Mariah Blake

Mariah Blake

Senior Reporter

Mariah Blake is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. She has also written for The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, The Nation, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and The Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. E-mail her at mblake [at] motherjones [dot] com or follow her on Twitter.

Get my RSS |

Advertise on MotherJones.com

What Kind of Crazy Anti-Environment Bills Is ALEC Pushing Now?

| Fri Dec. 6, 2013 12:06 PM EST

The American Legislative Exchange Council may be hemorrhaging members and grappling with a funding crisis, but that hasn't hampered its ambitions. In 2013, the conservative outfit, which specializes in generating state-level legislation, launched a multi-front jihad on green energy, with more than 77 ALEC-backed energy bills cropping up in state legislature. Among the most prominent were measures to repeal renewable energy standards and block meaningful disclosure of chemicals used in fracking. Most of these bills failed. But as state lawmakers and corporate representatives gather in Washington this week for the group's three-day policy summit, ALEC is pushing ahead with a new package of energy and environmental bills that will benefit Big Energy and polluters.

On Wednesday, The Guardian reported some details of ALEC's anti-green-energy offensive and its new policy roadmap, which began taking shape at an August gathering of the group's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force in Chicago. The newspaper focused largely on ALEC's efforts to undermine net-metering policies, which allow private citizens to sell excess power from rooftop solar panels to utilities. ("As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system," John Eick, an ALEC legislative analyst, told the Guardian.) But the group's energy task force—which includes as members fossil fuel interests, such as Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil—will also be peddling other pro-corporate state initiatives, some with far-reaching implications. Below is a roundup:

Why Do CNN and HLN Keep Giving Airtime to George Zimmerman's White-Power Buddy?

| Fri Nov. 22, 2013 9:34 AM EST

Since George Zimmerman was arrested earlier this week for allegedly threatening his girlfriend with a shotgun, many of his defenders have gone silent or turned tail. Speaking on Fox News after Zimmerman's Tuesday arraignment, Geraldo Rivera, a former Zimmerman booster, went so far as to call him "borderline psychotic."

But Zimmerman's neighbor and de facto spokesman, Frank Taaffe, has pressed ahead with the media crusade he began in the runup to Zimmerman's trial on charges of murdering unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. And despite revelations that Taaffe is a convicted criminal and unabashed racist who hosts a white-power podcast, cable news networks have continued giving him a platform.

Most recently, Taaffe appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight and argued that Zimmerman was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Morgan asked Taaffe what Zimmerman—who faces charges of aggravated assault with a weapon, domestic violence battery, and criminal mischief—was doing in a house full of guns. "Boys will have their toys," Taaffe replied. He also called Zimmerman's girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, and his ex-wife, Shellie (who has alleged that Zimmerman threatened her and her father with a gun, too) "opportunistic."

Earlier this week, Taaffe appeared on HLN's  Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew On Call. "George is being oppressed by the press," he told an incredulous Grace, who asked: "So according to you, what is it? A conspiracy between the...the ATF officer, the girlfriend in 2006, the wife in September 2013, and me, I guess?" 

"No," Taaffe said. "He's allying himself with these women that he shouldn't be with."

Here is the Nancy Grace segment:

Here's a segment from Dr. Drew On Call:

In media interviews during Zimmerman's trial, Taaffe made similar personal attacks on Martin and posted virulently racist comments on Twitter—one read "the only time a black life is validated is when a white person kills them."

Taaffe himself has been arrested (though never convicted) repeatedly on stalking and domestic violence charges, and he served nine months in jail for trespassing in his ex-wife's home. But there was no mention of his criminal record on CNN or HLN, both of which have given him ample airtime in the past. As Mother Jones reported in August:

CNN and its sister network, HLN, have repeatedly invited Taaffe to weigh in on legal and technical aspects of the Zimmerman case, from the implications of witness testimony to the meaning of forensic evidence….When Valerie Rao, Jacksonville, Florida's chief medical examiner, testified during the trial that Zimmerman's injuries were minor enough to be treated with Band-Aids—an assertion that cast doubt on Zimmerman's claims that Martin had bashed his head repeatedly on the sidewalk—Taaffe appeared on the Nancy Grace show and argued that Rao was wrong. 

When Taaffe made these appearances, some still made the case that Zimmerman was a community-minded neighborhood watch volunteer who perceived Martin as a genuine threat. But this version of events seems far less plausible in light of his recent actions. And giving Taaffe a platform to bash Zimmerman's alleged victims is that much less defensible.

A Bizarre and Telling Book Excerpt From 60 Minutes' Bogus Benghazi Source

| Mon Nov. 11, 2013 8:23 PM EST

60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan apologized on Sunday for her discredited October 27 report based on a bogus "eyewitness" account of the attacks on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi. The mea culpa followed revelations that Logan's main source, security consultant Dylan Davies—who claimed that he had scaled the compound's 12-foot wall and battled terrorists—wasn't on the scene at all, according to an account he gave the FBI. He'd also told his then-employer, the British security contractor Blue Mountain, that he had never reached the compound. Nonetheless, he somehow persuaded Logan and CBS News to accept his alternate version of heroics.

As it turns out, Davies also recounted his supposed interactions with the FBI in his recent book, The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account of the Libyan Embassy Siege by the Soldier Who Was There, which he coauthored under the pen name Morgan Jones and published with Threshold Editions, an imprint of the CBS-owned company Simon & Schuster. The tome hit shelves two days after the 60 Minutes segment ran, though the publisher dropped it on Friday and urged retailers to yank the title from their inventories.

Oklahoma's Ban on Abortion Drugs Is Permanently Blocked, Following a New Supreme Court Ruling

| Mon Nov. 4, 2013 1:42 PM EST

The US Supreme Court has decided not to weigh in on the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law limiting access to abortion drugs.

The court had tentatively agreed to hear a challenge to the 2011 statute, which bars doctors from prescribing abortion pills, except as outlined on the FDA label. Before proceeding, however, it asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify the breadth of the law. Last Tuesday, the state court ruled that the bill effectively bans all abortion drugs, including those used to treat life-threatening ectopic pregnancies, and found that it was unconstitutional.

On Monday, the US Supreme Court responded by dismissing the case as "improvidently granted," meaning that a 2012 ruling from a lower court, which struck the law down, will stand. For more on the case, Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, see Mother Jones's recent in-depth story.

Oklahoma is not the only place that's clamping down on abortion drugs. Here's an overview of other states that have restricted access:

 

A state-by-state LOOK AT abortion drug restrictions

Hover over a state to see a breakdown of restrictions in place there. Source: Guttmacher Institute.  

Fri Apr. 25, 2014 1:42 PM EDT