With so much populist outrage at bankers and other corporate types these days, Hollywood is predictably trying to capitalize on it (TNT's "Leverage" is just one example.) "The International," from Relativity Media was just the latest to hit theaters with its Feb. 13 opening.
In the slow-moving thriller "The International," the executives of the fictional International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC) aren't just crooked, they willingly hire assassins - the executives call them "consultants" - to get rid of anyone about to expose their crimes. The protagonists are Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent played by Clive Owen, and Eleanor Whitman, a Manhattan District Attorney played by Naomi Watts.
Owen made the morning talk show rounds hitting CBS "Early Show" Feb. 11 and ABC's "The View" on Feb. 13. In both cases, the hosts sought to find out if this story was grounded in reality.
"This is based roughly on a true story," CBS's Harry Smith queried. Owen replied that the script was "well-researched" and "well-informed." Owen's comments on "The View" were similar, but at least on ABC the actor admitted that the script was in fact "fictional."
"Now this movie, it really shows you that banks are terrorists in many ways, you know. I mean they do the same things to people in this movie that real terrorists groups like al-Qaida would do. Is this based on fact?" Joy Behar asked Owen.
The Obama-loving media might adore flowery rhetoric with little substance, but stock investors sure don't.
That's what traders and market professionals said was responsible for Tuesday's stock market collapse after Wall Street was tremendously disappointed with the lack of specifics in the highly-anticipated bank rescue plan presented by newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
As such, it's going to be fascinating to see how sycophantic press members spin the market's almost 400-point decline.
Will it resemble how Bloomberg reported the event:
A week ago (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that government bailout recipients General Motors and Chrysler had horrible sales in January, and that their declines are accelerating. GM was down 49% year over year in January, compared to -32% in December; Chrysler was down 55% in January, compared to -53% in December.
Meanwhile, the companies' main foreign competitors turned in January sales declines of roughly 30% that were just as bad, but at least not worse, than December. As a result, those companies took another 4% or so of market share from their US-based rivals.
Of course, no media outlets attempted to make any connection between the GM-Chrysler declines and the idea that consumers might either resent their bailed-out status, or might be worried about their survival and the potential impact of their bankruptcy or even disappearance on warranty and repair costs. Nor did any media reports that I'm aware of consider the idea that declining sales at those companies might jeopardize their ability to repay Uncle Sam's bailout "loans."
Now, despite the cash infusion from Uncle Sam, Reuters reports an analyst's belief that a bankruptcy filing by GM remains a possibility. More importantly, the wire service also claims that the government is actively involved in exploring that option. Finally (put down your drinks first), we learn that taxpayers aren't even first in line to get repaid:
It's a question we've all been waiting to hear answered. Unfortunately, it took a conservative talk radio host to ask it and didn't come from the mainstream media.
In an interview with Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, Pa., on Feb. 9, talk show host Laura Ingraham asked why he and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are the only three out of 229 Republican members of Congress to support the stimulus. She inquired if it might have had something to do with being invited to the White House by President Barack Obama.
"Is it nice to be wined and dined at the White House?" Ingraham asked. "And, you're treated pretty well when you're a Republican bucking other Republicans, right Senator?"
Specter told Ingraham he wasn't being "wined and dined" by the Obama White House. Specter wasn't on the guest list of one infamous White House party that included several Republican and Democrat members of Congress, which included cocktails and wagyu beef. However, Specter did attend a Super Bowl party hosted by the White House on Feb. 1 as the only Republican member in attendance.
With the turndown in the economy and the crisis in the financial services industry, capitalism bashing has become all the rage at mainstream media outlets.
From making fun of corporate jets to lambasting executive pay, liberal press members are creating a cottage industry blaming all the world's problems on the free market.
Unfortunately, there are economic consequences for this "Capitalism Derangement Syndrome" that media members are either oblivious to or just don't care about: the bashing could end up worsening the recession.
As NewsBusters informed readers about Sunday, after some horrible reporting by CDS-afflicted news outlets, Wells Fargo was forced to cancel its annual sales conference in Las Vegas. As the New York Times noted Monday, such decisions though popular with class enviers aren't good for the economy:
Say goodbye to hope and change. It's time to embrace the politics of doom and gloom.
MSNBC host Contessa Brewer, in an interview that seemed a lot like a lobbying campaign for the stimulus set for a vote in the U.S. Senate, quizzed Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., about the possibility that his vote against a stimulus bill could send the country spiraling into a Depression - and endanger the public's footwear.
"But if it fails, if it fails and our economy implodes and we see ourselves stuffing cardboard back in our shoes like they did in the Depression era, are you willing to put your name behind that?" Brewer asked.
"I'm willing to stay here and continue through the weekend, next week, the next week, to try to solve something and get it right - don't rush into something like this country rushed into the bailout program right before the holidays last year," Barrasso replied. "I think that was rushed. We found out that that didn't accomplish the goal."
"This economy requires support from the government, a check from the government in some form or fashion in the trillions as opposed to the hundreds of billions," Gross said to Bloomberg TV on February 5. "And I think President Obama was right - there is a potential catastrophe if Washington continues to focus on $100 or $200 billion. We need something in the trillions."
Gross' proposed amount includes a bailout for the banks, in addition to the stimulus to jumpstart the overall economy.
"Well, you know his company was slowing down just like everybody else's company has been slowing down and he didn't have much to do, so he started a side business in his cubicle - which is what a lot of people did, including myself and he got caught," Adams said. "So, it just seemed like a good time to downsize him and let him see what it's like to try to get a job in this economy."
The inspiration for the change in Dilbert's storyline was the economic downturn, which has inspired media coverage that the comic pages haven't even been immune to.
Don't like the notion of Wall Street employees receiving bonuses? Shoot the messenger - as Adam Green at The Huffington Post has done.
In a Feb. 2 post on The Huffington Post, Green said it was bad form for CNBC "Street Signs" host Erin Burnett to even think about considering the other side of the anti-Wall Street bonus argument, since some Wall Street banks received TARP funds, courtesy of the taxpayer.
"There are, though - well, how should we say this - the taxpayer money is not being used to pay the bonuses," Burnett explained on NBC's Feb. 1 "Meet the Press." "I think people could understand if you work for a company - right? If the three of us worked for a company, your guests, and I lost $10 billion but Steve [Forbes] over there, he made a billion dollars. So overall the company actually loses money, but Steve went and did his very darndest for that company and he made money. So should he be paid for his work? That's essentially what we're talking about here."
With all the populist sentiment generated from the economic slowdown by politicians, CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer is seeing eerie similarities with the comments of President Barack Obama and the words of a communist revolutionary.
Cramer, appearing on MSNBC's Feb. 2 "Morning Joe," drew comparisons between remarks between the first head of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, and Obama. Obama criticized Wall Street's moneymaking on Jan. 30, when he said there would be a time "for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses. Now's not that time. And that's a message that I intend to send directly to them."
Cramer said that was similar to Lenin's writings. "Let me tell you something, we heard Lenin," Cramer said. "There was a little snippet last week that was, ‘Now is not the time for profits.' Look - in Lenin's book, ‘What Is to Be Done?' is simple text of what I always though was for the communists, it was remarkable to hear very similar language from ‘What Is to Be Done?' which is we have no place for profits."
Who would have thought a blanket with sleeves, available in a variety of pastel colors, could serve as an economic indicator?
While several sectors of industry are seeking bailout money in some form or another, the Snuggie, an oversized fleece blanket with sleeves featured in cable television ads, is one of the good-news business stories of 2009. According to an article in the Jan. 27 USA Today, 4 million Snuggies have been sold and the product has even developed a bizarre cult following. And, according to CNBC "Squawk on the Street" co-host Erin Burnett, that's proof television as a medium isn't dead yet.
"Hey guys, guess what - Joe, you just gave me a thought," Burnett said on the Jan. 29 "Squawk on the Street." "You know how everyone says television is dying and all the advertising is going to go to the Web eventually? Isn't the Snuggie proof that that is not true?"
Kyra Phillips of ‘Newsroom’ and Christine Romans discuss ‘discouraging’ lack of women in Obama’s cabinet, job package that ‘favors’ men.
Liberal feminists claim that President Obama’s administration will not have enough female representation and that the job creation part of his stimulus plan will favor men.
But on CNN’s Newsroom, lack of the feminist perspective certainly wasn’t an issue Jan. 23. In fact, it was the only voice viewers heard.
Newsroom host Kyra Phillips introduced Christine Romans’ estrogen-dominated segment which included feminists complaining about Obama. Romans mentioned that six cabinet positions out of 21 have gone to women, yet liberal feminist groups like National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda were “disappointed.”
CNBC rabble-rouser and "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer questioned the merits of Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama's Treasury Secretary-designate, and told viewers on CNBC's Jan. 22 "Street Signs" that, had he been in Geithner's shoes, he'd face criminal prosecution.
"I happen to have a meeting with my lawyers just to discuss this - with my battalion of lawyers, the $2,000-a-hour gang - and you know, they would say if it was Cramer, I would be prosecuted, maybe criminally prosecuted," Cramer said. "And my lawyers were somewhat shocked that on Chris Matthews I said it was OK, given the fact they said Geithner better get himself the best lawyer in town."
After nearly two years of favorable treatment from seemingly every corner of the media since he announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2006, Obama is still finding ways to delight his biggest fans.
On his first day on the job, Obama announced "a new standard of openness" at a swearing in ceremony for senior members of his administration. According to CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, that was greeted with cheers from the CNBC studio.
"Not to belabor the whole point of the Freedom of Information Act, but politically brilliant in a way to immediately co-opt the press," Caruso-Cabrera said on CNBC's Jan. 21 "Power Lunch." "I mean a big cheer went up here - journalists of the world rejoice and automatically you have pleased a big part of the folks that are going to be covering you."
The Associated Press's 1:12 p.m. coverage (saved here, as the dynamic link changed during the drafting of this post) of the Senate Finance Committee's hearing on Barack Obama's nomination of Timothy Giethner as Treasury Secretary has plenty of discussion of Geithner's tax "mistakes" (the picture, but not its heading, is from a November 21 New York Times article).
But as has been the case with every AP report I've seen, there is no mention of the fact that the International Monetary Fund, Geithner's 2001-2004 employer, partially reimbursed him for his Social Security and Medicare "self-employment tax" liabilities.
Here are the first eight paragraphs of AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger's report:
2008 was the safest year ever to be an American miner. The combined number of fatalities from all forms of mining was the lowest ever.
2007 (latest information available) also shows the lowest "all-injury" rate for miners on record by far.
Yet Ken Ward Jr.'s early-January contribution at the Charleston (WV) Gazette to the spate of final-month Bush-bashing pretended that this data doesn't exist. Instead he gave the impression of an opposite situation. Media outlets have been trying and failing to make this case since the Sago Mine Disaster of January 2006 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), even while the safety stats have generally showed nearly continuous improvement.
"This is Larry Kudlow - one of the folks invited to a conservative fest with the president-elect last night," Dobbs said. "I'd like to just share, everybody - what a Larry Kudlow-conservative person does after meeting with the president-elect."
Dobbs cited a few lines from Kudlow's appearance on CNBC's Jan. 14 "The Call" - "He is charming, he is terribly smart, bright, well informed. He has a great sense of humor." Then Dobbs skipped moments in Kudlow's exchange with "The Call" co-host Melissa Francis and added - "He's so well informed and he loves to deal with both sides of an issue."
Here is some much-needed sanity from Business & Media Institute commentator Dan Kennedy: The first sprouts of the new American economy are already breaking through the snow.
Some associates and I have recently invested capital in forming a new bank. I’m not allowed to give out its name or location here, in this column, as commercial promotion is forbidden thanks to the non-profit status of the publisher – an annoying little oddity, given that I’m writing in defense of capitalism.
But, to the point. A Business Week article from Dec. 22 was headlined "This May Be the Ideal Time to Start A Bank." We agree, or they agree with us. Specific to banking, a start-up with no toxic assets and sufficient capital can borrow cheaply, and can be well-positioned to be acquired at a nifty gain when the recession dissipates and recovery takes over. That’s our strategy and we’re stickin’ to it.
Newspaper companies as an investment are less lucrative than they once were. Alan D. Mutter, a Silicon Valley CEO, pointed out on his blog that newspaper companies took a hit in 2008 in terms of share value to the tune of $64 billion.
"In the worst year in history for publishers, newspaper shares dropped an average of 83.3% in 2008, wiping out $64.5 billion in market value in just 12 months," Mutter wrote on Jan. 1. "Although things were tough for all sorts of businesses in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s, the decline among the newspaper shares last year was more than twice as deep as the 38.5% drop suffered by the Standard and Poor's average of 500 stocks."
If exaggerated reports of global economic distress act to further dampen consumer confidence and actually worsen the situation, can press outlets be held legally liable?
Such was espoused by a corporate lawyer Thursday in response to a poll that found 77 percent of Americans "think the financial press is making the economic crisis worse by projecting fear into people's minds."
Here we go again - another media hit on the dangers of fish consumption due to the possible threat that mercury may have on pregnant women.
A segment on the Dec. 30 "NBC Nightly News" warned viewers to exercise caution when consuming fish because of the potential side effects it may have on newborn children.
"There's no question that fish is healthy," NBC chief science correspondent Robert Bazell said. "But toxic mercury, mostly from coal-fired power plants makes it way into the ocean, where it can end up in the meat of certain fish."
Bazell's report even singled out certain fish that were deemed unsafe and those that were considered safe for viewers.
"So the key is knowing which fish is safest," Bazell said. "Those with high levels of mercury include swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish. Seafood with low levels of mercury include salmon, cod, shrimp, trout and most small fish."
By now, many readers know the New York Times's definition of a "good Catholic."
A good NYT Catholic doesn't necessarily need to go to Church very often. He or she focuses on the importance of alleviating poverty and other world problems, almost invariably through government handout programs and not individual or private charity. Despite the long standing of "just war" guidance, this person opposes all wars, no matter what is at stake. Finally, this person either keeps their yap shut about abortion and sexuality, or mouths platitudes like, "I'm personally against abortion, but ...." Such Catholics, if they are politicians, routinely defend their support of abortion on demand with such platitudes.
Those who run the Ave Maria family of mutual funds don't see things that way. They offer a group of mutual funds that, in their words, invest "in companies that do not violate core teachings of the Catholic Church." Accordingly, they "screen out companies associated with abortion and pornography," and apparently invest in other companies so-called politically correct (but often not orthodoxally correct) Catholics might not like.
Apparently because the funds have run radio ads, the Times's editorial board (as if it's their business) told readers at its blog that it doesn't like Ave Maria's approach. You'll also see in the bolded text that the editorialists fancy themselves to be Biblical experts:
Get your popcorn ready - that is if you like seeing the rich portrayed as bad guys and getting punished for their indiscretions.
According to CNBC contributor Michael Wolff, a Vanity Fair contributing editor, that's what's in store for movie fans in the upcoming year. On the Dec. 29 "CNBC Reports," Wolff told CNBC Business News managing editor Tyler Mathisen that Hollywood is greenlighting a spate of films featuring Wall Street heavies, and these projects are coming sooner than later.
"I think as fast as possible," Wolff said. "Every script in the business is now recasting itself - rich people are bad people."
Common sense says that the chart's results after adjusting for inflation are more important (identified as "Chained  dollars") than those in current dollars. Consmers' disposable income went up 1.0% in real (after-inflation) terms in November after a 0.7% increase in October.
It took a month for real consumer spending ("Personal consumption expenditures") to catch up to the increased disposable income, but it did so in a big way in November. The 0.6% real increase is the highest in over three years. Both improvements are objectively good news, and are largely due to sharply declining gas prices.
This is pretty fundamental Econ 101 stuff, isn't it? As you can see from the headlines and the treatment of the real spending increase that follow, the business press mostly flunked, and badly:
In 2005, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of “holiday shopping” instead of “Christmas shopping,” but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to “Christmas.” My instincts have been proven correct during the past three years.
So did anything change in 2008?
Not that much, but slightly in the secular direction. Here are the overall results of various relevant Google News searches for the past four years (searches have been done three times each year -- just before Thanksgiving, about weeks later, and shortly before Christmas Day; this years Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively; image courtesy of commenter "siouxcityranch" at Dr. BLT's Blog n Roll Studio):
Is it possible the financial media played a role in facilitating the alleged $50 billion Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme? An interesting theory by Jon Najarian, CNBC analyst and cofounder of optionMONSTER, contends that they very well may have unwittingly done just that. Madoff, he believes, used media publicity to lure investors to his scheme.
As Najarian explained on CNBC's Dec. 22 "Fast Money," Madoff got his reputation on Wall Street in the payment for order flow business. That's when a brokerage firm receives a payment as compensation for directing the order to the different parties that can execute the order at a lower cost.
"First of all you needed something that was very credible, because what he started off with was very credible," Najarian said. "As we both know, Dylan, he was in the payment for order flow business before anybody else. That meant folks that he was buying on the bid and selling on the offer back when the spread on NASDAQ stocks was 50 cents wide."
You would think from reading yesterday afternoon's report by the Associated Press's Tom Murphy that companies like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are not that far from finding themselves in the situations US taxpayer bailout recipients General Motors and Chrysler are in.
Murphy tries mightily to make the foreign-owned companies' situations look serious, at one point even putting out the howler that they are "not quite" as bad off as Detroit's Big Three.
You've got to be kidding me.
Murphy's "Meltdown 101: Foreign automakers struggle too" apparently just arrived from the School of Hard Laughs. It is mostly written in a Q&A format. Here are some excerpts (bolds are mine):
Christmastime is the time of giving. So we can thank Bernie Madoff for giving Americans some special gifts this holiday season.
Yes, I said thank him. OK, maybe not a lot. But the one-time financial wizard's downfall is a morality tale that provides so many lessons it's almost impossible to know where to start.
If you've been living under a rock, the former chairman of the Nasdaq has been charged with securities fraud. Not just ordinary securities fraud, either. Reportedly, Madoff's sons turned in their father, and who could blame them. He had allegedly confessed to them "that his investment business was a giant Ponzi scheme' that cost clients $50 billion, a lawyer for the brothers" told Bloomberg.
Hugo Chavez has announced that he plans to expropriate a huge and nearly complete shopping mall in Caracas.
The Spanish language web page of Constructora Sambil that describes the project (pictured at the right) says that it's 21,600 square meters.
Chavez appears to have no idea what he will do with it. The Associated Press's Ian James apparently had no idea what to do with that shocking bit of information. He didn't follow up with any government officials who might have an idea of what Dear Leader has in mind. He didn't explore whether what Sambil has built thus far is useful or sensible for whatever noble purpose Chavez might be considering. He just let the Venezuelan strongman's comment sit there, and instead moved on to his incoherent screed against materialism.
And what was this heinous, catastrophic philosophy that caused all our nation's problems? "Americans do best when they own their own home."
Oh the humanity.
Sadly, much as the Times and its liberal colleagues conveniently forgot and/or ignored all American history prior to March 2003 in order to blame the nation's problems on Bush and the invasion of Iraq, the authors of this disgrace omitted and/or skirted over virtually all the relevant pieces of legislation and issues that led to our current financial crisis -- as well as articles on the subject published by their very paper!!! -- instead focusing readers' attention on the following (emphasis added throughout, photo courtesy NYT):