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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Scott Walker Joins the Common Core Wars

| Tue Jan. 28, 2014 12:35 PM PST

Among the prospective field of Republican presidential candidates, few issues are as divisive as Common Core, the national educational standards that have been adopted by 45 states. Those in favor: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Those opposed: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. As I explained last year, some conservative activists like Glenn Beck have come to view Common Core as a Trojan horse for President Barack Obama's globalist dystopian agenda. Given the tea party automatic backlash to all things Obama, right-leaning education reformers who think Common Core is a good idea have gone so far as to ask Obama not to mention the program in his Tuesday State of the Union Address.

Now, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, widely seen as a 2016 presidential contender, has made his move—he'd like to have it both ways. Per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

In a speech at the State Education Convention in Milwaukee, Walker said he is working on legislation that would create a commission, chaired by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, to revisit the Common Core standards, which he said weren't high enough and were being dictated by people who weren't from Wisconsin.

"We embrace high standards in the state of Wisconsin," Walker said. "There's got to be a way for us to put our fingerprints on it.

Walker's position reflects the unsettled nature of Common Core opposition. Despite months of fighting from conservative groups (including the John Birch Society), support for the curriculum standards remains relatively high in Wisconsin. According to a new poll from Marquette University, 50 percent of Wisconsin voters approve of Common Core, with just 34 percent opposing.

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GOP Congressman Blasts Proposal for Muslim Cemetery

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 4:08 PM PST

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) is "deeply concerned" about a newly approved plan to build a cemetery for Muslim residents of the central Tennessee city of Murfreesboro. Desjarlais, a doctor who won his seat in 2010 in part because of his outspoken opposition to abortion rights, is best-known nationally for the 2012 revelation that he had urged one of his patients to get an abortion after he impregnated her. He expressed his anxiety about the cemetery project in a post on his Facebook page Friday afternoon. The comment was first noted by the Nashville Scene.

"Unfortunately the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, passed by the TN General Assembly, may have played a key role in allowing this cemetery to be approved," DesJarlais wrote. "There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis."

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which is building the cemetery, has been a lightning rod for criticism from religious conservatives (including GOP Rep. Diane Black, who represents Murfreesboro), who have accused its members of plotting a stealth jihad against fellow American citizens. In 2010, opponents of a mosque expansion project filed a lawsuit to block it, arguing that the Islamic center was not protected by the First Amendment because Islam is not a real religion. According to the plaintiff's lawyer, the Islamic center would by default promote spousal abuse and pedophilia, which he considered to be core tenets of Islam. The building site was damaged by arson in 2010 before finally opening two years ago.

Have You Seen This Man?

| Fri Jan. 24, 2014 9:27 AM PST

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), whom I profiled last year, has missed 17 consecutive votes and hasn't made any public appearances since returning from Egypt earlier this month. (He is still tweeting.)

If you've seen him, shoot us a note.

Our guess: He's finding the truth about Benghazi.

Indiana Pulling Out All the Stops to Block Gay Marriage

| Thu Jan. 23, 2014 8:03 AM PST

Indiana already passed legislation banning same-sex marriage years ago, but now, just to be sure, state Republicans are frantically scrambling to do it again. On Wednesday, a House committee on elections approved a measure to put a referendum on banning marriage equality on the November ballot. But there's a catch: it took two tries.

Much of the testimony was a repeat of that given during a previous three-hour hearing on Jan. 13 before the House Judiciary Committee. The amendment stalled in that committee because there apparently were not enough votes to move the amendments to the full House.

That prompted House Speaker Brian Bosma to take the unusual and controversial step of reassigning the amendment and a companion bill to the elections committee, saying he was responding to the wishes of a majority of the GOP caucus.

In other words, Indiana's Republican leaders are so dead set on banning gay marriage they upended the traditional process for putting initiatives on the ballot. But the real news is that they needed a workaround at all. Marriage equality, even in Indiana, is a popular enough position in 2014—and guaranteed to be increasingly more popular going forward—that even some staunch Republican legislators were wary of casting the crucial vote to slow its progress. With even places like Utah beginning to soften their attitudes on gay rights, though, the effort in Indianapolis looks less like the decisive victory its proponents are gunning for and more like an ever-so-temporary stop-gap solution.

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