Yesterday, we highlighted how WorldNetDaily financial columnist Porter Stansberry bragged that he's ready to flee the country at a moment's notice with most of his wealth to a locale "that doesn't have any ties to America." We did some looking into Stansberry's background and found a large sanction against him from the Securities & Exchange Commission.
In 2003, the SEC filed a complaint against Stansberry, his operation (then called Pirate Investor, now called Stansberry & Associates), and the company that owns Stansberry's operation, Agora Inc. The SEC argued that Stansberry's newsletters "contain nothing more than baseless speculation and outright lies," citing an example in which Stansberry promised investors they could double their "investment dollar in a single day" on one stock tip, which he would sell for $1,000. In fact, the stock went down nearly 15 percent on the day Stansberry promised investors they would double their money.
In 2007, the SEC ordered Stansberry and his company to pay $1.5 million in restitution and civil penalties, stating that, according to an August 10, 2007, Baltimore Sun article (retrieved from Nexis), Stansberry's company "acted in reckless disregard for regulations when it published Stansberry's unbelievable claims without a shred of confirmation." The parent company, Agora, was not held liable.
Stansberry appealed the fine and tried to press his case in public. Stansberry's lawyers, David Rivkin Jr. and Bruce Brown, penned a November 2008 Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that the SEC has no jurisdiction in the case because it didn't involve insider trading. The issue is regulation of "disinterested stock analysis," Rivkin and Brown wrote, and "the SEC has no more business penalizing a writer who simply covers the markets than the Food and Drug Administration has in regulating a cookbook publisher because an official questions the nutritional content in a meatloaf recipe."
In September 2009, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Stansberry's SEC sanction, stating that securities fraud is not protected speech and "[p]unishing fraud, whether it be common law fraud or securities fraud, simply does not violate the First Amendment."
Stansberry has popped up on occasion in more mainstream news outlets. Barron's touted him as "highly regarded" and "remarkably prescient" in July 2008; a February 2009 Associated Press article cited Stansberry, as did a separate February 2009 USA Today article.
None of these articles mentioned Stansberry's SEC fine. Unsurprisingly, WorldNetDaily hasn't either. Quite the contrary: When his column began in December 2009, WND claimed it was "introducing readers looking for sound, reality-based investment information to the respected financial research outfit Stansberry & Associates."
How does "sound, reality-based investment information" mesh with a $1.5 million SEC sanction for selling "unbelievable claims without a shred of confirmation" to investors? That's something WND (and Stansberry) should explain.
In its report today on the unfolding Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) saga, the Post leans heavily on how right-wing partisans are pushing the story. Apparently, that's what makes it especially newsworthy.
From the Post:
Conservatives have complained about other examples of what they see as illegitimate deal-making to secure votes: what they call the "Cornhusker Kickback" and the "Louisiana Purchase" in the Senate to line up Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), respectively, and Obama's appointment last week of a Utah professor -- the brother of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), an opponent of the health bill -- to the federal appeals bench.
The Post notes how conservatives are latching onto the Massa story because it fits into their pre-existing narrative about Democratic corruption in connection to health care reform. And then the Post dutifully recites the right-wing laundry list of alleged Democratic offenses.
What the Post never bothers to do though, is report on whether any of the conservative attacks are true.
Yes, for example, right-wing partisans last week accused the Obama White House of "bribery" and "selling" judgeships to get health care reform passed. But were the allegations credible? Because didn't even Republicans members of Congress step forward and declare that the judgeship allegation in connection to Rep. Matheson's brother was absurd?
On those points, the Post takes a pass.
National Review's Rich Lowry writes of health care reform: "If the bill becomes law, it will suffer a legitimacy gap that will make it vulnerable to repeal." But Lowry's reasons why health care reform will lack "legitimacy" don't make much sense -- and at least one is clearly dishonest.
First, Lowry notes the bill "will have passed on strictly partisan votes. ...Support from the minority party would show that it has the kind of broad, sustainable base of support it now lacks as the spawn of a heedless ideological bender." Lowry overstates the extent to which a lack of bipartisan support in Congress makes legislation appear illegitimate, particularly after the fact. No Republicans voted for Bill Clinton's 1993 budget -- a fact that, in the following years, undermined Republicans more than the budget. And the Senate vote to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq won the support of several Democrats -- but I don't see many people pointing to that vote as a great moment in Senate history.
Next, Lowry writes:
Two, its skids were greased with rotten deals. Democrats hope to eliminate the special provisions that have tarred the bill in a separate package of "fixes." Regardless, the bill wouldn't exist in its current form if key senators hadn't been bought off with hundreds of billions of dollars in legislative bribes. That taint can't be undone.
Those weren't "bribes." They were "negotiations." That's what happens in legislative bodies in order to secure sufficient votes for passage. I'm quite certain Rich Lowry is not prepared to argue against the legitimacy of any legislation that is passed after individual members hold out for the inclusion of provisions they favor. "Bribes" are different things entirely, and they are illegal.
Three, a parliamentary trick is necessary to its final passage. Because Democrats no longer have 60 votes for the bill in the Senate, they have to pass their fixes under "reconciliation," short-circuiting the normal amendment process.
First, "the bill" has already passed the Senate. The "normal amendment process" is what happens before a bill passes. Reconciliation is a means of tweaking legislation that has already passed. Nothing is being "short circuited" -- the bill already went through the "normal amendment process" before it passed the Senate, winning 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the process. And reconciliation isn't a "parliamentary trick," it's a part of the rules. When Rich Lowry loses a hand of poker, does he complain that his adversary's full house defeated his pair of 4s only because of a "trick"? Does he think a batter who reaches base via a walk does so by illegitimate trickery?
Next, Lowry insists "the bill has been sold under deliberately false pretenses. ...Obama insists that it will cut the deficit, bend the cost curve down, and reduce premiums, when it's likely to do the opposite on all three counts."
Lowry must be using some definition of "deliberately false" that I'm unfamiliar with -- one that requires neither intent nor falsity. See, the Congressional Budget Office says health care reform will reduce deficits -- that's a big part of why Barack Obama says health care reform will reduce deficits. But in Rich Lowry's fantasy world, it's "deliberately false" to rely on the CBO's projections. You should, instead, accept Rich Lowry's completely unsubstantiated assertions.
Now, it's pretty much inconceivable that Rich Lowry is unaware of CBO's projections. So when Lowry writes that it is "deliberately false" to say something that is consistent with CBO's projections, one of two things must be true: Either Rich Lowry knows that Barack Obama knows that CBO is wrong, or Rich Lowry is being deliberately dishonest.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board today asserts that President Obama's deficit commission is a "trap" designed to provide "political cover" for tax increases and the permanent expansion of the federal government. To support this claim, the Journal says "Obama has rigged the commission" -- which the editorial describes as "allegedly bipartisan" -- "so Republicans will be outnumbered by at least 10-8."
In fact, by design, the commission's recommendations must have bipartisan support. And contrary to the Journal's claim that Obama ensured "Republicans will be outnumbered by at least 10-8," Obama actually specified that Democrats will outnumber Republicans by no more than 10-8 [emphasis added]. According to the executive order creating the commission, both Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans will select 6 members. Obama chooses the remaining 6 members of the 18-member panel, "not more than four of whom shall be from the same political party." (Obama has already made his picks, including former Republican senator Alan Simpson, who will serve as co-chair, and Republican David Cote, CEO of Honeywell.)
The order further dictates that the commission's recommendations "shall require the approval of not less than 14 of the 18 members of the Commission." So to review, the commission will have 10 Democrats and will need 14 votes to issue their recommendations. So even if both the Republicans Obama appointed to the commission vote with the Democrats, that still means at least two of the members chosen by Mitch McConnell or John Boehner will have to be on board. Clearly this is a "trap" that Obama "rigged."
But lest you see through that poor attempt to discredit the commission's bipartisanship, the Journal continues: "[H]e's also rigged it a second way by writing his executive order to say that Congressional leaders can only choose current Members of Congress. The White House knows that some GOP Members will be reluctant to endorse spending cuts as part of the commission for fear of opening themselves to Democratic attack."
The Journal thinks Congressional Republicans on the commission will fear the political fallout of recommending spending cuts. At the same time, it claims that the commission is going to "propose ways to raise huge new chunks of revenue beyond the current tax code." So do the Journal editorial writers really think Republicans on the commission will prefer the political implications of recommending tax increases to those of spending cuts? Or have they just disregarded common sense in a rush to oppose the president and turn a deficit-reduction commission into a radical left-wing conspiracy?
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen claims:
The health-care bill has almost no near-term benefit for anyone who votes. Its immediate beneficiaries are the uninsured, consisting of the poor and vulnerable, and the young and delusionally invincible. As a voting bloc, they largely don't.
And remember, Cohen is what passes for a liberal at Fred Hiatt's Washington Post, home of the nation's worst opinion pages.
When Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb was mocked last December for making a far-fetched claim about the White House threatening to close an Air Force base in order to secure Ben Nelson's support for health care reform, Goldfarb quickly began walking back his claim, then abruptly stopped talking about it altogether.
So when I saw Weekly Standard writer John McCormack's baseless suggestion that the White House nominated Rep. Jim Matheson's brother for a judgeship in order to win Matheson's support for health care reform, it looked like history was repeating itself.
And sure enough, McCormack promptly began walking back his claim, telling Fox News viewers the next day there "probably" wasn't an "explicit" quid pro quo. The day after that, McCormack wrote that the "most likely" scenario was that "White House officials simply hoped that if they scratched Matheson's back with the nomination, he would scratch theirs with a vote for the health care bill." Then McCormack went silent on the matter.
So, here's how this played out:
March 3: McCormack writes "Obama Now Selling Judgeships for Health Care Votes?" and "Scott Matheson appears to have the credentials to be a judge, but was his nomination used to buy off his brother's vote?"
March 4: McCormack admits there was "probably not" an "explicit quid pro quo."
March 5: McCormack writes that the most likely explanation is that the White House simply "hoped" Matheson would vote for health care reform.
March 6 - Present: Silence.
Now, ideally, the Weekly Standard wouldn't run around peddling baseless conspiracy theories in the first place. But since they do, it's good to know they've perfected The Weekly Standard Walk-back.
And I'm willing to meet them halfway, by acknowledging that they probably don't subsidize their magazine publishing by selling intravenous drugs to six-year-olds.
Why? Because on his show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh suggested former CBS anchor Dan Rather was a racist. And according to Andrew Breitbart's latest right-wing talking points, calling somebody a racist is the worst possible allegations unfurled in America. It's an unforgivable act and Breitbart is not going to stand idly by while people do it.
So yes, given those glaringly clear guidelines for today's public discourse, I can't wait to see Breitbart take Limbaugh to task for implying Rather is a racist. Do you think Breitbart will try to call into Limbaugh's show and give him a good verbal lashing? Or maybe Breitbart will just write a blog post for Big Journalism and detail once again, so the entire right-wing movement can see and hear, how lobbing the charge of "racism" is now unequivocally out of bounds.
It's never easy for any fellow conservative to criticize a high-profile talker like Limbaugh. But Breitbart doesn't really have a choice, right? If he meekly stands by and doesn't stand up to the AM talker, who will ever take Breitbart's anti-"racism" crusade seriously?
As Dan Rather himself might say, courage Andrew Breitbart. Courage.
UPDATED: Yes, it's true that Glenn Beck last summer called the president a "racist," and that Breitbart never said boo. But to be fair, that was before the conservative propagandist made his definitive claim about using the "racist" tag. He's clearly on the record today, which is why I'm positive he'll now call out Limbaugh for flippantly using that vile phrase.
As Media Matters noted in its fact-checking of Karl Rove's new book, the former Bush aide hit the motherload of misinformation with a paragraph that revived the 2000-era greatest hits about the Al Gore, the alleged exaggerator.
Just try to count the Gore lies found in this one single paragraph:
Over the past few decades, Gore had said that he had created the Internet, been the model for Love Story, led a crusade against tobacco, discovered the Love Canal chemical disaster, lived on a farm while vice president, never grew tobacco on his farm, didn't know that his visit to a Buddhist temple was a fund-raiser, faced enemy fire in Vietnam, and sent people to jail as a reporter. It was a compelling life story; unfortunately, none of it was true.
What's astonishing is that all these Gore lies have been thoroughly debunked. Like many, many years ago. It's common knowledge that this stuff is garbage. Yet here's Rove, ten years later, casually lying about Gore, secure in his knowledge that conservative readers of the book won't care that the claims are false, and apparently also secure in the knowledge that his publisher, Simon & Schuster's Threshold Editions, doesn't really care about fact checking and will publish whatever partisan tripe he types up.
Media Matters set the record straight yesterday. But Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler has been doing the Lord's work regarding the War on Gore for the last decade, teasing out what the lasting significance has been in terms of our politics and our press. Maybe he could weigh in on just how astounding that single Rove paragraph is and what it represents about our public discourse.
UPDATED: It will be interesting is to see how members of the chattering class deal with Rove's book, especially if they take the time to read it and see paragraphs like the one noted above; paragraphs that are literally built upon layers and layers of obvious falsehoods. Will the chattering class call Rove out, or play along?
From the March 9 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends: