:43 PM

The family cat, a volunteer fire fighter and a miracle — that’s what a Brockport woman says saved her nine-year-old grandson. Their house caught fire this morning. Her 12-year-old daughter made it out okay but the nine-year-old was trapped inside.

Monday morning, Linda Pearl when went to an early morning doctors appointment she left her 12-year-old daughter and her nine-year-old grandson at home. She intended to be gone only 30 minutes but what happened in the next half hour left the family homeless and sent her grandson to the hospital.

“The whole street was just black. The whole sky was just black and fire trucks all over the place.” That’s what Linda Pearl saw as she got closer to the house where she and her six children and grandchildren have called home for three years. It was only minutes after her 12-year-old daughter Kristina called her this morning and said the house was on fire. “Forty-seven years of memories, all my pictures, my kids birth certificates, their baby pictures, everything it’s gone. It’s just gone.”

The damage to the house is extensive. The fire started in the kitchen. Pearl says her daughter forgot to turn off the stove after making some hash browns. “It was an accident but it was all about a hash brown, a hash brown. Because of a hash brown everything is gone, everything is gone.”

The fire could have been much more devastating. Pearl’s nine-year-old grandson Kendran Hall was upstairs and nobody knew it. “If the cat hadn’t woke him up, we wouldn’t have found out until it was too late that he was even in the house. He missed his bus and he never misses his bus.”

The cat died in the fire. “His cat Stitch died to save him, to wake him up.”

Kendran was able to break a window and hang out of it. The 12-year-old girl ran across the street to fire Lieutenant Tim Russell’s house. He didn’t have any breathing apparatus to go in and rescue the boy. His only hope was to jump. It was intense. “I just didn’t want him to panic and I didn’t want him to leave. There was a lot of smoke coming out the window and I was trying to get him to jump.”

The young boy landed in the arms of Russell and a police officer and despite losing so much and facing homelessness, Pearl says, “The kids made it out, even though nobody knew he was in that house, he still made it out alive and I’m grateful for the fact that everybody is alive.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.