Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary – Gorsuch & Fake News

At our Camp Kotok gathering in Maine, we often discussed truth and fact checking versus the spreading practice of political lies and fakery.  We will have more to say about the gathering. For now here is a case study about truth and lies.

Cumberland Advisors - Fake News

Shortly after he was appointed to the Supreme Court in April, 2017, Justice Neil Gorsuch announced that he would not be participating in the court’s “cert pool.” The pool is a labor-saving device by which justices share their law clerks in an effort to streamline decisions about which cases to hear. The pool has, however, been criticized – by former justice John Paul Stevens, among others – for reducing the number of cases the court takes up.

We applaud Justice Gorsuch for his action (he joins Justice Samuel Alito as the only justices who do not participate in the pool). We wish we could stop this missive right here.

But our purpose in writing today is actually to call attention to a rather devious story circulating on the internet that conflates Gorsuch’s move with a claim that the Supreme Court ruled on the teaching of Sharia law in US schools. The claim goes further, stating that Gorsuch, in his first decision on the court, not only cast the tie-breaking vote but also issued a statement about the decision.

There was no such decision. The claim is false. The Snopes website, on a page titled “Did the Supreme Court Side with Trump on Schools Teaching ‘Sharia Law’?,” establishes that the court has not considered the matter of Sharia law (source: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sharia-law-trump-schools-supreme-court/).

Thus, what began as a rather innocuous and complimentary story about Justice Gorsuch morphed into a blatant attempt to disseminate fake news. It is that fakery that has triggered this commentary.

In today’s world, people have considerable license to say what they please on the internet. Our First Amendment constitutional rights are very broad. But we should not forget that defense of our right to free speech includes the responsibility we each have to do independent research and to take care when dealing with social media and political websites of all types.

The fake story reached our office in the form of an email to me. Here is the explanation of how this devious behavior went viral: “The Supreme Court and Sharia law: How a fake-news story spreads,” https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/14/fake-news-story-spreads-576752).

The originator of the fakery, Christopher Blair, has done a disservice to our nation and made a mockery of our Constitution, which protects us and him. In my opinion he is a scoundrel. He duped many who didn’t take the time to verify but instead forwarded his lies to others.

Here is the original text: We are reproducing it verbatim with permission from the author. If you saw it or if it was forwarded to you, please feel free to send my missive in reply. If you know the original source, you can decide for yourself about any action to take. Thank you for caring about the First Amendment and practicing vigilance to protect it.

__________

“THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST ENCOURAGING EVENTS YOU WILL NOT SEE, OR HEAR MUCH ABOUT IN PRINT OR ON TELEVISION…

“Neil Gorsuch has only been on the Supreme Court for a short while. Recently he ignited the fire of liberty and broke 40 years of precedent when he refused to join the SCOTUS ‘cert pool.’

“The cert pool was established in 1973 during the early days of the Burger Court, in order to efficiently review the near 8,000 petitions received each term. In practice, the petitions are apportioned among the Court’s law clerks, who then circulate a memo to the justices recommending a grant or denial. The obvious problem here is that this gives the power in these 8000 cases to the law clerks instead of the Justices. It also, in theory, allows 3rd parties to unfairly influence a case through the clerks.

“That is NOT how the Supreme Court was designed to operate. Neil Gorsuch just managed to set his foot down in the Supreme Court and say it is NOT okay to pass off judgments to the discretion of legal clerks. This is the kind of story everyone should be hearing or reading in the media, but obviously is not.

“Today the United States Supreme Court issued a direct and final blow to the Islamic Indoctrination of the young in this nation. The full panel of the United States Supreme Court which consists of 9 judges met to decide the fate of Islamic indoctrination in our American public schools. In a typical 5 X 4 decision, common sense won out, and we have sanity restored to our schools once again.

“The United States Supreme Court was able to hand out this decision banning Sharia Law and Islam from being taught in classrooms because of the tie-breaking vote of the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

[Kotok note: The fake news practitioner has just told an outright lie.]

“Gorsuch went on to write about the decision: ‘The government certainly has no business being involved in religion, but this isn’t a government issue or a religious issue. This is about the judicial branch interpreting the laws as they apply to the teaching of religion. We shouldn’t be teaching any religions in the public schools of this country’

[Kotok note: The creator of fake news has had the temerity to put false words in the mouth of a Supreme Court justice. To couch that lie in religious terms is a further affront to the First Amendment.]

“Amen, Justice Gorsuch, Amen!

“Liberals are all about teaching Islam and Sharia Law but they have issues with ‘Under God’ in the pledge of allegiance and ‘In God We Trust’ on our currency.

[Kotok note: The fake news fabrication is now broadened into a liberal versus conservative religious rant.]

“This should have been a unanimous decision, not 5 to 4, but it seems the 4 liberal judges on the Supreme Court don’t care about the Constitution, or our values. Perhaps this is the start of restoring America to its founding glory.

“Thank GOD for our new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch — a great selection by President Trump.

“IF YOU WILL, PLEASE PASS THIS ENCOURAGING NEWS ALONG, AS I HAVE DONE”

__________

Dear readers. We try to fact-check everything we write about and offer citations. We avoid forwarded assertions like the deception above. And we scrupulously defend those magical 45 words of the First Amendment. Those words stand between us and tyranny.

Here is the text of the First Amendment, which Justice Gorsuch and his SCOTUS colleagues are sworn to preserve and defend.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

David R. Kotok
Chairman of the Board & Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

Above graphic derived from IFLA infographic based on FactCheck.org’s 2016 article “How to Spot Fake News”:  https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 3

Defending First Amendment Freedoms, Part 3

Gretchen Morgenson delivered the keynote address, titled “Why Financial Literacy Depends on Press Freedom,” at Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III, the annual major conference that Cumberland sponsors at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM).

Morgenson is Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at the Wall Street Journal. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist notable as the longtime writer of the Fair Game column for the New York Times. In November 2017 she moved from the Times to the Journal.

Following the conference, she signed copies of her book Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon at an event that benefited the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. The CPJ “defend[s] the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. around the world.” Learn more about the CPJ here: https://cpj.org/about/.

Here is a YouTube of Morgenson’s keynote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoFDUbQdsBo.

She then engaged with the audience in a Q&A session. Here is a YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGNxZcSV3Ss.

Financial Literacy Day III was open to the public, and the auditorium was packed. Registration cost was just 50 bucks, which included lunch. Our partners for the event were USFSM, the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), and the Financial Planning Association of Florida (FPA).

We are proud supporters of all three partner organizations and were pleased to bring this high quality dialogue to the greater Florida Westcoast region and to the rest of the world via the event livestream. From our email flow we see that viewers responded from five of the seven continents – we are not sure about the Antipodean realm or Antarctica.

Part one of our Defending First Amendment Freedoms is here: https://www.cumber.com/cumberland-advisors-market-commentary-defending-first-amendment-freedoms/. Part two is here: https://www.cumber.com/cumberland-advisors-market-commentary-defending-first-amendment-freedoms-part-2/. For future GIC program plans see https://www.interdependence.org/events/.

We hope you found the conference and the First Amendment series worthwhile.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Defending First Amendment Freedoms

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentary
Part 1: Freedom of the Press
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” [emphasis ours]

Early last month we learned that journalists who covered the migrant caravan that approached the US border in late 2018, seven Americans among them, have since repeatedly been singled out for unusual scrutiny by the Border Patrol at the US-Mexico border. On March 6, NBC 7 of San Diego revealed the Border Patrol’s intelligence gathering behind extra interviews, demands to examine laptops and phones, and even instances in which two photojournalists and an attorney were denied entry to Mexico. (For that televised report, see https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html.) The US government has been collecting intelligence on Americans who accompanied the caravan as journalists, attorneys, witnesses, social media influencers, and activists. Screenshots of that database of “Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators, and Media,” supplied by an anonymous source in the Department of Homeland Security, show that alerts were placed on several journalists’ passports, triggering the extra scrutiny they encountered. (See screenshots at https://www.nbcsandiego.com/multimedia/PHOTOS-Leaked-Documents-to-NBC-7-Investigates-506782041.html.)

Some journalists felt that Border Patrol agents were attempting to use them and their devices to glean intelligence on the caravan, jeopardizing confidential sources and their rights as journalists to do their jobs. Phones and laptops have been requested, along with the passwords needed to inspect their contents. In fact, there have been complaints from other Americans about similar warrantless searches going back as far as 2011, and not just those leveled by journalists and others traveling with the migrant caravan. (See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/us/politics/us-border-privacy-phone-searches.html.)

But laws that enable warrantless searches for Homeland Security purposes can collide head on with the work of a free press, as journalists must now resort to handling the security of their data at the US-Mexico border just as they would handle it in hostile nations, and they must plan on the possibility that they will be detained for lengthy interviews or even denied access.

In fact, it was the very fact that they were documenting the caravan’s arrival when violence broke out at the border in San Diego that resulted in alerts being placed on their passports. (See the 4:20 p.m. update in the NBC 7 article: https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html.)

But, according to one Homeland Security source, the dossiers created on journalists and others were, in fact, illegal. “We are a criminal investigation agency; we’re not an intelligence agency. We can’t create dossiers on people, and they’re creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the Border Search Authority.” (https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/Source-Leaked-Documents-Show-the-US-Government-Tracking-Journalists-and-Advocates-Through-a-Secret-Database-506783231.html) Targeting people according to their presence and their profession also constitutes overreach. To be targeted and tracked and profiled simply because you are in a particular place at a particular time doing your job should not be a situation any member of the press faces. To implement such a practice is effectively to discourage coverage of events at the border altogether. It is intimidation and interference, and Amendment I forbids that practice in the United States of America.

Let’s make this clear: Whatever CPB’s intentions and purposes may have been, the pragmatic effect of its actions amounted to interference in journalists’ ability to do their jobs and without compromising sources. The press cannot rightfully be impeded in its work or subjected to warrantless searches simply for witnessing and reporting. This is, however, what has been happening, though journalists are not alone. (Information security and warrantless searches are sometimes issued for business travelers, too, as one Apple employee learned last fall: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/03/apple-employee-detained-by-us-customs-agents-after-declining-unlock-phone-laptop.) Details of the experiences of journalists covering the migrant caravan have been reported in several sources. See https://cpj.org/2019/02/several-journalists-say-us-border-agents-questione.php and https://wamu.org/story/19/03/07/u-s-reportedly-compiled-database-of-journalists-working-along-southwest-border/.

After the story broke, CBP responded with a statement (which can be viewed in full at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5759650-CBP-Full-Statement.html), noting that “Criminal events, such as the breach of the border wall in San Diego, involving assaults on law enforcement and a risk to public safety, are routinely monitored and investigated by authorities. These activities could result in a more thorough review of those seeking entrance into our country. It is protocol following these incidents to collect evidence that might be needed for future legal actions and to determine if the event was orchestrated. CBP and our law enforcement partners evaluate these incidents, follow all leads garnered from information collected, conduct interviews and investigations, in preparation for, and often to prevent future incidents that could cause further harm to the public, our agents, and our economy.”

According to a report in the Guardian, “Andrew Meehan, CBP’s assistant commissioner of public affairs, said the agency identified individuals who may have information related to incidents where CBP agents were attacked in November and January. ‘CBP does not target journalists for inspection based on their occupation or their reporting,’ Meehan said in a statement.”

The CBP’s mission to investigate, however, cannot overstep its reach to trump the country’s First Amendment right to a free press.

Esha Bhandari, an ACLU staff attorney, quoted in a recent article in the Guardian, sees the practice of targeting journalists among others not only as violating freedom of the press, but as deterring free speech more broadly: “It means that the debate about immigrants’ rights, about the treatment of immigrants, about the treatment of asylum seekers, is going to be suppressed or censored because the people who are speaking out with a voice that’s critical of the government are going to be singled out for harsher treatment or punished.” Advocates for immigrants’ rights also feel this pressure under an administration particularly aggressive about curbing immigration and deporting undocumented immigrants already in the US (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/mar/20/leaked-database-targeting-journalists-immigration-activists).

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has tracked warrantless searches and documents regarding the extent to which their overall use has expanded: “CBP figures show that over the past three years the agency has increased the number of electronic device searches from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 30,000 in 2017. This more-than-threefold increase comes as journalists report being concerned about their ability to protect sources and amid growing hostile rhetoric toward the press” https://cpj.org/reports/2018/10/nothing-to-declare-us-border-search-phone-press-freedom-cbp.php.

The CPJ has made a series of recommendations to Congress, to DHS, and to the media, designed to ensure that freedom of the press and the rights of journalists and others are not violated by CBP practices. Those recommendations are laid out in full at the CPJ website: https://cpj.org/reports/2018/10/nothing-to-declare-us-border-press-freedom-recommendations.php.

Highlights of CPJ’s recommendations follow:

Recommendations

To Congress

  • “Pass legislation that would require DHS to obtain a warrant before searching devices at the border, which is essential to protecting the privacy of journalists who are traveling into or out of the United States.
  • “Pass legislation that requires DHS to report the number of basic and advanced electronic device searches conducted at the border, along with demographic breakdowns of who these device searches affect, and the number of searches that result in evidence later used in a criminal case. These reporting requirements should include the number of people subject to device searches who object to device searches on the grounds that they are members of the media.
  • “The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs should hold a hearing to ask detailed questions of DHS about electronic device searches, including their impact on journalists, any guidelines the agency has in place regarding interactions with the media, and the number of device searches conducted pursuant a request by another agency, with statistics from each requesting agency….”

Department of Homeland Security

  • “DHS should not use secondary screenings at the border to question journalists for the purpose of intelligence gathering that goes beyond the purpose of facilitating lawful travel entry for that individual.
  • “DHS should modify its policy on electronic device searches to require a warrant and probable cause before searching digital information contained on devices. In the case of journalists, it should work with media organizations to establish clear guidelines on when a warrant can be issued to search devices belonging to a member of the media, similar to those established by the Department of Justice.”

Newsrooms

  • “Newsrooms should ensure that journalists are trained in digital security when crossing the border. They should work with legal counsel and security experts to provide guidance for how journalists should respond to questioning at the border or requests to search their electronic devices.
  • “Journalists should take steps to minimize the amount of sensitive information that they are carrying across the U.S. border and ensure that they take appropriate steps to safeguard their digital security and that they are aware of their rights.”

Warrantless searches, especially of journalists who are mere witnesses doing their jobs to document events, are a disturbing trend in the US. Constitutionally guaranteed rights do not preserve themselves. Americans must exercise vigilance and demand accountability from every agency in our government. It is, after all, a free press that affords us the reporting that enables us to hold our government accountable.

The famous words often attributed to Edmund Burke remain a riveting reminder for our times: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” (See https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/.)

To speak out against CBP interference with journalists’ work, call your Senator and your Representative:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

To donate to the Committee to Protect Journalists, access this link: https://donate.cpj.org/page/28608/donate/.

Note that on April 11, 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gretchen Morgenson, is the keynote speaker at Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event. Gretchen is a champion of the free press. Pertaining to her Fannie Mae investigative reporting, she cited the secrecy at the Obama White House as yet another sign of a pattern that Margaret Sullivan, the public editor at The Times, has called the administration’s “unprecedented secrecy and attacks on a free press.”

If you’re a proponent of the First Amendment and its importance to our republic, please join us April 11th at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

The conversation continues at “Defending First Amendment Freedoms – Part 2


Update (04/12/2019): Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address, “Why Financial Literacy Depends on Press Freedom,” and Q&A session from the conference are posted here. Enjoy!

Gretchen Morgenson’s Keynote Address

Gretchen Morgenson’s Q&A with audience


Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event, was held April 11, 2019, at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

The focus was “Financial Markets and the Economy”, featuring:

Panels-
• The Stock Market
• Health Hunger and Philanthropy
• How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook

Special Presentations-
A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.

We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients.

Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

Sign up for our FREE Cumberland Market Commentaries

Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Gretchen Morgenson to Keynote at Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III

USF Sarasota-Manatee, Cumberland Advisors, and the Global Interdependence Center invite you to our third annual Financial Literacy Day, to be held April 11, 2019, from 8:30 AM to 4 PM in the Selby Auditorium of the USFSM campus.

FINANCIAL MARKETS & THE ECONOMY Financial Literacy Day III Keynote Gretchen Morgenson

The theme this year is “Financial Markets and the Economy,” and the event will feature a number of panel discussions and special presentations, including the keynote speaker, Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ says of Morgenson:

“Following a stint on Wall Street, she began covering the financial markets in 1986 at Forbes. In 2002, she won a Pulitzer Prize for her “trenchant and incisive” reporting on Wall Street for The New York Times. She has also won three Gerald Loeb Awards and is a co-author of Reckless Endangerment, a bestselling 2011 book about the origins of the 2008 financial crisis.”

See our write-up about Gretchen’s “Don’t Blink, or You’ll Miss another Bailout” 2013 article where she focused on secretive decision making at the NY Fed. Part of the greatness of America includes the constitutional right of a free press and we’re pleased Gretchen Morgenson is among them.

Ms. Morgenson will have a reception at the conclusion of her talk and her book, Reckless Endangerment, will be available for those who wish it.


Update (04/12/2019): Gretchen Morgenson’s keynote address and Q&A session from the conference are posted here. Enjoy!

Gretchen Morgenson’s Keynote Address

Gretchen Morgenson’s Q&A with audience


Cumberland Advisors’ “Financial Markets and the Economy – Financial Literacy Day III” event, was held April 11, 2019, at the Selby Auditorium of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

The focus was “Financial Markets and the Economy”, featuring:

Panels-
• The Stock Market
• Health Hunger and Philanthropy
• How the World Looks to Me – A Global Economic Outlook

Special Presentations-
A Conversation with Susan Harper, Canada’s Consul Gen in Fla, on Trade/World Affairs
Keynote by Gretchen Morgenson, Senior Special Writer in the Investigations Unit at The Wall Street Journal and Former Business and Financial Editor for the New York Times.

We welcome and encourage the participation of our friends, colleagues, and clients.

Learn more: https://www.cumber.com/financial-literacy-day/

FINANCIAL MARKETS & THE ECONOMY Financial Literacy Day III Keynote Gretchen Morgenson (Book - Reckless Endangerment)

Read some of Gretchen’s current work at the Wall Street Journal.

Financial Literacy Day welcomes the participation of the general public. The cost is only $50 to register, and coffee, pastries, and lunch are included. Please reserve your spot soon – we expect to have a full auditorium. You can make your reservation online and learn more at http://USFSM.edu/FinancialLiteracy.