If you're not outraged by the NSA program that monitors phone-calling patterns, you're probably . . . too dumb to understand its implications. That, in a nutshell, and I do mean nutshell, was Ellen Ratner's argument on this morning's 'Long & the Short of It' segment on Fox & Friends Weekend. Oh, well, that - and opening our borders with Mexico.
Host Julian Phillips [who expressed his personal opposition to the NSA program] put it to Ratner that "most Americans don't care about this. They say the NSA should do that to keep our security intact."
"Until some neighbor who might work at a spy agency gets their phone records and starts spewing it around town that somebody is talking to somebody or divorce records get subpoenaed or something like that. You know, most people don't understand the impact of how bad this really is."
A quick note to drive-by journalists about NSA illegallycollecting telephone records without first obtaining a warrant.
U.S. Supreme Court SMITH v. MARYLAND, 442 U.S. 735 (1979) No. 78-5374. Argued March 28, 1979. Decided June 20, 1979.
The telephone company, at police request, installed at its central offices a pen register to record the numbers dialed from the telephone at petitioner's home. Held: The installation and use of the pen register was not a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and hence no warrant was required. Pp. 739-746.
Breitbart April Tax Revenue 2nd-Highest in History It marked the largest one-month receipt total since the government collected $332 billion in revenue in April 2001
See that? Tax cuts = more tax revenue. So the only logical reason to complain about "tax cuts for the rich" is that you really want the economy to tank or that you don't really care about getting the most tax money you can but rather you hate that others are doing so well and want to punish them.
Hey Big Media, don't punish others just because you chose a profession that doesn't pay squat. In fact, you should go after your CEOs who take food out of your mouths with multi-million dollar retirement packages (that sounds familiar.)
Liberal nanny-state advocate Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is at it again: suing the makers of 7-Up for false advertising by tagging its new incarnation of the lemon-lime flavored drink as "7-Up Natural."
Picking up on the story, ABC's "World News Tonight" on May 11 presented CSPI as merely a non-profit group concerned with truth-in-advertising. But the group is far more concerned with what you eat and drink than what is printed on the label:
Recently, CSPI pulled an anti-soda lawsuit filed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts only after a settlement with soft drink manufacturers brokered by former President Bill Clinton.
Incoming NBC Today show co-host Meredith Vieira, on Friday's ABC daytime show The View, showcased her susceptibility to baseless media hype and her own economic ignorance. Interviewing ABC's John Stossel, on to plug his new book, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel -- Why Everything You Know is Wrong, and a Friday night 20/20 about it, Vieira demanded: "You say there is no gas 'crisis.' How can you say that?" Stossel explained it's plentiful and half the price as in Europe, but Vieira remained unswayed, ridiculously insisting: "But it's still a crisis, I mean in the sense that gas prices are going up. That's a crisis for us." A few minutes later, a befuddled Vieira exposed not only a lack of basic economic knowledge, but also unfamiliarity with a common conservative argument: "Why does raising the minimum wage, this is one I don't get, actually hurt poor people? I don't understand that one at all." (Partial transcript follows)
A stunning announcement was made by the Treasury Department Wednesday. As reported by the Associated Press: “A flood of income tax payments pushed up government receipts to the second-highest level in history in April, giving the country a sizable surplus for the month.”
(Update: At the end of this piece, I predicted this announcement would not be widely reported. Well, though all three broadcast networks addressed the tax cuts agreed upon in the House on their evening programs Wednesday -- with the NBC "Nightly News" and the CBS "Evening News" both doing major segments on the ramifications of the House's decision -- not one of these evening news programs bothered to inform their viewers about April's near-record tax revenues.)
Of course, this quite flies in the face of the regular media carping and whining about the president’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts negatively impacting federal revenues, doesn’t it?
Regardless, the article continued: “In its monthly accounting of the government's books, the Treasury Department said Wednesday that revenue for the month totaled $315.1 billion as Americans filed their tax returns by the April deadline. The gusher of tax revenue pushed total receipts up by 13.4 percent from April 2005.”
And which April in history is actually in first place? If you said April 2000, you’d be wrong:
Maybe the ABC show should change its name to 'Demagogue Morning America'. Earlier this week, Charlie Gibson trotted out windfall-profit taxes and limits on executive compensation as 'solutions' to high gas prices.
This morning, Kate Snow took the demagoguery up-close-and-personal, flashing a $20 bill in the faces of modest-income Americans to elict predictable responses about the tax cut they would be receiving under a Republican-backed plan.
Snow set the tone by announcing that the proposed extension of the tax cuts "would cost the federal government $70 billion." Of course tax cuts don't cost the government anything . . . since it's not the government's money. But that's not the way the MSM or liberals in Congress see it. Everything really does belong to the government, so that when it extends a tax cut, it is "spending" money.
In another example of journalists saying whatever they want whenever they want without regard to accuracy, CBS’s Anthony Mason on Wednesday’s “Evening News” declared erroneously that America’s debt declined during the Clinton years (video link to follow). Certainly, this is a myth that has been purported by the media since Clinton left office…but nothing could be further from the truth.
Before we get to the facts of the matter, here’s the context. In an obvious effort to explain why the tax cuts accepted by the House on Wednesday were a terrible thing, the “Evening News” followed its report concerning this issue with a discussion of the federal debt. Anchor Bob Schieffer passed the baton to business correspondent Anthony Mason who began with an interview with the real estate developer that created the national debt clock near Times Square in New York. After discussing the debt with this gentleman, and an economist, Mason stated: “In the Clinton years, when our debt actually began to shrink the clock was turned off and covered up.”
Well, Anthony, the clock may have been covered up during this period, but the gross federal debt never declined during the Clinton years. Not once. According to the debt statistics at the Office of Management and Budget, the national debt
It was reported on this morning’s "Early Show" on CBS that the Dow Jones Industrial average is on the verge of reaching record highs. CBS correspondent Susan McGinnis went so far as to mention that was are "In a three-year bull market that has some experts predicting a new record could come any day." That raises the question, where has the media been the last three years? It appears that CBS wants to ignore positive economic news because maybe it will help President Bush and Republicans.
Despite the news that the Dow is on the verge of a record high, reporters were shocked that the blue chips are doing so well due to the facts, that they reminded viewers of of high gas prices and that real estate is down. Co-host Julie Chen offered the following story tease at the top of the program:
NBC’s Today hyped hybrid cars this morning but didn’t give consumers the full skinny on them. At the top of this morning’s Today show Katie Couric promoted an upcoming segment on the popularity of hybrids by way of taking this shot at the President’s poll numbers: "Then another crisis facing this administration, those soaring gas prices. A poll out today says only 13 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the situation right now and now many people are trying to save money at the pump by turning to hybrid vehicles but there's a big catch, they're getting harder and harder to find."
A few minutes later NBC’s Peter Alexander’s devoted a whole piece to the increased demand for the hybrids as drivers look to lower costs in the face of high gas prices. Alexander piously declared: "Not long ago people said hybrids were for hippies. Those same people are driving them now."
Among other areas where the media slant coverage in an anti-business direction, the MRC's Business & Media Institute (formerly the Free Market Project) has doggedly tracked the media's biases against "Big Oil" and in favor of Big Government.
Now we've decided to engage bloggers and the media on the issue with a panel discussion on "Oil, Markets, and the Media" on Wednesday, May 10 from 9:30 to 11. The discussion will be followed by a free breakfast during which time panelists including Cato's Jerry Taylor and Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), will be able to field questions from attendees.
On Saturday, The New York Times and the Washington Post had the same idea: line up average Americans to suggest any emerging macroeconomic happy talk is ignoring how "many people" are still feeling an economic pinch.
The Post put theirs on Page One, the Times on A-10. The Post headline was "Rising Expenses Have Consumers Feeling Pinched." The Times headline was "Despite a Sound Economy, Many Feel the Pinch of Daily Costs." (Online, it’s "Statistics Aside, Many Feel the Pinch of Daily Costs.") So the Post wins for pushing the theme harder, but the theme still suggests newspaper editors who are trying to throw mud pies at Pollyanna before anyone gets too thrilled with the macroeconomic picture.
For months, the media have blamed virtually anything but free market forces for the rise in oil and gas prices. NBC’s Lisa Myers attributed these increases to greed on a recent Nightly News report stating almost disgustedly “Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process.”
Imagine the nerve of ExxonMobil actually making a profit. Oh the humanity.
A few days earlier, CBS’s Russ Mitchell, clearly concerned about price gouging, asked one of his guests on the Evening News, “How easy is it for a gas station, for an oil company to just jack up the price of gas?"
I bet you can’t guess the response.
Yet, in the midst of all this hysteria, a highly unlikely source – National Public Radio’s Internet website – published an article entitled “Q&A: What’s Behind High Gas Prices?” In it, author Scott Horsley adroitly cut through the hype, and
The worst possible 'solution' to the high cost of gasoline would be price controls, since they would simultaneously discourage production while driving up demand. But running a close second and third in the bad-idea sweepstakes would be a windfall-profits tax on oil companies and a cap on the amount oil companies can pay their executives. Two out of three ain't bad, so let's give GMA's Charlie Gibson an A- for his attempt to demagogue the gas-price issue this morning.
His guest was the soft-spoken James Mulva, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, the nation's third-largest oil company.
Gibson opening shot was to suggest that "consumers have a right to be angry" in light of the estimated $135 billion the six largest oil companies are expected to make in 2006. Gibson didn't attempt to suggest why high profits justify consumer anger. Remember, market economics dictate that sellers price their products at the level yielding the highest profits, not necessarily at the highest possible price. Consider Wal-Mart, for example, which has reaped huge profits by consistently offering prices lower than those of competitors.
Continuing her “Eye on the Road” series, CBS’s Sharyn Alfonsi showcased a Washington, D.C.-area teacher who she says can’t afford her commute due to rising gas prices.
But Alfonsi didn’t do her homework. Her featured teacher is a retired Navy lawyer who said in 2003 that she could only afford working as a Catholic school teacher because of her military pension. What Alfonsi didn’t say was that teacher Bonnie McGann made a conscious choice to earn less so she could give back to her church.
“This was the area where I could afford a home,” McGann informed Alfonsi’s viewers on the May 4 “Evening News.” The CBS correspondent added that McGann’s problem was the cost of the commute. “It’s a burden for me now. It’s something that I am unable to absorb,” McGann added. The picture Alfonsi painted was incomplete. McGann is a retired Navy Judge Advocate who says she went into teaching in Catholic schools for the emotional and spiritual reward of the experience....
Anyone with a working TV set knows that the broadcast networks have hyped the high gas price story (“Pain at the Pump”) to ridiculous levels. A new MRC study of the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows found a whopping 183 stories in just three weeks, an avalanche of TV coverage that (helpfully to Democrats planning their midterm election strategy) has buried far more important good economic news, like robust economic growth, low unemployment and a booming stock market.
One device the networks have used to maintain an outraged tone in all of their coverage has been to plant themselves next to gas pumps and find motorists who aren’t embarrassed about whining on camera. The MRC analysts who went through all of the coverage — Geoff Dickens, Brian Boyd, Mike Rule and Scott Whitlock — counted 151 sound bites from gas buyers during the period we studied, April 12 to May 2.
For the second day in a row, energy prices plummeted on commodities exchanges across the globe. Oil closed under $70 per barrel for the first time since April 7, adding another $2.34 to yesterday’s $2.12 decline, making for a 6 percent two-day slide. Since trading as high as $75.35 on April 21, oil has now retreated more than $5, or greater than 7 percent.
The media have yet to notice.
At the same time, wholesale gasoline closed under $2.00 per gallon for the first time since April 10, dropping 9 cents for the second day in a row. This brings wholesale gas prices down by almost 11 percent from their $2.23 April 19 high.
The wholesale price of oil and gasoline took a huge drop on the commodities markets Wednesday. But, you never would have known it from watching the broadcast networks’ evening news programs. In fact, the pain at the pump mantra continued in earnest at CBS and NBC without even the slightest mention of a greater than $2 decline in oil prices and an almost 9 cent decline in gasoline prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Instead, the NBC “Nightly News” did two pieces dealing with rising energy prices, including one about the politics of the problem. Brian Williams began the report: “Also in Washington tonight, these days, as we know, a lot of high anxiety over gas prices, and more political fighting over what to do about it.” Williams handed it off to David Gregory who concluded: “Amid all the anxiety tonight, some hope. Oil industry sources and administration officials say, given a recent boost in the supply of gas, that prices could actually come down, at least a bit, this summer.” Might have been a nice time to tell the viewers that they already have. In fact, after reaching a wholesale price high of $2.23 per gallon a few weeks, yesterday’s close of $2.09 represents a six percent decline in about eleven trading days. I guess energy prices are only newsworthy when they go up.
Of course, the CBS “Evening News” didn’t do much better, as it decided to report on how rising gas prices are harming a minor league baseball team. Bob Schieffer set up the segment:
The big economic news going into the weekend was the strongest quarterly gross domestic product growth since the summer of 2003. Spectacular news by any measure, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the media reported it. NBC’s David Gregory quickly dismissed the significance of the strong report on April 28: “But with gas prices also surging … the country isn't celebrating.”
ABC’s “World News Tonight” decided to delay its discussion of this good news to inform viewers about conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s “arrest,” while the CBS “Evening News” didn’t bother reporting GDP data at all on the April 28 show.
The New York Times quickly downplayed the news by stating the economy will soon be “slowed by high energy prices, rising interest rates and a softer housing market.” And, The Washington Post poured cold water on the announcement by quoting a leading Democrat who said of these numbers that this was “‘cold comfort to working Americans faced with the reality of struggling to pay their bills.’”
None of this should come as a surprise. It’s actually a trend the Free Market Project has followed, which has shown the media downplaying strong numbers while playing up weaker reports.
Despite the negative media coverage, the economic news was striking. As reported by Bloomberg:
The May 8th issue of "U.S. News and World Report" featured an article about high gas prices. Now, the fact that a news magazine would look at the rising cost of gas is not a surprise. But, that a magazine would dedicate a section to interviewing someone who served in the gas line plagued Carter Administration about what the solution to high gas prices is, does come as somewhat of a surprise. Does U.S. News and World Report forget the oil shortages under the Carter Administration. Does the magazine forget the "odd" and "even" licence plates?
The article in question appeared on page 26 and was entitled "Why a Gas Tax is Good For You." The article contained three softball questions at gas tax proponent Philip Verleger, who served in the Carter Treasury Department.
Exxon-Mobil: private-for-profit corporation or social service agency? The question arises in the wake of Matt Lauer's wide-ranging interview this morning with Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of Exxon/Mobil. Lauer's tone was not antagonistic; for that matter he was manifestly grateful to Tillerson for being the lone CEO among the Big Oil companies to accept an invite from "Today." Still, there was some bad economics on display, along with a notable attempt by Lauer to make the GOP look like ingrates to an industry with which they've been cozy. Tillerson put in a solid, undefensive performance.
Here are highlights:
Lauer: "Critics say the big oil companies crushed the competition and they are manipulating the prices. What is the truth?"
The lure of class warfare has now seduced even the Fox News Channel. The network, often derided by liberal critics as overly conservative, featured a segment on the May 2 edition of Fox & Friends about the "outrageous" perks that CEOs receive. Co-host E.D. Hill cynically teased the piece by asking, "You know, if you go to work, you get your paycheck, but don't you wish you got a plane too?" She then continued:
Hill: "Or maybe a car or a boat or a country club membership or those sort of things? Well, you will be blown away to find out what perks some executives get."
FNC anchor Brian Kilmeade continued the theme of class envy by noting that some people are "upset about Exxon because they're making way too much money."
MSNBC's First Read continued its obsession with gas prices to the exclusion of, well, all other economic news this past week. A rough word-count of economic reporting on First Read's blog shows that of 3500 words devoted to economics, 3250 were about gas prices. This does not include a Monday posting ostensibly about the Dahab bombing that spent the second paragraph talking about oil prices.
Ironically, First Read is aware of the problem, even if they don't know that they know. On Friday:
Asked in the April 21-24 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll who is most responsible for high gas prices, 37% of those polled say the oil companies are most responsible. Oil-producing nations rank second at 22%, while only 15% lay the most blame at President Bush's feet and 4% say Congress bears the most responsibility.
Ultraliberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith, perhaps best known to TV/political junkies as an on-air sparring partner of William F. Buckley, has died at the age of 97. I remember seeing the two spar over one of the party conventions on the "Today" show way back when. (I'm guessing it was 1980.) Can you imagine "Today" hosting two intellectuals having a little debate around the conventions today? Today's morning-show world is more likely to be devoted to plastic convention publicity schticks like Republican rappers (remember TRQ, anyone?) and precocious, mop-headed eight-year-old Democrats.
The New York Times greeted Galbraith's death with the headline "Economist Held a Mirror to Society." Apparently, if you believe capitalism is all about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and you believe avidly in massive government intervention in the economy, you "hold a mirror to society." Or at least a mirror to the face of the New York Times.
The Washington Post lived up to its typical pattern in coverage of economic good news Saturday morning. The fastest economic growth in several years was banished to D-1 again. While the Post put two bad-news-for-Bush stories on Iraq and terrorism on page 1, it put victories against al-Qaeda in Iraq on page A-10.
On D-1, the Post story acknowledged "Economic Growth Surges to 4.8%." Fred Barbash and Bill Brubaker noted "It was the hottest annualized pace for the gross domestic product in 2 and a half years." That news wasn't even mentioned on the front page. The "Inside" box touted two other, less stunning Business items from D-1:
-- "Pentagon Halts Clearances: High demand and a budget shortfall are blamed for putting security checks for 3,000 contractors on hold."
If there's any online media that would be free from infantile whining about corporate greed, it'd be investor Web sites, right? For the most part perhaps, but Motley Fool's Rick Munarriz found a corporate giant to attack for making money: Netflix, the online DVD rental service.
"How much money do you need when your largest competitor is
against the creditors' ropes? Or when a digitally delivered future may mean
thinner moats but without the same kind of capital intensive structure," whined Munarriz, who owns stock in the company. "There's never enough money, apparently, if you happen to be
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX). In a baffling move, the company is looking to initiate
a secondary offering next month that will dilute investors by an additional 3.5
million shares while raising about $100 million."
On the April 27 "World News Tonight," anchor Elizabeth Vargas coined President Bush's call for more regulation of fuel standards a "bold" move:
We turn, now, to ABC's chief Washington correspondent, George
Stephanopoulos. And George, we had a bold move by the President a short time
ago. He wants the ability to change the miles per gallon standards, the so
called CAFÉ standards, on his own, something he currently does not have the
authority to do.
So let's see, the President's move to wiretap incoming phone calls from terror suspects has been roundly criticized as illegal and in reckless disregard to civil liberties. The call to drill for oil in ANWR to increase oil supply and lower gasoline prices has been called "controversial," but seldom if ever bold. But the call to put more regulatory power over industry in the hands of the President, and grow the scope and size of government, that's "bold."
Perhaps it's not surprising from a network that once spun $2.15/gallon of gas as "averaging under $3." The April 26 "CBS Evening News" overestimated ExxonMobil's forthcoming profit margin.
Jumping the gun on the other networks, "CBS Evening News" reported on the April 26 broadcast that ExxonMobil would report a $9.4 billion profit for the first quarter of 2006. The actual figure, released the morning of April 27, is an $8.4 billion profit, a $1,000,000,000 difference. This isn't CBS News's first time being sloppy with numbers.
The Free Market Project previously reported how CBS exaggerated the rise in natural gas prices heading into the winter of 2005-6:
NBC's Today show was full of negative news for President Bush, as it usually is, so it was a bit surprising when Katie Couric asked Tim Russert why the President hasn’t gained from positive consumer confidence. Maybe it’s because, according to a quick Nexis search of Today, the phrase "consumer confidence" hasn’t even been uttered all year long. During a segment on the bad news for the President in NBC’s latest poll Couric noted:
"We just see the right direction, wrong track question Tim and we can follow that by the economy. Only 19 percent feel confident when it comes to, excuse me, the economy and 77 percent are uneasy. One of Josh Bolten's five point plans, as you know, Tim was to brag more about the economy and there is good news. Consumer confidence this month is at its highest in four years. The Dow is trading at a six-year high. Obviously they've got their work cut out for them but why aren't some of those good things reflected in the poll numbers?"
Gas price rage has blended with executive pay rage recently, since the media have been bashing ExxonMobil’s departing CEO, Lee Raymond, for his pay and pension package.
“Runaway pay,” said NBC’s Brian Williams on April 20, calling executive salaries and benefits “stratospheric” and “staggering.” CBS’s Bob Schieffer compared Raymond’s “golden” retirement to the “average American” on April 13. “How much is too much?” asked NBC’s Matt Lauer on April 11. And ABC’s “Good Morning America” said, “You Must Be Kidding!” referring to Raymond’s package as “stunning” on April 14.
Criticizing highly-paid executives has been in vogue at the news networks lately, but there’s something the anchors aren’t telling you: their colleagues’ top wages could soon be disclosed to the world, and Big Media are fighting it.
Large media companies have been doing everything within their power to hide the compensation plans of their own highest-paid employees from public disclosure. As reported by the Associated Press on April 11: