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.

Giant Mosquitoes Set to Plague Fla. Gov. Rick Scott

| Tue Mar. 12, 2013 8:39 AM PDT

Big news on the bug front this week from the state of Florida: Scientists are warning that conditions may be ripe for a swarm of monster mosquitoes to invade the state this summer. Dubbed the "Gallinippers," the mosquitoes are the size of a quarter and known to chow on everything from humans to pets to fish. Their larvae can eat tadpoles, and unlike regular mosquitoes, they feed day and night and can bite through clothing. If the rainy season is wet enough, there could be a mess of these pests in Florida, just in time to plague Gov. Rick Scott (R) at county fairs and community picnics on the campaign trail.

Which would be sort of poetic justice. After all, under Scott's leadership, Florida's famous mosquito abatement programs have taken a sizeable hit in the past two years, as I chronicled in this story in our print magazine this month. Here are the critical deets:

The state Legislature has also done its part to liberate mosquitoes from the shackles of big government. In 2011, the Republican-dominated Legislature slashed the state's contribution to mosquito control by 40 percent. Florida A&M University closed one of two major mosquito research labs in the state after the Legislature axed $500,000 in research funds. Public health officials succeeded in restoring money to keep the lab open, only to see Scott kill it with a stroke of his veto pen. Along with other budget cuts, the closure halved the number of Florida scientists working on mosquito control.

"There's maybe a perfect storm of sorts," says Joseph Conlon, a technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association in Florida. "You've got the government rightfully trying to cut budgets across the board, but down here in Florida, the place would be uninhabitable without mosquito control."

The state is increasingly less prepared to handle mosquitoes even as the bugs in question get bigger and bigger. Luckily for people in Florida, the monster mosquitos are likely to just be really, really annoying. Unlike regular mosquitoes, these particular ones, while huge, don't carry deadly diseases like malaria and West Nile. Still, there's nothing like giant mosquitoes at a tea party rally to enlighten citizens about the benefits of big government.

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The Group Behind CPAC Has a White-Nationalist Problem

| Fri Mar. 8, 2013 4:00 AM PST
Books sold by the New Century Foundation, the pseudo-think tank with which Robert Weissberg is affiiliated.

On Tuesday, the Hill published a story noting that the organizers of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the preeminent national confab for politicians and activists of the right, are responding to the last November's election by using the event to "showcase the movement's 'diversity.'" Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Sarah Palin will be headlining, but 20 percent of the panelists this year will be African American, according to CPAC bean counters. And the CPACers proudly point to the prominent role of Latinos and women on various panels. Yet the CPAC organizers have neglected one important task as they attempt to appeal to minorities: staying away from white nationalists.

For the past week, the American Conservative Union, which founded and is the primary organizer of CPAC, has showcased on its website an article from its newsletter, the Conservative Battleline, headlined "Debating Liberal Tactics" and written by Robert Weissberg. The ACU identifies Weissberg as a professor from Cornell and the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and the author of 11 books. What it doesn't mention is that Weissberg has long been affiliated with a pseudo-think tank called the New Century Foundation. This foundation publishes a magazine called American Renaissance and hosts conferences under the same name, promoting the theory of "scientific racism" and providing a forum in which Klan members, neo-Nazis, and David Duke followers can mix it up with the intellectuals of the white-nationalist movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the foundation's founder and American Renaissance editor, Jared Taylor, as a "courtly" white supremacist, who once wrote in American Renaissance, "Blacks and whites are different. When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization—any kind of civilization—disappears."

Weissberg has been writing for Taylor's magazine for years and has spoken at American Renaissance conferences. The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR), a nonprofit social-justice organization that tracks far-right groups, has been sounding the alarm about Weissberg this week and first called attention to his work on the ACU website. It has assembled a history of his racist work here. Among the highlights—or lowlights—is a speech Weissberg delivered at a 2012 American Renaissance conference on a "Politically Viable Alternative to White Nationalism," in which he argued that white racism needed an image update. He suggested that white people retreat into "Whitopias" that carry zoning codes and other subtle requirements that would keep out the "undesirables," according to IREHR. 

IREHR dug up a video of Weissberg, who is Jewish, giving a speech in 2000 entitled "Jews and Blacks: Everything the Goyim Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask," in which he puzzled over Jewish support for civil rights—a problem he dubbed "an affliction"—and suggested that non-Jewish whites and Jews should team up to fight against the blacks and what he termed African Americans' hatred of education and learning. Here's that speech:

Following up on that theme, Weissberg recently published a book called Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, which blames black and Latino students for wrecking the American public school system with their genetically low IQs. (On Amazon, the book features a glowing review from fellow white nationalist John Derbyshire, and is "frequently bought" with a book on education by Bell Curve author Charles Murray.) 

Such work, and Weissberg's affiliation with American Renaissance, got him booted from the pages of National Review last year after IREHR raised the issue. Editor Rich Lowry explained at the time:

Unbeknownst to us, occasional Phi Beta Cons contributor Robert Weissberg (whose book was published a few years ago by Transaction) participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism. He will no longer be posting here. Thanks to those who brought it to our attention. 

An ACU spokesman hasn't responded to a request for comment from Mother Jones. 

Maybe it's progress that Weissberg is only on the ACU website and not speaking at CPAC. Last year, the ACU gave a microphone to several white nationalists who headlined a panel titled, "The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the Pursuit of Diversity Is Weakening the American Identity." Among the panelists was Derbyshire, who also has been kicked out of the National Review editorial lineup for his racist writings; Peter Brimelow, the founder of the nativist site VDARE, which publishes the work of many other anti-Semitic and white-supremacist writers; and Robert Vandervoot, who's also affiliated with American Renaissance and the nativist group Pro-English. 

Two board members of Young America's Foundation, which cofounded and sponsors CPAC along with the ACU, run a political action committee that gave money to a white-nationalist group, as my colleague Nick Baumann documented earlier this year here. As Baumann noted, Ron Robinson, one of the YAF board members in question, is also on the ACU's board.

The conservative movement will continue to have a tough time appealing to minorities if it keeps cavorting with these folks, no matter how many African Americans appear on their panel discussions.

Rick Scott May Want Obamacare, But the Florida Legislature Doesn't

| Tue Mar. 5, 2013 9:56 AM PST
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) talking up education spending at the University of Florida.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, one of the nation's most unpopular governor's, thanks to his embrace of tea party economics, has been trying hard to overhaul his image in an effort to save his reelection bid next year. He's suddenly embraced government spending and expressed a new-found love of all the teachers he laid off in his first year in office. But Republicans in the state legislature apparently aren't keen on seeing Scott reelected. They're refusing to go along with one of his biggest policy reversals—his embrace of Obamacare. That is going to make it difficult for Scott to complete his metamorphosis into a compassionate conservative.

Elected as a fierce opponent of Obamacare, Scott last month made a complete turnaround and announced that he supported Florida's participation in the part of Obamacare that expands Medicaid, the government health insurance for the poor, to people making up to 138 percent of the poverty line. That move would extend health care to about 1 million Florida residents. The change of heart wasn't for humanitarian reasons. Not only might Scott need some of those uninsured people to vote for him, but he made the announcement on Medicaid just hours after the US Department of Health and Human Services said it would allow Florida to shunt most of its Medicaid recipients into private managed care plans. That change will divert millions of dollars for care of the poor into the hands of big insurance companies, many of which can be expected to ante up to support Scott's reelection bid.

It's a win-win move for Scott. But there's just one problem: The Florida legislature, which has to sign off on the Medicaid expansion, wants nothing to do with Obamacare. Tea party Republicans, who dominate the statehouse, voted on Monday to reject the Medicaid expansion because they are still paranoid that the federal government won't pay for it as required in the law.

The Associated Press reports:

House Speaker Will Weatherford said the battle in Washington over automatic budget cuts and taxes proves it would be risky to rely on federal aid.

"I think there's a lot of uncertainty that is coming from the federal government, and to rely on them to expand the Medicaid program with that uncertainty is a very dangerous path," said Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel.

The chairman of the House committee overseeing the bill insisted that Republicans should come up with another way to insure the million people who would miss out on coverage. He didn't have any idea what that might be, however.

After the vote, state Democrats hissed that Scott was incapable of leading his own party. And not even all the Florida GOP thought rejecting the Medicaid expansion was a good idea. Again, from AP:

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said his office receives many calls from single mothers and others who can't see a doctor because they don't qualify for Medicaid under the existing criteria, which are among the most stringent in the country.

"By voting to turn back these dollars, this committee has, in essence, told millions of Floridians that they are not worthy of having access to primary health care services," he said.

 

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