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Postby admin » Wed May 13, 2009 11:42 am

Why the Press Is on Suicide Watch

By Frank Rich, The New York Times.

May 13, 2009.

Newspapers are a self-destructive retreat from innovation -- what's going to stop them from total collapse?

IF you wanted to pick the moment when the American news business went on suicide watch, it was almost exactly three years ago. That’s when Stephen Colbert, appearing at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, delivered a monologue accusing his hosts of being stenographers who had, in essence, let the Bush White House get away with murder (or at least the war in Iraq).

To prove the point, the partying journalists in the Washington Hilton ballroom could be seen (courtesy of C-Span) fawning over government potentates -- in some cases the very “sources” who had fed all those fictional sightings of Saddam Hussein’s W.M.D.
Colbert’s routine did not kill. The Washington Post reported that it “fell flat.”

The Times initially did not even mention it. But to the Beltway’s bafflement, Colbert’s riff went viral overnight, ultimately to have a marathon run as the most popular video on iTunes. The cultural disconnect between the journalism establishment and the public it aspires to serve could not have been more vividly dramatized.

The bad news about the news business has accelerated ever since. Newspaper circulations and revenues are in free fall. Legendary brands from The Los Angeles Times to The Philadelphia Inquirer are teetering. The New York Times Company threatened to close The Boston Globe if its employees didn’t make substantial sacrifices in salaries and benefits. Other papers have died.

The reporting ranks on network and local news alike are shrivelling. You know it’s bad when the Senate is moved, as it was last week, to weigh in with hearings on “The Future of Journalism.”

Not all is bleak on the Titanic, however. The White House correspondents’ bacchanal was on tap for this weekend. And this time no one could accuse the revellers of failing to get down with the Colbert-iTunes-Facebook young folk: hip big-time journalists now stroke their fans with 140-character messages on Twitter. Or did. No sooner did boldface Washington media personalities ostentatiously embrace Twitter than Nielsen reported that more than 60 percent of Twitter users abandon it after a single month.

The causes of journalism’s downfall — some self-inflicted, some beyond anyone’s control (a worldwide economic meltdown) — are well known. To time-travel back to the dawn of the technological strand of the disaster, search YouTube for “1981 primitive Internet report on KRON.” What you’ll find is a 28-year-old local television news piece from San Francisco about a “far-fetched,” pre-Web experiment by the city’s two papers, The Chronicle and The Examiner, to distribute their wares to readers with home computers via primitive phone modems.

Though there were at most 3,000 people in the Bay Area with PCs then, some 500 mailed in coupons for the service to The Chronicle alone. But, as the anchorwoman assures us at the end, with a two-hour download time (at $5 an hour), “the new telepaper won’t be much competition for the 20-cent street edition.”

The rest is irreversible history. This far-fetched newspaper experiment soon faded, even in San Francisco, the gateway to Silicon Valley. Today The Examiner, once the flagship of William Randolph Hearst’s grand journalistic empire, exists in name only, as a flimsy giveaway. The Chronicle is under threat of closure.

But this self-destructive retreat from innovation is hardly novel in the history of American communications. In the last transformative revolution before the Internet — television’s emergence in the late 1940s — the pattern was remarkably similar. The entertainment industry referred to TV as “the monster,” and by 1951, the editor of the industry’s trade paper, Variety, was fearful that the monster would “eventually swallow up practically all of show business.”

Movies had killed vaudeville a generation earlier. This new household appliance threatened to strangle radio, movies, the Broadway theater, nightclubs and the circus. And newspapers too: “NBC’s New ‘Today’ Attacked by Papers as Competition” screamed a front-page Variety headline in 1952.

The vulnerable establishments in all these fields went nuts. Most movie studios pushed back against the future by refusing to sell their old movies to television or allow their stars to appear on it. Few seized the opportunity to produce programs for the new medium. Instead, some moguls tried to compete by exhibiting sports events by closed-circuit in networks of movie houses. In 1952-53, Cinerama, 3-D and Cinemascope were all heavily promoted to try to retain audiences. None of these desperate rear-guard actions could slow the video revolution. Movie newsreels, movie palaces, radio comedy and drama, and afternoon newspapers, among other staples of the American cultural diet, were doomed.

And yet in 2009 - Hollywood movie studios, radio and the Broadway theater - they, though smaller and much changed, are not dead. They learned to adapt and to collaborate with the monster.

In the Internet era, many sectors of American media have been re-enacting their at first complacent and finally panicked behaviour of 60 years ago. Few in the entertainment business saw the digital cancer spreading through their old business models until well after file-sharing, via Napster, had started decimating the music industry.

It’s not only journalism that is now struggling to plot a path to survival. But, with all due respect to show business, it’s only journalism that’s essential to a functioning democracy. And it’s not just because — as we keep being tediously reminded — Thomas Jefferson said so.

Yes, journalists have made tons of mistakes and always will. But without their enterprise, to take a few representative recent examples, we would not have known about the wretched conditions for our veterans at Walter Reed, the government’s warrantless wiretapping, the scams at Enron or steroids in baseball.

Such news gathering is not to be confused with opinion writing. Opinions can be stimulating and, for the audiences at Fox News and MSNBC, cathartic. We can spend hours surfing the posts of bloggers we like or despise, some of them gems, even as we might be moved to write our own blogs about local restaurants or the government documents we obsessively study online.

But opinions, however insightful or provocative and whether expressed online or in print or in prime time, are cheap. Reporting the news can be expensive. Some of it — monitoring the local school board, say — can and is being done by voluntary “citizen journalists” with time on their hands, integrity and a Web site.

But we can’t have serious opinions about America’s role in combating the Taliban in Pakistan unless brave and knowledgeable correspondents (with security to protect them) tell us in real time what is actually going on there.

We can’t know what is happening behind closed doors at corrupt, hard-to-penetrate institutions in Washington or Wall Street unless teams of reporters armed with the appropriate technical expertise and assiduously developed contacts are digging night and day. Those reporters have to eat and pay rent, whether they work for print, a TV network, a Web operation or some new bottom-up news organism.

It’s immaterial whether we find the fruits of their labours on paper, a screen, a BlackBerry, a Kindle or podcast. But someone — and certainly not the government, with all its conflicted interests — must pay for this content and make every effort to police its fairness and accuracy. If we lose the last major news-gathering operations still standing, there will be no news on Google News unless Google shells out to replace them. It won’t.

Looking back to the unpredictable social and cultural upheavals brought about by Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, “We’re collectively living through 1500, when it’s easier to see what’s broken than what will replace it.” So who will do the heavy lifting? Every experiment must be tried, professional and amateur, whether by institutions or “some kid few of us have ever heard of before.”

Information free on the Internet doesn’t mean it can always be free - or any less flawed than modern journalism. If the public that thinks nothing of spending money on texting nonsense or pornography doesn’t foot the bill for reportage, it won’t happen.

That’s why the debate among journalists about possible forms of payment is "inside baseball." So is the acrimonious sniping between old media and new. The real question is for the public, not journalists: Does it want to pony up for news, whatever the media ? [As long as "news" is rewritten releases and the "company line", journalists and their managers can get the message or die.]

By all means let’s mock the old mainstream media as they preen and party on in a Washington ballroom. Let’s deplore the tabloid journalism that will always be with us. But if a comprehensive array of real news is to be part of the picture as well, the time will soon arrive for us to put up or shut up.

Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes in North America, make no mistake, in the end, we will get what we pay for and what we fight for. Nobody will give you what you want, despite all the chatter to the contrary.
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Re: Truthful Business Reporting Crisis

Postby admin » Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:55 pm

It took me about ten years inside the financial services industry to learn the ins and outs, the good, the bad and the ugly. It was a lesson in self serving behavior hidden behind a multi billion dollar campaign to convince the public that the industry served the public interest first. Just not true.

It took me another ten or so years to learn of the level of systemic negligence, fraud and misinformation that pervades the industry, that it goes into the regulatory system, the self regulators, the government regulators (whose salaries are five times those of US regulators and whose salaries are paid for by the industry), up to the finance ministers of each province who support the status quo, instead of supporting the public interest.

It now, after another ten years (I am not the fastest learner) has finally hit home to me how badly the financial press in Canada is beholden to the financial industry, and its covering effect on much reporting. The financial media in Canada is mostly supported by advertising revenues from the financial services industry, and as a result, they cannot be truly objective, no matter how much they may wish to. They simply cannot bite the hand that feeds them. I am amazed that I would even consider an honest and objective press to be an alternative, but I certainly thought so for a good number of years. With today's financial crisis hitting home, and advertising revenues falling, companies like Canwest teetering with debt, it has just become so blatantly obvious. These guys at the worst of times are doing anything and everything to hold desperately to the job, and will do anything to do so. At the best of times, it is just a bit less so, and a bit better concealed.

So, it is with no great regret to see a change from traditional media, towards more groundbreaking types of reporting, available widely over the internet. I think it is safe to think that Canadian consumers might get an improved level of truthful reporting, and less media bias, as a result of the shift.

Time will tell.
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Postby admin » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:28 pm

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ignorant Money


We hear a constant stream of discussion about what the “smart money” is doing? So I ask myself, given the mess the MBA’s and PHD’s have got us into, who exactly is ‘the smart money”?

According to the mainstream media and the talking heads on T.V., the smart money folks are exactly the same people who are currently wrecking our retirement and destroying our banking institutions.

Amazingly enough, these same folks are now suggesting the way to a renewed investment strategy and healthy retirement is to ask these same investment guru’s for a “second opinion”. (Anyone who knows the firm I work for will understand how much the “second opinion” ads grate on my nerves.)

The concept seems to be that retail investors bought our crap once so why not stick with it and screw the retail investor one more time! will work because confused investors are blindly seeking somebody, anybody, they can trust! Thus the “smart money” folks will lead the “ignorant money” into a grab bag of garbage products.

Ignorant Money: I use the term “ignorant in its truest sense to reflect “lack of knowledge”, not in the pejorative sense of ill mannered! Investors have been lead into high risk, over-priced, and in many cases totally unsuitable investments. The reason that happened was because Canadian investors are trusting when they should be dubious. Most lack the understanding of how advisors make money, and are exposed to the shifty investment industry. Without the quality regulatory oversight they mistakenly believe is provided by the self regulatory ‘boys club’ investors are unaware the regulator hides a corrupt/lazy/incompetent investment community from the light of day!

I pilfered the term “ignorant money” from a university professor who was speaking on BNN. He used it to explain the mass movement of money to poor quality investments. In short (my interpretation) he was talking about the money that blindly follows the marketing advice from the big banks and investment firms.
“Come and get a free retirement assessment from BIG Bank and you can rest easy!”,

“Come and get a second opinion for free! From BIGGER Bank”, and my absolute favourite

“It's time to look forward not backward and take advantage of the low market prices”.
I actually have a fantasy about honest ads from the big banks:
“Come and get a free assessment that will do you as much good as the last one you got from a bank for free!”,

“You were stupid enough to trust us before, how about double or nothing on whatever money you have left”,

“Don’t look back, we can’t afford to have you learn from your past mistakes!”.

THE FORECAST: In the next 6-12 months you will be overwhelmed with ads for the following products or products very similar to them.

Product: Segregated Mutual Funds: You will be told that getting your original investment back with no gain in 10 years is the best way to protect your money. For this privilege you will pay about 3% per year.

Ignorant Feature: With markets down 30-40% the guarantee is virtually worthless now. This makes some sense at the top of the market and absolutely no sense after a major market correction. Also most investors don’t have the 10 years to wait for the return of capital.

Product: High Yield Bonds: With government bonds paying next to nothing and investors too nervous to buy equities, advisors will focus on the corporate high yield bond market. You can get much higher yields and the protection of security with the bonds versus the common stock.

Ignorant Feature: People need to ask the big question, why is this bond paying such a high return? The answer is because the underlying firm is likely to go bankrupt, renege on its bond payments, or be unable to pay you back when the bond matures. High Yield means JUNK. A small amount in the portfolio might be acceptable for some, but look for major whacks of this stuff to find its way into portfolios of vulnerable seniors.

Product: Leveraged Loans: With stocks “on sale” it will be an absolutely amazing opportunity for investors to make a quick killing on the recovery by utilizing the brilliant strategy of leveraged investment loans.

Ignorant Feature: What could go wrong? I don’t know.....maybe we should ask Lehman Brothers or AIG, they are the most recent experts on leveraging. The key point to remember is that your advisor will make roughly 5% up front on your leveraged investments and have no monthly payments. The only way to make this work for the average investor is to write your CSC exam and become an advisor. Now the strategy is brilliant!

Product: Market Linked GIC’s (PPN’s): While these products have been a real mess, the banks just make too much money selling them. Confused seniors are still available and untrained bank staff can sell them with great sincerity since they do not actually understand the risks.

Ignorant Feature: Similar to seg funds, the guarantee is somewhat useless at the bottom of the market and the fees are ridiculously high. Most investors got killed on the “protection event” but in the next round it will be a straight fee grab.

Product: Lifecycle Funds: OK, your advisor was asleep at the switch and forgot that you might want to reduce your equity exposure as you approached 80 years of age and had only a small RIF to help sustain your meagre lifestyle. No problem, your advisor can buy a fund that will pay somebody to automatically rebalance and adjust the asset allocation as you get older. Phew, that’s a relief!

Ignorant Feature: About that lazy advisor you had? What is it you are paying them for again? In short, you are paying a premium to have your advisor fire somebody to do the work you hired them to do, and you pay both parties.

Well, there you have it, my forecast of what you can expect to see on the shelf at your local investment market. The two things required to keep the markets alive are fees and uninformed investors to pay the fees. Inspite of the painful lessons of 2008, I predict 2009 will be a great year for advisors. They make money on greed, fear, and ignorance and all three are in abundant supply.

Your jaded blogger, SOIS MIKE
Posted by sois mike at 9:12 PM
Picture 11.png
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Postby admin » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:24 pm

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Financial Pornography

Most people find pornography offensive! That has been true for the past few thousand years of course. That is why it is so confusing as to how so much of it survives, even though nobody buys it or watches it.

Financial pornography is the same, but with charts instead of pictures!

In both cases the reality is not nearly as stimulating as the "doctored" graphics try to portray.

Financial pornography is represented by the distortions, misrepresentations, phony fund commercials, stupid bank claims, and all the other obviously bogus claims being delivered by phony senior citizens claiming to be retiring to France when they are actually working into their late 70's because they bought the stupid mutual funds they are flogging.

Nobody would ever listen to "Mad Money" nor follow the crazy advice, yet I keep hearing people talk about what they heard from a "friend" who watched the show. Stop watching that stuff, its morally and financially corrupt.

The financial markets have always had a way with words and graphs. In the past, it was all rather innocent since "good" people were not exposed to the financial smut. Then along came the Internet, cable T.V., thousands of financial planners and, yes, blogs! Now the financial world has gone nuts and products that were once in the restricted world of professionals are now discussed by Joe Trader as if he actually understood them!
Since when did retirees read 80 page legalese on a split-share issue and understand the leveraging (hint: the answer is never), and
when did your local lawn care guy start trading in options because a "covered call" is free money?
I heard a caller on Business News Network today who claimed he never lost money on a single option trade and could not understand why everyone was not writing puts and calls.
Well enough of this smut! Here is the truth you need to listen to and learn from!

Day traders live in their mothers basement and are really just degenerate gamblers.

Active trading by an investor works only when the average investor is Warren Buffett and has billions to cover his mistakes....and yes, he does make mistakes. Active trading without a billion dollar corporate team behind you is just stupid....yes, I mean you!

Managed or structured products are a fee looking for someone to pay it. The only way to win is to be the salesperson skimming the investments! Yes, mutual funds are a managed product so figure it out.

Wraps are the way small time investors get exposure to fully diversified fees. You pay everybody in good times and bad. You make benchmark returns almost never. Duh!

Financial Planners do not often do financial planning. They get the qualification because the title "Mutual Fund Fee Skimmer" was too difficult to fit on their cards. They are paid to collect your money and deliver it to big corporations. They do not manage your money, they collect "vig" on the deposits.

Bankers are like a stealthy thief sneaking into your house and stealing the silverware one piece at a time. Before you know it your eating with your fingers and the bank is offering you a cutlery loan at 18% interest. Service charges on proprietary funds are obnoxiously high and the people selling the funds are proof that the bottom of the class can still find work somewhere. Stop feeding the beast and thinking the teller is your friend. Friends don't refer friends to bank planners.

There, now I feel better. I hope that I have offended a few bankers, advisors, and planners because that way I feel like there is a purpose to life. If you are ready to handle the ugly truth, wait for 2009 when the real stuff starts to fly and markets test 7,000 and lower! Then the real smut will come to the fore! See you in 2009!

Tired of 2008.....sois mike
…my final rant for 2008…..I think!
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Postby admin » Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:54 am

I am not sure if this catch word sums up some of what you are saying Joe, but it seems that "financial pornography" might fit as a descriptor of all of the misleading, cajoling, advising bullshit that you are talking about. Would that description fit, and would it help to begin to explain to the public what they are being duped with?? I am thinking out loud here, and trying to imagine all the categories of financial porn:

salespeople posing as "advisors" (is that financial porn??)
media referring to salesmen as "advisors" (is that financial porn??)
media living off financial advertising (biased?) (is that financial porn??)
financial media allowing commission salespeople to "capture" the media (is that financial porn??)
leveraging advice by commission salespeople (is that financial porn??)
charts and graphs of how rich you will be (is that financial porn??)
happy couple sitting on a dock by a lake commercials (is that financial porn??)
freedom 55 (is that financial porn??)

I think there might be something usefull here as a visual, educational reference for the public

what do you think?


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Postby admin » Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:52 am

Financial Pornography is……..when the head of the Ontario Securities Commission uses a carefully written speech to mislead, and mis-inform the public about his role. See example below:
Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Speaking at the 2009 McMaster University World Congress, Wilson said economic crimes are often not treated seriously enough.
David Wilson, chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission, said on Wednesday.

“Also part of the mosaic are Canada’s two main national self-regulatory organizations: the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada. They’re responsible for enforcing compliance with SRO by-laws, regulations and policies by their members and their members’ registered employees.”
(advocate comments:

Someone at the OSC is misinformed, misleading the public, or out-and-out-lying. Contrast what David Wilson said on Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at McMaster with what his OSC organization tells abused investors below:

What the OSC advises investors who file a complaint:

Securities Commission The OSC has recognized the Investment Dealers Association ("IDA") as a self regulatory organization (1995, 18 O.S.C.B. 5293). As such, the IDA has the authority and the jurisdiction over its members to enforce Ontario securities law as well as IDA rules, regulations and by-laws.
As there are no provisions to circumvent this process, the OSC is unable to consider your request for a regulatory review of your matter.
OSC letter to Ms. Pamela Reeve
25 August 2004

When he is speaking to the media, he admits honestly that the self regulatory bodies are only charged with enforcing their own bylaws and regulations. Not the Securities Act in the province.

However, for the last twenty odd years, the securities commissions in all provinces have been “sending away” complaints by abused investors, telling them that the securities commission does not get involved in their complaint. Telling them to go to self regulatory bodies.

See this web page for a more complete description of the deceit of the public by provincial securities commissions.

The Alberta Securites Commission also refers customers who complain, to go directly to the self regulatory agency at this web site of the ASC. ... laint.aspx

Thus securities commissions in Canada are improperly delegating regulatory authority to a non-statutory body, and telling the public that they are “doing the job”. They simply are not doing the job, not even understanding the job, or outright lying to the public.

Larry Elford
Executive director of
quotes, background and research for this opinion can be found at:
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Postby Guest » Fri Dec 02, 2005 11:11 am

I agree that I am also finding the Globe to be softer and of less content than the Post, but I am still pissed that the Post has gagged certain very good writers from writing on some very obvious misdeeds after charitable money changed hands.

As far as authorities investigating the reporters who may be misleading I am fairly sure that you and I are more likely to be nominated for the Nobel prize for our good works. We cannot even get Canadian authorities to investigate fraud, and white collar crime in this country. Conrad Black was given a free ride by the OSC and others here, and only in the US are authorities on the job. The country is too small (economically) and too tightly controlled by too few people or families. And the regualtors are like Mexican police in a quiet little town. The pay is good and you don't have to work.

Postby Guest » Fri Dec 02, 2005 10:57 am

I'm finding the Post is better than the Globe and Shill lately, and understand that reporters are under pressure from Bay Street. I feel the authorities should investigate whether the news media is misleading investors.

Postby Guest » Fri Dec 02, 2005 10:50 am

I agree that most personal finance columnists are caught up in the beauty pagent of "which fund to buy today" kind of reporting.

It reminds me of tabloid reporting on diet fads. I am particularly dissapointed in the Globe reporting on white collar crime. They run daily ads suggesting how hard hitting they are, and the paper does not live up to it at all.

Some are trying however in their own way to uncover a few skeletons. They are in a pretty tough spot if they want to keep their jobs I imagine. If they wrote about half of the schemes and scams they are made aware of I am sure the pressure on them from vested interests seeking silence would be great.

The Post on the other hand is so closely connected to a few financial firms, that I am told that reporters there are not even allowed to write negative tone articles about some firms. I dont know if it is true, but time will probably tell.

Postby admin » Sun Jun 19, 2005 6:00 pm


Posted: 17 Jun 2005 11:45 pm Post subject: Affirmative Action


Small investors should demand affirmative action in the media. We are underepresented there by far, rarely are we quoted despite being the dominant players in the market if you include indirect investments thru funds. When was the last time you saw a small investor being interviewed about our plight on ROBtv. When we do get coverage it we're usually mocked or talk down to.
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media filters, yess

Postby advocate » Wed Jun 15, 2005 12:23 pm

If that is the case, it is a sad situation. It makes me have hope, however for forums like this, web logs where people can tell the truth without fear of losing their jobs, and public inquiries which are ultimately what I hope for some of these organizations.

Look at the wonderful progress at transparency happening with gomery, and all because of a private web log in the US refused to be gagged into silence?


Truthful Business Reporting Crisis

Postby Radthree » Wed Jun 15, 2005 7:48 am

The majority of business reporters are soft because Bay Street pay their salaries via advertising and other junkets. It doesn't help that the newspaper biz is in decline, newsrooms have been gutted. The majority of stories are generated by PR firms.


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