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Bill O'Reilly reporter threats indefensible

Bill O'Reilly threats against reporters indefensible

02/25/15 10:36PM

Rachel Maddow excoriates Bill O'Reilly and Fox News for taking his bombast to the point of directly threatening reporters for reporting, and highlights the recent series of revelations about uncorrected false claims O'Reilly has made on Fox News. watch

Obama pushes ahead on immigration reform

Obama pushes ahead on immigration reform

02/25/15 09:00PM

José Díaz-Balart talks with Rachel Maddow about highlights from President Obama's town hall in which the president emphasized his intention to press forward with his plans for immigration reform, and took shots at Republicans for blocking progress. watch

Decryptomaddowlogical #108

02/25/15 05:45PM

The little problem we were having with the comment thread has been fixed! So we're back in the Decryptomaddowlogical saddle!

Last night Rachel pointed out that, in what appears to have been an act of misplaced faith in their Republican colleagues, Senate Democrats did not act to confirm Loretta Lynch as the new attorney general in the last Congress, and now her nomination has been languishing for no apparent substantive reason. Of course, by now we've learned that substantive reasons are not a necessity when it comes to conservatives working themselves into an outraged state of upset over a proposal from President Obama; there always exists the threat from...

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 2.25.15

02/25/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* New York: "Three men from Brooklyn, New York, were arrested and accused of plotting to wage jihad for ISIS, authorities said Wednesday. One of them had offered to kill President Barack Obama if the militants asked him to, they said."
 
* Tick tock: "The Senate voted Wednesday to move ahead with a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security after Democratic leaders dropped an earlier pledge to block it unless they get assurances from House Republican leaders that it would pass their chamber. The bill advanced on a procedural vote by a 98-2 margin."
 
* This could get ugly: "Rank-and-file House Republicans on Wednesday bashed the Senate GOP's plan to vote on a 'clean' Homeland Security funding bill, arguing they wanted to stand firm in attacking President Obama's immigration actions."
 
* The Fed: "House Republicans on Wednesday peppered Janet L. Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, with pointed questions about the central bank's stimulus campaign and its responsibilities as a financial regulator."
 
* Not the news Japan wanted to hear: "The operator of Japan's tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant admitted it failed to report a radioactive rainwater leak from the facility for about 10 months."
 
* This could go on for a while: "President Barack Obama might have vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline, but the fight over the pipeline is far from over. House Speaker John Boehner said as much in a video message after Monday's veto: 'All I want to say is the fight's not over.'"
 
* Smart move: "The Treasury Department has an easy fix for taxpayers who filed their returns using inaccurate data sent by HealthCare.gov: They don't have to do anything at all."
In this handout provided by The White House, U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a working dinner in Laurel Cabin, seated clockwise from the president are: Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia,...

The 'trust and confidence of our friends'

02/25/15 05:10PM

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) big foreign policy speech didn't go quite as well as he'd hoped last week, but his campaign team has nevertheless packaged excerpts from the event into a new 30-second ad. There's nothing especially remarkable about the commercial, though it included a claim that stood out for me.
"Everywhere you look, you see the world slipping out of control," Bush begins. "We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. We definitely know no longer inspire fear in our enemies."
This comes on the heels of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) having a chat last week with Donald Trump about and "how poorly" the United States is "perceived throughout the world."
 
And just last year, it was Mitt Romney who argued, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”
 
It seems to be one of those myths that's simply accepted as fact: the United States enjoyed global respect and admiration, right up until that rascally Obama took office and ruined everything. Now, as Jeb Bush put it, we've "lost the trust and confidence of our friends."
 
If this were in any way true, the president's critics might have a point, but the evidence points in the exact opposite direction.
A T.J. Maxx in the Chicago area. (Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty for T.J. Maxx)

More retailers boosting U.S. wages

02/25/15 03:50PM

Congressional Republicans are in a position to block every effort to raise the federal minimum wage, but the economy is moving on without them.
 
Some of the nation's largest retailers -- Gap, Ikea, and Wal-Mart, among others -- have already raised their company's minimum wages. Today, another major retailer joined the club, reinforcing the larger trend [edited, see update below].
Less than a week after Wal-Mart announced that it would raise wages for 500,000 employees to $9 an hour in April, off-price retailer TJX said in its fourth-quarter earnings report that it, too, will boost pay.
 
The parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods said Wednesday its full- and part-time hourly U.S. employees will earn at least $9 an hour starting in June. In 2016, all hourly U.S. workers who have been with the company for six months or more will earn at least $10 an hour.
Remember, as was the case with Wal-Mart, this is a done deal -- it's a private-sector move, which will occur regardless of Congress' wishes.
 
In terms of the broader economy, anytime one announcement means a half-million Americans are going to have a bigger paycheck, that's encouraging news, but there's a larger takeaway from these developments that's even more heartening.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) speaks with Speaker of the House John Beohner (R-OH) in Washington in 2012.

GOP lost as Homeland Security deadline looms

02/25/15 12:58PM

It's tempting to think that Republican lawmakers, eager to avoid a Homeland Security shutdown later this week, are quietly scrambling behind the scenes. Sure, it looks like they're doing no work whatsoever -- they even took last week off -- but perhaps that's just the public view. Out of sight, GOP leaders may be working towards a resolution before the deadline.
 
Speaker John Boehner told a closed meeting of House Republicans Wednesday morning he has not spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in two weeks, and added that it's up to the upper chamber to figure out how to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security.
 
His comments came in a Wednesday morning meeting of House Republicans, just three days before DHS is slated to run out of money.
A veteran Republican senator told Politico yesterday, "It seems like McConnell and Boehner aren't even talking to each other. It is mind-boggling."
 
As it turns out, it doesn't just "seem" that way; it is that way..
 
It's quite an operation the Republican majority is running, isn't it? McConnell and Boehner are careening towards an easily avoided ditch, but they're not even speaking to each other about their direction.
 
As if this weren't enough to rattle confidence in the GOP's competence, the process is unfolding in an increasingly haphazard way. McConnell effectively waved the white flag yesterday, offering Democrats a clean spending bill that would avoid a Homeland Security shutdown in exchange for a separate bill in which Republicans would try (and fail) to undo President Obama's immigration policy. Senate Democratic leaders said McConnell's solution would work, but Dems want some assurances that the Republican-led House is on board with the plan.
 
Boehner and House GOP leaders have no intention of offering any such assurances. In fact, this morning the Speaker said his chamber doesn't actually intend to do anything until the Senate acts on its own solution.
 
Complicating matters further, Boehner is very likely aware of the whispers about his job being in jeopardy.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.25.15

02/25/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* A new Quinnipiac poll in Iowa shows Scott Walker with a surprisingly big lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, enjoying 25% support among the state's GOP voters. The next closest competitor is Rand Paul with 13%, followed by Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee tied at 11%. Jeb Bush is fifth with 10%. Chris Christie is seventh in the poll and has the lowest favorability numbers of any major candidate.
 
* At the national level, PPP also shows Scott Walker out in front with 25% support, followed by Ben Carson at 18% and Jeb Bush at 17%. Mike Huckabee, with 10% support, is the only other candidate above 5% in the poll.
 
* Hillary Clinton appeared at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women yesterday, sounding very much like a presidential candidate. In a preview of her likely 2016 message, Clinton emphasized wage growth in the economy.
 
* In Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul (R) is eager to change his party's presidential nominating system, and this week, his efforts received a high-profile endorsement: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is now on board with Paul's plan.
 
* As expected, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) announced this morning that he's running for the U.S. Senate this cycle. If he gets his party's nod, Strickland will face incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year.
 
* In a bit of a surprise, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) announced yesterday that he will not be a U.S. Senate candidate in 2016. The news boosts state Attorney General Kamala Harris' (D) odds as she works to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D).
Eight-year-old Jack Osbourne reaches out to touch the teeth of a moving life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur during a press launch of "Walking with Dinosaurs" at the O2 Arena in London on March 18, 2009.

Poll shows Republicans rejecting evolution

02/25/15 11:20AM

Why are Republican presidential hopefuls like Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal afraid to endorse evolutionary biology? Because they don't want to alienate their party's base.
Forty-nine percent of Republicans don't believe in evolution, a new Public Policy Polling survey found Tuesday.
 
The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 49 percent of Republicans said they do not believe in evolution while 37 percent said they do believe in evolution. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.
I was curious about the specific wording of the question, which turned out to be quite straightforward: "Do you believe in evolution or not?" A 49% plurality of Republicans said they do not.
 
This is obviously only one survey, though the results are roughly in line with what we've seen from other pollsters. Indeed, the evidence suggests support for evolutionary biology among Republicans has actually dropped in recent years.
 
On the surface, as we've discussed before, results like these are discouraging. There's plenty to divide Americans, but scientific truths need not be one of them.
 
But I continue to wonder how much of this is sincere and how much of this is the result of tribalism.
Smoke rises over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Turkey on Oct. 18, 2014. (Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Congressman sees Obama threatening GOP more than ISIS

02/25/15 10:40AM

The Department of Homeland Security recently circulated an intelligence assessment focusing on "the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists." The materials were clearly rooted in fact -- federal officials have identified 24 violent "sovereign citizen-related attacks" in the United States over the last four years, and they fear more may occur.
 
Some intelligence officials fear the threat of violence from these home-grown radicals is at least as serious as the threats posed by foreign terrorists.
 
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), a member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, is outraged ... by the Obama administration.
"The idea that Americans who are conservatives, that disagree with the president, are just as threatening as ISIS, whose whole existence is to kill us in the name of their religion, even though the president won't say 'Islamic terrorists,' he'll call people on the right terrorists, is nonsense, it is just utter nonsense. There is no evidence of anything like that and once again more fear tactics out of the administration."
What's alarming about a response like this is how detached from reality it is. When the Department of Homeland Security circulates an intelligence assessment -- which Ted Poe probably has not read -- it's not referring to "conservatives" who "disagree with the president." Rather, intelligence officials are concerned about the possibility of violence from radical extremists and fringe anti-government groups.
 
When members of Congress don't appreciate the difference between "people on the right" and violent radicals on the fringes of society, there's a real problem. When they convince themselves there's "no evidence" of a home-grown terrorist threat, despite the ample evidence that's already been documented, the problem is even more severe.
 
But then the Republican congressman made matters just a little worse during the same interview.
File Photo: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, File)

GOP governor relieved to have embraced 'Obamacare'

02/25/15 10:01AM

There's no shortage of high-profile Republicans gearing up for the 2016 presidential race, but there's one name that probably should be in the mix, but isn't.
 
Imagine a popular Republican governor, easily elected twice in a battleground state President Obama won twice. Imagine he's Hispanic, young, won re-election last year by a ridiculous 46 points, and has seen his state's unemployment rate drop quickly in recent years.
 
I'm referring to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who seems like an almost-perfect presidential candidate for his party, but who hasn't even considered testing the White House waters.
 
To understand why, consider Sandoval's perspective on the pending Supreme Court case that may gut the Affordable Care Act.
"I made a decision early on that we would be a state-based exchange because I felt it was in Nevadans' best interest to run their own," Sandoval said, even boasting that twice as many Nevadans enrolled this year over the first round. "I'm just pleased," he added, "that we don't have the anxiety of the outcome King v. Burwell."
At first blush, this may not seem striking at all -- a governor embraced a sensible policy that helped his constituents have access to basic medical care. It's the sort of thing most Americans might expect every well-intentioned governor to do as a matter of course.
 
But in political terms, we're talking about a Republican governor who embraced the dreaded "Obamacare" -- including Medicaid expansion -- and is "pleased" he implemented the Affordable Care Act in a way that may help protect his state from his party's Supreme Court justices. 
 Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) delivers a speech on Oct. 6, 2014.

Another real solution to a fake problem

02/25/15 09:20AM

About a month ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) impressed far-right activists by shining a spotlight on a problem that doesn't exist: "no-go zones" in Europe where, in his mind, Muslim populations are so large and intimidating, non-Muslims, even local law enforcement, are too afraid to visit. Soon after, the Republican governor said these imaginary "no-go zones" may soon appear in the United States.
 
All of this was quite silly, as Jindal probably realized. But it appears some have decided to take the nonsense seriously.
A Republican Tennessee lawmaker introduced a bill this month that would ask the state attorney general to report any existing "no-go zones" and work to eliminate them, The Tennessean reported.
 
State Rep. Susan Lynn's bill does not specifically mention Muslims, but may allude to the non-existent Muslim "no-go zones" referenced on Fox News and by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) following the January terrorist attacks in Paris.
 
The legislation defines a "no-go zone" as a "a contiguous geographical area consisting of public space or privately owned public space where community organizing efforts systematically intimidate or exclude the general public or public workers from entering or being present within the area."
The Republican state lawmaker has no evidence of any "no-go zones," but she told The Tennessean that there "some people who claim that there are some areas of Tennessee where they feel this is happening."
 
And evidently, if "some people" believe in an imaginary problem, it's time for elected officials to start approving public policies to address these imaginary problems. By this reasoning, legislation related to Bigfoot will also be necessary.
 
In the larger context, the funny thing about efforts like these is just how common they are.
In this June 3, 2013, file photo, Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, works in committee during the final day of the 77th Legislative session at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev. (Photo by Cathleen Allison/AP)

GOP lawmaker sees cancer as a 'fungus'

02/25/15 08:40AM

The relationship between Republicans and modern science has become strained lately. In recent months, we've seen GOP officials -- including senators, governors, and presidential candidates -- balk at climate science, contraception, vaccinations, post-bathroom hand-washing, and even evolutionary biology.
 
This week is becoming especially egregious on this front. We were introduced to a Republican state lawmaker in Idaho who seemed quite confused about women's anatomy, and Jon Ralston added a new addition to the collection yesterday, highlighting the latest from Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R), who has a proposal to change existing rules on end-of-life care.
Fiore, who operates a home health care business that sometimes passes payroll taxes onto the IRS, said she knew of friends who left the country to find end-of-life treatments that are not FDA-approved. And then the payoff:
 
"If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus," she began, citing a widely debunked theory that the American Cancer Society warns about, "and we can put a pic line into your body and we're flushing with, say, salt water, sodium cardonate [I think she means bicarbonate], through that line and flushing out the fungus. These are some procedures that are not FDA-approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective."
I see.

Putting aside the fact that cancer is not a "fungus," it's incidents like these that remind me why it's wise to separate politicians from scientific and medical decision making as often as humanly possible. In recent years, When it comes to the process of deciding which medical treatments are covered by Medicare, for example, or which medicines receive FDA approval, there are safeguards in place that empower actual experts to draw evidence-based conclusions.

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore is offering a timely reminder that these safeguards must never change.
John Boehner, R-OH, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make their way to the lectern to deliver statements, May 24, 2011 at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

Israel's Netanyahu rebuffs Senate Dems

02/25/15 08:00AM

At the invitation of House Republicans, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still scheduled to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress next week, despite the international controversy. It will be the first time a foreign leader is invited to deliver a joint-session speech in order to criticize and undermine American foreign policy.
 
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), hoping to ease tensions, invited the prime minister to visit privately with Democratic senators next week. Yesterday, Netanyahu responded in writing: No..
"Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic senators, I believe that doing so could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit. I would, of course, be glad to address a bipartisan forum of senators behind closed doors on a future visit, as I have been privileged to do many times in the past," Netanyahu wrote to the two senators in a letter dated Jan. 24, an apparent error.
Durbin, the Senate Minority Whip, said the Democratic invitation was intended to "balance the politically divisive invitation" from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The Democratic leader added that Netanyahu's "refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades."
 
It's important to emphasize that the Israeli leader's argument isn't factually wrong -- he has scheduled no private meetings with congressional Republicans next week, so Netanyahu can plausibly claim it might appear "partisan" to huddle with Democrats exclusively.
 
It's the broader context that points to trouble.

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