Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent several years hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

Full Bio | Get my RSS |

Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Is The Tea Party Over?

The tea partiers are launching the revolution. This week. But will anyone actually show up?

On Sunday, Rep. Michele Bachmann challenged viewers of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to join her last-ditch attempt to kill health care reform. The fiery Minnesota Republican plans to hold a press conference at "high noon" on Thursday. She urged Americans to flood the halls of Congress that day, find their elected officials, "look at the whites of their eyes and tell them, 'don't you dare take away my health care.'"

Since then, so-called tea party patriots have been burning up the Internets trying to rally supporters to attend Bachmann’s event. But so far, their efforts haven't amounted to much. The official Tea Party Patriots website laments that Bachmann’s rally is being stymied by a "media blackout"—meaning that mainstream outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post have ignored it.

Is Obama Plotting to Shut Down the Internet?

The world is full of a lot of conservative anti-Obama craziness these days—Glenn Beck, the Birther movement, etc. But anti-immigration activist William Gheen might take the prize as this week's most paranoid Obama critic. On Tuesday, Gheen circulated an email claiming that the Obama administration may intend to use the swine flu epidemic as an excuse to shut down the web and thus silence his critics. Gheen’s source for his claim? A small Reuters story about a recent GAO report suggesting the Department of Homeland Security doesn't have a backup plan should millions of bored Americans, home with swine flu, overload the Internet with too many games of XBlaster. He writes:

“Ironic that Obama's DHS is telegraphing a desire to shut down 'certain websites' and civilian access to the Internet in response to this weak strain of flu, considering the fact that civilian Internet communications are the primary information sharing channels of his political opposition. The Internet combined with talk radio is the biggest threat to Obama's globalist open borders amnesty agenda. The White House clearly has resentments towards any media not under the control of their masters.”

Fortunately for immigrant bashers everywhere, Gheen’s North Carolina-based Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is going to set up alternative channels to help get its message out in the event of an Internet blackout. Gheen says, “ALIPAC is moving to create a phone bank that can be staffed with employees and volunteers to reach our supporters during such an emergency and attack on free speech.” The phone bank, naturally, will need donor support.

 

Take That, Dick Cheney!

Last week, in his first successful piece of legislation, freshman Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) persuaded the Senate to approve a measure banning federal contracts with defense companies that use mandatory binding arbitration clauses in employment contracts that prevent sexual assault victims from suing. The measure not only proves once again that elections matter, but it also comes as a major rebuke to none other than former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The back story: Franken's bill was inspired by Halliburton/KBR contractor Jamie Leigh Jones, who was allegedly raped by her co-workers and held hostage in a shipping container by her employer in Iraq in 2005. Not only did the Justice Department and the military fail to investigate or prosecute her attackers, but as Mother Jones reported back in 2007, Jones was unable to sue the company, either, in no small part thanks to Cheney.

Cheney had been the Halliburton CEO who instituted a company-wide policy to include mandatory binding arbitration clauses in employment contracts. Jones was forced to sign such a contract before heading off to Iraq in 2005 and has spent four years fighting in federal court to void the contract. Jones wasn't the only defense contractor/sexual assault victim prevented from suing because of arbitration clauses.Franken was understandably outraged, and he gave a surprisingly compelling speech from the Senate floor, saying:

The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law … And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court. The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen.

Franken was so persuasive that even a few Republicans got on board; his amendment passed 68 to 30.

The Christmas Wars 2009: Round 1

The Christmas wars are officially off and running. The latest attack comes from the American Family Association, a Mississippi-based right-wing Christian group that has successfully boycotted various companies they deem too friendly to gays and too hostile to Christians. The newest target of its ire? The Gap, a company that has officially declined to use the word "Christmas" in any of its holiday promotions this year. The AFA apparently thinks this is real blasphemy and is urging its members and supporters to boycott The Gap and its affiliates, Banana Republic and Old Navy. They write: 

We want you to stand with us and other Christians in proclaiming that Christmas is special, not just any winter holiday. And the gift buying that Americans do for one another is because of Christmas. People don't exchange gifts on Thanksgiving or New Year's Day.

As part of its campaign, AFA is urging its supporters to don buttons that read "God's Gift: Merry Christmas" to show their support for Christmas. Naturally, the buttons can be procured from AFA. A "suggested donation" of $55 will get you 100 of them. However futile such campaigns may seem, the tiny AFA has actually been fairly successful in many of these boycotts. Three years ago, the group successfully convinced Sears to back off its commitment to nondenominational advertising. This year, Sears is going whole hog on the birth of Christ. AFA notes approvingly on its website that Sears is even offering a "Christmas Club." AFA doesn't seem to mind that Sears has launched the club even before Halloween. Those sorts of complaints will apparently be left to the atheists.

 

Tue Jul. 21, 2015 2:15 PM EDT
Wed Jul. 9, 2014 12:44 PM EDT
Wed Apr. 30, 2014 12:07 PM EDT
Tue Dec. 3, 2013 7:55 AM EST