Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

Get my RSS |

Bachmann Says Obama Seeks to "Lift up Islamists"

| Wed Dec. 12, 2012 12:41 PM EST
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) flamed out of the GOP presidential race and barely held onto her House seat in November, polling 15 points behind Mitt Romney in the state's most conservative congressional district. This is where a typical member of Congress might reflect for a moment, tone down the rhetoric, and focus on nuts-and-bolts legislative issues to win back her constituents. Michele Bachmann is not typical.

Last weekend, she made a guest appearance on Understanding the Times, a radio show devoted to End Times prophecy whose host, Jan Markell, believes that Harry Potter is a "gateway to the occult" and that President Obama is poised to declare himself "One World President." (Bachmann has been a frequent guest on the show and even wrote an endorsement for Markell's Biblical prophecy conference, at which a keynote speaker warned that a two-state solution would give rise to the antichrist.)

Here's a recent newsletter from Markell's ministry:

Note from Jan: Prophecy teacher Jack Kelley writes about a man who may be waiting in the wings: The Antichrist. The world longs for a leader. The world thought they had it in Barack Obama in 2008. Now they wonder again. As we see evil arise in a shocking manner in these "days of Noah," be encouraged that it is leading to a day when there will be a shout and the sound of a trumpet. And in the twinkling of an eye, we will leave this throbbing planet. I can almost hear the hoof beats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Look over a ridge and you will see them on the way.

Here's another:

We're in the fast lane to the end of the age now. We have a Buddhist, a Muslim, and a Hindu in Congress so we're one nation under many gods. We're heading even more into rampant acceptance of same-sex marriage, abortion, and legalized recreational marijuana. Evil is called good and good is called evil. Do you have any doubt that we are officially in the "days of Noah?"

The subject of Bachmann's interview on Tuesday? Creeping Shariah. Via Right Wing Watch, Bachmann alleged that President Obama and Secretary of State of Hillary Clinton want to "lift up Islamists" and have done the Muslim Brotherhood's bidding. According to Bachmann, the Obama administration supports censorship of speech that's critical of Islam, something that will bring the world one step closer to Islamist domination:

Once you take away people’s ability to be able to speak, this is not a small right, this is everything, it is game over because then all of the power and authority has been given over to the Islamist. The Islamist is the only one who gets to dictate what we can say and what we can do, and what we can print and what we not print, and who can assembly and how they can assemble, because at that point Sharia Islamic law in effect becomes the law of the land because the Islamist gets to have the authority, not anyone who opposes Islam. This is a very, very important issue.

Bachmann is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Obama Data Guru: I'm Not a Sorcerer, I'm You

| Thu Dec. 6, 2012 9:54 AM EST
OFA data director Ethan Roeder.

Now that the campaign is finally over the non-disclosure agreements are starting to lapse, Obama campaign veterans are starting to come forward to tell their stories of what worked and what didn't. (Sometimes in these very pages.) Today, it's Ethan Roeder's turn. In a New York Times op-ed, the campaign's data director says he's nothing like what you've heard:

I've grown accustomed to reading inaccurate accounts of my day job. I'm in political data.

If I'm not spying on private citizens through the security cam in the parking garage, I’m probably sifting through their garbage for discarded pages from their diaries or deploying billions of spambots to crack into their e-mail. Reading what others muse about my profession is the opposite of my middle-school experience: people with only superficial information about me make a bunch of assumptions to fill in what’s missing and decide that I’m an all-knowing super-genius.

Sadly for me, this is a bunch of malarkey. You may chafe at how much the online world knows about you, but campaigns don’t know anything more about your online behavior than any retailer, news outlet or savvy blogger.

Roeder's right that OFA wasn't digging through confidential records or sifting through dumpsters. But that's also not an allegation I've heard anyone make. Nor is it really the case that the campaign was working with the same set of information that's available to a news outlet or savvy blogger. Detailed donor histories aren't publicly available. Nor are party files, which included notes on caucusing and volunteering and issue preference. And even the savviest of bloggers don't purchase bulk consumer databases. The campaigns are doing more or less what big retailers are doing, but in the eyes of privacy watchdogs, that's kind of the point: As I put it in a piece for the magazine back in September, "In practice, the Obama team isn't doing anything private companies haven't already been doing for a few years. But the scope of its operation represents a major shift for politics—voters expect to be able to obsessively analyze information about the candidates, not the other way around."

There's a lot more in the Times op-ed, and Roeder does a good job of explaining the campaign's real breakthrough—figuring out what to do with all of this data to maximize every interaction it had with voters, donors, and volunteers. Go read his whole piece

Texas Secessionists Have a Political Action Committee Now

| Wed Dec. 5, 2012 12:53 PM EST

Membership in the pro-secession Texas Nationalist Movement has increased 400 percent since President Barack Obama won re-election on November 5—or so the TMN claims. Last week, the group has announced on its website that it's taking the next step: forming a political action committee:

The Texas Nationalist Movement on Tuesday filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission appointing a treasurer for the Texas Nationalist Movement Political Action Committee (TNM-PAC), signaling the organization's most significant venture into the legislative process in pursuit of Texas independence.

TNM president Daniel Miller said the TNM-PAC was formed "for the purpose of supporting and endorsing candidates at all levels that are in-line with the mission, vision and values of the Texas Nationalist Movement."

The Texas Nationalist Movement's foray into the world of campaign finance is its biggest step yet in an effort to enter—and eventually become—the political mainstream. It's also peaceful, which is a noted break from another modern-day Texas secession movement, the Republic of Texas, which was helmed by an eccentric named Richard McLaren who launched an armed invasion and occupation of his neighbor's house in Far West Texas in the 1990s.

TNM-PAC doesn't mention any specific candidates it plans to support, but from the site it's possible to speculate. Perennial candidate Larry Kilgore, who recently changed his middle name to "SECEDE" (yes, allcaps), received 250,000 votes in the 2008 GOP Senate primary and is planning on running for governor in two years. (Among his other issues: instituting the death penalty as a punishment for adultery) The group also touts on its site a November lecture on secession by Wes Riddle, a blogger and historic theater owner who lost a 2010 U.S. House primary despite picking up an endorsement from retiring Rep. Ron Paul.

One candidate TNM-PAC probably won't be supporting: Governor-for-life and occasional secessionist-sympathizer Rick Perry, whose office told the Dallas Morning-News last month that he "believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it."

Republicans Get Religion on Campaign Data

| Tue Dec. 4, 2012 6:08 AM EST
"Data is the new black."

If the first rule of espionage is to keep your cover, Patrick Ruffini's sortie into the heart of the left-wing conspiracy should probably be considered something of a bust. It didn't help that he announced his intentions one day in advance, via Twitter:

The 34-year-old former RNC staffer is one of the GOP's top gurus for all things digital. Roots Camp, an annual gathering hosted by the New Organizing Institute, is where Democratic organizers go to debrief—or, as in the case of Obama for America's army of attendees, take a victory lap. The names of the panels alone tell the story: "Unfucking Elections with Data"; "Memeification of Rapid Response Social Media Fast & Furious"; "How to generate 1000 tweets using segmented email blasts"; and my personal favorite: "Hot Open Source Web Mapping."

This isn't a place for pundits to ruminate about The Narrative; it's a nuts-and-bolts education venture. And this year's lesson is clear: 2012 was the year campaigns' digital outfits and field organizers began to merge as one, and as a consequence, any session that so much as hints at how to bridge the two seems to be overflowing with dozens of twentysomethings, fresh from electoral success, tapping away on their laptops. As one of the early arrivals at the Friday after-lunch panel on microtargeting ("Modeling Monkey Owners") put it, "Data is sexy now."

When I track down Ruffini, he's lurking in the back of a breakout session, dressed to blend in in green Chuck Taylors and a fleece jacket, tweeting up a storm and taking notes. About 100 people are crammed into seats or on the floor or propped up against the walls to hear Aaron Strauss, the director of targeting and data at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, explain why Nate Silver, the New York Times' polling guru, is full of crap. This would normally be the part of the story where Strauss is struck down by a lightning bolt or some other such instrument of divine retribution, but Strauss makes a compelling case.

The audience, like an overflowing freshman seminar with the cool professor, listens attentively as Strauss breaks down the fundamental issue with Silver's analysis of which states are most likely to swing back and forth. It assumes that the demographics most likely to swing one way or another are those in the middle. That's just not what the numbers say, Strauss insists. The problem, supposedly, is that Silver's information is limited to crude exit polling, whereas Strauss' information comes from phone calls and in-person contacts. "That's where it crumbles," he says. "That's where the house of cards fall down."

Since Election Day, there's been much introspection on the right about the various ways in which the left is kicking its ass—and how the GOP can turn things around. It needs to become more appealing to Silicon Valley. It needs to reinvest in Big Data. It needs its own Analyst Institute. It needs a ground game. Ruffini has been a source of much of that harping, which is part of the reason he's made his visit to Roots Camp in the first place.

"I don't know that I'm surprised by anything I've seen here," Ruffini says when it's over. But it's revealing nonetheless. "I'm sort of more impressed by the scale of it, the level of participation and interest in these topics, that I've seen tangentially discussed in Republican circles, but mostly in conference rooms, not at conferences. And for what it's worth, that perspective, the data-driven perspective, did not win out in our campaigns this year."

The right has no shortage of conferences for activists, but nothing as purpose-driven and digitally savvy as Roots Camp. For that matter, it has no real answer to the New Organizing Institute itself, which operates in perpetual election mode, grooming Democratic field operatives across the country. "I mean look I think you've got RightOnline, you've got a number of major conferences that cater to conservatives," he says. "I don't know that any are quite as focused on digital as this. It's the next step in the evolution." And Ruffini's not the only one studying up on the new Chicago machine. When top Democratic and Republican campaign aides gathered at Harvard last week to talk about the race, GOPers packed talks by Obama staffers. As one Republican strategist told BuzzFeed, "We got our butts kicked, so I'm going to school."

There's a certain irony to the right's newfound introspection: After four years of demonizing the commander-in-chief as an Alinskyite radical, conservatives have fallen in love with community organizing.

Tue Nov. 4, 2014 9:02 PM EST
Mon Jul. 21, 2014 2:33 PM EDT
Tue Jun. 10, 2014 8:26 PM EDT
Tue May. 6, 2014 9:03 PM EDT