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 the last year 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.

Does Having Sisters Turn Boys Into Republicans?

| Tue Jul. 23, 2013 12:36 PM EDT
Boys with sisters grow up to be husbands who don't do housework.

Lots of people have been looking to science to explain the differences between Democrats and Republicans. Mother Jones' Chris Mooney has published a rundown of all the brain differences suspected in the gulf between liberals and conservatives. But a new study by researchers from Loyola Marymount University and Stanford University's business school suggests another factor may play a role in forming the political brain: the gender of one's siblings. According to the study, boys with only a sister were 15 percent more likely to identify as a Republican in high school, and they were 13.5 percent more conservative in their views of women's roles than boys who only had brothers. 

The reason for this difference? Not genes or neural pathways, but something more mundane: housework. The researchers speculate that boys take their cues about women's roles from an early age, and that girls tend to be assigned more traditional chores when they have a brother. Watching their sisters do this housework "teaches" boys that washing dishes and other such drudgery is simply women's work. Boys with only brothers don't seem to have this problem because the chore load at home tends to be spread around more equally. The impact on men's gender perceptions is long term, but the stark partisanship fades somewhat as men get older, the researchers say.

Perhaps even more important than the impact sisters have on men's political views is the way sisters may influence how their brothers turn out as husbands. The study found that boys with sisters grow up to be men who don't help much around the house. The researchers' data show that middle-aged men who grew up with a sister are 17 percent more likely to say their spouses did more housework than they did compared with men who had only brothers. The study suggests this might mean men's views of gender roles are permanently affected by their childhood environment. Girls weren't affected by having brothers or sisters. 

The results seemed to surprise the researchers, who thought having a sister would have a liberalizing effect on boys. Loyola's Andrew Healy said in a press release about the study:

We might expect that boys would learn to support gender equity through interactions with their sisters. However, the data suggest that other forces are more important in driving men’s political attitudes, including whether the family assigned chores, such as dishwashing, according to traditional gender roles.

Message to parents: If you want your boys to grow up to be good husbands or partners, make them wash some dishes and iron clothes when they're young!

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Oath Keepers Heart Edward Snowden!

| Fri Jul. 19, 2013 12:54 PM EDT
Billboard at the Pentagon subway station bought by the Oath Keepers

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has earned quite a following, sometimes in unlikely quarters. The latest evidence comes in the form of this billboard recently installed inside the subway station that serves the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. The billboard was paid for by the Oath Keepers, a "patriot" group founded in 2009 not long after President Obama took office. The controversial organization, founded by a former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) staffer and associated with former militia leaders, encourages members of the military and law enforcement to swear an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, and not necessarily to the Commander in Chief. The Oath Keepers pledge to essentially turn on the US government if they think they're being ordered to do things that they think are unconstitutional, such as, for instance, taking people's guns away.

They arrived on the scene with much fanfare and were often staples at tea party and Second Amendment rallies organized around opposition to the tyrannical Obama administration. Their ranks are filled with Birthers, Truthers, and others who see black helicopters lurking at every turn. Their highest profile associates have been people like Mike Vanderboegh, the former Alabama militia leader who urged followers to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices to protest the passage of healthcare reform. (Some actually did.) But the Oath Keepers have since dropped out of the limelight, the dictatorship they were preparing for never quite materializing. 

But the group has reemerged with a new project, which involves billboards like the Snowden one at the Pentagon Metro station. The Oath Keepers initially set out to put up billboards around military bases to "Educate Troops About Their Oath Bound Duty to Refuse Unconstitutional Orders," and to "counter the propaganda of the domestic enemies of the Constitution," according to their website. So far this year, they've installed one near the Twenty Nine Palms Marine base in California, with plans to target Ft. Hood, in Texas, and Ft. Rucker in Alabama.

The first billboard went up last year across from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, in response to a retired Army colonel who enraged tea partiers and gun activists with a paper he wrote describing a hypothetical scenario in which the military might have to intervene on US soil. The hypothetical involves an "extremist militia motivated by the goals of the “tea party” movement" that takes over a town in South Carolina and starts an insurrection. The "tea party insurrectionists" in the paper sound a lot like the Oath Keepers, who took great offense to the paper and responded with a billboard screaming, "Colonel 'Red Coat' Benson, The Tea Party is Not the Enemy. Soldiers! Honor Your Oath. Refuse To Fire On Americans."

Apparently the Oath Keepers have found a hero in Snowden, and decided to jump to his defense before moving on to billboards at Ft. Hood and elsewhere. The Pentagon billboard says that Snowden "honored his oath," and it urges others (presumably all the spies and military officers on the Metro) to follow their oath to the Constitution, too. Last month, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes explained to Reason why the group might be so sympathetic to Snowden (who, like Rhodes, was a Paulite):

He is an example of what needs to be done by anyone who has knowledge of such gross violations of our rights. We need more to stand up, because this is surely the mere tip of the iceberg of the infrastructure for a police state that is being built over us.

This is about far more than supposed attempts to ferry out al Qaeda operatives. This is part of a growing Stasi and Checka style surveillance police state which tags, tracks, and prepares plans to detain dissidents with the "Main Core" database of millions of Americans who the regime considers a "threat."...

Unless we the people purge out these oath breakers from BOTH parties, we will find ourselves in a nightmare dictatorship and we will have to fight to throw it off. Sweat now or bleed later. Purge them all.

 

Will Congress and Darrell Issa Kill DC's Living Wage Bill?

| Tue Jul. 16, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

Last week, the DC Council passed a bill that would force large retailers in the city to pay their workers a living wage—specifically $12.50 an hour, a bill widely seen as targeted specifically at Walmart, which has been planning to open no fewer than five stores in the city. Walmart has been playing hardball, and shortly before the vote on the bill, it threatened to pull out of deals to put three of its stores in poor neighborhoods in DC. But the council didn't cave, and now the bill is sitting on the desk of DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who hasn't said what he's going to do with it.

Walmart is furiously lobbying the mayor to veto the bill, and Walmart haters and unions are furiously lobbying him to let the bill pass. Gray lives in one of the neighborhoods with a decrepit shopping center destined for a new Walmart and hopefully a new lease on life, so he is somewhat sympathetic to the retailer. On the other hand, Walmart isn't very popular in DC, and Gray is up for reelection next year and facing a slew of challengers. DC residents are watching the fight closely to see if DC might become the first major metro area to win such a confrontation with Walmart. Sadly for those of us who live here, we will probably lose no matter what the mayor decides to do.

Why the Latest Zimmerman Race Riot Conspiracy Theory Is the Dumbest Yet

| Fri Jul. 12, 2013 1:23 PM EDT
New Black Panther Party leader Malik Zulu Shabazz

The conservative blogosphere is brewing with ominous warnings about the inevitable riots they think will come if George Zimmerman is acquitted of charges related to his killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. (My colleague Lauren Williams has rightly questioned this mania here.) An email this week from Everett Wilkinson, a former tea party leader in Florida who now runs something called the Nation Liberty Federation, outlines many of the leading (and recurring) conspiracy theories about the verdict's aftermath, which he naturally thinks will include riots: martial law. FEMA camps. But he offers up some of the new ones, too. 

Among those is the suggestion that the New Black Panther Party is busing people to Florida for the specific purpose of inciting riots after Zimmerman presumably walks out of court a free man. Wilkinson writes:

Reports have come in from eye witnesses in Sanford, Florida that the New Black Panther Party, an extremist group that has called for the killing of George Zimmerman if he is found not guilty, is busing in thousands to that town. Sanford is the location of the trial and near the place where the shooting of Trayvon Martin by Zimmerman occurred. There have been threats of riots if Zimmerman is not found guilty and it is believed that the New Black Panther Party and other extremist groups will attempt to take advantage of racial tensions after a non guilty verdict by organizing riots.

Wilkinson points out that the New Black Panthers supposedly put out a "dead or alive" poster with Zimmerman's face on it last year—proof that the "eye witnesses" in Sanford must be right. He writes ominously, "When Zimmerman was first arrested the Black Panthers threatened to burn the whole state of Florida down." Wilkinson suggests that the Obama administration might be bringing in Russian soldiers to fight off the angry mobs (through FEMA, naturally), a claim that follows on the heels of his suggestion earlier this year that Russian intelligence was warning that President Obama was creating teams of "death squads," a story that originated on a hoax website.

Clearly Wilkinson doesn't know much about the New Black Panthers aside from the overhyped reports about them on Fox News during the past few presidential campaigns. For one thing, they probably don't need a bus. Most of their members could fit in a taxi. And they're not especially good at organizing anything, even voter intimidation. Their erstwhile leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz, got his start in DC in the 1990s while at Howard University's law school, running as a candidate for the DC city council and trying to organize boycotts of Korean merchants in DC's poor, black neighborhoods. His first moment in the limelight came after he organized anti-Semitic chants at a Howard rally in 1994. Shabazz was good at getting himself in the news and not much else. Little has changed in that regard since 1995, when now-Slate editor David Plotz wrote this seminal profile of the guy. (A sampling: "Seated in the tiny chair in the tiny room, Shabazz looks somewhat like an overgrown schoolboy—an impression magnified by the large zit erupting beneath his right nostril.")

The reports and emails from Nation Liberty Federation vastly overestimate the potential of the Panthers to mobilize people. The Panthers themselves tweeted recently that even they don't think they could organize the kind of chaos conservatives warn about, saying, "If Zimmerman is acquitted there is likely to be unrest all over America. It will be way beyond the capacity of the NBPP." (The NBPP tweet that they will not be engaging in any unlawful activity, either.)

The Nation Liberty Federation's rhetoric suggests that if there are going to be riots after a verdict, the people we might want to be worried about are the white ones. Wilkinson, who is white, has some advice for readers on protecting themselves against "flash mobs": 

The obvious things you need are firearms, ammunition, maps, food, water, full tank of gas and/or “Bug Out Bag Survival Bag” and/or “Urban Survival Kit.”  I would also highly recommend a CB radio or ham radio because the cell phone towers may be overloaded or shut off.

One of the reason's why Americans beat the British is because they organized as militia units.  Remember also Korean shop owners that protected their shops during the LA riots.  We must learn to work as teams.  Talk to your friends and family and come up with a plan to protect as a unit.

We are expecting martial law declared, similar to Boston or Katrina Hurricane, in any area affected by riots or that Obama feels wants to control.  Unless you like the idea of spending anytime in a FEMA Camp, I would recommend bugging out of the area at the first sign of unrest if you live in an infected area.  Plan on having to be on the the move within 15 minutes of an riot

Don’t be surprised if Russian or other foreign troops come to help the DHS!  Rumor has it that Obama has positioned at least 15,000 Russian troops.  

If you find yourself in the immediate area of a “flash mob,” riot or protest, leave immediately.  This is not the time to be hero or argue.  You will only become a victim.  Hopefully you have a firearm to defend yourself, but you need to use it to help you extract from the area.  In other words, "shoot, scoot and run.”

It wouldn't take many paranoid, angry gun owners to create a bloodbath in Florida after a Zimmerman verdict, a prospect that seems far more frightening than Malik Shabazz and a cab full of New Black Panthers.

This post has been revised.

Wed Jul. 9, 2014 12:44 PM EDT
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