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E.g., 9/17/2014
E.g., 9/17/2014
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins gestures during a news conference to discuss Wednesday's shooting, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Religious right leader ties U.S. 'secularism' to Islamic State

09/17/14 09:26AM

For much of the post-9/11 era, there's been a strain of thought on the right that holds American liberalism responsible for Middle Eastern terrorism. This was generally applied to al Qaeda, but yesterday, Tony Perkins, head of a powerful religious right group called the Family Research Council, used the same reasoning when talking about Islamic State.
The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins said today that the separation of church and state in the United States has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremist groups like ISIS, arguing in his radio commentary that ISIS has "filled the void left by secularism."
 
According to Perkins, American ISIS militants wouldn't have left the country to fight for the group if only the government had promoted Christianity over other faiths.
Right Wing Watch published an audio clip of Perkins' minute-long commentary, which was about as offensive as you might imagine.
 
"Radical secularism that has driven the defining characteristics of our Western culture, our Judeo-Christian heritage, from our schools, our entertainment and even our government has left in its place a void, a vacuum," Perkins argued. "And we should know from experience that a vacuum will be filled by something. Without a creedal vision that a society can unify around, the people, the nation, will perish. Unless we are content to allow ISIS or some other radical belief system to fill the void left by secularism, we must rediscover America's founding, Christ-centered vision."
 
It's certainly a curious perspective. As Perkins sees it, to counter violent religious extremists, the United States should do more to merge religion and government -- which, ironically, is similar to the approach embraced by our enemy.
 
While I suspect most of the American mainstream has no use for such nonsense, it's worth noting that Perkins' argument, however odd, is surprisingly common in conservative circles.
A vehicle and surrounding buildings smoldering after they were set on fire inside the US mission compound in Benghazi, September 11, 2012.

When interest in Benghazi spins out of control

09/17/14 08:40AM

It was probably only a matter of time. A Fox News personality yesterday noted the ongoing controversies surrounding the National Football League and suggested Americans should demand "that same transparency" about Benghazi.
 
Yes, we've reached the point at which Fox News can at least try to connect anything and everything to the 2012 attack that left four Americans dead in Libya.
 
Then again, given the latest report from Media Matters, the comments hardly come as a surprise.
Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks. Nearly 500 segments focused on a set of Obama administration talking points used in September 2012 interviews; more than 100 linked the attacks to a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run; and dozens of segments compared the attacks and the administration response to the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals. The network hosted Republican members of Congress to discuss Benghazi nearly 30 times more frequently than Democrats.
The total of 1,098 evening segments -- an average of about 13 segments per week, every week, for 20 months -- would arguably have been higher, but Media Matters didn't include Megyn Kelly's program, which wasn't on the air for part of the study.
 
Ed Kilgore noted in response to the numbers, "Short of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings, I'm not sure we've seen anything quite like it in modern electronic media."
 
I think that's right, though there are a couple of ways to look at this. The first takeaway is simple: "Good lord, that's a lot of coverage for one network on one story." At a certain point, phrases like "unhealthy obsession" probably have to enter into the conversation.
 
But that's not the only takeaway. Indeed, I might even offer a tepid defense of sorts.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during The Family Leadership Summit, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.

The GOP's 'not a scientist' meme keeps spreading

09/17/14 08:00AM

Maybe a memo went out to Republicans, telling them how to respond to questions about science.
 
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, was asked how old he thinks the planet is. "I'm not a scientist, man," he replied. Gov. Rick Scott (R) was asked what he intended to do about the climate crisis threatening Florida. "I'm not a scientist," he responded. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked about the climate deniers in his conference. "I'm not qualified to debate the science," he replied.
 
And now we have another member of the chorus.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal dodged three questions on Tuesday about whether he personally believes the theory of evolution explains the presence of complex life on Earth.
 
"The reality is I'm not an evolutionary biologist," the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential hopeful told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but Jindal was a biology major at an Ivy League university before becoming a Rhodes Scholar. The notion that the Louisiana Republican has doubts about evolutionary biology is very hard to believe.
 
Which raises the related question of why in the world Republicans keep using this ridiculous response when asked easy questions.
 
Jindal actually finds himself in an awkward position. The governor is probably aware of the fact that Republican voters have become increasingly hostile towards modern biology in recent years, and as the Louisianan prepares a national campaign, he can't deliberately alienate his own party's far-right base.
 
If he says he accepts biology, Jindal might lose some support from conservatives, If the governor says he rejects modern science, Jindal would come across as a bit of a loon. And so, he's left with a pathetic dodge: "I'm not an evolutionary biologist."
 
As political spin goes, this entire tack -- not just from Jindal, but from his entire party -- is unsustainable.

Addressing the troops and other headlines

09/17/14 07:57AM

Pres. Obama to address troops on his anti-ISIS strategy today. (BBC)

In Iowa, attacks on Republican Ernst change dynamics of tight Senate race. (Washington Post)

House Select Committee on Benghazi holds its first public hearing today. (AP)

Here is the witness list. (The Hill)

Manhunt underway in Pennsylvania for armed suspect described as an "anti-government survivalist". (Scranton Times-Tribune)

Minnesota Vikings 'deactivate' Adrian Peterson indefinitely. (USA Today)

Meet the 2014 MacArthur "Geniuses". (NPR)

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Will the new plan to train Syrian rebels differ from the CIA's program?

09/17/14 02:10AM

Partial transcript from the 9/17/14 TRMS:

Rachel Maddow: The United States government is already arming and training the rebels in Syria. That's supposedly what the big debate is about in Congress right now, and the big vote in Congress this week. Instead of voting on the actual war they are going to vote on this little piece of it. But this little piece of it is already hapening. It's the CIA doing it.

And like everything the CIA does, it's a covert action and so they don't want to talk about it really. But it's not a secret really, it's already happening. It's already happening. There are already efforts under way, for months now, to arm and train those rebels. The debate in Congress is just to ramp that up and expand it and make it less covert.

If that's the case, shouldn't we know if what we've done already is working? I mean, if we've been doing this already for months has it been successful? And if it hasn't been successful, presumably, shouldn't we wonder why we would do more of it?

If it has been successful, then why are we starting out own war now out of apparent desperation? And so fast that it can't even wait for Congress to vote?

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Ahead on the 9/16/14 Maddow show

09/16/14 06:18PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Nancy Youssef, National Security correspondent, McClatchy newspapers
  • Dave Helling, political reporter for the Kansas City Star

After the jump, a preview of tonight's show from executive producer Cory Gnazzo:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.16.14

09/16/14 05:33PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Afghanistan: "Two Americans were among seven people killed in a massive car bomb near the U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital Tuesday, a U.S. military official said. One of the U.S. citizens was a service member, the other a civilian, the official said."
 
* Ebola response: "The United States will intervene to help confront the global threat posed by the recent Ebola outbreak, President Barack Obama said during a speech announcing a new effort to assist the West African countries that have been overwhelmed by the spread of the deadly virus.... In what he said is the largest international response in the history of the CDC, Obama made public his plans to increase U.S. aid to combat Ebola by sending thousands of personnel and millions of dollars to West Africa to avoid a humanitarian disaster."
 
* Dempsey tackles a hypothetical: "Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, offering a more expansive view of the American role in the ground war than that of President Obama."
 
* Capitol Hill: "Despite lingering reservations on both sides of the aisle, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats is coming together behind proposals to arm Syrian rebels and fund the government beyond Sept. 30."
 
* The child poverty rate in the United States saw its "largest one-year drop since 1966." That's pretty amazing.
 
* Ferguson: "A judge has given the grand jury considering whether to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson. Mo., police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an extension of 60 days to make a decision. The jury must decide by Jan. 7 whether Officer Wilson will be criminally charged in Mr. Brown's death."
 
* Pennsylvania: "A manhunt is under way Tuesday for an anti-cop 'survivalist' with mass-murder fantasies who is wanted in last week's deadly ambush of Pennsylvania state police barracks, authorities said. Arrest warrants have been issued for Eric Matthew Frein, 31, of Canadensis, Pa., for the Friday night shooting that killed one trooper and left another critically wounded."
 
* Good: "President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to announce a campus sexual assault awareness campaign from the White House Friday, with a special focus on engaging men in the fight against a largely hidden problem."
 
* "Obsession" is the only word that seems to apply: "Fox News' evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrives to attend an EU summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on August 30, 2014.

Ukraine ratifies EU pact

09/16/14 05:05PM

The current Ukrainian crisis began in earnest nearly a year ago, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych sided with Russia and rejected an offer for stronger trade and political ties to the European Union. The result was mass protests, Yanukovych fleeing to Russia, and new Ukrainian elections -- followed by a series of Russian steps onto Ukrainian soil, including the annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
 
The reverberations of the crisis have been felt around the globe, and tensions between Russia and the West have reached heights unseen since the Cold War.
 
Which is why today's news seemed especially striking.
Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday ratified a landmark agreement on political association and trade with the European Union, the rejection of which last November by then President Viktor Yanukovich led to his downfall. The agreement won unanimous support from the 355 deputies who took part in the vote.
 
Referring to the deaths of anti-government protesters who came out against Yanukovich's rejection of the pact with the EU and of soldiers killed in fighting separatists since, President Petro Poroshenko said: "No nation has ever paid such a high price to become Europeans."
The Wall Street Journal report added, "Lawmakers broke into the national anthem and cried 'Glory to Ukraine' after approving the EU deal, which President Petro Poroshenko hailed as a first step toward eventual membership in the bloc."
 
All of which leads me back to a question I've been pondering for a while: when Republicans hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strategic mastermind, what in the world were they talking about?
In this May 3, 2010 photo, attorney Kris Kobach poses for a photo in Kansas City, Mo.

A blast from an unpleasant past

09/16/14 04:13PM

In Kansas, Republican officials find themselves in the unusual position of trying to keep a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate on the ballot, even though he's eager to withdraw. Democratic candidate Chad Taylor has tried to drop out of the race against Sen. Pat Roberts (R), leaving the incumbent to take on Independent Greg Orman, but Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has stood in the way, objecting to Taylor's paperwork. The case went before the Kansas Supreme Court today.
 
But take a look at who's siding with the controversial Republican Secretary of State.
One of the officials at the center of the Bush administration's U.S. attorneys scandal is helping to author briefs for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the lawsuit that could help determine one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.
 
Bradley Schlozman, who stepped down from the Justice Department in 2007 amid controversy and is now an attorney practicing in Wichita, Kansas, is one of the signatories of a new brief from Kobach's office.
Who's Bradley Schlozman? As an msnbc report noted in March, "During the George W. Bush administration, an internal Justice Department report found Bush appointees had attempted to purge the division of liberals, or as one Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman put it, 'adherents of Mao's little red book.' The report found that Schlozman, who had vowed to 'gerrymander' all those 'crazy libs' out of the division, replacing them with Republican loyalists, had violated civil service laws with his hiring practices."
 
Folks who go way back with me may recall that Schlozman was actually at the heart of two separate Bush-era scandals. The first was Schlozman's decision as the former U.S. Attorney for Kansas City, to bring highly dubious indictments against a voter-registration group shortly before the 2006 midterm elections. That one got quite messy.
 
The other was Schlozman's work in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department, where he swore his employment decisions were entirely above-board, and not at all based on political considerations, though ample evidence pointed in the opposite direction. Indeed, Schlozman reportedly took an interest in the partisan "loyalties" of Justice Department attorneys whose work had nothing to do with politics.
 
And now, here he is again, this time trying to give Kris Kobach a hand.

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