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In this Jan. 10, 2012 file photo, Rep. Sheila Butt, lower right, listens as Gov. Bill Haslam talks in Nashville, Tenn. The Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus said Butt should apologize for a Facebook post they say is racist. (Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP)

A step backwards for diversity in Tennessee

03/06/15 10:46AM

Tennessee's Republican-led legislature this week took up funding for the state's Economic Council on Women, created nearly 20 years ago. It didn't go well.
 
State Sen. Mike Bell, the Republican chairman of Tennessee's Government Operations Committee, asked the council's executive director this week, "[W]ith women making up 51 percent of the population of the state, why don't we have a men's economic council?" He added, after mentioning a variety of other groups, "If you're going to do an economic council, why not have it cover everybody?"
 
The committee soon after voted not to fund the state Economic Council on Women going forward.
 
As disappointing as this was for many, it arguably wasn't the most offensive recent development out of the Tennessee legislature. This was.
The Tennessee Legislature's Black Caucus is calling on state Rep. Sheila Butt to apologize and be dismissed from her leadership role for what members are calling a racist remark on her Facebook page in which she allegedly advocated for creating an NAAWP, an acronym for the National Association for the Advancement of White People.
 
Butt, a Republican floor leader, reportedly posted: "It is time for a Council on Christian Relations and an NAAWP in this Country," according to The Associated Press. She allegedly wrote the entry in January, but it resurfaced this week before being deleted.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R), pictured above alongside Butt, has criticized the member of the Tennessee House GOP leadership, but said he'd leave it to her to determine whether or not to apologize.
 
That seems unlikely at this point. Butt has said she was recommending a National Association for the Advancement of Western People, not White People. Yesterday, the Republican state lawmaker added that she's offended by others feeling offended.
A dusk view of the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Route 80 crosses the Alabama River on March 5, 2015 in Selma, Alabama.

The GOP's noticeable absences in Selma

03/06/15 10:08AM

A wide variety of American political leaders will be Selma tomorrow to honor the 50th anniversary of the events at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Among the attendees will be President Obama and former President George W. Bush.
 
Politico reports, however, that the Republican congressional leadership will not be on hand for the event.
Scores of U.S. lawmakers are converging on tiny Selma, Alabama, for a large commemoration of a civil rights anniversary. But their ranks don't include a single member of House Republican leadership -- a point that isn't lost on congressional black leaders.
 
None of the top leaders -- House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was once thought likely to attend to atone for reports that he once spoke before a white supremacist group -- will be in Selma for the three-day event that commemorates the 1965 march and the violence that protesters faced at the hands of white police officers.
It's not just the House GOP -- Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is also skipping the event.
 
In fairness, it's important to note that, as of yesterday, 23 congressional Republicans have said they'll be in Selma for tomorrow's ceremony, so it'd be an obvious overstatement to suggest a complete GOP no-show. But the Republican leadership -- all of which was invited to attend -- plays a unique role in representing the party overall. And yet, these leaders declined.
 
It's reminiscent of August 2013, when a massive rally was held at the Lincoln Memorial, honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Organizers encouraged the congressional Republican leadership to participate in the event, but GOP leaders declined those invitations, too.
Loretta Lynch is sworn in during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 28, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Loretta Lynch nomination lingers for no reason

03/06/15 09:27AM

Loretta Lynch was nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney General 118 days ago. Over the last several decades, no A.G. nominee has had to wait this long for a confirmation vote. And yet, here we are, wondering why the Senate's Republican leadership still won't allow members to vote up or down on Lynch's nomination.
 
It's tough to defend, and just as important, it's evidence of a Senate that's failing at some rudimentary tasks.
 
Specifically on Lynch, the Democratic minority yesterday made clear how absurd it is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't bring her nomination to the floor.
Senate Democrats on Thursday intensified their push for a vote on the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general, arguing that her nomination should not be held up because Republicans are angry with President Obama over executive action on immigration.
 
"The delay is wrong and it is irresponsible," Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said during a conference call with reporters. "She should be judged on her merits and not used as a pawn in a proxy fight over the president's immigration policies."
It's tough to disagree. Lynch sailed through her confirmation hearings; she's already received the Judiciary Committee's bipartisan backing; and by all appearances, she has the votes needed to clear the Senate and get to work.
 
And yet, McConnell waits. When Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was advanced at the committee level, his nomination was on the Senate floor two days later, and he was confirmed easily. Lynch was nominated before Carter, she cleared committee last week, and yet the whole process is being slow-walked for reasons the GOP has struggled to explain.
 
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told the New York Times, "[O]n the anniversary of Selma, [Lynch] is being told, just be patient and wait your turn. That's wrong and beneath the Senate."
 
The problem arguably extends beyond Lynch.

Jobs boom continues, unemployment falls

03/06/15 08:47AM

By most projections, economists expected U.S. job growth in February to cool a bit, slipping from its fast pace in recent months. Fortunately, the projections were wrong -- a proper jobs boom is underway.
 
The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 295,000 jobs in February. The overall unemployment rate dropped 5.7% to 5.5%, reaching its lowest level since May 2008 -- nearly seven years ago.
 
In terms of the recent revisions, the picture looks largely unchanged. December's totals held steady at 329,000 jobs, while January's picture was revised down slightly, from 257,000 to 239,000.
 
All told, the U.S. has added an amazing 3.3 million jobs over the last 12 months. In fact, we've had 12 consecutive months of job growth over 200,000 -- the first time Americans have seen this since 1984, more three decades ago.
 
What's more, February was the 53rd consecutive month of positive job growth -- the best stretch since 1939 -- and the 58th consecutive month in which we've seen private-sector job growth, which is the longest on record.
Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly

The NRA's latest bad idea: taunting Gabrielle Giffords

03/06/15 08:00AM

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), nearly killed by a deranged assassin in 2011, was back on Capitol Hill this week, encouraging lawmakers to approve expanded background checks. And while opposition from the National Rifle Association comes as no surprise, the far-right group raised eyebrows with a rhetorical shot at Giffords directly.
Hitting a new low in its bullying barrage against gun laws, the National Rifle Association on Thursday targeted Gabrielle Giffords in an attack mocking her 2011 shooting.
 
"Gabby Giffords: Everyone Should Have to Pass Background Check My Attacker Passed," the NRA tweeted from its main account.
 
The tweet -- which one lawmaker called "pathetic" -- aimed to argue that background checks don't reduce gun violence and linked to an article on the right-wing Breitbart website.
The Breitbart article that the NRA promoted  noted, accurately, that the gunman responsible for the 2011 massacre in Tucson passed a background check, as did several other notorious killers. As best as I can tell, the Breitbart article is accurate.
 
That said, both the article and the NRA seem to be badly missing the point.
Fiery explosion as another oil train derails

Fiery explosion as another oil train derails

03/05/15 11:22PM

Mark Stevens, KWQC-TV investigative reporter, talks with Rachel Maddow about a still-burning oil train explosion in Illinois, on a day that included miles of cars stranded in the snow in Kentucky and a plane sliding off the runway in New York City. watch

Decryptomaddowlogical #112

03/05/15 07:50PM

In last night's segment about New Jersey's surprising settlement with ExxonMobil in a pollution case, Rachel also mentioned that Governor Chris Christie's proposed budget for next year cuts snow removal funding in half. Unfortunately for Christie, he doesn't get a vote on how much snow falls on his state next year. The citizens don't have much say in a ...

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 3.5.15

03/05/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* South Korea: "U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Mark Lippert was attacked in Seoul on Thursday morning local time in an encounter that left him bleeding heavily. He is in stable condition after being treated at a local hospital.... The assailant was wielding a razor and shouted 'South and North Korea should be reunified,' the Associated Press reported."
 
* Yet another ISIS tragedy: "Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities says Islamic State militants 'bulldozed' the Nimrud archaeological site near the northern city of Mosul using heavy military vehicles."
 
* Baghdad: "Insurgents unleashed a series of attacks mostly targeting civilian areas in and around the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing at least 16, as Islamic State militants in the country's north set oil wells ablaze in an attempt to slow government forces battling to reclaim territory."
 
* Quite a story out of Argentina: "The ex-wife of a prosecutor whose mysterious death has rocked Argentina said a team of experts she hired has concluded that her former husband was killed. Sandra Arroyo Salgado said Thursday in a press conference that her husband 'was a victim of homicide, without any doubt.'"
 
* More from New Jersey on tonight's show: "The administration of Gov. Chris Christie offered details for the first time on Thursday about its settlement of a longstanding legal battle with Exxon Mobil Corporation over contamination in which the company agreed to pay a fraction of the damages that the State of New Jersey was seeking."
 
* That's pretty amazing, actually: "Unemployment fell in every state and the nation's capital last year -- something that hadn't happened since 1984."
 
* Strange bedfellows: "At a time when President Obama is under political pressure from congressional Republicans over negotiations to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions, a startling paradox has emerged: Mr. Obama is becoming increasingly dependent on Iranian fighters as he tries to contain the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria without committing American ground troops."
Kris Kobach

Kansas' Kobach breaks new anti-Obama ground

03/05/15 04:28PM

In recent years, we've all heard some pretty outrageous allegations surrounding President Obama, and we've all heard Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) throw around some pretty ridiculous rhetoric.
 
But Right Wing Watch catches the two phenomena coming together in one bizarre story.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the chief architects of the anti-immigrant movement's legal and legislative strategies, told a caller to his weekly radio program last week that while he thought it was "unlikely," it would not be a "huge jump" to predict that the Obama administration could call an end to the prosecutions of African Americans for any crime.
 
Claiming that "it's already happened more or less in the case of civil rights laws," Kobach told listeners that "I've learned to say with this president, never say never."
It really is as bad as it sounds. Kobach fielded a call from a listener to his radio show, who raised the specter of the president announcing that no African American would be prosecuted for any crime. "We've already seen it from Eric Holder in his failure to prosecute the Black Panthers," the caller said, probably referring to the New Black Panthers and the ridiculous Fox-inspired conspiracy theory.
 
Obviously, Kobach isn't responsible for comments raised by those who call into his show. But Kansas' Secretary of State, a notorious national figure for his anti-immigration and voter-suppression efforts, is responsible for how he responded to this caller's concerns.

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