* ISIS: "After six weeks of American airstrikes, the Iraqi government's forces have scarcely budged Sunni extremists of the Islamic State from their hold on more than a quarter of the country, in part because many critical Sunni tribes remain on the sidelines."
* Refugees: "Some 130,000 Kurdish refugees fleeing Islamic militants have crossed the border from Syria into Turkey in the past four days, Turkey's deputy prime minister said Monday as fighting raged close to Turkey's southern border."
* Related news: "Turkish troops fired tear gas and water cannons Monday to disperse crowds near Suruc, Turkey, on the Syrian border, where Turkish and Syrian Kurds have been demonstrating against border closings and the Islamic State's latest advances in Syria."
* Afghanistan: "The two candidates for president of Afghanistan on Sunday signed an American-brokered agreement on a power-sharing government that would make Ashraf Ghani president, while the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah, would effectively become a prime minister with substantial powers of his own."
* Speaking of Afghanistan: "Three missing Afghanistan National Army officers, who disappeared while participating in a training program in Massachusetts, were detained while attempting to cross the border into Canada and are in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Monday."
* Sierra Leone: "Two of the West African nations hardest hit by Ebola were bracing for new caseloads on Monday after trying to outflank the outbreak with a nationwide checkup and a large new clinic."
* Fence jumper: "Federal prosecutors alleged Monday in federal court that a man who jumped a fence and ran into the White House's unlocked front door Friday night posed a threat to President Obama and was keeping 800 rounds of ammunition, two hatchets and a machete in his car, parked blocks away."
* Obama eyes new international standards: "President Obama will preside this week over an unusual meeting of the United Nations Security Council poised to adopt a binding resolution that would compel all countries to put in place domestic laws to prosecute those who travel abroad to join terrorist organizations and those who help them, including by raising funds."
* As someone who was born and raised in Miami, all I can say is, Ugh: "Miami had the highest uninsured rate of any large American city in 2013, new data from the Census Bureau shows. It beats out Houston and Dallas for the top spot."
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) no doubt found it easier to operate when it was largely unknown, working behind the scenes to advance a far-right agenda. As we've discussed before, shadowy obscurity allowed ALEC to be more effective.
But as the group made the transition from obscurity to notoriety, suddenly the organization that quietly wrote ready-made legislation for Republican legislators started losing friends who saw associations with ALEC as a public-relations problem.
Google plans to sever its relationship with the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council following a wave of public scrutiny about the conservative group's climate-change views.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt indicated in an interview Monday with NPR's Diane Rehm that Google would drop its ALEC membership "in the future," but did not specify a date.
A caller asked Schmidt about Google's ALEC ties, and the chairman responded that Google funded them for an unspecified cause, but added, "I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake, and so we're trying to not do that in the future."
In this case, climate change seemed to be the impetus for the disassociation. "Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place," Schmidt said. "And so we should not be aligned with such people -- they're just, they're just literally lying."
Google, of course, is a massive multi-billion-dollar company, and it doesn't look good for ALEC to lose its support. But it's especially jarring given the number of other major companies who've done the same thing.
Republican officials are not blind to their demographic problems. GOP candidates tend to excel with whites, men, and older voters, and that may even be enough in the short term for Republicans to take control of Congress, but it's not a recipe for long-term success. Party leaders know this, but aren't entirely sure what they're willing to do about it.
Since changing their policy agenda has been deemed out of the question, many Republicans have resorted to rhetorical experimentation, trying to come up with new ways to persuade Democratic voters to make the jump to the increasingly far-right GOP. In 2012, for example, the RNC aired ads encouraging women to "break up" with President Obama. Earlier this year, the RNC unveiled a new pitch to millennials featuring a young man with ill-fitting clothes, awkwardly reading cue cards on energy policy.
These pitches weren't especially effective, though the party apparently keeps trying.
In the latest attempt to woo female voters, a Republican group has launched an ad featuring a woman's declining "relationship" with President Obama. [...]
The Republican group Americans for Shared Prosperity is behind the 60-second spot, called "Dating Profile," with Florida GOP consultant and media man Rick Wilson at the helm. John Jordan, who heads the group, told POLITICO the goal of the ad is "to communicate with women voters in a way that outside groups and campaigns haven't."
Which is to say, badly.
The spot features a young woman saying she "fell in love" with a man in 2008, "stuck with him" in 2012, but now that he "thinks the only thing I care about is free birth control," she intends to vote against "his friends."
How this got past the focus-group stage is a bit of a mystery to me.
Two years ago, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had no qualms about palling around with television personality Donald Trump. The two hosted joint events, and when Trump announced his support for Romney, the Republican was eager to stand by Trump's side.
Even at the time, the association seemed odd. Trump's most notable contribution to the political discourse is the loathsome "birther" conspiracy theory, which the television personality invested considerable energy in, and yet, Republicans saw no need to distance themselves from the nonsense.
Two years later, they apparently still don't. Kendall Breitman reported this morning:
If you live in Kentucky or New Hampshire, that next phone call could be from Donald Trump.
Trump told Fox News' "Fox and Friends" on Monday he might be making house calls this election cycle for Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and former Sen. Scott Brown, who's running in New Hampshire.
"I have a lot of people that want to run for office or who are running for office … and it's not even the money that they want, they want robocalls," Trump said. "That's the new thing, you do a robo."
About an hour after the Politico report was published, Trump turned to Twitter to voice additional support for McConnell, saying the Kentucky Republican "may be the next Speaker." (Trump doesn't seem to realize that the senator hopes to become Senate Majority Leader, not the House Speaker, which is an entirely different chamber of Congress.)
As part of his appearance on Fox News this morning, Trump went on to say he's meeting with McConnell today, adding that former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), now running in New Hampshire, is also "coming up to see me."
Trump also boasted that his robocalls are "listened to more than anybody else's robo."
Now, it's possible that Trump is making all of this up. Maybe he's not recording any robocalls; maybe Mitch McConnell won't give him the time of day; maybe Scott Brown has no interest in meeting him; and maybe Trump is making these self-aggrandizing boasts in the hopes of appearing politically relevant.
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:
* To the surprise of no one, the Koch brothers' Freedom Partners Action Fund is investing in Kansas, hoping to help rescue incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) career. Recent polls show Roberts trailing independent Greg Orman in head-to-head match-ups.
* Speaking of Kansas, gubernatorial hopeful Paul Davis (D) acknowledged over the weekend that he "was in the wrong place at the wrong time" when he was in a strip club raided by police looking for drugs in 1998. Davis, who was 26 and unmarried at the time, emphasized, "Nobody has ever accused me of any wrongdoing," which is true -- he wasn't arrested and he faced no charges.
* The latest NBC poll confirms what has long been true: Americans prefer a Democratic Congress, 46% to 42%, but among "high-interest" voters, Republicans have a big advantage, 51% to 43%. A Pew Research Center poll released last week found a similar dynamic.
* National Republican Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) conceded last week that his party's control over the House is "locked in" thanks to post-2010 redistricting. This was borne out by the 2012 elections, when Americans cast far more ballots for Democratic U.S. House candidates, but Republicans nevertheless ended up with a sizable majority.
* In fundraising news, the RNC outraised the DNC in August, but of greater interest was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee crushing the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee over the same period, $10.2 million to $4.4 million.
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), sensing a possible opportunity, reportedly intends to open a campaign office near Silicon Valley. It's in an area traditionally known for heavy Democratic support.
Under normal circumstances, the left wouldn't ordinarily cheer when one of President Obama's judicial nominees is derailed. But Michael Boggs wasn't just another nominee, and as Carl Hulse reported, it was a fight the White House could not win.
The quest by President Obama to put Michael P. Boggs -- who supported the Confederate flag and opposed abortion -- on the federal bench in Georgia is over.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, who leads the Judiciary Committee, told us it had become clear after talking to his colleagues that Mr. Boggs, under fire from Democrats for his conservative positions, could not win committee support.
Mr. Leahy signaled that Mr. Boggs should withdraw: "He doesn't have the votes."
How many other Obama judicial nominees have been derailed by Democratic opposition? As of today, the list now has one name.
It's important to note that the president didn't really want to nominate Boggs, so this isn't exactly an example of Senate Democrats betraying the White House. Boggs was included as part of a compromise reached with Republican senators from Georgia, as part of a deal on "blue slips" (for more on what a blue slip is, see our coverage from March).
But Democrats in the upper chamber weren't part of that agreement and were under no obligations to honor it.
Given his record, Boggs was simply a bridge too far for the Senate majority party.
Once in a while, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sounds progressive notes on voting rights. It's the substantive follow-through that's the problem. Katie Glueck reported last week that Kentucky Republican "blasted his own party for making it tougher for minorities to vote."
The Kentucky Republican, a likely presidential candidate, has long argued that drug laws disproportionately affect minorities and has also championed restoring voting rights for some non-violent felons. He laid out those views in a speech at the Liberty PAC conference, a gathering tied to his father, libertarian icon Ron Paul.
"So many times, Republicans are seen as this party of, 'We don't want black people to vote because they're voting Democrat, we don't want Hispanic people to vote because they're voting Democrat,'" he said. "We wonder why the Republican Party is so small. Why don't we be the party that's for people voting, for voting rights?"
If my email inbox is any indication, Paul's supporters believe the senator deserves more credit for making remarks like these, and to a degree, they have a point. With so many Republican policymakers nationwide continuing to impose harsh and unnecessary restrictions on voting rights, unlike anything Americans have seen since the Jim Crow era, Paul's rhetoric is a welcome change of pace.
But rhetoric only goes so far. Paul also happens to be a U.S. senator, where he can write bills, propose policies, and co-sponsor legislation on anything he chooses.
Why doesn't the Republican Party become the party that champions voting rights? It's a good question. But the good follow-up question is, why doesn't Rand Paul do actual work on the problem?
No issue has dogged Rep. Cory Gardner's (R) Senate campaign in Colorado more than a policy known as "personhood," which would ban abortions and many common forms of birth control. In a bit of a surprise, the far-right congressman has decided to ride this train straight through to Election Day.
Gardner has long been a culture warrior, championing personhood at the state and federal level, even after Colorado voters rejected it (twice). After launching a statewide campaign, the Republican tried to flip-flop on the issue, but Gardner struggled to even do this properly -- the congressman announced he no longer supports the state personhood policy, but he would remain a co-sponsor of the federal personhood legislation.
With Election Day nearing and Gardner locked in a very close race with Sen. Mark Udall (D), would the conservative Coloradan complete the reversal and walk away from the right-wing legislation? Apparently not. Jason Salzman reported Friday that "the die is cast."
The House of Representatives adjourned at noon today, meaning Colorado senatorial candidate Cory Gardner has officially missed his chance to withdraw his name from the Life at Conception Act, a federal personhood bill, prior to the Nov. election.
To un-cosponsor the bill, Gardner would have had to make a statement from the House floor, and now the House is out of session until Nov. 12.
There's simply no ambiguity here. Over a year ago, Gardner signed on to the Life at Conception Act (H.R.1091) as a co-sponsor. The Colorado Republican ostensibly changed his mind about the issue a few months ago, but nevertheless kept his name on the federal personhood bill, despite having ample opportunity to withdraw his support.
And now it's too late to do anything about it.
The NBC affiliate in Denver recently caught up with the congressman to ask about this, and the exchange helped underscore the problem.
After the 2012 elections, it was tempting to think Republicans would be a little more cautious about economic elitism and callous indifference towards those struggling to get by. But in 2014, many GOP officials have thrown caution to the wind and embraced elitism with both arms.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, recently defended cuts to student aid by saying, "Not everybody needs to go to Yale." As McConnell sees it, the nation's elite institutions of higher ed should be within reach for students from rich families -- and no one else. Soon after, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading U.S. Senate candidate, called those who rely on the safety net as "addicts."
And then there's House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who appeared at the American Enterprise Institute last week to discuss the economy. Asked about Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) anti-poverty plans, Boehner was quite candid about his thoughts on the unemployed.
"I think this idea that's been born out the last – maybe out of the economy last couple of years that, 'You know, I really don't have to work. I don't really want to do this, I think I'd just rather sit around.' This is a very sick idea for our country."
The Speaker's perspective is bizarre as a matter of public policy, but I'm glad he made these comments because his candor sheds light on an ugly ideology.
When GOP lawmakers cut off extended jobless aid, on a substantive level, it seems bewildering. In recent decades, neither party even considered such radicalism with high unemployment, if for no other reason because cutting jobless aid hurts economic growth. But Boehner has offered a peek behind the curtain -- the Republican argument isn't about economics, so much as it's about personal animosity. The Speaker and his allies seem to think there's something wrong, and perhaps even offensive, about families struggling to get by.
It's part of the same phenomenon that leads GOP officials to demand drug tests for those relying on the safety net. If you need a hand keeping your head above water, it may very well be the result of a drug addiction. If you want a job and can't find one, the argument goes, the problem is almost certainly your fault -- it's because you'd "rather sit around" than work.
It stems from a school of thought that says many social-insurance programs shouldn't exist because struggling Americans are lazy and simply don't deserve public assistance.
It was just a few years ago that even modest gatherings of Tea Party activists were considered important political news. With that in mind, when over 300,000 activists march together to demand action on the climate crisis, it deserves to be considered a big deal.
MSNBC's Ned Resnikoff and Amanda Sakuma reported yesterday from what organizers described as "the largest mobilization against climate change in the history of the planet."
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators of all ages and from around the world turned out for the massive People's Climate March Sunday, filling the streets of midtown Manhattan with demands for global leaders take action to avert catastrophic climate change.
Crowds gathered with banners, flags and floats around Columbus Circle late Sunday morning as music and chants rang out at the start of the march. At exactly 12:58 p.m., demonstrators held a moment of silence in honor of the victims of climate change, followed by a cacophony of noise with drums, cheers and horns to sound the alarm to the crisis.
Though local law enforcement did not release an official estimate on the crowd size, event organizers said the march drew more than 300,000 demonstrators.
The gathering coincided with new data from the Global Carbon Project, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, that emissions jumped in 2013 to record levels, including a 2.9% increase in the United States, despite modest declines in recent years. The New York Times'report on the new figures noted that if global temperatures "continue on their present course through the century, scientists say, the earth could warm by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level, which would likely be incompatible with human civilization in its current form."
But yesterday's march, timed to coincide with the start of a United Nations climate change summit in New York City, was not the only evidence of a societal shift. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund will announce this morning that it's joining the fossil-fuel divestment movement.
That's no small development -- the Rockefeller Brothers Fund was created in part by wealth generated by John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil.
As of late Friday afternoon, the procedural nuttiness that has plagued Kansas U.S. Senate race appeared to have run its course. The state Supreme Court had ruled that Democrat Chad Taylor could, in fact, remove his name from the statewide ballot, creating a one-on-one match-up pitting Sen. Pat Roberts (R) against Greg Orman (I)..
What's more, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who oversees state elections and just happens to be part of Roberts' re-election campaign committee, appeared to be in retreat, directing officials to begin mailing ballots -- as mandated by federal law -- to Kansans voting from overseas without a Democratic candidate, as per Democrats' wishes.
There was, however, a catch. Kobach, who's making no real effort to hide his brazen partisanship, continues to make unprecedented moves, turning Kansas' race into a circus with no modern parallel. From the Wichita Eagle over the weekend:
Secretary of State Kris Kobach has not given up his position that Democrats must appoint a replacement for Chad Taylor. He says overseas voters may have to cast a second ballot later.
The 526 ballots to be mailed by Saturday to overseas civilians and military personnel include a disclaimer that new ballots will be printed if a court forces Democrats to name a replacement candidate.
Some ballots from Johnson County went out Thursday with Taylor's name. They were amended Friday.
As Rachel put it on Friday's show in reference to events in Kansas, "[T]he political process in one U.S. state today fell completely apart."
Kobach's disclaimer alone belongs in some kind of Hall of Shame.