CNBC is Dangerous

16 03 2009

My colleague Scott Gaillard penned a very instructive piece about Jim Cramer the other day. I agree with his sentiments entirely on Cramer. But I want to thank Jon Stewart for his willingness to take on this fight: for several years now I have complained about CNBC outward bias to anyone who was interested in listening. I had even said to many that I believe CNBC to be a bigger threat to progressive causes than Fox News. This was often met with laughter or a simple, “you’re crazy” from whomever I was speaking to.

Here is why:

CNBC is a network of the intelligentsia. The average CNBC viewer unlike the average FOX News viewer has the resources and the capability to shape opinion. CNBC is also a network staffed by intelligent, sometimes witty people unlike FOX which is staffed by talking heads and glorified news readers who parrot the same arguments over and over. Perhaps most importantly FOX talks about divisive social issues which have little bearing on our everyday life while CNBC talks about basic economics and the markets which affect everything we do regularly.

CNBC has popular show hosts like Cramer, and Mario Bartiromo whose job it appears is simply to pump up the market and the profits of the Wall Street tycoons that patron the network. Rick Santelli’s outburst at President Obama a few weeks ago was far from an isolated incident, but just the letting out of entitlement CNBC’s personalities have towards protecting lenders, investors and corporations from what they perceive as the heavy hand of Government.

Cramer is actually much more likable and objective than the average CNBC host on after 11 am ET. Bartiromo pushes anything that may help pump the market upwards while Larry Kudlow advocates cutting taxes almost every day. The Afternoon show “Power Lunch” features a round table discussion which inevitably leads to taxes and government spending and interference in the economy.

Jack Welch, the former head of GE which owns NBC Universal, and thus CNBC is a very market driven conservative. Welch is given credit for turning GE around but also likely had his impact on CNBC’s editorial content. Prior to the launch of FOX Business Channel, The Wall Street Journal signed a long term partnership with CNBC and their editorial content seems to make its way into the minds of CNBC’s personalities.

CNBC unlike rival Business network, Bloomberg News is determined to pump up certain stock or commodity prices quickly to ensure profits for certain investors and viewers. Using an entertaining backdrop, and knowledgeable anchors the network’s personalities all make rational arguments for why certain investments are stronger than others.

That’s not to say all of CNBC is bad. The very objective and credible David Faber as well as the worldly Erin Burnett, and cynical Mark Haines anchor the morning program which tends to be more focused on long term trends than short term profits. But the rest of the network with few exceptions have become the chattering bug for the capitalist class. Faber especially seems more concerned about objective journalism than simply protecting Wall Street investors.

While FOX News may speak for red state America, CNBC speaks for those Wall Street and anti Tax crusaders who want President Obama or any liberal to fail. The network unlike FOX uses intelligent arguments made by exceptional people, not parroted arguments made by college dropouts to make its case.

Jon Stewart has learned what I have known for years: CNBC is the TV network which represents the biggest threat to the progressive movement in the America.





In Defense of the Crazy Bald Guy on Mad Money

15 03 2009

By J. Scott Gaillard

I’ve been one of the loudest and most consistent critics on CNBC and their shortcomings.  I’ve been after them for their biased reporting and politically charged commentary.  I’ve criticized them for their Dow-chasing and stock-hyping.  I’ve unloaded on them for their bad calls and slammed them for manipulating economic reality to fit their predetermined right-wing paradigm.

Their on-air personalities cut off former government leaders, who presided over better economic times, and berate them with ring-wing talking points.  These same personalities coddle, coo and praise CEOs who turn out to be dolts and company- killers. The same personalities cut off prescient academics who, years ago, predicted precisely what is now happening.

But, for all the clowns, entertainment monkeys and adrenalin freaks on CNBC, you can occasionally find insightful commentary, accurate reporting and trenchant analysis.  Occasionally, Jim Cramer is one of these guys.

It’s easy to criticize Crammer for his antics on the show, “Mad Money.”  He smashes boxes, tosses icons, hits buzzers and throws pies.  But, Cramer is also a guy that often provides some of the more penetrating and insightful segments.  Crammer is the guy that actually tries to help Joe and Jane every-person understand the vast complexity that is today’s economic environment and financial landscape.  He tires to break through the press release boilerplate, corporate spin and market manipulation to tell you what is actually going on.

Moreover, Crammer is the guy that has continually lampooned the Bush era regulators for being “of, by and for the corporations.”  Crammer is a guy with vast compassion and concern for the average investor.  Cramer is a guy who also displays great humility and admits many of his mistakes (see his column in New York Magazine).  Crammer is the guy with a “Wall of Shame” for the corporate CEO’s and leaders who are wrecking their companies while personally reaping millions.

Cramer is the guy that in 2007 accurately predicted the housing meltdown and the political fallout to follow.  Speaking about Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Cramer said,  “We think of him as Saint Alan now, but in a few years he will be known as the reckless Fed chairman who encouraged the creation and use of exotic mortgages…with low interest payments the first two years that explode into gargantuan fees for the next 28.” Cramer further noted, “Now, pretty much every large financial institution in the country is caught in a web it can’t get out of.  Bogus mortgage paper is infecting the system, and no one has a cure.” He nailed it while most of the country was still asleep.

Should Cramer, and the rest of the CNBC team be blasted for their bad calls on stocks and the market?  Abosloutely. Should he be criticized for being entertaining while trying to be informative to the average investor? No.

I love Jon Stewart and think his show is one of the most important satirical enterprises of our time.  That’s right I said “important.”  But in Cramer he has picked the wrong target.  Or maybe the target picked him?

Scott Gaillard is the host of the Radio Show “Talk Back Jacksonville,” a political consultant, and former Congressional staffer.





Crist Trivialized LG Post

3 03 2009

As Governor Crist prepares to deliver his third State of the State address, those liberals so anxious to support the teflon governor that waltzes to Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon may want to think again. Not only has Crist helped send the state into a major budget crisis by pushing the  slashing of property taxes, but his government run solution to the insurance crisis will  likely leave the state broke should a major Hurricane hit in 2009, and he trivialized his first major decision as a Gubernatorial candidate.

While Jeff Kottkamp deserves our praise and admiration for his valiant fight for his life many years back, the selection of the Lee County lawmaker as Lieutenant Governor was simply put, a joke orchestrated for political reasons. After three successive well qualified and visible Lt. Governor’s Crist choose to select an obscure lawmaker with little substance to his record, but one key qualification: he hailed from a professional association that has for years funded Democrats to a greater tune than Republicans.

Kottkamp is a trial lawyer, and his selection was a cynical political maneuver that worked, disarming the funding of Jim Davis at a critical moment in the campaign.  Worse yet, the LG doesn’t have the stature or capability of his three immediate predecessors who elevated a relatively new office (formed in 1968) to an important symbolic position.

Now we learn that Kottkamp has gallivanted across the state with his family on the state dime. If this had been Buddy MacKay or Frank Brogan, I personally would be less offended. Both those men along with Toni Jennings, the former two time Senate President brought a seriousness to the post. Their travel was often times important to state Government.

But Kottkamp is a trivial figure whose travels and functions have reduced the office to splendid insignificance. While some editorials have recently asked the point of the office, this would not be an issue if Crist had not made such a terrible, blatantly political pick. His selection of Kottkamp makes Richard Nixon’s selection of Spiro Agnew look like a stroke of genius.





Can Democrats Be Trusted to Stand Tall?

1 03 2009

As the 2009 Regular Session approaches, Florida’s Democrats continue to send out press releases lamenting budget cuts and wrong priorities by the Republican majority. But all too often in the past when the Democrats have been asked to stand and be counted they have taken a pass.

Giving speeches at local friendly Democratic groups and comments in the newspapers are all well and good, but all too often Democrats have been too chummy with Republicans as the majority party has gradually dismantled the safety net or programs and progressive structure of Florida Government over the past ten years.

The legacies of Rueben Askew, Bob Graham and the late Lawton Chiles have been squandered with the help of recent Democrats in favor of “me too” conservatism, and coddling of home builders, developers, Realtors, and for a time insurance companies. Term limited Democratic legislators were so terrified they wouldn’t go home with a passed bill they traded their happily traded their votes on key GOP priorities for a guarantee of favorable treatments.

While the Democrats have been led by some competent leaders, most notably Rep. Doug Wiles and Rep. Dan Gelber, the majority of Democrats in the Legislature have at critical times acted like mindless sheep being led to the slaughterhouse. The number of House and Senate Democrats who voted for a Redistricting plan that ensured a GOP super majority for this decade is staggering.

When forced to choose between helping progressive causes and ensuring their own re-election these Democrats, disproportionately from liberal southeast Florida, voted to protect themselves. But of course they could always claim they added to Florida’s almost endless stream of meaningless legislation with a take home bill or two.

Other incidents of mindless cow towing to conservative priorities includes the decision by several Democrats in 2002 not to support Senate President Jon McKay’s effort to reform Florida’s tax system, and the number of Democrats who voted for ridiculous budget cuts the very same year after the legislature decided to repeal the intangibles tax.

Examples of Democratic compromises on economic issues can take up this whole page. Liberal Democrats feel in many cases if they tow the progressive line on issues such as a woman’s right to choose, school prayer and gun control they are somehow great liberals. Yet continuing to give the state away to wealthy special interests while cutting social programs, health care and education isn’t liberal. It’s isn’t conservative either, but just plain wrong.

Hopefully 2009 will be different for Florida’s Democrats.





Defeatist Democrats

28 02 2009

As yet another Legislative session approaches can we expect yet another sixty days of Democratic party compromise and accommodation with the Republican majority? Are we going to witness our Democratic elected officials compromise their liberal principles in order to pass largely meaningless “take home” bills and to feel loved in the halls of the Legislature?

The big question is with a once in a lifetime economic crunch but yet another budget crisis created by Republican mismanagement of the state, will the Democrats cave in as they always seem to do on the Legislative level. Or will they be emboldened by the Democratic resurgance that has swept the nation in the past two election cycles and has flipped three formerly GOP held Congressional seats in Florida to the party that should be representing the people?

Will the Democrats be the party of change or the party of “us too” in this Legislative session. Will the House Democrats even engage in the debate having been seemingly disarmed of effective leadership with Dan Gelber, the brightest and wittiest member of the caucus now in the Senate? Will the Senate Democrats act as a cohesive bloc of votes under Al Lawson who has had a very promising start as leader or will they dissipate into factions like so many times in the past?

These are the questions facing the people’s party as we enter the 2009 Regular Session.





Almost Criminal: State to Subsidize Tallahassee Flights to Convenience Legislators

17 02 2009

In a move that is beyond insulting to the tourism industry that fuels the state’s economy, Delta Airlines has been given a guarantee of tax dollars to finance Saab prop jet flights to Tallahassee from three Florida cities.

This is being done for the convenience of state legislators in the Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale areas, and it stinks. It is beyond disgraceful: it’s totally unjustifiable.

Traveling abroad as I have the past few weeks the impact of the cuts to Visit Florida have been observed. Some British families have forgone their annual Florida vacation and other Europeans and Indians need an incentive to travel to the state in this economic climate.

FlyJetair.com a Belgian airline has canceled its flights to Sanford Airport from Brussels, Fly Globespan a large Scottish airline is scaling back summer flights to Sanford and Thomas Cook Airlines has scaled back its scheduled charters from Manchester to Sanford. El Al has dropped service to Miami, and Air Jamaica is dropping service to Miami and Orlando (but continuing service to Fort Lauderdale).

This winter due the economy, Air France did not fly a second daily Miami-Paris flight for the first winter in almost two decades, while American Airlines choose not resume its previously seasonal flight from Miami to Manchester. British Airways operated three daily flights to Miami last winter but this year is only operating two. Lufthansa did not resume its seasonal Munich flight opting to route passengers via Frankfurt instead. Alitalia canceled the only nonstop service from Miami to Milan which not only affects tourism but the important fashion industry as well.

In other words, tourism from foreigners, the very life blood of the state’s sales tax based economy is contracting mightily. The non tourism based businesses that fuel Florida such as the aforementioned fashion industry are hurting as well. Yet Florida’s Government is more concerned about their personal convenience.

Domestically, Delta Airlines has less daily flights to the state of Florida from major business centers outside the South than anytime since before its merger with Northeast Airlines in 1972. Additionally, American Airlines has pulled back non-Miami based operations throughout Florida, and United is hardly serving the state at all these days. Delta has less flights to Orlando today than anytime since becoming the official airline of Walt Disney World in 1986.

The pullback of air traffic from the state bringing domestic and international tourist traffic however has not been a concern of legislators. But the lack of conveniently timed flights scheduled around committee meetings to Tallahassee has for years been an obsession of certain legislators that will go unnamed in this piece.

The $750,000 the state has put up to guarantee turbo prop air service to the capitol city, an airport which is not able to maintain enough traffic on its own to justify airline service could be easily spent on attracting visitors to Florida, at one of the state’s tourist driven airports: Orlando International, Orlando Sanford, Southwest Florida International (Fort Myers/Naples area) or Eglin Air Force Base’s Commercial Airport.

The expenditure of these funds on flights to a city that draws few tourists and attracts little if any business traffic cannot be justified at this time of budget crises and reduced tourist traffic to the area. Bu Florida’s Government has once again proven it is shortsighted and simply concerned about individual selfish pursuits.

The fact that the capitol of the state of Florida, the fourth largest state in our union cannot maintain consistent air service should be a call to Leon County and the city of Tallahassee to diversify their economy. Do something to bring businesses or attract tourist traffic to your great city. Stop putting your city at the mercy of lobbyists, legislators and college students and join the rest of 21st century Florida which is a dynamic worldly place.





Website Update

5 02 2009

I’m going to be forced to take a hiatus from publishing the site until Thursday Feb 12th due to my responsibilities covering the massive US-Mexico Football (Soccer) match and David Beckham’s move to Milan for various media outlets. I would love to have some guest writers fill in for the next week. Anyone willing to contribute a piece  in the meantime please email me at kartik@thefloridavoice.com