Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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The USS John C. Stennis, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, patrols the dangerous West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake.

Update: A little Internet scrutiny goes a long way, apparently: The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that the aircraft provision has been scrapped. We take full credit. Details are here.

On Friday, the Wyoming House of Representatives advanced a bill to set up a task force to prepare for the total economic and political collapse of the United States. Per the bill, the panel would investigate things like food storage options and metals-based currencies, to be implemented in the event of a major catastrophe.

Then it goes three steps further. An amendment by GOP state Rep. Kermit Brown*, calls on the task force to examine "Conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy and air force and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier." As the bill's GOP sponsor, state Rep. David Miller, explained to the Casper Star-Tribune, "Things happen quickly sometimes."

Buying an aircraft carrier is, as a rule, a great idea, but there are a few hiccups, not the least of which is that Wyoming is currently landlocked. Its largest body of water, Yellowstone Lake, is frozen from December through June and sits in the middle of a giant volcano that stands about as good a chance as anything else at triggering the aforementioned societal collapse. In that sense, Wyoming has a lot in common with another mineral-rich, landlocked, mountainous territory—Bolivia. Bolivians, who have a national holiday honoring the day in 1904 they lost their coastline to Chile, have made the best of their situation by maintaining a small flotilla on Lake Titicaca. No aircraft carrier, though.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks to reporters during the 2008 campaign.

In internal emails with her communications staff, then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin tried to censor a press release put out by an independent organization linking her to controversial Texas pastor John Hagee, the influential Christian-Zionist leader whose statements on Catholicism and Hurricane Katrina caused Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to publicly repudiate him in 2008. The exchange comes as part of a new trove of emails released by the the Alaska Secretary of State in response to a public records request first filed by Mother Jones.

After Palin appeared at an event in March 2009 sponsored by Hagee's organization, Christians United for Israel, CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern sent the governor's office a draft of its press release trumpeting the event, a courtesy often provided to high-profile figures. Although William McAllister, Palin's communications director, initially wrote back saying there was no need for coordination, Palin herself jumped in and began to micro-manage. She suggested two more individuals whose names she'd like to see referenced in the press release (including an Anchorage rabbi), and added, "Let me know when they have done so."

An hour and a half later, she had apparently thought about it some more and come up with an additional request: "Eliminate reference to Hagee." But she wanted her role in this de-Hageee-ficiation kept a secret. "[Y]ou guys do that—don't tell them 'the Governor said...'"

The idea that Palin would want to purge the name of CUFI's founder from CUFI's own press release struck her staff as an odd request. "I'm not a fan of Hagee, but I don't know how to propose eliminating him without offering an explanation for the request," McAllister wrote back. "In presenting this to use, I think mostly they wanted to be sure the reference to you raised no objections." At that point, Palin decided to take the conversation off list, asking McAllister to call her.

Palin's reluctance to be associated with Hagee was a marked shift from her positions a few years earlier, and reflected her increasing discomfort with the media spotlight. Palin had expressed her admiration for Hagee previously. In a May 3, 2007, email, Palin had asked her scheduler if she had time to attend a Hagee event at the Juneau Christian Center. When she was informed she had the day off, she replied, "I should try to get back to juno for this one." At that event, she and Hagee were joined by country singer Randy Travis (who starred in the film adaptation of Hagee's end-times thriller, Jerusalem Countdown).

This time around, no scheduling conflict prevented Palin from attending CUFI's event. The draft press release noted that she had spoken at two separate functions supporting Israel the previous week in Juneau and Anchorage, which were attended by a few hundred people. But afterward, she preferred that the rest of the world not know that just one year after McCain was forced to renounce Hagee, she was still hobnobbing with the pastor's group.

Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich feeds a panda.

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich once told an interviewer that he's been fighting to save Western Civilization since 1958, so it shouldn't come as a total surprise that he spends most of his waking moments attempting to extrapolate grand, sweeping meanings from incredibly mundane items (Popsicles, for instance). As he told Atlanta magazine, his plans to save America often left little time for anything else:

"If you said to me, 'What are your hobbies?' they would be reading, going to the movies, going for long walks, animals and the outdoors. But the truth is when I read, I am reading about something that relates. When I go to the movies—I saw Parenthood the other day—I think, 'What does that tell me about America?' In a sense, I am almost always engaged. And that has a disadvantage to really break out of that and stop to think, All right, how do you have a private life?"

All of which gives some much needed context to Gingrich's confession, to CBN's David Brody last spring, that his extramarital affaiirs were "driven by how passionately I felt about this country."

GOP Candidates Pander to Sheriff Joe

Maricopa Counta, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Presidential debates have never been particularly fertile ground for nuanced policy debates. So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that at Wednesday's GOP presidential debate in Arizona—a state with an ever-increasing Latino population—the discussion of immigration consisted mostly of a back-and-forth on how long and how many layers the border fence should be.

Part of that blame, though, falls on the moderator, CNN's John King, who asked the candidates what they would do to satisfy Arizona's most famous sheriff, Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio, who was sitting in the audience. Mitt Romney responded by telling King, "You know, I think you see a model in Arizona." 

Rick Santorum took it a step further, singling out the sheriff by name: "I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they're doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country, to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they're found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment."

Arpaio is a power player in Republican politics; he endorsed Rick Perry before the Iowa caucuses and met with Santorum for 20 minutes on Tuesday. He's also using the power of his office to investigate whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States (spoiler: he was). He'll release those results on March 1, and told reporters on Tuesday that he briefed Santorum on the details on the inquiry.

As my colleague Adam Serwer reported, a Justice Department investigation in December found that Arpaio's department had consistently violated the civil rights of Latino citizens with no regard for their immigration status:

"We did not begin this investigation with any preconceived notions," said Civil Rights Division Head Thomas E. Perez at a press conference in Arizona Thursday. "We peeled the onion to its core." The conclusion? Arpaio's office "engages in a a systemic disregard for basic constitutional protections."

...

The report issued by the Justice Department says Arpaio's office undertook "discriminatory policing practices" through racial profiling, including "unlawfully stop[ping], detain[ing] and arrest[ing] Latinos." Perez also said that Arpaio's office unlawfully retaliated against critics of the Maricopa County Sheriff's office by arresting or suing them, and punished Latino jail inmates for being unable to speak English by denying them basic services. The report also describes the Sheriff's Office as responding to reports of people with "dark skin" or people who "spoke Spanish" rather than people actually committing crimes, and says officials exchanged racist jokes over email. Detention officers in Maricopa jails are described in the report as referring to Latinos as "wetbacks" and "Mexican bitches." The report says Arpaio's office "implemented practices that treat Latinos as if they are all undocumented, regardless of whether a legitimate factual basis exists to suspect that a person is undocumented." 

Your Daily Newt: We the Popsicles

Newt Gingrich demonstrates how to properly hold a popsicle with his right hand.

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out. Daily Newt is back from a two-day sabbatical staring at the tree sloths.

Newt Gingrich's 1995 college course, "Renewing American Civilization," was a blank canvas on which the speaker of the house painted grand portraits of mountain people, forest people, and an idyllic age of family-friendly prime-time entertainment. It also gave him a chance to spin his students on the works of his favorite management consultants—among them, Daryl Connor and his theory of freezing-unfreezing-refreezing. It only sounds like a dance move:

He talks about being frozen, thawing, and refreezing. Now, this is at the heart of how you make the transition, and we'll come back later to his book Managing at the Speed of Change, which I recommend. It's a very, very useful framework for looking at this and having some sense of how you— how resilient managers succeed and prosper where others fail, and he talks about this.

Now, here's his concept. Normally you're frozen. You get up in the morning, you have a habit. The habit's fixed. Then things begin to change, and it's almost like watching—you can think about this with a popsicle. It's almost like watching—or with an ice cube. It begins to thaw, and you're changing and pieces fall apart, and it doesn't feel right. It's what Drucker means by a discontinuity. See, as long as you're frozen, it's predictable. Now it starts to change. Then you begin to figure out the future and you begin to refreeze, because people normally have to have stable conditions of effectiveness...

Okay? Everybody understand this concept of frozen, beginning to thaw out, and then refreezing? This is at the heart of thinking about how you manage change. And it allows you to now see the thawing without going, "Oh, my god, we're all going to collapse." No, we're going to find a new, more powerful, more appropriate way to refreeze.

If any of that was confusing to you, we think the film below highlights this concept quite well:

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