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.