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October 22, 2008

Republican Weirdness
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:26 PM * 38 comments

I just go the weirdest robo-call push-poll of my life.

This was presented as a five-question political survey. First, if the election were held tomorrow would I be more likely to vote for Democrat Barack Obama or for Republican John McCain? Press 1 for Obama, press 2 for McCain.

Second, if the election were held tomorrow would I be more likely to vote for Democrat Mike Huckleberry or Republican Thomas Ginster for the 70th District State House seat?

Mike Huckleberry? Thomas Ginster? Who??? WTF 70th District?!

Third, two men charged with the murder of a Greenville man are prisoners on work-release. Do you approve of allowing dangerous murderers to get out of prison on work-release?

Fourth, If someone were to tell you that Mike Huckleberry voted for work release for prisoners who subsequently murdered citizens would it change your opinion of Mike Huckleberry?

Fifth, Knowing as you now do that Mike Huckleberry supports releasing dangerous murderers from prison, who would you vote for if the election were held tomorrow? Press one for Democrat Mike Huckeberry….

Dumbos. Losers. I only live seven hundred miles from the 70th district in Michigan. I couldn’t vote there if I wanted to. Did they think to check the area codes on the phone list they gave to their robot?

A quick Google shows that the 70th District was supposed to be a safe Republican seat. If the Republicans are so worried that they’re using heavy-handed robocalls … well, best of luck, Mike Huckleberry.

[Corrected phone number.]

This call originated from 1-(234) 567-8900

Where is area code 234?
[deleted speculation about wrong number]
Promoted from the comment thread, and thanks Julie:

Comments on Republican Weirdness:
#1 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 08:26 PM:

That call isn't only aimed at people in the 70th whatsit. They're, dollars to doughnuts, trying to subliminally link the Obama vs McCain question with Huckleberry vs Ginster. Huckleberry supports work release (and by clear extension has as his sole aim in life to help convicted murderers go out and murder more people), therefore Obama is a terrorist.

#2 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 08:40 PM:

Jim, you might want to submit that story to Talking Points Memo. They track push-polls.

#3 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 08:54 PM:

Zeborah, subliminal linkage of Obama to a Democratic candidate in a district most people have never heard of seems a bit baroque for scummy push-polls when they can just go directly negative like Palin and McCain have been doing.

I'd be inclined to suspect caller ID spoofing rather than the call actually originating in Cameroon, but can't really justify that guess.

#4 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 09:01 PM:

237 is Camaroon's country code, not its area code. Area codes are only relevant in the North American Numbering Plan (although other countries may have their own area numbering system). 237 is indeed not yet an area code in the US.

Your call did not originate from Camaroon -- if it had, it wouldn't have started with a 1, which is the country code for the US.

#5 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 09:17 PM:

novalis @ 4 - maybe not. I have a friend that calls me from NZ, and it always looks like I'm getting a call from area code 640, no leading 1 shows up on my caller id.

#6 ::: Lynn C ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 09:41 PM:

I'm with the person that thinks it is set up to go across the country and push poll the association with Obama and an unpopular idea - it's like those emails that are scams that are set up to look like they got sent to you by mistake.

#7 ::: Cathy W ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 09:44 PM:

237 isn't a valid area code, but 231 is a) a valid area code in Michigan that seems to overlap the state house district in question, and b) something that could be easily misread and/or typoed on a ten-key as 237. (Or they could be counting on the 237 being misread as 231 on a Caller ID display.) Reverse lookup on the phone number on, substituting a 231 area code, got nothing.

The only reference I can find to "two men charged in the murder of a Greenville man" has to do with Pennsylvania, although there is also a Greenville, Michigan in the relevant area. I can't find any news story in Greenville, Michigan's local paper that contains both "murder" and "work release" as key words, going back to 2005 - and Greenville, Michigan seems to have relatively few murders, so any murder should make the local paper. Seems to be an increase in the sleaze factor, if they're referring to a murder that took place in a completely different state and/or more than three years ago.

None of this explains why they're calling you in New Hampshire, of course.

#8 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 09:58 PM:

Yeah, that's a Michigan race. Perhaps it's a 234 number? Check this out.

#9 ::: Julie ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 10:02 PM:

The more I think about it, it's spoofed.

Pardon me while I take another round of cold meds and fall into bed...

#10 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 10:07 PM:

Just checked the caller ID again. It is indeed a (234) area code.

#11 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 10:49 PM:

Going to the page, I noticed this ad in the lower right corner:
Spoof Caller ID Now
Totally Private. Totally Fun. Display Any Number on Caller ID!
Ads by Google

#12 ::: Sam Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:00 PM:

Pity that the named candidates turned out to be real people. It would have been so much more interesting if it had been some sort of push-poll-effectiveness testing push-poll.

#13 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:27 PM:

Giuliani is doing calls in Wisconsin "For John McCain." In the course of this pre-recorded call he informs the person called that Obama has stated he will get rid of mandatory sentencing for violent crimes and murderers and sex offenders, tht Obama's best friend is a terrorist, and that he wants to end prison sentences for violent criminals.

An outraged Independent voter in Wisconsin taped the call and played it on Air America's Ed Schulz show.

Love, c.

#14 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2008, 11:38 PM:

I worked in the phone-automation industry, briefly. I'd been unemployed for months when I took the job, and I did quit when the economy picked up. Most of their work was the automated attendant kind of thing ("press 1 for flu shot information"). The outbound call systems were used throughout the year for things like notification systems ("school is closed due to snow today").

As in all human endeavors, especially those that involve software, Mistakes Were Made. During October and November, things went nuts with political calls, and in the rush, more mistakes happened than usual. That could be part of what's going on here with the caller ID, and the Michigan/New Hampshire thing.

When a system is making outbound calls, it's programmed with a caller ID to display. There are rules regarding these (which I don't recall). It could be that there was a typo when the number was entered, though it could have been intentional.

The numbers called may have been loaded from a file provided by the client, which could have had a smattering of errors in it. Or somebody at the business goofed and combined the script for Michigan with a phone list intended for another pitch.

They are probably trying not to call too early, or too late, but with portable cell phone numbers, these systems can no longer tell where someone is geographically just by looking at the area code. At least the system that I saw didn't have any address information — just the phone number. If you've got area code that looks like New York, but you are in Hawaii, you could get a call in the middle of the night.

Of course, the content of this call is appalling, but that was presumably intentional rather than user error.

#15 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 01:29 AM:

Uh, that number is "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 0". That's not an "unintentional" typo for some real number, it's a intentional fake. (This almost certainly violates the terms of service from whoever they plug their robot into, but I'm sure they don't care because it will take more than two weeks to be found out and cut off.)

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 01:34 AM:

Constance (13): If a candidate wants to earn my undying aversion, playing me recordings of Rudy Giuliani ranting about sex offenders is a sure way to do it.

#17 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 01:53 AM:

Rich at #15: D'oh! Of course "1 2 3 4 5.." must have been intentional -- sorry, spaced that.

#18 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 04:29 AM:

For some reason, CLI (Caller Line Identification) has always been a rather flaky feature of the PSTN and PLMN. Some networks send it religiously, some send it sporadically, some mangle it; some mangle sporadically, some always send it but mangled. Some never send it.

Further, since the arrival of cheap and available SIP peering, Asterisk boxen and the like, it's never been easier to send whatever CLI you damn well like, and bugger the consequences. Some networks check them and some...don't.

There was also a phase in the late 90s dark fibre boom when international wholesale voice was so cheap it was worth moving your outbound phone bank to some really odd places; French Guiana comes to mind as the seat of a wide range of callback scams at the time (as outbound to Europe was dirt cheap but inbound was expensive).

#19 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 05:37 AM:

Ah, it occurs to me that people who get this kind of weird call should check with their phone service provider to make sure they haven't been billed an outrageous fee.

#20 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 06:45 AM:

#19: Is it legal to bill the recipient of a call without getting prior authorization like a collect call? There oughtta be a law.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 09:51 AM:

I only live seven hundred miles from the 70th district in Michigan

I've heard of gerrymandering districts to favor one party, but this seems a bit extreme.

#22 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 11:03 AM:

I suppose that if we can't get rid of such malicious scum entirely, it's better that they be incompetent and (largely) waste their resources.

#23 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 12:01 PM:

I think they're wasting resources all over the place.

I live in a district so blue it's Green. You *might* lost Obama some votes with misinformation about the polling place or felons right to vote. You might even get some traction by talking about Clean Coal or Obama's wanting to expand the war in Afghanistan.

But calling up and saying he is friends with terrorists and will raise taxes on the high-performers who improve the economy? That's just stupid. And we get 4-8 of those per DAY.

#24 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 06:57 PM:

janetl: I believe it's still unlawful to robo-call cell-phones, so that ought not be a factor in the equation.

#25 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2008, 09:38 PM:

And Terry, do you know how to turn them in? The regular do-not-call list doesn't provide for cell phones. I get a fair number of the spam variety on mine.

#26 ::: gursky ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2008, 10:26 AM:

The bottom line of Mike Huckleberry's bio is this:

- Mike is married to Linda, five children and three grandchildren.

It seems to me that murderous recidivists might be the least of his problems. I'm from Michigan, and I had to look up Greenville (thanks internets!) but I'm pretty sure multi-generational polygamous incest is frowned upon, even in the deepest darkest LP midlands.

#27 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2008, 09:58 PM:

marilee: I forget, there is a number/email account to notify the FCC (?), but I've not got it handy. Someone gave it to me when I complaining of getting re-fi robo-calls to my cell. That stopped when I pressed one, asked to speak toa manager and queried them on the calling of my cell.

#28 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Ah, thanks, I'll try checking again.

#29 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2008, 11:36 PM:

When you need a break from Republican weirdness:



#30 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 01:10 AM:

Original Wassup advert.

I appreciate the spoof even more after seeing the original. Brilliant, and moving.

#31 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 01:41 AM:

In a political discussion that's sprung up elseweb, one of the McCain/Palin supporters who's been making the usual cracks about Ayers, Wright, etc. has started repeating that Obama's early-voting push is a scam to thwart people from changing their minds if(when?) "something big" pops up just before the election, and that he (the poster) Knows Something but won't spill it yet so he can just enjoy seeing everyone else's shock and awe when the time comes.

Somehow, this repetition is starting to worry me. Even though I know it may just be boilerplate scare tactics about Obama exposing a fusion hammer-and-sickle/crescent-and-stars tattoo under his left buttock etc., and it seems unlikely that foreknowledge of a Sekrit Plot could be spread among only the party faithful without anyone else finding out, what the heck could be going on back there?

I am very faintly reassured that the stated intent is to change voters' minds, rather than just pump lead. (And yes, I already cast my early vote and doubt that anything could make me regret it short of Obama replacing Biden with Cheney.)

#32 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2008, 02:24 PM:

And when the nastiness and the mudslinging and the lying robocalls are just too much, sometimes we just need a good laugh:

Courtesy of Jib-Jab

#33 ::: jennybundy ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2008, 10:31 PM:

I live in greenville MI. This is for real. The MI Republicans are trying to link Huckleberry a Democrat with murderers.
Using robocalls and flyers with picture of the killers.

#34 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 11:44 AM:

For those who were wondering how it all turned out:

Huckleberry beats Ginster by 8 points for State House seat.

Huckleberry said his triumph marked the first time in 75 years that a Democrat will represent the area in the State House.
Ginster said he believed his campaign didn't mount any personal attacks toward Huckleberry, just pointed out information that was available to the public before the race began.
#35 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 12:57 PM:

Jim, #34: The comments below that article are also extremely interesting. People were upset with Ginster about the mud-slinging, and a few of them specifically mentioned being upset because he was doing it while loudly proclaiming his Christianity.

#36 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 01:20 PM:

Indeed, Lee, and some of them mentioned being so turned off by the slime that the changed their vote from Republican to Democratic.

#37 ::: Xopher finds stoopid spam with broken links ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2009, 12:30 AM:

Kevin, go away.

#38 ::: Mongoose spies spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2014, 05:51 AM:

Just a 2 on the surrealometer this time.

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