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.

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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.

Stephen Baldwin: Preacher Man

Actor and famous brother Stephen Baldwin has been on the stump of late trying to rally up the under-25 crowd for conservatives. He appeared last week at the big 9/12 march in DC,  and on Friday afternoon he was one of the big names at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit. Troubled by the fact that Obama overwhelmingly won the youth vote, conservatives seem to be pinning their hopes on people like Baldwin and Carrie Prejean to broaden their appeal to the next generation. But if Baldwin is the best celebrity they can come up with, their movement is in big trouble.

Baldwin, who became a born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, runs an extreme-sports ministry that brought God to arenas and other such sacred venues. He also co-hosts a popular talk radio show. At the summit, Baldwin appeared with his show's co-host Kevin McCullough to heavy applause from the gathered faithful. Baldwin acknowledged the warm welcome with many "amens" and then explained how he liked to turn these things "over to the Lord."

Without any irony, Baldwin lamented the impact that Hollywood has had on youth culture, perhaps thinking about his first film, The Beast, or his 2007 appearance on "Ty Murray's Bull Riding Challenge." Apparently Baldwin has hopes of returning America to the country of his youth, when people really believed in the American dream. (Lots of the Values Voters speakers have used this kind of restoration language.) The only way to recover this lost dream, according to Baldwin, is with "the spirit of the Lord." Baldwin's spiel was heavy on faith, light on politics. In fact, far from rallying a political movement, Baldwin seemed to be practicing his next sermon. And when it comes to preaching, Baldwin is no Mike Huckabee. One snippet:

"The American dream is the same thing as believing in things we cannot see. We need to be in the place in our experience in that dynamic that allows the spirit of the Lord that allows us to do it through us."

Coming from a guy who recently ended up in the hospital suffering from life-threatening bug bites he got on "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!" it was a bit hard to follow. Nonetheless, the still-studly Baldwin—who once wrote a song called "My 18-inch Biceps"—will be rocking out with all the young conservatives here in the far reaches of the Omni Shoreham later tonight.

 

Where's Sarah Palin?

Thousands of conservative activists are back in DC again this weekend for the Family Research Council's annual Values Voters Summit, an event that in the past has served as an early test ground for aspiring GOP presidential candidates. True to form this year, many of the GOP luminaries are on the lineup: Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Conspicuously absent from the list, though, is former VP candiate Sarah Palin.

Palin was invited, and her absense is no doubt a huge disappointment to many of the attendees. According to the Washington Times this morning, she skipped the event because her son Track is coming back from Iraq this weekend. Of course, his return won't prevent Palin from jetting off to Hong Kong in a few days for a big paid speaking gig to a group of Chinese investors (which will be closed to the media, incidentally.)

Palin's dissing of the conservative activists seems odd. These are her people, after all. Does this mean she's not going to run for president? I doubt it. More likely Palin realizes that, unlike people like Pence and Pawlenty, the Values Voters already know her. She can afford to take them for granted. Right now, apparently, she's more desperate for Chinese money than the straw-poll votes of a couple hundred die-hards.

John Fund Fears Universal Voter Registration Conspiracy

The right-wingers over at the American Conservative Union conference in DC today must really be frothing after a full day of fiery political speechifying. We wish we could give you better color commentary, but ACU has banned the media (unless we're willing to fork over $400.) But fortunately, ACU is Twittering, so we do know that the Wall Street Journal's John Fund just warned the crowd that if Democrats lose health care, they will "ram universal voter registration through Congress." The horror! God forbid everyone in this country actually registered to vote. Other choice quotes from Fund:

On health care: "I think we have a chance of taking it down from an 800 pound gorilla to a 99 pound weakling."

On the ACORN scandal: "ACORN is the soft under belly of the Liberal Left Machine."

And this doozy: Fund estimates that more than 400,000 people attended Saturday's 9/12 anti-government march in DC. (Most reliable estimates put the number at more like 75,000.)

Fund was preceded by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who said sagely:  "The constant in climate change is that it is changing." He apparently called for more science, less hype on global warming.

And it wouldn't be a conservative conference without South Carolina Rep. Jim DeMint (R), who told attendees: "Our goal is to save freedom in America." Thanks, Jim.

You can follow the bromides here.

Rep. Tom Price: Public Option Will Cheat

The American Conservative Union, one of the co-sponsors of Saturday's big anti-government rally in DC, is holding its Legacy Council conference in DC today. All the congressional Republican conservatives will be there pow-wowing with the activists. One group that won't be: the media. ACU tells me that the only way for a reporter to get in is to pay the nearly $400 cover charge. Fortunately for us, ACU is Twittering its own event so we can see what we're missing.

Among the gems: Rep. Tom Price, the Republican doctor from Georgia, just told conferees that he believed that the public option—the supposed market competitor—would cheat to get ahead of the honest private companies competing to cover all those uninsured Americans who can't afford their products now.

I love how a few weeks ago, the GOP message was that the government would be so good at running an insurance plan that private insurers wouldn't have a chance. But then they realized that made government look effective, defeating their other messages about government as the problem. So the new message is that the government plan would simply cheat. Nice! Wish Price had said just how the government would actually do that.

Court Okays Halliburton Rape Trial

Remember Jamie Leigh Jones, the Halliburton/KBR contractor who alleged she was gang raped by her co-workers in Iraq and then imprisoned in a shipping container after she reported the attack to the company? Well, it looks like she's finally get to sue the company, in a real courthouse, over her ordeal.

Her legal saga started after Halliburton failed to take any action against her alleged attackers, and the Justice Department and military also failed to prosecute. Jones then tried to sue the company for failing to protect her. But thanks to an employment contract created during the tenure of former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, Jones was forced into mandatory binding arbitration, a private forum where Halliburton would hire the arbitrator, all the proceedings would be secret, and she'd have no right to appeal if she lost.

Data from the American Arbitration Association showed that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of its cases in arbitration, and when I looked at the data two years ago, it showed that out of 119 cases Halliburton arbitrated over a four-year period, only three resulted in the employee actually winning any money. The deck was clearly stacked against Jones from day one.

 

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