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President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House from Marine One, May 28, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Obama to help millions with overtime policy

06/30/15 09:32AM

In his State of the Union address, President Obama talked quite a bit about economic policies he would prioritize in 2015. Obama talked, for example, about pay equity for women and an overdue increase to the minimum wage.
 
But the president also said, to Democratic applause, "We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they've earned."
 
Six months later, as msnbc's Adam Howard reported overnight, Obama is acting on this commitment.
President Barack Obama plans to propose a huge raise for the American people on Tuesday, a senior administration official confirmed to NBC News on Monday.
 
Politico first reported that the White House will unveil a new overtime rule, which could increase wages for as many as 5 million Americans as soon as next year if implemented.... NBC's Kristin Donnelly reports that, if instituted, the Obama plan would be the most sweeping policy yet undertaken by the president to assist the middle class, and it would constitute the most ambitious intervention in the wage economy in at least a decade.
That's not an exaggeration. In general, though the White House has taken incremental steps where it can, the most meaningful economic measures must be approved by Congress -- and since 2011, congressional progress on the economy simply hasn't been an option.
 
This in turn, has left Obama to tackle modest measures, which amount to tinkering around the edges. On the minimum wage, for example, Republican lawmakers have ruled out the possibility of an increase, so Obama acted unilaterally to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors. It was a step in the right direction, of course, but the number of affected workers was fairly small.
 
This new overtime policy, however, is more significant specifically because it helps far more American workers.
 
So, how would this work? Under the status quo, there's an income threshold for mandatory overtime: $23,660. That's $455 per week. Those making more than that can be classified by employers as "managers" who are exempt from overtime rules.
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul sits in the audience prior to testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on April 15, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Rand Paul and the privatization of marriage

06/30/15 08:52AM

There are a variety of issues in which Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) chooses not to toe the party line, and in theory, marriage equality seems like an issue in which the Kentucky Republican would go his own way. But for the GOP presidential candidate, it gets a little tricky.
 
On the one hand, Paul sees himself as representing the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, which is generally supposed to be forward-thinking on issues like gay rights. But on the other hand, Paul also believes in pandering to social conservatives -- in March he told religious right activists that he not only opposes marriage equality, he also sees the debate itself as evidence of a "moral crisis."
 
So, now that equal marriage rights are the law of the land, what's the GOP senator to do? In a piece for Time magazine yesterday, Paul fleshed out a vision that effectively calls for the privatization of marriage.
Perhaps the time has come to examine whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.
 
Since government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do -- taxed it, regulated it, and now redefined it. It is hard to argue that government's involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right.
 
So now, states such as Alabama are beginning to understand this as they begin to get out of the marriage licensing business altogether. Will others follow?
It's an oddly written piece, endorsing the idea of people entering into private contracts -- presumably, loving couples would hear, "I now pronounce you contractually obligated partners" at their ceremonies -- without marriage licenses. Indeed, as Rand Paul sees it, the generations-old practice of receiving official marriage licenses from state and local governments is itself bad for the institution of marriage.
 
We apparently just didn't notice.
Senator Ted Cruz pauses while speaking during the South Carolina Freedom Summit in Greenville, S.C. on May 9, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Cruz urges officials to ignore Supreme Court ruling

06/30/15 08:00AM

For the last several years, Republicans have complained bitterly about President Obama's respect for the rule of law. Every time the president relies on executive actions to implement his policy agenda, GOP officials -- even at the highest levels -- lash out wildly, accusing Obama of overseeing a lawless, tyrannical presidency.
 
He ignores laws and court rulings he doesn't like, Republicans say. He's shredded the Constitution, the argument goes, en route to creating a dictatorship.
 
Indeed, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has helped lead the charge, telling Fox News last year that Obama has shown a flagrant disregard for the law and democratic norms. "The pattern we've seen under President Obama, disregarding the law, is really one of the most troubling aspects of this presidency," the far-right senator said. "When he disagrees with the law ... he simply refuses to comply with it."
 
The GOP apoplexy has never really made any sense, but as of yesterday, the complaints have taken an ironic twist. Politico reported:
Ted Cruz has some unsolicited advice for the states not specifically named in last week's Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage: Ignore it.
 
"Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it," the Texas Republican told NPR News' Steve Inskeep in an interview published on Monday. Since only suits against the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky were specifically considered in the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which was handed down last Friday, Cruz -- a former Supreme Court clerk -- believes that other states with gay marriage bans need not comply, absent a judicial order.
"[O]n a great many issues, others have largely acquiesced, even if they were not parties to the case," the Republican presidential candidate added during the NPR appearance, "but there's no legal obligation to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgement."
 
It's quite a perspective coming from a politician who whined about President Obama, "When he disagrees with the law ... he simply refuses to comply with it."

Flag fight and other headlines

06/30/15 07:06AM

Majority of South Carolina legislature support taking down Confederate flag. (Charleston Post and Courier)

1 arrested in fight at SC Statehouse over Confederate flag. (AP)

Oklahoma, Florida move quickly to resume lethal injections. (AP)

Christie announces change to NJ gun policy on eve of 2016 kickoff. (NJ.com)

Obama plans to extend overtime to more salaried workers. (Washington Post)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce works globally to fight anti-smoking measures. (New York Times)

Shot escapee spills the beans on who helped in jailbreak. (NBC News)

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Citations for the June 29, 2015 TRMS

06/30/15 01:38AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate
  • Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued the Windsor case two years ago that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act

Tonight's links:

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Welcome Julia Rae!

Welcome Julia Rae!

06/29/15 09:50PM

Rachel Maddow welcomes the brand new, best new thing in the world, Julia Rae, born Friday to the beloved Rachel Maddow Show lighting director, Rachel. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 6.29.15

06/29/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* The high court makes even more news: "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday afternoon to put a hold on court rulings that have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas. Four of the court's conservatives -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito -- dissented."
 
* Greece roils global markets:  "Stocks closed with their biggest losses of the year as investors worry about fallout from Greece's worsening debt crisis. Greece is moving closer to defaulting on its debt and could be forced to abandon the euro currency."
 
* Talks continue: "Seeking to calm a whirlwind of uncertainty that has battered global markets, opened deep fissures in European unity and threatened to push Greece out of the eurozone, European leaders insisted on Monday that a deal was still possible to settle Greece's spiraling debt crisis."
 
* Helpful overview: "So Greece faces a hard choice: it can accept the Troika's demands for further austerity. Or it can defy the Troika, which would likely lead to a default on Greek debt and possibly a Greek exit from the euro. The Greek government is holding a referendum on July 5 to let voters choose between these bad options."
 
* This won't be pretty, either: "Puerto Rico's governor, saying he needs to pull the island out of a 'death spiral,' has concluded that the commonwealth cannot pay its roughly $72 billion in debts, an admission that will probably have wide-reaching financial repercussions."
 
* After 22 days, it's over: "Convicted murderer and escaped inmate David Sweat was shot near the Canadian border Sunday by a New York state police officer, according to authorities."
 
* A case to watch: "On Monday morning, the Supreme Court announced that it will again be taking up a challenge to university affirmative action policies -- in the same case it punted on two years ago. The court will again be hearing the case of Abigail Fisher, a white student denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008."
The dome of the State Capitol is seen as a protestor waves a Confederate flag during the March For Life anti-abortion rally, Jan. 22, 2014, in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

Partisan games with the Confederate flag aren't worth playing

06/29/15 05:09PM

National Review's Deroy Murdock published a piece on Friday about Democrats "creating and owning" the Confederate flag, and frankly, I'm surprised it took the conservative magazine so long. I largely expected a piece along these lines much earlier in the week.
"My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony," Governor Nikki Haley (R., S.C.) said Monday, in the aftermath of the terrorist massacre perpetrated by über-racist Dylann Storm Roof.
 
Haley, a rising Republican star, is correct to lower the Confederate flag. It has reflected Democratic racial oppression since it was stitched together in 1861, and has been hoisted by Democrats ever since. Just as Republicans -- led by President Abraham Lincoln -- valiantly crushed the Democrat-run Confederacy, Republicans proudly should banish the Stars and Bars to private property and history museums. They also should remind Americans that Democrats waved this frightful banner until very recently.
It's an oddly defensive piece given that no one seems to be accusing Republicans of having created the Confederate battle flag. Rather, National Review -- which has its own deeply unfortunate history on matters related to race and civil rights -- seems eager to remind the public that, several generations ago, the Deep South was dominated politically by conservative white Democrats before it was dominated politically by conservative white Republicans.
 
Which is true, though forcing these battles into a contemporary partisan frame is more complicated than the right likes to admit.
 
This tends to come up about once a year, usually when Republicans are in a sensitive position related to race, so I suppose it's time to revisit our once-a-year discussion about the parties, the region, and the transformation that unfolded in the middle of the 20th century. This time, however, let's add a twist to the conversation.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia addresses the Legal Services Corporation's 40th anniversary conference luncheon Sep. 15, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Is it still possible to reach Peak Scalia?

06/29/15 04:13PM

Looking back over the last five days at the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia has voted against health care, against marriage equality, against pollution limits, and for the death penalty. And on a certain level, that's not at all unique -- Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted the exact same way on the exact same cases.
 
But of the three far-right justices, Scalia was the only one whose prose made it seem as if he were auditioning to host a conservative radio talk show.
 
On health care, Scalia was in rare form, rhetorically and intellectually. On the former, he used bizarre phrases such as "interpretive jiggery-pokery" and "pure applesauce." On the latter, the conservative justice ignored his own ACA assessment from three years ago, all the while dismissing legislative history, legislative intent, and context -- at least in this case.
 
Scalia was even more furious a day later on marriage equality, taking gratuitous shots at Justice Anthony Kennedy's writing style, and publishing the curious phrase, "Ask the nearest hippie."
 
Today, on capital punishment, Scalia's side prevailed, but as msnbc's Irin Carmon noted, he decided to complain about marriage equality again, effectively dissenting on same-sex marriage "for a second time."
"Last Friday, this court took away from the people the right to decide on same-sex marriage on the basis of their own policy preferences," he said, taking a shot at Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer for suggesting in their written dissent to the case being announced that the death penalty is unconstitutional.
 
It was, in other words, a dissent to a dissent. "Unlike opposite sex marriage" -- Scalia apparently misspoke and meant same-sex marriage -- "the death penalty is approved by the constitution," the conservative justice said. 
In the same concurring decision -- which Scalia felt the need to read aloud this morning, just because he felt like it -- went after Justice Stephen Breyer's opposition to the death penalty, accusing him of rejecting the entire Enlightenment:
 
For good measure, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick added that while there is no written summary of Scalia's from-the-bench harangue this morning, it "deviated from his written concurrence in some really odd ways," and the whole thing "was very odd."
In this handout provided by The White House, President Barack Obama hosts a working dinner in Laurel Cabin during the G8 Summit on May 18, 2012 at Camp David, Maryland.

Obama earns high marks around the globe

06/29/15 12:56PM

Republicans are heavily invested in the idea that President Obama lacks international respect. There's new evidence that suggests the GOP has it backwards.
 
It was just a few months ago that Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, "We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump reportedly had a chat about "how poorly" the United States is now "perceived throughout the world." Mitt Romney added, "It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office."
 
Actually, it's incredibly easy to name countries that have more respect and admiration for the United States today than when President Obama took office. The Pew Research Center published a report last week on "Global Attitudes & Trends" and found that America's overall image around the world remains quite positive -- and in much of the world, impressions of the U.S. have improved since the end of the Bush/Cheney era.
 
More specifically, though, President Obama is an especially popular figure in many parts of the world.
Half or more in 29 of 40 countries surveyed say they have confidence in President Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Throughout his terms in office, Obama has received particularly strong ratings in Europe and Africa, and that continues to be the case this year. Majorities in every EU and sub-Saharan African nation surveyed give him positive marks. [...]
 
Overall, Obama's image has improved in the last year. In 14 countries of the 36 countries where trends from 2014 are available, more people now say they have confidence in the U.S. president. The largest gain occurred in India, which Obama visited in January. Almost three-in-four Indians express confidence in Obama, up from 48% a year ago. Double digit gains are also found in Ghana (+22 points), Turkey (+21), Nigeria (+20), Uganda (+11) and Brazil (+11).
It's probably time for Republicans to update their talking points.

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