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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Welcome to the Road Trip for America's Future

| Wed Jun. 30, 2010 2:45 AM PDT

Medfield, Massachusetts — Hello and welcome to the blog! This blog takes its name from Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's alternative budget proposal for the fiscal year 2011, which would produce a budget surplus by 2080 through a series of massive cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security. That might not be a great idea, as MoJo's Kevin Drum has pointed out, but it is, however, a pretty catchy name, and a more or less accurate description of what I'll be doing for the next three months. Starting tomorrow, I'll be zig-zagging the country with a friend in a 2003 Mercury Sable. Our itinerary is deliberately vague, but I'll break it down into three main courses: Boston to New Orleans via the Appalachians, Dixie, and the Gulf Coast; New Orleans to Austin via the Mississippi River, Northern Woods, and Great Plains; and Austin to San Francisco, cutting through the Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Northwest. Having spent much of the last year and a half hearing about how the country is falling to pieces, I just want to make sure everything's still where it should be.

As for what you'll find in this space, look for the same kinds of political stories you've come to expect from MoJo: I'll be following Tea Party insurgents on the ground in Kentucky and Nevada, dodging law enforcement with an expired passport in Arizona, and reporting on environmental disasters. I'm also fascinated (probably overly so) by the road map itself: What will an atlas of the United States look like 100 years from now, and what might it have looked like today if not for a few hiccups along the way? To that end, I'll be checking in on upstart secession movements in places like Vermont and northern Minnesota, as well as regions within a state that want a star of their own—like Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Upstate New York.

Beyond that, check back regularly for little fragments of life in America in 2010—snippets of conversation in coffee shops, interviews (the plan is at least one per day), slow-cooked brisket, minor league baseball, first-hand encounters with bears, obscure historical trivia, giant buildings made out of vegetables, and, God willing, Truck Nutz.

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California's Jack Bauer Candidate

| Thu May. 27, 2010 4:59 PM PDT

With California's Republican Senate primary less than three weeks away, the candidates are starting to make their closing arguments: former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says she's the most electable; former Rep. Tom Campbell says, no, he's the most electable; and insurgent candidate Chuck DeVore wants voters to know that he, more than any other candidate, is the most qualified to impale a terrorist with a pair of scissors and find out where the bomb is. Hey, the Senate's a wild place!

Earlier this week, DeVore debuted a 24-style online ad, which runs through his national-security resume: Working in Afghanistan in the 1980s (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a former mujahid, is a supporter), fact-finding missions to the Middle East, lengthy military service, and fancy-sounding quasi-covert operations he helped plan. Take a look:

That comes just one week after DeVore's campaign released decades-old audio of the candidate being shot at during a trip to  Lebanon, after the Los Angeles Times suggested he was being something less than truthful about the incident. The recent lurch into Tom Clancy territory shouldn't come as much of a surprise, though: DeVore enjoys military-strategy computer games, and in 1996 he co-wrote a novel, China Attacks, in which an imperialist Chinese bureaucrat sparks World War III. Yikes! I spoke with DeVore last month for a story I'm working on about the race, and somewhat unrelated to the story, I asked him about his book...which now seems strangely relevant.

Music Monday: Repelling a British Invasion—With Legos

| Mon May. 24, 2010 9:56 AM PDT

Yes, this is a music post, but first, a related diversion: For most of the past week, MoJo's Mac McClelland has been reporting from the Louisiana coast, where blobs of crude roughly the size of Ruth Bader Ginsburg have begun washing ashore, courtesy of British Petroleum. You should follow Mac on Twitter, but the short story is this: BP—the foreign corporation which has now unleashed as yet incalculable damage on the economy and ecosystem of the Gulf Coast—has essentially taken over the town of Grand Isle, setting up checkpoints and restricting reporters' access to [petroleum-soaked] public beaches. (They've also, apparently, been telling the locals that the crude blobs were really just big clumps of mud). You don't have to be an ophthalmologist to be a little uneasy with that situation.

All of which brought to mind the last time a band of Britons attempted to occupy a slice of Louisiana: The 1815 Battle of New Orleans, in which a scrappy All-American cast of militia, Choctaw Indians, and local pirates (!!) trounced a 10,000-strong British invasion force a few miles outside the city. If it weren't for the muskets, it'd basically be the plot of every Disney movie in the last 15 years. The parallel to today is admittedly rather thin, but the event did lead to one of the great folk song successes in American history, "The Battle of New Orleans," which improbably shot to near the top of the Billboard Charts in 1959. It's not entirely clear why the song would take off at such a random point in time; it'd be a bit like if Lil Wayne composed a song about the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine. But it was recorded, and it did take off. Then Johnny Cash recorded a cover of it, which is awesome. So did Dolly Parton, which is less so.

Anyways, someone on the Internet has taken the time to produce this stop-motion music video, reenacting the battle using Legos, and set to the tune of Johnny Horton's original soundtrack. It's kind of great. My only quibble is that, given the abundance of terrifying swamp monsters from Louisiana they could have chosen, why'd they pick the non-native war elephant (1:53)? Was that a metaphor? Have at it in the comments.

Texas Ed. Board Updates Curriculum: Thomas Jefferson's Back!

| Fri May. 21, 2010 5:26 PM PDT

It's been a little more than two months since we last told you about the Texas State Board of Education's efforts to rewrite American history. After adding Phyllis Schafly and Newt Gingrich to the curriculum and deemphasizing the Civil Rights movement, the SBOE convened for its final meetings of the year this weeek and since several of the Board's most conservative members are either not running for reelection or lost primary challenges, it amounts to something of a last hurrah; think the '97 Bulls meets the Christian Coalition.

So how'd it go? Depends on how you feel about our commander in chief's middle name, I guess. In one of the punchiest discussions of the week, Board members shot down an amendment late last night that would have revised the discussion of our first black president to refer to "Barack Hussein Obama." The Texas Tribune's Brian Thevenot, who sat through the proceedings so we didn't have to, captured the full exchange:

[Board member David Bradley] sprang into action. "I'd like to make a motion to insert his middle name, Hussein," he said. Asked why—it was the first time any discussion of any of official's middle name had come up—Bradley played dumb. "He's the president of the United States, and I think we should give him the honor and privilege of his full name"...Some other members were dumbfounded: The Arabic sounding name has been widely used as an epithet in conservative circles and is closely tied to the contention that Obama isn't an American citizen. "I think it's pretty obvious what you're trying to do," said [Board member Bob Craig]. "And I don't think it's correct that we've used the middle names for other presidents." (That was true, [the chairwoman] confirmed shortly later; the board follows whatever style a particular president prefers for his name.)

The amendment was ultimately tabled, but it serves as a pretty good case study for how the nation's most influential school board conducts its business.

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