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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Rick Perry, Please Stop Talking About Big Gulps

| Thu Jul. 18, 2013 9:37 AM EDT

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry has spent much of the last year convincing companies to relocate their businesses to the Lone Star State on the promise of low taxes, few regulations, and tens of millions of dollars in incentives (provided he likes your product). First he targeted Californians, prompting Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to dismiss the ad campaign as a "fart." Then he traveled to Illinois, where one state business leader likened him to a Roman emperor. His newest target is New York:

According to Perry, the state's crimes are plain: "Higher taxes, stifling regulations—bureaucrats telling you whether you can even drink a Big Gulp," he says, referencing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's scuttled regulations on soda serving sizes. And indeed, Texans feel passionately about their Big Gulps. In 2011, the Austin American-Statesman profiled Paul Sunby, an environmental consultant who was raising awareness of what he had concluded was a creeping reduction in the size of super-huge sodas, from 44 oz. to 40.

Perry is not alone when it comes to Republican politicians and Big Gulps. At the Conservative Political Action conference in March, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin drank from a 7-11 Big Gulp from the stage to demonstrate her party's commitment to freedom: "Bloomberg is not around, our Big Gulps are safe. We're cool. Shoot, it's just pop with low-cal ice-cubes in it."

In April, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer posted a Facebook photo of herself sipping a Double Gulp in Manhattan: "After walking around New York City today, I stopped to enjoy a refreshing and extra large Double Gulp from 7 11. Cheers Mayor Mike Bloomberg! #freedom"

Jan Brewer/Facebook

In March Texas Sen. Ted Cruz introduced the "Bloomberg Big Gulp Amendment" to protect the sanctity of super-huge soda. In February, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul reflected on his visit to New York City in an interview with Sean Hannity: "I was more worried about the Big Gulp—it was a 16 ounce drink and afraid your mayor is going to arrest me."

Here's the thing, though: Big Gulps are still perfectly legal. So are regular Gulps, Super Gulps, and Double Big Gulps—which, ironically, are only equivalent to about 1.6 Big Gulps. This is America after all. And they were never banned in the first place, because Bloomberg's restrictions on the size of soft drinks only applied to certain venues, like movie theaters. You could always buy a Big Gulp, provided you were willing to deal with the consequences of consuming one, which is, let's face it, kind of gross. Good God, that's a lot to put your body through just to make a weird political point your staff could have just fact-checked first.

So, invite New Yorkers to move to your state if you want. (Although you might want to deregulate vaginas first.) But for the love of God, stop talking about Big Gulps.

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10 Fun Facts About Wyoming Senate Candidate Liz Cheney

| Tue Jul. 16, 2013 7:09 PM EDT

Liz Cheney is running for Senate. On Tuesday, the former State Department official and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney kicked off her primary challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) with a YouTube video warning that, among other things, President Obama is "working to preemptively disarm America":

Cheney has never run for elected office, but she's no stranger to national politics. Here's a quick primer:

1. She moved to Wyoming last year.

2. She is Darth Vader Dick Cheney's daughter. (Did we mention that?)

3. She thinks the president isn't serious about disarming Al Qaeda. It's a good thing he waited until after he killed Osama bin Laden.

4. Not only that, but she's convinced he's doing this because he actually wants to make America weaker: "The president has so effectively diminished American strength abroad that there is no longer a question of whether this was his intent. He is working to pre-emptively disarm the United States."

5. She thinks it's "libelous" to call waterboarding "torture."

6. Her organization, Keep America Safe, referred to lawyers who advocated for the rights of Guantanamo detainees as the "Al Qaeda Seven" and suggested they sympathized with terrorists:


8. She fought the construction of the Park 51 Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, arguing that it would be a victory for terrorists:

9. She defended birthers by explaining that "people are fundamentally uncomfortable and fundamentally I think increasingly uncomfortable with an American president who seems to be afraid to defend America, stand up for what we believe in."

10. She supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. No really.

Wyoming, a state with two working escalators, has two senators in Washington due to the infallibility of the Founding Fathers. The official state dinosaur is the triceratops. In February 2012, legislators in Cheyenne briefly considered building an aircraft carrier to prepare for a societal collapse.

This Man Has an IQ of 70. Will Georgia Execute Him Tonight? (Update: No)

| Mon Jul. 15, 2013 2:13 PM EDT

Update: A Fulton County judge has stayed Hill's execution, pending a hearing on Thursday.

At 7 p.m. EST on Monday, Georgia is set to execute Warren Hill, who has been on death row since 1989 for murdering his cellmate with a wooden board. (Hill had, at the time, been serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend.) That in itself isn't especially unusual, except that according to every expert who has examined him, Hill is mentally disabled—and states are prohibited from executing mentally disabled individuals under a 2002 Supreme Court decision.

At this point, no one seems to dispute that Hill meets even the state's high standard for proving he's mentally handicapped. But Georgia contends—and in April, a federal appeals court agreed—that his mental capacities are irrelevant, because he is procedurally barred from making that case. That is, even though there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Hill is unfit for execution, Georgia is going ahead with the lethal injection anyway, on a technicality; he's all out of options.

But there's another wrinkle. In February, a state court granted a stay of execution for Hill due to questions about the legality of the state's lethal injection cocktail. The difficulty in acquiring new lethal injection cocktails is such that in February, Georgia sought to expedite the executions of its 94 death row inmates before its cocktails reached their March 1 expiration date. So in May, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed the Lethal Injection Secrecy Act, which classifies the state's execution drug cocktail as a "state secret," and therefore immune from judicial oversight:

The identifying information of any person or entity who participates in or administers the execution of a death sentence and the identifying information of any person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies, or medical equipment utilized in the execution of a death sentence shall be confidential and shall not be subject to disclosure under Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50 or under judicial process. Such information shall be classified as a confidential state secret.

Under the new law, judges—or anyone else, really—are prohibited from finding out what drugs are actually being used to execute death row inmates, and where those drugs are coming from. (In Oklahoma, for instance, lawyers have successfully blocked executions that make use of new, more experimental drugs.) Because the cocktail is unknown, it is impossible to know whether such an execution process would square with other Constitutional tenets, such as the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Hill's last best hope now is the US Supreme Court, which had previously announced it would conference on the case in September. But that's only pushed Georgia to speed up its own deadline. The law went into effect on July 1. On July 3, Georgia set the new execution date for Hill. We'll keep you updated.

Rick Perry's New Quest: Middle East Peace

| Fri Jul. 12, 2013 10:16 AM EDT

On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that he won't run for re-election for a third time. That leaves the former presidential candidate with a little bit of free time on his hands, and now, by way of an interview with the Washington Times, we know he plans to spend it: international conflict resolution.

"We will be going to Israel to bring together Arabs, Christians and Jews in an educational forum," Mr. Perry told The Washington Times in an interview just three days after he announced he would not seek an unprecedented fourth term as Texas governor.

Most Christians living in the Middle East are Arabs. The people Perry should be inviting are called Muslims. Then again, counting to three has never really been his forte.

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