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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Gun Rally Too Extreme for Oath Keepers

| Wed Apr. 14, 2010 1:45 PM EDT

Oath Keepers, the controversial patriot group profiled in our March/April issue, is a national organization comprised of cops, firefighters, and soldiers who promise to disobey any order they personally consider unconstitutional. And while it's not the group's official line, at least some members say they are prepared to use force if that's what it comes to. So it's kind of a big deal for them to call someone else extreme.

But that's more or less the reason founder Stewart Rhodes has withdrawn Oath Keepers' name from a planned April 19 "Restore the Constitution" gun rally where Rhodes himself was slated to speak. Organized as an alternative to the Second Amendment March the same day in Washington, DC, this rally will be held in Fort Hunt, Virginia—which, unlike DC, allows people to show up toting firearms. The armed rally has come under fire for its timing and its aggresive tone: April 19 is a hallowed day in "patriot" circles, and not because of morning baseball; it's also the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, the siege at Waco, and the battles of Lexington and Concord (not to mention Oath Keepers' one-year anniversary). In a statement posted yesterday on the group's website, Rhodes attributed the decision to aggresive positions taken by other attendees of the event:

[B]ecause of published statements by some participants in the upcoming Virginia rally, Oath Keepers as an organization feels that a confrontational stance, such as has been published, places this event, in public perception, outside the terms of our stated and published mission...Confronting the government is not included in the Oath Keepers stated and published mission and as an educational organization focused on the current serving, Oath Keepers refrains from confrontation in deed and rhetoric.

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Bob McDonnell's Next Target: Felon Voting Rights

| Mon Apr. 12, 2010 6:30 PM EDT

You can learn a lot about a political culture by how it approaches problems that don’t actually exist. For instance, while there's little evidence to suggest that rehabilitated felons exert an undue influence on our political process, many states have made registering to vote into the rough equivalent of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. If you're a former felon living in Mississippi, for example, you have to convince both houses of the state legislature to pass a bill specifically granting you the right to vote in state and local elections. Or, more likely, you won't even try—which is kind of the point. In Virginia, felons can vote only with the approval of the governor.

But don't worry, Virginia, because new Gov. Bob McDonnell is on the case. From the Washington Post:

McDonnell (R) will require the offenders to submit an essay outlining their contributions to society since their release, turning a nearly automatic process into a subjective one that some say may prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote.

The Fowl Case Against HCR

| Mon Apr. 12, 2010 12:55 PM EDT

Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers is a nice little case about abandoned gravel pits, migratory birds, and the true meaning of the words "navigable waters." In a 5-4 decision in 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Water Act did not apply to man-made intrastate ponds (and their interstate migratory bird populations), and that Chicago-area towns could create a landfill on private property containing isolated bodies of stagnant water. Tough luck for environmental activists (not to mention the geese), but not exactly a landmark decision, either.

There the case rested, like the Ring of Power in the river Anduin, until late last month. That's when former Rep. Tom Campbell, the front-runner in the California GOP primary to take on Sen. Barbara Boxer, unveiled his constitutional argument against health care reform. In a blog post on his campaign site, Campbell suggests that the Supreme Court will use Solid Waste's narrow reading of the Commerce Clause to strike down the individual mandate:

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal government’s attempt to exert jurisdiction under migratory bird legislation over man-made ponds. The federal government argued that the birds couldn’t tell if the ponds were man-made or not, and the availability of these ponds affected the interstate and international flight of migratory fowl. The Supreme Court held this was not sufficient for the federal government to exercise its jurisdiction. [The individual mandate] is a very close parallel to this statute.

Liberal Plot to Save California Foiled...For Now

| Fri Apr. 9, 2010 7:36 PM EDT

In January I spoke with UC-Berkeley linguist and progressive activist George Lakoff about his proposed referendum to repeal California's Propostion 13the infamous ballot initiative that mandated a 2/3 supermajority to approve tax-raising measures. For a state locked in a perpetual budget crisis (sound)—and with an ideologically polarized state legislatureLakoff's attempt to restore "majority rule" (as he put it), would have dramatically altered the most dysfunctional state government in the union.

As of Wednesday, however, things weren't looking so good for Lakoff's initiative. After sparring with state Attorney General (and presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee) Jerry Brown over wording changes, Lakoff has now withdrawn the measure. Although he plans to re-submit the referendum, even Lakoff isn't too optimistic about his odds of collecting the required signatures by the June deadline, telling supporters "the timeline will be tight." In other words, don't bet on it.

Bob McDonnell's Southern Aggression

| Wed Apr. 7, 2010 1:12 PM EDT

When Republican Bob McDonnell was elected governor of Virginia last November, Times columnist David Brooks gushed about his prospects on ABC: "We've just had a guy elected Virginia governor who's probably the model for the future of the Republican Party," Brooks said. "Bob McDonnell, pretty serious guy, pragmatic, calm, kind of boring."

The lesson, as always: Don't trust everything you see on TV. With the early returns in, McDonnell has turned out to be every bit the social values crusader his masters thesis suggested. First he rescinded an existing executive order protecting state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Then his attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, demanded that the state university system drop its policy of not discriminating against gays. Cuccinelli, with McDonnell's support, then led the states-rights charge against health care reform and the EPA. Now, it seems, things have reached their logical conclusion: McDonnell has put forth an executive order making April "Confederate History Month." Party time!

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