Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. 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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Pope Francis I is Really, Really Opposed to Gay Adoption

| Wed Mar. 13, 2013 4:36 PM EDT

We have a winner. On Wednesday, about an hour after white smoke emerged from the Sistine Chapel, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was formally announced as the new head of the Catholic Church, replacing the recently retired Pope Benedict XVI.

So what does it mean for the Church? We have no idea—we don't write for the National Catholic Reporter. But John Allen Jr., who does, has a pretty useful quick guide to Bergoglio that is worth checking out. This part stood out:

Bergoglio is seen an unwaveringly orthodox on matters of sexual morality, staunchly opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. In 2010 he asserted that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children, earning a public rebuke from Argentina's President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Bergoglio was considered a top candidate for the job the last time there was a conclave, in 2005, when he was subjected to this bit of last-minute research. Here's the Associated Press press reported it:

Just days before Roman Catholic cardinals begin meetings to select a new pope, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against an Argentine mentioned as a possible contender, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's spokesman on Saturday called the allegation "old slander."

The complaint filed in a Buenos Aires court Friday accused Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, of involvement in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests by the military dictatorship, according to the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin.

The bar for Worst Pope Ever is pretty high; here's hoping Pope Francis I comes nowhere near it.

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Study: Blacks Twice as Likely as Whites to Get Death Penalty in This Texas County

| Wed Mar. 13, 2013 12:39 PM EDT

In September of 2011, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Texas death row inmate Duane Buck, who was given a death sentence in 1997 for the murder of an ex-girlfriend and a male acquaintance. The reason: Buck's race (he's black) was cited by a psychologist—whose testimony was in turn cited by the prosecutor—as evidence that he may pose a threat to other inmates should he be sentenced to life in prison. Texas' Republican attorney general in 2002, now-Sen. John Cornyn, recommended that Buck and six other inmates in similar situations be tried again; Buck is the only one who hasn't. Buck's case has since returned to the state courts, and his attorneys are still appealing for a re-trial. (No one disputes his actual guilt.)

On Wednesday, Buck's attorneys released a new report from University of Maryland criminology professor Ray Paternoster examining the impact race played on sentencing in Harris County (which includes Houston, where Buck was tried) from 1992 to 1999. Paternoster examined 504 cases. The takeaway:

The probability that the district attorney will advance a case to a penalty trial is more than three times as high when the defendant is African-American than for white defendants (this includes Mr. Buck’s case). This disparity by race of the defendant, moreover, cannot be attributed to observed case characteristics because these cases are those that were most comparable in terms of the estimated propensity score.

This racial disparity is only partially corrected at the jury sentencing stage...Ultimately, among this group of comparable cases a death sentence was twice as likely to be imposed on an African American defendant as a white defendant.

You can read his full report here:


The race of the perpetrator isn't the only variable likely to influence sentencing decisions. According to Amnesty International, "the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim."

GOP Congressman Still Wants to Ban "Obamaphones"

| Tue Mar. 12, 2013 12:55 PM EDT

You're the racist for thinking this is racist.

The low point of the 2012 presidential election may have come on September 27th, when Matt Drudge linked to a YouTube video of a somewhat-crazy-sounding black woman from Ohio explaining that she was voting for President Obama because he gave her a free phone. The conservative blogosphere (and conservative cable news, and conservative syndicated columnists, and conservative talk radio) blew up.

The shocking truth: Obama hadn't really given the woman a free phone. It was a product of a Reagan-era program called "Lifeline," which grants a subsidy to phone service providers in order to ensure that the very poor—those at 135 percent of the poverty line or below—have some way of dialing out in case of emergencies. Under President George W. Bush, that service expanded to cell phones.

But Congress being today's Congress, there's now a push to deep-six the Lifeline program. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), who introduced a bill in 2012 to scale back the program, announced some progress on Tuesday:

As Griffin explains on his congressional website, "[D]ead people are receiving free cell phones in the mail, eligible and ineligible individuals are obtaining more than one, and electronic kiosks have been stationed in convenience stores to spread the word about this 'free' opportunity." To some extent, he has a point; there was a lot of fraud and abuse within the Lifeline program. But as Factcheck.org noted last year, Griffin ignored the fact that the feds were already reining in the Lifeline program—and the phone companies that exploited it:

The FCC, however, overhauled the program in February, enacting changes that call for building databases to confirm beneficiaries’ eligibility and to identify duplicate subscriptions. The FCC also slashed 75 percent of available subsidies for the program, which eliminated a "perverse" incentive for some phone companies to enroll ineligible persons. The FCC projects its modifications will save up to $2 billion over three years.

So: Obama isn't giving everyone free phones. The FCC is already fixing the program. A viral right-wing meme is wrong—stop me if that sounds familiar.

A Majority of Young Republicans Support Gay Marriage

| Fri Mar. 8, 2013 1:09 PM EST

Supporters of gay marriage may not be welcome at CPAC, but they're making huge strides everywhere else. On Thursday, Jan van Lohuizen and Joel Benenson, top campaign pollsters respectively for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, released a new study on attitudes toward marriage equality, based on 2012 exit poll data. The short of it: Even young Republicans think conservatives are fighting a losing battle.

While 53 percent of eligible voters support marriage equality, 83 percent believe same-sex marriage will be legal nationwide within five to 10 years. And for the first time, a majority of Republicans under the age of 30 support marriage equality at the state level. (Fifty-one percent do.) According to Benenson and Lohuizen, the only major demographic that still opposes same-sex marriage is white, evangelical Christians.

The study, commissioned by the pro-marriage equality group Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, didn't get around to asking eligible voters about their attitudes toward sushi, but we think we have a pretty good idea where they fall:


Texas Rep. Wants a George W. Bush National Park

| Thu Mar. 7, 2013 11:37 AM EST
Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush commemorate the opening of the George W. Bush Childhood Home museum.

President George W. Bush gutted environmental standards, ignored the threat of climate change, and presided over a scandal-plagued Department of the Interior*—making him a natural choice to be the central focus of America's next national park.

According to the Abilene (Texas) Reporter News, that's exactly GOP Rep. Mike Conaway wants. Conaway, a former business partner of Bush who represents the former president's hometown of Midland, secured a $25,000 federal grant for a "reconnaissance survey" of Bush's childhood home earlier this year:

The reconnaissance survey "will merely examine whether the site is worthy of inclusion," Conaway said Monday in a statement.

Conaway of Midland requested the study "on behalf of proud Texans who wish to see the home of two American presidents elevated to national status and become part of the National Park System" in an Aug. 27 letter to now outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

It's not as ridiculous as it sounds. President Bill Clinton's childhood home in Hope, Ark. was officially dedicated as a national park in 2011. Even James Buchanan, who is held in even worse esteem among historians than Bush, has a place of honor in Lancaster, Penn. And Bush's home in Midland has already been converted into a private museum. The museum is currently looking for someone to donate a vintage washing machine, and even has an online store which sells marbles, for some reason:

George W. Bush Childhood Home

In that light, the George W. Bush National Park is probably inevitable. But look on the bright side: This would be the perfect place to display those paintings.

*In fairness, this describes the Department of the Interior for most of its existence.

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