April 14, 2011

Appalling Cartoon at Newspaper Guild Site Is Evidence That Its Members Are Incapable of Objective Coverage

The undisguised bias of a dispatch tonight by Associated Press reporter Laurie Kellman, with help from Scott Bauer, about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s appearance before a Congressional committee may have as its source two items found at the Newspaper Guild’s web site (seen after the jump).

One is an announcement relating to a possible deterioration in the Guild’s negotiations with AP, where union members have been working without a contract since November. Immediately below the announcement is an extraordinarily mean and spiteful cartoon produced by “alternative” comic Tom Tomorrow directed at Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan which has no place at the site of a group wishing to at least maintain a fig-leaf pretense of objectivity.

First let’s look at several of the sentences seen in the 10:26 p.m. version of the pair’s report (saved here at my host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) — after the headline (“Wisconsin governor defends hobbling unions’), with which the AP pair may have had help:

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Krauthammer on Obama’s Wednesday Speech: ‘A Disgrace’ (Update: Taranto Hits the Speech’s ‘Waste, Fraud and Abuse’)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:50 pm

Nails it:

Snips:

  • “I thought it was a disgrace.”
  • “… So shallow, so hyperpartisan, and so intellectually dishonest” …
  • “… numbers suspended in mid-air with nothing under them.”
  • “The Ryan plan is not about the Bush tax cuts; it transcends them. … you strip out loopholes and lower the rates for everyone.”
  • “It’s a speech that was quite remarakable in how demagagogic it was …”

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UPDATE, 5:15 p.m.: Taranto at Best of the Web

Domestically, Obama absolutely will not conduct a fundamental review of the federal government’s missions, capabilities and role in a changing world.

In fact, in a scene reminiscent of the president’s attack on the Supreme Court in the 2010 State of the Union Address, he heaped abuse on Rep. Paul Ryan, whom he had invited to sit in the front row, for being willing to think about “changing the basic social compact in America.” In a grotesque display of left-wing jingoism, he equated the welfare state to America itself: “The America I know is generous and compassionate. . . . This is the America that I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country. . . . We do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.

The left believes that the welfare state IS America itself, and despite the fact that Americans are by leaps and bound the most generous people in the world with their money and other resources, to the left America will no longer be a generous nation if the government changes how it handles entitlement programs in any way, shape, or form.

This is our president insulting the people of the nation he was elected to serve.

Econ Catchup (041411, Morning); UPDATE: 1Q11 GDP Estimates Dramatically Lowered

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:15 am

The employment report’s relatively early appearance on April 1 means that it appeared before many other economic reports it usually follows. So some general economic catch-up is in order. The first two items represent good news; the rest, not so much.

The Institute for Supply Management reports both came in very strong. The Manufacturing Index reading was essentially unchanged at 61.2%, down from 61.4%, and still comfortably expansionary (any reading over 50% indicates expansion). The prices element of the index was 85%, which could portend the inflation so many fear. The far more important Non Manufacturing Index dropped 2.4 points from 59.7% to 57.3%, which should be cause for too much concern.

I previously mentioned Ford selling more cars than General Motors in March, but haven’t noted that the industry as a whole had a good month, with overall total sales up almost 17% over March 2010. Significant outperformers included Chrysler (+31%), Hyundai (+32%), Mazda (+33%), Mitsubishi (+39%), and Kia (+45%).

The two most recent unemployment claims reports shouldn’t impress anyone, especially the one released this morning (Update: As usual when it’s bad, the numbers rose “unexpectedly“; expectations were for a reading of 380,000). Here’s how the last six weeks look, with subsequent revisions:

UnempClaimsThru040911

Look’s like we’re stuck in the 390s — and that’s if today’s number, seemingly destined to be revised upward, isn’t the first sign that things are once again going the wrong way.

Today’s Producer Price Index report shows March prices increasing by 0.7%, capping off a quarter where prices rose by 3.1% (that’s not an annualized figure, it’s an actual). If inflation isn’t here, it’s standing right outside the door.

The double-dipping homebuilding industry is accompanied by moribund lending activity:

Mortgage applications decreased 6.7 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 8, 2011.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 6.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 6.3 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 7.7 percent to its lowest level since February 11, 2011.

Retail sales in March were up a seasonally adjusted 0.4% over February. Excluding gas, it was 0.1%.

This Census Bureau report on construction shows that seasonally adjusted activity is down 6.1% since October 2010, and 6.8% since February 2010.

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UPDATE: The New York Times’s Economix blog reported Tuesday that Macroeconomic Advisers has trimmed its first-quarter 2011 growth estimate from an annualized 4.1% a early this year to 1.5% (I wonder if that got into the print edition?). MarketWatch noted that two other forecasters lowered their estimates to 1.5% and 1.7%.

The absolute minimum acceptable annualized growth during a recovery from a deep recession should be an annualized 4%, and there are strong arguments that the benchmark should be 5%. If 1Q11 comes in under 3%, there should be hell to pay. Growth during the seventh quarter of the post-recession recovery during Ronald Reagan’s first term in the early 1980s was an annualized 7.1%.

IBD and WSJ Hammer Obama ‘Plan’

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:45 am

Investors Business Daily, in an editorial last night (bolds are mine):

Just days after the GOP unveiled a realistic plan to slash $4 trillion from our nation’s deficits over 10 years, President Obama counters with his own “plan.” That’s in quotation marks, because he has no specifics.

… Unlike Rep. Paul Ryan’s detailed plan to cut $4.2 trillion over a decade — not 12 years — no real, comprehensive budget numbers emerged from the president’s speech on Wednesday. But the handful of things he did mention are more than enough to raise alarms.

… While asking for Americans to share the sacrifice, the president called on the so-called rich — people he repeatedly termed “millionaires and billionaires” — to pay higher taxes while he and the Democrats who support him spend trillions more.

(His) “promises,” by the way, pretty much take real entitlement reform off the table. Though entitlements now make up nearly 60% of our budget and are growing daily, Obama pushes spurious, nonspecific cuts in Medicare and none at all in Social Security.

So where do his “cuts” come from? Fully one-quarter from raising taxes on the “rich” — a sop to the far left. But again, far from falling just on “millionaires and billionaires,” Obama would raise taxes — or, as he calls them, “spending reductions in the tax code” — on the 2% of families that make $250,000 or more.

That group includes our most successful entrepreneurs and investors. Where will new jobs come from if they have to pay even more in taxes? And contrary to Obama’s claim, these “rich” have not seen their taxes cut. The 40% of the income-tax load they now shoulder (while earning just 30% of income) is the largest ever.

In February, Obama forecast $46 trillion in spending over 10 years — a 77% rise from the last decade. The new plan changes that very little.

By midcentury, Tanner notes, “government at all levels would be consuming well over half of everything produced in this country.” Is that what America signed on for when it voted for Barack Obama?

This is exactly what America signed on for, many if not most of them not realizing it.

Over at the Wall Street Journal, this is also valid concern about the hostile tone of the speech:

The Presidential Divider

Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama’s extraordinary response to Paul Ryan’s budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama’s fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.

… Mr. Obama did not deign to propose an alternative to rival Mr. Ryan’s plan, even as he categorically rejected all its reform ideas, repeatedly vilifying them as essentially un-American. “Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America,” he said, supposedly pitting “children with autism or Down’s syndrome” against “every millionaire and billionaire in our society.” The President was not attempting to join the debate Mr. Ryan has started, but to close it off just as it begins and banish House GOP ideas to political Siberia.

Mr. Obama then packaged his poison in the rhetoric of bipartisanship—which “starts,” he said, “by being honest about what’s causing our deficit.” The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards.

The great political challenge of the moment is how to update the 20th-century entitlement state so that it is affordable. With incremental change, Mr. Ryan is trying maintain a social safety net and the economic growth necessary to finance it. Mr. Obama presented what some might call the false choice of merely preserving the government we have with no realistic plan for doing so, aside from proposing $4 trillion in phantom deficit reduction over a gimmicky 12-year budget window …

… Mr. Obama came out for further cuts in the defense budget, but where? His plan is to ask Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen “to find additional savings,” whatever those might be, after a “fundamental review.” These mystery cuts would follow two separate, recent rounds of deep cuts that were supposed to stave off further Pentagon triage amid several wars and escalating national security threats.

Mr. Obama rallied the left with a summons for major tax increases on “the rich.” Every U.S. fiscal trouble, he claimed, flows from the Bush tax cuts “for the wealthiest 2%,” conveniently passing over what he euphemistically called his own “series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs.” Apparently he means the $814 billion stimulus that failed and a new multitrillion-dollar entitlement in ObamaCare that harmed job creation.

… According to Internal Revenue Service data, the entire taxable income of everyone earning over $100,000 in 2008 was about $1.582 trillion. Even if all these Americans—most of whom are far from wealthy—were taxed at 100%, it wouldn’t cover Mr. Obama’s deficit for this year.

… Mr. Obama ludicrously claimed that (Congressman Paul) Ryan favors “a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history.” Nothing is likelier to bring that future about than the President’s political indifference in the midst of a fiscal crisis.

This post yesterday demonstrates how correct the Journal’s final sentence is.

Read both editorials in full.

Positivity: The Caddy and His Boss

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 12:25 am

espn_grave1x_576From Augusta, Georgia:

Updated: April 10, 2011, 4:13 PM ET

If you believe all Augusta National members are walking lumps of dandruff who eat boiled puppies for lunch, you’re not going to like this story.

It happened a couple years ago.

Brad Boss, the multimillionaire chairman emeritus of the pen company A.T. Cross Co., is a member at the National and a decent player, possibly because he never went out on the course without his favorite caddy, Joe Collins.

Joe had the kind of eyes that could see clean into tomorrow. A caddy at Augusta from the time he was 16, he was known as the best reader of greens in the entire caddyshack.

He took a practically unknown player named Jim Jamieson to a tie for fifth place at the Masters in 1972. Even when Augusta National lifted its local-caddies-only rule in 1983, Joe still got bags. Colin Montgomerie used him in 1998 and finished tied for eighth. In 2000, Tommy Aaron, then 63, rode Joe to a record as the oldest player ever to make the cut. Still stands, too.

No wonder so many guys asked for Joe — Michael Jordan took him three times — but Brad always got him. They were buddies. Sounds crazy, but over the top of a golf bag, nobody cares about your stock portfolio. Princes lean on peasants and peasants kid princes. Boss and Joe were together for more than 10 years. If you spend that much time, you’re more than player and caddy. You’re a kind of grass-stained team.

It didn’t matter that Joe dropped out of school in the 10th grade and Brad was educated at the best schools in the east. Didn’t matter that Joe’s mom gave him up to her sister when he was only three months old and that Brad inherited Cross from his grandfather. Didn’t matter that Joe walked to the course (he didn’t own a car) and Brad flew there sometimes in a private jet.

They were friends.

Joe sent Brad a card every birthday, every Christmas and Father’s Day, without fail. “They’d call each other plenty,” says Faye Latson, the aunt who raised him. “Seemed like Joe was always calling Mr. Boss up.”

Then Joe got lung cancer. You smoke for 40 years, that might happen. Joe moved back in with his aunt. “I had to take him in,” she says. “He didn’t have nobody else.”

He had to quit going to the National. If the cancer wasn’t going to kill Joe, that might. “He was so sad,” Faye says. “That man loved that golf course and all those people.”

When he died at 56 on June 27, 2009, Faye arranged for a simple funeral. She couldn’t afford much of a plot, but she and her daughter, Shirley Quarles, came up with enough for one in a shaggy downtown cemetery.

“But then Mr. Boss called,” said Faye. “And he was asking me, could he put Joe up on the hill above the golf course? He said he wanted Joe to have a nice view of it. Lord, I thought! Joe won’t be able to see nothin’, but OK.”

It’s a golf thing.

“We were just all overwhelmed,” says James Quarles, Shirley’s husband. “We couldn’t really believe it. We told him no, he didn’t have to, but Mr. Boss wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Boss flew down from New England for the visitation and spoke at the funeral. In fact, he was the first to get up. He told the crowd how much he admired Joe, how he wasn’t just his caddy, he was like family. Maybe that explains the Father’s Day cards.

Afterward, he asked Faye if he could put something in Joe’s pocket. Faye said sure. It was a gold Cross pen with Joe’s name on it and a Masters logo. Gift No. 2.

In New England, all this made friends of Boss shake their heads. “It just made me smile when I heard,” says Brad Faxon. “I thought, ‘Man, why aren’t there more people who do this stuff?’” …

Go here for the rest of Rick Reilly’s column.