September 22, 2011

Prez In Cincy: ‘Help Us Rebuild This Bridge, Pass This Bill’; Did AP’s Kuhnhenn Fabricate a Qualifying Statement?

ObamaAtBrentSpence0911Earlier this evening (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I cited a few of very many examples where the press has not hesitated during the Obama years, and really since Barack Obama became the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2008, to engage in uncalled-for creativity to avoid calling a statement made a lie or an unlawful action illegal. One of the lastest: A Raleigh New & Observer reporter concluded that in implying that North Carolina has bridges in imminent danger of falling — specifically, by asking his audience: “Why would we wait to act until another bridge falls?” — Obama “may have” merely “over-suggested the risk to public safety.”

Jim Kuhnhenn’s report at the Associated Press tonight on the President’s visit to the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River connecting Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky appears to have taken the cover-up of the president’s misleading statements to a new level, as seen in the following excerpted paragraphs (bolds are mine):

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New Term For an Obama Fib: He ‘Over-suggested’

ObamaInNC091411Bruce Siceloff at the Raleigh News & Observer had the task on Tuesday of writing up the results of his newspaper’s follow-up investigation into the safety of bridges in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area after Barack Obama’s visit there last week. In a speech there, the President asserted that “In North Carolina alone, there are 153 structurally deficient bridges that need to be repaired. Four of them are near here, on or around the Beltline. Why would we wait to act until another bridge falls?”

I know this will come as a total shock to readers — not — but the president wasn’t being truthful. Behold what Siceloff and his paper found, and how he felt compelled to come up with a new word to describe Obama’s untruthful characterizations (HT to Rush Limbaugh, who brought this up on the air today):

Worry not: Triangle’s bridges are safe

President Barack Obama scared some of us last week when he stopped in Raleigh to pitch his American Jobs Act.

He told an audience at N.C. State University that the nation should beef up spending to repair bad bridges – before one of them falls on us.

“In North Carolina alone, there are 153 structurally deficient bridges that need to be repaired,” Obama said Wednesday. “Four of them are near here, on or around the Beltline. Why would we wait to act until another bridge falls?”… readers wondered whether there really was cause for alarm.

… DOT engineers and administrators are fielding calls about the president’s remarks, too. They say the bridges around the Beltline and across the state are safe.

“The key thing is: We don’t have any bridges that are about to fall,” said Wally Bowman, DOT’s division chief for Wake and six neighboring counties. “We don’t have any bridge out there that is structurally inadequate, where it cannot handle the traffic. We make sure those bridges stay in a good state of repair.”

Obama appears to have undercounted his bridges. And at the same time – employing the deft spin that political speakers use when they spice up a little information to make a big impression – the president may have over-suggested the risk to public safety.

Dictionary.com says that “over-suggest” is not a word. Neither is “oversuggest.”

As one would expect, Rush had some choice words today concerning the qualify of Siceloff’s reportage (bolds are mine):

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Unemployment Claims: 423K SA, Down From Previous Week’s Upwardly Revised 432K; NSA Claims 8% Below Last Year

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:21 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending September 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 423,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 432,000. The 4-week moving average was 421,000, an increase of 500 from the previous week’s revised average of 420,500.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 350,176 in the week ending September 17, an increase of 21,308 from the previous week. There were 382,341 initial claims in the comparable week in 2010.

Business Insider’s email, Reuters, and Bloomberg all had expectations of 420K.

If we’re stuck at a consistent 420,000 or so claims, that doesn’t bode well at all for employment growth or economic growth.

A graphic is coming up …

Okay, here’s something to consider as we get close to the end of the third quarter:

AverageUnempClaims1Qto3Q11

Taken in combination with average seasonally adjusted monthly job growth so far this year (Overall/Private: 166K/191K in the first quarter, 93K/138K in the second, and 43K/87K so far in the third), an under 1% GDP result in the third quarter wouldn’t be surprising at all — nor would a final downward adjustment to the second quarter. We’ll see about the latter next week, and the former near the end of October.

Brent Spent

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:42 am

BrentSpenceSymbol0911What follows are a few thoughts which occurred to me when I learned that President Obama would fly into Cincinnati today promising to be the guy who is finally going to make sure that a replacement is built for the obsolete, dangerous (from a traffic-safety standpoint) Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky — if only Congress increases taxes on “the rich.” Readers will see that my criticisms aren’t limited to him.

First, the estimated $2.4 billion price tag is either one-sixth or one tenth of the cost of the Big Dig ($15 billion or $22 billion, depending on whether you include interest). Yet that project got done, and Brent Spence, which the Associated Press claims handles 4% of the nation’s gross domestic product, hasn’t gotten past the planning stage.

Next, the replacement span could have been built long ago if previous Congresses and previous presidents hadn’t sanctioned massive raids on the Highway Trust Fund for non-highway projects. As described by Heritage in June 2010:

The largest diversion from the $52.7 billion in total spending authorized for fiscal year 2009 from the highway trust fund (including $2.0 billion in general revenues) is the $10.3 billion in direct spending for transit programs (trolleys, buses, commuter rail, etc). Transit riders are also the greatest beneficiary of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program, which absorbs $1.8 billion of the trust fund. Although transit riders account for only 1.8 percent of surface travel passengers and 5 percent of commuters, they receive a subsidy from the fuel-tax-paying motorists amounting to approximately 20 percent of transportation spending.

Other large diversions from the fund include the Enhancement Program ($657 million), the Appalachian Highway Program ($470 million), Recreational Trails ($85 million), and a transfer of $1 billion from the fund to the Departments of Interior and Agriculture for roads in national parks and forests. These leakages absorbed 27 percent of trust fund spending in 2009.

The politicians are almost never satisfied doing only what they’re supposed to do with taxpayer money. They almost always raid money meant for Purpose A to fund Purpose B (and C, D, E, F …). If Washington had been doing what it was supposed to be doing all these years — using highway money to build, maintain, and upgrade highways — Brent Spence would have been replaced long ago.

Third, more recently, wasn’t there some kind of $800 billion spending bonanza which passed 2-1/2 years ago which was supposed to be largely dedicated to building roads and bridges? Oh yeah, the stimulus. The funds were instead largely squandered on handouts, “green” failures like Solyndra, and preserving the jobs and cushy benefits of public employees.

Finally, I recall that the Obama administration had $400 million ready and waiting for Ohio — but only if Ohio agreed to squander it on a slow passenger choo-choo train going from Cincinnati to Cleveland which would have had lousy ridership and rung up losses as far as the eye can see. That could have served as a nice down payment on the Brent Spence rebuild. Instead, if I recall correctly, some other state is going to get to waste the money on “light rail.” Too bad for them.

Now Barack Obama is coming into town posing as the savior who will finally get the Brent Spence Bridge replaced — but with economy-killing conditions. Spare me. The President and Congress should be shaking up government and forcing it to do its correctly prioritized job, or they should block-grant transportation money to the states so they can set their own priorities.

By the way, that roughly $1 billion dollars in back taxes going back to 2002 which Warren Buffett’s company is resisting paying would also go a long way towards getting the bridge replaced. I might even accept calling the darned thing the Warren Buffett Bridge if he dropped his hypocritical resistance and paid up.

From ‘Scandal-Free’ to Near Scandal Fatigue in Three Weeks

“Squeaky clean” no more — as if they ever were.

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Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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On August 30, concerning President Barack Obama’s reelection prospects, Allan Lichtman, an American University history professor and author of The Keys to the White House: A Surefire Guide to Predicting the Next President, told US News: “I don’t see how Obama can lose.”

Lichtman’s presidential election success formula, which has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote in every contest since 1984, requires that the party currently holding the White House prevail on eight of thirteen “keys.” Lichtman contended that Obama was winning nine of them, with a tenth, whether the economy is in recession during the campaign, pegged as “undecided.”

What a difference three weeks makes.

Lichtman’s undecided key was questionable from the get-go. Even if the economy isn’t in recession as normally defined next year, almost everyone agrees that it will feel like one. The White House’s “alternative economic forecast” predicts that the unemployment rate will be at or above 9% throughout next year. The Congressional Budget Office hedges just a little, projecting “close to 9 percent through the end of 2012.” Both may be overly optimistic. Another month or two of job reports showing zero job gains or even job losses will almost certainly push the unemployment rate higher; if they don’t, it will only mean that “going Galt” has become more widespread. No incumbent president since World War II has won reelection with a jobless reading above 7.2%.

Lichtman believed, and probably still does, that Obama has met the first of his two “foreign/military” keys requiring “a major success in foreign or military affairs” because of Osama bin Laden’s assassination. While very important, whether it’s electorally “major” is debatable, especially considering the event’s subsequent mishandling. Even conceding bin Laden, an Islamist-dominated Libya or Egypt, each of which is quite possible by next fall, could ruin Lichtman’s other “foreign/military” key requiring no significant failures.

He also felt that Obama was winning the “scandal” key, which requires that “The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.” He then revealed that he’s not a close follower of the news beyond the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the ABC-CBS-NBC axis when he said: “This administration has been squeaky clean.”

Before readers double over in spasms of laughter, note that the presence or absence of “taint” is in the eyes of voters and depends heavily on whether scandals, to the extent they exist, have penetrated public perception. One dictionary definition of “scandal” calls it “a disgraceful or discreditable action, circumstance, etc.,” but another requires “damage to reputation; public disgrace.”

Concerning the latter definition, Lichtman’s own ignorance demonstrated that he was probably right about his scandal key at the end of August, despite at least the following unreported or underreported items listed here which have arguably met the former.

Then came Solyndra, LightSquared, and Gunwalker.

Solyndra’s collapse contains so many disgraceful elements that the press can’t get away with totally ignoring it (though, as seen here and here, they’re still trying mightily, and distorting things whenever they can). The amount of taxpayer loss involved, at over $500 million for just one deal, is huge. The quid pro quo of campaign contributions and the lobbying for favorable treatment could hardly be more obvious. Reelection-related considerations clearly intruded to override dire warnings that the company couldn’t possibly succeed. Finally, as Andy McCarthy noted at National Review on September 17, the Department of Energy’s agreement to allow private investors repayment priority ahead of the government clearly broke the law.

McCarthy correctly went much further:

The Solyndra debacle is not just Obama-style crony socialism as usual. It is a criminal fraud.

… Solyndra … was using its government loans as a springboard to go public. When the sale of securities is involved, federal law criminalizes fraudulent schemes, false statements of material fact, and statements that omit any “material fact necessary in order to make the statements made . . . not misleading.”

… That’s exactly what President Obama did on May 26, 2010, with his Solyndra friends about to launch their initial public offering of stock.

As president, Obama had a fiduciary responsibility to be forthright about Solyndra’s grim prospects — in speaking to the American taxpayers whose money he had redistributed, and to the American investors who were about to be solicited for even more funding.

… The president looked us in the eye and averred that, when it came to channeling public funds into private hands, “We can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra.”

… The word for such schemes is fraud.

The LightSquared mess, in addition to having many of the element of Solyndra, adds a national security-endangering angle, as described by Richard Pollock, to predictable cronyism:

(LightSquared’s) new wireless system could interfere with aviation safety, disrupt military and rescue operations, and interfere with high-tech farming equipment and consumer navigation devices.

Speaking of security and defense, the Gunwalker scandal’s body count continues to grow, and its scope has spread to include Gangwalker in the Midwest, Operation Castaway out of Tampa, and incidents traced to Texas. Bob Owens has shown that the multiple enterprises almost have to involve coordination from the highest levels of government, with possible motivations ranging from creating a pretext for circumventing the Second Amendment to causing illegal immigrants fleeing destabilized Central American nations to flood into the U.S.

No wonder the administration and its backers have become desperate to discredit Congressman Darrell Issa and his Gunwalker investigation — so desperate that a leftist front group has filed an ethics complaint against him based on a New York Times Issa hit piece which has been corrected three times and contains ten other alleged factual errors.

Any one of these three scandals would probably have brought down or at least seriously crippled a Republican or conservative administration by now.

Thus, we have gone from Allan Lichtman’s “squeaky clean, scandal-free” fantasy to virtual scandal fatigue in three weeks, and from “I don’t see how he can lose” to worries about Obama’s eroding base and even a call for him to withdraw.

By now, it should be clear that objectively written history will not be kind to those who were seduced by “hope and change.” In November 2012, voters must permanently reject all who are linked to it.

Positivity: Rep. Phil Roe resuscitates apparent heart attack victim at airport

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

The incident took place in Charlotte, NC (HT Jammie Wearing Fool via Instapundit):

Published September 20th, 2011 11:21 am

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., successfully gave first aid to an apparent heart attack victim in between connecting flights at the Charlotte airport Tuesday morning, said Roe spokeswoman Amanda Little.

She explained that Roe, a retired obstetrician/gynecologist, was on his way to Washington, D.C., and had taken the 5:30 a.m. flight out of Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

He had just landed in Charlotte when an unidentified man collapsed, according to Little.

“This guy fell down and stopped breathing…He actually flatlined on the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) and Phil gave him CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and shocked him and he came back…We called the hospital and they think he is going to make it. They thought it was a possible heart attack.”

As Its Execs Say They’ll Take the Fifth, AP Calls Solyndra an ‘Embarrassment’

Let’s note the likely reason why what Julia Seymour observed earlier today is the case — namely, that network news reports have taken to calling the Solyndra situation an “embarrassment.”

The use of that term probably dates back to September 16, which is as far as I can tell the first time the Associated Press filed a beyond-perfunctory report about now-bankrupt Solyndra, the beneficiary of over $500 million in Energy Department loan guarantees. In January, the government also gave Solyndra’s principal investors preferential treatment in advance of what was a clearly inevitable bankruptcy. Tuesday evening, the AP’s Mattew Daly went to the E-word again:

Solyndra execs to plead 5th at House hearing

Two top executives at a bankrupt California solar energy company say they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to answer questions when they appear at a House hearing on Friday.

Solyndra Inc. Chief Executive Officer Brian Harrison and Chief Financial Officer W.G. Stover sent letters to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday informing them of their plans to remain silent. The Associated Press obtained copies of the letters, which cite an ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI.

Harrison and Stover said they still plan to appear before the committee, which is investigating a $528 million loan Solyndra received from the Energy Department in 2009.

Republican leaders of the House energy panel said they were dismayed that Harrison and Stover had reneged on earlier promises to testify.

… The company’s implosion and revelations that the administration hurried Office of Management and Budget officials to finish their review of the loan in time for a September 2009 groundbreaking have become an embarrassment for President Barack Obama.

Maybe folks here have different remembrances, but I don’t recall any other instance where company execs, labor leaders, government officials, or others have taken the Fifth because they were “embarrassed.”

This is probably as good a time as any to remind everyone that Solyndra goes far beyond an “embarrassment.” Andy McCarthy at National Review made that quite clear on Saturday (bolds are mine):

The Solyndra debacle is not just Obama-style crony socialism as usual. It is a criminal fraud.

… Solyndra … was using its government loans as a springboard to go public. When the sale of securities is involved, federal law criminalizes fraudulent schemes, false statements of material fact, and statements that omit any “material fact necessary in order to make the statements made … not misleading.”

… That’s exactly what President Obama did on May 26, 2010, with his Solyndra friends about to launch their initial public offering of stock.

As president, Obama had a fiduciary responsibility to be forthright about Solyndra’s grim prospects — in speaking to the American taxpayers whose money he had redistributed, and to the American investors who were about to be solicited for even more funding.

… The president looked us in the eye and averred that, when it came to channeling public funds into private hands, “We can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra.”

The word for such schemes is fraud.

It isn’t Solyndra that’s the embarrassment. It’s the pathetic reporting of the Solyndra scandal by the establishment press.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.