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):
As oil and gasoline prices rose throughout much of this decade, a popular media meme was that a lower dollar was largely to blame.
By making this dubious connection, press outlets could point fingers at Bush economic policies thereby distracting the public from the reality that decades of liberal environmental constraints on oil exploration and refinery construction led to an inevitable and undesirable supply-demand squeeze culminating in the commodity futures bubble that peaked in July.
Yet, since early November, oil and the dollar have both been plummeting thereby destroying the press assertion that as one goes down, the other goes up (charts courtesy TradingCharts.com):
Feeling a little bailout fatigue? Tired of the assault on the taxpayer from the federal government to pacify those influenced by the United Auto Workers? CNBC's Larry Kudlow feels your pain.
Call this red meat for the troubled anti-bailout soul. Kudlow, now performing a role as a co-host on CNBC's mid-morning program "The Call," blasted the Union Auto Worker, President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and anyone else associated with $17.4 billion in loans for auto companies announced earlier today on Dec. 19.
"This is a full-up pooper scooper for the American taxpayer, which now owns General Motors," Kudlow said. "We're going to have a GM cabinet. Barack Obama is going to be the new car czar because Bush basically pushed this pooper scooper his way."
It's special treatment for automakers, according to a former airline executive.
Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines (NYSE:CAL), now a CNBC contributor, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Dec. 19 the political process is being substituted for what otherwise should be a bankruptcy judge in determining the fate of the big three automakers.
"Wow, what makes them exempt from reality? What are the bankruptcy laws invented for?" Bethune asked. "I mean - if it works in airlines, works in steel - what's the matter with these guys? Why not have a judge decide instead of the political process? And, you know - you get some fairness in the federal court, so there's no excuse for this whole debacle I don't think."
"We're going to turn next to some of the extreme measures that some Americans are taking because of the faltering economy," Gibson said. "According to an ABC News Poll, more than one in four people say someone in their household has been fired, faced a cut in pay or a reduction in work hours. Facing mounting debts and dwindling finances, some people are deciding to put their bodies at risk."
CBS's "The Early Show" included a statement in its Dec. 18 report on the Big 3 bailout from "auto industry analyst," Dan McGinn. Letting the massive car companies fail "would be like 10 Katrinas hitting America at the same time," McGinn asserted. "The American public understands that."
What the report didn't say is that McGinn is also an adviser to General Motors. Furthermore, TMG Strategies the public relations firm McGinn heads, lists GM as a client. McGinn has been making the case for an auto bailout in many news stories and issuing some compelling statements on behalf of his client.
On MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," McGinn was labeled as an "auto industry consultant," Dec. 4. There was no mention of his link to GM.
"Five pages into Goldman's earnings report this week, Bloomberg News noticed Goldman's very subtle announcement that the firm's effective tax rate this year was 1 percent," Maddow said. "One percent - they paid 1 percent in taxes. Even though they were down this last quarter, they made $2.3 billion in profit this year."
No, it's a not a story from the Onion. It's AFP reporting on the actions of Associated Press photographers and journalists:
US news agency staff stage 'byline strike'
Journalists and photographers at the US news agency the Associated Press (AP) are withholding their bylines to protest management's stance in contract talks, their union said.
"Staffers recognize the tough times, but they also understand that quality journalism at AP means attracting and retaining the best employees," Tony Winton, president of the News Media Guild, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Guild said AP reporters and photographers were withholding bylines and personal equipment "in protest over the news agency's proposals that would threaten job security, dramatically raise medical costs, and freeze wages."
Rupert Murdoch has his critics - from those who think his papers are too tabloid-ish - The Sun, The New York Post - to those who find his cable television networks too right-leaning for their tastes. And back in 2007, there was a fear that his purchase of The Wall Street Journal would result in a hybrid of his newspapers and his cable news channels.
However, a year after Murdoch's acquisition, Newsweek senior editor and financial columnist Daniel Gross said he thought Murdoch has actually improved the Journal.
"I think it's worked out quite well for him," Gross said on CNBC's "Power Lunch" Dec. 16. "He owns one of the best newspapers around. They remade the Journal. The front section is a great kind of political, global coverage."
"I think the journalists - I never thought I would say this - the journalists are quite lucky to be working for Murdoch in this type of environment. You could be working for a company that was owned by Sam Zell or one of his publicly held newspapers."
The Chicago company that was the site of a six-day worker sit-in has filed for bankruptcy. Though this appears to have been expected, it seems that many aspects of this story went under-reported or unreported.
The Chicago Sun Times story written by Francine Knowles and Sandra Guy makes it appear that Bank of America, the lender whose refusal to extend a credit line allegedly caused the company's failure, ended up "lending" over $1 million to fired workers (bolds are mine):
All is fair in love and war ... and environmentalism.
A Greenpeace advertisement attacking the fishing industry that was posted on YouTube Dec. 3 spells out doom and gloom for a type of Pollock if action isn't taken soon.
"Alaskan Pollock are being overfished," the voice in the TV spot said. "They're the source of everything from fish sandwiches to fish sticks. Overfishing of Canadian cod resulted in 40,000 lost jobs." The YouTube ad encouraged viewers to visit Greenpeace.org to "help defend our oceans from overfishing."
"You can see that even in Europe, some of the climate concerns, given this, this once in a lifetime recession, John - to put someone that, an advocate of such strong measures," Kernen said on "Squawk Box" Dec. 11. "Really I've seen her called Brownies or Brownistas. Um. That's a little scary with what's happening right now."
Earlier Kernen was discussing cabinet appoints with CNBC Washington correspondent John Harwood and pointed to new regulations Browner could institute:
Vice President for the Business & Media Institute, Dan Gainor, spoke with Gretchen Carlson, host of "America's News HQ," about the decline of media and particularly newspapers.
"The model for media in general is not working. We had a great model for a long time for networks, great model for print, nobody's been able to come up with a way to deal with the internet and make a ton of cash just yet," Gainor said on the Fox News broadcast Dec. 9.
Gainor noted the advertising troubles of print media in particular -- advertising is down 9 percent.
"So you've got newspapers around the country shedding jobs. They predicted 43,000 newspaper jobs lost in the last couple years. That's devastating an industry," Gainor said.
On Friday, Newsweek.com's Conventional Wisdom gave an approving up-arrow to Congress for brow-beating Detroit auto executives. The magazine lauded the Democratic Congress for having "rediscovered what oversight means."
If print is becoming journalism's dying backwater, Paul Krugman isn't showing it.
In a Dec. 6 interview in Stockholm, Sweden, the Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist told the ironically named Adam Smith, editor-in-chief of Nobelprize.org, that he found himself more effective in his role at the Times lately He said he was more influential in shaping policy as a journalist than he would be in a high-ranking position on the Obama economic team.
"I like to think I'm a good analyst," Krugman said. "But, I don't think I'm a good bureaucrat of any kind. I might think differently if I wasn't at the Times, but as it is I have a mouthpiece, people are listening. I probably can have as much influence, as say on the shape of this upcoming economic stimulus package from where I am as I could if I were, you know, the third-ranking member of the Obama economics team - something like that, so I think it's probably as good of position as any."
Those who thought that President-elect Obama's pre-Thanksgiving promise to "create or save jobs," appropriately satirized by Mark Finkelstein at NewsBusters on November 24, might have been another one of the Oh-So-(in)Articulate One's "inartful" statements should know that it has become standard fare in Obama speeches.
In related news, Uncle Sam told us Friday that over 136 million seasonally adjusted jobs were "saved"in November (go here to replicate):
Never mind the 533,000 seasonally adjusted jobs lost -- which illustrates just how risible Obama's promise shift from the presidential campaign really is. Old Media's failure to note this shift is journalistic malpractice that would never occur during a Republican presidency.
In today's coverage of Uncle Sam's Employment Situation Report, the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa showed no real curiosity as to why November's seasonally adjusted job loss was so much higher than September's or October's. There's a reason for that.
I have noted for quite a while (previous NB-posted examples are here, here, and here) that the business press, led by AP, has repeatedly and erroneously reported seasonally adjusted job gain or loss figures from the government as if they reflect what actually occurred on the ground.
That has usually given reporters like Aversa and other free rein to pretend that real jobs were "slashed" and "vanished" -- even in months where there have been actual but less-than-satisfactory job gains.
Seasonally adjusting the numbers smooths them out, and is a perfectly defensible statistical technique. But anyone who understands what is going on would have to know that since today's seasonally adjusted 533,000-job loss for November was much worse than October's loss of 320,000, something very ugly must have occurred during the most recent month.
When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks, Wall Street listens - and investors should beware. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has lost over 2,500 points on days he has spoken, including three of the worst point losses ever.
Today's drop in the Dow of 215 points is the 14th time out of the last 20 times the Dow has lost ground on a Bernanke has spoken over the past six months. Bernanke gave a speech at the Federal Reserve System Conference on Housing and Mortgage Markets in Washington today, where he continued to hammer the message the economy is in bad shape.
"The U.S. financial system has been in turmoil during the past 16 months," Bernanke said. "Credit conditions have tightened and asset values have declined, contributing substantially, in turn, to the weakening of economic activity."
"Talk about too big to fail," said managing editor of Time Richard Stengel on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Dec. 4, who was on the program promoting the latest cover story for the magazine entitled, "The Case for Saving Detroit." Stengel:
"I find the fact that so many Americans are unsympathetic to Detroit to be kind of amazing," Stengel said:
We make the case that in fact the, you know, the Big Three have adapted in a lot of ways ... They haven't managed things well, they have too much capacity, but I mean, talk about being too big to fail in a way, right?
The fact is Americans don't understand what collateralized debt obligations are, yet they sort of said, ‘Okay, let's bailout all of these banks and AIG' and yet people feel like, ‘Hmm what about the big car manufacturers?
That was the warning from the mayor of Lansing, Mich., on CBS's "The Early Show" Dec. 2. "You know this is a sure prescription to go from recession to depression if you allow this auto industry, our manufacturing prowess, to fall by the wayside," Virg Bernero warned:
This industry is too important, not just to Lansing, Mich., but to the whole country. This is our manufacturing base. You know we were the arsenal of democracy. We've talked a lot about economic security, and that's number one, but what about national security? You know, we were the arsenal of democracy in World War II; it was the auto industry that helped turn us around. Can you imagine a country, I would ask, can you imagine America losing our manufacturing edge, not having that manufacturing prowess? That hurts our national security.
If you had any questions about how differently the economy will be covered with Barack Obama in the White House they were answered by George Stephanopoulos on Sunday when he credited the president-elect with causing the recent stock market rally as well as better than expected sales the day after Thanksgiving.
I kid you not.
During the panel discussion of the most recent installment of "This Week," Stephanopoulos said (video available here, relevant section at 11:05):