Chris Mooney

Chris Mooney is a Prospect senior correspondent and, most recently, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatened Our Future (with Sheril Kirshenbaum).

Recent Articles

The Ashcroft Debate:

Watching Ted Kennedy and Pat Leahy tear out John Ashcroft's entrails during his confirmation hearings this week -- he'll survive, damaged -- conservatives are getting desperate. And you can see it in their prose. Covering the second day of the Ashcroft hearings for the National Review Online -- in a piece entitled "Playing the Race Card: The Democrat strategy to label Ashcroft a racist" -- Byron York quotes from an exchange between Ashcroft and Senator Joe Biden: "I want you to understand why people are suspect [sic]," Delaware senator Joeseph Biden said as he grilled Ashcroft about an interview Ashcroft gave to Southern Partisan magazine. "Your ideology blinds you to an equal application of, not just the law, but the facts." Now, if Biden had actually said that -- which might have amounted to at least implying Ashcroft is a racist -- York's article title and whole angle would have had some merit. But now look at how the Boston Globe 's Susan Milligan...

A Few Good Conservatives

Over the pre-Thanksgiving weekend, as their alma maters clashed waspily in the Harvard-Yale game (Yale won) and as the candidates themselves went for highly publicized jogs (Governor Bush is faster), Al Gore and George W. Bush spinners continued their grating arguments for and against manual ballot recounts in Florida. In this battle of repetitiousness, conducted in any media forum available and with virtually interchangeable spokespersons -- bench Jim Baker for Marc Racicot; tag in David Boies when Warren Christopher starts falling asleep -- it's not particularly easy to warm up to either side. Indeed, in this respect, the post-campaign is very much like the campaign itself. But there's an important difference, too. Whereas the election turned on whose plans were best for the country (a matter of interpretation), the Florida recount is about who actually won the most votes (a matter of fact, though difficult to ascertain). And perhaps that's why intellectually...

Standard Shift

U .S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has been getting himself dusty in the law library lately. News organizations reported on July 12 that Ashcroft, a National Rifle Association member, had reversed the Justice Department's long-standing constitutional interpretation of the Second Amendment (which reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"). According to Ashcroft, the amendment protects a robust individual right to bear arms for every American, and not merely a collective right limited to militia service, as federal courts have ruled. This is no mere abstract intellectual dispute: The Justice Department shift could make it easier to bring constitutional challenges against the nation's gun laws. In a May letter to the National Rifle Association, Ashcroft maintained that his individual-rights interpretation "is embraced by the preponderance of legal scholarship on the subject...

Jumping the Gun

The Weekly Standard ran a story in July titled "Taking the Second Amendment Seriously," its cover art showing the weather-stained statue of what looks like a militiaman. The article--actually a thick chunk of legalese by George Mason law professor Nelson Lund--turns out to be the latest conservative gush-fest over an April 1999 federal district court ruling out of northern Texas affirming an individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Thanks to the NRA, most Americans believe the Amendment already confers such a right. But the federal courts have generally only endorsed a "collective" right to bear arms in the context of a state militia, such as the National Guard. Gun rightists hope the Texas case U.S. v. Emerson will ultimately percolate up to the Supreme Court, where it could become a landmark--the gun issue's equivalent of Roe v. Wade . At NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, Lund's article is probably already responsible for overheating several copying machines...

The Real Gun Crisis

It was Sunday morning, Mother's Day. In Washington, D.C., the Clintons were welcoming Million Mom Marchers at the White House before their rally, while near the Washington Monument, the Second Amendment Sisters were beginning to assemble. But in North Michigan, in the town of Menominee near the Wisconsin border, it was also the morning after the local high school's prom, and B.J. Stupak, son of the four-term Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak, had been found dead in his home. The apparently thriving high school junior -- recently elected president of the student council and named to prom court -- had shot himself. As Capitol Hill mourned the tragic death of Stupak's son, Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono decided something had to be done. She sent an open letter to the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre, encouraging the group "to inform parents, teens and all gun owners of the potentially dangerous connection between the access to a gun and suicide." In B.J.'...

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