November 17, 2009
It’s been another busy week for perennial Fox News guest Patrick Byrne. The Overstock CEO has appeared with Neil Cavuto, bewailing potential CEO pay caps. And in a move that was more Martin Prince than Martin Eisenstadt, Byrne stood tall recently and admitted that it was he who gave Daily Show host Jon Stewart a controversial tape of CNBC’s Jim Cramer.
Aside from leaving Stewart with an eye fairly blackened, Byrne was just starting his rampage.
Already under investigation for the second time by the SEC – not that Fox News viewers would have any knowledge of that – Byrne decided to really see if the “Enforcement” part of the SEC means anything. Yesterday, Byrne announced he had fired his auditors and handed in my latest late SEC homework assignment without it being audited. From Gary Weiss:
Now, very much in the open, the company has jumped off a cliff, proverbially speaking. This afternoon, the company belatedly announced that it fired its auditors on Friday, and today it filed an unaudited un-vouched-for, late Form 10-Q in violation of a host of SEC regulations.
So now Overstock is not current with its filings, which means that its access to the capital markets is essentially crippled. No big thing. Bad companies are often not current what their filings. What is amazing is that Overstock went ahead and filed its 10-Q without an auditor reviewing it. Even the most sleazebucket penny stock outfits, even Bernie Madoff, manage to get some accountant somewhere to review their filings before sending them in to the SEC. I have never heard of even the most irresponsible company filing an unreviewed financial statement.
This is the second time in less than two years that auditors have had fall outs with Byrne. In Dec. 2007, Ray Groves, who once ran Ernst & Young, resigned as the head of Overstock’s audit committee.
Byrne has already made it abundantly clear that regardless of how badly he manages Overstock and screws their investors, he’s going to blame naked short spellers and the Russian mafia for all of it. And some people will say that Byrne is a victim in all this and that his fight against Naked Short Sellers is a heroic one. Others, of course, have said he’s a crook and a “cokehead.” I’d never say that of course, but it’s been said (“And Channel B I put information down that I was a coke head,” – Patrick Byrne)
What would I say? Well, considering the pride Byrne showed in his Mormon accounting team …
“Our accounting department is a bunch of square Mormon eagle scouts, and their orders are to be as straitlaced as possible.”
… I’d say Byrne needs a good Molly Mormon to come into his life to help him through these obviously difficult times.
October 25, 2009
As the world prepares itself for the release of Martin Eisenstadt’s heralded book, one thing about the whole thing still bugs me a year later.
You see, Carl Cameron went on Fox News and told Bill O’Reilly that a McCain insider told him that Sarah Palin was confused about whether Africa was a country or a continent, among other things. A couple days later, “Eisenstadt” came forward and said that he was the source. That was the entire hoax. They pretended to be the source. They were not. They just claimed to be the source. They did not fool Carl Cameron.
Let’s allow Eisenstadt co-creator Dan Mirvish put it simply:
“To be very clear, no, we were not the source for Carl Cameron and never spoke to him,” Mirvish tells TVNewser. “We took credit for his anonymous sourcing. If they were going to be cowards, then we figured we may as well step in.”
Many Palin supporters jumped on the Eisenstadt angle and decided the whole Palin/Africa thing was started by them. It wasn’t. Let’s let conservative blogger Allahpundit explain it simply now:
“What isn’t true: Speculation that “Eisenstadt” was indeed Cameron’s source and that CC got duped the same way MSNBC did.”
Just for the hell of it, let’s make a handy timeline:
1. Source tells Cameron that Palin was unsure whether Africa was a country or continent
2. Cameron reports this on Fox News, not giving his source.
3. Palin essentially confirms the “Africa” comments happened, claiming her comments were taken out of context.
4. Martin Eisenstadt says he is the source.
5. Martin Eisenstadt wasn’t the source.
6. The McCain insider that was the source for the Palin/Africa story is still unknown.
While I fully expect Palin supporters and some conservatives to ignore this completely and go on believing whatever they want to believe, I figured I’d take one last shot at clearing that up.
October 20, 2009
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The parents accused of concocting a publicity stunt by pretending their young son had climbed aboard a homemade helium balloon and was hurtling through the Colorado skies will surrender to the authorities as soon as charges are filed, the lawyer for the father said Monday.
In addition to the surrender of Richard and Mayumi Heene, millions of others will also surrender themselves to federal authorities, whether charged or not. For example, Shepard Smith of Fox News is expected to surrender for spending three hours watching the balloon, wondering aloud if it was a hoax, yet not following through whatsoever, choosing instead to reflect on his childhood.
In fact, hundreds of national journalists are expected to surrender to authorities for the whole charade, and for not getting a balloon expert to look at the balloon and say “No, you idiots, there’s no child in there, stop trying to save money by following someone else’s feed.”
More than one million Americans are expected to surrender to authorities for secretly hoping they’d see the boy fall, while a million more will surrender for secretly hoping Jesus would swoop in and save the boy.
Aside from Smith, no one at Fox News will be surrendering, as they continue to report that there could, in fact, still be a boy in that balloon. However, federal authorities are still pleased with this unique display of personal responsibility.
“You’d think some blogger just invented this whole scenario, it’s truly inspiring,” said the authority. “As for Fox News, the orders are to mock them on site. Just like always.”
October 19, 2009
While I find it difficult to dislike Oprah Winfrey overall, her love of pseudoscience has often grated and seemed dangerous. And now, Oprah’s love of pseudoscience has killed three peopleand left nearly two dozen others needing serious medical help. And that’s a little more serious.
Self-help expert and author James Arthur Ray had rented the Angel Valley Retreat Center for his five-day “Spiritual Warrior” event that culminated in a sweat lodge ceremony.
Between 55 and 65 people were in the makeshift sweat lodge over a two-hour period, and authorities said participants were highly encouraged but not forced to remain inside for the entire time. An emergency call reported two people without a pulse and not breathing.
Twenty-one people were taken to area hospitals with illnesses ranging from dehydration to kidney failure. Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, died upon arrival at a hospital. No one else remains hospitalized.
Sheriff’s investigators in Arizona’s Yavapai County are treating the deaths as homicides but have yet to determine the cause. Autopsy results for Brown and Shore were pending.
So how is Oprah involved? Well, she has had Ray on her show before, talking about the incredibly insipid “The Secret,” of which Winfrey is a huge fan. In fact, Oprah has long been a big fan of homeopathic or alternative healings, from giving Jenny McCarthy a free platform to scream that vaccinations gave her child autism, to having Dr. Oz himself on to promote random, never-proven nonsense.
The fact is this: Oprah Winfrey can continue to promote any pseudoscientific fantasy she wishes. But she just killed three people with it. So maybe she needs to think about giving out factual advice to her millions of fans, rather than secret fantasies.
August 6, 2009
It seems one of the big right-wing talking points in regard to the “Cash-for-Clunkers” program is “Why is the government helping the auto industry and not other business sectors?”
A few: Oil, energy, defense, steel, feed grain, cotton, wheat, soybean, dairy, peanut, sugar, oil seed, tobacco, wool and mohair, honey.
Companies that have received federal monies include: Boeing, Xerox, IBM, Motorola, Dow Chemical, and General Electric, Pillsbury, Sunkist, McDonalds, Shell, Exxon and Walmart.
So why is the federal government only helping the auto industry? Because they have spent the last few decades helping all other industries, perhaps?
August 6, 2009
Having stumbled across a Yahoo! video on people giving their pets acupuncture, I thought now would be a good time to tell people not to stick pins in their cherished pets. Giving a dog acupuncture doesn’t help the dog as much as it helps the dog owner.
Come on, people. Acupuncture is all about the placebo effect. And your pet just doesn’t think at that level. So just stop it.
July 29, 2009
Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne has had a busy week, attacking messengers and filing reports. As should always be the case with Byrne and Overstock, the real news goes on top – Overstock’s financial reporting.
At Overstock’s Q2 conference call, former “Crazy Eddie” fraudster and current whistleblower Sam Antar came at Byrne with some tough questions, which were not answered by Byrne, who instead mocked and taunted Antar. In an epic post titled “How to Issue Phony Financial Reports and Mislead Investors – Overstock.com and Patrick M. Byrne Style,” Antar lays out the financial shenanigans going on at Overstock.com.
Overstock.com’s history is littered with a consistent pattern of false and misleading financial disclosures and lies by management about the company’s financial performance and compliance with securities laws
Since, its inception in 1999, Overstock.com is has yet to produce a financial report that has not at least initially violated GAAP and SEC disclosure rules. In fact, certain financial reports from 2003 to 2005 were restated twice to correct accounting errors.
From December 2000 to March 2002, Patrick Byrne lied about Overstock.com’s financial performance in a series of interviews on national television and in various publications prior to the company’s initial public offering in March 2002. Patrick Byrne deceptively used pro forma non-GAAP “gross value merchandise value sales” (instead of the lower GAAP commission revenue) to hype the company’s top-line performance in order to falsely claim that Overstock.com was profitable, when it never was profitable (Details here).
Antar’s story is well-detailed and brings up numerous questions about Overstock.com. Questions Byrne refuses to answer. Gary Weiss – who has long followed Byrne and has the character defamation to prove it – wrote about Byrne’s successful attack on Antar:
But the SEC doesn’t have to expand the rules to curb this kind of behavior. This isn’t Byrne hiring yet another Judd Bagley to intimidate critics. It is him, acting as CEO, doing it openly on a conference call, for the express and undisguised purpose of boosting the price of his stock by curbing serious analysis and questioning.
And boost it did. Share prices jumped 12% yesterday, climbing from 12.27 to 13.78, based on Byrne’s uncontradicted hype and intimidation of a critic.
He accomplished that by giving a graduate level course in issuer retaliation. The only question is, will the SEC learn anything from it, and act?
What the SEC does or doesn’t do in regard with Overstock.com remains to be seen. But what has been seen this week is bloggers on the left and right realizing that Patrick Byrne is not what he seems.
It started June 17, as Daily Kos Diarist Tom Sykes wrote “Bloggers Need to Steer Clear of Phony ‘Populist’ Patrick Byrne.”
Today Byrne’s latest con game is to run a website called “Deep Capture” to push his agenda and gain legitimacy for vouchers, union-busting and his other causes. This is a publicity vehicle for Byrne, according to Byrne himself, quoting the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Byrne had applied for SABEW membership, and he got the following response: “In SABEW’s view, not all business blogs qualify as news publications just as all writing and editing doesn’t qualify as journalism. From its standpoint your activities and those of DeepCapture seem closer to corporate public relations, and SABEW isn’t open to PR professionals _ or of course to retail business executives.”
Of course, Sykes then detailed how Byrne and sidekick Judd Bagley then tried to hack into his computer using spyware – which Weiss also wrote about.
Byrne handled all this in typical fashion – ignoring any and all issues and attacking Sykes, accusing him of being a sockpuppet and other things. And now the issue has created a Diary war between DKo’s diarist Andrewtna – who bases everything on reports from the Byrne Web site Deep Capture – and Sykes. For his part, Sykes has continued researching Byrne and Overstock.
From the far left, we move to the far right, as Red State’s mustango wrote a post titled “Patrick M. Byrne, Will You Please Go Away Now!”
Byrne has, how shall I put this, some very severe personality flaws. Thin-skinned, vindictive, ego-driven — he kind of reminds me of the current occupant of the Oval Office in a way, except that he lacks the latter’s ability to maintain his composure in public. Still, he’s close enough that I think he’d fit right into the party of Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank — but alas, he is a full-blooded conservative from that reddest of the red states, Utah.
The big problem with Byrne (and I don’t count this against his being a conservative because this is something that transcends political viewpoints) is that he is a big supporter of the First Amendment, except when it’s his own ox being gored by that pesky freedom of speech thing. Unable to satisfactorily answer the criticisms leveled against his business practices, he sadly falls back on the time-dishonored practice of attacking the messenger, defaming or otherwise attempting to ruin those who speak out against him publicly, and for those who choose to air their criticisms anonymously, he has been known to go to some rather drastic lengths to uncover their identities and then go after them.
Basically, it’s been a busy week for Patrick Byrne, and he now has a few more people to attack. I’ve done my share of reporting on Byrne in the past, and am among those perplexed that the CEO of a publicly traded company spends so much time trolling the Internet to attack any that question him.
But that’s neither here nor there. Because the real story is right there at the top of this post.
July 28, 2009
HOLLYWOOD – Aiming to squelch rumors that he was not born in the United States and therefore not eligible to hold his current office, President Barack Obama and his family took to the stage last night at the Schubert Theater. The Obama Family’s “Really, I Was Born in Hawaii” Variety Show, was also broadcast live across the nation on NBC.
The show once again showed the magic of the Obama family, as the President, First Lady Michelle, and children Sasha and Malia showcased their singing, dancing and comedic skills. The President opened up the show with one of his patented monologues.
“As you know, my middle name was given to me by someone who had no idea I would run for President,” said Obama, who had a copy of his birth certificate pinned to his chest the entire show. “And that middle name was given to me in Hawaii. Where I was born. Really.”
Other highlights included Michelle Obama entertaining the masses with her juggling act. The First Lady was able to keep three oranges, two chainsaws, and two copies of her husband’s birth certificate.
“I’ve been practicing this for a while,” said Michelle Obama, mid-performance. “This should prove that my husband was born in Hawaii. Seriously.”
During a poignant segment of the show, the President sat down with his two daughters to explain top them the promise of America.
“Kids, I love you and I’m so happy that you have been born in a free country and can be anything you want,” said Barack Obama, a single tear falling down his cheek. “And remember Grandma? How we used to visit her in Hawaii? That’s because I was born there. It’s right here on the birth certificate.”
The shows climactic segment came when Obama and Family, state authorities from Hawaii, and 1,200 other friends and relatives all went on stage and swore on Holy Bibles that Barack Obama, was, in fact, born in Hawaii.
The show drew high ratings for NBC, and network executives are hoping to shoot more specials to use as a Fall replacement show. Obama advisor David Plouffe said the variety showcased Obama’s many skills.
“People aren’t aware that Barack and his family are wonderful entertainers who want change in this nation. They are not the status quo. And Barack was born in Hawaii, really,” said Plouffe.
Still, some media experts are not convinced.
“Until we see the birth certificate, it’s all for not,” said CNN’s Lou Dobbs. “I’m still not entirely convinced.”
July 23, 2009
For those who had tired of 9/11 conspiricists or “Truthers” calling us ignorant and screaming the steel can’t melt, the Birthers have been a breath of fresh air. So for that, and a multitude of other reasons, we here at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles are proud to announce that the Birther movement has earned its spot in the Conspiricist Nutbag Hall of Fame.
Birthers believe that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that his Presidency is illegal and that there is a huge conspiracy at work that has been ongoing since Obama was born. Despite the fact that Obama has shown his birth certificate and the State of Hawaii has verified his birth in Hawaii, Birthers steadfastly believe it’s all crap and have been on the prowl for little more than a year, making it the third-fastest growing conspiracy.
“This is just fantastic,” said one Birther. “The stolen kingdom of Barack Hussein Obama will crumble!”
Still, most experts claim that – like other conspiracies – the Birther movement requires many leaps of logic and will likely soon be crushed by the weight of the logical fallacies it has created.
Nonetheless, Birthers join an honored group in the Conspiracy Nutbag Hall of Fame. Earlier inductees include:
The Fire Brigade: A group that refused to believe in the existence of fire (on record as the fastest-resolved conspiracy);
Truthers: The greatest conspiracy of the modern era, despite the fact that its members are annoying as hell. Many still believe that 9/11 was a zionist conspiracy, the U.S. murdered everyone on Flight 92, shot missiles into the Pentagon and blew up the WTCs. This is a conspiracy with legs.
Dowsers: These people walk around with sticks that they say they can use to find water underground.
Scientology: Xenu, baby.
Representatives of the Birther movement have said they will continue to believe that Obama was born in Kenya, regardless of what brook is presented.
“We all know that everyone in the 1960s was looking for a black leader,” said the Birther Leader. “Wiz, bang, boom, Obama’s President. Our case is clear.”
July 18, 2009
My heart dropped when I learned through the Web Site Deep Capture that business journalist Herb Greenberg had disappeared.
According to Deep Capture:
Acqua Wellington is controlled by a “prominent” investor named Isser Elishis. In an otherwise flattering article, Herb Greenberg – a journalist whose entire career was devoted to granting “courtesies” to hedge funds in the Milken network – described Elishis as the “banker of last resort.”
Herb, who disappeared from public sight after he was exposed by Deep Capture, now owns a company that ostensibly sells financial research to hedge funds in the Milken network (or, arguably, merely receives payment from them for the extensive string of “courtesies” that Herb extended while working as a journalist,
I have had a few dealings with Greenberg on the past, notably on a story involving how Overstock.com chose to fight criticism of their business. I had no choice but to go on a search for Greenberg. I would know no peace until I found him. So, four seconds in to my search I was in touch with him, and can now declaratively state:
“I, William K. Wolfrum, have been in e-mail contact with Herb Greenberg, who has noted that rumors of his “disappearance” are greatly “fabricated.” From Greenberg:
“I am Currently living in a cave in Bolivia. I FLED San Diego after having been humiliated and revealed by the Pulitzer Prize-bound journalists of Deep Capture, and the fear that they would reveal that my entire career was devoted to granting courtesies to hedge funds in the Milken network.”
And then, in a less derisive, snark-filled response, Greenberg wrote:
“Yes, the rumors of my disappearance are greatly fabricated. I’m actually alive and well with a healthy Twitter following (though I rarely ever Twitter) and spend most of my days toiling away in my research business, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.”
So have no fear if you let Deep Capture scare you about Greenberg’s “disappearance.” No worries. He’s around.
June 26, 2009
Over the last year, I’ve worked on several stories involving Internet hoaxes, including the Martin Eisenstadt hoax and the Ben & Jerry’s “CyClone Dairy” hoax. On a couple of these stories, I’ve had the pleasure of working with journalist Diane Tucker of The Huffington Post. Tucker, who takes journalism quite seriously, has given Huffpo readers the inside scoop on some of these stories.
Of course, these days, Tucker may need to look at The Huffington Post itself, as the prominent liberal news site has taken to giving its readers a fake out of its own. According to Wired, Huffpo – as well as Salon – has taken to running “advertorials.” The only thing about these advertorials – which are generally plainly marked as advertisements in newspapers and magazines – is that they take the form of real stories from real news sites.
That “News5Alert” ran in a rotating ad spot on HuffPost last week, though it was not identified as an ad. Clicking on it took you to a story from “News 5″ in Sacramento — which is not a TV station — revealing how one Mary Steadman now makes $6,500 a month working from home, thanks to an internet course called Google Home Income.
The story has art, it has a sidebar, there’s weather, supposed reader comments — even ads. Steadman is described as “a mother from San Francisco” — at least, when I read the article. Thanks to cutting-edge reporting techniques perfected by News 5, she will automatically move to the geolocation of your internet IP address when you read it. Look, she lives right in your neighborhood!
Salon displayed a similar ad yesterday, showing a newspaper clipping with the headline, “Can You Really Work Online at Home? We Investigate This Trend.”
Read the whole story from Wired and decide for yourself whether or not Huffpo has crossed a line between news and hucksterism. Personally, I go with the latter. Because while making money in the news biz is no easy feat, tricking readers out of their hard-earned money is the stuff of low-brow tabloids, not for the biggest news web site on the planet.
May 18, 2009
Seymour Hersh is good for some amazing investigative journalism. But the latest Hersh “story” that Dick Cheney was involved in killing Pakistan politician Benazir Bhutto appears to be a complete falsehood.
While there hasn’t been much on it yet, the Daily Times of Pakistan has this story:
LAHORE: US journalist Seymour Hersh on Monday contradicted news reports being published in South Asia that quote him as saying a “special death squad” made by former US vice president Dick Cheney had killed Benazir Bhutto. The award-winning journalist described as “complete madness” the reports that the squad headed by General Stanley McChrystal – the new commander of US army in Afghanistan – had also killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafique Al Hariri and a Lebanese army chief. “Vice president Cheney does not have a death squad. I have no idea who killed Mr Hariri or Mrs Bhutto,” Hersh said. “I have never said that I did have such information. I most certainly did not say anything remotely to that effect during an interview with an Arab media outlet.” He said Gen McChrystal had run a special forces unit that engaged in “high value target activity”, but “while I have been critical of some of that unit’s activities in the pages of the New Yorker and in interviews, I have never suggested that he was involved in political assassinations or death squads on behalf of Mr Cheney, as the published stories state.” He regretted that none of the publications had contacted him before carrying the report. “This is another example of blogs going bonkers with misleading and fabricated stories and professional journalists repeating such rumours without doing their job – and that is to verify such rumours.”
Still, at this point, even the Hersh denial is suspect. But the story itself is a complete and total non-starter. Unless Hersh comes forward and says it’s true – which is very unlikely – consider the “Cheney killed Bhutto” story to be a hoax. I’ll gladly retract this if I’m wrong, but thus far, this story has no foundation, whatsoever.
April 29, 2009
This blogaround is brought to you by Orson Scott Card Brand Douchebags. Just one application and you’ll feel less healthy and much worse about yourself.
The Douchebaggery Report: The decidedly non-douchebaggy Phil Plait looks at how Australian ant-vaxers are reaping what they’ve sewn. Drinking Liberally in New Milford: In case you were unaware, the guy who wrote “Ender’s Game” is a hyper-homophobic douchebag. Skippy the Bush Kangaroo: 60 senators is nice, but don’t forget that Democrats don’t march lockstep like Republicans. Blue Gal: We can’t look forward until we’ve cleaned up the past. Vagabond Scholar: Why does the Cheney family want to pick and choose memos to release rather than a full investigation that would vindicate them? This Week in Blackness: Rare Species of Non-Urban Africanis-Americanus Discovered; Scientists Hypothesize Some Blacks May Not Even Be Christian. Antonia Zerbisias’ Broadsides: The UK has a big problem with violence against women – so they work on it by banning Keira Knightley’s powerful anti-abuse ad. Matt Lewis: Arlen Specter Traitor!!!!!9/11!!!! But seriously, unless you’re a party not named Democratic or Republican, there’s no reason to get overly excited by getting a guy who just wants to keep his job. The Political Carnival: If you watch only Fox News, you won’t be aware of this – Americans still like Barack Obama.
April 25, 2009
Watching Glenn Beck, I was a bit confused that he dedicated a big chunk of his show about some some evil government plan to “steal” the DNA of every child and that there was nothing you could do about it. One thing to remember about Beck, however: Everything he said is either ignorant, a lie, or both. Below is the entire bill that he was so worried about. The bill that will lead us down the road to “Gattaca” and “Minority Report.” Note the bolded sections.
Dr. Steven Novella: “But we see here the anti-vaccine strategy, which is deliberately ignorant of history”
April 23, 2009
From Dr. Steven Novella, neurosurgeon and host of the popular podcast “Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe,” once again blows an anti-vaccination pseudoscientist out of the water:
It seems I have gotten under the skin of notorious anti-vaccine crank J.B. Handley, the founder of Age of Autism. He recently wrote an entire article dedicated to the character assassination of yours truly. It seems I had the temerity to critique the latest anti-vaccination propaganda initiative called fourteen studies, an attempt to discredit the scientific evidence against a link between vaccines and autism.
Handley’s attack is an astounding example of hypocrisy, logical fallacies, and tortured reasoning. He really exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of the anti-vaccine movement, which is only reinforced by the supporting comments left by his avid readers.