Saturday, March 07, 2009
How Is It That CNBC Can Be So Wrong So Often When It Comes To Financial Information? It's Because They Aren't Reporting... They're Selling.
Thu Mar 05, 2009 at 04:56:48 PM PST
I've been waiting for a good time to bring this story to Daily Kos and, since it's CNBC day (or week hopefully), I figured now would be a good time.
By now, everyone should have heard about the ongoing war that CNBC is waging against the Obama administration and its plans revamp the economy. From it's constant anti-Obama propaganda and commentary to its shady PR stunt to manufacture a bogus uprising against Obama's mortgage plan, CNBC has been working overtime as a propaganda front against the Obama agenda.
- TocqueDeville's diary :: ::
This rabbit hole involves the thugs surrounding Jim Cramer and some of the top financial "journalists" from the New York Times, WSJ, Fortune magazine and BusinessWeek, top hedge funds, the Mafia, and the DTCC. It also includes "blackmail, smear campaigns, espionage, fraud, harassment, extortion, bribery, rumor-mongering, sabotage, off-shore money laundering, political cronyism, frivolous lawsuits, witness tampering, biased financial research, false identities, bogus credit ratings, bribery, libelous blogs, bad science, forgery, wiretapping, counterfeiting, collusion, lying, cheating, threats and theft."
And if that wasn't fun enough, it may be the underlying story of what collapsed the entire, global banking system or at least served as the catalyst for the collapse.
Unfortunately, this story is so rich and multi-dimensional that I cannot possibly hope to do it justice here. So I will primarily focus on the financial media angle and, specifically, Jim Cramer and his thug cronies.
The story begins when a very highly respected journalist and business editor for the Columbia Journalism Review, Mark Mitchell, decides to look into allegations made by the CEO of Overstock.com, that some top hedge fund managers, in cahoots with a circle of financial analyst and reporters, had conspired to make a lot of money by betting short on companies and then systematically destroying those companies by spreading false negative information about them and employing other tactics such as flooding the market with "phantom shares" to drive down a stocks value.
To understand this you have to understand how short selling works. A short seller will borrow stock (say at $10) and then sell it immediately and pocket the money ($10). Then, when the company's stock value plummets ($1), they buy it at its deflated value and pocket the difference ($9). This is perfectly legal. But there's another variety that takes place because of a flaw in the system.
This is where a short seller sells stock that they haven't actually borrowed yet. There are loopholes that allow shorters to do this legally, but those loopholes have allowed the practice to be abused - which is illegal. Therefore, it is quite easy to fraudulently put on the open market shares of stock that do not, nor ever will, exist. These phantom shares do nothing but crash the value of a stock and therefore make legitimate short transactions highly profitable.
This is what Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne had discovered had been done to his company. Naked short selling combined with bogus financial analysis, lies and rumors propagated by CNBC reporters all served to trash his company's stock. So he decided to fight back. He gave a big conference call presentation to a bunch of corporate CEOs and broke the story. That's when Mark Mitchell comes in. (For the record, Byrne is a Republican. I don't much care for him. But this is completely irrelevant to this story.)
To the 500 Wall Street honchos who listened in to this conference call, Patrick said that a network of miscreants was using a variety of tactics – including naked short selling (phantom stock) – to destroy public companies for profit. He said this scheme had the potential to crash the financial markets, but that the SEC did nothing because the SEC had been compromised – or "captured" – by unsavory operators on Wall Street.
In January 2006, I [Mark Mitchell] was working as an editor for the Columbia Journalism Review, a well-respected ( if somewhat dowdy) magazine devoted to media criticism. Patrick had claimed that some prominent journalists were "corrupt" and were working with prominent hedge funds to cover up the naked short selling scandal, so I called to discuss.
Patrick picked up the phone and said: "Chasing this story will take you down a rabbit hole with no end." He said that the story had it all – diabolical billionaires, phantom stock, dishonest journalists, crooked lawyers, black box organizations on Wall Street, and a crime that could very well cause a meltdown of our financial system [This was in 2006].
Not only that, Patrick said, but "the Mafia is involved, too."
Well, Patrick seemed basically sane. I decided to write a story about the basically sane CEO who was fighting the media on an important financial issue while harboring some eccentric notions about the Mafia.
I figured it would take a week.* * * * * * * *
Months later, my desk was buried under evidence of short seller miscreancy, I had done nothing but investigate this story since the day I first called Patrick, and I had just gone to a topless club to meet a self-professed mobster who told me all about a stockbroker who had peddled phantom shares for the Russian Mafia and the Genovese organized crime family.
Heh, it gets better. But, again, way too long to address here. So back to the media angle:. Here's Mitchell later on:
I have analyzed well over a thousand stories written by this clique of journalists. The vast majority of them were sourced from a small group of short-sellers who are also friends of Cramer. Other popular sources for this group of journalists include convicted felons, mobsters, dubious private investigators, crooked lawyers, hired stock bashers, and gun-toting goons - most of whom are tied to the Cramer constellation of short-sellers.
Some of the stories written by these reporters are accurate enough. But many are not. The journalists misconstrue data with seemingly purposeful intent. They exaggerate and obfuscate. They publish innuendo or merely repeat, Deus Optimus Maximus, the words of their hedge fund and criminal friends. A single negative story by one of these reporter-thugs can send a company’s stock tumbling by more than 50% — pure profit for their hedge fund sources, who of course sell the company short (often right before the articles are published). Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of the companies targeted by these journalists will also be the victims of phantom stock selling and other shenanigans. The journalists do not mention this in their stories, and in fact go out of their way to deny that phantom stock exists.
Anyone who says otherwise is subjected to a vicious media smear.
To fully appreciate the Jim Cramer angle a little journey to his past is in order. This is from Cramer himself:
"We had it down to a science in 1992: my wife would pick stocks that technically looked ready to go up, or she would keep track of merchandise to see what was down to tag ends. She would then generate a list of stocks that could move quickly on good news. Jeff would then go to work calling the companies to try to find anything good we could say about them. I would call the analysts to see I they were hearing anything. When we found a stock that looked ready technically to break out, or where the supply had been mopped up, and Jeff found something positive at the company, and I knew the analyst community didn’t know anything positive, we would load up with call options and common stock and then give the good news to our favorite analysts who liked the stock so they could go do their promotion. That would get the buzz going and we would then be able to liquidate the position into the buzz for a handsome profit." (Confessions of a Street Addict, page 61).
This is Cramer's big secret. He figured out early that the way to make money betting on stocks was to rig the game - control the news and you control a stock's value. Now he has his own TV show.
Nicholas Maier worked for Cramer until 1998. He quit and wrote a book about it called, Trading with the Enemy: Seduction and Betrayal on Jim Cramer’s Wall Street (New York: HarperCollins, 2002). Here's an excerpt showing that Cramer was into naked short selling early on:
Jim turns toward his head trader. "Mark, sell ten thousand Bristol Myers."
"We never bought any Bristol Myers," Mark replies.
"We own the calls," Jim corrects Mark impatiently, aggravated by the delay.
"So sell it short?" Mark asks for clarification. Mark knows that according to the SEC rule book, selling stock you don’t already own (even if you do own the call options) must be marked and executed as a short sale.
"You are confusing me with someone who gives a shit. Just sell it! I said hit the fucking bid!" adds Jim, not interested in wasting time over petty semantics. Skirting the "plus tick" rule in this case won’t necessarily make us a lot of extra money, but in Jim’s eyes, the rule is still an unenforceable annoyance. "And don’t ever ask me that again!" (Trading With the Enemy, pages 70-71).
The story of Jim Cramer cannot be fully presented here. BUt here's an excerpt from Mitchell's book length expose that will get you into the ballpark:
Cramer, who is a sociopath, owns TheStreet.com with Marty Peretz, who is an aristocrat. Peretz is also the former editor of the New Republic magazine. He dabbles in high finance and Harvard professing, which has resulted in his entrusting a large portion of his family fortune to a close-knit group of hedge fund managers, several of whom were his students. For example, Cramer was his student. Then Cramer was destitute. He lived in a car with a loaded gun hidden under the seat. Eventually, though, Peretz gave Cramer some money to start a hedge fund, which Cramer managed with celebrated ruthlessness until he resolved to seek spiritual enlightenment as a TV news host.
Cramer had originally planned to run his hedge fund out of the offices of Ivan Boesky. Shortly before he was to move in, however, the feds busted Boesky for insider trading, making him one of the most famous criminals of the 1980s. (This is not necessarily to suggest that Boesky is the "Sith Lord" mentioned in Patrick’s "Miscreants Ball" presentation. Some people have wagered that Patrick was referring to Michael Milken, a business colleague of Boesky known as the "junk bond king," who also went to prison in the 1980s. Patrick has since modified the analogy, saying that the crime has multiple masterminds - "like Al Qaeda").
When Boesky went to prison, Cramer worked instead with hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt. The media portrays Steinhardt as a financial wizard, a deep thinker and an all-around swell guy. The truth is, he’s a thug who perfected the concept of trading on privileged information, and pounded it into the heads of his employees. "What’s your edge!?" he’d shout, pacing his trading room floor. "What’s your fucking edge!?" After one of Steinhardt’s tirades, a top employee (and the godfather to Steinhardt’s children) had a heart attack. It is said that Steinhardt showed no remorse.
Indeed, Steinhardt has one of the most fearsome reputations on Wall Street. Which is perhaps unsurprising given that Steinhardt’s father, Sol "Red" Steinhardt, was a mobster once described by a Manhattan district attorney as the biggest Mafia fence in America. Steinhardt Sr. worked for the Genovese organized crime family, with goons like Meyer Lansky and Vinnie "Blue Eyes" Alo, before he was sentenced to a number of years in Sing-Sing prison.
By Steinhardt Jr.’s own account, the principal partners in his first hedge fund were the Genovese Mafia, Ivan Boesky, Marty Peretz (the aristocrat who funded Cramer), and a man named Marc Rich. Rich is closely connected to Ronald Greenwald, described in the authoritative book Red Mafiya as the man who, along with the Genovese family, brought the Russian Mob to America.
In 1983, Rich was indicted for trading illegally with Iran while Islamic revolutionaries were holding the American embassy hostage in Tehran. Along with his associate, "Pinky" Green, he fled to Switzerland. In 2001, Steinhardt, a big-time operator in Democratic circles, convinced Bill Clinton to give Rich a scandalous presidential pardon, but Rich remains in Switzerland to avoid paying his tax bill.
In the early 1990s, Steinhardt shut down his hedge fund after he was implicated in a scheme to corner the U.S. treasuries market - a horrendous infraction with serious implications for the U.S. economy.
So this is a rough crowd. Says one Wall Street trader: "It was the day the bad guys came to town — when Steinhardt and his people arrived."
One of Steinhardt’s people is Jim Cramer. Another is Cramer’s wife, who was known as the "Trading Goddess" when she worked as Steinhardt’s head trader. Maria Bartiromo, a CNBC anchor known as the "Money Honey," is married to the top partner in Steinhardt’s newest hedge fund. (A former employee of Cramer’s hedge fund has written that Cramer often fed tips to the Money Honey, trading ahead of her stories, and it is rumored that she recruited him to CNBC.)
And then there is David Rocker, the short-selling hedge fund manager believed to be scheming, along with Cramer and Herb, with Gradient Analytics, the financial research shop under SEC investigation in 2006.
Cramer says he’s met Rocker only once - apparently while squeezing the grapefruit at some grocery store. But the truth is, Cramer knows Rocker well. Rocker is a former employee of Steinhardt’s hedge fund. He worked there at the same time as the Trading Goddess.
And, until recently, Rocker was the largest outside shareholder in Cramer’s website, TheStreet.com. Cramer sometimes quotes the hedge fund manager on his television show, and once interviewed him live. Rocker is also a regular writer for TheStreet.com, where he bashes stocks that Cramer subsequently also bashes in multiple stories on both the website and CNBC.
In February 2006, the SEC is investigating Gradient Analytics for disseminating false information about public companies. The agency has affidavits from former employees who say that Gradient’s "independent research" is produced by recent University of Arizona graduates who know little to nothing about finance and essentially take dictation from hedge fund managers, including David Rocker.
One of these employees says that Herb conspired with Rocker to hold his negative stories (premised on Gradient’s false information) until Rocker could establish short positions. This is called front-running - a jailable offense. It is reasonable to suspect that Rocker had similar relationships with TheStreet.com (of which he has owned a substantial portion) and other media.
Not long before Cramer announced his SEC subpoenas, Rocker sold all of his shares in TheStreet.com. Cramer sold around $2 million of his own shares. If Cramer knew about the SEC investigation before he sold his shares, which was almost certainly the case, he was trading on insider information - another jailable offense.
But Cramer don’t know nothin’ about nothin’. And Herb thinks the SEC investigation is an outrage. So Herb and Cramer have commandeered CNBC. They are live on CNBC. Herb has jabbered something about a conspiracy - a conspiracy to get Herb.
And now Cramer is going to show us something.
He’s pulled out a big, red magic marker. Veins are popping, rope-like, from his bald cranium. And he’s snarling. Cramer is actually snarling while he uses the big red magic marker to scribble something on a piece of paper.
He holds the paper up to the camera.
It’s...it’s his government subpoena...Cramer has vandalized his government subpoena! On live TV... in big red letters...
It says, "BULL!"
Jim Cramer is a crook. Wall Street is full of crooks. The next time you see CNBC, keep that in mind. They are not reporting. They are trying to sell you something and, quite possibly, trying to manipulate the market.
Now, one last bit about how this all relates to the financial crisis. The SEC is investigating whether abusive and illegal naked short selling brought down Bear Stearnes and Lehman as well as many other companies.
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, 55, told the Senate Banking Committee yesterday the agency is investigating whether illegal trading contributed to the collapse of Bear Stearns in March and the 75 percent drop in the market value of Lehman Brothers this year. The probe focuses on traders who seek to profit by intentionally spreading false information about the New York- based firms.
In the Jon Stewart video, you can see Cramer talking up Bear Stearns. That doesn't sound like he or one of his hedge fund buddies going short. But remeber, naked short sellers will often try to pump a stock before they trash it to create a wider spread and, consequently, more profit.
But that said, there is some evidence Cramer changed his tune after that SEC subpoena. After mocking people who complained about naked short sellers, he eventually joined the call for reform. Always covering his ass.
Watch Bloomberg's report, which was inspired by the work of Deep Capture, on Naked Short Selling here.
CNBC's Rick Santelli and the "Financial Expert Reporters" are a Fucking Joke.
Republicans and The Rush Limbaugh Clown Car of Awfulness
by Bob Cesca @ HuffPo
The "leader of the Republican Party" question has been thoroughly analyzed and debated. And after many days and many cable news roundelays, I think we can all agree that, yes, the GOP has been inextricably grasped within the meaty, sweaty mitts of that familiar planetoid of addiction, racism and self-indulgence known as Rush Limbaugh.
And that's just fine and dandy.
But contrary to what Drudge and Politico are reporting today, this isn't some sort of wicked conspiracy cooked up by Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs from within the same underground war room where they keep the president's madrassa diploma and his secret Kenyan birth certificate.
This Limbaugh situation is entirely the fault of the Republican Party. The White House is merely exploiting it -- and rightly so.
Throughout the last several decades, the Republican Party has been careening willingly towards this destiny. Year after year, the Republicans have been magnetically drawn ever closer to the simplistic worldview espoused by far-right talk radio: a segment of American society that's perhaps a little too comfy with laughing at a racial or sexist joke, or repeating nearsighted bumper sticker slogans like, "Your mortgage is not my problem."
The Republican Party has become the purview of The Dittohead: the thoughtless undead automaton who lazily yet proudly announces on the radio that he or she doesn't simply "ditto" but, in fact, "mega-dittos" everything spoken by Rush Limbaugh. "Mega" as in millions of times over.
Michael Steele has proved himself to be a Dittohead. Mike Pence and Rick Santorum and Tom DeLay? All dittoheads. You'd be hard pressed to find a Republican politician who hasn't in some way expressed his or her Dittohead status while also genuflecting at the bloated cankles of their radio warlord.
So it should come as no surprise that the leader of the dittoheads has become the leader of the Republicans.
The Republicans have positioned themselves in such a way that publicly renouncing their Dittohead status will provoke the furious anger of their leader who has so often retaliated against disloyal subjects with a Mr. Creosote caliber geyser of acidic hell, effectively emasculating any attempt at escape. Limbaugh has indeed broken the Republicans and I'm pretty sure they know it. Yet they're powerless to do anything about it.
We can only assume that they understand the hazards involved with being absorbed into Limbaugh's universe -- and they especially have to know that the Democrats know. And that leads to the big question: Why is it supremely awesome that the Republicans have become the Dittohead Party?
So far, the establishment press and cable news hasn't fully examined this all-important "why" factor. Sure, there's been plenty of talk about Limbaugh's famous "wanting President Obama to fail" remarks and how wishing for failure makes the Republicans seem like they're okay with the American economy failing, just as long as they can start winning elections again.
That's pretty bad. But the problems inherent in becoming trapped inside the Limbaugh tractor beam go much deeper and, as Chairman Steele's gut instinct spilled out, uglier.
It's easy to temporarily forget Limbaugh's record of awfulness because the latest controversy tends to obliterate memories of past controversies -- controversies to which the Republicans have, by proxy, tethered themselves. If Limbaugh is the leader of the Republicans and the Republicans are, indeed, willing to embrace Limbaugh as such a leader, then the Republicans are embracing the whole nasty package.
To fall under the rule of Limbaugh means that the Republicans have sealed their status as the party of race-baiting. In Limbaugh's world, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama simply because Obama is black -- excuse me, Halfrican American. In Limbaugh's world, all blacks say "axe" instead of "ask." In Limbaugh's world, it's hilarious to pronounce Mayor Ray Nagin's name as Mayor Nay-ger. In Limbaugh's world, black contestants on Survivor are at a disadvantage because "blacks can't swim."
To fall under the rule of Limbaugh means that the Republicans have become the party of sexism. In Limbaugh's world, women who seek equal rights are making up for the fact that they're "ugly." In Limbaugh's world, it's hilarious to compare pubescent teenage girls to "the family dog." In Limbaugh's world, women live longer because their lives are somehow "easier." I can't imagine that would apply to Limbaugh's three ex-wives, but okay.
To fall under the rule of Limbaugh means that the Republicans have become the party of comparing torture to fraternity pranks. They've become the party of multiple divorces. The party of Oxycontin addiction. The party of "phony soldiers." The party of mysterious all-male excursions to foreign nations while in possession of erectile dysfunction medication prescribed under a false name. They've become the party of wild conspiracy theories like the one Limbaugh was repeating in October -- maybe you've heard this one. Did you know that Barack Obama traveled to Hawaii, not to visit his then-gravely ill grandmother, but instead to participate in the cover-up of his secret birth certificate?
To fall under the rule of Limbaugh means that the Republicans have become the party of this:
The Republicans are bowing to the leadership of a man who physically mocked the involuntary tremors of a Parkinson's disease victim. I can't underscore this enough. Rush Limbaugh, the leader of the Republican Party, actually imitated and exaggerated Michael J. Fox's Parkison's tremors.
Governor Jindal: "I think Rush is a great leader for conservatives."
Chairman Michael Steele: "I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh."
Congressman Mike Pence: "I think Rush Limbaugh -- who I admire, and like millions of Americans, I cherish his voice in the public debate."
And so the Republicans expect to be taken seriously now?
No wonder the White House is gleefully winking and nudging everyone in the direction of this Republican clown car of awfulness -- if not for the political advantage, for the sheer spectacle of watching the once mighty Republican Party effectively screwing itself. The Democrats, on one hand, appear to be busily going about the business of cleaning up the mess left behind by three decades of Reaganomics while, on the other the hand, the Republicans are duct-taping themselves to the ample bosom of the most self-satirical political sideshow geek in American media history, while also expecting this will help their electoral chances.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
John Stewart Evicerates Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.
Republican Party Leadership: Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Michael Steele. Common Theme? None Can Win National Office. Hilarious.
GOP SQUAD O9!
by Ellis Weiner
They're young. They're hip. They're "bad." They've got conservative vibes and a with-it vocabulary full of talking points and "buzz words" and they really know what's happening, baby. They can bum out the seniors with some hairy entitlement alarmism, and then hang loose with the Jesus Freaks by coming on all traditional-values and stuff. And they can rap with the kids, too, tweeting their wiki down the google tubes and blogging their browsers in high-def in your facebook, luv. They work for The Man and even sometimes for The Woman. They function within the System, because they do their own thing, and the System is their thing.
If it feels good, they tell you not to do it and then they do it. If it sounds good, they say it. If it polls good, they support it--or they say they do, or they say they did whether they did or not and hey: If it doesn't add up, make sense, or prove true; if the scene goes bad or the vibe gets bummed, that's your hang-up. They're not "escaping Reality." They're building their own Reality. And they've been brought together by one man who believes they can get down, get funky, and get votes all at the same time.
They call themselves the GOP Squad. Check out their happening thing:
SARAH!--She's young. She's fine. She's a mom and a governor and a rising star of the far right and a stone cold double-talking wolf-shooting fox. Her old man's a hunk who used to want to secede from the Union, 'cause Alaska is outta sight. You know Sarah's hip to the environment, 'cause she's got a dead crab on her coffee table the size of a schnauzer. She blows off global warming, too, because it snowed somewhere last week and the chick is cool. Brains? She's reads so many newspapers she can't remember any of them.
And feature this: the lady lobbies for scratch (for a bridge to, like, Nowhere, man) and then she hears it's not groovy? She says she didn't want it from Jump Street. And then cops it anyway! That's 'cause she doesn't dig the whole Socialism thing, and every time she lays some bread on her constituents via their annual share of the income realized from investing the royalty revenue from the oil companies' exploitation of the Prudhoe Bay oil reserves, she hips them to it, and it's beautiful. She talks the talk even when she's too busy laying the groundwork for the 2012 campaign to walk the walk. So ask her anything. She'll be lip-flappin' and jive-talkin' 'til you wig out bad, baby.
MIKE!--What if they gave a Republican Party and everybody came? That's Mike, Chairman-With-No-Hair-Man of the GOP. But hey. Never you mind that chrome dome, Jerome--Mike is five freaking months younger than Dem Chair Tim Kaine and that, in essence, is what-it-is. He's black, you understand, so the brother possesses what most people can agree is a reasonable quantity of soul. The cat knows how The Machine works 'cause he was part of it--in state Government, that whole trip. Now he's laying down some righteous riffs.
Says government jobs aren't jobs, they're "work." Says the Party needs to let the sunshine out with a boss and groovy Hip-Hop-type packaging approach of marketing and "branding" and so forth. Says the way to bring power to the People is to let Republicans lead 'em out of the Big Economic Muddy they got us into because they got us into it. Says jobs that go away "come back."
You tell him: Hey, man. But that's like a cop-out. Big banks are crashing and don't know how to value their assets from a hole in the ground, and the Dow is barely more than half of what it was, and this bad trip is global. What does Mike say? He says, "Small businesses will get us out of this." You say: Oh wow. The small businesses that are going bankrupt? The ones that need credit and can't get it? The ones that only exist thanks to contracts with big businesses, as GM goes belly-up and CitiCorp gets nationalized? He says, There it is.
That's Mike's bag. It's a backwards-upside down-trickle up-psychedelic freakout. It'll do a number on your head 'cause it's got levels. Because everything is everything and This Is It. Far fucking out.
BOBBY!--He's young. He's smooth. His ancestors were Indian and he looks kinda black and his parents were Hindu--like Ghandi. But there is no need to flip out or become up-tight. When Bobby speaks he sounds more like Mister Rogers than Mister Nehru, and he converted to Catholicism. Which is cool, and fab, and very, very gear, our-Judeo-Christian-heritage-wise. Meanwhile, are you interested in heavy? Bobby took part in an actual, somewhat documented, super-tuff exorcism. Not only can he talk to political conservatives, and to religious conservatives, he can talk to demons, okay?
But that's not the limit of the extent to which he is with-it. Bobby is an Intelligent Design head. The cat is a Rhodes Scholar and has a degree in Bio from Brown, so he can get down with the brainiacs. But folks who think the Earth is 6,000 years old and that God produced the beetles dig him, too. Accident? Hang in there, baby--it's politics. There are no accidents. Contradiction? There are no contradictions, although sometimes there are. Schizophrenic? Yes and no. When it comes to irreducible complexity, Bobby's as irreducible and complex as they come.
Like Sarah, he can tell a story: Said he was there, when Katrina went down, in a sheriff's office as the fuzz got righteously P.O.'d at a Fed bureaucrat for withholding boats to rescue folks from their flood-imperiled pads. Then it turned out he wasn't there, only heard the pig yakkity-yakking about it on the phone days later.
Like Mike, he has a mantra: "Americans can do anything." It's "Om mani padme hum" Looziana-style. Say it long enough and it changes the universe. Or at least folks think it does. Or at least Bobby thinks folks think it does. Because it's all in your head.
CAPTAIN RUSH: A gentle giant who's only giant horizontally and is anything but gentle. Irascible-but-lovable-but-obnoxious-but-loud, with a crusty exterior concealing a heart of soft, warm hate, he's the one in charge, the grown-up, the boss. This was his idea, to bring together these three non-conformist rebel-hot-heads-patriots-symbols-of-conservative-resurgence-with-racial-ethnic-and-gender-crossover-appeal. Of course he can't do it alone. He's got help. That's where Joe "My Name Isn't Joe And I'm Not a Plumber" The Plumber fits in.
Rush knows that war is not unhealthy for defense contractors and other Republican things. He knows that reality is for people who can't face drugs--and he faces drugs every day. He knows that if Obama fails to solve the problems created by Republican policies, then they weren't created by Republican policies--and if he does solve them, then they weren't problems. Like the I Ching says, you're either on the bus or off the bus; well, dig--Rush is the bus. And he wants to throw America under it every day, in the name of "conservative principles."
If Sarah's finances look hinky, Rush is there to blame everything on Clinton. If Mike goes off-message, Rush is there to call Harry Reid a socialist. If Bobby's speech is a turn-off and a bring-down, with a come-on like a come-down you can put down as a put-on, Rush is there to dub him "the next Ronald Reagan."
The GOP Squad: Three misfits of gender and color, ready to take it to the streets and make the Party happening again. With Michele Bachmann as "Michele, The Embarrassing Secretary" and Mitch McConnell as "The Crypt-keeper."
Can you dig it? Peace out.Cross-posted at What HE Said
Republican's New Philosophy: Just Say No to Anything Obama Proposes. That isn't a governing philosophy... it's Nihilism.
By David Plouffe
Wednesday, March 4, 2009; A15
The 2008 election sent many messages. At the top: Americans wanted to turn the page on the politics of division and partisan pettiness, and they wanted a government -- and country -- that would put the middle class first.
Watching the Republicans operate this past month, it would appear that they missed that unmistakable signal.
Instead, Rush Limbaugh has become their leader.
Limbaugh, of course, told his radio listeners that he's rooting for President Obama to fail -- and hoping the president's ideas for bolstering our economy fail with him. For many Americans, hungry for leadership and cooperation, this sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. When Limbaugh reiterated the sentiment this weekend, hundreds of Republican conservatives cheered him on. But instead of rebuking the radio personality or charting their own course, Republican leaders in Washington are paralyzed with fear of crossing their leader. Less than 24 hours after committing the unforgivable sin of criticizing Limbaugh, RNC Chairman Michael Steele felt compelled to publicly apologize. He was not the first and will certainly not be the last.
Limbaugh's voice could be heard in the words of new Republican quarterback Eric Cantor, who says the GOP's strategy will be to "Just Say No" -- not for substantive or philosophical reasons but to advance Limbaugh's strategy for failure. Independent voters, those who find the ways of Washington particularly toxic, could be forgiven for wondering whether the Republican minority has any clue what is happening in our country.
Last week's Post-ABC News poll shows that voters trust President Obama on the economy by a remarkable 35 percentage points more than they trust Republicans in Congress -- the biggest advantage for a president on this question since George H.W. Bush basked in public approval of his handling of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
The source of Obama's advantage is critical: independent voters, who give the president high marks on his handling of the economy and his job overall.
Obama won these voters, who famously recoil from what they see as overly partisan and shortsighted politics, by eight points in 2008 -- a dramatic improvement for the Democrats from 2004, when George Bush and John Kerry tied.
There are other groups of voters worth watching. Among those with a history of voting in presidential elections, Obama and Sen. John McCain essentially ran even. Obama won first-time voters by a convincing 39 points -- owing largely to a combination of younger voters, Hispanic voters and disaffected voters.
The sentiment seems alive and well today. Seventy-three percent of all voters, The Post found, believe that the president is trying to cooperate with Republicans. Only 36 percent believe the same to be true of the GOP.
It would surprise no one to learn where new voters and independents came down on that question.
Thus far, Republican leaders have let their strategy be guided by their most conservative base, capturing perhaps a third of the nation's voters. For Republican candidates seeking the support of right-wing activists in Iowa, who will exercise outsize influence in the presidential selection process in four years, that strategy -- while not entirely defensible in the midst of an economic crisis -- is understandable.
But any party that hopes to actually govern must appeal to moderates. Today, "moderate" is not an adjective that many would associate with the GOP minority in Congress. And a strategy designed chiefly to satisfy the 33 percent of voters who approved of George Bush's performance last fall -- while turning off first-time and swing voters -- hardly seems like the best way out of the political wilderness.
But Republicans aren't simply guilty of knee-jerk reactions in opposing efforts to reach common ground. They also thumb their noses at the middle class, those who are struggling mightily in these rocky economic times. One after the other, congressional Republicans declared before TV cameras that the president's economic recovery plan won't work -- that it would rocket the country toward socialism and would only make things worse.
The truth? Obama's recovery package contains the biggest middle-class tax cut in history. It will create or save at least 3 million jobs. In every community, district and state, its impact will soon be felt. Obama has made clear that this measure, while crucial, won't solve all our economic problems overnight. But no matter what the eventual impact, congressional Republicans have staked out their position: steadfastly opposing something most Americans see as reducing middle-class taxes and creating jobs when the country needs those outcomes most.
There is still time for Washington Republicans to join some of their colleagues outside the Beltway and become partners in progress. As Americans, we should all hope that happens.
But if the GOP sticks with its strategy of failure as the only option, further eroding its brand with the people who decide elections, we may find out what it means for a political party to hit rock bottom.
The writer is senior adviser at AKPD Message and Media, a political consulting firm. He served as campaign manager for Obama for America and Obama-Biden 2008.
John Yoo is a Hack. He should not be teaching anyone.
John Yoo's Legal Groundwork for the Possible Subversion of Liberty that U.S. Citizens Narrowly Avoided
If history gets this recent era right, future textbooks will have to show that the US narrowly averted a carefully planned but thorough and unmistakable conspiracy to subvert the rule of law and the process of democracy from 2001-2008. For three years, since writing End of America, I have been arguing that the Bush team sought irretrievably to subvert our liberty. Fortunately, this appalling and conceivably irrevocable subversion of the tenets of freedom was narrowly averted by citizens at every level -- from the grassroots to the courts -- resisting in time. But the release this week by the Justice Department of the "secret memos" sought valiantly by the ACLU confirms that Bush's legal architects were building up the framework for something even scarier than our most anguished projections.
You can see the documents themselves online -- but, as usual, there is a gap between the cautious journalistic interpretation of the event and the dense legalese in which they are written, and no one yet has really explained to citizens who are not attorneys what these memos claimed to give Bush the right to do. This is my initial reading of these documents:
Most dramatically, one memo asserts that Bush can deploy the military within the United States -- all of the military if he so wishes -- overriding Posse Comitatus, which has kept us safe from military policing for over a century. As many heard me warn in October and November of last year, when the first troops were sent to US streets, history shows that once the military is deployed domestically to "keep order" in a civil society, it is over. This memo is especially galling, since last fall's red alert from us was met with alarm by citizens but by ridicule by mainstream media outlets. Turns out we were right. This `deployment' memo proves that Bush indeed, as we feared, wanted the power to deploy military for domestic policing purposes, a mission that Northcom spokesmen denied -- apparently falsely -- when a few critics from non-mainstream platforms raised the alarm last November about the deployment of the First Brigade from Iraq to the US. This memo shows that Bush sought the power to deploy any number of U.S. military into the U.S. itself for any reason he chose; direct them to rip through your home without a warrant, even if you have not been charged with anything; seize material and documents; and even gave Bush the power to use deadly force against you -- yes, you, innocent US citizen -- "in self-defense." In your homes and streets -- not on a faraway battlefield. Major David Antoon confirmed that this power -- to send US military to control, arrest and even shoot US civilians in self-defense -- was in Bush's hands last fall when I asked Antoon about it. Turns out this memo shows Bush indeed wanted to have that power.
Another memo would give the power to Bush -- at his discretion -- to close down or censor newspapers, radio and the Internet - override the First Amendment in the interest of "national security." So if he had deployed, say, ten brigades -- 37,000 warriors -- in key cities (he deployed three before the election and 20,000 are due to be deployed domestically by 2012 unless we stop it), you would not be able to hear about it through the news media if he invoked this power to suspend free speech. And if you protested -- if you dared -- well, his actions would have been -- thanks to John Yoo and others, who will go down in history along with the criminal Nuremberg lawyers as one of Satan's willing attorneys -- perfectly legal.
Yet another memo gives Bush not only the right to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant" and hold him or her indefinitely - a danger we knew about, and one that we have tried hard to alert citizens to, a warning that has seemingly penetrated collective consciousness. The newly released memo demonstrates that was the very surface of the powers over US citizens Bush claimed. For three years when I have cautioned citizens about this power Bush invoked to seize US citizens as "enemy combatants" I reassured them that he did not yet have the power to torture US citizens, "only" drive them mad through prolonged isolation in a navy brig. Well, this memo asserts Bush's right to do whatever he wants to innocent US citizens in this kind of custody, and rejects the notion that Congress would have any role in how US citizens are held or treated -- say, by the hypothetically deployed military - on US soil. It seems also to claim the right to hold innocent US citizens in domestic military custody while Bush has the right to do anything he wants to them. Anything he wants. Remember this is an administration in which Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld and Cheney have now been proven by Jameel Jaffer's revelations in Administration of Torture to have known about and okay'd not just waterboarding as a policy but ok'd the discretion for interrogators to use tactics such as electrodes attached to genitals, sexual assault, threats against family members, suffocation, the beating of prisoners' legs to "pulp," and in some cases the covering up of their murders. This memo gives Bush the authority to do those things if he wants to innocent US citizens.
Still another memo gives Bush the right to ignore any international treaties -- to take over any country, say, or render and citizen anywhere, and do whatever he wants to the citizens of any country against any law, without consent of Congress.
The Washington Post called these memos "legal errors." We need to stare them in the face and understand them: they are evidence that the groundwork was laid out that gave the president the legal power effectively subvert the Republic. We need to understand the full darkness of what we narrowly escaped -- for now, our work is hardly begun. We need to build these lessons into our history and to use the terror they represent to dismantle the last of Bush's evil legacy -- a legacy that could have been activated by any US president in the future, including Obama or McCain -- and see these memos for what they are: the revealed architecture of an intended edifice of what amounts to treason again our republic and against all of us, regardless of belief, station of life, or political party.
John Yoo is a War Criminal. He should be disbarred.
TerrorismJohn Yoo Says His Memos ‘Were Not for Public Consumption’
Posted 41 minutes ago
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The author of several controversial Justice Department memos that endorsed expansive presidential powers and harsh interrogation techniques following the Sept. 11 attacks says he is worried about the impact of their release.
John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is on leave to work as a visiting law professor at Chapman University. He spoke to the Orange County Register about a wide range of topics, ranging from the ethnic food in Los Angeles (it’s “way better”) to the negative reaction to his views (it’s not surprising at Berkeley, “sort of a magnet for hippies, protesters and left-wing activists.”)
The Justice Department released nine of the post-Sept. 11 memos yesterday. One of them, written by Yoo, says government troops could storm buildings housing terrorists, and protections guaranteeing free speech and warrantless searches could be suspended in wartime.
“These memos I wrote were not for public consumption,” Yoo told the newspaper. “They lack a certain polish. I think [it] would have been better to explain government policy rather than try to give unvarnished, straight-talk legal advice. I certainly would have done that differently, but I don't think I would have made the basic decisions differently.”
Yoo said it is the job of a lawyer to give a straight answer to the client, and he worries that kind of legal advice could be jeopardized:
“One thing I sometimes worry about is that lawyers in the future in the government are going to start worrying about, ‘What are people going to think of me?’ ” Yoo told the Register. “Your client the president, or your client the justice on the Supreme Court, or your client this senator, needs to know what's legal and not legal. And sometimes, what's legal and not legal is not the same thing as what you can do or what you should do.”
Yoo says he wishes the legality of his memos weren’t under the microscope, “but I understand why they are. It is something one would expect. You have to make these kinds of decisions in an unprecedented kind of war with legal questions we've never had to think about before. We didn't seek out those questions. 9/11 kind of thrust them on us. No matter what you do, there's going to be a lot of people who are upset with your decision.”
Yoo says he’s not worried about his legacy, since final judgments won’t be made for years or even decades—after he’s had time to explain himself. And he’s not eager to go back into government service. “If I never serve in government again, that would be fine with me,” he said. “I'm happy with my job as a professor.”