HBO's Bill Maher spouted his usual anti-conservative and anti-Fox News rhetoric on Monday's Situation Room on CNN, attacking the Tea Party movement as "teabaggers [who] are all carrying the banner...of corporatist America" and accusing CNN's competitor of "filling people with misinformation." Maher also labeled Republican voters "far right" and a "fringe group of people who are very forceful."
The left-wing HBO host appeared for two segments starting at the bottom of the 5 pm Eastern hour. Anchor Wolf Blitzer began with an election-related question: "Let's talk a little bit about what's going to happen tomorrow. A lot of Democrats are worried. They're sitting on a potential political disaster tomorrow. Here's the question to you: why? What happened?"
Maher actually first blamed the Democrats: "Well- I mean, partly, it is the Democrats' fault. They don't do very good at bragging about their achievements. This Congress, which I'm sure is going to be tarred as a do-nothing Congress, actually was one of the more successful congresses in recent memory, probably not since Lyndon Johnson in 1965 has a Congress achieved so much." The guest predictably cited health care "reform" and financial reforms as his examples.
Blitzer followed-up by asking, "So is it just a matter of communications?" Maher launched his attack on Fox News in his reply:
When a Democrat or leftist makes an ill-advised remark, it seems that there's a three-stage process at the Associated Press, and perhaps in most other establishment press outlets, for handling it. It goes roughly like this:
Stage 1 - Ignore it as long as you can. If there isn't much outcry, keep ignoring it.
Stage 2 - If there ends up being enough of an outcry from conservatives or Republicans to warrant coverage, make sure that the story is about the criticism at least as much as the remark.
Stage 3 - In the ensuing coverage, leave out what was originally said.
The Associated Press is currently and grudgingly at Stage 2 with Harry Reid's remark that "but for me, we'd be in a worldwide depression," as seen below (reproduced in full for fair use and discussion purposes):
You would think someone in the U.S. establishment press would be following Uncle Sam's progress or lack thereof in getting out from under its investment in Citigroup, especially since the government promised that it would be fully divested from the bank holding company by the end of this year. From all appearances, you would be wrong.
It looks like the government may not be able to keep that year-end divestiture promise. For a fair number of news followers to learn that, the UK's Financial Times had to take an interest (link may require registration), and Drudge had to link to it:
US Treasury stumbles selling Citi shares
The US government is in danger of missing its deadline of divesting all of its Citigroup shares by the year-end after a fall in stock market trading volumes prompted authorities to slow down sales in July and August.
The lull could prompt the US Treasury, which has a stake of about 17 per cent in Citi, to consider a share offering instead of selling the stock in small quantities in the market, according to bankers and analysts.
"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." That was the defining line of Oliver Stone's 1987 film "Wall Street," and his attack on the financial system that the news media would use for decades to portray businessmen as villains.
The theme Stone wants viewers to take away from his sequel, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," was tucked away in the credits of his film on a greenback. "In Greed We Trust," the bill proclaimed where the words "In God We Trust" should have been.
"Money Never Sleeps," which opens in theaters Sept. 24, uses the financial crisis of 2008 as a backdrop for the comeback of Gordon Gekko, the iconic villain of the original. This time Gekko reinvents himself as a changed man, coming back bearish on housing and speculation.
In a business school lecture Gekko warns, "The mother of all evils is speculation -- leveraged debt." He claims the economy is merely moving money around in circles and the business model itself is like a "cancer."
One of the Left's most esteemed economists, the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker, claimed Monday the "Second Great Depression," the term given to what many believed the country was heading for if drastic government action wasn't taken in the fall of 2008, was all a fiction created by Wall Street to get bailed out.
In Baker's view published at the unashamedly liberal Huffington Post, the Federal Reserve could have solved all the problems that ailed us at the time, and had some of America's largest banks been allowed to fail, their financial loss would have been "our" gain as their money was magically redistributed to Main Street.
Potentially most hysterical is that Baker never once mentioned how this all occurred weeks before Election Day, and never once mentioned Barack Obama who not only hyped the collapse to seal his ascendancy to the White House, but also continually reminds Americans to this day that his efforts averted the "Second Great Depression":
Since the financial industry collapse two years ago, dishonest media outlets and their employees have continually blamed George W. Bush for the implosion that occurred in the fall of 2008 as well as the resulting recession.
NewsBusters has regularly pushed back on this historically inaccurate premise specifically pointing to two crucial pieces of legislation signed into law by former President Bill Clinton.
On Wednesday, a contributor to the Huffington Post - who is also the editor of the website TruthDig - published an article confirming what NewsBusters has been claiming, doing so in a fashion that must have shocked the economically ignorant proprietor of this perilously liberal online "news" outlet:
I tried to find a nicer way to put it in the headline. But I can't.
At the Associated Press, Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger's apparent plug-and-play report less than an hour after the issuance of Uncle Sam's August Monthly Treasury Statement on Monday (his item is time-stamped at 2:56 p.m., which follows the Treasury Department's 2:00 p.m. release by less than an hour) contains three obviously false statements that a news organization which really subscribes to its own "Statement of News Values and Principles" would retract and/or correct.
The specific AP standard in question is whether it has violated its promise not to "knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast." The only conceivable excuse at this point is that Crutsinger and his employer don't realize what they have done. The three falsehoods involved are not arcane or open to interpretation. Rather, they are significant, obvious, irrefutable, and in need of correction.
What follows are the three statements, the first of which contradicts itself in the report's own subsequent sentence:
As NewsBusters has previously reported, liberal Internet publisher Arianna Huffington is breathtakingly ignorant when it comes to basic economic theory.
On Sunday, she proved it again by making an absolute fool of herself on ABC's "This Week."
With the "Roundtable" segment beginning on the subject of the economy, Huffington noted how the failure of the banking bailout to stimulate growth was "proof that the government does not work."
In a stunning display of both idiocy and hypocrisy, she moments later demanded more financial regulations, including a reinstatement of the Depression Era Glass-Steagall Act, to - wait for it! - stimulate the economy.
Adding insult to injury, George Will was available to really make clear what an absolute imbecile Huffington is (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
As if Huffington’s book does any such thing, Sawyer wondered: “What if we pulled together in one place all the innovative ideas for creating jobs?” The generous on-screen heading beneath Huffington’s picture: “Change Agent.” After highlighting Huffington’s wish to absolve troubled mortgage-holders of much of their responsibility, Sawyer trumpeted:
Arianna Huffington's new book is called Third World America, and on her Web site, she's been gathering innovative solutions to keep that Third World from happening.
The articles posted on the Huffington Post page with “innovative solutions,” a page the ABC segment displayed, sound more like the usual liberal carping: “Work Until You're Dead? That May Be the Only Option for Many Americans,” “Thousands Crowd Atlanta Area Housing Authority for Section 8 WAITING LIST, Fights Break Out,” “The 10 Highest-Paid CEOs Who Laid Off the Most Workers: Institute for Policy Studies” and “Income Inequality: ‘The Most Profound Change In American Society In Your Lifetime.’”
Can you imagine what would happen to the economy if top wage earners were taxed at 70 to 90 percent?
Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich can, and he thinks it's a great idea.
To be sure, many Americans were concerned that giving Democrats control of the executive and legislative branches of our government during an economic crisis could usher back in socialist tendencies first seen in this nation during the Depression.
Fears of such a leftward shift sparked a new powerful movement called the Tea Party.
With this in mind, Reich's op-ed "How to End the Great Recession" published in Friday's New York Times validates these concerns:
It seems “banks are doing nearly twice as many modifications under their own foreclosure prevention initiatives than under the Obama administration's signature Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP,” Luhbi wrote in her Aug. 30 article. Banks made 644,000 “proprietary permanent modifications” in the first half of 2010, almost twice the 332,000 under HAMP.
Loan modifications are an alternative to foreclosures, in which the debtors usually receive “interest rate and principal reductions.” The HAMP program, according to Luhby, “lowers monthly payments to 31% of pre-tax income.”
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's first full day as the only person in the whole wide world with any kind of influence over what happens in the economy didn't go too badly.
That's the impression one might get from consuming two Friday Associated dispatches and a related AP Video.
Bernanke apparently took full charge of anything and everything having to do with the economy on Thursday evening. As noted early Friday morning (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), two Thursday afternoon dispatches from the wire service in advance of the government's Friday morning GDP report widely predicted to contain news of a significant downward revision to second-quarter economic growth placed surreal importance on the content of a speech he was to give Friday morning shortly after that report's release. The names of President Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Tim Geithner, and Larry Summers were totally absent from both reports.
Friday, in the wake of the downward revision of second-quarter GDP from an annualized 2.4% to 1.6%, AP's primary economic report about Bernanke's apparent first day as Emperor-in-Chief again failed to name the five folks just mentioned, as did a one-minute video from Mark Hamrick found here (after a 30-second commercial).
Here is some of what Christopher Rugaber, with assists from Jeannine Aversa and Alan Zibel, wrote about Ben's big day:
Sometimes you just have to chuckle at the transparent motivations of business writers in the establishment press.
Two Associated Press reports from this afternoon, one from Stephen Bernard and another much lengthier piece from Jeannine Aversa, attempt to set the template for Friday morning's reportage: Despite all the bad news, including a serious downward revision to second-quarter economic growth, it's up to Big Ben Bernanke to calm everyone down, and magically return the economy to some kind of even keel.
It is a curious phenomenon - the way the media have handled the economy since President Barack Obama has taken office. Generally the coverage has been on the optimistic side over the last 18 months. But could this blind optimism come back to haunt people that trade on economic metrics?
According to CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, it will and in a big way on Aug. 27, when the new gross domestic product numbers are released. On CNBC's Aug. 26 broadcast of "Street Signs," Cramer predicted dismal numbers during his "Stop Trading" segment, which has been contrary to the way the market reacted.
"Look, I'm going to give you my forecast right now - I think we're going to get 0.5 percent GDP, OK?" Cramer said. "But, let's say we get 0.5 percent GDP. Everyone's going to say it's horrible. We're going to go track down economists, Nobel winners who think it's a double dip. And it'll be like shocker - 0.5 percent. And I'm telling you it's going to be 0.5 percent. It's like the housing number. On my show I said it's going to be declined 50 percent. We get 30 percent. It was like shocker. Whoever is making these estimates is just so wrong because you know, you piece these pieces together on a daily basis like I do and come up with something between zero and 1 percent growth."
Here's how the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger and Daniel Wagner reported the housing portion of their Tuesday report on the day's economic news ("Factories aid bumpy recovery, housing still weak"):
Single-family home construction, which represented nearly 80 percent of the market, fell 4.2 percent. And requests for building permits, considered a good sign of future activity, slid 3.1 percent.
... The July increase in housing construction pushed total activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units. Building activity in June was weaker than first reported. It fell 8.7 percent to an annual rate of 537,000 units, the slowest pace since October of last year.
"The bad news is that activity is likely to remain depressed for several years," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "The good news, however, is that housing is so depressed it is hard to see activity falling much further from such a severely depressed level."
Well, okay, but the situation is already closer to a zero-out than it is to the levels we were seeing just a few years ago--or any time in the 50-plus years such records have been kept. Looking at the raw data on a historical basis, one finds that July 2010 was the worst July on record for the both stats the AP pair cited:
Paul Krugman and Larry Kudlow - not exactly two guys you would associate with one another. However, they are two media figures Washington Post columnist Frank Ahrens thinks should be candidates for the same job.
In his case for Krugman, Ahrens wondered that since Krugman can talk the talk, can he walk the walk as well.
"Outside the academic world, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is best known for his New York Times columns arguing that the $787 billion, debt-busting stimulus bill was not enough, so even moderate Democrats -- not to mention conservatives -- might lose their minds with this pick. But maybe it's time for Krugman to put his money where his mouth is," Ahrens wrote. "You think government needs to spend more to get us out of this funk? Okay, Paul. Here's the key to the car."
Ed Schultz on Thursday blamed Republicans for all the unemployed people living in America today.
As he began the most recent installment of the "Ed Show" on MSNBC, the host said, "The Republican Party has been on a crusade against the middle class and the poor for the last 30 years. We're now seeing the wreckage of that race to the bottom line culture."
He disgracefully continued, "Today a government report showed weekly jobless claims at a five-month high. 484,000 new unemployment claims were filed in the week ending August 7th. And you know what folks, you can lay this right at the feet, right at the altar of the Republican Party."
Sadly, he wasn't close to done, claiming, "The people you see flooding the streets begging for help, begging for an opportunity are victims of the Republican agenda just to make sure that President Obama fails" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
During Morning Joe on Thursday, MSNBC's Chuck Todd appeared baffled by a discussion of negative feelings directed towards Barack Obama from Wall Street. The confused journalist wondered, "Look, at the end of the day, he has not done that much when it comes to business stuff."
Mad Money host Jim Cramer relayed to Todd that Wall Street is upset because, "Most of the people on Wall Street are behind the scenes guys" and the President is demagoging the issue and demonizing them. Todd argued that, regardless of what the President does, "He is getting trapped and hit from both sides, but it isn't just that, this is how sour the American public is."
To understand why Wall Street and the American public might be "sour," one needs to look no further than the cap and trade energy proposal, health care, the financial reform bill, the stimulus, or the nationalization of the automobile and student loan sectors.
Earlier today, NB's Lachlan Markey covered Bill O'Reilly's interview with the Fox Business Channel's Charles Gasparino.
In that interview, Gasparino confirmed what the New York Post reported in April of last year, namely that "GE Execs Encouraged CNBC Staff to Go Easy on Obama."
The suits at GE, including Chairman Jeff Inmelt, had a clear motivation for encouraging their reporters to lighten up, namely that "General Electric at the time was hoping to profit handsomely from policies that would benefit a few companies, including GE, at the expense of the majority of the economy"-- specifically cap and trade.
But speaking of motivation: What about former CNBCer Gasparino's?
The easy answer would be that sometime in the past two years he has seen the light and realizes his past reporting at CNBC was lacking in fairness and balance. Despite his move to Fox, there's reason to doubt that.
There are quite a few shaky assertions in Alan Zibel's Associated Press report yesterday about Freddie Mac's latest quarterly loss ($6 billion), its latest bailout installment request to the U.S. Treasury ($1.8 billion), and the cumulative taxpayer bailout amounts that have been paid out to Freddie Mac and big sister Fannie Mae thus far ($148.2 billion) -- too many to cover in a blog post.
So I'll concentrate on the howlers present in just a single paragraph near the end, wherein the AP reporter attempts to explain why the two formerly government-sponsored mortgage giants that are now government-bailout enterprises ran into the ditch. The verbiage pretty much states the meme that the establishment press seems to want the public to swallow about what went down, and who's to blame:
During the housing boom, Fannie and Freddie faced political pressure to expand homeownership and competitive pressure from Wall Street to back ever-riskier loans. When the market went bust, defaults and foreclosures piled up, and the government had to take them over.
When the credits are the most intriguing part of the movie, there's a problem.
In the new film "The Other Guys," starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, two mismatched cops try to make a name for themselves by investigating a potential Ponzi scheme run by a corrupt investor. The villain is a pseudo-Bernie Madoff but rather than vilifying a single fraud, director Adam McKay ("Anchorman," "Step Brothers") lumped all investors together and attacked Wall Street as a whole.
"The Other Guys" is a funny but not hilarious movie for 1 hour and 47 minutes but instead of simply rolling the credits and letting viewers leave smiling, McKay followed with graphics criticizing Wall Street and corporate executives. It was almost as if Michael Moore filmed the closing credits, as graphics included the anatomy of a Ponzi scheme, the ratio of CEO to employee salaries, a comparison of the New York Police Department's pension fund to an average CEO's pension fund, an average worker's 401(k) account compared to a CEO's, and the amount of taxes Goldman Sachs paid after the bailout.
While the credits provided the most egregious anti-business attacks, there were other subtle pokes at business and Republicans within the film. For example, the villain, named David Ershon (whose last name rhymes eerily with ‘Enron'), is seen in a photograph with former President George W. Bush and is said to be friends with conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Other chides included Ershon stealing from both the lottery and the NYPD pension fund -- essentially stealing money from the state and a labor union -- and the villains' drive SUV's while the heroes drive a Toyota Prius.
Initial requests for jobless benefits rose last week to their highest level since April, a sign that hiring remains weak and some companies are still cutting workers.
The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment insurance rose by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 479,000. Analysts had expected a small drop. Claims have risen twice in the past three weeks.
It seems that not even the truth can possibly overturn the narrative that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have brought transparency to Washington.
Last Wednesday I wrote about how the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill Obama signed into law last month contains a provision exempting the Securities and Exchange Commission from Freedom of Information Act requests. Such an exemption would surely have been grounds for a media outcry during the Bush administration, yet apart from The Wall Street Journal and CNN, only blogs have been following the developments. The latter opted simply to parrot the administration's claims without challenge.
Other media ouetlets, such as National Public Radio and MSNBC, completely ignored the controversy, in stark contrast to their extensive coverage of the Bush administration's attempts to curtail the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. NPR's Don Gonyea said "When conflicts arise over what should or should not be open, the administration does not hesitate to invoke the memory of 9/11. And while it's true that 9/11 changed the security landscape, it's also true that the administration was tightening the control of information much earlier . . ."
What a fine group of happy warriors! Right Online 2010 turned out over 1,000 like-minded activists from over 30 states. These passionate folks walked the over-100 degree streets of Las Vegas to educate voters that November Is Coming.
Should the Democrats be worried? No. They should be resigned. The real worry-warts should be Republicans consistently intent on selling out their principles. Be worried. People are mission-focused.
A couple highlights from the conference: Here's my favorite speaker from the group, Emery McClendon:
PBS recently responded to accusations of a liberal slant to its July 23 Need to Know program which featured satirist Andy Borowitz making fun of Sarah Palin’s intelligence as the show's executive director Shelley Lewis claimed that, because the previous week's episode had featured a segment that was critical of President Obama, the program in reality has been balanced in going after political figures. According to TVNewser, quoting from Michael Getler's July 28 "The Ombudsman Column" on the PBS Web site, Lewis argued: "Is a little joking about Ms. Palin's penchant for malaprops really such a big deal? Last week, editorial cartoonist Steve Brodner was pretty tough on President Obama, and we heard plenty from Obama fans about how unfair we were, how right-wing we were, etc. We do try to have some fun at both sides' expense..."
But the July 16 segment that poked fun at Obama actually criticized him for not being liberal enough in keeping his campaign promises as cartoonist Steve Brodner was shown drawing sketches of Obama while a voiceover of the cartoonist lamented that "the presumed anti-war Obama became the 30,000 more troops Obama," and that "the previous stimulus advocate Obama who faced McConnell finally and a vocal conservative movement, he didn't campaign consistently for the stimulus that he mentioned in the State of the Union, wound up advocating for that along with deficit reduction, making him at least partly like McConnell."
Gold has been a highly valued commodity going at least as far back as the ancient Egyptian culture in 2600 BC. But now, with economic instability and uncertainty over the health of major global currencies, the demand for gold has risen as a store of value and a hedge against inflation.
Over the past 12 months, the price of gold has gone up dramatically - up 25 percent from July 2009 (from $929 per ounce to $1,163 per ounce, after reaching a high of $1,250 per ounce). That has outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) on a percentage basis.
Striking a blow for her sex, Mika Brzezinski today claimed that the Wall Street meltdown "simply would not have happened" if more women had been in charge.
The Morning Joe co-host was reacting to news that the Dems managed to slip into the recently enacted financial regulation bill a provision--authored by Rep. Maxine Waters--that would create "at least 20 new Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion" with the power to kill government contracts with financial firms not meeting new "diversity standards."
Tina Brown seconded her sister's sentiment, blaming the financial industry's woes on "all this phallic obsession."
What's good for Wall Street is presumably good for Washington, too. Mika Brzezinski--founder of Feminists For Palin, perhaps?
On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Erica Hill cheered the passage of financial reform legislation as "another huge milestone for President Obama." Hill went on to explain: "The first was when he signed the historic health care bill back in March. Today he is set to sign a bill aimed at completely overhauling Wall Street."
White House correspondent Chip Reid began a report on the new bill by proclaiming: "It's being hailed as the biggest shakeup of Wall Street since the Great Depression." Reid enthusiastically touted provisions in the legislation: "The bill's centerpiece is the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection....charged with regulating financial products, including mortgages, credit cards, and student loans. The legislation also gives broad new powers to the federal government, allowing it to take control of and shut down large financial institutions..."
Reid pointed out criticism of the legislation: "But critics say the bill fails to reform mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, does not create a fund to help shut down big banks when they fail, and gives too much power to federal regulators to create reams of new rules." After noting GOP concern that bill "will curb growth and kill jobs," Reid turned to an analyst from the left-leaning Brookings Institution for reassurance: "Still, former investment banker Douglas Elliott believes the bill is better than doing nothing." Elliott argued: "The bill addresses most of the problems and makes a good start. It's not perfection, but in the real world, we don't get perfection."
Some investigative reporters still live up to their job descriptions.
On the July 20 edition of "CBS Evening News," reporter Sharyl Attkisson exposed how government-sponsored entity (GSE) Fannie Mae and mortgage lender Countrywide "scratched each other's backs" while their toxic loans fueled America's mortgage crisis.
Attkisson revealed new documents showing that Countrywide gave "very important person" loans to dozens of Fannie Mae executives while American taxpayers forked over $84 billion to bail out the GSE.
Among the VIP loan recipients were Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson, who received $10 million, former Vice Chair Jamie Gorelick and former CEO Franklin Raines, whose total amounts received remain unknown. Attkisson reported the loans, but did not mention Raines, Gorelick, and Johnson all have ties to Democrats, from Bill Clinton to John Kerry to President Obama.
Chrystia Freeland, global editor-at-large for Reuters, believes the new financial regulations are still pretty loose.
"It is still a very feudal, very Byzantine regulatory system," Freeland complained on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, referring to the Senate's approval of a financial regulations bill yesterday.
A radical policy, Freeland maintained, could have done away with the current "fractured" group of regulators and established a much stronger, more unified single regulator.
However, Freeland said the bill succeeds in tempering the rapid movement of capital. She did acknowledge that Main Street folks will have more trouble getting mortgages than they did in the past. "That's the price of having a safer financial system," she said.
Freeland's championing of the new regulations does not diminish some other aspects of the bill, which include no additional regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, tougher times ahead for small businesses trying to procure loans from banks, and tough times for small banks themselves, who lack the resources of Wall Street to deal with the new regulations.