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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Newt's Moon Base: Not as Illegal as You Think

A polling station in the early primary state of Mars, circa 2132

On Thursday, Zeke Miller did the galaxy a public service and pulled up Newt Gingrich's 1981 bill to establish a system by which space colonies could be admitted to the Union as states. Today, he reports that not only was Gingrich's bill—which Newt cited again in his speech on Wednesday—kind of nutty, but it also would have violated international law had it passed (and had anyone tried to colonize the moon in the name of the US of A). That's because the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which the US has ratified, banned any nation from laying claim to a particular piece of the intergalactic pie (or cheese).

All well and damning. But that doesn't mean Newt's space dreams are ruined. The former speaker, who conceded this week that the statehood-in-space idea was "the weirdest thing I've ever done," has previously proposed a slightly different settlement path that would be totally legal. In his 1984 book, Window of Opportunity, Gingrich proposed creating a permanent international research base on the moon, not unlike those currently in existence on Antarctica. It would be open to the "Free World" and the "United Free World Alliance," and would be viewed as a path to global stability and world peace:

[We] should do something in concert with al the other free people of the world to show that our joint commitment to freedom rises above nationalism; we should do something which celebrates the power of high technology that will remind us and everyone else that the greatest single factor in the rising standard of living over the last millennium was not our politicians and academic intellectuals, but rather our inventors and business entrepreneurs; we should do something which holds out an improving future to the entire Third World so that everyone can realize that our path, rather than Castro's dictatorship, is the wave of the future; finally, we should do something which is peaceful and knowledge-oriented as a first step toward creating a Human Peace in the next millennium. The most appropriate single millennium project would be the opening in January 1, 2000 of a lunar research base for the whole free world.

Such a project, international in scope and governed in accordance with international space law as opposed to the Constitution, would be permitted by the Outer Space Treaty. Nothing about it would be all that different from the policy Gingrich proposed in Florida this week, except there would be no path to statehood—at least until President Gingrich pushes the "Everything on the Moon Belongs to America Treaty" through the United Nations.

Your Daily Newt: Health Chair Reform

The hospital of the future.

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.

You've probably heard about Newt Gingrich's (somewhat erratic) views on health care reform. And you're likely familiar with his climate change TV spot (which Gingrich recently dubbed the worst mistake of his political career) in which he sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi. But in his 1984 book, Window of Opportunity, Gingrich combined both his passion for public policy and his passion for living room furniture into one sweeping proposal—the creation of a new "health chair," an instrument that would do everything from monitoring recovery from major medical procedures, to churning out perfectly calibrated recipes from Weight Watchers:

A personalized health chair with a diagnostic program to measure and compare all your bodily signs against your own data base. The chair could be tied into a weight-watcher's computer-based recipe program which would then outline what you should eat given your weight, blood pressure, etc. The computer would be programmed to monitor your diet over time and change recipes to minimize boredom while achieving the desired nutritional effect. This system could be tied by cable or telephone to a hospital, where a computer could routinely monitor you while you are sitting in the chair. Thus, you could leave the hospital after surgery much earlier than we currently expect; you could measure your own well being and take corrective and preventative health care steps; and you could measure your diet and exercise patterns.

All from the comfort of your own living room!

Challenged on his investments in the government sponsored housing enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at Thursday's GOP presidential debate, Mitt Romney offered a seemingly bulletproof defense: He shouldn't be responsible for those investments, because he'd put his money in a blind trust. In other words, he had no idea which companies he was involved with. As he explained, "My investments for the last 10 years have been in a blind trust, managed by a trustee. Secondly, the investments they've made—we've learned about this as we made our financial disclosure—have been made in mutual funds and bonds. I don't own stock in either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. There are bonds the investor has held through mutual funds."

It was a good comeback, and when Romney countered by pointing out that Newt Gingrich had himself invested in Fannie and Freddie, the former House speaker appeared to concede the point. But there's a problem: As the Boston Globe reported, Romney's investments in Fannie and Freddie weren't part of a blind trust:

On his financial disclosure statement filed last month, Romney reported owning between $250,001 and $500,000 in a mutual fund that invests in debt notes of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, among other government entities. Over the previous year, he had reported earning between $15,001 and $50,000 in interest from those investments.

And unlike most of Romney’s financial holdings, which are held in a blind trust that is overseen by a trustee and not known to Romney, this particular investment was among those that would have been known to Romney.

The investment was also not on Romney’s 2007 financial disclosure form. A Romney aide said the investments were made in the latter half of 2007, after he had filed the earlier disclosure form. That was around the time that the scale of the housing crisis was coming into focus.

An MS-13 gang member with the gang's full name tattooed on his back.

At Thursday's GOP presidential debate in Jacksonville, Newt Gingrich was asked early on about his position on illegal immigration. Although he defended his proposal that senior citizens and families who have been here for a long time should be allowed to stay, Gingrich took a harsh stand on everyone else. "Look, I think, first of all, we need to control the border, which—I would finish the border fence by 2014...We should also make deportation easier, so that when we deport people who shouldn't be here, MS-13, for example, it should be very quick."

MS-13, for the uninitiated, is a Central-American gang with a large presence in the United States. Newt has cited the group with regularity on the campaign trail. Conflating undocumented immigrants with violent criminal activity is hardly a new concept. But Newt's MS-13 line is missing one key fact—mass deportations are the reason the gang has grown like it has in the United States. Well-intentioned American policies created a cycle by which gang members would return to El Salvador and recruit new members, who in turn travel to the United States themselves. The Los Angeles Times examined the issue in a great 2005 investigation. Here's the thrust of it:

In the last 12 years, U.S. immigration authorities have logged more than 50,000 deportations of immigrants with criminal records to Central America, including untold numbers of gang members like Cruz-Mendoza.

But a deportation policy aimed in part at breaking up a Los Angeles street gang has backfired and helped spread it across Central America and back into other parts of the United States. Newly organized cells in El Salvador have returned to establish strongholds in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities. Prisons in El Salvador have become nerve centers, authorities say, where deported leaders from Los Angeles communicate with gang cliques across the United States.

A gang that once numbered a few thousand and was involved in street violence and turf battles has morphed into an international network with as many as 50,000 members, the most hard-core engaging in extortion, immigrant smuggling and racketeering. In the last year, the federal government has brought racketeering cases against MS-13 members in Long Island, N.Y., and southern Maryland.

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