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Flag of the Army of Tennessee, known as the Confederate battle flag.

Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years. In addition, the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization.

Department of Homeland Security
Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment
April, 2009

Tomorrow we are going out and buying more ammunition, This is one of the saddest days of my life.

Official Election Watch Results Thread
November 6, 2012

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Amid the endless (and endlessly confusing) Beltway chatter about the deal that supposedly will keep the U.S. economy from gunning it over the fiscal cliff on New Year’s Day, one thing has already become crystal clear: The Republican strategy for protecting its plutocratic donor base from the party’s inevitable surrender on taxes.

Basically, it consists in offering up the 20% as human shields to protect the 0.0001% from the rapacious revenue demands of the 47%.

Who says Republicans don’t do math?

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Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 10:49 PM PST

Mourning in America

by billmon

By now, most of you have probably seen the Tumblr page entirely dedicated to pictures of white people mourning the Republican defeat last Tuesday.

I realize how easy it is to make fun of those people (our those people), but for me the images posted there call up -- somewhat to my surprise -- decidedly mixed emotions. Spite and sympathy, it seems, can co-exist, and even lay the groundwork for something that begins to resemble empathy.

It's an involuntary reflex, to be sure, after the bile, racism, and sheer deranged hatred those people have flung at us these past four years -- not to mention their cocksure arrogance (up until about 10:00 pm Tuesday night) that "real" Americans were going to rise as one and send the Kenyan usurper packing.

But looking at those woeful faces -- hopes smashed, the awful truth finally revealed -- it's hard not to remember election night 2004, when it became clear that lies and war crimes notwithstanding, President Cheney and his sidekick were going to be reelected despite our best efforts.

It's devastating to believe that your country has looked evil full in the face and decided to embrace it, and feel completely helpless to stop it. And if even one-twentieth of the things those people believe about President Obama, and about us, were true, they would be right to despair, just as we did eight years ago.

In the end, though, what really makes it hard for me to dine with gusto at the schadenfreude buffet is that the grieving faces on the other side of the partisan divide aren't those people, they're my people -- the middle-class neighbors of my Southern childhood, the kids I went to school with, my redneck uncles and cousins, my own mother and father.

The sagging chins and pot bellies, the crew cuts and blue hair, the bad make up and worse fashion sense -- these are all as familiar to me as the lines on my own face. I know these people too intimately, their pasts are too intertwined with mine, for me to look at them and see only the despised Other, even though I have no doubt that's how many, if not most, of them would look at me.

I also know that they have been lied to, with ferocious intensity and relentless dedication, by the conservative propaganda machine and its political masters. If we must have demons to hate, better to seek them among the con artists who have turned Rwandan-style hate speech into an industry profitable enough to rival the porn business.

I know it's customary at times such as these for victors to speak of reconciliation -- to remind the defeated, as President Obama never seems to get tired of repeating, that there are no red states, no blue states, just the United States of America. But that's not what I'm trying to do here. I have no particular interest in offering any olive branches. We've gone too far, traveling in opposite directions, to meet halfway now. One side must rule and the other must grind its teeth in rage. That being the case, I'd much rather it was them than us wearing down the enamel.

All that said, though, there is still something poignant, even tragic, about those faces of red America, something worthy of a eulogy. Their America -- Bill O'Reilly's "traditional America" -- is fading away. Whatever the future holds, it's not likely to look like them, or think like them, or live like them.

And in a way I can't quite explain, that fact lends a measure of dignity to their grief -- to the point where their faces almost begin to resemble old photos of Geronimo in captivity, his sad eyes looking past the camera to a vanished world that no white man can conquer.

And so, in that same spirit, let me offer this semi-affectionate and almost respectful tribute to our defeated enemies and their blasted hopes:

Mourning in America


Scene: The set of Sesame Street. Except instead of an urban neighborhood, we see it is now a smallish, dingy office: a typical boiler room sales operation with cheap fluorescent lights and no windows. Rows of desks -- empty, except for telephones -- face a large white board showing weekly sales totals for each salesman. Many of the columns are empty.

At the desks sit the salesmen: Bert and Ernie, the Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, Elmo, and (crouched in his garbage can behind one of the desks) Oscar the Grouch. They’re talking nervously among themselves, waiting for a meeting to start. A squirrely looking sales manager (Grover) stands by the door to an inner office behind the white board.

Blake, a Bain Capital executive who looks amazingly like a young Alec Baldwin, strides into the room.

Blake: So you're talking about what? Bitching about some number you forgot to count, some kid that doesn’t like the letter you’re selling, some Miss Piggy you’re trying to screw and so forth? Let’s talk about something IMPORTANT! (to Grover) Are they all here?

Grover: All except Snuffleupagus. He’s still in the shop.

Blake: Well, I'm going anyway.

The Cookie Monster rises and tiptoes towards the door.

Blake: Where do you think you’re going, fur ball?

Cookie Monster: Me go get cookie.

Blake: Sit down. Cookies are for closers.

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Unbelievable jobs numbers . . . these Chicago guys will do anything . . .can't debate so change numbers.

Jack Welch

October 5, 2012

Paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me
just say you never met me.
I'm going underground with the moles.

Hear the voices in my head, I swear to God it sounds like they're snoring
but if you're bored then you're boring
the agony and the irony, they're killing me.

Harvey Danger
Flagpole Sitta


It's actually past ironic that the man now accusing the Obama White House of cooking today’s unemployment report is the same man who just a few months back complained that the Obama White House is keeping an enemies list that “would make Richard Nixon proud.”

Why? Because it was Richard Nixon who actually pioneered nutty conspiracy theories involving the Bureau of Labor Statistics –- thus proving the old adage that when Republicans find something that doesn’t work, they stick with it.

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Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 02:33 PM PDT

Skewed polls and the paranoid style

by billmon

Fourteen-year-old Eggert Stolten’s mother was an ardent Nazi. She did not try to stop her son from listening to the BBC and Radio Switzerland, but instead maintained a withering commentary on the statistics given by the British for the distances the Allies had supposedly advanced, and the prisoners they had captured. “It’s lies, all lies!” said Frau Stolten. “Our numbers are the right ones!”

Max Hastings
Armageddon: The Battle for Germany


The paranoid’s interpretation of history is in this sense distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he directs the public mind through “managed news”; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind . . .

Richard Hofstadter
The Paranoid Style in American Politics


The most striking feature of the current right-wing obsession with “skewed polls” is that it combines two of modern conservatism’s most pronounced tendencies: A complete rejection of empirical reality, and a deep conviction that said reality is in fact a conspiratorial plot by the enemies of America (a.k.a. the liberals) to poison public opinion—to win through deception what they cannot achieve openly.

Memories of the right's insistence that all was going well with the bloody occupation of Iraq are hard to avoid—likewise the manufactured “debate” over the causes and consequences of global climate change, the imaginary role of ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act in the subprime mortgage meltdown, and just about every other instance in which conservative ideology has had to come face to face with the cold, hard facts of life.

In each case, the kneejerk conservative response to inconvenient (and unfriendly) truths has been to mimic Adam Savage’s line from Mythbusters: “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” Except Adam was being ironic. They are not.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

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A few hours ago the Post put up a front page story reporting the results of the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. And said story appears to be baldly misrepresenting -- and by misrepresenting I mean lying about -- the size of Obama's post-convention bounce.

Either that, or the story's authors are too freaking incompetent to read their own polls.

The story, by long-time political reporter Dan Balz and some guy I've never heard of before named Jon Cohen, says this:

"The survey shows that the race remains close among likely voters, with Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 48 percent, virtually unchanged from a poll taken just before the convention." (Emphasis mine)

And indeed, The last Post-ABC poll, released Aug. 27 (first day of the GOP convention) had the race at Obama 46 / Romney 47 -- a statistically insignificant difference from the latest poll.

There's just one problem: The previous head-to-head results (46 / 47) were among REGISTERED VOTERS, while the new ones (49 / 48) are for LIKELY VOTERS. Apples and oranges.

In reality (i.e. apples to apples), the move towards Obama in the Post-ABC poll has been fairly substantial: from 46 / 47 in Romney's favor in the last poll (again, among REGISTERED VOTERS), to a  50 / 44 lead for Obama now, a net swing of 7 points. Which isn't quite outside the MOE, but is still highly unlikely to be just random noise.

But almost all of that bounce was swallowed up by the Post-ABC likely voter screen. Which tells us that

a.) the previous poll would have shown a hefty Romney lead among likely voters that no other polling organization on Earth saw (we can't say for sure, because the last poll didn't report likely voter results), and

b.) those same likely voter results almost certainly have also seen a big swing in Obama's favor.

It may seem like a small thing, but comparing registered voter samples to likely voter samples is one of those basic factual errors that cause me to want to grind my teeth (and grind up certain parts of the offending reporter's body).

But its awfully hard to write it off as a "honest" error, given that we're at an extremely  critical point in the race, and Team Romney is beginning to take heat from the GOP establishment because of its crappy poll numbers.

Would a veteran reporter like Balz really make such a bush league (so to speak) mistake by mistake?

I don't know, but I do know that the modern Washington Post isn't the liberal "Pravda on the Potomac" of yesteryear, and now has an neoconish editorial board that is glove tight with their ideological comrades at the American Enterprise Institute, and a chairman (Donald Graham) who was a big fan of George W. Bush -- and who is, or so I've been told, a Republican of the moderate pro-business persuasion, just like a certain former Massachusetts governor who is currently running for president, and losing.

Journalistic lies and misrepresentations have been spawned from less -- as Fox News proves each and every day. (Actually, I'm not even sure if Fox News would deliberately misrepresent its own poll numbers so blatantly.)

In any case, whether pro-GOP slant or idiotic mistake, the result is that the Post -- the so-called, hasn't-been-for-twenty-years liberal Washington Post -- has weighed in with a front page story that puts it squarely in the no-bounce-for-Obama camp -- at a very critical point in the race. And their own poll shows they are wrong.

They need to be called on it.

Update 3:21 pm EST: Sigh. As I feared, the lie has spread hither and yon through the Internets, providing Team Romney with a one-day respite from polling reality (See here, and here, and here, and even -- said to say -- here.)

One point I maybe didn't hit hard enough above: Given the strength of the GOP skew in its likely voter screen, if the Post poll was showing a 1 point lead among REGISTERED voters right before the GOP convention, then it must have shown an even bigger lead among LIKELY voters -- implausibly big, in light of what all the other polling was showing at the time.

Which, if true, would mean that the narrow 2-point Obama lead among LIKELY voters shown in the new poll is also understated by that same house effect.

In other words, the Post/ABC poll appears to confirm, not contradict, what Nate Silver and others (like the latest Gallup tracker) have been saying about Obama pulling into a clear lead.

Mark Twain once said that a lie can run half way around the world before the truth can get its boots on. And that's especially true when the lie is running down a highway paved with idiots.


Sat Sep 08, 2012 at 02:46 PM PDT

The Elephants Grow Restless

by billmon

Last night I came across an interesting column in a Florida paper by Matt Towery, the head of Insider Advantage, a GOP-affiliated polling firm. He sure doesn't sound very happy about the way things are going for Team Elephant. His take:

"Ohio, I am told by my polling friends, will be difficult if not impossible for Romney to carry. "

Virginia is only "a possibility."

In Florida, "the polls show that even following the GOP convention, the state is dead even or with a slight Obama lead." (This was BEFORE the Obama post-DNC bounce.)

Bottom line: "I've seen this movie before, and I don't like the ending."

I know: What a tired cliche. Towery attributes it to Barbara Bush, commenting on some previous campaign (1992?) So apparently there is something she thinks is worth troubling her "beautiful mind" over.

Anyway, if the GOP convention seemed to be more about jockeying for position in the 2016 GOP primaries than electing Mitt Rmoney, there is a reason for that. And if the poll numbers continue to favor Obama, even narrowly, for a few more weeks, Mitt's going to start seeing a LOT more columns like Towery's -- just as the losing GOP candidates did in 1992, 1996, and 2008.

(Heck, even ol' George DWI Bush took a little friendly fire from his own party in 2000, just because it looked like Gore was closing.)

And if Rmoney really does blow this race? The GOP establishment is absolutely going to tear him limb from limb. And then the teabaggers are going to set fire to the remains.

Say one thing for the Republicans: They have absolutely no qualms about shooting their own wounded if they think they're going to slow them down in a retreat.


Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 11:16 AM PDT

Gallup Signals Sizable Obama Bounce

by billmon

Not by historical standards, maybe -- but then they don't make 'em like they used to.

Frank Newport, Gallup's head of polling, has a post up talking about today's tracking results, which show a 3 point bump in Obama's approval rating, taking it to 52% -- the highest point since the Bin Laden kill.

Oddly, Gallup's site just crashed (overloaded,or DOS attack?) so I can't post the link. But the numbers have been posted on RCP.

Anyway, Obama's bump in the head-to-head was just a single point. But Newport goes out of his way to note that the head-to-head is a seven-day roll, while the approval is only a three-day roll. Thus, whatever happened in last night's polling (after the Big Dog's speech, but mostly before Obama's) had a relatively large effect on the approval number, but a relatively smaller effect on the head-to-head.

Even in a three-day roll, last night must have been pretty good for Team Obama to move the approval number that much. Obviously, if those gains are held beyond last night, the impact on the head-to-head number will grow over the next few days, as the pre-convention polling nights continue to roll off.

Newport also went out of his way to point out that Romney received virtually no bounce from the GOP convention -- which suggests to me that he's expecting Obama to end up back in front by at least a couple of points, or maybe more, when the dust settles.

The fact that Scott "Fox News" Rasmussen also shows Obama gaining three points since the DNC started -- though still trailing Rmoney by 1 point -- tends to confirm that Obama has indeed gotten a respectable (by modern standards, at least) bump.

Of course, today's semi-crummy jobs report could quickly take the fizz out. But, for now, it looks like we're back to the pre-convention status quo: Obama narrowly leading nationally, and probably by a bit more in the swing states.

On to the debates.

Update 2:39 EST: OK Gallup is back up and here's the link to Newport's post.


Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 01:31 PM PDT

Dotty Harry

by billmon

Scene: The 2012 Republican National Convention. There's chaos in the hall; delegates are fleeing in panic, the floor is littered with shot-up teleprompters and other debris. Off to one side a water sprinkler gushes. A golf cart lies flipped over on its side. We can hear an alarm bell ringing. A group of onlookers (Romney campaign aides) stand to one side on the podium, horrified looks on their faces.

But the TV cameras are trained on an extremely old, extremely decrepit Inspector Harry Callahan as he slowly shuffles across the podium, calmly gumming a sandwich, having (in his own mind at least) just foiled an attempt by an African-American bandit to steal America away from its rightful owners. In Harry's other hand is a .44 magnum long-barreled screenplay, the most powerful script in the world.

The camera cuts to the front of a podium, where a chair is lying sideways on the floor next to the lectern. Dirty Harry stops and, tottering, looks down at the chair, a look of confused contempt on his wrinkled face.

We cut back to the chair, and notice a teleprompter on the floor next to it, within easy reach (that is, if the chair were actually a real person.)

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Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 02:33 PM PDT

Dear Teabaggers

by billmon

Your stupidity, fanaticism and all around mean spiritedness continue to astound, with your bizarre and – dare I say it – unpatriotic defense of British Petroleum only the latest example.

While I realize facts and logic are completely lost on you, can you at least TRY to get it through your tiny, floresiensis-like skulls that:

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Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 04:43 PM PDT

Separated at Birth?

by billmon

Many politicians remind me of animals -- Tom DeLay was a snapping turtle; Joe Biden a badger; Bill Clinton the B'rer Rabbit (for several reasons, not just his skills as an escape artist), and so on.

For several weeks now it's been nagging me that Sen. Mitch McConnell -- the Uriah Heep-like Republican Senate Minority Leader -- also reminds me of a particular creature. But I haven't quite been able to put my finger on it.

Until today, when I saw him in a news photo that made the resemblence so clear it dredged his doppleganger up out of my subconscious. Something about that glazed, unfocused, round-eyed stare . . .

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