The downgrade debacle, dragon boats, the 78-square-foot apartment, the food truck controversy in St. Paul, and cigarettes and the first 30 minutes of your day.
Faced with an overwhelming assault by news organization headlines warning of the market catastrophe that lay minutes ahead, there was a moment this morning that I almost cashed out all of my retirement portfolio that's in equity markets and joined who knows how many others on the sideline.
This goes against everything I've learned firsthand in 40 year of working for a living, but in the absence of even a decent nugget of information telling me what I should do, I felt no choice but to give in to the gloom. Only laziness prevented me from acting, but I wonder how many millions of Americans, more energetic than I, are reacting to the steady drumbeat of news organizations in addition to whatever market savvy they have?
So it was interesting to hear a caller on Midmorning today who insisted the media isn't, as alleged, "making things worse."
"I absolutely think that's true," Ross Levine, a financial planner said in response. "If you look at what's really going on as far as how companies are reporting their earnings, and if you look at the fact the dividend yield in the S&P is close to what 10-year Treasuries are paying, it's almost obscene that the markets are continuing to sell off at this level, and I think market short-term is very emotional. Market short term look like the weather forecasts; you have no idea what they're going to do in the short term. But long term, we have a pretty good sense of market valuation and that's going to be based on earnings, and it's going to be based on dividends, and it's going to be based on getting the economy going again."
"There's been a theme throughout this thing of 'shoot the messenger,' said Heidi Moore, the New York bureau chief for American Public Media's Marketplace program. "You see it with S&P and you see it with journalism. What we're trying to do here is inform people for the most part about what's going on. If those people are telling us that they're expecting a crisis, that they're expecting a panic, that they're expecting the Apocalypse, then of course we're going to reflect that. And when those people don't say that, we reflect that as well. It's important to note that it's not the press creating this; the press and S&P did not spend us into a $14 trillion deficit. So we have to kind of focus here on the issues, and I think people put way too much emphasis on what words are used, and they read stories to see which political parties they support. It's not really about that; it's about are we keeping you informed enough so you can do your duty as a citizen? And that means you have to read the financial news and be able to filter that."
"Words are important," Levine countered. "If you take two situations and you look at the stock market and you say, 'stocks are having a major sell-off,' or 'stocks are trading at the lowest valuations we've seen in three years,' people will interpret that differently. I think that the words shape the context of the story. I'm not saying it's the press' fault because the press is reporting and I think they're doing a good job... but I do think words matter and the interpretations of those words matter even more."
Ms. Moore acknowledged the market is emotional and a reflection of the psychology in it. "I do think the words matter, but for daily market movements, that doesn't tell us so much about what's going on in the economy."
And it doesn't tell me what I'm supposed to do about any of this.(6 Comments)
One question: If the stock market is so all-fire important to everyone, how come news organizations can only figure out one kind of photograph when covering it?
A few examples:
Los Angeles Times
This is all, of course, quite depressing. Bring us back to the reality of what people really care about, Texas!7 Comments)
You're walking your small dog, Tuffy, down the street when a dog named Bruno runs out of a house, picks up Tuffy in his jaws and won't let go. While you try to free Tuffy, you fall and break your hip.
Are Tuffy's owners liable for damages?
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled a definite "maybe" today when it reinstated a case a district court threw out. Gordon Anderson, Tuffy's owner, sued Dennis Christopherson and his son, who were in charge of Bruno
In throwing the case out, a District Court ruled that Minnesota law shields a dog owner from liability if the dog isn't focused on the person who was injured. In this case, the lower court said, Bruno was only interested in hurting Tuffy, not Tuffy's owner.
The state law reads:
If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained.
The Court of Appeals, however, cited a Minnesota Supreme Court case in which a nine-year old boy was killed when a dog riding in a car distracted a driver, who ran off the road, killing him. In that case -- Lewellin v. Huber -- the high court overruled a lower court that ruled the dog's owners were liable for the boy's death. But the Supreme Court declined to address the issue of whether actual physical contact between the dog and an injured person is required for the statute above to apply.
In Tuffy v. Bruno (actually called Anderson v. Christopherson), the Court of Appeals said only a jury can answer the question. "It is possible that a jury could conclude that (Tuffy's owner's) decision to intervene in a dog fight interrupted the chain of causation wuch that his injury was not a direct and immediate result of Bruno's action," the court said.2 Comments)
Does the red M&M in this ad encourage kids to be bullies?
One of the complaints filed said:
"M&M's is the most influential product on the market and needs to ensure the message that children receives is positive and assisting in their growth and development," the complainant said.
"When marketing a product the message should be about development of our children not showing them that the red M&M can dominate the rest of the group. Children will see this as a normal way of life as the M&Ms portray to them those they mix with at school."
Twitter may have had a role to play in the rioting in looting that took place over the weekend in London, some officials say.
Last night, police battled rioters and looters in several areas of London after a man was shot and killed by police in the northern suburb of Tottenham.
"The police are ahead of the curve in information technology and would have experience of the use of social- networking sites by troublemakers," Steve O'Connell, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which monitors London's Metropolitan Police Service, told Bloomberg News. "The bad guys were using these sites to target areas quickly. Small bands of ne'er-do- wells were descending on high-quality stores to loot."
Where would ne'er-do-wellers learn such a thing?
Maybe in the USA.
Since late last spring, Chicago authorities, for example, have been trying to combat flash mobs of crooks and thugs who've used social networking to coordinate their attacks and stay one step ahead of the cops.
Today, the mayor of Philadelphia warned parents that they'd be held responsible for the flash mob ne'er-do-welling by their kids.
"It is your responsibility to know where they are, what they are doing and who they are with. They are your children. You need to raise them. You are responsible for them," Mayor Michael Nutter said while announcing a curfew for kids.
He said parents who are called to pick up a child breaking curfew will be issued a warning on the first occasion. On subsequent violations, fines can increase to $500.
"The fascinating thing about technology is that once we open the door, it's going to move in ways that we can't always predict and are slow to control, because we are reacting rather than [being] proactive," Scott Decker, a criminal justice professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, told the Christian Science Monitor.(1 Comments)
Finding examples of poor journalism is like shooting fish in a barrel today, what with the stock market meltdown and all.
Here's a headline from the front page of CNN.
It rather looks like advice, doesn't it?
Five paragraphs into the story, we get the real context of the quote:
"Investors are having one reaction to the downgrade: sell first and ask questions later," said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation with ING Investment Management.
There will be no media coverage when the bodies of 31 soldiers, killed in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan over the weekend, are returned to Dover Air Force Base.
For the Pentagon, which made the announcement this afternoon, it's a return to the policy of the Bush administration, which forbid photographs of the coffins of dead soldiers.
"Because the remains are unidentified at this point, next-of-kin are not in a position to grant approval for media access to the dignified transfer," Capt. Jane Campbell said. "Therefore, in accordance with DoD policy, no media coverage of the arrival and dignified transfer is permitted. "
The Pentagon Press Associated is protesting the decision.(5 Comments)