Monday, August 2, 2010

How much ignorance does it take to be a charlatan?

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Ignorant, deceitful or both?
Last week, Glenn Beck conveyed that he's learned a lot in this last year. Perhaps that is because for the first time in his life he began to study history or something else besides religion and religion based politics (see "The Man Who Changed Beck's Life.") The primary source of Beck's information about current events and "news" seems to be Fox News and conservative/reactionary websites and blogs. As a consequence, Beck makes statements that are often ignorant of the facts.

The following is just one example provided in a press release from the progressive media watchdogs Media Matters for America.

Beck fabricates "complete pass" for SEC FOIA requests

Beck: "Now the SEC doesn't have to answer any questions from anybody? What?" On the July 28 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck claimed that financial reform included "a nice little treat for the SEC." Beck claimed, "Reports and other information provided to the SEC, or any other self-regulatory organization, will be excluded from the scope of Freedom of Information Act." After reading from an SEC statement, Beck asked, "How in the world did we arrive here, America?" He later claimed he had a "theory" about "where we're headed next," and said, "Now the SEC doesn't have to answer any questions from anybody? What?"

Provision reportedly limited to proprietary information and mirrors exemptions for bank regulators

Reuters: Lawmakers "gave the SEC a privacy mandate similar to bank regulators," but it "still has to comply with requests for other types of information requested under" FOIA. A July 28 Reuters article reported, "New financial reform legislation exempts U.S. securities regulators from having to turn over to the media information it gathers from financial institutions in its expanded supervisory role, but does not limit the disclosure of other agency data." Reuters further reported:
As part of that, lawmakers also gave the SEC a privacy mandate similar to bank regulators, who do not have to disclose the results of examinations of specific firms.
The SEC still has to comply with requests for other types of information requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
"The new provision applies to information obtained through examinations or derived from that information," said SEC spokesman John Nester in a statement.
Wash. Post's Goldfarb: Provision "only concerns documents obtained through examinations of broker-dealers and investment advisers." In a July 28 blog post, Zach Goldfarb wrote that "it may not be time to take up arms over the latest charge by Fox Business News that 'the Securities and Exchange Commission no longer has to comply with virtually all requests for information releases from the public" under the new financial regulation law.'" Goldfarb further wrote:
While, as Fox notes, the law exempts the SEC from disclosing records derived from "surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities," this only concerns documents obtained through examinations of broker-dealers and investment advisers -- periodic or targeted reviews of financial firms.
People and organizations can still use FOIA to obtain a range of SEC information, such as inspector general reports; communications with Congress and the business community; and officials' calendar, salary and conflict-of-interest information.
Information from investigations into potential wrongdoing has never been obtainable through FOIA.
John Nester, SEC spokesman, said:
"We are expanding our examination program's surveillance and risk assessment efforts in order to provide more sophisticated and effective Wall Street oversight. The success of these efforts depends on our ability to obtain documents and other information from brokers, investment advisers and other registrants. The new legislation makes certain that we can obtain documents from registrants for risk assessment and surveillance under similar conditions that already exist by law for our examinations. Because registrants insist on confidential treatment of their documents, this new provision also removes an opportunity for brokers, investment advisers and other registrants to refuse to cooperate with our examination document requests."
So, consider this. If the SEC's exam team decides to take a look at a hedge fund's records, it may need to contact the hedge fund's broker for data on trades. That data could be subject to FOIA under the old law, and the broker, fearful that the private data would become public, might refuse to hand over the data.
Under the new law, such data is not subject to FOIA. The SEC hopes that, since it will be seeking data and documents from a broad range of financial players, it won't face resistance from firms concerned that their data might leak to the public through FOIA.

 This is a lot of detail to explain what is being distorted about this particular issue on The Glenn Beck Show and Fox "News." Beck and Fox may be purposely misleading their viewers about what reality is, or there may be wide spread ignorance on the network. In a post-truth politics, candidates can be expected to make false claims. Unfortunately, that purposeful or ignorant activity has become imbued into the realm of partisan media and into what is real for the consumers of that media.

Before more people start tuning into Beck's 
CONvincing propaganda, 
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