Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

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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No, the New York Times Didn't Change Its "Fuck" Policy

| Mon Aug. 26, 2013 11:29 AM EDT

On Monday, Salon's Laura Miller reported on an almost mythical creature—an actual F-bomb in the pages of the New York Times. According to Miller, the use of the word "fuck," in an excerpt from Jonathan Lethem's new novel Dissident Gardens, constituted the paper of record's "first ever use of the word." As she put it, "With the discretion of a well-bred debutante, the Times has just lost its F-bomb virginity, so to speak." Lethem, reached for comment, told Miller he was "delighted."

But it's not the first time the paper has used "fuck" or one of its variants. The Times' anti-profanity editorial policy is, as Salon has chronicled before, often absurd, leading to the awkward censorship of band names, book titles, and, at least once, the vice president of the United States. But it only applies to nonfiction. A quick search through the paper's archives reveals dozens of instances of F-bombs casually inserted in fiction excerpts. Most of the time those are online-only features that supplement print reviews, but occasionally the word makes its way into the paper itself. And in some extenuating circumstances, such as the publication of the 1998 Starr Report, the paper's news desk has consented to publish the F-word as it appears in quotes.

And there's this, which was excerpted in the September 21, 2003, edition of the Times: "He might even be truly sick, fucked up, in pain, who knew? Your only option was to say dang, white boy, what's your problem? I didn't even touch you. And move on." A few paragraphs later: "Play that fucking music, white boy! Stretching the last two words to a groaning, derisive, Bugs-Bunnyesque whyyyyyyyboy!"

The author? Jonathan Lethem.

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Ask a FISA Court Judge!

| Fri Aug. 23, 2013 4:00 PM EDT

The FISA Court was established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to oversee top-secret surveillance programs. Its opinions are classified, although the Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently released a rare, heavily redacted 2011 ruling striking down an NSA program that collected email data from American citizens and foreign nationals.

It also offers relationship advice.

Dear FISA Court Judge,

A coworker gave me and my husband a $25 certificate to the Cheesecake Factory as a wedding gift. It cost us $400 to feed her and her guest at our reception. Should I send it back and tell her she's rude and cheap? Help, FISA Court Judge! —Dismayed in Des Moines.

FISA Court Judge says:

Dear Dismayed,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             !!

Dear FISA Court Judge,

My husband and I have been married for 20 years but recently we hit a bit of a rough patch. I had an affair with my boss, and my husband missed the birth of our daughter to deliver a $3 million shipment of methamphetamine to a guy he knows from Chile. Also he's dying of cancer. What should I do, FISA Court Judge? —Nervous in New Mexico.

FISA Court Judge says:

Dear Nervous,

I                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 literally                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            .

Dear FISA Court Judge,

Is there such thing as insanity among penguins? I try to avoid a definition of insanity or derangement—I don't mean he or she is Lenin or Napoleon Bonaparte—but could they just go crazy because they've had enough of their colony? You're my only hope, FISA Court Judge! –Musing in Munich.

FISA Court Judge says:

Dear Musing,

                                                                                                                                                                      puffins                                                                                                                       ;                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   I hope that answers your question!

Watch This Video of Louisiana's 24-Acre Sinkhole Swallowing a Grove of Trees

| Thu Aug. 22, 2013 9:51 AM EDT

For the current issue of the magazine (subscribe!) I wrote about the Bayou Corne sinkhole, a swampy, reeking, 24-acre hole in the earth that opened up near the site of an abandoned salt cavern in rural Assumption Parish, Louisiana. After the sinkhole first appeared (at about 1/24th of its current size) last August, Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered the 350 residents of Bayou Corne to evacuate. On August 2, Louisiana sued Texas Brine, the company that mined the salt cavern that experts have identified as the trigger for the sinkhole. Every few weeks the sinkhole burps—this is really the term the geologists use—and somewhere between 20 and 100 barrels of sweet crude bubble up to the surface. Really, it's best explained in the piece.

I saw a lot of strange things in Louisiana, but on Wednesday, Assumption Parish emergency response office, which continuously monitors the sinkhole for burps and seismic activity, released perhaps the strangest video I've seen yet. It's an entire grove of trees simply being swallowed up by the sinkhole—something that was known to happen but no one had managed to capture clearly on camera.

Watch:

NSA Mad Libs: Choose Your Own [Redacted]

| Thu Aug. 22, 2013 5:00 AM EDT

On Wednesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a 2011 FISA Court ruling striking down a top-secret National Security Agency online-surveillance program. The court, whose opinions are normally classified, found that the agency had accessed as many as 56,000 electronic communications (such as emails) from American citizens and foreign nationals over a three-year period by tapping into fiber-optic cables.

The ruling is 86 pages long, but don't expect to read all of it: It's so heavily redacted that large portions of the text look like some sort of cubist Rorschach test. As a result, much of the declassified ruling's contents will still be unknown to the general public.

But don't let that stop you! Below, you can take your best guess at what the redacted opinions should say with our NSA Choose-Your-Own-[Redacted] Mad Libs:

Think the results of your NSA Mad Lib looked crazy? Check out some of the actual redactions on the newly released FISA rulings:

Page 1
The black marker was definitely working on page 1. Behold, a nearly perfect square, redacting the entire opening paragraph.

 

Page 4
Page 4 informs us that something is limited to the "the targeting of non-United States persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States." And that's about it.

 

Page 12
Hoping to find the bibliography information for citation No. 11 on page 12? Fuhgeddaboudit.

 

Page 27
Page 27 might not tell you much about the new provision, but this redaction does kind of resemble an American flag. So at least it's patriotic.

 

Page 58
It appears one lucky word on page 58 was not redacted for a brief, shining moment. But eventually, the black marker won. What do you think that word was? Leave your comments below.

Quick Reads: "The United States of Paranoia" by Jesse Walker

| Wed Aug. 21, 2013 9:17 AM EDT

 

The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory
By Jesse Walker
HARPER

Democrats didn't engineer a malaria outbreak to halt Andrew Johnson's impeachment. Zachary Taylor didn't eat poisoned cherries. Safeway isn't controlled by the Illuminati (so far as we know). Reason editor Jesse Walker doesn't just catalog conjured cabals, but offers his own conspiracy theory, too: that paranoia isn't limited to the fringe—it's everywhere, from post-9/11 foreign policy to liberal backlash against the tea party. Conspiracy theories "are not simply a colorful historical byway," he writes. "They are at the country's core." And the dark and powerful force that penetrates the farthest reaches of society while remaining unknown to most Americans? That's just our psyche.

Thu Oct. 1, 2015 10:23 AM EDT
Thu Aug. 13, 2015 5:00 AM EDT