California Dreaming: A Look at How the Right-Wing Media and Republican Establishment are Conning Their Own Senior Citizens – Literally

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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157 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I was going to mention another Rick Perlstein book called Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. There is nothing new under the sun. This stuff has been around for decades if not longer. The American Prospect published this today:

    http://prospect.org/article/we-shall-overwhelmReport

  2. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Some top notch muckraking here, Tod.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    This is the first time I heard about this particular con and I live in California.

    I admire your ability to read this stuff. Thank you for doing it so I don’t have to.Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    Has the GOP really come to that?

    Yes. God Bless America and nobody else.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    It… It doesn’t really matter if, in fact, on October 16 California remains part of the U.S., does it?Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      It’s like a cult. Aliens coming on this day, end of the world on that, Jesus’ return on that day over there.

      No, it doesn’t matter. Not happening just makes them dig deeper for their rationalizations, making them more fervent and (most critical) more generous supporting the propagandists.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        “Thanks to our zealous reporting and the resulting efforts of true American patriots like you, Barack Hussein Obama’s plot to destroy America has been thwarted.”

        And on to the next “threat” that explains why you should invest in gold.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      No.

      Just like it does not matter that apocalypse watchers are proved wrong again and again and again.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      Yes, it does. All of these people will publicly apologize, and then commit seppuku 🙂Report

  6. This was amazing Tod, and infinitely more thorough than I ever could have imagined when I forwarded that email on a whim because I lacked the time to write anything about it at all. This is like real, actual journalism. Thank you for this.Report

  7. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    I’ve spent all day looking for anything in the Constitution that gives the federal gov’t this authority, and I just can’t seem to find it. Little help here?

    Would Mexico really want to try to take on California against the wishes of most of its inhabitants? I mean, they’re not really as stupid as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, are they?Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “I’ve spent all day looking for anything in the Constitution that gives the federal gov’t this authority, and I just can’t seem to find it. Little help here?”

      It’s right after the section which gives the US government the power to buy territory 🙂Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I’m not convinced Mexico could even win a conventional war against California to be frank. That’s one big wealthy populous state and there’re a lot of military assets parked there.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        The question is what the U.S. military forces would do. Presumably they’d have to withdraw, California now being part of a foreign state, unless their staying was part of the agreement….you know, like in Saudi Arabia. But then they’d be forced to stay neutral–defense of Californians would no longer be defense of Americans (bitter conservative: “that’s not defense of Americans now! /bitter conservative).

        Mexico’s got about a quarter million people in their army, and California’s only got about 16,000 in its guard units (and here I’m making the assumption they’ll follow the state, not the U.S.), so if Mexico can spare enough troops from helping…er, fighting the drug cartels, they’ll easily overrun Cali’s weekend warriors.

        It’s all over, man. All over. Next time I go to visit the in-laws I’ll need a passport. (bitter conservative: “You should have needed a passport to get back into the U.S. last time you went there, too!” /bitter conservative)Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The question is what the U.S. military forces would do.

        The U.S. military has a strong interest in keeping the country together. First, for a variety of reasons, a bunch of smaller pieces are unlikely to fund as much military as the whole currently does. Second, and more specific to California, there are a bunch of fixed assets the military would want to keep hold of if they are to continue the present mission and scope. Not just the massive Navy facilities; Vandenberg is a principle launch site for military spy satellites, particularly those going into polar orbit.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        I don’t think there’s any conceivable way we’d let Mexico have California because in part, we don’t need another poor, dysfunctional country on our shore. We might, however, sell California to China, creating both immediate and long term revenue. The Chinese would very likely do a much better job with the place, economically, essentially offshoring work to perhaps 10 to 20 million Chinese citizens who’d be brought in to provide productive labor, factory supervision, and political control.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        @michael-cain well, it depends. “The U.S. Military” is an overly simplistic term in this analysis that gives a very false monolithic connotation. What would actually happen is entirely dependent on the specific political background that would spur such a split – as in any other civil war, secession movement, or insurgency.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        @michael-cain,

        But who does the U.S. Army take its orders from? Itself? Or the C in C?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        US Army chain of command. It’s not as simple as POTUS giving an order and all the soldiers hop-to and start obeying it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Blaise,

        I understand. But if
        1. Congress authorizes the President to sell California to Mexico (assuming it actually had such authority);

        2. the president negotiates a treaty to so;

        3. the Senate ratifies the treaty;

        4. the President disburses the money to the Mexican authorities, and;

        5. the President orders the U.S. military to evacuate California by some set date, and commands the Joint Chiefs to figure out where to relocate all their troops and equipment.

        What, then, does the military do? Commit treason to save California? Or follow the C in C’s orders (however unhappily)?

        California to Mexico, the President signed the bill authorizing the saleReport

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The National Guard is under state control, though that gets very complicated. They have dual allegiances under Title 32 and Title 10 of US Code.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        Then there’s the nuclear chain of command to consider.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Well, the real question is whether Congress has the power to authorize the President to do this.

        The biggest historical precedents would acquisitions, which have been claimed either via executive-negotiated and legislatively-ratified treaties or via a claim of right of conquest. The second hearkens back to the common law of Merrye Olde England, while the first comes from an explicit grant of authority in Article II, section 2, which provides that the President “shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur … .”

        But can Congress divest territory, or can Congress only acquire it? We have many precedents from time of war in which we disavowed the right of conquest, returning property we had taken by military force to foreign actors, say, Mexico or Cuba. That seems to me to be a case where for political reasons the government chooses not to assert a power that possesses and could in theory have exercised if it wished. Different qualitatively than a question of whether the power exists in the first place.

        California is presently a state. So the first big obstacle that comes to my mind is the Guaranty clause, although that might not apply if California ceased to be a state of the Union. And who’s to say that Mexico doesn’t have a republican form of government? So, maybe this not a problem. 🙂

        Of course, there’s the inconvenient notion of state sovereignty and Federalism. Article IV, section 3 seems to strongly indicate that Congress many not, unilaterally at least, strip a state of its powers: “…nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.” I read this to mean that if Congress were to sell California to Mexico, California’s consent to the transaction is required. In other words, Sacramento at minimum gets a veto.

        But what if the government of California likes the idea of becoming part of Mexico, too — what if California votes to agree to the transaction? Does Sacramento have the power to assent? Now we come to Texas v. White (1869) 74 U.S. 700, a case I’m going to have on my list of Great Cases if I ever find time and energy to revive that project. Chief Justice Salmon Chase wrote for the Court that the Constitution was built upon the foundation of the Articles of Confederation, which had declared the union to be “perpetual,” and therefore upon admission, “[t]he union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.” Id. at 726.

        So that last clause hints that indeed, if both the state in question and Congress agree on secession, a state can indeed secede. Now, secession indicates the state assumes full sovereign status as an autonomous nation rather than becoming a part of a different nation, but that’s not such a huge step, and even if it were legally necessary it could be built in to the structure of the transaction to happen, at the expense of a second time Sacramento could exercise a veto: would California secede from the Union and becomes the California Republic again, for a day, and then the California Republic would consent to annexation by Los Estados Unidos de México.

        TL/DR: If Washington, Mexico City, and Sacramento all formally agree, the existing caselaw provides that there is power to sell California to Mexico.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        If you follow no other link in my comment above, follow the last one.Report

      • Avatar trumwill says:

        Oddly enough, that’s the second time I’ve seen Texas vs White cited in as many weeks.

        I am personally partial to selling the west to China instead of Mexico. China will build up a bunch of ghost cities, go broke, and then we can buy it back at a song. But with new cities for people to move into!Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I fear the motives of an inscrutable government that would built a modern Italianate town in China complete with bicycle-sharing, but then not actually use it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Chief Justice Salmon Chase wrote for the Court that the Constitution was built upon the foundation of the Articles of Confederation,

        Piffle.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Sarcasm, Professor Aitch? I’d agree that the Constitution replaced the Articles.

        Chase’s point was, even during the time of the Articles, the Union was thought of as not susceptible of dissolution, and adopting the Constitution didn’t change that. (Which, when you think about it, doesn’t resolve the issue that he opened up — can a state leave if both it and Congress consent?)

        Chase was probably the right man for the job politically speaking at the time he was appointed. But we’ve had better legal minds on the Court than him.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Burt,

        I see the Constitution as a rejection of the Articles and the structure of union it created. (What too few people grasp, in my view, is that the Articles didn’t create a single country, but 13 sovereign states in a confederation with a coordinating body rather than an actual government-more EU than contemporary USA.)

        Curiously, though, the Constitution dropped the “perpetual union” language of the Articles. Normally we’d interpret that to mean a rejection of that principle. That seems just wrong, though, because there’s no other indication that they didn’t intend to remain united, and the whole purpose of replacing the Articles with the Constitution was to strengthen that union. But it does leave open a space for questioning.

        And from my own perspective, since each state came in voluntarily and had sovereign authority to choose not to join (Rhode Island didn’t join until after the Constitution was in effect, elections had taken place, Washington sworn in, and the new Congress in session), it’s a stretch–in the absence of clear language to the contrary–to claim that a voluntary joiner has abandoned all prospect of ever leaving. I can’t think of any, or at least many, other voluntary associations that have such a restriction.

        If Texans, for example, actually wanted to leave the union, and could demonstrate that by way of a good constitutional-level process, I’d say the U.S. should let them go. Negotiating the details for transfers of gov’t property, etc., could be complex, but if the Soviet Union can manage it, or Czechoslovakia, there’s no inherent reason the U.S. couldn’t.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        James. Alaska and Hawaii would have arguments against joining of their own free will. Secession is complicated by both White v Texas and the wording of the fourteenth. The only way this works is if one side of the country decides to leave while the other side is so sick of the crap they help pack their bags.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Hypothetical — sorta: During Katrina, 40 percent of Louisiana’s National Guard (and a good deal of their equipment) was in Iraq. Did the governor of LA have the mandate to recall them?Report

      • Avatar trumwill says:

        James,

        If Texans, for example, actually wanted to leave the union, and could demonstrate that by way of a good constitutional-level process, I’d say the U.S. should let them go. Negotiating the details for transfers of gov’t property, etc., could be complex, but if the Soviet Union can manage it, or Czechoslovakia, there’s no inherent reason the U.S. couldn’t.

        You say “should” and I am inclined to agree with some qualifications (the “why” and “what do you intend to do?” being two of them). That’s a different question, though, than whether they have no moral right to prevent it. Because if they don’t, there is no negotiation. The state gets to leave and that’s that. There’s no court for the US to take to get compensation for federal property and holdings or national debt division.

        It’s only if you say “All sides must agree” that the US has any real leverage on such matters.

        To go back to my original statement, though, I think the US ought to engage in good faith negotiations unless the departing state is doing or intends to do something we cannot tolerate. The last clause basically being the intent to do something to deprive the American citizens living there of life and property. What they want to depart for being a factor in consideration.

        But in any event, if we’re talking negotiation, we’re not talking about letting anyone unilaterally decide to leave.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        …I am inclined to agree with some qualifications (the “why” and “what do you intend to do?” being two of them)

        They won’t answer those question upfront. They never do. But soon enough we’ll hear all the rationalizations after the fact: “invading Oklahoma was an issue of national self-defense!” and “Colorado is part of the Texdetenland!” and all that. I’m shocked you guys are even considering this.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Will,
        Ultimately everything is more or less bilateral. Even if a state has a unilateral right to leave, they’d damn well better consider some negotiations to avoid a U.S. military response. And the state probably has US military units in it that can’t automatically become units of the newly independent state’s military, both because of the citizenship identities (self-identified, especially) of the soldiers and the chain of command that runs up to the U.S. gov’t. Of course if a military response in the absence of negotiation isn’t at all probable, then the secession is already a bilateral agreement.

        Cascadia,
        Yes, history complicates theory. Hawai’i especially, since it was actually a sovereign state that we conquered. But since the theory of joining–originally, at least–was on a voluntary basis, I’d certainly extend the decision to exit voluntarily to the people of those states.

        And of course there’s then the complicating factor of how that population has changed as a consequence of our incorporation of that land. But I’d take the wishes of the current populace, period, regardless of their ethnicity or ancestral history with the land.Report

      • Avatar trumwill says:

        Still, I’m not saying that we should take them at their word. I am saying that if we don’t have reason to believe that they are going to do such a thing, then I think there is an obligation to let a particular state go its own way. This isn’t radical. It’s Canada/Quebec. The main thing to look at is how the political leaders of the state are selling it to their people. If they’re drumming up support by talking about confiscating the land of some and giving it to others, then we already have an idea of their intentions. (In case I wasn’t clear, a vote would be required. A state government should not be able to do it on its own.)

        James, If the US is threatening military action, it’s not really abiding by a requirement that the state has an inherent right to leave, is it? Of course if a military response in the absence of negotiation isn’t at all probable, then the secession is already a bilateral agreement. suggests to me that we are mostly in agreement, though.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        James, I’m not sure how to deal with Hawaii. It seems an awful lot like Tibet. It’s also true that history does complicate theory. Remember the last time this was done successfully. The Articles of Confederation were supposed to be permanent. They went the way of the dodo with an undemocratic backroom process. Hardly a whimper.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I read this to mean that if Congress were to sell California to Mexico, California’s consent to the transaction is required. In other words, Sacramento at minimum gets a veto.

        Let’s see… California per capita income $51,914; Mexico per capita income $9,742. The Pentagon’s 2010 Joint Operating Environment included in its significant risks the possibility of a failed Mexican state within the next decade due to inability to control the drug gangs and disappearance of the federal government’s revenues from oil exports. I can see Sacramento agreeing to strike out on their own. But does anyone think they would agree to be strapped onto Mexico?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I for one welcome our new Spanish-speaking overlords.Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    so I googled 0ct. 15, 2013 to see what happens that day. Some changes to laws about munitions go into effect. It’s the beginning of the new open enrollment day for Medicare.

    Finally, I found it: it’s the day the new disqus upgrade happens. The world as we know it through blog comments will end.Report

  9. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    My apologies for the unsolicited copy-editing, but I’m wondering if the Wall Street Daily‘s motto in paragraph 6 is something more like “In a world of liars . . . .” I’d also suggest the marine sucker in paragraph 10 is a remora, rather than a moray.Report

  10. Avatar zic says:

    And just when you thought they’d hit bottom, there’s this

    Anti-Obamacare rape ads.Report

  11. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    But, an anti-war protestor once held up a sign that had the words ‘Bush’ and ‘Nazi’ in it, so both sides are equally to blame. Next on the Nightly News…Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      Is your tongue really as far in your cheek as you think it is?Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

        C’mon Aitch, it should be apparent by now that a big problem with this site is a failure to address the unique deficiencies of the right, combined with the failure to admit that the left is without faults.

        As long as this is the case, and once the “conservative” (and conservative) contributors stop bothering to come around, the evolution is tragically incomplete.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I had to read that three times, Mr. Blue, but in the end, you made my day.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Way off topic and probably a bit shallow, but I kind of miss your old gravatar, MB. It was one of my favorites on this site.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

        Tod, I’m flattered anyone even noticed. I felt kind of like a phony with the other one, since I am not actually an Azure-American and I thought it might be offensive to actual Azure-Americans. I actually changed it because Trumwill invited me to coblog at Hit Coffee and I figured I would make myself look non-alien.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Whoa, Mr. Blue. I’m glad you’re co-blogging with Will, but I’m going to have to encourage him to make you restore your old gravatar. That was a classic.

        I liked you before. But now? All your comments suddenly suck.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I have not idea why this is, but whenever I saw it it made me think of Thelonius Monk.

        But I understand, of course. We want OT to be place where Azure-Americans feel comfortable to hang out and be themselves without fear that they’re being judged or mocked.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

        Aitch, it is a testament to your goodwill and language skills that you read through my messed up wordage. Thank you, sir.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        We at Hit Coffee are an open-minded lot. We accept Azure-Americans whether they are blue in spirit, by birth, or because they ingested large amounts of colloidal silver. (Seriously, either gravatar is okay.)Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

        You can joke about colloidal silver all you want, but when the financial crisis comes we’re split into ten districts, you’ll wish you had been drinking it. And taken our financial advice and bought stock in it. Have you seen our brochure?Report

  12. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    At least when the Democratic Party was openly corrupt, during the days of Tammany Hall and the other great machines, we made sure that our voters got at least some services in return. The modern GOP is worse than Boss Tweed.Report

  13. Avatar Barry says:

    BTW, Rick Pearlstein’s article on this sort of thing is great.Report

  14. Avatar NewDealer says:

    The other issue about why this is a perfect con is that it is impossible to prosecute as a fraud unless someone is in a super-safe district. Even then, the person is probably going to throw themselves unto a sword.

    No Republican DA or Justice Department official will do it because they will be fired or primaried out.

    No Democratic DA or Justice Department will do it because they will be accused of using their office to attack political rivals and/or fear a quid-pro-quo response from Republicans over Democratic fundraising efforts.

    Maybe the Attorney Generals of Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, New York, or some other Democratic sandbar state can instigate a costly civil suit against these kinds of scams but I am doubtful.

    If Burt can think of more reasons why these frauds might have First-Amendment protection over other scam ads, I would be curious. They are selling an obvious untruth.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      I think the response from them would be that they are not in fact committing a crime; I suspect they are correct.

      As I said in the OP, they seem to have gone out of their way to very carefully craft a script and email that makes a variety of claims without actually using the words to directly make those claims. In fact, no one anywhere actually says that Cali is being ceded in October 15. It’s just a long string of claims that are clearly made to have you think it’s the case. And when I say carefully crafted, I mean it – you have to really pay close attention to notice that they aren’t directly making the claims they are clearing intending to make you think they are making.

      Immoral? Absolutely. Illegal? I’m not so sure. At the very least it’s a gray area, I would think.

      It’s probably not an accident that the big story the Wall Street Daily emailed their clients is one they haven’t been willing to post on their own financial news website.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        The very fact that the speech in question conveys an idea is sufficient to put it in the ballpark for fraud. A strong implication is very close to as good as an overt statement in litigation where the issue is the idea that the recipient of the message gets in her head. And the element of “detrimental reliance” is easily fulfilled when people actually part with their money.

        The best defense to a fraud action here would be that the message was so ridiculous that no reasonable person would have believed it.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Thanks, that’s helpful. And a bit of a relief, actually.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        That’s what S&P’s defense was, wasn’t it?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        The opening lines of the website state:

        “A Federal Offense: The Fed’s Redrawn Map of the United States: Takes Effect on October 15th (Hawaii and California are no longer part of the United States)”

        The whole page read scam. The production values are good to excellent. If I didn’t know about this post, I would think it was a viral marketing campaign for some kind of Hollywood blockbuster action movie.

        The scam part is that it does not let you close the page automatically. You need to press the leave page button. I read an article about the psychology of doing this once, I think on slate.com. These pitches are not designed for us, they are designed for people with the patience to sit through a long presentation because they believe in the importance of “secret knowledge.”

        Burt,

        I think I would pay some money (around the cost the cost of a movie ticket) to hear a lawyer say that this could not be a fraud because “the message is so ridiculous that no reasonable person would believe it.” Mainly to see the judges reaction.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Tod,

        Forgot my main point. The quote I lifted from the website seems to me to go beyond mere verbiage and such. Maybe the carefully worded speech acts as a claimer but the headline is clear.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Burt,

        Wasn’t that Coke’s defense with VitaminWater? Only an idiot would think something called VitaminWater would have vitamins in it?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        @kazzy Something like that. Different area of law, different standards apply. IIRC, it didn’t work, either. It’s the “best” defense. A different way of phrasing that would be to call it the “least bad” defense.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Technically, it did have vitamins in it. The argument was that people would be stupid to think that this meant that it was “good for you”.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        The best defense to a fraud action here would be that the message was so ridiculous that no reasonable person would have believed it.

        Question for Burt:

        Can a litigant point to a revenue stream as evidence against this? I mean, it’s illegal to defraud stupid people as well as intelligent ones, right?

        If I say, “Nobody would believe this!” and the opposing side pulls out a document that shows that 10,000 people paid me $1500 each, can’t they look the judge in the eye and say, “It’s empirically evident, your Honor, that 10,000 people believed the defendant to the tune of fifteen hundred simoleons.”Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      There is no first amendment protection that I can think of (under existing case law) for willfully false commercial speech. The critical play here is convincing the judge that this is commercial speech rather than political, and that ought not be too difficult a play to pull off in this case.

      First amendment don’t protect fraud.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        This is a good point. I know the First Amendment does not protect fraud. I should have thought of the commercial v. political speech angle.

        What are they saying they will protect? And how do they intend to do it? Can you look at how they spend the money they receive? If the overwhelming majority of it is spent on salaries and “administrative fees”? What would that percentage need to be? 90 percent? 95 percent? 98 percent?Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        One way that I’ve seen people stay a step ahead of the law on a similar scam is by making sure that the people who are pitching the investment thesis are not the people selling the product.

        So, you’ll have one group of people loudly proclaiming that Events x, y and z mean that it’s a good reason to own Assets A and B. Then there’s another group of people selling Assets A and B. The people selling the assets don’t make a pitch for owning the assets, but simply advertise themselves as the “best place to buy and sell Assets A and B.”

        There are likely hidden business relationships between members of both groups and that’s where it becomes illegal. However, as long as the authorities cannot prove that they are working together, neither has broken any law.Report

  15. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    I look forward to a similarly-epic post about “Loose Change”.Report

  16. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Waiting for the: “It’s just satire, only liberals with no sense of humor wouldn’t get it!” line.Report

  17. Avatar Barry says:

    Burt Likko:

    “The best defense to a fraud action here would be that the message was so ridiculous that no reasonable person would have believed it.”

    There was a case in Michigan recently, where graduates of Cooley Law School (see the scamblogs for a description) sued the school over false jobs data. The judge ruled that the data was factually wrong, but (translated from the latin) “f*ck you, you were fools to trust a law school’s numbers”.

    I don’t know how far this extends (IMHO, law schools might be in the class of privileged persons under our Gilded Age legal system), but apparently being flat-out deliberately wrong is not always a problem.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

      “The judge ruled that the data was factually wrong, but (translated from the latin) “f*ck you, you were fools to trust a law school’s numbers”.”

      Which is, in fact, citing legal precedent. If you knowingly believe a liar, then you have no complaint when it turns out the lie was bigger than you thought.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        “Which is, in fact, citing legal precedent. If you knowingly believe a liar, then you have no complaint when it turns out the lie was bigger than you thought.”

        Isn’t the question ‘knowingly believe’? IANAL, but the criticism was that the judge was classing law schools in the class of parties in whom ‘you’d be a fool to believe’.Report

  18. Avatar Andrew Simpson says:

    I was intrigued by this story, so I did some digging of my own and I have to say – I’m not quite sure this is responsible reporting either, Tod.

    Don’t get me wrong, you’re correct about it being a gross advertisement, but you label Wall Street Daily as con artists who ripoff the elderly with ads identical to phishing scams. Your claims are just as overhyped as their marketing! Either that, or you didn’t do sufficient investigating…

    I’m familiar with Agora Publishing myself, back when Porter Stansberry was going through “fraudster” accusations. I work in at an ad agency and was drawn to his case because his company has one of the largest ads in the business. Oddly enough, the case had nothing to do with their advertising.

    Stansberry is a large financial publisher, with newsletters that provide investment strategies and trading services. Just like Weiss Research, Casey Research, Jim Cramer’s Action Alert Plus, etc.

    Agora is the parent publisher of Wall Street Daily, you’re right there. But they are also the head publisher of Stansberry and several other affiliates that publish through Agora. Each division has their own staff and head publisher. Wall Street Daily, Stansberry & Associates, the Oxford Club, Money Map Press, Sovereign Society etc are all stand alone LLCs.

    Look at Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Life, People, In Style, etc. They all publish through Time Inc. (that’s their parent), but would you denounce their staff as non-journalists or writers? Every single one of those publications have a head publisher that all operations run through – would you claim they are not head publishers simply because Time Inc is the parent?

    Not to be an ass, but you very obviously didn’t do your research on the companies – both WSD and Agora – yet you published something making wild claims about them.

    Is the Wall Street Daily ad scummy? Without question. But your beef here is with marketing in general, not the company. If you did your research you’d recognize that Stansberry’s “The End of America” promo conveys the same type of doomsday logic. This style is nothing new at all. Seriously – At. All. It’s been around for a very long time. And not just from Agora – from countless organizations. Does that make it right? No, but I’m just pointing out, that your article is not some crazy discovery about how the GOP is coning its own elderly. That, to me, is just as grossly offensive as the ad.

    And these ads coming out of Agora stand no chance in hell of running without going through a legal team and a legal process. Bill Bonner is a bagillionaire. Agora is a multi-million dollar organization – they’re no dummies – this promo got run by a legal department to make sure there are zero grounds for lawsuit, absolutely no question.

    So, I looked into the underlying product they’re selling. It’s the Wall Street Daily Insider – an actionable financial newsletter – and something you don’t really give any mention to, which IS important because that’s what they’re selling… and what you SHOULD be using as your basis for calling a business a scam or calling people con-artists. The phishing scams you compare it to are hackers stealing personal identification and account numbers to rob people blind. WSD is offering an investment strategy that in this promo (keep in mind they most likely have several out for the one service) promotes a doomsday scenario and method for how people can profit even if there is a federal default.

    The subscriber is fully awake during the ad (I assume), and if they see the ludicrous claims and over-the-top promo yet still decide to purchase the $49 newsletter, hey, they’re complete idiots and really don’t have my sympathy.

    But this is where your comparison completely falls apart…

    They have a trial period with the subscription and WSD has a full network of cs reps to call and cancel for a full refund.

    I mean, did you look into any of this at all? Did you call the company? The employees? Go through the sign-up process yourself? You’re sitting pretty high up there on your pedestal of “honest and credible” reporting, but your spewing over-emotional misinformation that lacks significant research. To me, you simply saw the ad, and googled the website, then wrote your rant. Is that what you consider responsible journalism?

    What you’re doing is no better than them – you’re just hyping up a story for your own benefit.

    I look forward to your response.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Thanks, Andrew! It’s good to hear from you – a brand new commenter with who just happened to show up today, decided to look into what I wrote, found it lacking, and wanted to point out that the good people at WSD offer a money back guarantee. What are the odds?

      But I digress…

      To answer your questions in order:

      1. “I mean, did you look into any of this at all?” Yes. See answers below.

      2. “Did you call the company? The employees? ” Yes, in fact. I reached out both by email/telephone to the following: AGORA, Wall Street Daily, Townhall, and the Examiner.

      In my queries to both AGORA and Wall Street Daily I asked to be put in contact with anyone either company was willing to let me speak with regarding the mailer, the video and the Mayflower Maneuver investment opportunity.

      Funny story: Wall Street Daily’s site actually has an email address *and* a phone number for press inquiries. But the press inquiry phone number actually goes straight to a third-party customer service line where the gentleman I spoke with said he was only permitted to take my subscription order. When I asked to get any name, number, or contact information regarding any employee or representative of WSD that was not an order taker, he explained to me that they don’t give him any of that information; he was unaware of anything about the company, really, save that he was pretty sure it was in Baltimore. He did take message, however, and said he would pass it along to his boss in case that person knew anything about or anyone at WSD.

      AGORA’s corporate phone number goes straight into a voicemail.

      Neither AGORA nor WSD returned my phone messages or emails. Neither did Townhall. The Examiner did initially send me an email, saying that I should look to Tim WIlliams’ Examiner bio page to get his contact info. I sent an email back explaining that his bio only had a link to a canceled Twitter account, and could they please provide me with another method to get ahold of Mr. Williams or have him contact me directly. I have not heard from them since.

      The only parties that were willing to talk to me were various people (clerks, HR employees, mayor office employees) in the cities of Salem and Brockton, Massachusetts, which I noted in the OP.

      So yes, calls were made, emails were sent. If at any time representatives of any of the companies mentioned return my emails and/or phone calls and give different information than I wrote, I will of course be happy to update.

      3. “Go through the sign-up process yourself?” No, I didn’t, and let me tell you – if October 16th comes and I find that my stately neighbors to the immediate south and north are no longer part of these fine United States, you won’t even need to remind me to write a retraction – it will already be posted with a sincere apology noting the egg on my face. But since I was pretty sure they weren’t going to come up with a credible enough reason to justify a belief that such an outcome was happening/likely/possible/not-compeltely-bat-shit-crazy, I opted to save the fifty clams. But we’ll see next month!

      4. “Is that what you consider responsible journalism?” Well, I admit my blog post isn’t up to the high standards of the Wall Street Daily and the Capital Hill Daily, but I suspect I’ll be able to sleep at night.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        What are the odds?

        One in a million, so … well you know the rest.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “It’s good to hear from you – a brand new commenter with who just happened to show up today, decided to look into what I wrote, found it lacking, and wanted to point out that the good people at WSD offer a money back guarantee. What are the odds?”

        Wow, just wow.

        Someone who disagrees with me? I BET THEY’RE A FUCKING SHILL.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      And even though you didn’t technically ask, I should probably address this:

      “It’s the Wall Street Daily Insider – an actionable financial newsletter – and something you don’t really give any mention to, which IS important because that’s what they’re selling… and what you SHOULD be using as your basis for calling a business a scam or calling people con-artists.”

      Nope, you’re wrong.

      Look: You’re worried you might have cancer. If I sell sell you a pill that I tell you cures cancer and it turns out to be aspirin, that’s fraud. It doesn’t matter that aspirin has inherent value. It’s not a cure for cancer, and advertising it as such is fraud – whether or not it might actually help me with the growing headache I’m feeling right now.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I dunno any more Tod. The guy did say “They have a trial period with the subscription and WSD has a full network of cs reps to call and cancel for a full refund.” Now I’m starting to warm up to the whole thing.

        Tod, you need to rethink your views. It’s not every you see claims of that kind of integrity.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “If I sell sell you a pill that I tell you cures cancer and it turns out to be aspirin, that’s fraud.”

        Morally, sure.

        Note how few people selling pills actually say “this pill cures cancer”.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      I think there’s a market opportunity, with real money to be made, in teaching businesses how to be a little less than hilariously obvious when they sock-puppet critical blogs.Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot says:

      . . . if they see the ludicrous claims and over-the-top promo yet still decide to purchase the $49 newsletter, hey, they’re complete idiots and really don’t have my sympathy.

      Are you expressing your contemptuous five-dollar cynicism here in your capacity as an advertiser, or do you have some other reason for defending the Wall Street Daily?Report

  19. Avatar Andrew Simpson says:

    But you still haven’t addressed the main question I asked – how is your article and the claims you make any different than Wall Street Daily’s ad?

    I’m flatly asking you, do you really and truly believe that Wall Street Daily, along with Townhall, and the rest of the Conservative party, are conjuring up evil plots to scam their elderly supporter base? Or was that you hyping up your story?

    I read the response you just gave a moment ago and this is what I took away from it: “I called around, didn’t get through to anyone, but still wrote an article with minimal information.” How can this be anything BUT assertions and misinformation then?

    And to address your concerns, I only mentioned the refund because it’s an important aspect of marketing and a product being sold. You’re calling it a scam… a con.

    I’m saying that it’s one thing to send someone “Hello. I’m a Prince from Nicaragua. Send me your social security #, and bank account info so I can mail to you the money that your dead uncle ( you know, the one you never met) left for you in his will” vs. “It’s the end of the America as we know it. These states will never make it. Buy our service that does x,y,z and has a,b,c as methods for you to safeguard your purchase and get your money back if this doesn’t live up to your expectations” yada yada.

    Because, at the end of the day, those are the two things you’re comparing, and I’m interested in understanding how you feel justified in your hype and skewed-truths.

    Here’s the difference I see:

    I look at Wall Street Daily’s ad, I laugh and shake my head, but walk away thinking, “It’s marketing!”

    I mean come on, I once doused myself with Axe Body Spray to test their claims and NOT ONE woman came over to sleep with me. NOT ONE! Actually it had the opposite affects.

    But I didn’t go home and write up a public service announcement saying, “Warning: Axe is Minting Millions By Spraying Lies All Over the Dreams of Pre-Pubescent Boys and Middle-Aged Unhappily Married Men.”

    When I walk away from reading your article, I feel as though you’re trying to piggy-back off of a bogus marketing claim. You’re trying to promote yourself as a responsible reporter, by doing the very same thing you’re writing a kneecapping article about.

    Think what you want, but all I’m asking for is the same honesty that you’re shrilling for.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      To me, you simply saw the ad, and googled the website, then wrote your rant. Is that what you consider responsible journalism?

      Ponder your next comment carefully, Andrew. When it comes to hasty conclusions, you might make your next words sweet, for you shall surely eat them.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “I mean come on, I once doused myself with Axe Body Spray to test their claims and NOT ONE woman came over to sleep with me. NOT ONE! Actually it had the opposite affects.”

      Has the Wall Street Journal reported that Axe products have this actual effect? Has CNN then forward that story on to their readers and viewers? Do either of them work with D or R party operatives to sell something that has nothing to do with women, attraction, or body spray based on those “news” stories? Cause if Axe is doing that, then yeah, I’d say it’s a fraud.Report

      • Avatar Andrew Simpson says:

        Have they reported on it? I honestly don’t know – I’d have to do some serious digging through their stories. Have they opened up their paid ad space on all of their platforms for Ax to market? You betcha!

        Has Wall Street Daily, or Townhall reported on this material in their content? Or only promoted it like CNN, Wall Street Journal promotes for Ax?Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        I’m saying that it’s one thing to send someone “Hello. I’m a Prince from Nicaragua. Send me your social security #, and bank account info so I can mail to you the money that your dead uncle ( you know, the one you never met) left for you in his will” vs. “It’s the end of the America as we know it. These states will never make it. Buy our service that does x,y,z and has a,b,c as methods for you to safeguard your purchase and get your money back if this doesn’t live up to your expectations” yada yada.

        I mean come on, I once doused myself with Axe Body Spray to test their claims . . . I didn’t go home and write up a public service announcement saying, “Warning: Axe is Minting Millions By Spraying Lies All Over the Dreams of Pre-Pubescent Boys and Middle-Aged Unhappily Married Men.” . . . You’re trying to promote yourself as a responsible reporter, by doing the very same thing you’re writing a kneecapping article about.

        Andrew, you have an oddly-calibrated sense of comparison. So the WSD newsletter sales pitch is not a scam because it’s not exactly like a Nigerian Prince ruse, but Tod is doing the very same thing by making true statements about who WSD is and who was involved in making the video.

        I’ll make an assertion of my own and ask you flatly: You’re not here for “spirited debate.” You haven’t refuted anything in the post (“everyone does it!” is not a refutation, and Tod did not say that “the rest of the Conservative Party[GOP?]” is involved in the newsletter scam). So, what is your current connection with the figures mentioned in Tod’s post?Report

      • This isn’t simple marketing, though. The email came addressed from Townhall, and had nothing in the header to distinguish it from emails regarding Townhall’s regular content. As Townhall markets itself as a news and commentary site – and it is in fact a widely read site that, unlike WorldNetDaily, is very much a mainstream conservative site – the result is that the email is indistinguishubale from a legitimate news or commentary update from Townhall.

        Nor is the email clearly marked as being marketing material for an investment- in fact there is nothing in the email about investments at all, just a signature line identifying the author as the “publisher” of WallStreetDaily. It is only when you watch the video that you start getting the sales pitch.

        It’s using a fraudulent news story that appears to come from a credible source to scam customers. It is fraud, plain and simple.

        Unless of course Townhall wishes to insist that it is not a news and commentary site, but is instead a news and commentary parody site that no one would take seriously. Which would be an interesting revelation in itself.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Unless of course Townhall wishes to insist that it is not a news and commentary site, but is instead a news and commentary parody site that no one would take seriously.

        Like that wasn’t already obvious?Report

    • Avatar Michelle says:

      I look at Wall Street Daily’s ad, I laugh and shake my head, but walk away thinking, “It’s marketing!”

      I think most people probably do the same thing. However, WSD and Agora are “marketing” their “products” to a particularly vulnerable cohort, the elderly, particularly that subset of elderly who already frequent far right websites and probably buy into a lot of the anti-government, conspiracy nonsense published there. Astute marketing or pitching a scam? I guess it all depends on your perspective. But the fact that WSD, Townhall, and Agora are all linked together, and that their respective legal teams no doubt carefully vet nonsense like this video so that it falls just short of fraud, strongly suggest scam to me.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “WSD and Agora are “marketing” their “products” to a particularly vulnerable cohort, the elderly”

        And, therefore, it is important that some kind of government-sponsored board be set up to determine when speech is harmful, and dangerous, and that board must be empowered to act as a sort of “gatekeeper” to prevent harmful and dangerous speech from being presented to an audience that might not have full possession of their critical faculties. Like the elderly, or children, or minorities, or low-information voters, or the average citizen.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        @jim-heffman Ho! Nothing gets by you, does it?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        @krogerfoot : It’s like being nibbled to death by a duck, isn’t it?Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        @blaisep : That is precisely what I was thinking!Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        Hefferman–where did I suggest government regulation? I suspect these people go to great lengths to stay just this side of legal. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a scam.Report

  20. Avatar Andrew Simpson says:

    Stillwater – please believe me when I tell you I’m not commending them for their “integrity” when I say that. And I certainly could care less if you “warm up to them” or not.

    I think you understand the point I was making. It’s simply the main difference between a scam and viable product.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Are you coercing anyone in the selling, advertising, promotion, and contractual obligations of this product? If not, I think you’ll have lots of folks at this site on your side.Report

      • Avatar Andrew Simpson says:

        Nothing of the sort. I just find the article to be doing the very same thing Tod’s utterly disgusted by. Could be to Wall Street Daily, could be aimed at Martha Stewart – that’s not the issue. The point is, I find it hypocritical and was up for a spirited debate. Why does there have to be any other motive behind it?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Because you’ve made some assertions about how these conclusions were reached, quoted to you, casting aspersions on a poster’s journalism. Google doth make geniuses of us all, fella. Didn’t take me two minutes to dig up the text of Judge Garbis’ verdict.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        You misunderstand me. I’m saying that if there’s no coercion – broadly construed – being employed in the business practice, then you will find people here who support you. Or you should anyway. In the absence of that, all that’s left is subjective utility maximization and positive sum interactions.

        You actually have a receptive audience here, and should get the spirited debate you’re looking for. If you can show there’s no coercion going on.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Heh. It will take more than an absence of coercion to convince them, I’m thinking. Mr. Simpson will find those same folks deeply opposed to Fraud in all its forms.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        It will take more than an absence of coercion to convince them, I’m thinking

        Fraud is covered in the libertarian definition of coercion. Kuznicki’s anyway. I don’t know why, actually, since it’s not a form of compulsion imposed on another, but they include it nonetheless.

        But I’m not being facetious about this, Blaise. If there is no coercion in the WSD business practice according to the accepted definition – not the legal definition, obviously – then libertarians ought to be defending Andrew’s complaints against Tod for sensationalizing a product or service that people freely choose to purchase and provide to others on the expectation that it maximizes both parties utility. It’s a positive sum transaction, no?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Ecch, whatever else is wrong with the Libertarians, they have a real sore spot about fraud, especially deceptive practices. Coercion forces an un-free decision. But Fraud doesn’t quite seem to fit this bill. I suppose it’s just a semantic difference, Jason’s entitled to say it’s a sort of coercion.

        Whitman, from Democratic Vistas

        Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable. An acute and candid person, in the revenue department in Washington, who is led by the course of his employment to regularly visit the cities, north, south and west, to investigate frauds, has talk’d much with me about his discoveries. The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The official services of America, national, state, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the judiciary, are saturated in corruption, bribery, falsehood, mal-administration; and the judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time. In business, (this all-devouring modern word, business,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician’s serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-making is our magician’s serpent, remaining to-day sole master of the field. Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I don’t know why, actually, since it’s not a form of compulsion imposed on another, but they include it nonetheless.

        If I sell you 10 widgets for 10 bucks, and you go home and you open the box and you find that you only have 5 widgets, I have stolen from you.

        Even if you left the store with the box in your hands while singing the “I’ve bought ten new widgets!” song.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        But that’s not an example of coercion, as it’s classically understood. r deception. Or fraud. You said something was “stolen”. Stealing and coercion aren’t coextensive. Well, for most of us anyway.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Perhaps you could understand why Libertarians might find it to be distasteful if you see it as “stealing”.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I guess so. You know what libertarians find distasteful better than I do.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        We’d probably find ourselves in another situation where you’re explaining to me that Libertarians should support sexual harassment in the workplace.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Ehh, I’d like to play, Jaybird, but I’m not up to it. Why don’t you just tell me another story about “the liberals” instead. I always like those.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Did you read the comment I was responding to? It might provide context. Check it out at 7:38.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I strongly suspect most liberals don’t find themselves in much disagreement in seeing fraud as a form of coercion. It may, perhaps, be phrased that way more often, and with more emphasis, by libertarians, but I’d actually be surprised if it’s really just a libertarian thing.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Stealing and coercion aren’t coextensive. Well, for most of us anyway.

        If I put a gun to your head and take your wallet, is that stealing or coercion? If they’re not coextensive, it can’t be both.

        No gun, but I knock you down and take your wallet? Stealing or coercion?

        No physical harm, but I squeeze you against a wall in a crowd, immobilizing you for a second, and take your wallet. Stealing or coercion?

        No physical contact at all, but I stop you and ask for directions, allowing my compatriot to take your wallet? Stealing or coercion?

        You never see me, but I lift your wallet with my skilled fingers. Stealing or coercion?

        Where’s the bright line?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        In AI, we call terms of this sort Constraint. I can physically constrain a system, tell an arm “this far and no farther.” But I can logically constrain a system, forcing it into a Scram, pulling away all the tools from a condition where a human hand might be in the work area. Do it with a vision system or tactile feedback. I’d rather ruin the robot than tolerate a human injury.

        Fraud, in this case, would be a false alarm forcing a Scram. Convincing a system or a person of some condition which isn’t true, obliging them to react in a particular way, contrary to the facts. Robbery could combine both Force and Fraud, luring someone into a situation then robbing them at gunpoint.

        The Libertarians and the Liberals aren’t far apart on this. We both believe individuals have rights, Fourth Amendment rights to be secure in our persons, the right to peaceably assemble, to live in accordance with the dictates of our consciences. We’re both down on compulsion by force and the chaos induced in the system by lies and fraud. Both run contrary to good order and reason.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I strongly suspect most liberals don’t find themselves in much disagreement in seeing fraud as a form of coercion. It may, perhaps, be phrased that way more often, and with more emphasis, by libertarians, but I’d actually be surprised if it’s really just a libertarian thing.

        Oh yeah, I agree. And personally I don’t think lumping a few types of particularly egregious and fundamental types of rights violations into a single concept is problematic. On the contrary, I think simplifies things to some extent. My comment was expressing curiousity more than criticism. Nothing hinges on it, that’s for sure.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        If I put a gun to your head and take your wallet, is that stealing or coercion? If they’re not coextensive, it can’t be both.

        If they’re not coextensive, it canbe both. Consider an object which is both yellow and square. The terms “yellow” and “square” both apply to that object, but they are not coextensive since there are yellow not-square things.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        @Blaise,
        I can physically constrain a system, tell an arm “this far and no farther.” But I can logically constrain a system, … Convincing a system or a person of some condition which isn’t true, obliging them to react in a particular way, contrary to the facts.

        That, and the portions I omitted, are an excellent explanation.

        @stillwater

        “I strongly suspect most liberals don’t find themselves in much disagreement in seeing fraud as a form of coercion.”
        Oh yeah, I agree

        And yet somehow you think most people don’t see fraud as a form of coercion? Or were you using the shift to “coextensive” (and point taken on that) to change what you were initially talking about?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        James, conventionally, the meaning of “coercion” is something like

        “the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.”

        Here’s the definition of “fraud: “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.”

        On the face of it, those concepts aren’t coextensive since an action which is coercive may not be an instance of fraud, and vice versa. So if libertarians aer using the term coercion to cover both, then they’re not using the term as it’s conventionally defined. Ie., it’s a technical term.

        On the other hand, if fraud can be analyzed in terms of coercion, then coercion entails fraud. If that’s the case, I haven’t seen the argument for that reduction. I’m not saying it isn’t out there, just that I haven’t seen it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        OK, so first it’s a libertarian thing, then you agree that most liberals probably agree, then you say you’ve never seen the argument really made.

        And that’s why I find every discussion with you to be a colossal waste of perfectly good electrons. I rarely have any clue what you think you’re thinking, and about the only thing you’ve ever convinced me of is that you don’t actually have much clue as to what you think you’re thinking, either. I’m done here.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        The reason we lump force and fraud together—or at least my take on it—is that they’re both ways of getting someone to participate in a transaction against his will, which is why we object to them. In the case of force, the victim doesn’t consent to any transaction at all, and in the case of fraud, the victim consents to what he believes the transaction will be, but not to what the transaction actually is.

        The reason this is bad is that a voluntary, non-fraudulent transaction is usually win-win, which means that it must be positive-sum, at least a priori. A coercive or fraudulent transaction, on the other hand, is usually win-lose. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s negative sum, but in practice it usually is, because it involves a zero-sum transfer, plus transaction costs that push it into negative territory.

        Negative externalities are a form of coercion, and can make a win-win transaction negative-sum. Pretty much by definition, serious libertarian thinkers acknowledge that externalities are a problem, and in principle at least grounds for government intervention, just like coercion and fraud. Where we part company with the left is over what exactly constitutes an externality, and over public choice concerns about whether government can, or will, regulate externalities without making things even worse.

        Note that this does not include low wages and other things subsumed under the left-wing conception of “exploitation.”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I rarely have any clue what you think you’re thinking,

        In this case, it may be because you think I’m implying something I’m not. The only thing I’m thinking here is that it’s not obvious to me that fraud can be subsumed into the concept of coercion as libertarians use it. a) the two terms are prima facie not coextensive, b) I don’t know how fraud can be defined in terms of coercion as that word is conventionally understood and c) that nothing important hinges on this issue for libertarians or liberals or conservatives or politics or our belief structures or total justification of views or anything else.

        That’s it!Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Advocatus Diaboli: all sorts of theft are seen in statute law. Whether by force or by guile, they end up in the same place: your stuff in my pocket. Sure, we can parse them out into different categories, attaching particular heinousness to crimes using a weapon. Force and guile are merely tactics. The crime resolves to two things: the mens rea of lying and the intent to deprive someone of their property.

        In OO programming, there’s a tendency, an anti-pattern of Premature Generalisation. If the Libertarians are calling it all Coercion, that’s their problem. They’ll have too many layers in their inheritance stack, the top level meaning nothing. Theft by conversion, theft of identity, theft by absconding from a hotel, fraudulent writing, possession of loan sharking documents, the list is damned near endless. It’s more than simple coercion at work.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Thanks for the explanation Brandon. That’s what I was looking for.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        So very very well said, Brandon. Excellent. Special kudos for graf 3.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Did you read the comment I was responding to? It might provide context. Check it out at 7:38.

        Well (ahem) I just read it. The comment you were referring satisfies all the conditions of “mock worthy” to me. So I willingly concede the higher ground and grant you a full point.

        Alright. Make it two.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      You failed to mention that Porter Stansberry and Agora were not merely going through “fraudster” accusations. Complaint here. He was convicted. When it comes to Agora and the chances in hell of running without going through a legal team and a legal process, the facts speak for themselves. Stansberry was ordered by a U.S. District Court to pay $1.5 million in restitution and civil penalties. I’m sure his lawyers knew of all this. Wonder if they’re still of counsel to the worthy Mr. Stansberry. or is it Jay McDaniel?

      Spanish Letters being what they are, it’s a very old scam and Stansberry was then going by the moniker of Jay McDaniel. Quoting Judge Garbis

      “If Stansberry were to provide an assurance, that there would be no future violations, the Court would not find him particularly credible. The existence of an injunction against future fraudulent schemes of the type involved here will provide a needed measure of security against recidivism. The Court finds, after weighing the relevant factors, that there is ample evidence of a “reasonable and substantial likelihood” that Defendants will violate securities laws in the future, absent an injunction.”Report

      • Avatar Andrew Simpson says:

        Yes – you’re right! Very easy to look up, I’m fully aware. I didn’t go into extreme detail about the case because that wasn’t my point. Although I do believe I said, “his case was for other reasons than advertising.” And just because I brought him up, doesn’t mean I’m defending his actions or saying he’s a legit business man. Just merely saying his promotion “The End of America” was something I researched and the “doomsday scenario” in that marketing is what you’re seeing in the marketing here by Wall Street Daily. This is style of advertising. I’m not arguing about whether it’s right or wrong, it was just my way of saying that this is a technique that’s being used today, it’s been used in the passed, it’ll be used in the future, and it’s very legal. That was the reason for why I referenced him. I can’t imagine how you took away from it me saying “what a great guy that Porter Stansberry is!”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Andrew, this is a scam, the same scam as before, as outlined in the “Super Insider Tip Email”. It’s the same MO, the sale of expensive newsletters peddling harum-scarum and investment strategies to unwary investors.

        Not only did you gloss over the conviction, you attempt to say Agora’s legal team had a look over this. How do you know? Who is of counsel to Agora? You’d better come up with the name of an actual attorney or law firm in your next comment or I’m calling bullshit on you.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      I like the fact that somebody can write this:

      The subscriber is fully awake during the ad (I assume), and if they see the ludicrous claims and over-the-top promo yet still decide to purchase the $49 newsletter, hey, they’re complete idiots and really don’t have my sympathy.

      and then follow it up with a bunch of verbage explaining that the product in question is not, in fact, a scam. Just a product that only complete idiots would purchase because it doesn’t do what it claims to do.

      That refund… Does it just cover just the $49 newsletter or all of the money that you lose while investing–no doubt while acting as a counterparty to the people who sold you the newsletter?Report

  21. Avatar Michelle says:

    My father subscribes to one of Stansberry/Agora’s financial newsletters. Because my parents won’t buy a computer and Agora was offering some kind of publications that could be ordered only once you provide them with an email address, I offered mine. As a result, I get about three emails a day from Agora and one of its subsidiaries. I usually delete them, but will occasionally read through one because I find them amusing.

    Aside from being staunch supporters of a return to the gold standard, they also post videos about various investment offers on which they blatantly hint about spectacular returns. One I watched was about some kind of miracle treatment that would put an end to aging, allowing consumers a chance at immortality. I sh*t you not. So yeah, it’s a scam of major proportions.

    I cannot believe my Dad, who’s no dummy, takes this kind of nonsense seriously. Then again, my parents are huge fans of BS artists like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and spend an inordinate amount of time watching Fox News. These people know their audience and have made millions peddling fear, anger, and nonsense to them.Report

  22. Avatar Barry says:

    BlaiseP: ” It’s like being nibbled to death by a duck, isn’t it?”

    I believe that the highly original and amusing term coined by a British politician was ‘it’s like being savaged by a dead sheep’.

    Intellectually, of course, these people would be outscored by the average dead sheep.Report

  23. Avatar Shelley says:

    Guess there’s no use any more in asking “Have you no shame”….Report