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by spocko

Shouldn’t We Laugh When Right Wing Groups Rip Off Tea Partiers?

6:11 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

The first answer to my headline questions would be, YES! We should laugh and rub our hands together in glee. “HA ha! Suckers!” But there is something more to do when we read about conservatives financially conning conservatives.
Faces of the Tea Party Movement 12
The wing nut group I’m talking about is the subject of a ProPublica piece by Kim BarkerPro-Troop’ Charity Pays Off Tea Party Cronies Instead:  In summary she writes: “Move America Forward has collected millions to send care packages to U.S. troops. But its assets have been used to benefit conservative political consulting firms close to its Tea Party founder.” Barker does a tremendous amount of document-based research and makes this comment.

Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.

Over at Salon Digby puts the story of Move America Forward and The Tea Party Express into more context. Wingnut scams the troops: How Tea Party quack uses fake charities to get rich

Meet Sal Russo, the man accused of running a faux veterans charity and Tea Party PAC — to shadily pocket millions

Digby points out that this is nothing new, that conservatives have been using so-called nonprofits to push conservative politics and avoid paying taxes for decades. Even with the rise of SuperPACs and passing Citizens United, some groups still like to tug on the ol’ heart strings to make money from “the base.”

I’m really glad ProPublica commissioned this piece and paid money to Barker to write it.  I’m glad Digby put it in context. But there is a third component that still needs to be addressed. “What is to be done?”

PositiveBrother,  a commenter at Salon said this.

Next I want to read about him being put in JAIL, very, very tired of just reading about, debating about, commenting about these people scamming money from people, while most hard working Americans go to work to try and feed their families.

And then Ranina asked:

Yes! While it’s great that they are exposed, now what? What can we do about it?

I realized years ago that journalism isn’t enough when it comes to these groups and their schemes. Often times these groups are savvy legally, financially, politically and in the media. In the Barker article you see, “Russo didn’t respond to questions from ProPublica” Of course not, because he doesn’t have to. He’s not under oath. Not only doesn’t he have to answer honestly, he doesn’t have to answer at all.

To answer PositiveBrother’s question you just find which laws were broken, find someone who cares and is willing to prosecute. That’s all doable, and if that is your expertise I say go for it! Please report back, I’d like to know what works.

Fighting Logically in an Emotional World

I’ve been working on a guide to using the Spocko Method to fight the forces I think are especially destructive to our society. One of the key ideas is to find the interested 3rd parties who care about the outcome and engage them.  When I was focusing on right wing radio, I went to the advertisers and asked them. “Do you want your brand tainted by being associated with this violent rhetoric, sexist screeds and bigoted comments?”

In this case who has been harmed? The people getting mislead.  How could you engage them? I’d sincerely ask, “Is what they did using your money okay with you?”

We need to understand that my opinion as a left-wing liberal doesn’t matter to MAF and TPE donors. They already know we are god-less troop-hating hippies. The opinion of any media but RW media doesn’t count. In fact, the very act of this story appearing in the liberal media is proof that we are “out to get ‘em.”

Bookmark my words, they will circle the wagons because of the “hit piece” by the liberal media and then they will use it to raise money. All accusations will be denied, and they look forward to their, “day in court” where they will be proved right.  The right wing LOVES to be the victim.  They even need to invent attacks that don’t exist, ‘Obama is coming for your guns!”

It was interesting to note that in the ProPublica piece Melanie Morgan, the co-founder of Move America Forward and major participant in The Tea Party Express, was relegated to the last paragraph. I expect she will go into full denial, excuses and victim mode when she writes about this. Morgan was the public face of MAF and used her position on KSFO radio to constantly promote MAF and Tea Party Express fundraising events. Besides these kind of “charity” promotions, right wing radio gives hours of one sided ‘free advertising” for candidates during campaigns. Yet another FEC violation on our public airwaves that nobody is looking at.

How do you have an impact on people like Russo who use attacks as fund raising opportunities?  You go to the people who supported them and ask how they feel, what they think about the official response and — if they are unhappy — suggest to them something they can do to express their displeasure.

Expressing Displeasure via a Contribution Refund AKA. “I want my money back!”

In 2010 while reading a 494 page FEC documents about the Tea Party Express and writing about how they were sucking up police and community resources in Provo, UT  I spotted a section under itemized dispersion called “Contribution Refund.  Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

Why We Should Politicize #Sandy

1:04 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

Starting Monday I’ve been politicizing #Sandy. Specifically I tweeted.Who is to blame2

I can almost hear in my head the right wing radio blowhards responding to this comment with their mocking strawman  “The left want you to believe that WE are responsible for hurricane Sandy! Preposterous! It’s like when they blamed Bush for Katrina! My friends, these are “Acts of God! We had nothing to do with it!”

My second tweet was in response to their probably response:

Climate change is an Act of Humans and it contributed to #Sandy therefore #Sandy is no longer just an Act of God.

Monday, , the science writer at Boing Boing, wrote this wonderful post:  Did climate change cause Hurricane Sandy? The answer depends on why you’re asking. It really is a brilliant piece and I encourage you to read it. It addresses the questions that many have as well as the innocent and not so innocent reasons people ask.  (BTW Maggie owes me some Boing Boing swag for a contest I won, if you see her tell her I’m still waiting. Her excuse was she was busy with her book tour Before the Lights Go Out but it’s over now. P.S. I take an XL.)

 Was this [hurricane Sandy] an unavoidable act of nature? Or was this something caused directly by changes to Earth’s climate that have happened because we burn fossil fuels which increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

Again, there’s not an easy answer. And, again, part of the problem here is that we’re expecting science to operate on the scale of American media news cycles, which doesn’t really work. We want to talk about this while the storm is raging or, barring that, at least immediately afterwards. But scientists aren’t really going to have anything particularly deep to say about this specific storm for months, if not years. During that time, data will be analyzed and compared, and other events will happen, and that’s really the stuff that we need in order to say much of anything other than, “We don’t know for certain.” In some ways, expecting anything else means forcing scientists to speculate and extrapolate in ways they aren’t usually comfortable with and that aren’t a terribly great way to understand the big picture.

[Emphasis mine because that is a really important insight.]

I was once explaining the American media to a Ph.D. in physics I was working with, he got very annoyed with the way the media worked. “But Spocko, in science things rarely are 100% certain, yes there is a high correlation of this cause with that effect, but it is only one factor in a complex system.”   Another creator of high-end technology didn’t like the way his comments about scientific reality got twisted by his competition and picked up by the media. I helped them both find metaphors they felt comfortable with and then helped them switch to teaching mode to educate the different media outlets they were going to talk to.  But they both wanted the media to be something it wasn’t and something they wished it was.

Later in Koerth-Baker’ s piece she quotes Greg Laden, an anthropologist who does some very good blogging on climate science, had a lot to say on this topic — particularly, the fact that even though we can’t say “Hurricane Sandy was caused solely by climate change”, we can say that climate change is probably affecting several factors that probably influence the development, growth, and movement of hurricanes.

She makes the case that weather is complex, “Hurricane Sandy could be both a completely natural occurrence and a product of climate change. Simultaneously. Some of the factors that caused this storm might be nature-made. Others might be man-made. And teasing apart which factors were responsible for which aspect of the storm’s damage is incredibly hard.”

So if scientists can’t  tell you whether Sandy, specifically, was caused by climate change does that mean we just wait for the all the data to come out years from now? No. Because in the mean time the people who want to deny that climate change is real and impacts us will exploit anything less than 100% certainty. That’s what they do. That is their job. That is why they are getting paid millions.

If you knew that a group of people – through their attitudes, actions and policies, led to the death of someone you loved would you want to tell people about this group? Would you want to talk about them and what they are doing right now, when you are feeling the anger and pain of loss? Would you demand change? Or would you listen to the same group of  people telling you, “Now is not the time for recrimination and blame.”

Anger can change the configuration of your thoughts. If moves people. It gets people to change their attitudes, actions and sometimes their politics. And if you are on the other side of righteous anger you will use all sorts of methods to calm the angry people down. Because angry people demand change.

One of the games the right plays is when something happens that they know could lead to change, “in the heat of the moment”  they start screaming.”Let’s not politicize this tragedy!”  I see it after every single mass shooting. Why do they do that? Does it really come from their deep feelings of respect for the family of the dead?  I’m sure there are some who think this way. But I think it is more about using “respect for the family of the dead” as a shield to prevent change.

The other group of people who worry about talking about the root cause of some event are people who think that change happens only with reasoned debate “in the cold light of day.”  They don’t want to be accused of exploiting the tragedy. They believe that it is distasteful and disrespectful or that it dishonors the death of the person.  This works out great for the people who want the status quo to continue.  Personally, if someone can use my death to make changes so others don’t die I say, “Do it! Make it so! Engage!”

So how can we actually politicize #Sandy? I’m starting by calling them out.

 ”Hey right wingers who deny climate change, blood from this storm  is on your hands. This is not a simple “Act of God”. Men and woman who have your attitudes, have taken your actions and implemented your policies have led to this. Changes need to be made.

 Might there have been a hurricane without their involvement? Yes. Might people have died in that hurricane? Yes. Weather is complex, but it is a scientific fact that the human-caused temperature increases have led to intensity of storms.  And now it’s time to stop lying and quit passing  policies that lead to climate change.”

If you aren’t the kind of person who gets angry and makes demands for change there is still something you can do. Keep linking climate change  to extreme weather events and specifically the human related actions that lead to it.  Because as Maggie concludes, climate change is real and we need to care about it.  I say, let’s do something about it.

by spocko

Cato Stonex: Tell NewsCorp Beck Needs to Generate $$ or he’s Out

6:38 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

The media may want to bury the news that 296 advertisers don’t want their commercials shown on the Glenn Beck show, and the NewCorp management may pretend it’s no big deal, but as we are told over and over, "maximizing shareholder value" is the most important thing in the world.

So what should a concerned investor in a company do when the corporate managers keep employing someone who has gone from an asset to a liability? What actions should they demand management take? And if management doesn’t act, how should they respond?

Below I ask these questions to the largest institutional investor of NewsCorp, probably the only people on the planet with enough clout to demand real answers. I’ve asked these kind of questions to Rupert Murdock, the CEO of NewCorp and was brushed off.

Last Sunday I learned that I underestimated the number of advertisers who won’t touch the Glenn Beck show by 215!

Fennec Fox by tanakawho

Cato Stonex
Taube Hodson Stonex Partners Limited
London, UK

Dear Cato:

Are you pressuring NewsCorp to wring more money out of Glenn Beck? If not, why not?

Last Sunday, Mark Leibovich in the New York Times wrote, "as of Sept. 21, 296 advertisers have asked that their commercials not be shown on Beck’s show (up from 26 in August 2009). The NY Times article talks about how Beck is using Fox/NewsCorp resources to make money for himself, which wouldn’t be problem if the show was returning more revenue for Fox. Right now a show with 1/8 the ratings of Beck which had actual advertisers would provide more revenue than Beck. Why is Fox allowing it and what are you going to do about it?.

If they say they can’t get more ad sales out of him, or give you some BS about how he has "plenty of advertisers" make them prove it, with numbers. You invest in companies that will make money for your fund. You can do this by being long on growth stocks or short on losers. Beck was an asset for NewsCorp, he is now a liability. What is NewsCorp going to do to fix that?

THS Partners is the largest institutional of NewsCorp. If you saw one of your other portfolio companies not maximizing their revenue potential what would you do? Sit around and let the CFO and Chairman lie to you? "It [The Glenn Beck show] has plenty of advertising," (In London you will notice zero ads on the Glenn Beck show, which isn’t exactly "plenty".) In the US Beck runs house ads for NewsCorp properties and Goldline ads. The fish (retail investors) say things like, "Murdock is making a ton of money off of Beck." because they don’t follow the business. You, I and the television executives selling ad space know what Beck’s "empty calories" mean. Lower revenue for Fox.

At what point does Beck’s inability to provide revenue become a material event for NewsCorp? If Beck died tomorrow that would be a material event, right? Beck’s ability to provide significant revenue for Fox died months ago.


Act Now Before Beck Dies or Announces his Pending Death.

Speaking about Beck dying, you might have read about his mysterious medical ailments. By the time this letter gets to you he will announce his diagnosis. If the fish read he is going to die soon they will dump NewsCorp stock. They are stupid and think that Beck’s departure will hurt NewsCorp revenue. What will hurt is the stock from their panic selling. They don’t understand that Fox has been already been hiding Beck’s crappy revenue performance by taking money from other places inside Fox. You know how these things work. If Fox wants to keep their numbers up, and someone like Beck isn’t pulling his weight, someone else has to pay. A Fox executive doesn’t get his bonus or a program’s marketing budget gets cut. Ad salesmen get very unhappy when they who can’t convince any advertisers but Goldline to associate with the race-baiting and insanity of Glenn Beck. These people are mad at Glenn and are talking to the media. Someone who lost his commission, bonus or budget gave the New York Times the exact number of disgusted advertisers who won’t advertise on Beck’s show. 296.


Alies Cares about Winning Elections for Republicans in The Fall. You Care about Making Money, Now.

Roger Alies is thumbing his nose at you because quarter after quarter he keeps a money-losing host in a prime network position. He may believe that Beck will help Republicans win elections in America and that it is worth stealing from internal budgets at Fox. Now this might be fine if your main goal is more Republican victories in the fall. But NewsCorp is supposed to make more money every quarter, and if Alies wants to get some candidates elected he should do what Chairman Murdock does and donate money directly to the groups promoting them. Instead, he is treating Fox like his own personal GOP promotion machine. Good for the GOP, not so good for NewsCorp shareholders in the short term.


Beck’s Followers are Going to Kill People

When Beck’s followers kill people it’s not going to hurt his ratings. It will help ratings, however it will keep advertisers away and that should hurt the stock.

What may surprise you is that here in America people on both the left and right in the media will circle the wagons around Beck to declare that he can not be held legally responsible for "crazy people" who act as "lone wolves" and kill people. Expect someone from the ACLU to stand up for him. From NPR to MSNBC, the media will defend Beck. They will talk about the government’s duty not to interfere because of his First Amendment rights. Beck being the inspiration for an army of "lone wolves" with guns who attack his chalkboard featured players isn’t something that anyone in the government wants to address. The FCC has $500,000 fines for the f-word but will not touch anything to do with right wing incitement toward the left, Muslims, abortion providers and anyone associated with George Soros (in real life or in their imagination.)

Beck has been coached in the right way to incite violence, this is clear from reading the jailhouse interviews of Bryron Williams (who was inspired by listening to Beck to pick up guns to go assassinate leaders of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation here in San Francisco).

Your question after future killings of course is simple, "How will Beck’s followers killing people impact the NewsCorp stock?" Again, the fish don’t know that the FCC has nothing to say about radio and TV hosts suggesting that someone needs to "do something" about George Soros or the Tides Foundation. They might think that NewsCorp will have to pay a fine or something. After the next round of killings inspired by Beck, a few more advertisers might leave, but at this point there aren’t many left.

There will be some talk about moral responsibility, but being morally irresponsible isn’t a firing offense at Fox (or most corporations for that matter). As long as Beck is bringing in revenue he can be as morally irresponsible as he wants. Right? Because it’s all about increasing revenue. However, you now have proof that Beck is NOT increasing revenue — if that isn’t a firing offense, what is?


Inside Scoop from the People who Are Costing Fox News Millions in Revenue

I’ll let you in on some inside scoop. I know and have talked to both the people at Color of Change and StopBeck, the two groups that have successfully convinced 296 advertisers that Glenn Beck is bad for their brand. They aren’t quitting their efforts any time soon. Their work is dismissed by Murdock and Fox because they don’t want to admit how powerful it is. In the US the other media outlets also don’t want to talk about how powerful this action is because they are afraid they will be next. So they downplay it, mock it and pretend that people like Lou Dobbs was fired from CNN because of the sudden change of heart from CNN executives. BS. It was because groups like Presente and BustaDobbs convinced advertisers to leave his show. CNN wanted to stop losing advertisers. They didn’t want to act as the sugar daddy for Dobbs who should be making them revenue. Murdock has a long fuse when it comes to supporting money-losing entities, but at some point he needs to at least come clean to you and the other institutional investors and explain how long he will keep a liability that was an asset on the payroll.

Cato, please tell NewsCorp that Beck needs to generate more revenue or he’ll be pushed off of Fox. They will listen to you.

by spocko

What to do When Beck’s Followers Attack

1:36 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

Today over at Media Matters John Hamiliton has a piece titled, Progressive Hunter about how "Glenn Beck’s chalkboard drove Byron Williams to plot assassination."

It’s rather chilling. My friend David Neiwert of Crooks and Liars gives some more context to the violence of Beck follower Byron Williams in this post.

One of the commenters, Dr. Dick, asked this question that a lot of people ask.

"How to hold inciters of violence accountable. How to do that without violating free speech protections?"

I think the key is to move the issue away from the "free speech" issue, especially the First Amendment. Why? Because there are a lot of people on the left who get their backs up at any hint of limiting anyone’s speech.

How many times have you heard, "I don’t like what he has to say, but I’ll defend to the death his right to say it!"

That makes them feel good. Many are proud of their, "Let the Nazis march in Skokie" values. They can be a radical defender of the First Amendment. Good for them. You then ask them for a solution they will say stuff like, "The answer to speech you don’t like is more speech." Yet another platitude.

I often ask them if they are familiar with the observation of one possible limit to speech, the "don’t falsely yell fire in a crowded theater" view. "Well, I guess it’s okay to limit that." but even then, some of them don’t like to think about limiting anyone saying anything. It’s because they put themselves in the position of the person being limited and they worry that they will be next. In some cases they are correct. When the government wants to get someone for ‘incitement to riot" they go after the left and attempt to tie them to terrorists.

If you object to Beck’s violent rhetoric and think it is dangerous you need to act. Think about what matters in our world today. Money. Think about what companies care about. Making money and building their brand.

You want to have an impact on Beck, Fox and their violent rhetoric? You look at ways to make it unprofitable.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →