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 Week in Sharia: And They Will Call it "Al-Aska"

| Sun Mar. 20, 2011 1:35 PM EDT

Choose your analogies carefully:

  • Terror babies are back! Because a jihadist is never so dangerous as when he's teething, the Center for Immigration Studies, a far-right anti-immigrant group, is out with a new report alleging that terrorists are coming to the United States to have babies, which would, some 21 years down the line, make use of their American passports to wage stealth jihad. There are obviously no flaws with that plan.
  • Rick Santorum is back, too, and he's in mid-season form. At an event in Durham, New Hampshire the former Pennsylvania Senator made clear he intends to make the threat of Islamic law a central part of his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. Per Politico: "We need to define it and say what it is. And it is evil. Sharia law is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution."
  • I'd always assumed that, when the global caliphate comes to North America, we'd all be forced to move to Alaska to live out our pathetic existence in relative peace, in some sort of fusion of Coming Into the Country and Solzhenitsyn. But apparently it's the Last Frontier for Sharia, too. On Thursday, Alaska held hearings on a proposal to ban Islamic law from being enforced in state courts. You'll never probably guess who was invited to testify.
  • At hearings this week in Jefferson City, Missouri State Rep. Don Wells, sponsor of (one of) his state's proposed Sharia-bans, wanted the perfect analogy for what Sharia was capable of doing to his state. Instead, he compared compared it to Polio. Polio? Really?
  • And in Tennessee, the sponsor of a controversial bill that would classify Sharia as prima facie counter to American principles appears to have backtracked—at least somewhat.
  • Sharia giveth and it taketh away. On Tuesday, Pakistani authorities acquitted American contractor Ray Davis, who had been charged with murdering two men in Lahore. Why would they do that? TPM explains: "[T]he resolution came only after a deal was reached to pay the victims' families what the Punjab Law Minister called 'blood money'—in accordance with Islamic law." It's still unclear who actually paid for Davis' release.

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Missouri Legislator: Sharia is Like Polio

| Thu Mar. 17, 2011 4:28 PM EDT

On Wednesday, the Missouri House of Representatives held hearings on a proposed constitutional amendement to prohibit state courts from enforcing Sharia law. How did it go? Here's Republican State Rep. Don Wells, who introduced the bill, via the Post-Dispatch:

"This is to protect the people of America," Wells said of his bill.

He went on to compare Sharia law to a disease, like polio. Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, stopped him to confirm.

"Sharia law is like polio?" Kander asked.

"Absolutely, as far as I'm concerned in this country," Wells responded.

It's actually not a terrible analogy, but I'd tweak it a little bit: Sharia is a lot like polio in that it poses absolutely no threat to the United States. Fixed.

To refresh your memory, when a similar bill was introduced earlier this month, its GOP sponsors, State Rep. Paul Curtman and Speaker of the House Stephen Tilley, held a press conference in which Curtman failed to offer any real-life examples that would actually justify the law:

"I don't have the specifics with me right now but if you go to—the web address kind of escapes my mind right now. Any Google search on international law used in the state courts in the U.S. is going to turn up some cases for you."

Nuclear Watchdog Report Highlights US "Near-Misses"

| Thu Mar. 17, 2011 1:20 PM EDT

My colleague Kate Sheppard has a piece up today on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency tasked with overseeing America's nuclear power plants and processing facilities. Today, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a new report analyzing the NRC's response to 14 "near-misses" over the last year. Conclusion: We're not doing so well. Among the "near-misses":

Peach Bottom. Workers slowed down control rod testing to evade regulations that would have required a plant shutdown; NRC inspectors were aware of the problem but failed to address it adequately.

Indian Point. Inspectors documented that the liner of the refueling cavity had been leaking since 1993; NRC management chose to ignore the problem.

Vermont Yankee. The NRC ignored regulations requiring that all releases of radioactively contaminated air be via controlled and monitored pathways—regulations that had been grounds for shutting down a Baton Rouge plant two years previously.

There's more: At Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, "A roof known for years to leak when it rained allowed rainwater to short out electrical equipment." At Diablo Canyon in California, "The reactor operated for nearly 18 months with vital emergency systems disabled." At Braidwood, in Illinois, "the problems included a poor design that led to repeated floods in buildings with safety equipment, a poor design that allowed vented steam to rip metal siding off containment walls, and undersized electrical fuses for vital safety equipment."

It's not all bad news—the report (which was scheduled for release even before last week's earthquake in Japan) highlights a few "outstanding" cases in which NRC regulators discovered problems and followed up to ensure they were resolved effectively. And because the most serious threats were fairly basic in nature, it suggests that safety can be significantly improved without dramatically overhauling the system.

But more generally, the authors argue that the NRC currently focuses on the immediate problem (a busted valve, for instance, or a leaking roof) without following up on the larger question of how those problems came to be, and why they weren't addressed sooner. The report also raises concerns about a specific company, Progress Energy, which was involved in 5 of the 14 "near miss" incidents; UCS suggests investigating the corporate policies of any company that racks up more than one "near miss," to clarify whether the demand for profits are interfering with public safety.

The big takeaway: "The more owners sweep safety problems under the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher the risk climbs."

Donald Trump: Birther?

| Thu Mar. 17, 2011 10:00 AM EDT

Here's Politico:

Trump seemed to throw his lot in with the discredited rumors that President Obama wasn't born in America, saying he's a "little" skeptical of Obama's citizenship and that every so-called birther who shares the view shouldn't be so quickly dismissed as an "idiot."

"Growing up no one knew him," Trump told ABC's "Good Morning America" during an interview aboard his private plane, Trump Force One. "The whole thing is very strange."

Very strange, indeed. He also explained that "Part of the beauty of me is that I'm very rich." So there you go.

The Return of the Terror Babies

| Wed Mar. 16, 2011 10:49 AM EDT
Flickr: bagaball

Last summer, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) introduced America to the idea of "terror babies," the chilling process in which pregnant terrorists come to the United States to have children, which then become American citizens, and, presumably, little terrorists themselves. Think of them as the reverse Brangelinas. It's a really convoluted and time-consuming way to wage jihad, to be sure, but when your goal is to destroy Western Civilization, you'll stop at nothing.

The whole terror baby scare has fizzled a bit in months since Gohmert made his announcement on the House floor, but as Adam Serwer notes, it's returned with a vengeance—and footnotes. The Center for Immigration Studies, a legit-sounding organization aimed at restricting both legal and illegal immigration, is out with a new report targeting the 14th Ammendment—and more specifically, the possibility babies that have been granted birthright citizenship could one day grow up to become terrorists:

Imagine a young man born in the United States of non-immigrant parents and taken away at a very early age, reared in Waziristan, educated in Islamist madrassas and trained in the fundamentals of terror at one of the many camps in Southwestern Asia; someone who has flown under the radar of U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies and is therefore unknown to them. He would be entitled to walk into any American embassy or consulate worldwide, bearing a certified copy of his birth certificate and apply for — indeed, demand — a U.S. passport. That passport would entitle him to enter and reside in the United States whenever and wherever he chose, secretly harboring his hatred, an unknown sleeper agent of al Qaeda or any of the other multitude of terrorist organizations with an anti-Western bias and a violent anti-American agenda, waiting for the call to arms.

Waiting. Watching. Stewing. Plotting. Action verb.

The full report is here. The author, "a retired government employee," writes under a pseudonym, which is also something of a trend. When Texas State Rep. Debbie Riddle spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper about the "critical issue" last summer, she cited information from former FBI agents, whom she also refused to name. "At this point, I'm not going to reveal that," Riddle explained. Gohmert, likewise, refused to give up his sources, choosing instead to compare Cooper to Neville Chamberlain.

So, is there anything to it? Well, no. In the spirit of bi-partisanship, I'll just direct you to this epic takedown of the anti-Birthright Citizenship crusade, from the folks at Reason.

Mon Jul. 21, 2014 3:33 PM EDT
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