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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Bachmann: "This is Our Mice and Men Moment"

| Tue Mar. 15, 2011 10:51 AM EDT
Photo: Gage Skidmore

Update: The three-week CR passed, with Obamacare intact. Apparently we're mice.

Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann implored House GOPers to defund the Affordable Care Act at a forum at the Capitol on Wednesday evening, calling the upcoming vote on a three-week continuing resolution "our mice and men moment." Speaking to a small audience of about two dozen mostly junior staffers, interns, and reporters, Bachmann warned that the continuing resolution, along with an upcoming vote to raise the debt ceiling, represent House GOPers' last best chance to defund the law, nearly one year after it was signed into law.

"This is our mice or men moment. We need to show whether we are mice or men," Bachmann said. "It is not for us to wait for us to fight when it's easy... Now is our moment. What are we made of: Are we mice, or are we men?"

Well?

Bachmann wants her colleagues to vote against any continuing resolution that doesn't explicitly strip funding from health care reform—although as Alex Altman notes, a continuing resolution can't defund Obamacare.

"They wanted what they wanted, the people of the United States be damned," Bachmann said. "This was a fraud that was perpetrated on the people and on the Congress. We should be shouting from the rooftops, 'Give the money back!'"

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Zombie Ants

| Sun Mar. 13, 2011 10:18 AM EDT

One of the best things about fact-checking an article about combatting invasive pests with imported insects is that the researching process jumps back and forth so effortlessly from serious academic and scientific questions, to really crude Discovery Channel-style footage of insects eating other insects. Cutting-edge entomological research is pretty highbrow stuff. Referring to the subjects of cutting-edge entomological research as "zombie ants"? Not so much. To wit:

Story link: kxan.com

Brain-eating larvae are inherently newsworthy, but there's a broader signifance, too. As Michael Behar explains in the latest issue of Mother Jones, Texas' experiments with phorid flies are part of a relatively recent push by entomologists and land managers to combat invasive pests not with gallons upon gallons of toxic chemicals, but with something far more basic: their natural predators, imported from the home country. The process is called biocontrol, and if it works, it can save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and keep sensitive ecosystems clear of harmful chemicals. It's not an easy process—biocontrol projects regularly take decades to yield results—but it just may be man's best shot at reining in invasive pests with  names ripped out of Harry Potter (leafy spurge, tansy ragwort, cottony cushion scale) and no natural predators. As one University of Florida researcher tells Behar, "We've reached the end of our chemical rope"; maybe it's time to give the insects a shot.

Anyways, it's a fascinating topic. Check out the piece here. Read more about ants whose minds have been possessed by fungi here.

Texas Considers Bill to Ban Almost All Abortions

| Fri Mar. 11, 2011 5:04 PM EST

 From the Texas Independent:

House Bill 2988 by state Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) would prohibit abortions from being performed unless a physician determines there is a substantial risk to the woman's life or a major body function. Parker's bill comes on the heels of a bill by state Rep. George Lavender (R-Texarkana) banning abortions except in cases of medical necessity, rape or incest.

Among other things, Parker's bill makes no exception for cases of rape or incest, an exception that's long been considered untouchable even by many pro-lifers. It also explicitly prohibits physicians from considering possible impairments to mental health. A spokesperson for Rep. Parker told Mother Jones that the legislator "does intend to include [exemptions for rape and incest] if it moves through the process." But they're not included in the version that was filed on Thursday because Parker didn't actually write the bill; it was drafted at the behest of the Grass Roots Institute of Texas, an organization founded by conservative activist Bill Burch.

In February, Burch floated a similar bill in the Lone Star State that would establish that life "begins at the moment that the initial splitting of a human cell occurs during fertilization," explaining at the time that his bill "will eliminate abortion in the United States" by giving the Supreme Court a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Parker's effort is part of a nationwide effort by conservative lawmakers to scale back abortion rights. Last month, we reported on the House GOP's effort to redefine rape as part of its "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions." In South Dakota and Nebraska, legislators introduced legislation that could have provided legal justification for the murder of abortion providers. In Texas, a controversial bill requiring women to see a sonogram before having an abortion—with no exceptions for rape or incest—passed the house on Monday.

Birther Bill Author: What's a Long-Form Birth Certificate?

| Fri Mar. 11, 2011 4:01 AM EST

Courtesy of State Sen. Mae BeaversCourtesy of State Sen. Mae BeaversLast month, Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers introduced SB 1091, a bill that would require presidential candidates to present a long-form birth certificate in order to qualify for the ballot in the Volunteer State. Beavers, a Republican, is in good company: Nearly a dozen states have now introduced similar legislation—part of national campaign mounted by the birthers, those conservatives who believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. To date they haven't had much luck; a bill proposed in Arizona looked the most promising but was scuttled in committee; on Wednesday, New Hampshire GOPers knocked down a similar proposal.

It's a far-fetched goal, and it turns out that Beavers, who recently discussed her bill on Reality Check, a radio show devoted to debunking birther legislation, still has some research to do. From the transcript:

RC: What are the specific requirements in the bill?

MB: That they have to have the long form birth certificate.

RC: What is the long form birth certificate?

MB: Now, you're asking me to get into a lot of things that I haven't really looked into yet.

The host then asked the obvious follow-up: why put a term into the bill, if you don't know what it means? Beavers responded, "Well, we are following some of the bills that have been filed in lots of other states, and you know how it is, you file your bill and, you know, you prepare before you go to committee."

File first, understand later?

Beavers went on to state more clearly, "I'm not entirely sure what long form means." She seemed genuinely surprised by the news that not all states even print long-form birth certificates anymore. "I only know about Tennessee," she explained. As for her motives for introducing the bill, Beavers didn't declare herself as an outright birther, but she noted, "I think people have raised questions about [Obama's birth] enough to make everybody wonder." Although the state of Hawaii has produced a certificate of live birth for Obama that has been been widely distributed, Beavers said proof of Obama's citizenship must have gotten buried in her inbox: "I get emails all the time with things in them, you know; I can't honestly tell you that I read all of them, because I get so many."

Beavers' long-form slip-up fits a trend of Republican state lawmakers amping up extreme right-wing legislation with dubious supporting evidence. As we reported last month, South Dakota state Rep. Phil Jensen floated a measure banning Islamic Sharia law that would have also undone child custody protections, and another bill that could have provided an opening for the killing of abortion providers. Alabama state Sen. Gerald Allen borrowed his own anti-Sharia bill from Wikipedia, and when asked by a reporter what Sharia actually is, said, "I don't have my file in front of me." Texas state Rep. Leo Berman, who introduced both an anti-Sharia bill and a birther bill, recently explained that he got most of his political information on YouTube because "YouTubes are infallible."

Beavers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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