Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lack of media integrity represents yet another serious crisis

A major factor in this year’s presidential campaign is something that should not be a factor at all: the media.

What the nation needs, what the media are expected to provide, and what some Americans think they are getting, is objective, balanced and fair coverage of the events of the day.

That, of course, is what the Society of Professional Journalists intends its profession to provide, and so stated in its Preamble: “Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society's principles and standards of practice.”

America suffers mightily because the media have largely abandoned their ethical and moral obligations in favor of pursuing political goals; no longer information purveyors, they are partisan players, who instead of providing accurate, objective news now push deliberately distorted partisan messages.

This has earned the media a few derisive names: the lame stream media, the drive-by media, the lapdog media or press, the Ministry of Propaganda, the Talking Point Monkeys, presstitutes … the list goes on.

The bias exhibited by the major media exists not only in how they present information, but also in what information they present, what they don’t present, and the amount of emphasis certain items receive.

The issue is further clouded by the fact that many media outlets provide both news and opinion. There is nothing wrong with that, so long as news and opinion are carefully handled and kept separate, and opinion is clearly labeled as such. Far too often, they get mixed together.

It doesn’t get much worse than when the media take sides, as they have done in the presidential campaign. One recent example resulted from a meeting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held with a few supporters in a private home in Florida. Speaking to a group of like-minded supporters, Mr. Romney made comments that on the surface conveyed a message that seemed to show his apparent lack of concern for approximately half the country.

Such an interpretation doesn’t pass the smell test, of course, as indicated by the high level of charitable giving the Romneys donate each year – nearly 30 percent of net income in 2011 – but it makes a good story and helps the media boost their candidate, Barack Obama.

Some facts need to be considered: First, it was a private, off-the-record meeting; no press invited, and he spoke to people who understood that his comments were not intended to be taken absolutely literally. Furthermore, a whole lot of the people in that 47 percent that Mr. Romney mentioned not only know what he meant, but agree with him.

Second, a spy secretly – perhaps illegally – recorded his comments, and then an openly left-wing publication edited the comments and published them without explaining the circumstances of the meeting or confessing that it had doctored the contents.

The recording became a handy Romney-bashing tool for other media outlets, which either didn’t research the source or notice the clandestine nature of the recording, or just didn’t care about the lack of honesty and forthrightness.

There can be no reasonable doubt that this cheap-shot episode was designed solely to hurt Mr. Romney to the benefit of Mr. Obama. Such “reporting” is dishonest and beneath responsible journalists, who are now in short supply.

However, stripped of the spy’s and the media’s disreputable conduct, and the media’s opportunistic parsing and misstating of his beliefs, what Mr. Romney said was true, and important: Half of the country pays taxes to the government and half receives money from the government. In fact, 70 percent of federal spending goes to 47 government dependence programs, according to the Heritage Foundation, and that is a serious problem.

The national media largely reported the Romney non-story rather than objectively cover the nation’s fiscal crisis and the disastrous presidency of Barack Obama, whose administration danced, dodged and twisted into knots to avoid admitting that the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya was a terrorist attack.

The public has taken notice. Distrust of the mass market mainstream media – newspapers, TV and radio – hit a new high this year, with 60 percent in a Gallup survey saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly,” while only 8 percent have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence.

Last year, Gallup found that almost half of Americans (47 percent) believed the mainstream media had a liberal bias, but in the 1970s trust in the media was as high as 72 percent.

Alas, the good old days of the media, like the good old days of many other things, are long gone, and the American media seems not to care about its reputation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is the 2007 recession worthy of the title the “Great Recession”?

It is widely accepted that the recession of 2007 was the most serious since the Great Depression, and it has been given the pithy moniker “Great Recession” by folks who like the air of importance and weight the comparison adds to this particular downturn, and by those who have a compulsion for pithy monikers.

There have been 13 recessions since the Great Depression: 1937, 1945, 1949, 1953, 1958, 1960-61, 1969-70, 1973-75, 1980, 1981-82, 1990-91, 2001, 2007-09. Only four lasted more than a year, and none of them featured a drop of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) more than a fraction of the drop in the Great Depression.

However, during their time some of the other 13 recessions were also called the “Great Recession” by those of like mind to today’s pithy title advocates. The title was suggested for the recessions of 1973-75, and 1980, the 1990-91 and 2001, but the name didn’t stick because the event didn’t measure up to the name. Therefore, the question: was 2007 really the worst recession since the 30s, and even if it was, does it warrant that momentous moniker?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the 2007 recession began in December of that year, lasted 18 months, and ended in June 2009. GDP fell to a low point of -5.1 percent, and the U-3 unemployment rate hit 10.0 percent in October of 2009.

Before that, the last recession with similar specs began in July 1981, lasted 16 months, and ended in November 1982. GDP bottomed out at -2.7 percent, and unemployment rose to 10.8 percent (U-3) in November of 1982.

The answer to whether ’07 is the worst since the 30s depends upon the criteria one uses to define what “worst” means. Generally, the key factor in determining the “if, when and how bad” of recessions is GPD, but unemployment and duration also matter. So how does 2007 measure up?

Using negative GDP as the measure, the recessions of 1937 (-18.2 percent) and 1945 (-12.7 percent) dwarf the 2007 recession. However, 2007 is the worst since 1945, using that measure. If the U-3 unemployment rate is the measure, the 1981 recession takes the honor. If duration is the measure, 2007 edges out 1973-75 and 1981 by only two months.

By contrast, the Great Depression posted peak numbers in all categories that make all of the recessions look mild, including 2007: duration = 55 months; unemployment = 24.9 percent (even using the broader U-6 number for 2007, which is closer to how unemployment was calculated in the 1930s, the Great Depression still wins this one); GDP = negative 26.7 percent.

Without downplaying the pain and suffering people are feeling today, objectively we should expect that for a recession to earn the title “Great Recession” – really earn it – it ought to clearly dominate in the cited categories over other recessions. The 2007 recession does not. It was significant, but not all that remarkable, compared to its namesake, the Great Depression.

What is remarkable is the virtually non-existent recovery. Therefore, a more apt term to apply is the “Great Lethargic Recovery.”

Conn Carroll is the Assistant Director for Strategic Communications at The Heritage Foundation. Comparing the current slow recovery to the Reagan Recovery of the early 80s, he writes that the last recession that lasted at least 16 months began in July 1981 in Ronald Reagan’s first term, and ended in November 1982. “In his 1983 State of the Union Address,” Mr. Carroll wrote, “President Reagan described an economic situation that mirrored our own today: ‘The problems we inherited were far worse than most inside and out of government had expected; the recession was deeper than most inside and out of government had predicted. Curing those problems has taken more time and a higher toll than any of us wanted. Unemployment is far too high.’”

Under Reagan’s policies the unemployment rate fell from a high of 10.8 percent in December 1982 to 7.2 percent in November of 1984 – that’s a 3.6 point improvement in 23 months.

That is a striking difference from the 2007 recession, where unemployment peaked at 10.0 percent in October of 2009 and has never been below 8.0 percent in the 43 months since.

“But where President Obama responded to an economic recession with a bigger than $2 trillion expansion of government (more than $1 trillion on health care and almost $1 trillion in economic stimulus),” Mr. Carroll notes, “President Reagan passed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which cut marginal income tax rates across the board permanently.”

He continues: “Where President Obama promised government action that was ‘bold and swift,’ President Reagan said: ‘The permanent recovery in employment, production, and investment we seek won’t come in a sharp, short spurt.’ Where President Obama used tax credits, subsidies, and bailouts to perpetuate industries in need of adjustment, President Reagan helped the private sector forge a quick recovery.

President Reagan’s sensible economic prescription worked. The low-tax-rates and reduced regulation stimulated economic growth and created jobs. And his America-is-the-hope-of-the-world philosophy buoyed spirits.

However, President Obama’s ideologically-based ideas of taxing the rich, always seeing government as the solution, and negative America-causes-the-world’s-problems attitude have not worked.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Exactly what does being “better off than four years ago” look like?

The DC newspaper The Hill has a new poll that found 52 percent of likely voters believe the country is now in "worse condition" than four years ago, while just 31 percent believe it's in "better condition."

It is pretty clear that people believe they are not better off today than four years ago, but what would things look like if we were better off today?

Well, for example, if your home was worth $80,000 in September of 2008 it should not be worth less today and perhaps should have gained a little value. Or, if you were out of work then, you should have a job today, and if you had a job then, you should perhaps be making a little more today. It should not cost you much more to fill your car with gas, and trips to the grocery store should cost about the same today as then.

However, most Americans cannot make such claims today. Most homeowners have lost value in their homes; more than 34 million of us are unemployed, underemployed, or have exhausted unemployment insurance and become so discouraged that we have given up looking for work; gasoline prices have doubled, food and health care prices have increased; and relatively few have seen their wages increase.

The jobs numbers released last Friday reflect feeble job creation in August. Just to stay even with the new people entering the job market each month the economy must create 125,000 jobs, and to make progress in replacing those jobs lost during the recession we need lots more new jobs than that. The 96,000 new jobs created in August falls 29,000 jobs short of what’s needed just to stay even.

The U-3 unemployment rate fell from 8.3 to 8.1 percent. It most often is a good sign when the U-3 rate falls, but the fact that for every job created four people gave up looking for work and dropped out of the active work force means no good news there.

Economist James Fitzgibbon of the Highlander Group said that "If we impute the data samplings of non-working citizens at the labor force rate of January 2009 we would have a Household U-3 Unemployment rate currently of 11.4%." That isn’t better than four years ago, either.
Mr. Fitzgibbon then addresses the effect on the Labor Force Participation rate of the 368,000 people who dropped out of the labor force last month, which "has fallen sharply to 63.5 percent, a new 31-year low reading."  

Add to that the fact that from June 2009 to June 2012, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 4.8 percent, to $50,964, according to a report by Sentier Research. The report notes that incomes have dropped more since the beginning of the recovery than they did during the recession itself, when they declined 2.6 percent.  That certainly does not indicate we are better off than four years ago.

Yet, Vice President Joe Biden said last week at a campaign appearance at an AFL-CIO event just before the beginning of the Democrat National Convention that his answer to the question “Are you better off than four years ago,” is “yes, we are.”

"You want to know whether we're better off? I've got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," Mr. Biden proclaimed.

After 43 months in office, the vice president cites only two things to support the idea that we are better off than four years ago, both weak. As good as it is that bin Laden has been dispatched to his just reward, whether he is alive or dead is totally irrelevant as a measure of whether Americans are better off today than four years ago.   The other one, General Motors, is not looking quite as bright and shiny as the vice president seems to think it is.

The company is losing market share; its products are not competitive in the American market.  The federal government owns 500,000,000 shares of GM, or about 26 percent of the company, which earned it the nickname “Government Motors.” The government not only cheated GM bondholders out of their investment when it acquired the stock, but would need to get about $53.00 a share to break even on the “investment,” but the stock currently sells for about $20.21 a share.  The government has $10.1 billion worth of stock, and sits on an unrealized loss of $16.4 billion.

President Barack Obama showed what he thinks is important when he put his ideology ahead of what Mr. Biden termed his “profound concern for the average American.” His first priorities were taking over the healthcare system and force-feeding green energy to the American people. That put energy industry workers out of work, cost Americans millions in higher prices, and lost a pile of taxpayer money. But like the man said, “You don’t ever want a good crisis to go to waste.”

The President’s foolish, ham-handed decision to focus on health care and green energy have damaged, not improved, the economy, and as Clint Eastwood so perceptively noted in Tampa, “When somebody doesn’t do the job, we gotta let ‘em go.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Remembering the Victims of 9-11

Editors Note: What follows originated in 2006, and is repeated in 2012.

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers joined together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11. Each person payed tribute to a single victim.We honor them by remembering their lives, and not by remembering their murderers.

So reads the introductory material on the 2996 Web page. I was assigned James Arthur Greenleaf, Jr. I was the 1357th blogger to sign up for the 2,996 Tribute project.

The name of each 9-11 victim was been assigned to a blogger.

This project was a very moving one for me. In searching for information on Jim Greenleaf’s life, I was deeply touched by who this young man was.

James Arthur Greenleaf, Jr., age 32, native of Waterford, Conn. Mr. Greenleaf was a foreign exchange trader at Carr Futures and died at the World Trade Center. He was a resident of New York, N.Y. Mr. Greenleaf was a 1991 graduate of Connecticut College, he was the son of Mr. And Mrs. James Greenleaf, Sr., and the former husband of Susan Cascio, a 1992 graduate of Connecticut College.

The following was posted by Mr. Greenleaf’s mother on

April 6, 2002

My Dearest Jim,

Almost 7 months have passed and not a day goes by that I don't think about you. Some days I pretend that I just haven't seen you in long time and that you will be visiting soon. I know that it will be a long time till we see each other again, but it does help on the bad days.

Just this week Dad and I received 2 letters from old friends of yours recalling some great times that they spent with you and they wanted us to know what an impact you had on their lives. One letter we received said that she had children of her own and just hoped that some day they might grow up to be the kind of person that she remembers you as being. What a
wonderful tribute to the fine man that you were. You touched so many people and I'm sure that you had no idea of how others thought of you.

I know that I kissed you and told you how much I loved you every time I had the opportunity to, but I wanted to say it to you today again.

I love you so much,


Peter, Bryn and I talk about you all the time and remember all the wonderful times we spent together.
(Patricia Greenleaf, Waterford, CT)

Quilt graphic thanks to Kim at United in Memory

The James A. Greenleaf, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established to honor and remember a dear family member and friend who lost his life as a result of the catastrophe which occurred in New York City in 2001. The fund will be used to provide financial assistance to students attending St. Bernard High School.

Dave McBride also hopes to help others by honoring the memory of his long-time friend with the 5th Annual 5K River Run For The Fund. The race, which takes place this Saturday, May 13th at Ocean Beach Park in New London, is part of the Greenleaf Memorial Foundation, which also incorporates an annual Golf Tournament and a Memorial Dinner. McBride and James Greenleaf were best friends since high school, graduating from St. Bernard in 1987.

Sadly, Greenleaf lost his life because of the terrorist acts that occurred as he was working in New York City on the morning of September 11th, 2001. In a tribute to Greenleaf, his family and friends created the James A. Greenleaf, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc., with proceeds used to award full book scholarships for 8th grade students to attend St. Bernard High School. The organization received approximately 30-40 scholarship applications annually, which require a formal essay and teacher recommendations that are reviewed by the Foundation’s Board of Directors. The fund also hopes to increase its scholarship offerings either to St Bernard students or other local students who will be attending college.

 Leave a message in honor of James Arthur Greenleaf Jr.

From: Lisa LaGalia Date: 11/19/2004 Message: Hi babe it me. Still not better without you. Can't you take me there where you are. We should be together
From: Maureen Griffin Balsbaugh Date: 08/29/2005 Message: At every one of your events. We know you are there in spirit....laughing.

This comment was left just a few days ago:

Thank you for posting information on Jim Greenleaf. We went to high school together. During the three years, we played football and ran track together. We ate many lunches together. 

With my return to the US in 2007, I have been able to attend the annual golf outing twice. The outpouring of help given by friends of Jimmy is very inspiring. His scholarship is helping many children attend St. Bernard H.S.

Thank you for the great site.

PS As an aside, we lost another high school friend that day, Eric Evans. He was in one of the towers when they fell. Both gone but not forgotten.

Jim Greenleaf, rest in peace.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

As the election approaches, let’s focus on what is really important

Even though the recession officially ended in June of 2009, America’s economy continues to languish:

  • The national debt will have grown from $10.7 trillion at the end of 2008 to $15.8 trillion by the end of 2012 – that’s about $51,000 for every American citizen (adults and children) – and will exceed total Gross Domestic Product for the first time in the nation’s history.

  • Of every dollar the federal government spends, 40 cents is borrowed.

  • The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent since February of 2009.
  • As of this July 13.4 million Americans were unemployed, and nearly 21 million others were underemployed or have given up looking for work, about 22 percent of the workforce, altogether.

  • At July's rate of job growth – 163,000 new jobs – it would take more than eight years to get back to full employment.

  • Gross Domestic Product was negative for several months and has been mostly 1.0 to 2.5 percent for the last three years. In only two of the last 13 quarters has GDP been what is regarded as relatively strong growth of 4 percent or more.

  • The United States’ economic freedom score of 76.3 puts it in 10th place in the 2012 Index. Its score is 1.5 points lower than last year, reflecting deteriorating scores for government spending, freedom from corruption, and investment freedom. The U.S. is among 23 countries rated “mostly free.”

  • Social Security owes $11.3 trillion more in benefits than it will receive in taxes. That includes $2.7 trillion to repay special-issue bonds and $6.5 trillion for benefits after the trust fund is exhausted in 2033. That is an increase of $2.2 trillion from last year’s report, and is the largest one-year drop in the program’s finances in nearly two decades. The system ran a deficit for 2011 of $11.5 billion.

  • The U.S. Senate has not acted on proposed budgets in over three years.

  • One of every three Americans – more than 100 million of us – receives some form of support from the government, and nearly half of American workers pay nothing to support the federal government.

In 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president against incumbent George H.W. Bush in a much stronger economy than we have today, the major focus of Democrats was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” That is not their focus today. Mitt Romney’s tax returns are far more important to them.

If you are one of those wondering about Mr. Romney’s tax returns, ask yourself this question: If the tax laws are written to encourage people to do certain things that limit their tax liability through deductions or credits (such as charitable contributions), and if a high earner like Mitt Romney does some or all of those things the tax laws encourage taxpayers to do, and by doing those thing he pays little or no taxes to the federal government, why should anyone be concerned about that, or try to make Mitt Romney out to be some sort of un-American tax-dodger?

The answer, of course, is that the Democrat’s record provides nothing for them to talk about. They have made little if any progress against the nation’s substantial economic problems.

Actually, if it was just that Democrat policies haven’t improved things, we would be better off than we are. But Democrat policies have made things worse, and more bad news is on the horizon.

A July survey by the National Federation of Independent Business revealed that the top three concerns of small businesses were taxes, regulations, and poor sales. These concerns pose a significant problem, because small businesses are America’s job creators, the engine of the American economy. The Small Business Administration estimates that small businesses create about 65 percent of the nation's net new jobs, or jobs created minus jobs eliminated.

There are 1.2 million small businesses that employ workers and make more than $200,000 a year, and which pay taxes as individuals. The expiration of the “Bush tax cuts” raises their taxes and Ernst & Young estimates that more than 700,000 jobs will be lost.

The Heritage Foundation reports that "During the first three years of the Obama Administration, 106 new major federal regulations added more than $46 billion per year in new costs for Americans. Hundreds more regulations are winding through the rulemaking pipeline as a consequence of the Dodd–Frank financial-regulation law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency's global warming crusade, threatening to further weaken an anemic economy and job creation."

Businesses are also suffering from reduced sales, since so many people are out of work, and further impacted by rising fuel prices. This forces businesses either to raise prices to recoup the additional costs, which further discourages sales, or to absorb the costs, affecting profitability. Higher costs discourage hiring, and lower profits put businesses at risk of closing.

But let’s not let these dire circumstances cause us to take our eye off the ball. As the election approaches, we have to focus on Mitt Romney’s tax returns and other similar less significant things than the horrible economic and jobs pictures.