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Why is ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jake Tapper Such a Complete and Utter Tool ?

T H I N K  P R O G R E S S jaketapper_-douchebag


Last week, in an appalling show of corporate greed, “a small group of speculators” sank the Obama administration’s proposed Chrysler deal for just “an extra fifteen cents on the dollar.” The selfish greed of the hedge funds may, however, have produced a good result by forcing Chrysler into the bankruptcy process. The New York Times reported on Friday, “whatever the outcome, this bit of brinkmanship — which many characterized as a game of chicken with Washington — has become yet another public relations disaster for Wall Street.” But instead, this story of corporate greed has now been turned into a right-wing attack on President Obama. Here’s how it happened in three simple steps.

Step 1: Right-Wing Radio Gives Corporate Hedge Funds A Venue To Attack Obama In an interview with Detroit-based conservative talk show host Frank Beckmann on Friday, Tom Lauria — a corporate lawyer representing the hedge funds calling themselves the Committee of Chrysler Non-Tarp Lenders — alleged that one of its members, the investment firm Perella Weinberg, was “directly threatened by the White House” if it did not cooperate with the Obama’s administration’s rescue plan. (Perella was Rahm Emanuel’s former investment partner.) Lauria claimed that Perella withdrew its opposition to the government deal because the White House threatened “that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight.” (Listen here.)

Step 2: Right-Wing Pressures White House Reporters To Take Up Its Attack After the story was cooked up by right-wing hate radio, it was peddled to members of the White House press corps, at least one of whom took the bait. On his radio show on Friday, right-wing talker Mark Levin discussed Lauria’s claims against Obama, and then called on his listeners to pressure the White House press corps — specifically ABC’s Jake Tapper — to report the story:

LEVIN: Somebody needs to pursue what’s going on in the White House behind the scenes! And stop playing games and making nice! American citizens — whatever walk of life they’re in — should not be threatened by the White House! Should not be told we’re going to drag you through the mud with the White House press corps! So confident is the White House that they have the White House press corps wrapped around their little finger! Maybe Jake Tapper will take a look at this. Ask that doofus — Gibbs.

Listen here:

Levin works for the ABC Radio Networks. Tapper works for ABC News. Step 3: ABC’s Jake Tapper Picks It Up, Drudge Promotes It A day after Levin’s show aired, ABC’s White House correspondent Jake Tapper gave the right-wing attacks the platform they were looking for. Tapper reported, “A leading bankruptcy attorney representing hedge funds and money managers told ABC News Saturday that Steve Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration’s Auto Industry Task Force, threatened one of the firms.” After Tapper reported it, Drudge linked to his story and helped give it further amplification: ddrudgeauto1 Both the White House and Perella Weinberg have released statements to ABC News denying the accusations made by Tom Lauria and the right-wing echo chamber. Bottom line: the right wing has morphed a story of corporate greed into a false political attack against Obama.

What We Should Learn from Jim Cramer vs. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart

::What We Should Learn from Jim Cramer vs. the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart::

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March 12th, 2009 by Patrick Byrne

What should we learn from the fact that “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart has in four evenings (1 2 3 and 4) exposed Jim Cramer in a way that, in any sane world, he would have been exposed a decade ago? To answer that, consider these associated facts: while the Jim Cramer constellation of journalists (Mitchell’s Media Mob) backed each other up while covering-up the subject of criminally abusive short selling by hedge funds to whom they were close, four channels of the media broke rank:

  1. Two years ago Bloomberg did a half-hour documentary that broke away from the Party Line;
  2. Liz Moyer at Forbes has covered the real issues fairly and diligently, and another Forbes reporter named Nathan Vardi took a good swipe at the story (”Sewer Pipes“);
  3. Rolling Out Magazine (”an UrbanStyle Weekly serving the African American community”) called me up a couple years ago and did precisely the fair, non-disorted interview of which the remainder of the New York financial media was entirely incapable;
  4. Now, “The Daily Show” has broken ranks by stating the obvious: there are journalists shilling for favored hedge funds.

Could the lesson be that the first news organizations that can break ranks with the Party Line are either fringe (”Rolling Out Magazine” and “The Daily Show”) or the properties of billionaires (Bloomberg and Forbes) who cannot be intimidated?

Perhaps someday, a journalist will look into the pressures that were brought on news organizations (e.g., on Bloomberg leading up to their running “Phantom Shares”). Just a few weeks ago I got the  story, again, from a journalist: “I was working on a story about naked short selling and Deep Capture. Then, suddenly I was stopped. It’s weird because I have been a journalist here for 9 years. I have built a great reputation with my editor, and have never had a story interfered with. But I got a couple months into this story, and suddenly I was stopped from above. I’ve never seen that happen before.” I replied, If you only knew how many times a journalist has said that to me in the last couple years….

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The Real Scandal That Will Bring Jim Cramer Down: The Story of Deep Capture

The Columbia School of Journalism is our nation’s finest. They grant the Pulitzer Prize, and their journal, The Columbia Journalism Review, is the profession’s gold standard. CJR reporters are high priests of a decaying temple, tending a flame in a land going dark.

dick-fuldIn 2006 a CJR editor (a seasoned journalist formerly with Time magazine in Asia, The Wall Street Journal Europe, and The Far Eastern Economic Review) called me to discuss suspicions he was forming about the US financial media. I gave him leads but warned, “Chasing this will take you down a rabbit hole with no bottom.” For months he pursued his story against pressure and threats he once described as, “something out of a Hollywood B movie, but unlike the movies, the evil corporations fighting the journalist are not thugs burying toxic waste, they are Wall Street and the financial media itself.”

His exposé reveals a circle of corruption enclosing venerable Wall Street banks, shady offshore financiers, and suspiciously compliant reporters at The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, CNBC, and The New York Times. If you ever wonder how reporters react when a journalist investigates them (answer: like white-collar crooks they dodge interviews, lie, and hide behind lawyers), or if financial corruption interests you, then this is for you. It makes Grisham read like a book of bedtime stories, and exposes a scandal that may make Enron look like an afternoon tea.

By Patrick M. Byrne

Deep Capture Reporter

Make a pot of strong coffee and read this incredible story

Unedited | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Part Three

Unedited | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Part Three

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Part Two | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

Part Two | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

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Part One | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

Part One | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

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Intro | Cramer Vs. Stewart | Unedited

Intro | Cramer Vs. Stewart | The Complete Interview -Unedited

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Thousands Line Up For Free Food In San Francisco

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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(12-16) 13:47 PST SAN FRANCISCO — Never have so many people waited so long in San Francisco for a chicken.

Not only a chicken, but cans of pears, corn, carrots and tomatoes, plus a sack of pinto beans.

The line Tuesday for the annual grocery giveaway at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church was longer than anyone could remember. It stretched beyond the liquor store on the corner, past a half dozen residence hotels, up and down the aisles of a parking lot and along the far side of the massage parlor. It coiled back on itself like a cobra.

“We may run out of food,” said the Rev. Cecil Williams, who this year appeared to mean it. “The line is all the way around the block, twice over. We’re trying to rush things along so the line doesn’t come back on itself three times.”

Six thousand sacks of groceries were handed out. The first thousand came with a turkey. The rest came with a chicken. A lot of people were willing to show up before dawn in rainy 40-degree weather, to make sure they got the turkey instead of the less weighty, if not lesser, bird.

Four hundred volunteers in red T-shirts began passing out the food at 7 a.m., about a half hour earlier than scheduled. By 8 a.m., the turkeys were gone and it was chickens only.

Williams stood on the sidewalk in front of his fabled Tenderloin church, directing traffic. In the race for the turkeys, a woman in a motorized wheelchair nearly plowed over a woman in a walker, along with Williams.

“Just a minute here,” said Williams. “Take it easy. Please.”

Inside the church, volunteers were loading up the sacks in an assembly line that would do credit to whatever’s left of the ones in Detroit. Sarah Anderson, who was perched on two cases of canned corn while she loaded cans from a third case into the sacks, marveled at the versatility of canned corn.

“You can sit on it and then you can eat it,” she said.

Aaron Harris, who was lifting 48 cans of tomato sauce at a time, said it’s important to do something good when times are bad.

“People are hurting right now,” he said. “It’s good to give back.”

Outside, the line was so long that dozens of volunteers were required to make sure it stayed orderly. There was also a line for the three outhouses that had been set up in the middle of Ellis Street.

At the end of the food line, John Sorensen and a pal, Danny Holliday, were waiting for their sacks.

“Times are tougher than ever,” said Sorensen, an unemployed construction worker. “I used to be able to find some kind of work. Not now.”

Holliday, an out-of-work waiter, said standing in line for free groceries “is kind of a new thing to me.”

“I’m broke all the time right now,” he said. “So this really helps.”

Across Ellis Street in front of Boeddeker Park, recipients conducted the usual swapping. Homeless people without access to kitchens were less than excited about a sack of uncooked pinto beans and more than willing to trade for a can of cooked vegetables. Deals went down by the dozens.

“OK, gimme the beans and the rice,” said one man in a denim coat to another man in a knit cap. “You get the peas, corn and carrots.”

E-mail Steve Rubenstein at srubenstein@sfchronicle.com.

The 20 Senators Who Voted For Wall Street Bailout But Against Auto Industry Rescue

THINK PROGRESS DEC 12, 2008

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Last night, the Senate failed to approve the auto rescue package, voting 52-35 in favor of proceeding on the bill — just eight short of the 60 votes that were needed. Over on the Wonk Room, Dan Weiss takes a look at the 20 senators who voted for the Wall Street bailout but voted against the auto rescue last night (as well as the 10 others who skipped the vote last night, but voted for the financial bailout):

New SEC Chief Mary Schapiro/Getty

Yes to TARP, No to auto Yes to TARP, Absent for auto
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX)
Sen. John Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen.Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)

Biden was tending to transition duties, while Kerry was in Poznan, Poland, participating in U.N. climate change talks. Alexander was home recovering from surgery. Why did these other Senators feel auto workers weren’t as deserving as Wall Street? We’d like to know. If you see statements from them, please let us know by email or in the comments section.

UpdateSen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher in his heyday, was scheduled to appear Sunday at a sports card show in Taylor, Michigan to sign autographs. “But Bunning was kicked off the schedule after he helped derail an auto-industry loan package in the Senate Thursday night.” (HT: TP commenter cali)

Small Banks Getting Short End of Tarp Bat

SEEKING ALPHA

William Patalon III

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Bank of American Corp. (BAC), which is getting $15 billion from the U.S. government as part of the Treasury Department’s $250 billion “recapitalization” effort, is doubling its stake in state-owned China Construction Bank Corp., and will hold a 20% stake worth $24 billion in China’s second-largest lender when that deal is finalized.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC), which will get $7.7 billion from Treasury’s Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), is using that cash infusion to help finance its $5.2 billion buyout of embattled National City Corp. (NCC).

And U.S. Bancorp (USB), which received a $6.6 billion capital infusion from that same rescue package, has acquired two California lenders – Downey Savings & Loan Association, F.A., a subsidiary of Downey Financial Corp. (DSL), and PFF Bank & Trust, a subsidiary of PFF Bancorp Inc. (OTC: PFFB). U.S. Bank agreed to assume the first $1.6 billion in losses from the two, but says anything beyond that amount is subject to a loss-sharing deal it struck with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).

While the Treasury Department’s investment of more than $250 billion in U.S. financial institutions has been billed as a strategy that will bolster the health of the banking system and also jump-start lending, buyout deals such as these three show that the recapitalization plan has actually had a much different result – one that’s left whipsawed U.S. investors and lawmakers alike feeling burned, an ongoing Money Morning investigation continues to show.

Those billions have touched off a banking-sector version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” in which the biggest U.S. banks are using government money to get even bigger. While that’s admittedly removing the smaller, weaker banks from the market – a possible benefit to consumers and taxpayers alike – this trend is also having a detrimental effect: It’s reducing the competition that’s benefited consumers and kept the explosion in banking fees from being far worse than it already is.

This all happens without any of the economic benefits that an actual increase in lending would have had. And it does nothing to address the billions worth of illiquid securities that remain on (or off) banks’ balance sheets – as the recent Citigroup Inc. (C) imbroglio demonstrates.

In fact, Treasury’s TARP program has even managed to create a potentially illegal tax loophole that grants banks a tax-break windfall of as much as $140 billion. Lawmakers are furious – but possibly powerless, afraid that a full-scale assault on the tax change could cause already-done deals to unravel, in turn causing investor confidence to do the same.

One could even argue that since this first bailout (the $700 billion TARP initiative) has fueled takeovers – and not lending – the government had no choice but to roll out the more-recent $800 billion stimulus plan that was aimed at helping consumers and small businesses – a move that may spur lending and spending, but that still adds more debt to the already-sagging federal government balance sheet.

At the end of the day, these buyout deals are bad ones no matter how you evaluate them, says R. Shah Gilani, a retired hedge fund manager and expert on the U.S. credit crisis who is the editor of the Trigger Event Strategist, which identifies trading opportunities emanating from such financial-crisis “aftershocks” as this buyout binge.

“Why in the name of capitalism are taxpayers being fleeced by banks that are being given our money to grow their businesses with the further backstop of more of our money having to be thrown to the FDIC when they fail?” Gilani asked. “Consolidation does not mean that bad loans and illiquid securities are somehow merged out of existence. It means that they are being acquired under the premise that a larger, more consolidated depositor base will better be able to bear the weight of those bad assets. What in heaven’s name prevents depositors from exiting when the merged banks continue to experience massive losses and write-downs? The answer to that question would be … nothing.”

Lining Up for Deal Money

In launching TARP, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. “Hank” Paulson Jr. said the government’s goal was to restore public confidence in the U.S. financial services sector – especially banks – so private investors would be willing to advance money to banks and banks, in turn, would be willing to lend.

“Our purpose is to increase the confidence of our banks, so that they will deploy, not hoard, the capital,” Paulson said.

Whatever Treasury’s actual intent, the reality is that banks are already sniffing out buyout targets, while snuffing out lending – and the TARP money is the reason for both.

Fueled by this taxpayer-supplied capital, the wave of consolidation deals is “absolutely” going to accelerate, says Louis Basenese, a mergers-and-acquisitions expert who is also the editor of The Takeover Trader newsletter. “When it comes to M&A, there’s always a pronounced ‘domino effect.’ Consolidation breeds more consolidation as industry leaders conclude they have to keep acquiring in order to remain competitive.”

Indeed, banking executives have been quite open about their expansionist plans during media interviews, or during conference calls related to quarterly earnings.

Take BB&T Corp. (BBT). During a conference call that dealt with the bank’s third-quarter results, Chief Executive Officer John A. Allison IV said the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based bank “will probably participate” in the government program. Allison didn’t say whether the federal money would induce BB&T to boost its lending. But he did say the bank would likely accept the money in order to finance its expansion plans, The Wall Street Journal said.

“We think that there are going to be some acquisition opportunities – either now or in the near future – and this is a relatively inexpensive way to raise capital [to pay the buyout bill],” Allison said during the conference call.

And BB&T is hardly alone. Zions Bancorporation (ZION), a Salt Lake City-based bank that’s been squeezed by some bad real-estate loans, recently said it would be getting $1.4 billion in federal money. CEO Harris H. Simmons said the infusion would enable Zions to boost “prudent” lending and keep paying its dividend – albeit at a reduced rate.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. During a conference call about earnings, Zions Chief Financial Officer Doyle L. Arnold said any lending increase wouldn’t be dramatic. Besides, Arnold said, Zions will also use the money “to take advantage of what we would expect will be some acquisition opportunities, including some very low risk FDIC-assisted transactions in the next several quarters.”

Buyouts Already Accelerating

With all the liquidity the world’s governments and central banks have injected into the global financial system, the pace of worldwide deal making is already accelerating. Global deal volume for the year has already passed the $3 trillion level – only the fifth time that’s happened, although it took about three months longer for that to happen this year than it did a year ago.

At a time when the global financial crisis – and the accompanying drop-off in available deal capital (either equity or credit) – has caused about $150 billion in already-announced deals to be yanked off the table since Sept. 1, liquidity from the U.S. and U.K. governments has ignited record levels of financial-sector deal making.

According to Dealogic, government investments in financial institutions has reached $76 billion this year – eight times as much as in all of 2007, which was the previous record year. And that total doesn’t include the $250 billion in TARP money, or other deals that Paulson & Co. are helping engineer – JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s (JPM) buyouts of The Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual Inc. (WAMUQ), for instance.

If You Can’t Beat ‘em… Buy ‘em?

When it comes to identifying possible buyout targets, M&A experts such as Basenese say there are some very clear frontrunners.

“I’d put regional banks with solid footprints in the Southeast high on the list, and for two reasons,” Basenese said. “First, demographics point to stronger growth [in this region] as retirees migrate to warmer climates – and bring their assets along for the trip. Plus, the Southeast is largely un-penetrated by large national banks. An acquisition of a regional bank like SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI) would provide a distinct competitive advantage.

There’s a very good reason that smaller players may be next: Big banks and small banks have the easiest times – relatively speaking, of course – of raising capital. It’s toughest for the regional players. Big banks can tap into the global financial markets for cash, while the very small – and typically, highly local – banks can raise money from local investors.

The afore-mentioned stealthy shift in the U.S. Tax Code actually gives big U.S. banks a potential windfall of as much as $140 billion, says Gilani, the credit crisis expert and Trigger Event Strategist editor. What does this tax-change do? By acquiring a failed bank whose only real value is the losses on its books, the successful suitor would basically then be able to use the acquired bank’s losses to offset its own gains and thus avoid paying taxes.

“While everyone was panicking, the Treasury Department slipped through a ruling that allows banks who acquire other banks to fully write-off all the acquired bank’s bad debts,” Gilani says. “For 22 years, the law was such that if you were to buy a company that had losses, say, of $1 billion, you couldn’t just take that loss against your own $1 billion profit and tell Uncle Sam, ‘Gee, now my loss offsets my profit, so I don’t have any profit, and I don’t owe you any tax.’ It was a recipe for tax evasion that demanded an appropriate law that only allows limited write-offs over an extended period of years.”

Given these incentives, who will be doing the buying? Clearly, the biggest U.S.-based banks will be the main hunters. But The Takeover Trader’s Basenese says that even foreign banks will be on the prowl for cheap U.S. banking assets.

Basenese also believes that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) will be “big spenders.” Each will use TARP funds to help accelerate its transformation from an investment bank into a bank holding company. The changeover will require each company to build up a big base of deposits. And the best way to do that is to buy other banks, Basenese says.

“One thing [the wave of deals] does is to restore confidence in the sector,” Basenese said. “It will go a long way in convincing CEOs that it’s safe to use excess capital to fund acquisitions, and to grow, instead of using it to defend against a proverbial run on the bank.”

Not everyone agrees with that assessment. Investors who play the merger game correctly will do well. But the game itself won’t necessarily whip the industry into championship form, Gilani says.

“While consolidation, instead of outright collapses, in the banking industry may serve to relieve the FDIC of its burden to make good on failed banks, it in no way guarantees fewer failures,” he said. “In fact, it may only serve to guarantee, in some cases, even larger failures.”

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