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Thanks, Folks

Back on September 21st we kicked off our 2015 sign up drive for Prime, TPM's membership program. Between us, we had a hopelessly optimistic goal. We wanted to sign up 3000 new subscribers by the end of the calendar year. That seemed like such a tall order that I refrained from making the goal public - not good to announce a goal you're not going to meet. But so far, we've done reasonably well. We've got almost six weeks left in 2015 and we're currently at 2022 new subscribers. You get your biggest rush of sign ups at the beginning of a drive. So it's still a pretty tall proposition. But it's definitely possible.

So first I want to thank all of you who've signed up. We're in a transitional period in the digital publishing industry. Lots of publishers are trying to build a 'direct financial relationship' with their readers, as the phrase has it - in other words, trying to get them to pay money to the site. So I thought I'd take a moment to explain not so much why we're doing this but why it's a trend for the industry in general.

This is a challenge for all publishers because they're trying to get people to do something they're not used to doing and haven't needed to do in the past. I know because with every other site beside this one, I'm the reader just like you are. So here's the backstory on what's going on.

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A Pleasing End to a Despicable (and Comical) Story

I confess it is nice to see the political career of David Vitter - someone we've been following closely at TPM for almost a decade - go down in flames tonight. But there's an additional part of the story, an additional piece of good news. As Catherine Thompson explained here, Vitter devoted the last week of his campaign to demagoguing the Syrian refugee issue in a desperate effort to save himself. He even went beyond the standard scare talk and hyperbole to trying to whip hysteria against a specific Syrian refugee who Vitter falsely claimed had mysteriously disappeared and was now at large in the state. (The man in question had, all through official channels and with appropriate notifications, been relocated to the Washington, DC region where he had relatives.)

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Some Historical Perspective On The Current Freakout

Ben Railton has an interesting piece at TPMCafe about how the United States has since the earliest days of the Republic carefully avoided casting its conflicts in Muslim regions as a "War on Islam." Particularly interesting is this language from the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Read Ben here.

The Rage and the Derp

An amazing little story developing down in Louisiana, one that could tell us a lot about the political salience of the current Syrian refugee hysteria. With his history finally catching up with him, Sen. David Vitter looked like he was heading to near certain defeat in the Louisiana gubernatorial election. His prostitute history got kicked back into the center of the campaign, he got caught having a private eye spy on a prominent Republican sheriff, the polls began to collapse and prominent state Republicans began to abandon him in favor of his Democratic opponent.

The polls still show Vitter clearly behind. But he's latched on to Syrian refugee hysteria as his campaign closing Hail Marry pass. Where it gets really weird and sinister is that this has involved not just scaremongering about refugees in the abstract but Vitter personally sounding the alarm about a specific Syrian refugee who'd been settled in the state and had suddenly gone missing. It turned out that the whole story was bogus: The man in question had been relocated to the Washington DC area through officials channels with all relevant officials notified. But that wasn't before a whole round of Vitter-campaign backed incitement had gotten underway and led to threats against the local branch of Catholic Charities, which overseas refugee resettlement in the area and is actually connected to Vitter's wife. It's quite a story to put it mildly and it shows how quickly political nonsense can escalate into a weird politicking-cum-vigilante incitement that can get someone killed. The election is tomorrow and Catherine Thompson has the story.

The Amazing Trump-Wingnut Policy Conveyor Belt

We've already seen how, in the first weeks of Donald Trump's candidacy, he not only pushed immigration higher on the GOP primary issue list but managed to mainstream a choice of language and policies which had heretofore been the preserve of folks like Louie Gohmert in the House of Representatives. We're now seeing a similar pattern on what we might call the immigration-terror paranoia nexus, where Trump first publicly considers an outrageous idea, rapidly endorses it and then is followed to varying degrees by other candidates. I think this is actually very important. So allow me to explain.

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A Wonderful Moment

During congressional testimony today Rep. Ken Buck (R) of Colorado explained a new dimension of the Syrian refugee question to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez: Benghazi.

Clumsy Boy

Unless you haven't been paying attention to the American political debate for the last half dozen years, you know that Republicans insist that it is a critical part of fighting terrorism that our leaders talk about "Islam" or "radical Islam" or some phrase that includes the word "Islam" to be able to protect ourselves and win our epic battle against the jihadists. There are more and less sophisticated versions of the argument. And usually presidential candidates will carefully go through the motions of explaining that we have no quarrel with Islam but only "radical Islam" or some subset of extremists. But Marco Rubio appeared on This Week last weekend. And it was a good example of why this seeming hyper-caution is actually pretty important and how in particularly clumsy hands or in the hands of someone new to these issues this approach can lead to major problems.

Coming off the last Democratic presidential debate, this issue again got a big airing, with Republicans attacking all the candidates for refusing to invoke the I-word. So George Stephanopoulos played Hillary Clinton's remarks and then asked Rubio to respond. Here's the exchange ...

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