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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West Virginia Legislator Hatches Plan to Secede

| Tue Feb. 1, 2011 7:00 AM EST

First Tunisia, then Egypt, now...West Virginia? Well, no, not exactly. But delegate Larry Kump has had it up to here with his state's government. "I take pride in being a Mountaineer," says the freshman legislator—but he'd rather break his beloved state apart than see it suffer on as an economic backwater.

"Our per capita income in West Virginia is 47th in the United States; it's one of the few things we're not 50th in," Kump says. "We've lost 10,000 manufacturing jobs over the past three years. Gross Domestic Product is 49th in the nation."

"One of my favorite sayings here in West Virginia is 'Thank God for Mississippi,' because if it wasn't for Mississippi, we'd be fiftieth in everything."

He adds, "I'd prefer West Virginians stay together and just get their act together—but if they don't, I think it's a good idea to go elsewhere."

Elsewhere, in this case, means moving back in with the ex. Last week, Kump, a self-identified "libertarian grassroots populist" with tea party ties, introduced a bill in the state legislature calling for a non-binding referendum on secession. Specifically, Kump suggests that the three counties of the state's eastern panhandle break away from the mother ship and become a part of Virginia (as they were prior to 1863). His reason is simple: Kump believes the state government has created an economic climate that's holding its citizens back. West Virginia's almost heaven, in other words, but it's an awful big "almost."

"One of my favorite sayings here in West Virginia is 'Thank God for Mississippi,'* because if it wasn't for Mississippi, we'd be fiftieth in everything," says Kump (who clearly hasn't seen this map). "All you need to do is cross the border in any of the surrounding states and they're all doing much better than we are."

Kump's hardly the first person to contemplate leaving West Virginia, but his grievances are noteworthy in part because of what inspired him: Unleashing Capitalism, a 2007 pro-business manifesto edited by West Virginia University economist Russell Sobel. The book, supported by funding from the energy conglomerate Koch Industries, has become a must-read for the state's reform-minded conservatives, who tout it as a blueprint for economic growth. The state's GOP chairman called the book "our party platform" when it was first released; it's spawned a sequel (about South Carolina), and been honored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a Washington-based think tank backed by Exxon-Mobil.

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The Week in Sharia: Mama Grizzly Edition

| Fri Jan. 28, 2011 8:34 PM EST

Before it's too late:

  • Legislators in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Arkansas introduced proposals to ban Islamic Law from state courts, bringing the total number of states that have moved on the issue to 11. Of note: State rep. Gerald Gay, who introduced the Wyoming measure, ran for office last fall on a platform of shooting abstract theories with high-powered weaponry; the Arkansas bill, meanwhile, was sponsored by state senator Cecile Bledsoe, who you may remember as one of Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies."
  • Could you be eating meat sacrificed to idols and not even know it? Our friends at WorldNetDaily raise that exact concern in an article about halal foods that reprises last year's freakout over Campbell's Soup: "It could be on your pizza without you knowing it, or at your favorite restaurant. People don't realize they could be eating meat sacrificed to idols!" Also on your pizza: Lots and lots of bugs.
  • Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who has stated previously that Islam is not a religion, told a South Florida talk show that Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) "really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established"—but he won't back down. "You've got to be able to defeat them intellectually in debate and discourse, and you just have to be able to challenge each and every one of their assertions very wisely and very forthright." You can't blink, Charlie!
  • The Temecula, California, city council gave a unanimous thumbs-up to a proposed Islamic community center in the city. Last summer, mosque opponents protested the project with dogs, because Muslims "hate dogs."
  • and finally...we missed this last week, but Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, "terror baby" whistleblower, says he wants his House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security to hold hearings on the impending threat of Sharia law. Perhaps Steve Emerson, the anti-Islam activist spurned by Rep. Peter King's radicalization hearings, will have his moment in the spotlight after all?

Wyoming State Rep.: Ban Sharia, Blow Up Congress

| Wed Jan. 26, 2011 6:59 PM EST

Step aside, Joe Manchin. Meet Wyoming state representive Gerald Gay, of the great city of Casper. Last week, Gay introduced legislation to ban Sharia law from being implemented in his state, making Wyoming the 11th state to consider such a proposal. (So far only Louisiana, Tennessee, and Oklahoma have actually banned Islamic law.)

Today, Sarah Posner digs a bit deeper and finds that Gay's far-right rhetoric extends well beyond fears of a North American caliphate. In a series of campaign videos last year, Gay, equipped with a Smith & Wesson double-action revolver, a pump-action shotgun, and a semi-automatic AR-15, destroys "socialism," the Affordable Care Act, the US Capitol, and cap-and-trade (depicted in the video as two rather unfortunate turkeys). As he explains, following the symbolic destruction of President Obama's legislative agenda, "that's the way you deal with those kinds of government programs." More, via Religion Dispatches:

[Gay's] web page at the State of Wyoming Legislature website also says he belongs to the JPFO -- Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. The JPFO, which is popular with militia groups, claims, among other things, that the late Sen. Thomas Dodd asked the Library of Congress to translate the Nazi Gun Control Act of 1938 into English so he could use it for the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968, and more generally insists that the citizenry needs to be armed against government "tyranny," which can lead to genocide. This sort of conspiracy theory is not unlike those being promoted by far right Christian groups after the Tucson shootings.

Update: South Carolina lawmakers, who unsuccessfully attempted ban Sharia last year, are at it again.

Bryan Fischer, Basketball Analyst

| Wed Jan. 26, 2011 2:00 PM EST

American Family Association issues director Bryan Fischer is what we in the blogging business like to call a "generalist." In just the last year, he's called for the public stoning of a killer whale, labeled grizzly bears an existential threat to America, warned that the Congressional Medal of Honor has been "feminized," and suggested that all Muslims be deported. Take any topic, no matter how remote, and Fischer will manage to find a hidden message of impending doom.

Now, in what amounts to a stay of execution for America's wildlife, Fischer has broken his lengthy silence on the subject of Utah high school girls basketball. Last week, Christian Heritage Academy edged West Ridge (a school for at-risk youth), 108-3, prompting some folks to suggest, somewhat delicately, that a 105-point victory might be a little much. Bryan Fischer is not one of those people, and he has dedicated an entire column to making his case.

As Fischer explained, "If it's a choice between grizzlies and humans, the grizzlies have got to go" running up the score is the Christian thing to do. "[I]t's an insult to an opponent not to give your best effort just because you're sitting on a huge lead. Your opponents deserve the respect of facing the best you have to offer, and it's up to them to rise to the challenge." Christian Heritage, Fischer says, "should be praised not condemned."

So there you go: Bryan Fischer has weighed in. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming about how anti-discrimination laws turn housing complexes into "hunting grounds" for gay people.

Book Blogging: The States of Our Union Are Misspelled

| Tue Jan. 25, 2011 8:54 PM EST

Photo: Wikimedia CommonsPhoto: Wikimedia CommonsI recently picked up a copy of George R. Stewart's Names on the Land. It's a fascinating account of the naming of America: How we got places like Mugfuzzle Flats, Coeur d'Alene, and Fort Worth, and (to put it in unsufferable press release-ese) what that says about us.

Among other things, we learn that the Senate debate over the naming of West Virgina briefly devolved into a discussion of whether Queen Elizabeth was, in fact, a virgin. And that before Congress settled on "Nevada" (over the superior and geographically relevant "Washoe"), there was a proposal to name it "Bullion," after its only notable export.

The big revelation, though, is that despite all appearances to the contrary, "Oregon" is actually a misspelling of "Wisconsin." Or rather, it's a corruption of the original French corruption of the original Native American word. A somewhat erroneous 17th-century French explorer suggested that the Wisconsin River might lead all the way to the Pacific Ocean, so when the Americans finally got around to the Pacific Northwest, it seemed like a logical name. Here's the process, according to Stewart:

Wisconsin <— Ouisconsink —> Ouariconsint —> Ouaricon-sint —> Ouaricon —> Ourigan —> Ouragon —> Oregon

Simple enough, I guess. Anyways, this officially makes Oregon redundant. Perhaps Obama can address this in his State of the Union?*

*Update: No.

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