‘Tis the season for lackluster holiday sales and prosperous debt collectors. Fa la la la la, la la la la...
Everything is a little downbeat according to the economic news leading into the holiday shopping season reported on the November 18 "CBS Evening News" - that is of course unless you're in the debt business.
"It happens to be pretty good," said Brandon Bradshaw about this shopping season. "So, we're one of the lucky ones."
But, CBS Correspondent Randall Pinkston trotted him out for a reason.
"Brandon Bradshaw's business? Debt collection," concluded Pinkston. "Russ, retailers are counting on shoppers like him because this is the make-or-break season. Fourth quarter - stores depend on holiday shoppers for 25 to 40 percent of their annual profits."
On Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," anchor Lesley Stahl began a segment on calorie labeling for fast food by making this alarmist proclamation: "Obesity rates continue to spiral out of control in this country and nutritionists say one main reason is how dependent we've become on eating out." Enter the big government hero:
Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden is in charge of regulating New York City's $11 billion restaurant market...the chains are up against a formidable foe, because Frieden has a record of making big industry bend to his will. He's the one who forced smoking out of city bars and artery-clogging trans fats out of city restaurants. Both those bans spread nationwide, which is also happening with his new crusade.
Frieden’s latest "crusade" is to force big fast food chains nationwide to label the calories of all of their products, which were exempt from doing so. As Stahl explained, "Now, one of the most powerful health officials in the country wants to change that by forcing chain restaurants like McDonald's and Wendy's to spell out exactly how fattening their food is right when you decide what to order."
The Anchoress, a three-time Weblog Awards finalist and 2007 Catholic Blog Awards Winner (congratulations!) in the Best Political/Social Commentary category (scroll down at link to see it), delivered a cold but necessary shower earlier this evening to those of us who are tempted to exaggerate or overstate the impact New Media is having on most Americans.
I'll bet that a lot of us can relay similar stories to the ones she referred to in her very perceptive post ("Good news leaks past the embargo on good news…"; links that contradict the Old Media-driven beliefs described and bolds/italics were included in her original):
Unfortunately, it is still true that until a new president is installed in the WH, preferably one with a D after the name, only the downsides are newsworthy, and that holds true in every subject. Every subject. My elderly family members are convinced that everything, everywhere, is going to hell, and they are fretful and terrified. They think everyone is out of work, the economy is in a recession, the war in Iraq is lost and there are no real terrorist threats - that’s just made-up stuff. They’re sure America is dying. They are sure the world is headed for famine. They are depressed and do not want to send out Christmas cards, because how can you do that when so much is bad in the world?
In order to make food choices for her constituents, Perry wants to ban new fast-food restaurants from opening in the South L.A. district for at least a year.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta ate up the plan for regulatory meddling saying on "American Morning" November 16, "[A]lthough obesity may not be eliminated entirely, studies show zoning laws are a good first step to fighting the problem."
Business & Media Institute director Dan Gainor appeared on ‘Fox Business Live' November 15 to discuss the media's focus on the negative parts of the economy. Two of the networks, NBC and CBS led with positive news of the year's second best day of the year, but then focused on high gas prices this week.
"It goes beyond ‘it bleeds, it leads.' This is a consistent theme we've been watching for several years...Any time you have any sort of negative news they hype that and any sort of positive news, they undercut it," said Gainor.
In an Andy Rooneyesque rant about how his latest movie-going experience "left much to be desired," CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller hinted he wouldn't mind seeing liberal consumers groups tackle hefty snack prices at the nation's movie theaters. He even suggested the short titles for two bills Congress could draft on that front.
From Knoller's November 12 Couric & Co. blog post (emphasis mine):
The fact is, most movie theaters are glorified snack bars. On average, they keep only 50% or less of the ticket price, far less for blockbusters in their opening weeks. Much of a theater’s profit comes from the concession stand.
Regal, one of the nation’s largest multiplex chains, reported the 3rd quarter profit margin at its snack bars exceeded 86%.
And the markup – especially on popcorn – is eye-popping. The Los Angeles Times last year calculated that just $30 of raw popcorn can translate into as much as $3,000 in sales at the snack bar.
That sounds like a markup that would make the oil industry blush.
In a move that must be causing Excedrin headaches at the New York Times and other Old Media outlets, USA Today reports that the Wall Street Journal's new owner expects to tear down its subscription wall:
News Corp. (NWS) Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday he intends to make access to The Wall Street Journal's website free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue.
"We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers), having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth," Murdoch said.
News Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire Dow Jones (DJ), and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 in New York.
Murdoch said he believes that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.
That sounds like a weird question, but apparently CNN’s “American Morning” thinks eating your iPhone or earphone cord is a possibility.
In a segment with an on-screen caption – “IPOD & IPHONE DANGER – CAN THEY HURT YOU?” – CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that the cord connecting the earbuds to your iPod contain phthalates, according to the litigious Center for Environmental Health.
Phthalates are a substance often used for increasing the flexibility of plastics, but according to an article on macnn.com, a Web site devoted to news on Apple products, phthalates “may hinder the sexual development of mammals.”
Yesterday during the 7 p.m. hour of FBN’s “America’s Nightly Scoreboard” theBusiness and Media Institute’s Director Dan Gainor went head to head with John Coifman of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The topic of discussion was “business going green” and whether or not it can put businesses in the red. The first part of the video can be seen below.
David Asman asked Gainor, “What’s wrong with going green?”
In an article counseling readers to cancel the pity party the Washington Post wants to throw for "Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest," Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings nails it, and in the process hammers home a reality that Old Media reporters and pundits never seem to comprehend (links were in original post):
..... Who is it that really changes the world, and for the better?
I would argue that it is the people like Bill Gates, or Henry Ford, or Thomas Edison, or the Wright brothers, who have a much larger and more beneficial effect on the world than people who "want to make a difference."
Author and political reporter Timothy Carney has an interesting item this morning in the Washington Examiner about how Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) practically gets campaign contribution kickbacks from her support for subsidies to the drug industry for the so-called emergency contraceptive pill Plan B. Emphasis mine. (h/t James Joyner):
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., portrays herself as a scourge of the pharmaceutical industry, but she has shown that she’s willing to help a drugmaker if that’s what it takes to profit Planned Parenthood, her indispensable political ally.
Clinton’s campaign Web site touts that she has “battled the big drug companies.” Yet she has sponsored many bills that would directly subsidize Barr Laboratories, maker of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B, which also functions as an abortifacient. Thanks to a deal cut between Barr and Planned Parenthood, those taxpayer subsidies will yield generous profits for the pro-choice group that every four years spends millions trying to elect a Democrat to the White House.
Like the latest runway trend, "green is the new black" according to the media. At least where business is concerned. But it turns out that companies are finding "going green" is an easy way to put themselves in the red.
Back in 2003 FedEx announced it would begin switching to hybrid trucks and won an award from the Environmental Protection Agency, but at $70,000 more per truck the costs got in the way. Four years later, the company has fewer than 100 hybrid trucks, according to the October 29 BusinessWeek.
Other companies like PepsiCo and Caterpillar could face problems with the bottom line because of their support for more government regulation, said Steve Milloy on CNBC's "Street Signs" October 12.
Over the last year, Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide (NYSE:CFC), decided to periodically sell some of the stock he owns in the company he co-founded 40 years ago and what is now the nation's largest mortgage lender – part of a prearranged measure known as a 10b5-1 trading plan. This was all done to prepare him for his December 2009 retirement date.
Despite his upcoming retirement, that drew the ire of some liberal pro-union groups and CBS’s Anthony Mason, whereas anyone defending his decision to sell his stock was not found in Mason’s report.
Why is it that a page from Katie Couric's "Notebook" is often cribbed from the left-wing playbook? [Check here for a real eye-roller from June 2007]
In her October 25 "Notebook" item at her Couric & Co. blog, the "CBS Evening News" anchor parroted the complaints of a left-wing group that finds scandalous the practice of doctors getting freebies from pharmaceutical companies.:
We all know the saying, 'there's no such thing as a free lunch,' but not if you're a doctor. Every year drug makers spend almost $7 billion in lunches, dinners, travel fees and gifts to doctors. That's on top of the estimated $18 billion in free drug samples they give them. We talked with Rob Restuccia of the Prescription Project, which studies potential conflicts of interest between drug makers and doctors. He says there's a high correlation between the prescribing of particular drugs and gifts to those physicians...
It may be a bitter pill for some drug companies but when doctors receive free lunches, it's their patients who often pay the price.
Within his article, Mufson brought in advertising critic and NPR host who injected his own political beliefs about oil companies like Chevron (emphasis mine):
"What these ads, like all oil company ads, do is accentuate the positive and don't mention the venality, the environmental impact and overarching greed that is at the bottom of their businesses," said Bob Garfield, a TV ad critic for Advertising Age.
There's a fabulous column by Ed Driscoll (HT to NixGuy in an e-mail) about the evolution of media and reporting from the invention of radio to our current circumstances.
It's the title of Driscoll's work, "Atlas Mugged: How a Gang of Scrappy, Individual Bloggers Broke the Stranglehold of the Mainstream Media," that misses the mark a bit.
Ed has the "stranglehold" part nailed:
By the early 1970s, mass media had reached its zenith (if you’ll pardon the pun). Most Americans were getting their news from one of three TV networks’ half-hour nightly broadcasts. With the exception of New York, most big cities had only one or two primary newspapers. And no matter what a modern newspaper’s lineage, by and large its articles, except for local issues, came from global wire services like the Associated Press or Reuters; it took its editorial lead from the New York Times; and it claimed to be impartial (while usually failing miserably).
When I saw this at the office yesterday, I was in stitches. Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto aired B-roll of a saucy Paris Hilton burger ad while talking with conservative talk show host and author Laura Ingraham about her complaints in her book Power to the People and elsewhere about how cable news networks tart up their programming with skin. Asked by Ingraham if he was rolling such B-roll, Cavuto denied it, but the look on his face was priceless. (video embed below fold)
It's nothing new for Neil, who has a penchant for incorporating scantily-clad women in B-roll in his eponymous "Your World w/Neil Cavuto" program, and/or interviewing in-studio Hooters waitresses and Victoria's Secret models, always finding some business news angle of course.
I was going to clip the video for the heck of it, but Allahpundit at Hot Air beat me to it. You can read his post here or see the embedded YouTube video clip below the fold.
Still smarting from his Memogate spanking, disgraced former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather is trying to reclaim journalistic glory by trumpeting the claims of a supposed Boeing whistleblower. Paul at Wizbang sees an all-too-familiar scenario:
Stop me if you're heard this one....
A has-been anchorman, trying to reclaim past [false] glory tries to destroy a person or an institution by using accusations from a dubious source back-up by documents of dubious credibility. A big blogosphere welcome back to Dan Rather.
This time his target is Boeing but his reportage skills are about the same. Even without benefit of seeing the report (it airs tonight) there are already problems with it.
What problems? Well apparently the Seattle Times has found that the would-be whistleblower, Vince Weldon, has credibility issues:
A recession is classically defined as two back-to-back quarters of negative growth in gross domestic product (GDP), something that last happened six years ago with the 2001 recession. So what did Witt see that portended an imminent collapse?
Well, "[f]inancial experts were blindsided by a new report today that found 4,000 jobs were cut last month. That is the first time that's happened in four years. These numbers follow another report that finds home foreclosures have hit a record high," Witt explained.
Voilà! Two scary negative statistics and there you have it, the economy teetering of the brink of utter ruin. Only, we've heard the media hype about pending recessions before. From our friends at the MRC's Business & Media Institute:
Gabriel Resources, a mining company based in Toronto, Canada, has begun to fight back against the lies and war of misinformation being waged against its proposed Romanian gold mine by leftwing billionaire George Soros. As I have written about several times on my own blog, BillHobbs.com, the poverty-stricken place village of Rosia Montana, Romania, is seeing its best-ever chance at economic progress and a better life for its people blocked by environmental groups and NGOs, and by Soros, a wealthy man who doesn't lack for things like indoor plumbing and electricity the way many of the people do in Rosia.
The New York Times, PBS and other media outlets have in recent weeks presented a false picture of the Rosia Montana project, describing it as a small village trying to fend off destruction by a big Canadian mining company. The real picture is much different - the truth is, the people of the village largely support the proposed mine, and want the benefits it will bring, and the opposition is largely non-local and heavily funded by Soros.
Much like tasty snacks, the networks can never stop their addiction to “food police” groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest.Yesterday morning it was Good Morning America that was shilling for them, saying, “Did you realize you were paying more for less food?”
What was the target this time? The 100 calorie “snack packs,” that CSPI themselves have fought for. CSPI is upset about the cost, even though companies have gone out of their way to create less fattening snacks, (in smaller portions, and with some new recipes).
GMA reporter Elisabeth Leamy starts off the segment like this:
What happens a guy with verifiable liberal credentials (contributing editor at Rolling Stone and a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic and Air America) just happens to have written a book highly critical of the coal industry – “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future”?
But if you’re a viewer, you might not know Jeff Goodell is predisposed for a variety of reasons against the coal industry. Goodell is opposed to coal as an energy source because he believes it contributes to global warming, is not convinced technological advances will make it more environmentally friendly, thinks it is unsafe to mine and has doubts about its sustainability as a resource.
The powerful "manufacturing is in decline" meme won't go away soon, but it should.
It apparently isn't enough that the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index has read "expansion" in 48 of the past 50 months. It has become an article of faith among reporters and opportunistic politicians that American manufacturing has been, and continues to be, in a long-term decline.
The fact is that government reports also show the exact opposite. Why apparently no one, including the sector's supporters, has done, or at least published, the simple math involved to debunk the myth of "deindustrialization" is indeed a mystery.
There has been support by anecdote. For example, on August 6, Joel Kotkin, a presidential fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal ("The Myth of Deindustrialization"; link requires subscription). His column led as follows:
The Los Angeles Times reported a run of Countrywide Bank by its customers as more and more are panicked about the potential of the nation’s largest home lender to go bankruptcy – something fueled by many of the reports in the media.
“[S]ales of existing homes fell in 41 states from April through June,” said CBS correspondent Susan McGinnis on the August 16 “The Early Show.” “Meanwhile, foreclosures continue to soar. And there are growing worries about the nation's biggest mortgage lender; Countrywide Financial could be forced into bankruptcy.”
But some experts seem to think this scare from the media over Countrywide’s bankruptcy is a little premature.
In a recent blog post by CBS Evening News correspondent Cynthia Bowers we find that she has had some problems with the housing market herself. Bowers apparently didn’t grasp the fact that her Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) can actually adjust:
“For a while we were okay. Then that Fed rate started going up, and so did our ARM. Over a five-month period it increased the cost of our monthly mortgage by nearly 40%!” Bowers wrote.
But Bowers shouldn’t have been surprised about her rate adjustment. According to Nexis, Cynthia Bowers has been reporting on the mortgage and housing market since at least 1997. With a decade of industry reporting under her belt, you’d think she’d be able to anticipate the fact that rates shift and payments adjust.
Matt Damon dressed as gas pump? Ben Affleck as an ear of corn? No, it’s not “Good Will Hunting,” the sequel. It’s a new set of videos promoting ethanol mandates on the Web site cleanmyride.org.
The Clean My Ride site is run by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, an arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. The purpose of Clean My Ride is to urge Congress to mandate ethanol as a fuel.
Earlier this week, NBC’s Lee Cowan admitted it was ethanol’s fault milk prices were “skyrocketing.” So which is it? Do environmentalists want better gas mileage or cheaper milk?
One of the other main points of the Web site is to try and get people to stop “running scared from Big Oil.” The first video, which features Affleck in a corn costume – it’s better than “Gigli” – even shows a sequence where “Big Oil” executives are chasing down an ear of corn and then bludgeoning it to death.
Today's Washington Post story about the latest legal filings in a securities case echoes the bias of liberal blogs and publications on the case.
The Post leads the story this way:
The Bush administration yesterday sided with accountants, bankers and lawyers seeking to avoid liability in corporate fraud cases, arguing that investors must show they lost money after relying on deceptions by third parties in order to proceed with private lawsuits.
"The Bush administration yesterday sided with U.S. manufacturers and their 14 million employees, arguing against a reinterpretation of securities law that could lead to an explosive rise in litigation."
CNBC’s Jim Cramer went on an impassioned rant August 6 calling for the Fed to reduce interest rates.
“Bernanke needs to open the discount window. That is how bad things are out there … in the fixed income markets we have Armageddon,” said Cramer on “Stop Trading!” Following Cramers’ rant, NBC brought him on “Today” to analyze the economy August 10.
NBC’s Meredith Vieira asked “Are the markets about to crash?” on the August 10 “Today” show.