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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Should We Really Elect School Boards?

| Wed Feb. 17, 2010 10:32 AM PST

By now pretty much everyone has read Russell Shorto's New York Times Magazine cover story on the Texas state board of education. The whole controversy is kind of fascinating, but one aspect of the Texas textbook wars that can't be overstated is the skill with which conservative activists, in Texas and elsewhere, have exploited the democratic processmost notably by packing school boardsto advance their cultural agenda. Shorto digs up a pretty telling quote from Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition: "I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members."

That's probably right. After all, if you have a thousand school-board members, there's a pretty good chance that no one will even notice; it's a stealth revolution. With that in mind, I think Sara Mead nails it at Eduwonk:

Although it varies by state, Americans tend to elect a whole bunch of public officials, including a lot of officials in relatively obscure roles....that aren’t well understood by the public. Most voters, who have limited time and energy to devote to these issues, can’t possibly follow the performance and positions of all these officials. Having more of them be appointed by mayors, governors, and other public officials who are better known to voters may actually increase accountability.

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America's Greatest Threat: Flashcards

| Fri Feb. 12, 2010 6:50 PM PST

Yesterday, Pomona College senior Nicholas George, backed by the ACLU, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that TSA and FBI agents stomped all over his First and Fourth Amendment rights by detaining him for five hours after they discovered a set of Arabic flashcards and political science books in his backpack. The complaint is worth reading in full (here's the pdf version), but this section in particular is worth highlighting:

TSA Supervisor: You know who did 9/11?
George: Osama bin Laden.
TSA Supervisor: Do you know what language he spoke?
George: Arabic.

Then, according to the complaint, the TSA supervisor held up George's flashcards and asked, "Do you see why these cards are suspicious?"

Uh, no. Another choice nugget: "During their questioning, for example, the FBI agents repeatedly asked Mr. George why he had chosen to study physics at a liberal arts college such as Pomona." (I wonder if his answer was anything like this?).

Another Truther in Texas

| Fri Feb. 12, 2010 6:28 PM PST

Yesterday I blogged about the political implosion of Debra Medina, the Tea Partier whose Texas gubernatorial campaign came to a crashing halt when she was outed as a 9/11 truther by Glenn Beck (even he has his limits, apparently). Maybe there's something in the water in Texas, because a few hours ago, hair-care baron Farouk Shami, one of two major Democratic candidates, joined Medina in lala-land. Here's what he told a Dallas TV station when asked whether he believed 9/11 was an inside job:

“I'm not sure. I am not going to really judge or answer about something I'm not really sure about. But the rumors are there that there was a conspiracy. True or not? It's hard to believe, you know, what happened. It's really hard to comprehend what happened. Maybe. I'm not sure.

Does this make the Truther conspiracy bi-partisan? For more Texas Tea Party blogging, check out Kevin's take on Debra Medina.

Glenn Beck Outs Truther Candidate

| Thu Feb. 11, 2010 1:01 PM PST

Texas gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, a state-sovereignty advocate, may have expected her interview today on Glenn Beck's radio program to be a big break. Instead she put on a show that at the very least should make Sarah Palin feel a better about her disastrous Katie Couric interview. Medina plodded along for a few minutes—perhaps a little too eagerly—until Beck asked whether she was was a 9/11 Truther. And that's when Medina's campaign blew up like a frozen can of Cola:

Beck: Do you believe the government was in any way involved with the bringing down of the World Trade Centers on 9/11?

Medina: I don't have all the evidence there, Glenn. So I am not in a place, I am not out there publicly questioning that. I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There are some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I've not taken a position on that.

Finally, Beck cut her off, saying, "Debra, you've answered the question." Then he ended the interview and poured on the mockery:

"I.... [makes crashing sound] while I don't endorse anyone, I think I can write her off the list! [Laughs.] Let me take another look at Kay Bailey Hutchison if I have to! [More laughter.] Rick [Perry], I think you and I could French kiss right now!.... WOW! WOW! The fastest way back to 4%! [Yet more laughter.] Phoo! Ho-ly Cow!"

You can listen to the interview here.

Medina almost immediately put out a statement asserting that "Muslim Terrorists" were responsible for 9/11, but it might be too late for her. An un-dorsement from Beck isn't likely to bolster her fundraising or win over undecidedstwo things she sorely needed to do to have a chance on March 2. As Texas Monthly's Eileen Smith spun it, "If you can make Glenn Beck look like a perfectly rational human being, you need serious help."

Crashing the Texas Tea Party

| Wed Feb. 10, 2010 6:34 AM PST

Last week I highlighted the increasingly odd Republican primary for the Texas governor's mansion, where Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry were expected to engage in a can't-miss intra-party heavyweight battle. Instead, the race has been transformed by the emergence of a third candidate, the pro-secession, pro-sovereignty, (and very, very pro-gun) conservative activist Debra Medina. Medina has used social media, grassroots organizing, and a tireless anti-government message to compete with the two heavyweightsand now, according to a new PPP poll (pdf), she just might win.

 

The odds are still against her, but Medina now finds herself within the margin of error against Hutchison in the battle for second place; she gets 24 percent of likely voters while Hutchison wins 28 percent. With Perry still well below the majority he'd need to win the primary outright, it's looking more and more likely that we'll end up in a run-off. Medina would have a lot of ground to make up, but the momentum would be on her side. (And Perry, despite his longevity, isn't exactly Mr. Popularity in the Lone Star State: He was re-elected with just 39 percent of the vote in 2006). Katherine Haenschen has a pretty good breakdown of what this all means.

 

Medina's ascent, along with the news that Tea Party godfather Rep. Ron Paul (a Medina supporter!) is facing three primary challengers of his own, offers a reminder of just how foggy the Tea Party movement really is. Perry, having himself broached the idea of secession and having earned the endorsement of Sarah Palin, would seem very much to be the "Tea Party darling," Politico said he is. But Medina has, improbably enough, managed to carve out a platform even further to right than Perry's. Given the fragmented state of affairs in Texas, attempting to apply any sort of unified ideology to the Tea Party (aside from, maybe, "dissatisfied") seems like an unwinnable proposition at this point.

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