Saturday, September 22, 2012

Right-Wing Obama Lynching Advocates Take Cue From Eastwood

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

You may recall that there were a couple of nooses displayed as protests of Barack Obama in right-wing precincts the night he was elected in 2008, and there have been effigy hangings of the president here and there since. They quickly were swept under the rug, everyone moved along, and that was that. But obviously, those sentiments among racist rednecks have, if anything, intensified in recent years.

And now that it's clear he is about to win re-election, it's coming back out -- with clear references to Clint Eastwood's speech at the GOP convention included.

First there was the cretin who hung an empty chair labeled "Nobama" in close proximity to a George Allen sign at festival in Virginia this weekend. No one evidently was able to track down the culprit.

As we say, effigy hangings aren't particularly new, though they do serve as a nice barometer of the anger levels of the expressly racist faction out there. What made this noteworthy was the clear reference to Eastwood's use of an empty chair as a proxy for President Obama.

Then an angry Republican in Austin, Texas, did it in his front yard:
Today, Burnt Orange Report received the photo at right, taken in front of a home in Northwest Austin. The resident, a Republican, lynched an empty chair from a tree in his yard, which one can easily interpret to represent a racially motivated act of violence against the President.
When confronted, the man doubled down:
I called the homeowner to ask about his display, citing my concerns as a fellow Austinite. He replied, and I quote, "I don't really give a damn whether it disturbs you or not. You can take [your concerns] and go straight to hell and take Obama with you. I don't give a shit. If you don't like it, don't come down my street."

Ironically, the homeowner in question, Bud Johnson, won "Yard of the Month" in August 2010 from his Homeowners Association. I guess his display was a little different that month?
The next day, the man added an American flag and a guard to his display.

I wonder how Clint Eastwood feels about having his piece of impromptu acting serve as grist for a lynch mob.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Domestic Terrorism: Senate Hears Testimony About The Rise Of The Right-Wing Threat

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

While much of the media attention, driven by congressional hearings, on terrorism issues focused this week on events in Libya, there was another Senate hearing that took a good look at terrorism on our own shores.

Chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin, it was titled "Hate Crimes and the Threat of Domestic Extremism," and much of it was focused on last month's horrific shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well it should.

But the most riveting testimony was provided by a former Department of Homeland Security analyst named Daryl Johnson, who had this to say:
The threat of domestic terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies is often dismissed and overlooked in the national media and within the U.S. government. Yet we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity, specifically from violent right-wing extremists. While violent left-wing attacks were more prevalent in the 1970s, today the bulk of violent domestic activity emanates from the right wing.
Of course, we've been writing about this for some time now, particularly in light of the fact that Johnson was driven out of the DHS by the witch hunt that ensued after he authored that bulletin on right-wing extremism that has turned out to be all too prescient.

We have seen the results, as dozens of police officers have died in the line of duty while confronting right-wing extremists for whom they were largely unprepared.

Johnson was the focus of a Washington Post piece examining how the DHS eviscerated its capacity for adequately analyzing the threat of right-wing extremism, and Johnson recently provided more details for Spencer Ackerman. After the mess in Wisconsin, all Johnson could say was that he had tried to warn them.

Johnson explored a sampling of the record in his testimony:

Since the 2008 presidential election, domestic non-Islamic extremists have shot 27 law enforcement officers, killing 16 of them. Over a dozen mosques have been burned with firebombs – likely attributed to individuals embracing Islamaphobic beliefs. In May 2009, an abortion doctor was murdered while attending church. Two other assassination plots against abortion providers were thwarted during 2011 and six women’s health clinics were attacked with explosive and incendiary devices within the past two years.
Further, in January 2010, a tax resister deliberately crashed his small plane filled with a 50-gallon drum of gasoline into an IRS processing center in Austin, Texas. In January 2011, three incendiary bombs were mailed to government officials in Annapolis, Md., and Washington, D.C. Also, in January 2011, a backpack bomb was placed along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash. Finally since 2010, there have been multiple plots to kill ethnic minorities, police and other government officials by militia extremists and white supremacists.

In August 2012 alone, a white supremacist killed six worshipers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. Sovereign citizens shot four sheriff’s deputies, killing two, in St. Johns Parish, La. And, four active-duty Army soldiers, who had formed an anti-government militia group and were hoarding weapons and ammunition in an alleged plot to overthrow the government, were charged in the deaths of two associates who, they worried, might tip law enforcement to their clandestine activities.

And as I say, that's just a sampling. The bigger picture is even more disturbing: In reality, right-wing domestic terrorism is occurring at a remarkable rate, more than twice that of the "Islamist" domestic terrorism that has so preoccupied people like Rep. Peter King and the House Homeland Security Committee in the past couple of years.

It's not just Congress. As Johnson's example shows, it's also true of the official response. See, for instance, the testimony in the same hearing of DHS spokesman Scott McAllister and the FBI's Michael Clancy:

McAllister touted the work of their intelligence analysts:
MCALLISTER: The Department's efforts to counter violent extremism are threefold. We are working to better understand the phenomenon of violent extremism through extensive analysis and research on the behaviors and indicators of violent extremism. We are bolstering efforts to address the dynamics of violent extremism by strengthening partnerships with local, state, and international partners. And, we are expanding support for information-driven, community-oriented policing efforts through training and grants.
The DHS is claiming that its analysts are working hard to examine the problem of this violence, but the reality is that it has been eviscerating its ability to do so for any kind of extremism except Islamist.

And when McAllister was confronted by Durbin about this, he simply evaded by saying that the number of analysts it employed in such given endeavors was "sensitive". Yes, we can imagine it is.
Not much better was the overview from the FBI's Clancy:
CLANCY: On September 10, 2012, the FBI disseminated its National Terrorism Assessment on Domestic Terrorism. In the formulation of this assessment, the overall threat ranking considers intent, capability, and posture in its determination of the threat domestic extremist movements pose in the United States. The FBI assesses that economic and political events – foremost among them the coming Presidential election – are likely to provoke domestic extremists into a more active state, although this is unlikely to drive an increase in large-scale violence. Smaller, localized acts of violence committed by domestic extremists, however, cannot be dismissed. The FBI further assesses that domestic extremist movements pose a medium-to-low terrorism threat. Specific political and economic events scheduled in 2012 create the potential for greater volatility within domestic extremism than existed in the previous year.
The FBI may want to reassess this conclusion, given that we have in fact had fifteen cases of domestic terrorism in the United States over the eight months since December of 2011, with three significant cases in the month of August alone.

Meanwhile, Johnson responded to the DHS's vague answers sharply:

JOHNSON: Well, you've already outlined in your testimony that when I was the team leader at the Department of Homeland Security, we had five analysts directly under my supervision. But we also had additional analysts that supplemented us. So we had as many as eight analysts looking at this issue. Today, there's one. And that's a fact.
The problem isn't going away. Crooks and Liars readers will recall that we were trying to track these kinds of cases for awhile, but the numbers have become large enough that we've taken this to another level of reportage. We'll have more information on this soon, but take our word for it: Johnson's warning that we are seeing a significant increase is not exaggerated in the least.

'Noble' O'Reilly: Fox Couldn't Succeed If It Was Dishonest

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

 Bill O'Reilly tried to make a "liberal media" punching bag out of Ted Koppel last night on his Fox News show, and found out that sometimes the punching bag can punch back hard.
O'REILLY: You think that we have corrupted the sanctity of fair news coverage.

KOPPEL: I think --

O'REILLY: That's what I think.

KOPPEL: I think that ideological coverage of the news, be it of the right or be it of the left, has created a political reality in this country which is bad for America. I think it's made it difficult if not impossible for decent men and women in Congress, on Capitol Hill to reach across the aisle and find compromise.

And if we can't -- and if we can't do that, Bill, we're going to be in -- and -- and we have been, I think, for the last few years, in a terrible situation in this country where politically we can't make deals anymore.
Now, you know that one hurt, because O'Reilly really can't deny that what Fox does is propaganda (well, he can try, and does, but it's empty blather) -- and that is has effectively altered the fabric of reality for a whole nation of right-wingers. And that the public discourse is worse off for it, because so much of it is now predicated on Fox-generated falsehoods.

After all, it's difficult to have a reasonable discourse when one side insists on believing laughable fabrications and clings to them as the starting point of the conversation.

So instead he resorted to pointing to Fox's popularity as proof of its worthiness:
O'REILLY: So you're blaming me and the Fox News Channel for the deterioration of Congress. If they don't have enough guts to do what's best for the country by compromising, all right, they don't deserve to be there. You can't be on top for as long as the Fox News Channel has been on top and sell a product that's inferior or dishonest. It's impossible in this country.
Comedy gold. As though Fox News weren't living proof that you can lie through your teeth 24/7 and make a killing from it, so long as you market everything you do to resentful and angry white people. P.T. Barnum's theorem and all that.

But that wasn't the end of it. Near the end of the conversation, O'Reilly turned pious on us:
KOPPEL: The millions -- the millions of people are watching those of you with a particular point of view.

O'REILLY: That's the way the country works. That's the free marketplace.

KOPPEL: That's the free marketplace and I'm perfectly content to leave it on that -- on that note. It's a business. And it's operating as a business. And once upon a time, you and I actually thought journalism was a calling.

O'REILLY: But I still think that I'm doing something noble.
Yeah, destroying public discourse in America -- how noble. It's as noble as Mitt Romney.

[H/t Media Matters]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney's '47 Percent' Rant Reveals A Right Wing Voting Bloc Built On Lies

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

There's always that moment of total cognitive dissonance that happens when people who happen to live in the real world, and not that right-wing ideological bubble we sometime call Planet Bizarro, listen in on the conversation as conservative True Believers like Mitt Romney babble their Fox-brewed talking points among each other. That's the component that makes Mitt's revealed videos of his "47 percent" rant to fellow Republicans so special.

The dissonance is different for different people. For me, it lay in this: I pay federal taxes. Lots of them. I have every year of my adult life. Moreover, I have never taken a dime of government largesse and am not in any sense dependent on it. And I would never vote for Mitt Romney or the Republicans or their whole every-dog-for-himself philosophy. Nor am I alone. Like millions of other smart Americans, I want a strong and complete social safety net, because I'm smart enough to understand that making sure everyone is cared for appropriately makes the whole of society better for everyone, me included. I might add, for the privileged particularly -- even though they're too stupid and selfish to get that.

But that's only a small component of the bigger picture here, which is pretty stark when viewed in perspective, namely: The conservative worldview is increasingly built on a foundation of complete and utter falsehoods, laughably provable, and irredeemably vicious in nature.

The Foxheads and their right-wing enablers have now closed ranks to proclaim, once again, that "Romney was right!" Which is pretty funny, when you think about it: After all, it was clearly Romney regurgitating an oft-repeated Fox News falsehood, as Media Matters lays out in detail, that we saw on that video.

You can see the epistemological loop closing in on itself, so that they now are just talking among themselves on their own planet, believing only their own lies as a bizarre version of fabricated reality.

And it creates a quasi-eliminationist mentality among these True Believers. Romney and his fellow Republicans not only really believe that these people's views should be dismissed, but that their views should not count at all.

My favorite iteration came when Steve Doocy not only claimed that 47 percent of the American public pays no taxes at all, but suggested that this status might be reasonable cause for them to lose the right to vote.

I'm sure, however, that Doocy would make an exception for the 7,000 millionaires who paid no taxes at all.

The best part of all this, though, is that the whole "47 percent pay no taxes" meme is a lie. David Leonhardt at the New York Times demolished it two yeas ago:
The 47 percent number is not wrong. The stimulus programs of the last two years — the first one signed by President George W. Bush, the second and larger one by President Obama — have increased the number of households that receive enough of a tax credit to wipe out their federal income tax liability.

But the modifiers here — federal and income — are important. Income taxes aren’t the only kind of federal taxes that people pay. There are also payroll taxes and investment taxes, among others. And, of course, people pay state and local taxes, too.

Even if the discussion is restricted to federal taxes (for which the statistics are better), a vast majority of households end up paying federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data suggests that, at most, about 10 percent of all households pay no net federal taxes. The number 10 is obviously a lot smaller than 47.
Moreover, that doesn't even include the bigger picture, which includes a wide range of non-federal taxes:
State and local taxes, meanwhile, may actually be regressive. That is, middle-class and poor families may face higher tax rates than the wealthy. As Kim Rueben of the Tax Policy Center notes, state and local income taxes and property taxes are less progressive than federal taxes, while sales taxes end up being regressive. The typical family pays a lot of state and local taxes, too — almost half as much as in federal taxes.

There is no question that the wealthy pay a higher overall tax rate than any other group. That is an American tradition. But there is also no question that their tax rates have fallen more than any other group’s over the last three decades. The only reason they are paying more taxes than in the past is that their pretax incomes have risen so rapidly — which hardly seems a great rationale for a further tax cut.
As Annie Lowrey explained at the NYT recently:
The nonpartisan and highly respected Tax Policy Center derived the 47 percent number – it is actually 46 percent, as of 2011 – and published an excellent analysis of it last summer.

It found that about half of the households that do not pay federal income tax do not pay it because they are simply too poor. The Tax Policy Center gives as an example a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 a year: The household would pay no federal income tax because its standard deduction and other exemptions would simply erase its liability.

The other half, the Tax Policy Center found, consists of households taking advantage of tax credits and other provisions, mostly support for senior citizens and low-income working families.

Put bluntly, these are not households shirking their tax liabilities. The pool consists mostly of the poor, of relatively low-income working families and of old people. The tax code is specifically designed to reduce the burden on them.

Indeed, the recession and its aftermath have left tens of millions of workers out of a job or underemployed, removing more households from payment of federal income taxes. Moreover, the Bush tax cuts – the signature Republican economic policy of the 2000s, which doubled the child tax credit, increased a number of other deductions and exemptions, and lowered marginal tax rates – erased millions of families’ federal income tax liabilities.

It is also worth noting that though tens of millions of families do not pay federal income taxes, there are virtually no families that do not pay any taxes – between payroll taxes, sales taxes, state and local taxes, and on and on.
Perhaps even more amusing is that, if reality were known to Mitt Romney, then he would know that he's actually attacking his own base, since the states where 47 percent of the population pay no federal income taxes are deep red states, mostly in the South, and its Northwestern counterpart, Idaho:

But as Derek Thompson observed in delving these numbers deeper:
The 47% aren't lucky ducks cheating the system. They're mostly poor working families getting pilloried by the political party that wrote the rules they're following. If the 47% are the monster here, then Republicans helped play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. "Non-payers" have grown in the last 30 years because of marginal tax rate cuts and credits like the EITC passed under Republican presidents and continued by both parties in Congress.
And what's truly sad is that many of those people will actually be gulled into voting for Mitt Romney, because Fox News tells them he's on their side.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Born Every Minute: 'Values Voters' Lap Up Fake 'Ex-Terrorist'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Ever notice how right-wingers aren't particularly picky about where they get their information? Oh, sure, that guy on the teevee may look like some leaf blower got ahold of his toupee out on the used-car saleslot, but if he says something nasty about Barack Obama, then his word is gold!

Brian Tashman at RightWingWatch happened to catch one such character, speaking before the awestruck crowd at last week's "Values Voters Summit 2012", a self-proclaimed "former terrorist" who has renounced Islam and the evil ways of the Islamist conspiracy against America because he found The Love of JeHaySus. (Heather discussed him earlier.)

Here "Saleem" regales the slack-jawed VVS audience with his new Obama conspiracy tale:
SALEEM: And when we surrender to them authority, and we apologize to everybody over there, in Islam that is a victory, and that is the start of the march now somewhere to take over the land, take over your country and fulfill your purpose and become united Islamic nations!

This is what happened. Egypt is the capital of the OIC -- the OIC meeting here in America with Hillary and her staff! You are about to introduce U.N. Resolution 1618, the hate crime bill, which will subjugate American people to be arrested and put to jail, and the churches and synagogues shut down and go underground. And if they still go they will be put in jail and be fined big time. Which will break the First Amendment and Second Amendment.

This is about to be put as early as January. As early maybe as March, at most. Right now, it is on the table to be put together. We got something to fight for, and that fight is for our children, for our grandchildren, for our liberty! For our freedom! For the future! For the nations!
Yyyyyyyeah. OK. Whatever you say, dude.

Actually, Tim Murphy of Mother Jones ran into Saleem at the VVC and tried to get him to answer some of the questions he's been asking about Saleem and his story for a long time:
But as I reported in a piece for the magazine last spring, much of Saleem's story doesn't add up. California police have no record of an incident he describes vividly in the first chapter of his book; the FBI says it has no record of meeting with him. And those who knew him before he began traveling the country under a stage name say they have serious doubts about huge portions of his narrative. Wally Winter, a former roommate during the period Saleem purports to have been grooming terrorists, told me, "He could sell swampland in Louisiana. I really do not believe the story about the terrorism."
Gotta love Saleem's brass, though. And guess where he picked up all that evangelical style: Straight out of Pat Robertson, his former employer:
Doug Howard, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Michigan's Calvin College, first encountered Saleem in 2007, when he was invited to speak at the school. Howard quickly became suspicious: For starters, Saleem claimed to be a descendant of the "Grand Wazir of Islam," a position that doesn't exist. Howard dug deeper and discovered that Saleem's original name was Khodor Shami—and that for more than a decade before outing himself as a former terrorist he had worked for Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and James Dobson's Focus on the Family. (CBN declined to comment. Focus on the Family confirmed Saleem was an employee but would not comment further.)
Though I have to say: At least Saleem is more credible than Paul Ryan.