Make it stop!

I don't particularly mind being among the crew holding down the fort in Baltimore this week while the cool folks hang in Vancouver.  (Do check out the video clips of Rick Rule, Kevin Kerr, Doug Casey on the right-hand side of the Agora Financial homepage.)  But it seems the amount of wisdom being dispensed up there this week is directly proportional to the amount of idiocy I'm encountering in mainstream financial media.  Both are, frankly, overwhelming.  Alas, someone has to call BS on the latter, so here goes.

Simple stuff first:  Jim Cramer says it's a great time to buy a house.  That's the same Jim Cramer who said Bear Stearns was nothing to worry about a few days before it blew up.

Annoying stuff next:  The major-party presidential candidates agree Ben Bernanke's doing a swell job.  Well, McCain said economics wasn't his strong suit.  And given how the bailout beneficiaries in the financial sector have channeled their contributions toward Obama this election cycle, what else would we expect?

Now the scary stuff:  FDIC chief Sheila Bair is blaming bloggers for some of the recent bank runs in California.  "We're very mindful of the media coverage and blogs in controlling misinformation. All I can say is were going to continue to stay on top of it," Bair said in a vaguely threatening way.  God forbid she made public the FDIC's list of troubled banks to help squelch some of the "misinformation."

Which brings me to my frustrations with media practitioners.  A member of the business press lodges the following complaint at the Columbia Journalism Review's business-reporting blog, The Audit:

…any move [by the SEC] to curb short-selling will inevitably curb critical reporting on companies and markets as well…

And now that source of information is going to be severely crimped, because shorts will be leery of being perceived as “spreading rumors” if they give negative information on a company to a journalist. It’s already happening; this week I tried calling a well-known short I’ve spoken to in the past, to get his thoughts about the SEC crackdown, and he wouldn’t even get on the phone with me.

Memo to ignorant anonymous business journalist:  Your problem is not with the crackdown on naked shorting (which is extremely flawed, but not for the reasons you cite.)  Your beef is rather with a separate attempt to crack down on rumor-mongering purportedly aimed at "manipulating" share prices.  Yes, in some cases it's the shorts spreading rumors, but unless your short contact is engaged in the fraud of naked short-selling, he clammed up because he doesn't want to get stuck in some Kafkaesque SEC enforcement action in which the even the expression of fact can be potentially criminalized (something it appears the FDIC would like to do as well; see above).

OK, as long as I'm on the rampage against the financial media, let's turn to the tag-team effort on A1 of the Murdochtopus business rag.  It's a legitimate story; the deregulatory sentiment of the last two-and-a-half decades is giving way to a new public enthusiasm for government activism.  But in probably 2000+ words, many of them dealing with the excesses of the financial sector, not one word acknowledges this critical reality: That as finance, insurance, and real estate were cut free from their regulatory fetters, the promise of federal bailouts for irresponsible activity always stood in the background.  And as the article acknowledges, those bailouts have accelerated at a shocking rate just this year — from commercial banks to investment banks to Fannie and Freddie.  Where are the voices in this story saying that perhaps these massive institutions wouldn't have taken such massive risks had Big Fed and Big Treasury not been standing at the ready?

Good grief.  Really, this is more idiocy than I can handle, and I'm sorry to subject you to it.  But here's what I can do to make it up to you:  If, like me, you're not in Vancouver this week, you can still access audio of every session — and every recommendation — in its entirety.  MP3 downloads are just $99.  If you prefer the permanence of CDs, those are just $149.  Or you can get both, also for just $149.  But this offer expires Monday.