Noteworthy from Friday night's broadcast network evening newscasts which, a day after his death, spent 95 percent of their air time on Michael Jackson -- all but 1:03 of ABC's approximate 22 minutes was devoted to Jackson, all but 34 seconds of CBS and all but 1:22 of NBC, for 2:59, less than three minutes in total for all news beyond Jackson:
♦ Only ABC's World News reported how Monica Conyers, a Detroit city councilwoman married to powerful U.S. House Democrat John Conyers, pled guilty to accepting bribes. But anchor Charles Gibson, who on Wednesday night made sure to identify Mark Sanford as “a rising star in the Republican Party,” failed to name the party affiliation for either Monica Conyers or John Conyers, and neither did any on-screen graphic. Speaking of Detroit, last year, when Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was charged with felonies, Gibson (as well as the CBS and NBC anchors) didn't consider Kilpatrick's party worth mentioning.
♦ ABC also uniquely found a little time, a mere 20 seconds, to mention House action on President Obama's “cap and trade” bill. As noted by the MRC's Business and Media Institute, for months the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts have barely covered the bill “that would cost each family $1,241 a year.” CBS and NBC kept up the near-blackout again Friday night. Gibson outlined how “the bill would impose limits pollution from power plants and factories and force a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” but also noted: “Critics charge it will drive up energy costs for consumers.”
Can food taste too good? Yes, if you're New York Times health columnist Tara Parker-Pope. Her Tuesday "Well" column for the Times is currently the #1 most emailed article on nytimes.com, and is an interview with former Food and Drug Administration head (and over-zealous banner of orange juice and silicon-gel breast implants) David Kessler on his new book, with the typically scolding title, "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite."
A Times headline writer took the same hectoring cue, eschewing personal responsibility for what people eat and blaming it all on food industry mind control: "How the Food Makers Captured Our Brains." Parker-Pope, via Kessler, actually comes out against food manufacturers for making their products tastes good.
As head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. David A. Kessler served two presidents and battled Congress and Big Tobacco. But the Harvard-educated pediatrician discovered he was helpless against the forces of a chocolate chip cookie.
Journalists, take note: Dylan Ratigan should be your model.
Despite working for MSNBC, Ratigan has shown a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners interview style that is quickly gaining him the reputation for being the toughest interview on television. It isn’t often that an MSNBC host can claim to be tough on both sides of the political aisle, but the former CNBC correspondent could probably do it with a straight face and a clear conscience.
This morning, for example, Ratigan was brought in as a hired gun of sorts, to speak with Obama’s Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), Dr. Christina Romer. Typically, in interviews with White House economic wonks, TV personalities can easily be blown away by the technical rhetoric of economists. Typically, these wonks sound very much like they know what they’re talking about, even when they are in fact dodging the question. This was not a typical interview in either regard.
For example, to kick things off, Ratigan asks a rather technical question:
ABC and CBS's morning shows on Wednesday both provided surprisingly tough questioning to Christina Romer, one of Barack Obama's economic advisors. On the issue of health care, Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer compared the costs of Medicare to the new health care plan and pointed out past government inaccuracies when it came to accessing cost.
She grilled, "You know, in 1965, everyone was told that over 25 years, the cost of Medicare would be $12 billion. The actual cost, $107 billion." Sawyer added, "Ten-times what the estimate was. Can you know this cost? And can you guarantee it's not going to be more than the administration believes?" Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez quizzed Romer, the Chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, on Obama's repeated insistence that he has no interest in meddling in the private sector. She wondered, "He sounds like he's being forced to do these things. If he believes that big government is actually a bad thing, why doesn't he at least try less intrusive options, which are certainly be offered up?"
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer complained about America's maternity leave policies for women, and for the fourth time in slightly more than two years, the show connected them to such struggling countries as Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. The host solemnly observed that only three countries "have policies equal to the United States. Swaziland, Liberia and Papua New Guinea."
Sawyer, who was introducing a segment on how women are afraid to take much maternity leave during the recession, derided, "Even in Iraq, women get one year of leave, six months at full pay, and six months of half pay." Linking the U.S. to such poor countries was, perhaps, intended to horrify viewers. However, the ABC anchor left out some key stats, such as the fact that nations mandating paid maternity leave, such as Germany, often also have high unemployment rates.
As for the countries Sawyer mentioned, Swaziland also has an unemployment rate of 40 percent, an infant mortality rate of 70 percent and a life expectancy of 32. Papua New Guinea's unemployment rate is up to 80 percent in some urban areas. So, there seems to be some differences between America and these countries.
A fabulous 1934 Chicago Tribune cartoon that has recently been making the rounds in the blogosphere as an example of history sadly repeating itself was marvelously rerun at the paper's website on June 10.
In it, members of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration are seen shoveling money out of a wagon with a billboard on the side declaring, "Depleting the resources of the soundest government in the world."
On Wednesday, the Trib reprinted the cartoon with the caption "This is a 1934 Chicago Tribune political cartoon that many say rings true in today's political and economic climate. What do you think?" (full, largely legible print below the fold along with an explanation of the characters uncovered by The Federal Observer, h/t NBer Gary Hall):
You can't make this stuff up. The titled quote comes from a Bloomberg story today about new GM Chairman Ed Whitacre. You also can't make up most of the media's calm acceptance of yet another person heavily involved with running General Motors, aka Government Motors, who knows next to nothing about cars except as a consumer who drives them.
At least it's refreshing that this guy has experience running a business, which is more than you can say about the other two architects of the company as it currently subsists.
On May 31, the New York Times put out a fawning portrayal of the a Mr. Brian Deese, the guy who was the only full-timer on President-elect and then President Obama's car team from Election Night until mid-February.
Fasten your seat belts, this guy's lack of any kind of pedigree will have you death-gripping the steering wheel, as will the smug dismissiveness of a business system that has been the most successful in human history:
Actor Jon Voight, who recently spoke critically of President Obama at a Republican fundraiser, appeared on Tuesday's The O'Reilly Factor to reiterate his problems with Obama. After recounting that America was "warned" by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden during the Democratic primary season that Obama "had no experience" and was a "novice," the conservative actor reminded FNC viewers of the unheeded warnings about Obama's connections to questionable figures like Bill Ayers and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright:
Look, he was a fellow who was associated with all the wrong people. The signs were up. His associations with Bill Ayers, Alinsky, with ACORN, with Pfleger, with Wright. But no one seemed to take the warnings. And his inexperience was quite evident.
Should it be the role of the government to determine what amount of risk is appropriate in the private sector? President Barack Obama could have been interpreted as suggesting that much in comments he made about TARP repayments on June 9.
CNBC's Rick Santelli responded to those comments earlier in the day from Obama, "that those who seek reward do not take reckless risks." Santelli said on CNBC's "Power Lunch" that it's not the role of the government to make those judgments.
"It makes me a little nervous and some of the people on the floor express this - whether it was the end of the last administration or the current administration, you know to really understand what's wrong and what needs to be right - that statement's very un-American," Santelli said. "You know, why should the government think they know the magic blend of risk and reward? It's the government's role not to fall asleep at the switch, not to have products that are unregulated and to have speed limits."
Even if they ultimately lose their last-minute court battle, the Indiana pension funds defending their rights as secured first-lien creditors of Chrysler have done a valuable deed.
We have learned, among many other things, how at least one government lawyer characterized the funds' lawyer, Thomas Lauria.
A $10,000 Democratic Party donor, Lauria, despite clear evidence of intimidation of his originally larger pool of clients by Barack Obama himself (in his April 30 speech announcing the company's bankruptcy filing) and his car guys, has nonetheless bravely pursued the important contract law and fiduciary duty issues involved in the shortchanging of his clients for several weeks.
Wait until you see the word the government lawyer used to describe Lauria.
The government is continuing to encroach on freedoms more and more in the name of climate change. Case in point: An ordinance that went into effect June 1 stating if you sell your home in Austin, Texas and you fail to get a clean energy "green" audit, you will likely face criminal charges.
According to an ordinance passed by the Austin City Council in November 2008, any home 10 years or older will require an "Energy Conservation Audit. Failure to comply - criminal charges as explained by the local community-owned electric utility:
What if I sell the house without having an audit?
Non-compliance with the ECAD ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor. Reported violations will be forwarded to the City of Austin Legal Department for review and action.
The media have lamented use of the word fascism when it has been used to describe moves by the Bush and Obama administrations and the private sector economy.
But when examined from a purely political and economic point-of-view, that is what's going on now according to Thomas Sowell, Stanford University's Hoover Institute Senior Fellow and author of "The Housing Boom and Bust." Sowell appeared on Glenn Beck's May 27 program and was asked if the United States was still a capitalist country.
"Oh, heavens, partially," Sowell replied. "We're not a socialist country, because the socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production. But, the fascists believe that the government should have private ownership and the politicians should tell people how to run the businesses. So that's the route we seem to be going."
While reporting on the Obama administration’s plan to impose higher fuel standards on cars and trucks on Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith asked Obama environmental advisor Carol Browner: "As a former long-time administrator of the EPA, how overdue is this?" Browner replied: "It is long overdue. You know, Congress stood in the way of tougher fuel economy standards for a long time. That finally was fixed."
Smith did question the higher price of cars for consumers that would result from the tougher standards: "With the added price tag cost to these average vehicles, and much higher -- higher gas mileage and fewer emissions, what is my incentive, what is my dollar incent – incentive to buy a car like this?" Browner argued that consumers would save money in the long-run due to better gas mileage: "...whether you want to buy a bigger car or a smaller car, they will all be more efficient, and cleaner. So we're preserving the consumer choice, but giving every consumer the opportunity to save money at the pump." Smith replied: "Will SUVs and pickup trucks go the way of the dinosaur, though?"
Naming a man who wants to levy sin taxes on soda pop to be the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might not be the politically wisest thing for President Obama to do, especially on the heels of massive TEA Party protests. But then again, with media outlets like the Washington Post leaving that controversy unmentioned, perhaps the White House calculated correctly that the risk of staffing the federal government's public health branches with nanny state activists was minimal.
On May 15, President Obama announced in a press statement that New York City health commissioner Thomas Frieden will take the helm of the CDC in June. Reporting the story in the May 16 paper were Post staffers Debbi Wilgoren and Michael D. Shear (along with some help from staffer Ceci Connolly).
Wilgoren and Shear allowed "an industry-funded group" spokesman to slam Frieden as "barely recogniz[ing]" the line between "government's responsibility in regulating health and what is the individual's responsibility," yet they curiously omitted perhaps the clearest example of the same, Frieden's support of a penny-per-ounce soda tax. This even though the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the idea earlier in the week.
Slate's William Saletan noted Frieden's push for a penny-per-ounce soda tax in early April:
On the face of it, the idea of the government being able to regulate how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted into the atmosphere seems absurd. After all, it's a gas emitted by, among other things, human breathing.
That's the point Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, was making when he criticized the new policy that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate CO2 - much to the chagrin of MSNBC "The ED Show" anchor Ed Schultz.
"The Republican from Texas, Barton has already made it clear he's one of Congress' biggest deniers on man-made climate change," Schultz said during his "Psycho Talk" segment on his May 13 broadcast. "Now he's got a new one. The Congressman spoke with Newsmax - there's a news source - on Monday. Now, based on his interview, if you were a runner, I'd be a little bit of nervous about your favorite sport."
It is disappointing, but not at all surprising, that the Democratic Party affiliation of the politicians involved in the union-driven campaign to force Wells Fargo Bank not to liquidate the Chicago-area operations of Hartmarx, the high-end clothier which has made suits for President Obama, has not been noted in the vast majority of stories I have reviewed about ongoing developments there.
The two Illinois politicians (there are others named below) are Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has formed a US Senate seat exploratory committee in hopes of unseating current occupant Roland Burris, and 13th District Congressman Phil Hare.
The situation, for those just learning of it, is described pretty well at this Chicago Sun-Times story by Sandra Guy, who at least flagged Hare's Democratic affiliation:
Even after Hart Schaffner Marx plant workers in Des Plaines unanimously stood up shouting their approval of staging a sit-in if Wells Fargo presses their parent company to liquidate, Wells Fargo said parent company Hartmarx is unable to repay more than $114 million it owes the bank.
Shoot, he's only talking about pulling $8 billion in state-controlled money because a bank won't go easy on a business borrower who can't pay. What's the big deal?
Well, the story involves the company that makes suits for President Barack Obama (pictured at right). Beyond that, the union at that company is citing the US Treasury Department's Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) as a reason that company's bank should in essence bail it out.
You might think that these two factors, combined with what I'm characterizing as a loyalty oath all financial institutions who do business with the State of Illinois must soon agree to (covered later), might make the Treasurer's and union's threats a national story. You would be wrong.
Here is most of the very short AP item, carried at the Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register, and referred to me by a NewsBusters commenter:
ABC's token contrarian John Stossel appeared on Friday's "Good Morning America" to promote his new "20/20" special on some very politically incorrect subjects. In the process, he got into a bit of a dust-up with GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, telling the son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, "And I know in law school and in your political family, you believe good things only happen because government passes laws." [Audio available here]
Stossel appeared on the morning show to discuss one of the topics on his special, airing Friday night at 10pm on ABC. Among other subjects, he will argue that it was wrong for the government to make it illegal for employers to fire a woman because she is pregnant. After showing a clip of the piece, Cuomo skeptically questioned, "...This law was created for a reason, that women were discriminated against. That's why they passed the law in the '60s." Cuomo, whose brother is currently the Democratic Attorney General of New York, challenged, "Why open the door to giving a corporation a way out?"
Call it an ominous warning, but Fox News Channel afternoon host and ratings sensation Glenn Beck on Wednesday cautioned viewers that government is strengthening its grip of power and is not going to stop at the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Beck declared on his May 6 broadcast the government is out of control, noting that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were a weekly occurrence, including efforts to make the TARP bailout more transparent earlier this year from the Treasury Department.
"We've got a government out of control and I'm telling you, it is up to you to control it," Beck said. "These stories of corruption and abuse of power, I'm going to continue to bring them to you as long as I possibly can, and everybody else on this network is dedicated. But it seems like every week this network is filing another Freedom of Information Act request. Even with all the resources of Fox, the truth still can't be fully exposed without you. I ask you, please - help us. Meet us here every day. Tell all of your friends what you learn here. Spread it. E-mail me. Tell me what I'm missing. We will do the best we can to provide you with the information, but it is a little overwhelming."
CNBC's Steve Liesman has always gone after tea party inspiration and network floor reporter Rick Santelli for his views, but this time it was Santelli playing offense.
The CNBC "Power Lunch" crew was discussing Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) CEO Ken Lewis and disclosure of details surrounding his bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch May 5. Santelli accused Liesman, CNBC's senior economics reporter of saying "dumb things" and acting like Nixon, when he suggested there could be a compelling reason for Lewis was not forthcoming about the acquisition.
"Ask the question in a more compelling way which is - I want you to save the world and not disclose," Liesman said.
The Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa, who became infamous last year for her stories of "vanishing jobs" that weren't, sounded hopeful early this morning before the release by Uncle Sam's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of its first-quarter report on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth:
Economy's free-fall probably eased in 1Q The recession's grip on the country may be letting up a bit.
The government is set to release a report Wednesday expected to show the economy shrank at a pace of 5 percent in the first three months of this year. If Wall Street analysts' forecasts' are correct, the figure — while still extremely weak — would be viewed as a hopeful sign that the worst of the recession — in terms of lost economic activity — may be past.
On Sunday’s CBS ‘60 Minutes,’ anchor Scott Pelley, who once remarked that global warming critics were the equivalent of Holocaust deniers, identified the American coal industry as one of the main culprits of climate change: "The future of our climate might be summed up in one question, what do we do about coal? Coal generates nearly half the electricity in the United States and in the world. But it is the dirtiest fuel of all when it comes to carbon dioxide, or CO-2, the leading greenhouse gas. A few days ago, the Obama administration declared, for the first time, that CO-2 is a threat to human health and it plans to impose limits."
Pelley’s story did feature a representative of the coal industry, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, who actually called for limitations on carbon emissions: "It's my judgment it is a problem. We need to go to work on it now. And it's critical that we start to act in this country...Our goal line is substantially to reduce our carbon footprint, to de-carbonize our business, by 2050." However, that wasn’t good enough for Pelley: "Four decades? That's a long time."
Pelley followed up by citing left-wing global warming activist Jim Hansen: "2050 is too late. We will have guaranteed disasters for our children, grandchildren, and the unborn." Pelley explained: "Jim Hansen is NASA's top climate scientist. He's credited with some of the earliest and most accurate projections on climate change. He thinks that Rogers plan leaves the Earth in the oven decades too long."
It's a response that might incite laughter, as it did from conservative pundit Monica Crowley and MSNBC paleocon talker Pat Buchanan. According to Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, the current problems facing the country and President Barack Obama are due to capitalism.
"I give him a B+ because there's a lot of outcomes that haven't come in yet," Clift said. "But look, this isn't about the failure of government and the Republicans are on the wrong tact talking about big government. This is a failure of capitalism. He's trying to save capitalism."
Separating personal feelings from straight-up journalism is something MSNBC anchors have had trouble with in the past, and David Shuster is no exception.
During MSNBC's daytime news coverage on April 24, Shuster interviewed Bill Himpler of the American Financial Services Association. The discussion was nominally about the legislation sponsored by Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), designed to freeze credit card rates, it became more about Shuster's view that credit card companies are gouging their customers. Throughout the four-minute interview, Shuster threw out anti-business questions and occasional hyperbole.
On CNBC's April 24 "The Call," Santelli expressed his frustration with an overreaction by the government to solve the financial crisis when Kudlow asked him about the expansion of bailout obligations from the original TARP bailout price tag $750 billion to the $3 trillion.
"Listen - I'm glad I didn't say that, I'm glad I didn't say all that," Santelli said. "Do I disagree with it? Probably not. But, I'll take it a step farther - in the beginning, whether it was the commercial paper program, there was a need just like babies have a need for milk. But I don't need to drink a couple of gallons anymore."
On Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked Democratic Senator Chris Dodd about efforts by Congress to pass legislation that would punish credit card companies for charging higher fees and interest rates: "Senator, yesterday President Obama says that he wants legislation to stop credit card abuses. This is something that you have been pushing for, for years. And I don't have to tell you that there's been strong credit card lobby against this. Now that the President's on board, can you assure consumers that this will finally get done and when?...what's the likelihood?"
Dodd responded by thanking Rodriguez and her CBS colleagues for their slanted coverage on the issue: "I think pretty good.And you've laid the groundwork for it because people are irate over these issues...I think we have a wonderful opportunity, now, to make a difference here and get a handle on these issues that have been gouging consumers for far too long."
Straight from UPI's transcript of Barack Obama's Earth Day remarks in Newton, Iowa yesterday -- in the midst of flights that reportedly expended 9,000 gallons of jet fuel -- here is the President's take on this country's oil dependency (bold is mine):
Twenty percent of what we spend on imports is the price of our oil imports. ..... It's the cost we've known ever since the gas shortages of the 1970s.
And yet for more than 30 years, too little has been done about it. There's a lot of talk of action when oil prices skyrocket like they did last summer, and everybody says we've got to do something about energy independence. But then it slips from the radar when oil prices start falling like they have recently. So we shift from shock to indifference, time and again, year after year.
We can't afford that approach anymore, not when the costs for our economy, for our country and for our planet is so high.
So on this Earth Day, it is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America.
Gosh, that sounds positively capitalist. You would think the guy is finally going to let the oil companies do what they do best.
Not a chance. Here, from later in the speech, is (I think, because he never used any variation of "explore" anywhere else in the speech) how President 'Prompter defines "exploration" (bolds are mine):
The economy is already in rough shape, but some think we should let it go to pot - literally. Pro-legalization advocacy groups are promoting the possibility that legalizing marijuana could provide some economic relief, and the media has eagerly explored the idea.
On April 20, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) aired TV ads calling for marijuana legalization. They ran on CNN, Fox News Channel and were covered by CBS News.
"In the spot, Americans say of the drug, ‘you can tax it, you can regulate it, apply age restrictions...create millions of new jobs ... save our economy,'" Brian Montopoli wrote for CBSNews.com on April 20.
With chatter that this could be a campaign issue in 2010, the new Obama Administration's relaxed policies toward the drug and some people's desperate, try-anything approach to solving the government spending deficits and economic woes, the idea of marijuana legalization is gaining traction with the media.
It was either an effort to avoid blaming individuals for ill-advised borrowing or an effort to vilify the banking system, but a segment on the April 20 "CBS Evening News" took a very one-sided view of credit-card lending.
On a day bank stocks struggled and dragged the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) down nearly 300 points, "Evening News" scrutinized the current state of the banking system's credit-card lending. According to anchor Katie Couric, that sell-off of bank stocks occurred as a result of the realization the institutions would be forced to cover bad loans.
"Wall Street had been on a six-week winning streak, but today it suffered its worst drop in two months as investors rushed to sell bank stocks," Couric said. "[T]he sell-off came after Bank of America reported earnings of more than $2.8 billion last quarter, but that good news was offset by the word that the bank has set aside more than $13 billion to cover its losses from bad loans made in the past."