Saturday, June 19, 2010

News 6/19/10: CJR Accurate Polls? Recession: Fire Old People, States Broke?, WaPo Wall Street Criminals Ignore?

Tags: Polls Biased? Old People Fired States Bankrupt? Going After Criminals on Wall Street? CJR Wash Independent WSJ WaPo Time Mag

Wikipedia: The adjective nominal (ultimately from Latin nōmen, "name") generally relates to the concept of names, and often to the difference between what something is in name (ideally or theoretically) and what it is in reality. …

I cancelled my New York Times subscription and am now getting the Wall Street Journal. So far Murdoch does not seem to be interfering with the Fire Wall between editorial comments and news reporting which the Times does not seem to understand. It is a pleasure to read news reports that does not try to obscure the truth as much as the Times by relegating the real important news towards the end of the long article which very few read.

The Wall Street Journal articles are much shorter and much better written. On occasion, I will try to bring news from CJR that is not emphasized by the Times.

Jim Kawakami, June 19, 2010,

News Analysis from Columbia Journalism Review

BIASED POLLS: A co-founder of the sports network ESPN and former play-by-play broadcaster, Rasmussen is an articulate and frequent guest on Fox News and other outlets, where his nominally nonpartisan data is often cited to support Republican talking points. …

GET RID OF OLD PEOPLE, COMPANY POLICY: The unemployment rate for over-55s is at the highest level since 1948. Since the recession started, both the number of older people seeking work and the rate of unemployment for over-55s have increased more sharply than for all other demographic groups. And older workers comprise a high share of the long-term unemployed. … —The tough, tough situation facing older unemployed workers gets much needed attention from The Washington Independent.

Time magazine goes big on “The Other Financial Crisis,” the one hitting the states. While the piece doesn’t break much new ground, it’s a compelling read that brings a lot of strands together.

WaPo States Such as Charlotte Going Bankrupt Almost no one — and no place — is exempt. Nearly everywhere, tax revenue plummeted as property values tanked, incomes dwindled and consumers stopped shopping. Falling prices for stocks and real estate have made mincemeat of often underfunded public pension plans. Unemployed workers have swelled the demand for welfare and Medicaid services. Governments that were frugal in the past are just squeaking by. Governments that were lavish in the good times, building their budgets on optimism and best-case scenarios, now risk being wrecked like a shantytown in an earthquake.

There are lots of nice details in here, too, like the 9-year-old in Charlotte, N.C., who found out that library branches might start closing and donated $595 in lemonade-stand earnings to help keep them open.

While the tale is sweet, the shock in Charlotte sure isn’t:

“People are asking, ‘We’re Charlotte, North Carolina. We’re big banks. How did we get like this?’ ” says county budget director Hyong Yi. The answer is rooted in that once booming economy. As Charlotte burgeoned, the county approved $1.5 billion in bonds to build a new courthouse and new schools, expand its jails, improve its parks and — irony alert — open state-of-the-art libraries. Then the recession hit. Local unemployment rose to 11.7% in January — twice what it was two years earlier. Homes and commercial real estate lost value, which dried up the county’s chief revenue source, property taxes. The result: a 5% reduction in the upcoming budget, $71 million in cuts on top of $76 million in cuts the year before. Losing nearly $150 million in two years — an eternity of lemonade stands won’t fill that hole.

Like unemployment, this is an important story, and one that demands creativity to tell it well. For clues, check out, a project of the Pew Center on the States, which has been doing a lot of good work on the beat.

Obama Ignoring Criminals on Wall Street? It doesn’t inspire confidence in the Washington Post that it fails to mention the blockbuster SEC fraud charges against Goldman Sachs in a story about how the Obama administration has failed to file criminal charges against Wall Street.

Nearly 1 1/2 years into Obama’s tenure, despite several cases against mortgage companies whose lending practices contributed to the crisis, the administration has not brought any charges against the big Wall Street banks that took those loans, converted them into toxic securities and pumped them into the world’s financial markets. And law enforcement sources say no such charges are imminent.

The Post is apparently talking about criminal charges, but it doesn’t make that explicit. Here’s the lede:

Since taking office at the height of the financial crisis, President Obama has promised to hold Wall Street accountable for the meltdown. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. reinforced that message in November when he vowed to prosecute Wall Street executives and others responsible for the crisis…

His Justice Department took steps to fulfill that promise this week when it arrested the former chairman of one of the nation’s biggest mortgage firms — the largest crisis-related criminal case — and announced that 1,215 people have been charged with mortgage fraud since March 1. But that success masks the government’s difficulties in the highest-profile investigations: those of Wall Street banks.

Even if it had spelled it out, I don’t know how you write a whole story on this without touching the Goldman civil charges. While it doesn’t mention Fabrice Tourre, it does find a sentence to devote to which floor the FBI’s task force head works on at the Department of Justice (fourth if you’re somehow interested).

If the execution is a bit off, the premise of the piece is not: There’s been a whole lot of rhetoric from Obama and his officials and not much action. It’s good that the Post focuses attention on this. The press has a vital role in creating the climate for prosecutions. This kind of story isn’t quite like a Gretchen Morgenson/Jonathan Glater investigation that exposes specific fraud, but not much is. These this-isn’t-happening stories are useful in keeping officials’ feet to the fire. …

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