Mojo - October 2010

VFW's Tea Party Revolt Just Got Revolt-ier

| Wed Oct. 13, 2010 7:15 AM PDT

Looks like we were on to something. I'd like to think of it as revoltiness.

This morning, Mother Jones reported on a tea party-fueled mutiny in the country's top club for combat veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Strangely, the captain of this 2.2 million-strong ship is now one of the mutineers.

Seems many rank-and-file VFW members didn't take a shine to the organization's political wing, VFW-PAC, and its Election Day endorsements. The group reserved its seal of approval for incumbents only, including the likes of Democrats Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. In doing so, VFW-PAC snubbed at least a dozen military vets running for Congress as tea party-endorsed Republicans, from the Palin-endorsed Alaska Senate hopeful Joe Miller to a card-carrying VFW member (and shooter of Iraqis), Ilario Pantano, in a North Carolina House race. MoJo talked to VFW members who were angry at the group's pooh-poohing of these "patriots" and discovered a few smaller, GOP-financed, right-wing vets' groups stirring the pot of discontent.

Now, in a development straight out of Colbert Nation, even the VFW's commander is PO'd at the organization he skippers. The club's home page is emblazoned with a stern letter from him to the membership, sharing their discontent with the club's political endorsements. "Our recent endorsement process unintentionally provided favoritism to the incumbents. It is now evident it was unfairly skewed and actually subverted that process," writes commander-in-chief Richard Eubank. "We are requesting the chairman and the directors of the Political Action Committee immediately rescind their endorsement actions."

"Requesting," he says, because he doesn't have any control over the group's PAC. Or he claims not to. That's not what VFW members think, not the ones MoJo talked to. Nor are their online stewards, the milblogging community, doing much to back up the commander's claims. "Legally and Financially, the VFW-PAC is a separate organization from the VFW, but let's not kid ourselves, the two are closely related," one wrote yesterday.

What's it all mean? Perhaps the usual tea party narrative we've learned from the elections and primaries so far this year: These patriots will destroy a political party or a storied service organization—or maybe even a nation—in order to save it.

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And the Winner of the Final Brown/Whitman Debate Is. . .

| Wed Oct. 13, 2010 5:01 AM PDT

Tom Brokaw. Man, why can't this guy run for governor? Taking a break for his documentary gig to moderate the final Brown/Whitman debate, Brokaw outdid both candidates in cutting to the heart of the state's problems. He asked what Californians can do for California, if anything, and what they thought of polls showing that the state's voters were "utterly unrealistic" about what can be cut from government spending without affecting services. He asked whether Proposition 13 was a "sacred cow" or a "boulder in the road" to reform. And he wrapped up by wondering if the candidates supported any structural reforms such as major changes to California's dysfunctional constitution. He didn't get many straight answers. But he did straighten out Republican Meg Whitman at one point by fact-checking her claim that Brown had caused job losses while governing California in the '70s. (The national recession was to blame, Brokaw noted; Western states run by Republicans at the time had also lost jobs). It's nice to find somebody with enough perspective to see that the real story behind this race is the death of the California Dream. Too bad the state's electoral politics aren't really set up to discuss how to revive it.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 13, 2010

Wed Oct. 13, 2010 2:30 AM PDT

U.S. Army soldier observes the scenery while he sits on the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook in Khyber - Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, Oct. 09, 2010. The flood has affected nearly 20 million Pakistanis, forcing many from their homes. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Joshua Kruger

DADT Halted...For Good?

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 1:14 PM PDT

Just a few weeks ago, it looked like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was here for the duration. Congress backed down from a half-hearted attempt to repeal it, and Republicans looked poised to take back the House (at a minimum), thus protecting their constituents from the specter of military gayification.

Guess we forgot about "activist judges," though.

Federal district court judge Virginia Phillips ruled Tuesday afternoon that DADT was a First Amendment violation of the first order. The rule "infringes the fundamental rights of United States servicemembers and prospective servicemembers," she said, entering an order to block the rule's enforcement nationwide. That goes not only for future cases, but pending ones, too: Phillips enjoined the Defense Department to "immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Act...on or prior to the date of this Judgment."

Translation: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

For the record, Phillips was ruling on a motion filed not by Democrats, or the Obama administration, but by the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay group that's received its share of opprobrium both from fellow GOPers and fellow LGTBs.

John Avarosis of the Advocate points out that the immediacy of Phillips' order will make it that much harder to revive DADT. And why would the federal government want to? As Avarosis says, this gives Barack Obama all the cover he needs to let the military's anti-gay policy die a quick death. "The President now has the power—given to him by a federal judge—to do the right thing, to do what he promised, to side with the civil rights community," he writes. "All he has to do is not appeal, and DADT is over."

The full text of Judge Phillips' order is below the jump: 

Ken Buck's Woman Problem Just Got Worse

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 11:39 AM PDT

Former District Attorney Ken Buck (R-Colo.) hasn't exactly wooed female voters during his bid for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Michael Bennet. During the primary, Buck told voters they should pick him over Jane Norton in the Republican primary because he "doesn't wear high heels." Colorado pro-choicers, regardless of gender, probably know that Buck's staunchly against abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and supports personhood, a movement set on protecting pre-born humans. (The Personhood Amendment in Colorado wants to add language into the state's Bill of Rights that protects a person's rights at "the beginning of the biological development of a human being" and makes several kinds of birth control illegal).

Buck's anti-woman rhetoric isn't new: In 2006, he told the Greeley Tribune that a suspected rape was merely a "case of buyer's remorse." Yesterday, the release of a taped conversation between Buck and a rape victim by The Colorado Independent underscored the former District Attorney's callous way of dealing with female constituents. Five years ago, the victim invited a former lover over to her house where she alleges he had sex with her while she was passed out drunk (they hadn't spoken for a year before the incident). She pressed charges, but ultimately, Buck, the District Attorney at the time, refused to prosecute even though the perpetrator admitted that she had said no to having sex with him while he was on top of her.

The Stock Market & War on Drugs

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 11:05 AM PDT

In the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Congress repealed alcohol prohibition. In the depths of the Great Recession of today, California voters may soon repeal marijuana prohibition. Coincidence? Maybe not. The Socionomics Institute, a Georgia-based think tank, has released a report that finds a relationship between the War on Drugs and the health of the stock market. When the Dow Jones Industrial Average is rising, the federal government typically cracks down on drug use. When it's stagnant or falling, the government typically relaxes drug controls. "Social mood influences people's actions and their social judgments," the report explains. "In times of positive mood, people have the resources to enforce their social desires. They can afford to express black and white social issues preferred during bull markets, and drug abuse is a favorite target." But during hard times, "people have other, bigger worries and begin to view recreational drugs as less dangerous, if not innocuous in offering stress relief, pain reduction, and the ability to cope with the pressures of negative social mood." In other words, when the market is low, people just want to get high.

Major events in the War on Drugs pegged to the Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Click on image for larger size)

title: caption

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Palin Doubles Down on "Death Panels"

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 10:11 AM PDT

Sarah Palin is standing by her "death panels."

In an interview taped last week for Newsmax.com, a conservative website, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate said that she had been right in 2009 to accuse President Barack Obama of trying to set up "death panels" with his health care overhaul. But the legislation, according to PolitiFact.com, did no such thing. In fact, when Palin first made this charge, PolitiFact called it a "pants on fire" lie.

Palin, though, is utterly unrepentant. She boasted to Newsmax:

I was about laughed out of town for bringing to light what I called death panels because there's going to be faceless bureaucrats who will based on cost analysis and some subjective ideas on somebody's level of  productivity in life—somebody is going to call the shots as to whether your loved one will be able to receive healthcare or not: to me, death panels. I call it like I saw it, and people didn't like it.

The problem: what she saw was not there.

In the Newsmax interview, Palin echoes, almost word-for-word, her original accusation. In August 2009, she posted a Facebook note that decried the health care reform proposal:

And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Reviewing Palin's much-noticed claim, PolitiFact noted:

We agree with Palin that such a system would be evil. But it's definitely not what President Barack Obama or any other Democrat has proposed.

We have read all 1,000-plus pages of the Democratic bill and examined versions in various committees. There is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person's "level of productivity in society" to determine whether they are "worthy" of health care.

Palin's claim sounds a little like another statement making the rounds, which says that health care reform would mandate counseling for seniors on how to end their lives sooner. We rated this claim Pants on Fire! The truth is that the health bill allows Medicare, for the first time, to pay for doctors' appointments for patients to discuss living wills and other end-of-life issues with their physicians. These types of appointments are completely optional, and AARP supports the measure.

Palin also may have also jumped to conclusions about the Obama administration's efforts to promote comparative effectiveness research. Such research has nothing to do with evaluating patients for "worthiness." Rather, comparative effectiveness research finds out which treatments work better than others.

In other words, no "death panels" and nothing like "death panels." Factcheck.org also pronounced Palin wrong on this.

In the past year, Palin has offered no proof to back up her "death panels" charge. Yet now she's not only doubling down on "death panels"; she's bragging about her gutsiness in calling out Obama. It's as if she never was refuted—or refudiated.

As for the possibility of a 2012 presidential run, Palin told Newsmax,

Anyone is foolish to prematurely close any door that perhaps will be be open for them. I also know that really it isn't my call. It is the people of America—whether they would be ready for someone a bit unconventioal, out of the box...or if they want someone a little bit more conventional, maybe more electable.

Was Palin really suggesting she's not that electable? In any event, she did not say if she expected "death panels" to be an issue in the 2012 campaign.

Haley Barbour Will Decide the Fate of the Scott Sisters

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 10:00 AM PDT

Jamie and Gladys Scott are two young women from rural Mississippi who were convicted, on questionable evidence, of involvement in an armed robbery that netted $11, and were sentenced to life in prison. Jamie Scott is suffering from end-stage renal disease, exacerbated by prison conditions and inadequate treatment–so her life sentence may soon become a death sentence.

Mother Jones was among the first non-local media to cover the case of the Scott sisters. Now the case in finally getting some national attention: The president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, has called the sisters’ situation “utterly inhumane”; along with a growing number of grassroots supporters, he is urging Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to consider a pardon or commutation of their sentence. Today, this same call was made by New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert. After describing the Scotts’ conviction and sentence, he writes:

This is Mississippi we’re talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages.

The authorities did not even argue that the Scott sisters had committed the robbery. They were accused of luring two men into a trap, in which the men had their wallets taken by acquaintances of the sisters, one of whom had a shotgun.

It was a serious crime. But the case against the sisters was extremely shaky. In any event, even if they were guilty, the punishment is so wildly out of proportion to the offense that it should not be allowed to stand.

Three teenagers pleaded guilty to robbing the men. They ranged in age from 14 to 18. And in their initial statements to investigators, they did not implicate the Scott sisters.

But a plea deal was arranged in which the teens were required to swear that the women were involved, and two of the teens were obliged, as part of the deal, to testify against the sisters in court.

Howard Patrick, who was 14 at the time of the robbery, said that the pressure from the authorities to implicate the sisters began almost immediately. He testified, “They said if I didn’t participate with them, they would send me to Parchman and make me out a female.”

He was referring to Mississippi State Prison, which was once the notoriously violent Parchman prison farm. The lawyer questioning the boy said, “In other words, they would send you to Parchman and you would get raped, right?”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said. The teens were sentenced to eight years in prison each, and they were released after serving just two years...

A Wipeout of Democratic Women?

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 7:57 AM PDT

Women in Congress are expected to be a casualty of this year's midterm elections, with net losses anticipated in the House and likely in the Senate. Though the GOP has touted its "Mama Grizzlies" and a record number of women are running for Congress, Democrats fear that 2010 will be year of the "women's wipeout," with almost a quarter of the 56 female House Dems considered vulnerable. But as my friend and former colleague Marin Cogan explains, this is more than just a numbers game, as these Democratic women have had a distinctive impact on Congress and the culture of Capitol Hill itself. Cogan points out in her latest Politico story that these women have spearheaded major legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the original Violence Against Women Act, created a Democratic Women's Working Group, and risen to senior leadership positions, among other glass ceiling-shattering accomplishments:

Each of the female senators on the chopping block have been history makers: California's Barbara Boxer as the first chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln as the first chairwoman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and Washington’s Patty Murray as a prominent member of Senate Democratic leadership.

The story also points out the fundamental shifts under Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, which stand to be undercut if Democrats lose the majority this fall:

Pelosi has had an enormous impact not only on policy...but also on the culture of Capitol Hill and the framing of legislative debates. 

"After passing this bill, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition,” Pelosi declared on the House floor the night health care reform passed — repeating a mantra that would guide her throughout the health care debate.

Under her tenure, women have held key leadership positions…Pelosi also recruited Democratic women on the campaign trail, creating a girls’ club to counteract the old boys’ network that’s long dominated congressional politics… "It was never easy," to be a woman in Congress in the pre-Pelosi era, Sanchez said. "The men didn’t really guide us and help us work on that. Nancy has done it completely differently."

The arrival of newly elected Republican women in Congress could certainly alter the gender politics of Capitol Hill once again. But given their politics, the protégés of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are also likely to try to undermine the legislative accomplishments of their Democratic counterparts.

DC Ticker: Cheney, Buy; Nazi Guy, Sell

| Tue Oct. 12, 2010 6:54 AM PDT

Last week, I explained the DC Ticker I compile most days, which is now being featured on ABC News' website show, Political Punch, hosted by Jake Tapper. Here are the picks featured on this week's PP:

Dick Cheney, buy. After a summer heart operation that was quite serious, the ex-veep is back in the saddle, once again making speeches defending his administration and criticizing Obama. We still have Dick Cheney to kick around.

George Allen, buy. From "macaca" to back-at-ya. He's considering a 2012 run for his old Senate seat in Virginia. With purple Virginia looking more reddish these days, the fellow might have a good shot against the man who defeated him in 2006, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.

Sharron Angle, buy. Polls show her ahead or close in the race against Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Given how lousy a candidate she's been, it shouldn't be this close.

Rep. Walt Minnick, buy. In the (supposed) Year of the Tea Party, can a first-term House Democrat win reelection in the conservative wilds of Idaho? Dems are increasingly confident Minnick can hold his at-risk seat.

Rich Iott, sell. Nazi reenactment? Say no more. (But it's never a good thing when a candidate is compelled to clarify that he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism.)

You can receive the almost-daily DC Ticker report by following my Twitter feed. (#DCticker is the Twitter hashtag.) Please feel free to argue with my selections—though all decisions of the judges are final. And please feel free to make suggestions for buy or sell orders in the comments below or on Twitter (by replying to @DavidCornDC). Don't forget: DC Ticker is merely an advisory service. It and its author cannot be held liable for any investments made in politicians, policy wonks, or government officials on the basis of the information presented. Invest in politics at your own risk.