Would you believe that Dan Rather is calling on former President George W. Bush to lead a blue-ribbon effort to reform the news media? Well, obviously, the disgraced ex-CBS News anchor is not trusting the future of journalism to Bush, but in an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post, he is asking President Barack Obama “form a commission to address the perilous state of America’s news media.”
Rather insists he is not asking for any kind of a “government bailout” or “government control” of the media, just a high-profile discussion of the state of the media:
Why bring the President into it? Because this is the only way I could think of to generate the sort of attention this subject deserves. Academia and think tanks generate study after study, yet their findings don't reach the people who need to be reached....
Times have been tough financially for media companies across the board and satellite radio has been no exception.
On Aug. 6, Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) posted a second-quarter loss and the company hasn't lived up to expectations after Sirius and XM completed a merger a little over a year ago. According to "CNBC Reports" host Dennis Kneale, part of the satellite radio's problem is shock jock Howard Stern's compensation and the company's debt.
"I feel so, bad - there's, being run by one of what I think is the best executives in media, Mel Karmazin, a great salesman," Kneale said on CNBC's Aug. 6 "Power Lunch." "But in the end, does it turn out they just overpaid for Howard Stern and they have too much debt? I wonder if John Malone bailed them out temporarily hoping that they kind of go belly-up so they can get a hold of those assets really cheap."
On Aug. 3, Richard Bernstein, CEO of Richard Bernstein Capital Management and CNBC contributor, told "Squawk Box" viewers: "One has to wonder how much TARP money has gone into bank balance sheets to speculate on commodities, right? Because the amount that's - the amount of speculation in commodities on bank balance sheets is much larger than what you get from the CFTC."
A common theme of the new administration and their media minions is that all the problems associated with the economy and the rising budget deficits are George W. Bush's fault.
On Sunday's "This Week," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said (video available here, relevant section at 9:40):
Remember we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit. The cumulative consequences of the policies this country pursued over the last 8 years left us with 6 trillion dollars of more debt than we would have had by making a bunch of commitments to cut taxes and add to spending without paying for those.
Sadly, host George Stephanopoulos didn't challenge Geithner on these numbers. Here are the facts:
Say what you want about the Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck and his antics, but to give credit where credit is due, he exposed some disturbing language from the Obama administration's "Cash for Clunker" program Web site Cars.gov.
"Here is Cars.gov. Let's say you go in, if I understand this right - I go in and I say, ‘I want to turn in my clunker.' The dealer goes to Cars.gov, and then they hit submit transaction. Here it says, ‘Privacy Act & Security Statement,' and you're just like, ‘Oh, it's the Privacy Act of 1974. Whatever, I agree. Now, this is how bad this system is."
The zoo I'm referring to is the Franklin Park Zoo (FPZ), not the Massachusetts state legislature, although the slang version of the word's meaning likely applies there as well.
As reported in a July 10 Boston Globe story, in reaction to Patrick's line-item veto of $4 million of the FPZ's $6.5 million annual subsidy, Zoo New England, which runs the FPZ's two zoo sites, ".... in a written statement that echoed a letter sent earlier to legislative leaders, said they would be unlikely to find homes for at least 20 percent of the animals, 'requiring either destroying them, or the care of the animals in perpetuity.'"
After a fierce public and political backlash, zoo management appeared to pull back. Glen Johnson at the Associated Press on July 13 said that "it stepped back from that claim over the weekend, saying 'there are no plans for the zoo to euthanize any animals in the collection as a result of the budget cuts.'"
As if the relationship between the Obama Administration and the news media weren't cozy enough already, former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather is calling on President Obama to "make recommendations" for the media on how to survive the economic downturn.
Rather spoke at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colo. on July 28 and addressed challenges to the news industry, which he described as challenges to the "very survival of American democracy," and insisted the president should step in.
"I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media," Rather said, according to the July 29 Aspen Daily News.
As the DOW hit 9000 for the first time since January, NBC’s “Today” refused to give up its crusade against big banks. Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC appeared on July 24 to offer his opinion on what caused the economic crisis and what needs to be done in order to prevent another.
Not surprisingly, his answer to one of these questions was government regulation. And here’s a shocker, it was not the answer to the first. Ratigan came out swinging against the bank’s greed that supposedly brought the American economy into “total collapse, essentially” as host Meredith Vieira worded it.
[Update, 8:24 pm Eastern: Audio and video clips from the interview added.]
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was a bit surprised by Rudy Giuliani’s answer during Wednesday’s Situation Room, after asking the former mayor to reassess his prediction last year about “on-the-job training” for a President Obama. Blitzer inquired whether his “worst fears [had] come true.” Giuliani answered, “In many respects, it’s much worse than I thought.” The anchor merely replied, “Really?” [audio clips from the interview are available here].
Blitzer’s question and response to the former mayor’s answer occurred near the end of the interview, after the two had discussed gun control and health care. The anchor played a clip from Giuliani’s speech last year at the Republican convention in Minneapolis, where he bashed the then-candidate Obama’s modicum of experience: “John McCain has been tested- Barack Obama has not. Tough times require strong leadership, and this is no time for on-the-job training.”
The CNN anchor complimented Giuliani for the “good sound bite from the speech,” and asked for his assessment of the Obama presidency so far. The Republican’s answer led to Blitzer’s surprised reaction, and the anchor asked for an explanation:
The banks are profiting once again and Meredith Vieira is livid about it. During her July 21 interview with President Obama, Vieira questioned Obama about the banks having the audacity to do what taxpayers bailed them out to do: profit.
“You know I wanted to ask you about Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan reporting these big profits in the second quarter,” Vieira told Obama as they walked through the White House. “And they're talking about bonuses for their employees. People hear that, taxpayers, and they're very frustrated.”
PBS’s Jim Lehrer forwarded several questions with a clear leftward tilt during an interview with President Obama on his Newshour program on Monday. He urged the executive to “crack heads” to get his health care plan passed, and inquired if “taxing the wealthy” was an option to fund it. Lehrer later pressed Mr. Obama on the “huge profits” being made by “big Wall Street banks.”
The PBS anchor led the interview with a sympathetic question on the president’s slipping poll numbers: “Mr. President, it must have been a little unpleasant for you to wake up this morning to see this headline: ‘Washington Post poll shows Obama slipping on key issues, approval rating on health care falls below 50 percent.’ What’s that mean?”
After the president’s initial answer, Lehrer went right to health care, and hinted that the Democrat’s “reform” plan should be passed with little to no congressional input: “As you know, a lot of the commentary over the weekend was that nothing’s going to happen, getting from here to the final hurdle here, unless you really start cracking some heads, and really say, ‘Hey, this is the Obama plan, this is what I want. So much for what this committee wants and that- what that committee wants. Here’s what I want, and I'm going to push and go.’ Are you ready to do that?”
Noel characterized Raum's report as suggesting that "the White House's delay in releasing an update about the budget might be tied to the administration's desire to get controversial bills on healthcare reform and cap and trade passed before Congress and Americans know just how large the deficit really is." That's because the delayed report would more than likely tell the nation that this year's deficit is expected to be even bigger than expected (using proper cash-flow reporting, which I'll get to), and future years' projected deficits are even more likely to be unsustainably high.
Two important things were missing from Raum's report. First, there was a total dearth of detail about how badly the current fiscal year that began on October 1 of last year has gone -- most especially the last quarter. Second, Raum saved until near the end of his report a prediction by one of the wire service's go-to "experts" -- the first such prediction I've seen -- that Gross Domestic Product will contract yet again in the third quarter.
Minority broadcasters are asking tax-cheat Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for financial assistance. Sounds like the financial and auto industries, and it is. These broadcasters, including the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the Inner City Broadcasting Coalition, the Spanish Broadcasting System, and others say they can bounce back because “unlike the auto business, broadcasting has been healthy for many years.” Has it now?
Ad revenues for broadcasters started declining severely in late 2007 and throughout 2008 were down up to 40% in some cases. The ad decline not only impacted broadcasters, it impacted newspaper groups and many such as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and others have gone out of business. Stock prices of some radio groups have fallen to absolutely nothing. So, minority broadcasters have a rosy picture ahead?
In his report's apparent final incarnation early Tuesday morning, the AP writer:
Told us the amount of June's deficit ($94.3 billion), but didn't disclose the figures for June's receipts ($215.4 billion) or "outlays" ($309.7 billion), or how they compared to June of last year. In doing so, he "succeeded" in concealing the accelerating decline in tax collections.
Didn't tell us that the past month's deficit is by far the worst June ever.
"Forgot," as he did in May, to tell readers that the deficit would be hundreds of billions of dollars higher if it weren't for an "accounting change" retroactively put into place by Treasury in April that changed the definition of "outlays."
Cited the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as contributors to the deficit situation, while not identifying several other expenditure categories that have been worse offenders by far.
Found an economist, without dissent, to support the claim that what the Obama administration has done had to be done.
And that doesn't even count Crutsinger's Krugmanesque rewrites of the history of the 1930s Depression era and 1990s Japan, or the apparatchik-like tone present in a few of his paragraphs.
Steven Rattner, a former New York Times reporter whose short tenure as Obama's so-called car czar "came under a cloud in April when details of alleged influence-peddling surfaced," announced his resignation yesterday, the Washington Post's Peter Whoriskey and Tomoeh Murakami Tse reported today.
Yet despite President Obama's penchant for naming numerous policy czars, news of the resignation was shuffled off to page A11 rather than trumpeted on the front page. Curiously, the Post did find space below the fold on page A1 for a story that basically boils down to how the stress of being U.S. Attorney General is wearing on Eric Holder.
What's more, the Rattner story itself is front-loaded with praise for Rattner from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Obama-approved GM chief Fritz Henderson, while less savory details about the influence-peddling investigation were buried towards the end of the 18-paragraph article.
Last year, banks were “too big to fail” and were arm twisted into taking a federal bailout. Now that many of them have repaid the TARP money, the media deems their profits to be a betrayal of the taxpayers.
NBC “Today” host Meredith Vieira began the segment on Goldman Sachs by pitting the average American against the big companies, “While you may be struggling financially these days, happy days appear to be here again for some companies on wall street, and now they are getting set to pay out some big bonuses.”
Correspondent Melissa Francis also continued this storyline in her report. “With the nation’s unemployment rate moving closer to ten percent, a housing market still plagued by foreclosures and households struggling to make ends meet, it might be hard for most Americans to believe that it’s back to business as usual on Wall Street,” she said.
If you listened to any top-of-the-hour radio newscast yesterday, you probably heard that General Motors has exited from bankruptcy, with the company promising to really, really do better this time around.
You more than likely didn't hear anything about how much government money it has taken to enable GM to survive and reemerge. That's because original story sources like the Associated Press put off such troublesome disclosures until later in their reports.
In the AP's case, even when writers Tom Krisher and Ken Thomas, assisted by three other contributors, finally got around to discussing taxpayer funding in the 25th paragraph of their 29-paragraph report, they understated the amount of government money expended. The pair also seemed to imply that creditors of the "old GM," consisting of the parts the emerging company left behind, would be made whole, which is of course far from the case.
Here are the paragraphs from the story that relate to my observations:
This was inevitable. When the Obama administration effectively took over General Motors, Obama-friendly media hacks were going to tout the company's products . . .
And so it was that on his MSNBC show this evening, Ed Schultz offered up an unpaid infomercial for GM's new Camaro. Most grotesque was Schultz's boast that the Camaro was outselling the Ford Mustang. Take that, private-sector company that declined to take Obama's dime!
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" That's a saying once bungled by President George W. Bush, to the loud delight of the liberal media. But that same media should keep it in mind as Washington mulls a second round of stimulus spending.
A July 7 Bloomberg story by Shamim Adam reported that Laura Tyson, an economic advisor to the Obama administration, had put forward the notion that the $787 billion approved in February was "a bit too small," and that government should consider a second stimulus package "focusing on infrastructure projects."
Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., maintains there is "no showing that a second stimulus is needed," other members, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in a July 7 Politico article, say it shouldn't be taken off the table.
Why is CNBC's Rick Santelli one of the few press members willing to point out when the emperor isn't wearing any clothes?
As you ponder that important question, consider how Santelli on Tuesday morning recognized how absurd Vice President Joe Biden's Sunday comments were concerning the Obama administration misreading how bad the economy was.
After all, as Santelli marvelously asked: "How many hundreds of times has the current administration talked about the worst recession in history? The worst time since the Depression?"
Question for CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood: Where were you six-and-a-half months ago?
Harwood on CNBC's July 6 "Squawk Box" noted that the stimulus was not working quite as well as the Obama Administration had hoped - this coming in the wake of comments from Vice President Joe Biden that the economy was "misread" by the administration. The difficulty with the stimulus, he contended, was the inability of the government to spend such a large sum of money in an effective time period.
"Well, I think they're hoping that this summer period is when they can in fact ramp up the spending," Harwood said. "It's not easy to spend the amount of money that they appropriated, $800 billion, that quickly."
In the later paragraphs of a story today about the latest hurdle bailed-out General Motors has managed to jump to get out of bankruptcy, the Associated Press's Bree Fowler almost totally ignored the impact of Ford's improvement largely at GM's expense during the first half of 2009, acting as if GM's decline has almost solely been the result of defections to foreign competitors.
Fowler's only mention of Ford comes in connection with its new, apparently redesigned Fiesta. Fowler makes it appear to the relatively uninformed reader that the Fiesta is appearing on the market for the first time.
Oh. So. Predictable -- Both what is happening, and how it is being "covered."
Chrysler is barely out of bankruptcy, and there is already concern as to whether the money Uncle Sam, (i.e., U.S. taxpayers) funneled into the company -- while in the process of ripping off and intimidating its secured creditors, capriciously terminating plants and dealers, and running roughshod over long-held notions of fiduciary duty -- will be enough.
Beyond that, how many people know that the magical technology its new owner Fiat, which put no money of its own into the deal, is "more than a year away" from making its way to Chrysler?
"Somehow," the Associated Press's Obamacized news prioritizers decided that the info nuggets contained in the previous two paragraphs should be relegated to the final paragraphs of an unbylined report (also saved at host) this afternoon. The report, including its headline ("Chrysler names remaining directors to new board"), appeared to be merely a droll recitation concerning certain Board members. Only readers getting to the last three of the report's eight paragraphs would have any idea that Chrysler's situation is already a cause for renewed concern about its viability.
Readers here can make what they will of the Board's make-up, but, as noted, the real beef in the AP story is in those final paragraphs (bolds are mine):
Which company sold the most light trucks in the U.S. in June?
Which company came in at Number 9 in car sales in June, down from Number 7 a year ago?
Aren't smaller players in the auto industry obviously gaining ground on the big guys because of their small, fuel-efficient cars?
If you don't know the answers to these questions, it's because the press has been doing a poor job of covering what's really been going on in the industry since the Era of the (Failed) Auto Company Bailouts began in December of last year.
Answers to the three questions are in the charts that follow:
We are now six months into the failed Auto Bailout Era. Looking at the industry's four biggest companies, it has become clear that Ford is on the rise, General Motors continues to slip badly, Chrysler is fading into minor-player status, and Toyota's ongoing struggles continue.
In May, after April's sales results came out, two Associated Press writers noted Ford's ascendancy and uniquely hinted at its likely basis:
Detroit’s Big Three is becoming Ford and the other two.
While its rivals stay afloat with billions in government aid, Ford grabbed a bigger slice of the American car market in April .....
..... Most of ..... (Ford's) gains came at the expense of General Motors and Chrysler, which unlike Ford are dependent on federal help.
Other than that, there has been virtually no press recognition of what has to be seen as the most likely reason for the shift: Enough consumers to matter are continuing to shun the unsuccessfully bailed-out.
Fox News's Stuart Varney had a heated debate Wednesday with Air America's Mike Papantonio about the state of the economy and the effectiveness of the $787 billion stimulus package.
Subbing for Neil Cavuto on Wednesday's "Your World," Varney tried repeatedly to get his liberal guest to admit that porkulus hasn't worked and that the economy is getting worse.
Papantonio wasn't having any of that hypocritically and amnesiacly claiming, "We have to get behind this President and be more positive" adding "You cannot be ankle-biting every day this man says something, you can't be attacking" (video embedded below the fold, h/t NBer Dan Scott):
New York Times reporter Edmund Andrews is again writing about housing -- and about a proposed government agency that could have helped him during his own housing crisis -- on the front page of Wednesday's Business section, "Banks Balk At Agency Meant to Aid Consumers."
Andrews courted controversy in May upon the release of his book "Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown," about his own personal mortgage crisis. But his denunciations of greedy banks left out vital information -- his wife's previous two bankruptcies.
From Andrews's story on Wednesday:
Banks and mortgage lenders are placing top priority on killing President Obama's proposal to create a new consumer protection agency that would regulate home loans, credit card fees, payday loans and other forms of consumer finance.
The Obama administration fired an opening shot on Tuesday, sending Congress a detailed, 150-page proposal for an agency that would set new standards for ordinary mortgages, restrict or prohibit risky loans, investigate financial institutions and enforce new laws aimed at protecting credit card customers.
"This agency will have only one mission -- to protect consumers," said Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, in a written statement on Tuesday.
As we near the end of June, which is supposed to be one of the four biggest months for federal tax collections (January, April, and September are the others), it is clear that the serious receipts shortfalls are not only continuing, but have caused the March 20 projections of the administration and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to be outdated.
Media coverage of the ongoing receipts dive has been minimal at best. A Google News search on "federal receipts" (typed in quotes) returns on seven items, two of them originating from yours truly.
Here is where things stand as of the last Friday of June in both 2009 and 2008, per Uncle Sam's related Daily Treasury Statements:
Just last year the government claimed bailouts of major banks like CitiGroup were necessary to prevent economic collapse. But now that banks are turning a profit NBC is returning to attacks on pay.
A June 24 segment of “Today” attacked CitiGroup’s “internal discussions” to raise salaries (by 50 percent in some cases) and other major banks with footage from the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” AIG protest footage and an unemployed Michigan woman.
Meredith Vieira began by stoking class envy saying the story “might make some people hot under the collar.” Citigroup “wants to move away from paying big bonuses by instead giving nearly 300,000 workers large pay increases and it is not alone,” Vieira said.