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Thousands of Muslims gather at the Turkish American Cultural Center Mosque to observe Eid al-Fitr during the holy month of Ramadan in Lanham, Md., July 17, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

This Week in God, 11.28.15

11/28/15 08:55AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at some unsettling developments in Irving, Texas, where an anti-Muslim social-media post is raising serious concerns about the intentions of local right-wing activists.
Irving, a Dallas suburb, recently made international headlines when a local Muslim high-school student was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school. Now, however, an even more striking incident has put the community back in the spotlight. TPM noted this week:
The leader of a group of armed anti-Muslim protesters in Texas posted the addresses of dozens of local Muslims and "Muslim sympathizer(s)" to Facebook on Tuesday.
David Wright III was behind an armed protest Saturday outside of a mosque in Irving, Texas by a group calling itself the "Bureau on American Islamic Relations," according to The Dallas Morning News.
Wright prefaced the list of addresses, which appeared to be copied over from a city document, by writing that those named "stood up for Sharia tribunals."
To the extent that reality matters, none of the listed individuals "stood up for Sharia tribunals."
It wasn’t altogether clear what the unofficial "Bureau on American Islamic Relations" and its allies intended to do with the list, though a dozen or so members of the group held an armed protest against the “Islamization of America” outside the Irving Islamic Center last weekend.
The Dallas Morning News reported on Thanksgiving, however, that the list of “Muslim names and addresses has been removed from the armed group’s page, and BAIR spokesman David Wright’s personal Facebook page is either down or blocked.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings talked to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes this week and denounced the "Bureau on American Islamic Relations" effort. “We have got a great Muslim community, have met with many imams and really the whole faith-based community is lifting our Muslim brothers and sisters up in this time,” the mayor said. Rawlings added that the right-wing activists are “out there in the fringe” and just “a blip on the screen.”
A counter-rally in support of respect and diversity is scheduled for today.
Also from the God Machine this week:
The National Thanksgiving Turkey walks in the Rose Garden before being pardoned by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, November 25, 2015.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

11/26/15 08:00AM

Happy Thanksgiving from MaddowBlog. We're grateful for your support and hope you enjoy the holiday.
In terms of the schedule, we're off today and tomorrow, though I'll be around in the event there's important breaking news. For "This Week in God" readers, note that I fully intend to have a new installment on Saturday morning.

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.25.15

11/25/15 05:30PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Keeping a level head: "President Obama tried to reassure nervous Americans on Wednesday that the nation’s security services were ready for anything terrorists might throw at them. Speaking on the eve of Thanksgiving, Obama said law enforcement officials have received no credible reports of 'a plot on the homeland' like the horrific Nov. 13 massacre in Paris."
* Turkey's version of events is under scrutiny: "Russia's foreign minister called the shooting down of one of its warplanes a planned provocation Wednesday but said Moscow was not going to declare war over the incident. Sergey Lavrov said Russia has 'serious doubts' that Turkey's downing of the plane was 'an unplanned act.'"
* Waiting for the signing statement in response to a flawed bill: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a $607 billion defense policy bill despite his opposition to restrictions in the legislation that ban him from moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States and making good on a long unfulfilled campaign promise."
* Related news: "Fourteen peace activists from across the United States will begin a protest vigil and fast along the perimeter fence of the US military detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday in an attempt to draw attention to what they consider to be ongoing human rights abuses at the prison."
* Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, a "white 14-year veteran of Chicago’s police force, has been accused of misconduct 17 times before, according to data from the University of Chicago and the journalism non-profit Invisible Institute."
* Better understanding a tragedy: "A U.S. warplane attacked a medical charity's hospital in Afghanistan last month after its crew mistook it for a nearby government compound taken over by the Taliban in a 'tragic mistake,' a U.S. official said Wednesday."
An inmate stands by his cell door. (Photo by Danny Johnston/AP)

A major hurdle imperils criminal-justice reform

11/25/15 04:26PM

Over the course of a few days in July, President Obama (1) commuted the sentences of dozens of non-violent drug offenders; (2) delivered a striking address at the NAACP’s annual convention on the need for criminal-injustice reform; and (3) became the first sitting president to personally visit a federal prison, even meeting with a group of non-violent convicts. Obama was putting criminal-justice issues in the national spotlight in ways few presidents ever have.
And in general, his Republican critics said very little in response. As we discussed at the time, it used to be any Democratic talk about criminal-injustice reforms would be met with immediate, knee-jerk talking points about “soft-on-crime” liberals who want to “coddle” criminals, but now, GOP leaders are "absolutely" on board with major, bipartisan reforms.
Proponents of change have been cautiously optimistic, recognizing that the pieces are in place. But the New York Times reports today that legislators have run into some trouble.
[A]s Congress works to turn those goals into legislation, that joint effort is facing its most significant test -- over a House bill that Koch Industries says would make the criminal justice system fairer, but that the Justice Department says would make it significantly harder to prosecute corporate polluters, producers of tainted food and other white-collar criminals.
The tension among the unlikely allies emerged over the last week as the House Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support, approved a package of bills intended to simplify the criminal code and reduce unnecessarily severe sentences.
That may sound uncontroversial, but as the Times report added, some environmentalists are concerned "the real motive of Charles Koch ... in supporting the legislation is to block federal regulators from pursuing potential criminal actions against his family’s network of industrial and energy companies, a charge the company denies."
A Justice Department spokesperson added, “Countless defendants who caused harm would escape criminal liability by arguing that they did not know their conduct was illegal.”
If this measure is so problematic, why not remove it from the larger package of reforms? If only it were that simple.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks in Davenport, Iowa, Nov. 11, 2015. (Photo by Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Rubio not done fighting against marriage equality

11/25/15 12:51PM

For a presidential candidate who's often preoccupied with his youth and reputation for looking forward, Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) policy vision can be strikingly regressive.
Marriage equality, for example, is already the law of the land in the United States, but Right Wing Watch flagged Rubio's new interview with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, where the senator made clear he's not done fighting against equal marriage rights, calling the status quo "current law," but "not settled law."
"If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called on to participate in that process to try to change it -- not ignoring it, but trying to change the law.
"And that's what we’re endeavoring to do here. I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman."
For most of the country, there's a realization that there is no credible proposal to turn back the clock. Rubio didn't elaborate on how, exactly, he wants to "change the law" to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, and if he tried, he'd likely fail.
But the key here is understanding just how far the Florida senator is willing to go with the culture war. For Rubio, it's still not too late to bring back discriminatory marriage laws.
And then, of course, there are reproductive rights, where Rubio still intends to be the most far-right major-party presidential nominee of the modern era.