May 10, 2011

If FOIA Request Is Successful, AP Says It Will Decide Which OBL Pictures the Public Will See

Just when you consider cutting the Associated Press a break for doing something right, they pull this.

Most people know that in the interest of “not spiking the football,” the Obama administration has decided that it will not release photos of Osama bin Laden’s dead body.

Shortly after the decision was announced, AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for said photos. According to John Hudson at the Atlantic (HT to Jim Taranto at the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web), the AP’s Michael Oreskes claims that “This information is important for the historical record” and “It’s our job as journalists to seek this material.” So far, so good.

But you just knew they’d figure out a way to potentially ruin it. Here’s Oreskes as quoted by Hudson:

“We’re not deciding in advance to publish this material,” he pledged. “We would like our journalists, who are working very hard, to see this material and then we’ll decide what’s publishable and what’s not publishable based on the possibly (sic) that it’s inflammatory.”

Really? The WSJ’s Taranto pegs this preemptive censorship correctly (italics are in original):

Oreskes is trying to have it both ways, isn’t he? Like the government, he is willing in principle to withhold the photos from the public. He faults the government only for withholding them from journalists. “We’ll decide,” he says. But what gives the AP that right? Who elected Michael Oreskes?

To be sure, part of the job of a journalist is to decide when not to publish information, and this sometimes entails making judgments about what is in the public interest. In this case, however, the AP is demanding specific information on the ground that the public has a right to know it. If the public really has a right to see the photos, the AP has no more business withholding them than the government does.

The AP’s position as stated by Oreskes appears to violate one of the wire service’s ethical tenets (bold is mine):

In our online service, we link the least offensive image necessary to tell the story. For photo galleries and interactive presentations we alert readers to the nature of the material in the link and on the opening page of the gallery or interactive. If an obscene image is necessary to tell the story, we blur the portion of the image considered offensive after approval of the department manager, and flag the video.

The problem is that the photos are the story; therefore, holding back any of them would by definition compromise that story’s telling. Without seeing all of the visuals, viewers will not be able to arrive at a fully informed judgment as to whether the administration’s decision to withhold them as “inflammatory” was defensible — and, not coincidentally, determine the veracity of the administration’s assertions as to what actually transpired in the military operation.

Additionally, the withholding of photos could be seen as an attempt by AP to protect the administration it has clearly favored for several years from the exposure of potentially harmful material. I’m not completely clear on FOIA, but it to seems to me that one a request is granted, its target may be able to say, “Been there, done that, it’s too much effort to do it again, so go away” to subsequent requests — in which case the public may never see the photos AP deigns too gory, too disturbing, or too harmful to the administration’s interests. If the AP’s FOIA request is successful and it selectively releases the photos obtained, we’ll never truly be able to judge its motivations.

The AP’s subscribers should demand to see all of the photos; their annual assessments would seem to give them that right. If the AP demurs, it would seem that withholding of assessments would be an appropriate and defensible action to take to force them out.

What’s utterly indefensible is gatekeepers like the AP and Michael Oreskes deciding what we’re allowed to see.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Poll: Romney’s Nomination Would Drive Majority of Conservatives to a Third Party

RomneyNo0808Okay, take the required grain of salt, and read on.

This is from Richard Viguerie’s Conservative HQ:

The votes are in, and Mitt Romney is out! While talking heads across the country are calling former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) the front-runner against President Obama, the base is simply not on board. A full 55 percent of conservative activists and Tea Partiers polled by Richard Viguerie’s ConservativeHQ.com responded that they, “would vote for a third-party or independent candidate” if Romney were the nominee.

Only 30 percent responded that they would vote for Romney, and while eight percent were still undecided, a further seven percent said that they would not vote at all.

Third-party candidates and other GOP hopefuls can take some hope from this, as an unsurprising zero percent said a Romney nomination could drive them to vote for President Obama.

Romney’s peeps are probably seeing similar poll numbers, which would explain why the Mittster is planning some kind of “healthcare address” on Thursday.

Don’t be fooled, people. Romney has spent over four years defending his RomneyCare handiwork in Massachusetts, which includes taxpayer-subsidized abortions and currently features ever-increasing waits (HT Evil Teabagger) for services.

Beyond that, there’s baggage, baggage and more baggage everywhere.

There’s a reason Romney is the establishment press’s favorite Republican now. He’ll lose.

Attn. John Kasich: Do Something About Ohio’s Welfare Caseload

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:04 pm

When I can put up graphs like what will follow shortly (besides to feed the “must have charts” crowd), something is wrong.

Look at what has happened to Ohio’s welfare caseload during the last three reported years:

WelfareCaseloads7StatesPlusNonCAUSA

(Sources: 9/30/07 caseload; 9/30/10 caseload; Download page for Census data by state in Excel format as of July 1, 2007 and 2010)

Points:

  • During the three years involved, Ohio’s “traditional” welfare caseload (TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) under Democratic Governor Ted Strickland went up 45.7%. That might seem defensible given that the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy dominated the last two-plus years of the period analyzed, but that doesn’t cut it based on what happened in other Midwestern and neighboring states.
  • Michigan’s, which suffered greatly under Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm’s pathetic stewardship and was hit hardest by the US-headquartered auto industry’s problems, nevertheless managed to trim its welfare rolls a bit in the three years reviewed. Its caseload, which was about 12% higher than Ohio’s three years ago, is now about 25% lower.
  • Indiana also had a higher caseload as a percentage of the population than Ohio three years ago. Now, thanks to a 25% drop in the population-percentage caseload under Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, it’s a lot lower.
  • Pennsylvania, which slightly reduced its welfare rolls under Democratic Government Ed Rendell, and whose population is about 8% higher than Ohio’s, now has a welfare caseload that’s now half the size of the Buckeye State’s.
  • Welfare rolls haven’t changed much in the other three neighboring or nearby states (IL, WV, KY). The population of Illinois is about 10% higher than Ohio’s, yet its welfare caseload is about 75% lower.

California’s 2007 and 2010 caseloads have been excluded because its welfare population, at about 4% of the state’s total population, is way out of control, and would distort the results seen in the vast majority of the rest of the country.

There appears to be no legitimate reason why the welfare rolls in Ohio expanded by almost 46% during the three years in question while the rolls in all other neighboring states and the rest of the country either declined or barely expanded. It sure looks like the Strickland administration was more interested in adding dependents to Ohio’s welfare rolls than it was in improving the state’s economy.

The expanded welfare population is a drag on Ohio’s economy which, based on the situation in surrounding states, is about twice as high as it should be.

The Kasich administration needs to address this — the quicker the better.

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UPDATE: The following states (and DC) have higher welfare caseloads as a percentage of the population than Ohio’s 21.05 per thousand as of September 2010 (revised on May 13 to include Maine and to adjust other states’ figures) –

  • California — 39.1 per thousand
  • DC — 31.7
  • Hawaii — 22.7
  • Maine — 30.4
  • New Mexico — 27.5
  • Oregon — 21.7
  • Tennessee — 25.5
  • Washington State — 25.6

Ohio is ninth in the country. This is not a good place to be.

Adding to the disgrace, here are a few other large states’ percentage caseloads:

  • Florida — 5.69 per thousand
  • Georgia — 3.76
  • New Jersey — 9.44
  • New York — 19.78
  • Texas — 4.73

UPDATE 2: This Dispatch link discusses changes Kasich is making in certain areas, but doesn’t seem to address the basic issue of eligibility. The idea that over five times as many people (population-weighted) are eligible for TANF in Ohio compared to Georgia, or more than four times as many compared to Texas, seems absurd on its face.

Lickety-Split Links (051011, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 10:26 am

I had the good fortune to be invited to attend the Media Research Center’s Dishonors Awards banquet (“Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporting”) in Washington on Saturday, and had a great time at the event. Intense thanks to the MRC and the folks at NewsBusters for the opportunity.

A rundown of those dishonored, a list of those who “accepted” the awards on their behalf, and video clips, are here and here.

Also noteworthy: Congrats to longtime columnist Cal Thomas for receiving the the 5th Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence. As syndicated columnists, people like Thomas (beginning in the mid-1980s), Buckley (in the 1950s), James Kilpatrick (in the 1960s), George Will (in the 1970s), and a hearty band of not very many others served as the de facto alternative media for decades, noting important items in their columns that mainstream news outlets weren’t reporting.

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From the “Gosh, Nobody Could Have Predicted This (/sarc)” Dept.: “Egypt: Situation Deteriorating Badly and Rapidly”

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Dhimmis of the Week (more like the year) — “Comedy Central Continues to Censor ‘South Park.’”

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At 5.2%, Metro Oklahoma City has the lowest unemployment rate of any city of 1 million-plus metro area in the nation. Did I tell you that OKC’s mayor is a Republican?

Unemployment fell in every one of Oklahoma’s 77 counties in March.

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The Associated Press is relaying predictions that per-gallon gas prices will fall 50 cents “as early as June.” Did the AP predict so optimistically in late 2008, when gas prices fell from over $4 a gallon to under $2? I don’t think so.

In any event, Goldman Sachs is predicting they’ll head back up in 2012 “due to supply tightness.”

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Drudge pointed last week out that for all the talk of not wanting to spike the football by releasing photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, this exercise sure looked like another form of spiking the football. He’s right.
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Victor Davis Hanson, in “Thoughts on a Surreal Depression”:

These are strange and dangerous times. An insolvent federal government, an exporting China and India, and an almost complete indifference to federal immigration, tax, and regulatory laws have all combined to create a well-entitled but increasingly angry population, one “empowered” and made more, not less, bitter by the last two years of governance in Washington.

That’s what Team Obama wants, and explains why the administration has been furiously working to build the country’s population of dependents. Such people vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

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At the Right Scoop a week ago (HT Michelle Malkin):

Sunlight Foundation has done an extensive investigation of USASpending.Gov’s data and found 1.3 Trillion missing. They’ve submitted FOIA requests to the administration for this data six months ago, but as you might’ve been able to guess the administration is stonewalling.

They’re really talking about money that is “unaccounted for,” which isn’t the same thing as “missing” — until they admit that they can’t instead of won’t account for it. If the stonewalling doesn’t stop, and quickly, the presumption will move to “missing.”

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Michelle Malkin“Schumer is not serious about rail security.” Chuck Schumer is not serious about anything unless and until it presents and opportunity to enhance his and/or his party’s power.

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Better get it right, John, or you and your party will have lots of reasons for shedding tears, as shown here — “Gallup: For first time, majority of Republicans support third party.”

Lucid Links (051011, Morning)

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

NoToNewt2012“Gingrich Jumps In” — My reax: No no, “new” Newt. He’s yesterday’s news, and unfit because of the excuse-making for behavior which led to his previous divorces described here.

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At MarketWatch, Brett Arends, who also authored a brilliant item on the U.S.-China world leadership situation a couple of weeks ago (first item at link), asserts a self-evident truth (“Housing crash is getting worse”) virtually no one else in the establishment press will dare utter, while asking a question yours truly has been asking (“Economic Rebound? What Economic Rebound?“) since the beginning of 2010:

New data just out from Zillow, the real-estate information company, show house prices are falling at their fastest rate since the Lehman collapse.

What a foolish boondoggle those tax breaks for home buyers have turned out to be. The government spent an estimated $22 billion between 2008 and 2010 on tax breaks to prop up the housing market. All it achieved was a brief suckers’ rally that ended last summer.

… Remember Japan’s “zombie banks”? These were the financial institutions that haunted that country’s economic recovery after the 1990 crash. They staggered on with huge losses they could never repay — the walking dead.

Here in America we have “zombie homeowners.”

Recovery? What recovery? This looks a bit like a depression to me.

Arends thinks we might be seeing the bottom. Hope he’s right, but never underestimate this administration’s ability to perpetuate a bad situation with its zombie government programs.

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Speaking of zombies, Fannie Mae lost another $8.7 billion, and needs another $8.5 billion in taxpayer cash.

Smaller zombie Freddie Mac posted a profit before its federal preferred stock dividend payouts; when those are considered, it lost money too.

Here’s a periodic necessary reminder from this early 2010 column concerning why Fan and Fred are the zombies who took down the financial system in 2008:

… Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer for Fannie Mae and a housing expert, has found that from the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime or Alt-A.

That’s 15 years of systematic deception of the financial markets and ratings agencies.

As I opined at the time:

Sane people at Fan and Fred surely recognized the toxicity of the loans they were in essence being legally forced to buy. They also knew that they had to unload a substantial portion of this rubbish onto the secondary markets; if they didn’t, they would violate capitalization requirements.

They could have blown the whistle and said, “Hey, we can’t do this; the markets won’t buy this garbage.” But they didn’t.

Why? I surely can’t prove anything, but here at least four possible reasons why:

  • James A. Johnson, who was Fan’s Chairman and CEO from 1991 to 1998.
  • Frank Raines, who was Fan’s Vice Chairman from 1991 to 1996 and its Chairman from 1998 until 2004.
  • Leland Brendsel, acting President of Fred since 1985. He officially became the company’s president and CEO in 1987, was its Chairman and CEO by 1990, and stayed until 2003.
  • David Glenn, who became Fred’s President and COO in 1990 and also left in 2003.

Johnson and Raines (clearly the larger offenders) were and still are influential in the Democratic Party.

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General/Multi-Government Motors announced a big first-quarter profit, and Chrysler announced its first profit in five years. Democrats jumped on the news as “proof” that the Obama administration’s creditor-screwing (Chrysler; GM), community-deceiving, largely union concession-free bailouts costing at least $84 billion in GM’s case alone were great things.

What they meant to say is that if you apply enough Institutionalized Gangster Government and throw enough money at something you can make almost anything look like it worked.

While the rest of the press was uncritical, the Wall Street Journal’s Sharon Terlep actually did some sober analysis:

GM’s income rose to $3.2 billion, or $1.77 a share, from $865 million or 55 cents a share, lifted by $1.5 billion in gains on sale of holdings in Delphi Automotive LLP and Ally Financial. Without those gains, its earnings before interest and taxes rose 18% to $2 billion, and North American profit climbed just 8% to $1.3 billion, less than analysts had expected. Revenue increased 15%, to $36.2 billion, from $31.5 billion.

… (GM Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel) Akerson, however, said “intensive cost cutting” is essential to ensure the future profit growth as rising commodity costs push up the prices GM is paying for finished parts and materials.

Well, we all know that union concessions are off-limits; in fact, the UAW wants to negotiate an early deal with GM to claw back the nominal concessions made just before and during bankruptcy so Ford won’t be able to demand to match them. So where is GM going to cut?

GM stock closed yesterday at $31.39. That’s 8% lower than its opening-day IPO close of $34.19 on November 18, 2010, and almost 20% lower than its January 18 high of $38.98, in a market that has generally headed upward (thanks to Ben Bernanke, and no thanks to fundamentals). As Mickey Kaus would say: “Suckers!”

Positivity: Christ in the City calls young missionaries to serve Denver’s poor

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Denver (video is at link):

May 6, 2011 / 05:39 am

Christ in the City, a missionary ministry for young adults, is preparing to launch a year-long program for Catholics to serve the poor in Denver, Colorado.

“We found out that it was as powerful as mission trips overseas for the transformation of the lives of the missionaries themselves,” said Dr. Jonathan Reyes, president of Catholic Charities in Denver and co-founder of Christ in the City.

The program – beginning in August of this year – will teach young, Catholic adults what it means to be a missionary in the U.S., while focusing on the spiritual, intellectual and charitable formation of the participants.

With new training and formation, Christ in the City hopes participants will take what they learn and return to their own cities to serve the poor in their home states.

“Why it’s different from a lot of programs is that it’s intensely formative for the missionaries themselves,” Reyes told CNA.

“There is a lot of investment in their spiritual life, there’s a lot of investment in their intellectual life. So it’s the formation to take back, to be capable of doing this kind of work in any number of other places.”

Program director Yvonne Noggle noted that Christ in the City “serves people from the beginning of life to the end of life.”

She added that the charitable formation can include serving in a crisis pregnancy center with new or expecting mothers, working in a homeless shelter with the poor and hungry, or assisting Denver’s Little Sisters of the Poor in caring for the elderly.

Reyes views the pilot program in 2010 as a success, saying that of the 45 students that participated, “pretty much all of them went back to their own communities and got involved.”

“The impact wasn’t just here, but it was back where they had come from,” Reyes said. “So it isn’t ‘missionaries come have a nice experience,’ its ‘missionaries come have a nice experience and be trained to be able to do this in other places.’ It doesn’t end in a year, our goal is that it perdures in the missionaries themselves for the rest of their lives.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

Missing Federal Budget Story: Rising Federal Collections Still Miles Below Fiscal 2008

Sunday evening (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I predicted that the press will ignore the likelihood, based on the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent Monthly Budget Review, that officially reported federal spending will top $1 trillion for the first time during a three-month period (i.e., for February through April 2010) when the Tim Geithner’s gang issues its Monthly Treasury Statement on Wednesday afternoon.

You can also pretty much count on the fact that the press will greet an uptick in April and year-to-date 2011 collections as something impressive. In historical context, it absolutely is not.

With real economic output finally back to where it was in the second quarter of 2008, after which the recession as normal people define it began, you would think that federal collections would have recovered impressively from their dismal 2009 and 2010 levels and start getting into the neighborhood of where they were in fiscal 2008. After all, if we’re to believe the official recession identifiers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (which I don’t), by April of 2008 we were in the fifth month of a recession that started in December 2007. That’s pretty remarkable, because while economic growth during the second quarter of 2008 wasn’t impressive, it was nonetheless positive, and collections during April 2008, which I described as the “supply-side stunner” three years ago, reached an all-time single month high.

Compare April 2008, and while we’re at it, the year-to-date totals in fiscal 2008 to the dismal performances of the last three years:

USTcollectionsApril2008toApril2011MTDandYTD

(Sources: Monthly Treasury Statements for April 2008, April 2009, April 2010, and March 2011; certain amounts don’t exactly add up because of rounding)

In April 2011, monthly and year-to-date income tax collections will come in 37% and 16% lower than the respective figures in April 2008, even though we are still operating under essentially the same income tax rate structure (i.e., we’re in the ninth year under what are still referred to as the “Bush tax cuts” by the never-let-it-go establishment press). Social insurance collections are also down, but that’s largely because of the 2% payroll tax cut that went into effect in January. Without that, April 2011 would roughly have matched 2008 for both the month and the fiscal year to date.

The shortfall in corporate income tax collections is not as steep in dollars as the decline in income tax collections, but in percentage terms (53% year-to-date) it’s even worse. What’s more, in fiscal 2007 year-to-date corporate income tax collections, at $201 billion, were even higher than fiscal 2008. Corporate tax collections have yet to come anywhere close to recovering from the recession, and they’re already showing signs of topping out. You might think that an administration which is constantly carping about the need to collect more taxes and which is suffering from low corporate receipts might conclude that setting companies free from ridiculous regulations, onerous environmental strictures, NLRB thuggery, and other impediments to efficiently doing business would be a good way to increase those collections, just like in 2007 and 2008. Dream on. They don’t care about increasing collections unless it involves increasing tax rates.

Another factor making fiscal 2011 far less impressive than fiscal 2008 is that fiscal 2011 includes tens of billions in remittances to the treasury from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s “quantitative easing” efforts. While these dollars make the numbers look a little better, such collections do not result from productive economic activity. Thus, the overall picture is even worse than indicated in the above graphic.

So while we can expect to hear the folks at the Associated Press and elsewhere highlight how fabulous and marvelous monthly and year-to-date collections in April 2011 were compared to 2010 and maybe even 2009, we probably won’t hear much about how they’re still far, far lower than those seen during that awful, supposedly mostly recessionary fiscal year 2008. And we all know why.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.