There was a marvelous moment on this weekend's "Chris Matthews Show" when the host literally stuck his foot in his mouth claiming in front of four British journalists that former Prime Minister Tony Blair "was much closer emotionally and politically to Bill Clinton" than George W. Bush.
Guest's Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast and Gillian Tett of the Financial Times both immediately shook their heads as the BBC's Katty Kay and Matt Frei said "No" and "Wrong" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
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.
The day before Thanksgiving brought encouraging news on unemployment. CBS News.com reported "New Jobless Claims Plunge to 466K." Investors.com headlined "Jobless Claims Dive To 466,000." CNN Money.com issued a special report titled "Jobless claims plummet to 14-month low." And the Financial Times included a link to the Calculated Risk blog article "Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Decline Sharply."
Such good news, reported widely throughout the media, doubtless gave hope to many Americans. If some of them wished to attribute this dramatic turnaround to Barack Obama's stimulus program, so much the better. The truth, however, is that improvement in the number of jobless claims was less than electrifying. The numbers touted in the media are, according to the Department of Labor, "seasonally adjusted" with a statistical technique designed to accommodate fluctuations in the job market. Set that aside, and the numbers are not nearly as rosy. As DOL's Employment and Training Administration reported:
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 543,926 in the week ending Nov. 21, an increase of 68,080 from the previous week.
By definition, projection is revealing of what lurks in a person's heart and mind. Arianna Huffington projected tonight, and what she revealed wasn't pretty. So much so, that even her liberal host hastened to diassociate herself from the HuffPo editor. Huffington, grossly misquoting Grover Norquist's famous line about doing away with government, added an infanticidal twist.
Huffington was a guest on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show. The two shed crocodile tears about the diminished state of the Republican party. It was in suggesting that, of all things, she and Maddow should head up a Marshall Plan to save the GOP that Huffington engaged in that ugly bit of projection.
A Financial Times reporter who endorsed Obama but worried about his economic policies has taken a fresh look at the President-elect's post-election economic policy ideas, and doesn't like some of the big ticket items he sees. [See related blog entry by Jeff Poor here]
In his November 10 op-ed "The choices that confront America," British journalist Clive Crook reserved some of his harshest criticism for Obama's openness to bailing out Detroit's floundering automakers (emphasis mine):
The greatest danger of all is that the valid case for a strong stimulus takes under its wing spending proposals that create an ongoing obligation, have no true investment rationale, and represent a waste of public money now and in the future.
The bail-out currently being sought by the big US carmakers falls squarely into this category. Managers and unions have conspired for years to drive US-owned, US-based car manufacturing into the ground. Now they seek public subsidy to pay for investments they should have undertaken in any case, and to sustain wages and benefits that comparably qualified workers in other industries cannot hope to enjoy.
Why a worker in a US-owned car factory deserves more generous treatment than any other kind of US worker escapes me. Asking those other workers to pay for these privileges seems to add insult to injury. Perhaps President Obama will be able to explain.
Reporter Clive Crook really likes Barack Obama and in a November 3 op-ed practically endorsed him for president. But, the Financial Times reporter worries, the Illinois senator has some loopy economic ideas.
Yes, your just read that correctly. A reporter for one of the Anglosphere's well-respected financial newspapers admits he'd vote for Obama were he an American citizen -- Crook is a subject of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II -- but he hopes his stump speech populism is all a vote-getting gimmick.
As you read this, imagine the clamor, if not outright outrage, if a conservative-leaning foreign journalist like say Mark Steyn endorsed McCain only to question his foreign policy prescriptions (emphases mine):
Financial Times reporter Edward Luce has found another sign of trouble for the McCain campaign: he's turning up the noses of the "cocktail party circuit" inside Washington, D.C., which is "swelling with disaffected Republicans."
The more trouble John McCain's campaign encounters, the more it highlights the cultural divide between the "real America" the Republican candidate says he represents and the Washington "cocktail party circuit" that largely disdains it.
That circuit is swelling with disaffected Republicans. Some complain about Mr McCain's selection of Sarah Palin, whose appeal to "Joe Six-Pack" may have been dented by revelations this week that she has spent more than $150,000 (€117,000, £93,000) of other people's money on her wardrobe. Others are upset at the negative tone of the campaign.
Imagine the media maelstrom if a reporter found a swing-state Republican voter who had strong reservations about voting for John McCain, was flirting with the idea of voting for Barack Obama, but ultimately resigned him/herself to voting for McCain out of pressure from his/her evangelical church.
But make that a labor union Democrat from Pennsylvania and it's but a passing reference in a news story.
Reporting on how the presidential candidates were "jostl[ing] for the Scranton vote," Financial Times reporter Andrew Ward found a union worker who backed Hillary Clinton in the primaries and was reluctantly voting for Sen. Obama, in part because of union pressure. From the October 15 paper (emphasis mine):
On CNN's American Morning today, White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported on Barack Obama's campaigning in Virginia. Afterwards, anchor Kiran Chetry had a question:
CHETRY: All right. And Suzanne, what's on tap for the campaign today? And please tell me it's not lipstick again.
MALVEAUX: Let's hope not. He's going to be in Norfolk, Virginia. That is in southeast Virginia, and it's home to the world's largest Naval base. It's one of the most competitive areas that the Democrats and Republicans are fighting over. It's a critical piece of property, piece of land there with folks in Virginia, and they want those voters.
Nobody would ever hope or pray for a hurricane to strike at the expense of their political opponent. Or would they?
Well, maybe Michael Moore would. In fact, he did, as has already been discussed on this site.
By the same token, the Financial Times has also demonstrated a knack for cheering on a catastrophic event in the hopes of striking a blow to the GOP convention this week.
While delegates and attendees at the GOP convention spent Monday offering prayers, scaling back the pageantry, and generally demonstrating that most have their minds on the well-being of Americans in the Gulf region, liberals have been taking the opportunity to make jokes about their religion and hoping that a catastrophic event derails the Republicans all together.
Partly because this story doesn't fit preconceived liberal storylines and partly because the Democratic Convention is taking up all the oxygen in the mainstream media, you can expect this story to remain buried in your newspaper and be given little if any attention on cable news networks.
From page 17 of today's Financial Times, "US drillers to get $1bn court award" comes news of how federal government red tape often holds up oil companies for drilling on leases they've already sunk billions of dollars into (emphasis mine):
A US federal appeals court ruled yesterday that 11 oil and gas companies should receive more than $1bn awarded to them in 2006 after the government effectively changed the terms of leases to drill off the California coast.
The US Court of Appeals was upholding a 2006 ruling that the government had breached the leases when changes in federal law materially interfered with the companies' efforts to develop the oil and gas reserves off California.
The case points to the difficulties US oil and gas companies have developing oil and gas resources in the US.
Barack Obama won the endorsement yesterday of three prominent Republicans, including Jim Leach and Lincoln Chafee, both of whom lost their congressional seats to Democratic opponents in the 2006 mid-term elections.
The three, who include Rita Hauser, a former White House intelligence adviser, stressed foreign policy as their principal motivation and alarm at what Ms Hauser described as the Republican nominee's "bellicose" stance on Russia's conflict with Georgia.
Note to the Financial Times: When one nation sends tanks and troops across the border into another sovereign nation, that's an invasion, not an "invasion," even when you're quoting President Bush. An acute case of Bush Derangement Syndrome needn't cloud editorial judgment.
Yet that's precisely what the FT did in the August 12 paper as headline writers chose to dismissively place the word "invasion" in quote marks for the front page story, "Bush slams Russia 'invasion'" (emphasis mine):
President George W. Bush last night accused Russia of invading Georgia and said Moscow appeared to be mounting an effort to overthrow the "duly elected government" in Tbilisi.
The sharply tougher tone from Washington came after Russia defied mounting international pressure and opened a new front in its five-day-old war with Georgia yesterday, sending tanks and troops deeper into the territory of its southern neighbour.
In his July 31 blog entry, "Postcard from the gun show," Financial Times correspondent and loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth II Clive Crook admits that he "may get thrown out of Georgetown for this," but he applauds the rugged individualism of the American gun owner.:
Aside from other motivations-sport, self-defence-the gun-show universe is about pride, self-reliance, and resentment at being bossed around. Distinctively American traits, wouldn't you say? Best in moderation, no doubt-but still, where would the country be without those attitudes? I may get thrown out of Georgetown for this, but I say, good for them.
In the midst of describing his first-ever visit to a gun show in the Colonies, the British expat expressed agreement with the rationale for laws permitting concealed carry for law-abiding citizens:
Steering the Democrats' response to the energy crisis without alienating environmentalists or the struggling middle class could prove to be one of the biggest tests Ms Pelosi will face this year. Her record suggests that the speaker will respond to the challenge with astute political manoeuvring, showing once again that, though she is labelled a "San Francisco liberal", the roots of her political education lie in the rough and tumble world of Baltimore, where her father was mayor.
Yes, congressional approval ratings are in the cellar, Kirchgaessner admitted later in her article, but you've got to admire how Pelosi can crack the whip and keep her caucus in line:
London-based broadsheet the Financial Times spilled vials of poisonous ink in a July 5 obituary marking the death of former North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, going strong out the gate by charging that Helms was "little less than a monster" to "many around the world."
Writer Jurek Martin boiled down the political career of Helms, "The reviled Republican courted by his adversaries," as nothing more than that of "a man who never bothered to disguise his dislike for his enemies and his determination to frustrate them."
Martin listed the former Soviet Union, Fidel Castro's regime, and China among Helms's enemies, while failing to acknowledge the systemic human rights abuses from these regimes that a broad swath of liberals and conservatives alike shared (and share) a strong aversion for.
As for the United Nations, another target of the late senator's criticism, Martin glossed over Helms's bipartisan cooperation with the very liberal Democratic Sen. Joe Biden (Del.). Helms and Biden co-sponsored legislation in 1999 that held up U.S. dues to the international body in order to spur it to enact reforms. Martin chalked up the success of the dues-withholding policy to Clinton administration officials:
One of the American mainstream media's favorite John McCain memes is that South Carolina voters rejected the Arizona Republican in 2000 because of a baseless smear campaign about McCain's personal life. That bias is so infectious it's now a global pandemic, just witness this item from the January 18 edition of the London-based Financial Times:
McCain hopes to avoid repeat of 2000
For John McCain, victory in tomorrow's Republican primary in South Carolina would exorcise the ghosts of the bitterest moment in his political career.
It was in South Carolina in 2000 that his first presidential campaign crumbled after a vicious smear campaign by supporters of his opponent, George W. Bush.
A barrage of misinformation was spread through phone calls and leaflets, including claims the Arizona senator had fathered an illegitimate black child and that his wife was a drug addict.
The smears reinforced doubts about Mr McCain among social conservatives and helped deliver Mr Bush a victory that set him on course for the Republican nomination.
The problem, of course is that the smear tactics were not only never proven to be linked to the Bush campaign, they are taken on face value as THE driving factor rather than conservative distaste for the more liberal stances of John McCain when set in contrast to then-Gov. Bush.
For example, McCain ran, to be charitable, gun-shy on income tax cuts compared to then-Gov. Bush's tax cut plans. What's more, McCain actually pushed some tax hikes and demagogic rhetoric about a major industry in South Carolina centered on the state's most profitable cash crop, tobacco.
Take this Nexis transcript excerpt from Linda Douglass's report on the Feb. 3, 2000 edition of ABC's "World News Tonight" (emphasis mine):
Writing in the January 16 Financial Times, reporter Marc Frank takes a look at Cuban politics as though it were an actual liberal democracy, not a Marxist dictatorship. Frank finds no irony or contradiction-in-terms in the way he qualifies the election as a public ratification of a pre-determined outcome. And in what amounts to a laughable print edition subheading, Frank's editor wrote this in the subhead to "Castro keeps world guessing on retirement":
Even if the head of state stands down, he may still be able to exert power from the sidelines, writes Marc Frank.
Gee, ya think?!
Here are the first few paragraphs of Frank's page 3 report, with my emphasis added:
Despite his war wounds, can Bob Kerrey still kick Chris Matthews' butt? We might soon find out, because on this evening's Hardball Matthews lumped Kerrey into a group of Clinton sycophants he derided as "castratos" and a "eunuch chorus."
Chris was kvetching about the way a variety of Hillary Clinton supporters including Kerrey have lined up to take shots at Barack Obama. In endorsing Hillary yesterday, the former Nebraska senator went out of his way to draw attention to Obama's Muslim background.
The Financial Times (FT) is reporting that an Iran-bound ship seized by the United Arab Emirates last month "contained materials banned by UN Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747, while the purchaser of the materials has been barred by the same resolutions."
Those resolutions were put in place, FT writers Simeon Kerr and Najmeh Bozorgmehr noted in their December 5 article, "to curtail its [Iran's] nuclear development programme."
Although Kerr and Bozorgmehr's Emirati government source "declined to identify the contents of the cargo or the Iranian company" that ordered them, the development is newsworthy, particularly in light of the shift in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), that now concludes that Iran stopped its nuclear program in 2003.
A search of the December 5 Washington Post found no articles similar to Kerr and Bozorgmehr's, although it's unclear if the FT reporters have an exclusive scoop.