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.

Let's Hope the Clinic Showed Baywatch Reruns

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 5:28 PM EDT

The missing mayor of Atlantic City has officially resigned after spending a week in a psych hospital. Robert W. Levy may have been in a little over his head as mayor. Before getting elected, he had served for decades as the city's chief lifeguard...

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Want Health Insurance? Call Us Back When You're Homeless

| Wed Oct. 10, 2007 1:58 PM EDT

Does living in a house worth $250,000 in Baltimore make a family of six rich? That's what conservatives seem to think.

After 12-year-old Graeme Frost helped Democrats lobby Congress to pass a bill expanding the State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), conservatives vilified his family, claiming they were too affluent to qualify for the program. The state health insurance program helped pick up the tab when Graham and his sister were injured in a car accident that left them both in comas and hospitalized for five months. Because, among other things, they live in a house assessed at $263,000 (originally bought for $50,000) and make a little under $50,000 a year, critics seem to believe that the Frosts and their four kids were living high on the hog (and were apparently just too cheap to buy private insurance).

"Bad things happen to good people, and they cause financial problems and tough choices," Mark Steyn wrote on the National Review Online. "But, if this is the face of the 'needy' in America, then no-one is not needy."

The implication, of course, is that before getting any help from the government, the Frosts should have sold their home and everything else they own to pay the medical bills first. Aside from being highly irrational—a quarter-million dollars will barely buy a parking space in some parts of D.C., much less cover five months of hospital bills for catastrophic head injuries—what good is government-sponsored health insurance if you first have to become homeless and bankrupt before you're worthy enough to use it? The vicious attacks on the Frosts seem like a harbinger of things to come, unfortunately, should any democratic president actually succeed in getting some sort of health care reform off the ground.

No Wontons for Fred Fielding This Week

| Tue Oct. 9, 2007 1:42 PM EDT

Every month, the right-wing legal group, the Federalist Society, meets at a D.C. Chinese restaurant, where they hear from an impressive array of conservative luminaries, including the occasional Bush administration official who comes to brief the faithful on various legal developments. This Friday's scheduled guest was Fred Fielding, who we now know is not Deep Throat (as had long been suspected) but who is currently the White House counsel.

This morning at 10:02 a.m., the Federalists sent out word that Fielding would be a no-show. One hour, 52 minutes later, the Washington Post uploaded a story blaming the Bush administration for blowing the cover off a private intelligence company's Al-Qaeda spy operation. The company had given the administration an advance copy of the latest bin Laden video, with warnings to keep it under wraps. Naturally, the administration leaked it to cable news outlets, allegedly destroying years of undercover work by the company. The first White House official to get the video? Yes, that would be Fred Fielding, who probably didn't need a fortune cookie to see his future this week.

Another Nail in the Coffin for the Gitmo Tribunals

| Tue Oct. 9, 2007 10:46 AM EDT

More evidence has emerged that the military tribunals set up by the Pentagon to review the legal status of Guantanamo detainees are nothing more than kangaroo courts. Last week, federal public defenders in Oregon filed an affidavit describing an interview with an army reserve officer who has sat on 49 Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT). The officer, a prosecutor in his civilian life, is the second to speak out publicly against the tribunals.

According to the affidavit, in at least six cases where the CSRT unanimously found the detainee did not qualify as an enemy combatant, the military ordered a new CSRT or forced the first one to re-open the case. The findings were then reversed with no new evidence, according to the officer, whose name was withheld. Tribunal members were poorly trained, pressured by higher-ups to rule against the detainnes, and despite congressional rules requiring the military to allow detainees to present evidence in their favor, the only witnesses allowed to testify on their behalf were other Gitmo prisoners. (Surely those Uighurs were a big help!)

The lawyers filed the affidavit in the case of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese father of four who worked at a charity hospital in Pakistan, where he was captured and sent to Cuba in 2002. The military actually ruled that he could be released a few years ago, but he is still languishing in captivity. It's this kind of stuff that makes it hard to imagine that the Supreme Court, conservative as it is, will rule that the tribunals are a perfect substitute for real constitutional rights.

Give the Nuclear Power Industry Credit for Creativity

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 12:15 PM EDT

Nuclear energy companies, salivating over the prospect of millions of dollars in new federal subsidies, are eager to launch a construction boom of new power plants. In the past, nuclear power plant construction has been hampered by such nettlesome things as construction permits and public hearings on the construction's environmental impact. To fix that problem, Bloomberg reports, the Nuclear Energy Institute successfully lobbied federal regulators to redefine what they meant by "construction."

Now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says such bulldozer-heavy activities as excavation, road building, and the erection of new cooling towers no longer count as construction under permitting rules. The change comes over protests from the agency's own environmental oversight official, who believes that the change will allow 90 percent of the environmental impact of new power plants to escape federal oversight.

It took the NRC 11 years to come up with new rules for drug-testing plant workers, but the new industry-friendly construction reg sailed through in a mere six months. Of course, the industry had a ringer in the regulatory agency. One of the NRC commissioners who voted for the new regs, Jeffrey Merrifield, cast his vote while looking for a new job. He now works for a company that builds nuclear power plants.

(H/T Center for Media and Democracy)

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