April 30, 2014

Press Whitewashes Bloomberg Anti-Gun Group’s Pathetic Presence at Indy NRA Convention

Last weekend in Indianapolis, a reported 80,000 people attended the 143rd NRA Annual Meeting.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Everytown For Gun Safety was also present — but barely. Media coverage of that group’s activities largely tiptoed around the tiny number of people, some allegedly paid, the group was able to gather. Let’s start with a Sunday morning report from NPR’s Bill Chappell (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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Ho Hum: $6.2B in Improper Payments at USDA, Three Straight Years of Legal Noncompliance

When several members of Congress set out in the early 1990s to improve fiscal reporting and internal controls in the federal government, one thing they certainly had a right to expect is that the press would report on lapses as embarrassments, and that otherwise nonchalant or reluctant bureaucrats would figure out that it would be in their best interest to tighten their ships. It hasn’t happened, largely because the press quickly got bored, enabling the bureaucrats to thumb their noses at those who have called them out for weak reporting or control violations.

To name just one glaring example: Concerning the Internal Revenue Service, in August of last year, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration happily reported “the downgrade of the information security material weakness to a significant deficiency during the Fiscal Year 2012 financial statement audit,” and that “the IRS removed it from the December 31, 2012, remediation plan” (that’s bureaucratese for “finally solved the problem”) — 19 years after it was first identified in 1993. In that context, it’s disappointing but obviously no surprise, even though the amounts of money involved are significant, that the Washington Free Beacon, via reporter Elizabeth Harrington, is from all appearances the only media outlet (with a shout-out from Fox News) interested in reporting chronic improper payment and legal compliance issues at the Department of Agriculture (bolds are mine):

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Not News: Health Care Division at Jeffrey Immelt’s GE Hurt by Obamacare

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt has made nice with President Barack Obama on several occasions. Among other things, he chaired the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which met a grand total of four times in 2011 and 2012 before it was unceremoniously allowed to expire a year later. He fully expected that his company would benefit from its involvement in green energy and its membership in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. He also endeared himself to Team Obama by calling “other U.S. business leaders greedy and mean.”

In more than a minor comeuppance, as well as the latest evidence that business-related news reflecting badly on the Obama administration almost never escapes the business pages and center-right blogs and outlets, Inmelt’s company has seen its medical division hit hard by the onset of Obamacare. Portions of Bloomberg News’s original April 17 report follow the jump.

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NewsBusted (042914)

Filed under: NewsBusted — Tom @ 11:49 am

Here we go:

Topics:
– L.A. Clippers and Donald Sterling
– House Speaker John Boehner
– Harry Reid
– Koch Brothers
– U.S. Supreme Court
– Racial Preferences
– Obama in Japan
– Japanese Robot
– Michelle Obama
– George Clooney
– Steve Wynn

Best Lines:

  • “LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is under fire for making racist comments in the past. Not under fire for racist comments they made in the past: Al Sharpton, Joe Biden, and Harry Reid.”
  • “We’ve learned that Senator Harry Reid took money from a Koch Brothers lobbyist despite Reid’s non-stop criticism of the brothers. Reid is so angry he says he’ll now do whatever it takes to defeat himself for reelection in November.” (Unfortunately, Reid is not up for reelection in November. — Ed.)
  • “George Clooney walked out of a Las Vegas dinner after casino mogul Steve Wynn referred to President Obama with a profanity. Wow. If Wynn had been talking about President Bush, he would have been given his own show on HBO.”

Politico’s Hounshell: No One ‘Credible’ or ‘Authoritative’ Has Shown That ‘WH Knowingly Pushed a False (Benghazi) Narrative’

NewsBusters commenter “bkeyser” at my Benghazi-related post last night pointed to a tweet from Politico Magazine Deputy Editor Blake Hounshell that is at the same time breathtakingly ignorant and astonishingly insolent.

Reacting to the contents of Benghazi-related emails finally obtained and published by Judicial Watch, Hounshell asked, “Can you point me to a credible, authoritative story saying the WH knowingly pushed a false narrative?” Well Blake, on the off-chance that you’re really interested in the truth instead of serving as one of your organization’s lead Obama administration lapdogs, I give you the Tuesday night writeup from an investigative journalist who, per her “about” page, has won four national Emmy Awards and has been nominated for eight others.

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1Q13 Gross Domestic Product (043014): +0.1% Annualized Growth (‘Saved’ by Obamacare?)

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:17 am

Predictions:

As noted yesterday, there is a chance of an Obamacare-related upside surprise (BEA’s lengthy explanation of Obamacare influences is here), basically because higher premiums will be treated as increases in personal consumption, while government tax subsidies designed to offset those increases will not be considered.

The guess here is that artificial juicing from Obamacare will enable the overall result to come in at about the predicted level.

The report will be here at 8:30 a.m.

My initial reactions to it will be delayed until after the end of the ADP April Employment Report conference call.

HERE IT IS (full HTML): This is NOT a typo … +0.1%.

Comments later.

9:00 a.m.: Okay here is key text from the report (bolds are mine) —

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the first quarter (that is, from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.6 percent.

… The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected a positive contribution from personal consumption expenditures (PCE) that was partly offset by negative contributions from exports, private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, residential fixed investment, and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.

… The deceleration in real GDP growth in the first quarter primarily reflected downturns in exports and in nonresidential fixed investment, a larger decrease in private inventory investment, a deceleration in PCE, and a downturn in state and local government spending that were partly offset by an upturn in federal government spending and a downturn in imports.

Specific elements (Table 2 here) —
- Personal Consumption, Goods: +0.08 points, vs. +0.66 in Q4
- Personal Consumption, Services: +1.96 vs. +1.57 in Q4
- Fixed Investment (w/o Inventories): -0.44 vs. +0.43
- Inventories: -0.57 vs. -0.02
- Exports: -1.07 vs. +1.23
- Imports: +0.24 vs. -0.24
- Fed. Govt.: +0.05 vs. -1.00
- State/Local Govt.: -0.14 vs. +0.00

Zero Hedge, on the PCE services number:

Spending on Services, however, surged by the most since 2000 – heralded as great news by some talking heads – but is merely a reflection of the surge in healthcare and heating costs (imagine if it had not been cold and if Obamacare hadn’t saved us).

I should note that PCE Services never contributed more than 1.20 points to GDP in the previous 14 quarters until shooting up to +1.57 points in Q413 and 1.96 points in today’s release. Within that category, health care never contributed more than 0.44 points to GDP in the previous 14 quarters until shooting up to +0.62 point in Q413 and 1.10 points in today’s release.

Here’s my take:

  • The fourth quarter rise in the health care category occurred largely because many of the millions of people who had their health insurance cancelled because their policies didn’t meet Obamacare’s requirements either decided to go without insurance this year or saw the huge deductibles they would face in 2014 under their Obamacare policies, and rushed to get medical procedures completed before the end of the year.
  • The first quarter rise in the category occurred largely because many of the newly insured — both through Medicaid and Obamacare — heavily utilized medical services.

Thus, Obamacare appears to have made 4Q13 stronger than it would have been, and to have “saved” 1Q14 from going negative (so far, pending future revisions) without adding substantive long-term value to the economy.

As to future quarters, both impacts just noted would appear to be fleeting. If so, that does not augur well for future quarters.

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UPDATE: Fixed investment sans inventories, the GDP factor which really drives long-term substantive economic growth, turned in the worst negative GDP impact in at least 16 quarters. This is not what happens in a genuinely prospering economy.

UPDATE 2: Zero Hedge elaborates on the Obamacare effect — “if it wasn’t for the (government-mandated) spending surge resulting from Obamacare … (growth in) real Q1 GDP (in chained 2009 dollars), which rose only $4.3 billion sequentially to $15,947 billion, would have been a negative (annualized) 1.0%!”

Again, I should note that premiums paid are considered part of GDP, but the government subsidies aren’t. This in my view improper treatment of the subsidies artificially inflates GDP, especially when you consider that many people wouldn’t have purchased Obamacare policies without the subsidies’ existence.

April National ADP Jobs Report and Conference Call (043014): 220K Private-Sector Jobs Added (See Conference Call Notes)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 8:07 am

Predictions:

The report will be here at 8:15 a.m. I will live-blog and perhaps participate in the 8:30 a.m. conference call.

HERE IT IS: “U.S. Economy Added 220,000 Private-Sector Jobs in April, According to ADP National Employment Report.”

From the April cover page:

  • Small businesses (1-49 employees) +82,000
  • Medium businesses (50-499 employees) +81,000
  • Large businesses (500 or more employees) +57,000

From the press release:

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “The job market is gaining strength. After a tough winter employers are expanding payrolls across nearly all industries and company sizes. The recent pickup in job growth at mid-sized companies may signal better business confidence. Job market prospects are steadily improving.”

CONFERENCE CALL NOTES:

Mark Zandi: Underlying job growth is 200-225K per month. Nearly every sector added jobs, except mfg., which is due to productivity improvements.

Unemp will drop but there is still slack in the economy. About 2-1/2 points worth, taking 2.5-3 years to absorb.

Some labor shortages already in different industries. Middle of country is tight (North Dakota down to Texas). Energy, tech – highly skilled in big demand.

Small bizzes are adding consistently to payrolls. Early in recovery, it largely went to big companies. Midsize (500-1000) are also adding strongly. Basically gains are across all sectors and sizes.

Job market is on firmer ground and picking up. Quite encouraging.

Q (from me) re GDP, weather -1 point, unemp ins expiration -0.5 pts., and inventories. Wouldn’t be surprised if revised higher. Inv. declines might augur well for next quarters.

Q (from me re low-wages) “early in recovery” (!) not unusual, mix should improve going forward. Pay scales will head up.

Q (Rugaber, AP, re wage growth data and avg earnings) Wage growth is still very modest, and it feels like it’s picking up.

Q (Rugaber, AP, on GDP) Zandi expects housing to add to growth during the rest of the year and to add significantly during the next three years. Will be an undersupplied market with shortages in 2015 and 2016. But the big factor for growth will be business investment (rattled off five reasons, including “fading” of regulatory impacts, i.e., Dodd-Frank). Tax increases are over. Job market will provide more income. Consumers will also do their part and add to growth.

Q (Tim Mullaney, MarketWatch, re BLS v ADP) average miss is 40K in either direction which nets out to zero over time. Improved from 60K when Moody’s took over 18 months ago. Biggest misses were this winter. ADP is based on active employees and BLS is based on PAID employees (upward bias with ADP). Predicts 220K for BLS report on Friday, with “risk” to the upside. We’re due for an upside BLS surprise. (!)

Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (043014)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Kudos to the Houston Rockets’ Jeremy Lin …

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

… for maintaining his perspective after a tough NBA playoff loss (HT Twitchy):

JeremyLin042814

April 29, 2014

Not News at AP, NYT or Politico: Benghazi Emails Showing WH Orchestration of ‘It’s the Video’s Fault’ Meme

This afternoon (late morning Pacific Time), Roger Simon at PJ Media had several reactions to the latest developments in the Benghazi saga, as new evidence surfaced of a White House “effort to insulate President Barack Obama from the attacks that killed four Americans.” Simon’s press-related assertion: “We will now see if there is even a figment of honesty in our mainstream media …”

Though it’s still early (but just barely), it’s not looking good, my friend. Matt Hadro at NewsBusters indicated as much earlier tonight in noting that the TV networks have thus far ignored the news. Later, I’ll show that other key online establishment press sources are also ignoring this bombshell story.

Emails Judicial Watch finally pried from the administration’s hands show, as highlighted in a JW post which appears, based on comments, to have gone up shortly after noon today, show “then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations officials attempting to orchestrate a campaign to ‘reinforce’ President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being ‘rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.’” This orchestration occurred even though “Other documents show that State Department officials initially described the incident as an ‘attack’ and a possible kidnap attempt.”

Adam Kredo’s early afternoon story at the Washington Free Beacon relayed the news that the establishment press has yet to touch (link is in original; bolds are mine):

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AP’s Crutsinger, As Dismal First-Quarter GDP Report Looms: Happy Days Are Here Again

At the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, Martin Crutsinger has pretty much proven that he’s been on some kind of workout regimen. If he wasn’t, he couldn’t possibly have carried so much Obama administration water in his 1:45 p.m. report on the state of the economy (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) as he did.

Crutsinger’s message: Pay no attention to that lousy GDP report we expect to see tomorrow morning (there’s some reason to believe that it may get artificially juiced, which I’ll explain later). Starting this month, the economy has been smokin’, and this year’s going to be just great. Too bad the evidence for his optimism mostly doesn’t exist — and to the extent it does, it’s not rip-roaring great. Excerpts from Crutsinger’s latest crummy creation follow the jump.

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NYT Runs Lefty Group’s Evidence of ‘Fast-Food Recovery’ in Wages on Page B4; AP Ignores

The National Employment Law Project claims that it is dedicated to “working to restore the promise of economic opportunity in the 21st century economy.” That sounds promising, but then look at NELP’s directors and the supposed “solutions” the group and its friends advocate — e.g., higher minimum wage, “uphold the freedom to join a union.” etc. It’s clear that NELP is just another lefty advocacy group pushing the kinds of policies which have led to six years of economic weakness.

That said, NELP recently released research showing that jobs gained since the recession ended have skewed far more heavily towards low-wage industries than the jobs which were lost during the recession. Press coverage has been skimpy. The one major writeup at the New York Times on Sunday for Monday’s print edition appeared on Page B4. The nature of Annie Lowrey’s coverage at the Times led Fox News to accurately tease it as a story about the “Fast-Food Recovery.” Excerpts from the Times story follow the jump (bolds are mine):

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‘Facts’ and ‘Lies’ in an Ohio Free-Speech Case

Can poliicians “let it rip” responsibly?

___________________________________

On Tuesday, the same day that the Supreme Court issued its decision firmly upholding Michigan’s 2006 civil rights initiative prohibiting racial preferences in university admissions and public-sector employment and contracting, the court also heard arguments in a critical political speech case originating in Ohio.

Ultimately at issue is the section of Ohio’s Revised Code involving “false statements in campaign materials.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer estimates that “At least 15 other states have similar laws.”

The case’s plaintiffs, the Susan B. Anthony List, a prolife organization, and COAST, a group of Greater Cincinnati limited-government activists, want the entire law thrown out. In his final rebuttal Tuesday, SBAL’s attorney stated: “We want to say that anything, fact or opinion, is unconstitutional to limit under the false statement law.”

To be clear, as COAST attorney Christopher Finney reminded me in a Friday morning conversation, the Supreme Court’s decision in the case will only directly relate to standing, i.e., whether SBAL and COAST have the right to bring legal action. That said, the justices’ necessarily narrow ruling may also yield clues as to their feelings on the underlying matter.

The free-speech tide is clearly running in the plaintiffs’ direction. In 2012, the court, in U.S. vs. Alvarez, ruled that a 2005 federal law which criminalized false statements about one’s military service and honors was unconstitutional. If there is no legal recourse against people who publicly and obviously lie about their military honors or other aspects of their military service, or even about whether they served at all, then what constitutional basis is there for laws which attempt to curb or sanction even blatantly false statements by political candidates and their supporters? Despite the plaintiffs’ prolife and conservative politcal positions, the American Civil Liberties Union is among the many groups which filed an amicus brief on their behalf. Finney also noted that the certain court members sent clear signals in oral arguments during Alvarez that they have little regard for non-libelous false statement laws in general.

On Tuesday, SBAL argued, and a clear majority of justices seemed to agree, that a 2010 pre-election “probable cause” false statement finding by a panel of the Ohio Elections Commission, the state body formed to hear and adjudicate complaints under the law, sufficed to show that its free-speech rights had been abridged.

SBAL had sought to put up billboards claiming that incumbent First District Congressman Steve Driehaus’s vote for the Affordable Care Act earlier that year constituted support for taxpayer-funded abortions. Billboard companies refused SBAL’s business as a result of the finding. COAST joined the action because it had been ready to publicly push the same argument until the OEC panel’s finding. The State of Ohio, in defending its law, has argued that since the full OEC hadn’t formally ruled, no actual harm had occurred.

The full OEC never heard the matter, because Driehaus did not pursue his OEC complaint after losing his reelection bid. Instead, he opted to sue SBAL for defamation and — get this — “loss of livelihood.” This gambit progressed through the legal system much further than it should have before ultimately failing in early 2013. SBAL’s abortion-related assertion relating to Driehaus’s ACA vote has since been vindicated.

In the matter before them, it appears overwhelmingly likely that the Supremes will throw out the State of Ohio’s no-harm argument, and that SBAL and COAST will prevail once the matter returns to the lower courts.

Is all of this for the good? I hope so, but I have my doubts, to a large degree based on my observations of the deteriorating integrity of political parties, candidates, and campaigns — a problem which is far more prevalent on the left than on the right. Throwing out Ohio’s entire law would incorrectly and I believe dangerously concede a cherished point of the deconstructionist left, namely that there is no such thing as a univerally agreed-upon fact.

Section (B) of Ohio’s law prohibits ten categories of false statements. Nine of them are specific. In an ideal world, I would keep at least a few of them, while limiting the punishments involved to fines. The tenth, which prohibits “disseminat(ing) a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not” — is a catch-all, and should indeed be thrown out. This treatment would provide SBAL and COAST the relief they seek while still deterring a few of the most egregious campaign tactics.

To illustrate, let’s look at the opening section of the law’s first specific prohibition. It states that a candidate shall not “Use the title of an office not currently held by a candidate in a manner that implies that the candidate does currently hold that office.”

In 2005, Bob McEwen, one of 11 Republican primary candidates in a special congressional election free-for-all brought about by then-Congressman Rob Portman’s decision to accept an appointment as President George W. Bush’s trade representative, began running TV and radio ads and distributing literature referring to him as “Congressman McEwen.” Bob hadn’t been in Congress for over a dozen years; voters fired him in November 1992, primarily because of his involvement in the House Bank scandal.

A Metro Columbus lawyer outraged by McEwen’s tactic filed a complaint with the OEC. During a requested recess at the body’s initial probable cause hearing, the hearing ended when McEwen’s attorney promised the complainant that the candidate and campaign would comply with the law.

McEwen ultimately finished a fairly close second in the tight time frame primary contest. There’s a fair chance that he would have prevailed had he continued his masquerade until Election Day, meaning that he would in essence have been rewarded for his outrageous behavior.

I fail to see how one can reasonably contend that a rule preventing someone from posing as an incumbent constrains free political speech as the Founders envisioned it when they drafted the Constitution’s First Amendment. To name two other specific provisions in Ohio’s law, the same goes for pretending to hold a professional license not actually held, or claiming that an opponent was dishonorably discharged from the military when he or she wasn’t.

Then again, leave it to political opponents and OEC partisans to ruin everything. For example, referring to the political office rule, Finney informed me that the OEC has in the past absurdly ruled that a yard sign saying “Joe Schmoe, Dog Catcher” implied incumbency, and therefore had to be changed to read “Joe Schmoe For Dog Catcher.”

Okay, I give up. It’s open season on facts and lies, with the voters somehow left to sort it all out.

At this point, I’m reminded of John Adams’ warning: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” As applied to elections, Adams’ statement relies on candidates and their supporters to at least try to conduct themselves honorably, and on voters to put in the necessary effort to determine the truth. I don’t think I’m out of line in being pessimistic that these things will consistently occur.

Tuesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (042914)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Artist thanks firefighter who saved his life 20 years ago

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Kaufman, Texas (video at link):

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 5:35 PM
Updated Wednesday, Apr 9 at 2:47 PM

Twenty years ago Greg Doster died on a Texas roadway, but a firefighter restarted his heart.

“They had to put the paddles to me on the side of the road,” said Doster from his Art Studio at his Kaufman home.

This happened after a young driver crossed the center line, hitting Doster and his wife head-on. The driver who hit them died.

It was a volunteer firefighter that saved Doster’s life, and two decades later he has finally found a way to say thank you.

Doster has presented 15 of his own paintings to volunteer fire departments across the state. Most recently he showed a painting called “Fireman’s Touch” to Kaufman. It depicts a fireman comforting a young girl at the scene of a fire.

“Once he got to talking about the accident and where it occurred and everything, then I knew and put two and two together,” said Kaufman Assistant Fire Chief Ronnie Davis.

During the presentation, Davis realized he was among the first to respond to the call two decades ago.
Firefighters in Kaufman were so touched by the gesture, they wanted to pay it forward. In one hour they got the cash together to reproduce the painting, and Tuesday they will present it to the West Volunteer Fire Department.

“I just want to make sure that they know that they are not alone and that people are always there and that nobody will ever forget,” explained Assistant Chief Davis.

Doster says he realizes his gesture is small compared to the daily sacrifice. …

Go here for the rest of the story.