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Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, campaigns at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 8, 2014.

Second Amendment remedies, 2014 style

10/23/14 09:04AM

In the 2010 midterms, Republican Senate hopeful Sharron Angle used a chilling phrase as part of her political vision: "Second Amendment remedies." In context, Angle argued that if U.S. policymakers pursued an agenda the far-right disapproved of, Americans may have to turn to armed violence against their own country.
 
The Republican candidate lost her Senate bid, and most of this talk receded to the fringes of right-wing politics.
 
It did not, however, disappear entirely from the Republicans' rhetorical quiver. Sam Levine had this report overnight.
Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.
 
"I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere," Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. "But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it's from an intruder, or whether it's from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."
In the United States, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to the courts. In Joni Ernst's world, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to guns.
 
This comes on the heels of a report showing Ernst expressing support for arresting federal officials who try to implement federal laws the far-right doesn't like. Noting the two radical positions, Jamison Foser joked, "First Joni Ernst wants to arrest government employees, now she wants to shoot them?"

Jobless claims climb, but remain low overall

10/23/14 08:38AM

After last week's extraordinary report on initial unemployment claims, this week's data was bound to be at least a little disappointing. But the fact remains that figures like these remain quite encouraging in the larger context.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits rose by 17,000 last week to 283,000, but initial claims remained below the key 300,000 level for the sixth straight week to reflect the low level of layoffs taking place in the economy. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 285,000 in the week ended Oct. 18.
 
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 3,000 to 281,000 to mark the lowest level in 14 years, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as providing a more accurate snapshot of labor-market trends.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
 
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been 300,000 in 10 of the last 20 weeks.
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives for the Senate Republicans' news conference to mark sixth anniversary of the original application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline project on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014.

McConnell leads with his chin in Kentucky

10/23/14 08:00AM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knows the value of a strong closing message. The incumbent senator is in the midst of the toughest race of his lengthy career -- polls show him clinging to a tiny lead over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) -- and with very little time remaining, McConnell wants to sprint to the finish line with his strongest message.
 
And yet, for some reason, the longtime lawmaker has chosen to emphasize women's issues in his final pitch.
 
Team McConnell unveiled this new ad late yesterday, featuring four women speaking to the camera. For those who can't watch clips online, here's the script:
First woman: Alison Lundergan Grimes wants me to think that I'm not good enough.
 
Second woman: That I couldn't get a job, unless Washington passed more laws.
 
Third woman: That I can't graduate college, without raising your taxes.
 
Fourth woman: She wants me to believe that strong women and strong values are incompatible.
 
Third woman: She thinks I'll vote for the candidate who looks like me.
 
First woman: Rather than the one who represents me.
After they say they're voting for McConnell, the first woman says "he believes in me."
 
This is the sort of ad a politician runs if he's convinced voters just aren't very bright.
 
Part of the problem, of course, is that McConnell is a poor messenger for a weak message. He is, after all, the same senator who opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay, voted repeatedly to kill the Violence Against Women Act, rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act, and voted to restrict contraception access. Closing the campaign with a discussion about women's issues seems like an odd choice.

War memorial and other headlines

10/23/14 07:59AM

Canadian MPs to meet at National War Memorial this morning before Parliament resumes. (CBC)

Meet the Sergeant at Arms who stopped the Parliament attacker. (USA Today)

Justice Department condemns Ferguson leaks as effort to influence opinion. (L.A. Times)

That Ginsburg dissent that she stayed up all night to write contained an error; the acknowledgment of it is apparently rare and important. (NY Times)

3 states deny gay unions despite appellate rulings. (AP)

Rand Paul to lay out foreign policy vision. (Politico)

Don't forget the partial solar eclipse today. (NBC News)

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Canadians confront terror threat from within

Canadians confront terror threat from within

10/22/14 11:12PM

Charlie Angus, member of the Canadian Parliament, talks with Rachel Maddow about his experience being inside the Parliament building during today's deadly shooting, and the need for a measured reaction given the domestic nature of the shooter. watch

Shooting comes with Canada already on alert

Shooting comes with Canada already on alert

10/22/14 10:41PM

Rachel Maddow looks at the past few weeks leading up to the deadly shooting Ottawa, Ontario in Canada, with Canadian authorities on particularly heightened alert over terror concerns, and a previous attack by someone on their watch list. watch

Ahead on the 10/22/14 Maddow show

10/22/14 07:23PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Josh Wingrove, Parliament reporter, Globe and Mail, took video during shooting in Parliament
  • Lee Anne Goodman, national affairs reporter with the Canadian Press
  • Charlie Angus, member of the Canadian Parliament

After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo has a preview: 

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 10.22.14

10/22/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* The latest from Ottawa: "A Canadian soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa was shot and killed Wednesday, and a burst of gunfire minutes later terrorized Parliament and sent lawmakers scrambling for safety. A gunman was confirmed dead, but confusion gripped Canada's capital for hours after the attack began."
 
* It's not a travel ban, but it's smarter: "The Centers for Disease Control just announced new measures designed to stop international visitors from spreading Ebola in the U.S. Under the new system, anybody who has been recently to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone will be subject to what CDC officials call 'active monitoring' -- which will involve, among other things, mandatory temperature checks for 21 days after arrival in the U.S."
 
* Ferguson: "The official autopsy on Michael Brown, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, shows the Ferguson, Missouri teenager was shot in the hand at close range. The accompanying toxicology report reveals the 18-year-old had a trace of marijuana in his system, according to the local newspaper."
 
* Guilty: "Four former Blackwater guards have been found guilty of killing 14 people and injuring 17 more in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisour Square. One guard, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of first degree murder, while the other three were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter."
 
* I really wish Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would be a little more cautious about calling others "idiots," especially when he's talking about Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.
 
* UNC: "A blistering report into an academic fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina released Wednesday found that for nearly two decades two employees in the African and Afro-American Studies department ran a 'shadow curriculum' of hundreds of fake classes that never met but for which students, many of them Tar Heels athletes, routinely received A's and B's."
 
* Combatting ISIS goes beyond airstrikes: "[David S. Cohen], a fastidious Yale Law School graduate who is known inside the White House as the administration's 'financial Batman,' is a first line of attack against the Islamic State. His title is under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence and he may be more important in the fight against the Islamic State than the Tomahawks fired off American warships or the bombs dropped from F-16s. He has become a fixture in Mr. Obama's Situation Room."
 
* Media fail, Part I: "In an opinion piece published Tuesday by Politico Magazine, 'No, BP Didn't Ruin the Gulf,' author Geoff Morrell writes that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the worst off-shore oil spill in American history, was much less disastrous environmentally for the Gulf Coast than expected. He complains that 'advocacy groups cherry-pick evidence' and 'blame BP for any and all environmental problems afflicting the Gulf.'" What's less clear for readers is the fact that the article was written by a BP employee.
Paul LePage

Paul LePage's 'early Christmas present'

10/22/14 04:50PM

The argument Democrats are making in Maine is pretty straightforward: Gov. Paul LePage (R), elected with less than 38% of the vote in a three-way race in 2010, is an embarrassment. But LePage may end up with a second term anyway, because Maine's mainstream vote is being split once again.
 
Polls show the Tea Party incumbent neck and neck with Rep. Mike Michaud (D), a dynamic made possible by Eliot Cutler's independent, third-place candidacy. For Dems, the obvious solution is for Cutler to stand aside to prevent LePage from winning re-election. Since Cutler appears unlikely to prevail, the argument goes, the independent would be doing the right thing for Maine, at the cost of his personal ambitions.
 
But last night, there was an unexpected twist: LePage himself said Democrats are correct.
Another topic of the debate was the dynamic of the three-way race and how any new support for Cutler could pave the way for the governor's second term. [...]
 
LePage was asked about saying Cutler's campaign was one of the best things for his re-election bid.
 
"It's certainly an early Christmas present from the standpoint that he was here four years ago and we know what to expect, but I will tell you, four years ago we had Libby Mitchell running. This time we have Mike Michaud running. If it was Mike Michaud against Paul LePage, the election's over," LePage said.
That's quite an acknowledgement for a sitting governor to make out loud towards the end of the campaign. LePage effectively echoed the Democratic argument verbatim: in a head-to-head race, the Republican governor wouldn't stand a chance.
 
The fact that the independent is sticking around, splitting Maine's mainstream, is the only thing standing between the Tea Partier and certain defeat.
Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, and Kentucky Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks at the opening of her Paducah campaign office Aug. 1, 2014 in Paducah, Ky. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Dems reverse course, take a renewed interest in Kentucky

10/22/14 04:09PM

It was just last week that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made a surprise announcement: after having already invested more than $2 million in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, the party would divert resources elsewhere.
 
The move from the DSCC, the party's committee devoted solely to supporting Senate candidates, came as something of a shock to nearly everyone, and suggested the Democratic establishment no longer saw a path to victory for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).
 
A week later, however, Dems have changed their minds. Politico reported this afternoon:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to go back on the air in Kentucky after the party has been encouraged by new polls suggesting the race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is within reach.
 
The party committee is reserving $650,000 in airtime to boost Alison Lundergan Grimes after reviewing recent internal and public polling, a DSCC official told POLITICO. The polling, the source says, suggested that independent voters are moving in the Democrat's direction.
This is no small development. When the DSCC announced it would walk away from Kentucky, it suggested party leaders no longer saw the contest as competitive. For Democrats to jump back in, there must have been data the DSCC found compelling.
 
With that in mind, it's worth noting that the latest Bluegrass Poll, conducted by SurveyUSA and released this week, showed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) ahead by the narrowest of margins over Alison Lundergan Grimes, 44% to 43%.
 
Let's also not forget that the Democrats' options are dwindling, arguably making Kentucky more of a necessity than a luxury.
 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a news conference at Bristol-Myers Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University October 07, 2014 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Christie wants GOP control over 'voting mechanisms'

10/22/14 02:26PM

When it comes to Republican governors imposing harsh, new voting restrictions, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is hardly the first name that pops up. The Republican vetoed an early-voting bill last year, he's offered some odd criticisms of same-day registration recently, and he played some shameless political games when scheduling his state's U.S. Senate special election last year, but in general, Christie isn't known for electoral mischief, at least not by contemporary GOP standards.
 
But that's all the more reason to take note of Christie's comments this week on "voting mechanisms." The Bergen Record reported this morning:
Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they're the ones controlling "voting mechanisms" going into the next presidential election.
 
Christie stressed the need to keep Republicans in charge of states -- and overseeing state-level voting regulations -- ahead of the next presidential election.
In remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey governor said, "Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?"
 
I'm not sure which is worse: the prospect of Christie making these remarks without thinking them through or Christie making these remarks because he's already thought this through.
 
In theory, in a functioning democracy, control over "voting mechanisms" shouldn't dictate election outcomes. Citizens consider the candidates, they cast their ballots, the ballots are counted, and the winner takes office. It's supposed to be non-partisan -- indeed, the oversight of the elections process must be professional and detached from politics in order to maintain the integrity of the system itself.
 
So what exactly is Chris Christie suggesting here?

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