Mojo - November 2010

"It's Because of Texas"

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 12:44 PM EDT

At my polling place in San Francisco this morning, all the talk was of a contest that didn't appear on the ballot: The Giants' World Series victory last night over the Texas Rangers. A Birkenstock-clad woman from the Haight explained her glee. "It's because of Texas," she said. "It's the land of oil drilling, conservative textbook defining, Bush electing—you know?"

I know. In a depressing election year for liberals, the Giants' unlikely victory has emerged as the rare silver lining: A way to sock it to all those conservative Republicans who are going to otherwise kick our asses at the polls today. As my colleague Adam Weinstein notes, the long-haired, beard-wearing, ganja-puffing Los Gigantes embody Left Coast rebellion. Meanwhile, former Rangers co-owner George W. Bush was on hand along with his father to root for the Red State home team at Game 4. That San Franciscans got to rob Bush of a win makes up (a little bit) for the one that he stole in 2000.

People say that sports is a way to distract the masses from the social fights that really matter. Or maybe it's a way to blow of steam so that we don't shoot each other. Of course, El Salvador and Honduras once fought a war over soccer.

All I know is that sports rarely fits neatly into politics. Take the example of Texas, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White actually has a small chance of toppling incumbent arch-conservative Rick Perry. Mother Jones' Suzy Khimm points out that shifting demographics will turn Texas blue in the not-distant future. Or take the example of me: I was born and raised in Dallas and my father hasn't talked to me in awhile, not because we disagree on politics (he's a staunch Democrat) but because we kind of disagree on baseball.

I ultimately decided to root for the Giants because I left Dallas after high school and have lived in the Bay Area for almost ten years. Still, I would have been happy if either team had won. I wish I could say the same thing about politics.

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Bogus Robocalls Still Bombarding Kansas

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 12:42 PM EDT

The Kansas attorney general's office has opened an investigation into deceptive robocalls Democratic voters have received on the eve of the election. The Kansas Democratic Party has reported that some of their supporters got automated calls reminding them to vote on Wednesday—the election, for course, is on Tuesday—and to bring proof of home ownership and voter registration, which are not required in the state. All of the voters who received the calls gave the same phone number, originating from Birmingham, Alabama, and reported that the automated message said it was from "Republicans" without specifying an individual or group.

"Another annoying Political Robot call for the Republican Party—left a long message on my answering machine," one voter wrote Sunday on a website for reporting unsolicited calls, under the subject heading "Harassed in Kansas." The Kansas Dems say their supporters received the calls over the weekend, and a half a dozen voters told the attorney general's office they received the misleading calls on Monday. "They are widespread, not targeted in any one geographic area," says Gavin Young, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. Young said that the investigation had yet to uncover who might be behind the dirty trick. The Kansas Republican Party has denied any involvement. In 2000, a similar scheme was spearheaded in Kansas by a Republican candidate for state senate. While the federal races in Kansas are swinging solidly Republican, there are a number of hotly contested races for the state legislature, as well as a high-profile race for Secretary of State, where GOP candidate Kris Kobach—the architect of Arizona's immigration law—has campaigned on fighting massive fraud.

When I called the number the robocalls originated from on Tuesday morning, an automated message picked up: "Thank you for call—if you have received a call in error, please press 1, and your number will be removed for our customer list." The Kansas attorney general's office and Secretary of State have tried to alert voters to contact them about the bogus calls, but there's little else they can do at the last minute. "Outside of that, what can you do Monday before the election?" says Young. "You can't send out a PSA."

Kansas isn't the only state where there are reports of misleading political calls. The North Carolina Democratic Party also alleges that unaffiliated and Democratic voters are receiving harassing robocalls "from conservative intereste groups meant to anger voters and suppress turnout," according to an emailed statement from the party posted on Daily Kos:

These unsolicited robo calls, which are coming to a voters sometimes up to eight times in a row, include a Democratic candidate asking for support in tomorrow’s election. Not surprisingly, many people hang up the call before they can hear the full message..."These robo calls are a desperate, despicable, and unfortunately, predictable, attempt by the GOP to keep Democratic voters away from the polls tomorrow," said Andrew Whalen, Executive Director of the NCDP.

Sex-for-Snitching Ring Reported at Massachusetts Prison

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 12:21 PM EDT

A prisoner at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Norfolk recently wrote to me to report the existence of a "sex for information’’ ring run by guards within the prison. He says the existence of this hitherto unknown operation is responsible for the state’s high number of prison suicides. The inmate suicide rate in Massachusetts is four times the national average, with eight suicides this year alone--including one in June at MCI-Norfolk, the state's largest medium-security prison, which also had two high-profile suicides last year.  

The prisoner, who says he has become the advocate for others too frightened of retaliation to talk, himself fears retaliation from within the prison. He  has reported the ring at MCI-Norfolk to the Massachusetts Department of corrections and has, he says, already been interviewed by Assistant Deputy Commissioner Paul DiPaolo, the state official in charge of stopping rape in the prisons. In granting this interview, the corrections hierarchy is bypassing lower-down officials within the prison, according to the prisoner. Each prison has an official responsible for rape suppression.

In a letter the prisoner, who chose to remain anonymous over concerns for his own safety, wrote:

Abusive and sadistic guards move weak and vulnerable prisoners into housing units they oversee and manipulate them into engaging in sexual activity with each other (many of these men are homosexuals, sex offenders and men with mental health histories) and then they [the guards] force them to become informants under the threat of revealing their secrets to the general population.

DC Ticker on ABC News: Obama, sell; Axelrod, sell

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 10:41 AM EDT

I've previously 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 final (and perhaps too obvious) pre-election picks featured on this week's PP:

Pelosi, sell. The first woman to become Speaker of the House—and the first woman, it seems, to lose the position.

Reid, sell. Even if the Senate majority leader beats Sharron Angle, he's so weakened that some Democrats will consider a mutiny.

David Axelrod, sell. Blame the message man.

Obama, sell. Is the Age of Obama over? How does he change the script for Act II?

Hillary Clinton, buy. In a clever move, she left town for two weeks. So it isn't about her.

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.

The Rap Sheet on Rick Scott

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 6:08 AM EDT

Florida voters hit the polls today in one of the most bruising, mud-drenched, and competitive gubernatorial races in recent years. In the past two months, the candidates—Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer, and Republican Rick Scott, a health-care executive and businessman—wasted few opportunities to assail each other. The candidates seized upon everything from allegations of insider trading involving Scott to the Sink's use of text messaging from a campaign staffer during a televised debate, a violation of the debate's rules turned mini-scandal dubbed "iCheat." All that jabbing, though, failed to advance one candidate over the other; a Quinnipiac poll released on Monday showed Sink ahead by a single percentage point.

But when it came to slinging mud, Rick Scott's background offered dirt aplenty. His record as founder and former CEO of Columbia/HCA, a massive hospital chain, and founder of Solantic, another chain of health clinics, dogged him throughout the race. So in case you're just tuning in to the Sink-Scott showdown, here's a look back at Scott's controversial track record.

Let the Dirty Tricks Begin!

| Tue Nov. 2, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

As voters head to the polls on Tuesday, complaints about dirty tricks, misinformation campaigns, and voter intimidation continue to fly. Each side has accused the other of trying to cheat and has taken measures to compensate: the right's voter fraud crusade has prompted Democrats claim that vulnerable voters could be suppressed. Many of these electoral shenanigans pop up at the last minute, making it all the more difficult for officials to undo the damage.

Over the weekend, the Kansas Democratic Party claimed that Democratic voters across the state had received illegal, anonymous robo-calls telling them to bring a voter registration card and proof of home ownership to the polls on Wednesday. The party says the bogus calls are part of a misinformation campaign intended to suppress the Democratic vote, as neither document is required for voting in Kansas and the election, of course, takes place on Tuesday.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 2, 2010

Tue Nov. 2, 2010 5:30 AM EDT

U.S. Army soldiers from Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), provide security as the Sub-Governer of Sabari District conducts a key leader engagement in Sabari District, Khowst province, Afghanistan, Oct. 19. Photo via U.S. Army.

Corn on "Countdown": Has the GOP Turned Against Palin?

Mon Nov. 1, 2010 11:03 PM EDT

David Corn appeared on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann to discuss Sarah Palin's recent spat with anonymous GOP leaders after a Politico article claimed their top post-election priority was preventing Palin from winning the 2012 Republican nomination.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook. Get David Corn's RSS feed.

A Hail Mary (Jane) for Legalizing Marijuana

| Mon Nov. 1, 2010 8:38 PM EDT

Backers of California's referendum to legalize recreational marijuana will need to connect on a long hail Mary (Jane) if they're going to score a victory on Tuesday. A Field Poll released on Sunday has the formerly popular Proposition 19 losing 49 to 42 percent.

The stoner world's fog of optimism is starting to burn off. The California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) still expresses high hopes for Prop 19 on its website, but director Dale Gieringer told me on Monday that he personally considers the prospect of victory to be a pipe dream. "I have never thought it was likely to pass," he said, "and it's going exactly like I expected."

The official Yes on 19 campaign still insists that Tuesday could be the day that ganja goes legit. "Proposition 19 is looking history in the eye and not blinking," Democratic strategiest Chris Lehane writes in a memo released by the campaign on Sunday. He concludes that Prop 19 "is in a better position to win on election day than indicated in the mainstream media narrative" because the Field Poll was conducted before the campaign's TV ad began running; undercounts young, cell-phone-wielding, pro-pot voters; and suffers from a "reverse Bradley effect" in which people aren't honest with pollsters for fear of looking like potheads. 

But none of those arguments can keep NORML's Gieringer from acting like a total downer. "You have the whole elephant in the room of the feds not cooperating," he told me. And that means Prop 19 faces an uphill fight notwithstanding the reverse Bradley effect, which isn't real, he added. Yet what is real, he went on, is "a well-established effect that undecided voters tend to vote no on risky and controversial propositions if they are not sure of the effect."

Of course, 47 percent of California voters have tried marijuana. So just maybe, this is a state where risky and controversial propositions with uncertain effects still have a chance.

[Editors' note: For a rundown on how the San Francisco Giants could doom Prop 19, read Adam Weinstein's story here]

Last updated on 11/1/10 at 9:52 PM

The Little Rally That Couldn't

| Mon Nov. 1, 2010 5:12 PM EDT

As our own Tim Murphy blogged, the San Francisco version of Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity was a costumed affair (Ganja Santa, anyone?) but a quiet one. By noon, rain thinned the crowd to around 20 people. For being one of the most liberal cities in the nation, I was a little surprised by the low attendance. This is, after all, the town where flash mobs sing Lady Gaga in hotel lobbies to protest working conditions and residents love nothing so much as an ironic counter-protest. But apparently the rain was too much, and San Franciscans had better things to do than stand in the rain talking about crazies. Video below.