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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Lil Warlord: Torturous Rap

| Mon Feb. 8, 2010 3:33 PM EST

It's been a rough 13 months for Charles Taylor Jr. In January 2008, a federal judge in Miami sentenced "Chuckie," the Boston-born son of former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, to 97 years in prison for his role as an enforcer during his father's reign of terror in the 1990s and early 2000s. (It was the first-ever conviction under the federal government’s anti-torture statute.) This past Friday, another judge ordered Chuckie to pay five of his victims a total of $22 million in damages; the victims testified that they had been tormented with electric shocks to their genitalia, raped at gunpoint, and scalded with molten plastic, to name a few of the alleged atrocities. And with Junior's father on trial in The Hague for war crimes, things aren't looking so good for the family.

But Chuckie may envision a silver lining: He's now free to work full time on his rap career. As Rolling Stone reported in a 2008 profile, "After he fled the collapse of his father's dictatorship in Liberia, Taylor recorded approximately 20 tracks at a studio called Eclipse Audio in Trinidad." He sent the magazine one of those tracks, "Angel," which you can listen to here (halfway down).

It's more than a little awkward listening to a love song performed by a thug who makes Cam'ron look downright angelic. But if it's any consolation, Taylor is no N.W.A. You can look for "Angel" and other Taylor tracks in the bargain bin, if they make it that far.

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Udall Talks Senate Reform

| Fri Feb. 5, 2010 8:47 PM EST

Sen. Tom Udall, a freshman Democrat from New Mexico, has raised some eyebrows with a resolution (pdf) to adopt a new set of rules (and possibly scrap the filibuster) at the start of the 112th Congress.  I spoke with the Senator yesterday about the prospects for reform and what specifically he hoped to accomplish. Among the main points:

 

  • History repeating? Udall, whose "constitutional option" bears the same name as the failed Republican reform in 2005, doesn't believe the Democratic efforts have much in common with  GOP's failed attempt to abolish the filibuster.
  • Will it catch on? Despite low recognition among the general public, Udall believes the reforms will be a winner with his constituents.
  • Don't expect much bombthrowing: Udall expects procedural reform to be a bi-partisan issue, but did not want to get "stuck in the weeds" discussing specific changes.

 

You can read the full piece here.

 

What's the Matter With Massachusetts?

| Thu Feb. 4, 2010 4:48 PM EST

Since President Obama first broached the subject of immigration reform last summer—and devoted a whopping 39 words to the subject during last Wednesday's State of the Union—there's been a bit of discussion as to whether any comprehensive reforms will get the green light this year. There have been some signs of action: The US Conference of Catholic Bishops began organizing in January to push for reforms, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) has introduced reform legislation in the House. But given the myriad problems Democrats face right now, it's difficult to imagine anything getting passed in the near future. Immigration is always next year's problem, anyway.

To get a sense of how bearish elected officials have become on the topic, just look to Massachusetts. Yesterday Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick all but conceded defeat on his state’s version of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates. Anti-immigrant backlash and calls to focus on jobs have swamped the proposal—not too surprising when you consider that stuff like this passes for intelligent debate.

Secession Gaining Traction in GOP?

| Wed Feb. 3, 2010 9:30 PM EST

In a hypothetical general election matchup in the Texas gubernatorial race, Republican activist Debra Medina leads Houston mayor Bill White, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by three points, 41-38, according to a Rasumussen survey released yesterday. This wouldn't mean all that much, considering that Medina currently trails Gov. Rick Perry by 28 points with just one month to go until the primaryexcept for one thing: Medina has touted, as a central issue of her campaign, the supremacy of state sovereignty under the 10th amendment. Last summer, Medina headlined a pro-secession rally at the Texas capitol, where she told the assembled crowd: "We are aware that stepping off into secession may, in fact, be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots." (Medina was forced to watch a clip of those comments at the final gubernatorial debate, which was awkward.)

According to a Daily Kos/ Research 2000 poll released earlier this week, though, Medina's views, while in the minority, resonate with a sizable chunk of the Republican electorate. Twenty-three percent of self-identified Republicans answered in the affirmative to the question "Do You Believe Your State Should Secede From the United States?" Another 19 percent weren't sure. (Also of note: 8 percent of respondents would be in favor of allowing openly gay teachers to teach in public schools. So at least they're tolerant.) In the GOP's defense, the poll questions read like an attempt to bait respondents into taking incendiary views; and "self-identified Republicans" is a more narrowly defined group than actual "Republican voters." But those numbers are pretty grim any way you spin them.

 

Even the mild-mannered dairy farmers of Vermont seem to have gotten into the secession actionas a recent Time article noted, the Vermont secession movement is supporting nine candidates for statewide office this November.

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