Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Is Our Children Learning? Not in Texas

| Tue Nov. 8, 2011 2:18 PM EST
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Texas governor Rick Perry, currently polling at 4 percent in Iowa, has been spared some of his usual bad news of late because of the continuing meltdown of fellow presidential candidate Herman Cain. But Mary Tuma flags a damning new report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that suggests Perry's State Board of Education has left high schoolers in the state unprepared for the rigors of college. The report slams the SBOE's history standards for, among other things, glossing over the true causes of the Civil War. Key quote:

Over the course of eight months, the lawyers and realtors and dentist on the board made hundreds of changes to the standards. As the politicians squabbled over the politics of who should be in or out, they tacitly adopted a bi-partisan agreement to ignore principles of sound pedagogy. In 2011 the Fordham Institute awarded the 2010 TEKS an overall grade of D, characterizing them as "a politicized distortion of history" that is "both unwieldy and troubling" while "offering misrepresentations and every turn." As the process drew to a close, state board of education chairwoman Gail Lowe admitted that the board had failed to follow up on the college readiness effort.

The "dentist" line is a reference to Don McLeroy, whom Perry twice appointed to serve as chair of the SBOE (which is tasked with devising textbook standards). McLeroy believes "evolution is hooey," and that the Earth is just a few thousand years old—views he sought to incorporate into the state science curriculum.

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Herman Cain Slams Accuser For...Having Financial Difficulties?

| Tue Nov. 8, 2011 10:19 AM EST
Given his own financial difficulties, should Mark Block really be trusted?

Herman Cain's first response to Tuesday's allegation of sexual assault from a former National Restaurant Association employee was to blame the media for distracting America's attention from his 9-9-9 tax plan. Within a few hours, he'd apparently reconsidered this tactic, and tried a new one: The accuser, Sharon Bialek, can't be trusted because she went broke a couple times. As spokesman J.D. Gordon argued in a statement, "his opponents convinced a woman with a long history of financial difficulties, including personal bankruptcy, to falsely accuse the Republican frontrunner of events occurring over a decade ago for which there is no record, nor was there ever even a complaint filed."

If Gordon has any evidence that any of Cain's opponents were behind anything that's happened in the last week—and Bialek's allegations specifically—he hasn't managed to produce it. But more absurd is the implication that Bialek shouldn't be trusted simply because she's had a shaky financial history. (The New York Post's Andrea Peyser, taking Gordon's statement to its logical conclusion, called Bialek a "gold digger" on Tuesday.)

Ignoring the fact that most of the two million Americans who file for person bankruptcy each year aren't compelled, as a consequence, to then make unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault, the "broke people can't be trusted" card is an odd one for Cain to play given the individuals he happens to surround himself with. For instance, here's a sentence I pulled totally at random from an Associated Press story about Herman Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block: "Records show Block has faced foreclosure on his home, a tax warrant by the Internal Revenue Service and a lawsuit for an unpaid bill. He also acknowledges he was arrested twice for drunken driving." The story also mentions that after dropping out of politics, Block went broke and was forced to stock shelves at Target.

Given Block's long history of financial difficulties, including racking up $62,000 in debt with his non-profit, going broke, receiving a tax warrant from the IRS, and foreclosure scare, can we really trust him to tell the truth to the American people?

(Alternatively, perhaps nitpicking over Bialek's personal finances is a total non-sequitur. Just throwing that out there.)

The Graphic Anti-Abortion Film That's Rocking the Vote in Mississippi

| Mon Nov. 7, 2011 3:05 PM EST
A still from "180," an anti-abortion film that compares reproductive rights to the Holocaust.

On Tuesday, Mississippi voters will weigh in on ballot question 26, aka the Personhood Amendment, which would change the state Constitution to say that fertilized human eggs are legal persons. The measure, if enacted, would make many kinds of birth control illegal (its supporters call the morning-after-pill "a human pesticide"), and ban abortion in all cases—even in instances of rape (supporters organized a "Conceived in Rape" tour earlier this year to promote the amendment). A Public Policy Polling survey released on Monday said the electorate is almost evenly split on the measure.

So how are supporters getting out the vote? By blasting out emails promoting a film that equates support for reproductive rights with support for the Holocaust. 180 is a documentary by Australian New Zealand filmmaker Ray Comfort, and features graphic images from concentration camps. Per a press release, Personhood USA has sent out a link to the film to 600,000 eligible voters in Mississippi. Here's the film:

The film, billed as "33 minutes that will rock your world!," attempts to make the case that abortion is similar to the Holocaust. Incidentally, this isn't the only movie being promoted by Personhood supporters ahead of the vote. Yes on 26, the main outfit supporting the Personhood Amendment, has also been promoting October Baby, which the Huntsville Times describes as "a coming-of-age love story that follows college freshman Hannah, who learns she’s not only adopted, but an abortion survivor."

Supreme Court Declines to Halt Execution of Texas Inmate Duane Buck

| Mon Nov. 7, 2011 11:29 AM EST

On Monday, the US Supreme Court rejected a writ of certiorari to reconsider the case of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck, meaning that unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles intervenes (it hasn't in the past) Buck's execution will continue as planned.

Buck was sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and a male acquaintance, but while he freely admits to his guilt, the point of contention is how his death sentence was obtained. The prosecutor in the case relied in part on the testimony of a defense-summoned psychologist who argued that Buck's race (he's black) made him more likely to commit violent acts in the future. Which is to say, he would be a threat if allowed to live in prison, or if he were ever given the chance of parole. Sen. John Cornyn (R), then Texas' attorney general, included Buck's in a list of cases that had been improperly decided—but Buck's case was the only one that didn't result in a re-trial. The Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction in October to give themselves time to decide whether to review the case.

Watchdog Group Asks IRS to Investigate Cain Aide's Charity

| Mon Nov. 7, 2011 11:28 AM EST
Herman Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block.

On Monday, uber-attorney Gloria Allred announced that she is representing a fourth woman allegedly harassed by GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, thereby ensuring that controversy will continue to grab DC headlines for at least another week. But ultimately, it's items like this that could cause things to get real ugly, real fast for the Cain campaign:

Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed a letter requesting that the Internal Revenue Service investigate a charity operated by Wisconsin political veteran Mark Block that spent over $40,000 of tax-exempt donations to pay for private jets, travel, and computers for Herman Cain’s presidential bid. CMD also requested an examination of other Mark Block-related groups sharing the same address or other commonalities. Mr. Cain, who has denied knowing who paid for his various travels, is not the target of these requests to the IRS.

CMD joins Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in raising official concerns about the role Block's non-profit, Prosperity USA, played in getting Cain's campaign off the ground. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel first reported, Prosperity USA appears to have advanced tens of thousands of dollars to the Cain campaign, footing the bill for trips to Vegas, flights, and iPads. But those debts do not show in Cain's Federal Elections Commission filings. As a non-profit, CMD is legally prohibited from making either direct or in-kind contributions to a campaign. As we noted previously, Block has a history of playing fast and loose with the tax code; he was suspended from working on elections in Wisconsin for three years in the early 2000s after turning a non-profit voter registration outfit into a campaign organ during a judicial election.

Thu Oct. 1, 2015 10:23 AM EDT