Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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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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Kentucky Offers Tax Breaks for Noah's Ark Theme Park

| Wed Dec. 1, 2010 3:00 PM PST

At a press conference in Frankfort today, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced his unlikely plan to save the state's economy—by offering a massive tax incentive to the planners of Ark Encounter, an eco-friendly Noah's Ark theme park to be built outside Cincinnati. Building a Genesis-based theme park, during a recession? Shouldn't he be focusing on Job?

Per the Herald-Leader:

During the news conference, Beshear was asked several questions regarding the separation of church and state and whether support of the project was constitutional.

He said the law does not allow him to discriminate against a for-profit business because of the subject matter. Not everyone supports NASCAR, the governor said, but that did not stop him for providing incentives to allow Kentucky Speedway to hold a Sprint cup race next year.

He said there was nothing "remotely unconstitutional" about the business and the economic impact it would have on the state.

A Noah's Ark theme park actually sounds like a lot of fun—animals (x2), water, "replica of the Tower of Babel"—and if it can replicate the success of the nearby Creation Museum (run by the same group, Answers in Genesis), it promises to be an economic boon. Eighty percent of the museum's visitors come from out of state, which means that, sinkholes permitting, they're likely to cram as much into their visit to Kentucky as possible. Beshear's justifications seem legally airtight—even American Atheists couldn't come up with any objections.

But it also amounts to a giveaway (as much as $37.5 million) to AiG, an organization that's committed to defeating secular science education; (the park promises educational exhibits to go with its amusements). And while Beshear says he'd be open to the same kind of deal with any for-profit religious organization, is there any realistic chance of anyone besides AiG creating something of this stature? The market for a Hijra-themed resort in Paducah seems a little dry right now.

What if Western States Were Organized by Water?

| Mon Nov. 29, 2010 12:35 PM PST

Map courtesy of USGSMap courtesy of USGSIt is a matter of public record that I'm an avid fan of weird maps. And over at the appropriately named Strange Maps blog, Frank Jacobs has unearthed a pretty neat one: John Wesley Powell's proposal to divide the western United States into a series of amoeba-like blobs amoeba-like water districts. Powell, the one-armed geologist who first mapped the Grand Canyon, believed that water management was the single most important issue facing regional development, and therefore the West should be governed accordingly. Per Jacobs:

Powell's warning at an irrigation congress in 1883 seems particularly prescient: "Gentlemen, you are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land." Powell must have been frustrated by the contrast between the way his achievements were lauded, and his warnings ignored...

Like Jefferson's states, the units proposed by Powell seem, well, the wrong shape. From a purely cartophile point of view, they don't work as well as the states that did eventually make the cut. Ironically, they lack the normality of the present batch of straight-border states. Or is that just the force of habit talking?

To jump to Powell's defense, I'd say the whole thing actually has a sort of Central Asian feel to it; you won't find any box-like Wyomings hovering around the Hindu Kush. The biggest problem, though, seems to be that these places would be even less populated than our existing western states. The southwestern corner New Mexico, for instance, gets its own hypothetical state/district, even though no one actually lives, or ever has lived, southwest of Las Cruces.

Anyways, Powell was prescient in that he understood that management of natural resources and environmental limits were going to be preeminent issues facing the nation a century hence. But he was obviously shortsighted in thinking that 21st-century (or 20th-century, or 19th-century) leaders might ever be moved to do anything about it. To wit: His amoeba plan was scrapped at the behest of...the railroad industry.

Anthology of Rap: The Unofficial Index

| Mon Nov. 29, 2010 4:35 AM PST

The much anticipated release of The Anthology of Rap has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. The project, which features a foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr., has drawn criticism for the abundance of transcription errors—and in hip-hop, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between, well, George Wallace and Gerald Wallace (an actual mistake in the book). That's a shame because, errors aside, it's an awesome compilation: 920 pages of some of the baddest, phattest, flyest tracks ever dropped.

And that, invariably, means plenty of preposterous pop-culture references. Unless you rolled with Junior M.A.F.I.A. back in the day or hail from Queensbridge, you're probably not included in this book. But plenty of totally random people (and things! and historical events!) are. So what exactly shakes like Smucker's grape jelly? What's the best way to hijack a space shuttle? And what does Nas really think about Calvin Coolidge? We've got you covered. Here's our unofficial, abridged political and pop-culture Anthology of Rap index.

Attila the Hun

  • is not LL Cool J, p. 216

Bambi

  • mad phatness of, p. 312

Bicentennial Celebration

  • boringness of, p. 419
  • similarities to Arsenio Hall Show, p. 419

 Booth, John Wilkes

  • as second-grade icon, p. 358

Bush, George H.W.

  • as real estate agent, p. 424
  • worth less than a bird in the hand, p. 424

Bush, George W.

  • a natural ass, p. 699
  • did 9/11, p. 751
  • not a Seminole Indian, p. 715
  • treatment of blacks relative to treatment of trash, p. 699

Clinton, Bill

  • hanging in strip club, p. 681
  • slanging crack, p. 485
  • smoking up, p. 681

Coolidge, Calvin

  • suspected black ancestry of, p. 469

Dahmer, Jeffery

  • consumption of dogs, p. 485
  • consumption of mail-order brides (hypothesized), p. 647

Etch-a-Sketch

  • as matter of life and death, p. 180

Falwell, Jerry

  • as funky dope musician, p. 136

Gandhi

  • as serial killer, p. 389

Goodyear Blimp

  • says "Ice Cube's a pimp," p. 426

McCain, John

Mephistopheles

  • as metaphor, p. 361

NASA

  • hijacking of space shuttle with a .38, p. 389

Nixon, Richard

  • wickedness relative to Ghostface Killah, p. 548

Nobel Peace Prize

  • awarded to Canibus, p. 352
  • passed up by Canibus, p. 352

Obama, Barack

  • as pen pal, p. 760
  • complexion of, p. 717
  • merits of putting on $5,000 bill, p. 717

Peloponnesian War

  • lack of respect for science or intellect, p. 159

Picasso, Pablo

  • similarities to Kool Moe Dee, p. 204

President

  • complexion of relative to a Maybach, p. 438
  • dead, p. 427
  • dead, with sprinkles, p. 428
  • fuckin' dead, p. 428
  • efforts to combat Chinese expansion, p. 755
  • Eric B. is, p. 170
  • future employment as, p 391
  • impeachment of, p. 255
  • is black, p. 715
  • is half-white, p. 438
  • never did shit for me, p. 716

Reagan, Nancy

  • sexual intimacy with, p. 298

Reagan, Ronald

  • employment of Too $hort as economic advisor, p. 298
  • selling cocaine in the White House, p. 298

Republicans

  • not fuckin' broke, p. 424
  • should be disabled, p. 341

Senators

  • getting high, p. 424

Shaft

  • shafting like, p. 223

Sharon, Ariel

  • odds of showing compassion relative to odds that Immortal Technique will stop blastin', p. 655

Smucker's

  • shaking jelly like, p. 530

Steve, Scuba

  • respiratory struggles of, p. 635

Swayze, Patrick

  • is Method Man, p. 539

Tastykake

  • as artificially flavored equivalent to Ol' Dirty Bastard's rhymes, p. 545

Truman, Harry S.

  • dapper as a rapper, p. 135

Tyson, Mike

  • Knocked-out like, p. 61
  • Knock you out like, p. 215

Voting

  • decision to spend dough on hoes instead of, p. 717

Click here for more Music Monday features from Mother Jones.

Meet Psalty the Singing Songbook

| Sun Nov. 28, 2010 9:29 AM PST

Daniel Radosh's Rapture Readyis one of those books where, as soon as you finish, you wish you could go back in time and revisit something you wrote previously, now that you actually know what you're talking about. In this case, that would be my dispatch from the Focus on the Family bookstore in Colorado Springs. At the time I wrote that Christian pop culture was about added value: product + God = better product. But there's actually a pretty intense debate, as Radosh's book makes clear, over contemporary Christian performing arts. Should Christians try to work within the secular system and promote their values through actions? Should they shun the system and purge their pop culture of non-Christian references? And beyond that, should they really be focusing so much on profits rather than, say, prophets?

It's a fascinating book; Radosh checks in on Christian music festivals, Christian wrestling, Christian chick-lit (and its End Times counterpart, Christian pit-lit), Christian stand-up comedy, Christian Batman ("Bibleman"), Christian raves, Christian sex workshops—you name it, really. Anyway, check it out. And in the meantime, here's a clip of Psalty the Singing Songbook, my favorite revelation (sorry) from the book; he's like a mix of Ronald McDonald and Spongebob, if Spongebob weren't an agent of the homosexual agenda:

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