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 Radicalization of Peter King

| Mon Dec. 20, 2010 11:31 AM PST

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), last seen calling WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, is back in the news after annnouncing plans to hold hearings next year on the radicalization of America's Muslim communities. King believes Muslim leaders have been less than helpful in combatting extremists in their ranks, and he'd like to find out why.

The timing is a little curious: Just two weeks ago, members of a mosque in Orange County became so concerned about a possible extremist in their ranks, they reported him to the FBI (It turned out he was an FBI agent; this is basically Fletch for the terror age). But the larger issue is King, whose ability to spot terrorists is unmatched. That is, he constantly spots terrorists where there are none at all, like an Icelandic clairvoyant tasked with inspecting construction sites for the presence of elves. Here's what he told Sean Hannity back in 2004, for instance, while promoting his novel, Vale of Tears:

"I would say, you could say that 80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists...Those who are in control. The average Muslim, no, they are loyal, but they don't work, they don't come forward, they don't tell the police."

80-85 percent! Run for your lives!

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Great Moments in #Senatehate (Cannibalism Edition)

| Fri Dec. 17, 2010 11:55 AM PST

Yesterday will be remembered, if at all, for two especially traumatic events: The Senate, as per custom, suffered a total meltdown and scrapped its spending bill (the one they'd been working on for the last year). And an Amtrak train en route to Philadelphia was delayed for 10 hours, without power and in freezing temperatures, leading Stephen Tschida of New York's ABC 7 to live-tweet the worst day of his life. Sample tweet:

"God, I'm this close to crying again. I NEVER cry. Just want out. This might be a life-changer."

And another"1 man grabbed intercom demanded answers. Another started screaming we have 2 get home. Now total silence."

But what if the two situations were somehow combined? That is, if a train full of Senators were delayed for hours without power and no end in sight? If you're thinking, "They'd probably eat at each other, but not before engaging in frustrating demonstrations of comity, decorum, and procedure" well, Mark Twain's got your back—he envisioned this exact scenario more than a century ago. Enjoy:

"MR. HALLIDAY of Virginia: 'I move to further amend the report by substituting Mr. Harvey Davis of Oregon for Mr. Messick. It may be urged by gentlemen that the hardships and privations of a frontier life have rendered Mr. Davis tough; but, gentlemen, is this a time to cavil at toughness? Is this a time to be fastidious concerning trifles? Is this a time to dispute about matters of paltry significance? No, gentlemen, bulk is what we desire—substance, weight, bulk—these are the supreme requisites now—not talent, not genius, not education. I insist upon my motion.'

"MR. MORGAN (excitedly): 'Mr. Chairman—I do most strenuously object to this amendment. The gentleman from Oregon is old, and furthermore is bulky only in bone—not in flesh. I ask the gentleman from Virginia if it is soup we want instead of solid sustenance?

I yield.

How Did Mozart Die? Let Me Count the Ways...

| Wed Dec. 15, 2010 1:41 PM PST

The real killers (Photo: Carbon NYC/Flickr)The real killers (Photo: Carbon NYC/Flickr)This, via Brainiac, is undoubtedly the best (only?) academic paper you'll read all week. French doctor Lucien Karhausen, fed up with his colleagues' incessant efforts to figure out what killed Mozart, has taken to the pages of British Medical Journal to settle the matter once and for all. Conclusion? Everyone's full of it:

I have identified 140 (sometimes overlapping) possible causes of death, in addition to 85 other conditions. But Mozart died only once.

Among those 225 diagnoses, Karhausen finds 27 unique psychiatric disorders, and enough physical ailments and conspiratorial assailants to kill Rasputin 10 times over. Researchers have based their diagnoses on translation errors, as well as deep and thoughtful analysis of a misidentified skull:

For some, Mozart manifested cachexia or hyperthyroidism, but for others it was obesity or hypothyroidism. Ludendorff, a psychiatrist, and her apostles, claimed in 1936 that Mozart had been murdered by the Jews, the Freemasons, or the Jesuits, and assassination is not excluded by musicologists like Autexier, Carr, and Taboga.

Epic. As MoJo's Dave Gilson noted back in September, researchers have turned the diagnosis of fictional characters into a medical parlor game, explaining, for instance, that Tintin suffered from hormone deficiency and Tiny Tim from distal renal tubular acidosis.

But if anything, it's even more prevalent with historical figures. To wit: Last month, a Cal State, San Bernardino professor released a study arguing that King Tut was killed by a hippo. That came four years after researchers revealed that King Tut died from a double infection of malaria. Prior to that, researchers believed he had heen murdered. To date, no one has dared suggest that Tutenkhamen might still be alive, but it'd certainly be a provocative thesis and as such probably warrants further study.

California Court Considers Salami, Festivus

| Wed Dec. 15, 2010 6:00 AM PST

There are plenty of flaws with the California criminal justice system; actually, it can be pretty awful. But it's not all bad news. The OC Register reports that earlier this year, an Orange County inmate successfully persuaded a Superior Court judge to accomodate his special religious diet:

Festivus may only come around once a year...but longtime county inmate Malcolm Alarmo King was able to celebrate it three times a day while locked up at the Theo Lacy jail in Orange.

King's quest for a healthier eating option while behind bars ended with a county lawyer forced to research the origin of Festivus and its traditions and a Superior Court judge recognizing the holiday – which lodged its place in pop culture on an episode of "Seinfeld" – as a legitimate religion.

At issue was King's objection to eating salami, which Orange County feeds its inmates. Key quote:

The Sheriff's Department interviewed King about his religious leanings in May. When asked what his religion was, he answered "Healthism."

A couple of quick points here: 1) Salami is horrible. More importantly, 2) this kind of thing actually happens all the time.

Poll: Obama Not a Christian, But Neither is...Glenn Beck!?

| Tue Dec. 14, 2010 6:00 AM PST

Last week I told you about the drama in the Texas speaker's race, where conservative Christian activists have been accused of anti-Semitism for suggesting that incumbent (and Jewish) speaker Joe Straus is not sufficiently Christian. The catch is that this kind of attack is hardly unique to Straus. Here's a new poll from the Christian firm Lifeway Research, which illustrates that pretty well.

Lifeway surveyed 1,000 protestant pastors—liberal and conservative, evangelical and mainline—about the religious views of a handful of well-known politicians and celebrities. The good news is most of the pastors (a supermajority, even!) think Sarah Palin is a Christian. On the other hand, 33 percent of them don't. Obama checks in at 41 percent. And Glenn Beck? Just 27 percent, largely on account of his Mormon faith. That's better than Oprah (19 percent), but not what you might expect from the man who's built a movement (and a bank account) preaching the Christian influence of the Founders.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I'd add that "Protestant pastors" is a fairly specific cohort; actually, it sounds dangerously close to a Mark Penn Microtrends demographic ("station-wagon seminarians," perhaps?). And Lifeway doesn't really get into the details, except to note that liberals are more likely to say everyone's a Christian, and conservatives are more likely to say no one is. But you can see the larger point: Being a "Christian," and being identified as such by others is not mutually inclusive. Politics only magnifies that.

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