Mojo - October 2011

Corn on "Hardball": Does Occupy Wall Street Help Obama?

Tue Oct. 18, 2011 7:00 AM EDT

David Corn and Howard Fineman joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss how the Occupy Wall Street protests might help or hurt President Obama and the Democratic party in the upcoming elections.

Explore MoJo's updated map of protests and arrests worldwide, and check out all the rest of our #OWS coverage.

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

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Anti-Immigration Think-Tank Slams Herman Cain

| Tue Oct. 18, 2011 6:50 AM EDT
Herman Cain.

The right-wing Center for Immigration Studies wasn't electrified by Herman Cain's call for a deadly border fence. 

CIS, which is run by Puerto Rican nationalist Mark Krikorian, is a group that's known for advocating a hardline policy on immigration. The group's favorite plan is "attrition through enforcement," which means making life for unauthorized immigrants as miserable as possible so they'll leave. But even CIS was apparently shocked by Cain's call for a border fence that would electrocute people who attempted to cross. 

CIS' Stanley Renshon writes:

That's right, he wants to make crossing the border illegally the lethal equivalent of a national Milgram shock experiment, one in which punishment is immediately meted out without benefit of any arrest, charge, or trail.

Whatever virtues Mr. Cain has a business executive, it is clear that he is almost wholly devoid of substantive knowledge or thought about any of the matters he had every right to be expected to be asked about when he put himself forward as a presidential candidate.

[...]

Mr. Cain's thoughtless remarks will doubtless be put forward as an illustration of the "fact" that anti-immigrant feeling permeates the highest levels of the Republican Party – their presidential candidates.

It illustrates no such thing, of course. It is solely the witless remark of a man who has no real substantive or experiential reason to be part of any platform for presidential candidates. But those of us who favor legal immigration and enforcement will pay nonetheless.

So Renshon is mostly worried that the buzz created by Cain's high-voltage rhetoric—even if delivered um, "jokingly"—will discredit the immigration restrictionist cause. A note to CIS: That anonymous study you published earlier this year affirming the existence of so-called "terror babies?" It's doing pretty much the same thing. 

UPDATE: Herman Cain is back on the fence:

Initially Cain apologied when told his remarks had upset some in the state. "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa," he said, using the Latin formula for expressing contrition. But when a reporter challenged his description of his comments, saying he didn't seem to be telling a joke, the retired pizza executive acknowledged: "You're right." He said he still believes in the need for a border fence "and it might be electrified."

Cain was just kidding about just kidding. He really does think electrocuting people who try to cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico is a good idea.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 18, 2011

Tue Oct. 18, 2011 5:57 AM EDT

Maj. Gen. Russ Handy braves a sandstorm at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Sept. 27, 2011. As the commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq and director of Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq, the general is the senior US Air Force representative in Iraq and represents the combined force's air component commander to the commanding general of US Forces-Iraq. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

Watch: MoJo's Josh Harkinson Occupies Olbermann Show

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 8:42 PM EDT

A couple of weeks ago, SF-based Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson was en route to East Coast fracking country when we diverted him to NYC to spend a few days covering the growing Occupy Wall Street protests. Now we can't get the guy home, fer Chrissakes!

Harkinson has been out there tweeting the latest #OWS developments long after most of his media colleagues have gone home to bed. He barely escaped arrest on Saturday while covering protesters' standoff with police in Washington Square Park. You can watch that video here. Check out his Monday appearance on Keith Olbermann's show below, and by all means follow Josh on Twitter.    

Huckabee to Anti-Union Crowd: Deflate Car Tires and Mislead Voters

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 2:45 PM EDT
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee

Former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has some advice for people who support the anti-union law passed in Ohio that faces a statewide repeal vote on November 8: Find out who's voting to repeal the bill and block them from ballot box. The onetime Arkansas governor suggested deflating tires and giving these voters the wrong election date. "That's up to you, how you creatively get the job done," Huckabee quipped.

Huckabee's remarks came during an appearance on Friday in Mason, Ohio, before a crowd of 350 people, according to MasonBuzz, a local blog that first reported the remarks. On November 8, Ohioans will vote on Issue 2, a much-contested ballot referendum on whether to repeal Gov. John Kasich's controversial anti-union legislation (known as SB 5) that curbed collective bargaining rights for his state's public-sector unions. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Ohioans support repealing Kasich's bill. Enter Huckabee. He has been stumping for voting yes on Issue 2—that is, to uphold Kasich's anti-union bill—urging members of the audience to do the same, and to pray in support of the measure. As part of his plea, Huckabee told the Mason crowd:

Rick Perry's Border Army

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 1:00 PM EDT
Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin cut a ribbon at the UAS Flight Operations Ceremony at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

Just how seriously does Rick Perry take border security? Pretty seriously, as the Washington Post reports:

Alone among his Republican rivals running for president, the Texas governor has a small army at his disposal. Over the past three years, he has deployed it along his southern flank in a secretive, military-style campaign that his supporters deem absolutely necessary and successful and that his critics call an overzealous, expensive and mostly ineffective political stunt.

A hawk when it comes to Mexican cartels, Perry said in New Hampshire this month that as president he would consider sending U.S. troops into Mexico to combat drug violence there and stop it from spilling into the United States. . . .

Since 2008, with the support of the Republican-dominated Texas legislature and more than $400 million in taxpayer funds, Perry has pressed forward on his own version of a surge—called Operation Border Star—paying millions for equipment, weapons and the overtime salaries for sheriff’s deputies and local police to mount operations aimed at drug seizures and gang members...

The Post also reports, Perry's homeland security office regularly stonewalls journalists seeking information on border operations—most of which appear to have had minimal impact:

According to the fact-checking "Truth-O-Meter" column in the Austin American-Statesman, "Perry’s claim that his border security efforts have led to a 60 percent drop in crime doesn’t hold water. The calculation he touts doesn’t consider crimes committed in cities and towns where most border residents live. It also compared two calendar quarters rather than weighing years’ worth of data."

Meanwhile, a signature Perry program to employ technology along the border has fallen short. Running for reelection in 2006, Perry promised to line the border with hundreds of remotely operated cameras that would stream live video via the Internet and let "virtual deputies" anywhere in the world click onto the site and report suspicious activities.

Perry awarded $4 million in federal grant money (the Texas legislature declined to fund it) to the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, which mounted 25 cameras.

A flood of viewers went on the Web site, but according to a progress report obtained in 2010 under the state’s open-records law by the Texas Tribune, the program did not come close to Perry’s goal of more than 1,200 apprehensions, producing only 26 arrests—at a cost of $153,800 each. . . .

"What we end up with are very few arrests and mostly apprehensions of illegal immigrants," said Jose Rodriguez, a Democratic state senator from El Paso. “That’s all for show. No terrorists or cartel criminals."

Instead of waging the war on drugs, Perry's army has largely cracked down on undocumented immigrants. Sweeping them up as part of a massive cartel pushback could be a key piece of keeping Texans safe. But there just isn't any data to support that claim. 

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Obamacare Opponents' Unhealthy Attack on the CLASS Act

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 12:18 PM EDT

With the Obama adinistration forced to give up on the Community Living Assistance Service and Supports (CLASS) program created in the Affordable Care Act, the choruses of  "I told you so" from Obamacare opponents have begun.

To be fair, it should be acknowledged that there were many in Congress who were against this program from the outset. They did not believe that a government-sponsored, self-sustaining, long-term care insurance program was going to work and did not wish to see money wasted in attempting to form what they believed would ultimately be a failed effort. There are also those who believe that the only reason the program was included in Obamacare, given their presumption that the administration knew it could not work, was that it would allow the pro-healthcare forces to load up their deficit reduction forecasts by some $80 billion as a result of pretending that the government would be collecting premiums from the long-term healthcare policies sold to consumers signing up for the program. These were premiums for policies the opponents did not believe would ever be sold.

These arguments, which have seeds of truth in varying degrees with respect to CLASS, will no-doubt turn out to be useful for politicians who want to pursue the false claim that the failure of this one program reveals the inevitable failure of Obamacare. Of course, suggesting this is entirely disingenuous, as the inability to make CLASS work in no way speaks to other elements of the law that are presently working out pretty well and those which remain to be proven as successes or failures.

How to Talk About Immigration Like a GOP Front-Runner

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 11:49 AM EDT

This how Texas Gov. Rick Perry talked about immigration prior to his free fall in the polls:

But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society.

This is how Herman Cain, the current front-runner for the GOP nomination, at least according to opinion polls, talks about immigration :

Mr. Cain, speaking at a Tea Party-sponsored rally in Tennessee, made some of his most pointed remarks yet on the issue. He said he might use military troops "with real guns and real bullets" to stop intruders. Responding to anyone who might consider his remarks "insensitive," Mr. Cain said the real fault lies with some illegal immigrants. "It's insensitive for them to be killing our citizens, killing our border agents," he said. "That's what's insensitive. And that mess has to stop."

That's in addition to the electrified fence that would kill anyone who would try to cross. Cain later said he was kidding—at least about the electrified wall of death part.

To reiterate: To talk like a GOP front-runner, DO "joke" about killing undocumented immigrants in your stump speeches. DO NOT suggest they should be treated with compassion, particularly when they had no choice in coming here in the first place.

Any questions?

Chart: The Grassroots Still Love Barack Obama, Fundraising Edition

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 11:35 AM EDT

For all his dismal approval ratings, President Obama's latest fundraising numbers for his re-election campaign prove he can still rake in the bucks. And it's not just the deep-pocketed who are giving—Obama's still receiving small-dollar donations from grassroots donors who, despite his struggles, appear to be standing by their man.

Although small-dollar donors—people who gave $200 or less—comprised less than 10 percent of GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney's and Rick Perry's fundraising between January and September of this year, nearly half of Obama's haul was from small-dollar donors, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). That's a higher percentage of small-dollar giving than Obama's vaunted $750 million money machine from the 2008 campaign. In fact, during the last campaign, small donors never accounted for more than 40 percent of Obama's quarterly total. All told, Obama has raised $41 million from small donors for the 2012 campaign.

Here's a chart from CRP showing who's receiving the most grassroots donations:

As you can see, the presidential candidates pulling in the most small-dollar donations are more hard-line conservatives, including Michele Bachmann (more than 50 percent), Herman Cain (49 percent), and Ron Paul (48 percent). The exception is GOP longshot Buddy Roemer. Nearly 80 percent of Roemer's meager fundraising total of $233,000 comes from grassroots donors. There's a simple reason for that: Roemer said he isn't accepting donations higher than $100. (The other 20 percent of Roemer's campaign funds came from a loan he made to his campaign.)

In an October 13th email to supporters, Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina hyped this outpouring of grassroots support for the campaign, noting that nearly 983,000 people have already given to the re-election effort. Messina went on to urge supporters to push the campaign's donor list to one million. "So getting to a million grassroots donors isn't just a huge accomplishment this early in the campaign," he wrote. "It's our answer to our opponents, the press, and anyone who wants to know whether the President's supporters have his back."

Chart of the Day: Support for Capital Punishment Sinks to a Nearly Four-Decade Low

| Mon Oct. 17, 2011 11:24 AM EDT
A lethal injection room at the San Quentin State Prison.

The number of Americans who approve of the death penalty is at its lowest level in nearly four decades, according to a Gallup poll published last week. The poll, which was conducted between October 6 and 9 (just two weeks after the controversial execution of Troy Davis), puts national support for capital punishment at 61 percent, a three-point drop from 2010. Gallup says the data reflect the lowest level of support for the death penalty "since 1972, the year the Supreme Court voided all existing state death penalty laws in Furman v. Georgia." The numbers also show a significant drop in support since 1994, when 80 percent of Americans approved of the death penalty (an all-time high).

Although respondents were only asked about capital punishment in the abstract—not in specific cases of, for example, mass murder—the poll still offers up some telling finds. This year, 40 percent of respondents said the death penalty is "not imposed often enough," which is the lowest percentage since Gallup began asking the related question in May 2001. Furthermore, a quarter responded that the death penalty is "used too often," the highest such number yet. The remaining 27 percent made up the Goldilocks quotient, deeming the death penalty to be imposed "about the right amount."

Gallup began polling the popularity of the death penalty in murder cases in 1936; that year, the poll found that 59 percent of Americans supported executions, while 38 percent opposed them. Here's a summary of the good statistical news for 2011, in easy-to-read graph/chart format: