Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. 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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The Mississippi River, Reimagined as Public Transit

| Wed Feb. 16, 2011 3:12 PM PST

I'm not sure if this, via Frank Jacobs, is necessarily the best map I've seen all month, but it certainly has to be a part of the conversation. Behold the Mississippi River drainage network, reimagined as a sprawling and somewhat ungainly public transit system:

Courtesy of Daniel HuffmanCourtesy of Daniel Huffman

Ok, so this thing's obviously in need of some connecting routes, but that's nothing a canal here and a portage there couldn't fix. I'd also extend a branch out to Chicago, which is a natural transfer point to the Great Lakes system. But it's pretty awesome, and captures in full the river's unique Flying Spaghetti Monster qualities.

Huffman, who put together the map of Twitter profanity that won the Internet last month, also mapped a few more river systems, which you can check out here.

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Was Friday Night Lights Xenophobic?

| Wed Feb. 16, 2011 11:00 AM PST

Flickr/Evoo73Flickr/Evoo73Friday Night Lights ended its fifth and final season last week. Needless to say, we're devastated. But as a small consolation, the show's ending means that lots of people on the Internet are now posting long-winded scribblings about what it all meant.

Over at Time, James Poniewozik makes a bunch of interesting points in his eulogy for the show, but I have to take issue with his grand takeaway:

The underlying theme is, we need each other. Everyone, even a teenager, is part of a web of dependence. You could see the show, from the right, as an example of how the best social programs are a job, a family and self-discipline; you could see it, from the left, as an argument for the crucial importance of an under-funded government institution, the public school. You would be right both ways.

I suppose I agree with this in a micro-sense—the show is about relationships, not football—but I think the larger point is that FNL didn't so much bridge the red state-blue state divide as sidestep it. Given how overtly political the original book was, that took some work. The real-life inspiration for Tim Riggins took Buzz Bissinger hunting and complained that Americans don't make things anymore, while lamenting the fact that we didn't finish off the Japanese when we had a chance. Bissinger described a town gripped by a tea party-like fervor twenty years before the tea party, but the Dillon, Texas of FNL is exceptionally apolitical.

Is This the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse?

| Mon Feb. 14, 2011 11:04 AM PST

Fox Nation raises the question:

Note the remarkable composure of the Egyptian protestors, who seem totally unfazed by the fact that the Fourth Horseman ("Death") had literally just ridden through their bodies on a horse. Also, if that's Death, whither Famine, Pestilence, and Destruction? Time to get the band back together, guys.

Sentence of the Week: The Dark Side of Moby Dick

| Sat Feb. 12, 2011 4:57 PM PST

Image: Wikimedia CommonsImage: Wikimedia CommonsTwo sentences, actually. Researchers have found the remains of a ship captained by the real-life inspiration for Captain Ahab. Josh Rothman writes:

After the Essex sunk, Pollard and his men drifted around the Pacific for weeks, eventually resorting to cannibalism - Pollard ate his own cousin. Incredibly, he went back out to sea, only to have his second ship run afoul of a reef off the coast of Hawaii.

Whoops! The initial reacton here is to wonder, "Why did he go back to sea?" but when you think about it, it doesn't seem like Pollard had much of a choice. Cannibalism may not have been expressly forbidden in 19th-century Nantucket, but it was certainly frowned upon. Under normal circumstances, one's family might be the group that's most likely to look past such an episode, except in this case Pollard had literally consumed his cousin (Worst. Lifetime movie. Ever). If not broached with a certain level of tact, that's the type of thing that can really tear a family apart.

The Week in Sharia: Texas Has Its Sputnik Moment (Updated)

| Fri Feb. 11, 2011 1:30 PM PST

Now with 100-percent more maps:

  • The big news out of Egypt (also, Earth) this week was the departure of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, prompting furious speculation that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over the country and impose strict Islamic law. That's no sure thing. But if they can't have Egypt, the Brothers at least have a pretty good consolation prize: According to Red State, "there are Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers, apologists, and fundamentalists sponsoring and speaking" at this week's Conservative Political Action Conference. Also speaking at CPAC? Anti-Sharia activist Pamela Geller, who says that criticism of her is basically "the second wave of the 9/11 attacks."  Awwwwwkward.
     
  • Georgia state rep. Mike Jacobs told reporters that he couldn't think of any instances of Sharia being forced on the good people of his state—but just to be sure, he introduced the "American Laws for Georgia Courts Act" earlier this week to block foreign or religious laws from being cited in state courts. A total of 16 states have passed or introduced anti-Sharia legislation since last February.
     
  • Speaking of which: I made a map.
     
  • Good news, Mansfield, Texas: Your school district won a $1.3 million federal grant to introduce students to a "critical" foreign language and culture, a development that's sure to boost cognitive skills, intellectual curiosity, and future employment prospects. Bad news, Mansfield, Texas: Because that language was Arabic, a bunch of parents warned that their children would be indoctrinated with Islamic principles, and now the district has put the program on ice indefinitely. If you're wondering, yes, this is what losing the future looks like.
     
  • Minus-10 gold stars for Gretchen Carlson of Fox News, who informed her viewers that the school intended to make Arabic mandatory for kindergartners. Crazy! Also, false. The Arabic-language classes are electives, and only for seventh- and eighth-graders; fifth- and sixth-graders would get 20 minutes of Arabic "language and culture" per day as part of their social studies classes; kindergartners would, presumably, continue to eat paste. This is all spelled out not only in the clarification issued by the school, but in the informational sheet (pdf) which it had released prior to the controversy, and in the grant proposal (pdf) itself. I found all of that on Google in, like, 12 seconds.
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