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Wal-Mart shopping carts sit outside of a store. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Walmart, Pentagon try to knock down conspiracy theory

05/05/15 08:00AM

If proponents of the "Jade Helm 15" conspiracy theory hoped to generate more attention for their bizarre cause, they've succeeded -- it's become a national story. But as was obvious on "The Daily Show" last night, the attention isn't exactly positive for the fringe activists and their fringe paranoia.
 
As we discussed last week, right-wing conspiracy theorists fear the Obama administration is planning some kind of invasion of Southwestern states, and as the Houston Chronicle noted, the activists also believe "Walmart is in on it."
 
It's tough to understand as a coherent thought, but those who fear Obama-imposed martial law apparently suspect Walmart stores in Texas will be used to detain prisoners and/or serve as staging areas. "Secret underground tunnels" are also somehow expected to be involved.
 
It's all quite silly, but enough people have come to believe the nonsense that the retail behemoth actually issued a statement responding to the conspiracy theory. TPM reported yesterday:
Wal-Mart issued a statement Monday to TPM dismissing "rumors" that tunnels were being built by the U.S. military beneath closed stores in an attempt to launch a takeover of Texas.
 
"There's no truth to the rumors," Wal-Mart spokesperson Lorenzo Lopez told TPM via email.
Of course, there's an inherent falsification problem in a situation like this: those who are inclined to believe the crackpot ideas are equally inclined to reject official denials. "That's just what they want us to think," they say.
 
But reality-based officials are nevertheless doing their best. In addition to Walmart, a Pentagon spokesperson added yesterday that the uncontroversial training exercise "poses no threat to any American's civil liberties" and that the "wild speculation" is unfounded.
 
This, alas, will have no effect whatsoever on the "debate," such as it is, since the fringe conspiracy theorists assume the Defense Department is helping orchestrate the scheme.

New details about TX shooters and other headlines

05/05/15 07:39AM

2 Texas shooters' lives twined to tragic end. (Dallas Morning News)

Pres. Obama discusses Baltimore with David Letterman. (Baltimore Sun)

New A.G. Loretta Lynch will meet with officials in Baltimore today. (Politico)

Mike Huckabee eyes Southern states, better funding in 2016 race. (Time)

TX Gov. Abbott defends his Jade Helm 15 decision. (Texas Tribune)

Obama picks Marine general for next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Washington Post)

Sec. of State Kerry makes an unannounced trip to Somalia. (AP)

read more

Oregon passes expanded gun background checks

Oregon passes bill expanding gun background checks

05/04/15 09:58PM

Rachel Maddow reports on a new bill passed by the Oregon legislature and headed for likely signature by Governor Kate Brown, expanding the requirement of background checks for sales and transfers of guns by private sellers, not just dealers and gun shows. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 5.4.15

05/04/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* We'll have more on the Texas shooting on tonight's show: "Texas police shot dead two gunmen armed with assault rifles who opened fire outside of a 'Draw Muhammad' contest organized in the town of Garland on Sunday."
 
* New York: "The NYPD officer who was shot in the head while sitting in an unmarked patrol car in Queens over the weekend has died. Officer Brian Moore, 25, died Monday afternoon after being taken off life support at Jamaica Hospital two days after the shooting in Queens Village."
 
* Baltimore: "Reports of a Baltimore police officer shooting a man Monday near the intersection that was at the heart of looting and riots last week are untrue, Baltimore police said."
 
* Wisconsin gun violence: "An Air Force veteran shot and killed three people, then himself, on a Wisconsin bridge on Sunday night, police said. Another person was critically injured."
 
* New Jersey, Part I: "Two of the Republican's former allies -- his ex-deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and his former top Port Authority official Bill Baroni -- pleaded not guilty.... Bail was set at $150,000 for both Baroni and Kelly and a trial date was scheduled for July 7."
 
* New Jersey, Part II: "The U.S. attorney for New Jersey has cleared three current and former officials in Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration of wrongdoing in an alleged scheme to cow the mayor of Hoboken into supporting a development project by withholding Hurricane Sandy relief funds."
 
* Oh, Albany: "Dean G. Skelos, the leader of the New York State Senate, and his son were arrested on Monday morning by federal authorities on extortion, fraud and bribe solicitation charges, expanding the corruption investigation that has already changed the face of Albany."
 
* Kudos to the New York Times for putting this on the front page: "[A large new study, based on the earnings records of millions of families that moved with children] finds that poor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere."
Scott Walker speaks to supporters at a barbeque in Greenville, SC, March 19, 2015. (Photo by Jason Miczek/Reuters)

The force is not strong with this one

05/04/15 05:02PM

For "Star Wars" fans, May 4th is a fun, unofficial holiday of sorts, predicated on a pun: "May the Fourth be with you." Some get the joke better than others.
 
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), for example, turned to Twitter to celebrate "Star Wars Day," complete with a Yoda-esque partisan message: "Hope for Republicans there still is."
 
The unannounced Republican presidential candidate included an image -- Yoda on one side, Walker in silhouette on the other -- with familiar dialog from the franchise. "That boy was our last hope.... No, there is another." The image includes the governor's name in the classic "Star Wars" font.
 
To be sure, it's just a fun little message intended to take advantage of an Internet meme, and there's no reason to take it too seriously. But if we were going to get a little nerdy -- OK, more than a little -- Walker's message was a little flawed, at least as far as "Star Wars" canon is concerned.
 
"That boy was our last hope" referred to Luke Skywalker, who -- spoiler alert -- was the triumphant hero of the franchise. In Walker's message, "that boy" refers to someone -- I guess President Obama? -- but that's not quite the message the Republican candidate is supposed to make here.
 
Indeed, "There is another" refers to Leia, who gets to go to a nice party with some Ewoks. In the analogy, Walker is apparently supposed to be Leia, with nascent, untrained force abilities? NARAL picked up on this, too, having a little fun at Walker's expense.
Protests in Baltimore After Funeral Held For Baltimore Man Who Died While In Police Custody

Don't blame Baltimore's crisis on 'liberal policies'

05/04/15 04:34PM

On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Chuck Todd asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about the recent unrest in Baltimore. The Republican leader blasted "50 years of liberal policies that have not worked to help the very people that we want to help."
 
On "Face the Nation," House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sounded similar notes, saying the United States has "the same poverty rates," despite "a 50-year war on poverty and trillions of dollars spent." Ryan rejected the idea of "pumping more money into the same failed system."
 
The comments weren't exactly surprising. As developments in Baltimore grew more serious last week, plenty of conservatives saw the unrest through a specific lens: the city's crisis is Exhibit A in the case against progressive social-welfare policies.
 
Rebecca Leber made a compelling case that the right has this backwards.
Conservatives base this logic -- that the city somehow proves government investment and social programs are bad policy -- on a selective history of Baltimore, noting for instance that its residents have elected only one non-Democratic mayor since the 1940s. But Baltimore's problems stretch further back, to institutionalized racial discrimination in the early 20th century. Federal and local policymakers of the time redlined areas with "undesirable racial concentrations" to omit them from mortgage insurance programs.
 
And over the century, the same neighborhoods faced one destructive policy after another, from mass incarceration to the rise of predatory banks.
The argument that Democrats share responsibility is grounded in fact, but not in the way Republicans mean -- too often Dems, in the name of political expediency, went along with the conservative approach on issues like criminal justice, welfare reform, and generations of red-lining and segregation, which had a brutally detrimental impact on urban areas.
 
In other words, don't blame Democrats for being too progressive; blame them for not being progressive enough.
The Idaho statehouse in Boise, Idaho. (Charlie Litchfield/AP)

Conspiracy theory prompts special session in Idaho

05/04/15 03:38PM

At first blush, developments in Idaho state government may seem entirely uninteresting: policymakers are struggling to deal with enforcement of the child-support system. But the great part of the story is the amazing conspiracy theory that's driving the problem.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter called a special session of the Legislature [last week], his first in his three terms as governor, ordering lawmakers back to Boise on May 18 to address a crisis in the state's child support enforcement system.
 
"It's the deadbeat parent that we're after here, and it's our responsibility to hold them responsible," Otter declared.
As the Spokesman-Review article explained, the Republican-run state House was supposed to bring the state's child-support enforcement system in line with federal regulations, so that Idaho can receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal resources.
 
But GOP lawmakers balked, not because they oppose enforcing child-support laws, but because of a ridiculous conspiracy. The Idaho Statesman highlighted "a bizarre episode of toxic, conspiratorial anti-federalist/anti-United Nations/anti-religious fear-mongering," which "leaked like battery acid on a perfectly legitimate program."
The White House seen from the South Lawn Aug. 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

GOP tries to flip 'Party of No' label

05/04/15 01:02PM

President Obama's veto pen hasn't had much use in recent years. There was one veto in 2009 and another in 2010, but they were both technical objections, not evidence of a genuine conflict between Congress and the White House. From 2011 to 2014, when congressional productivity collapsed to historic low, Obama didn't have anything to veto -- in part because very few bills reached his desk at all.
 
This year, we've already seen two vetoes, but just as interesting is the number of veto threats. The president issued four such warnings last week, and the Washington Times' count puts the total for 2015 so far at 26 veto threats, "by far the most of any president at this point in a new legislative session," at least since political scientists started keeping track 30 years ago.
 
Republicans have taken aim at the president's reliance on veto threats, which usually are spelled out in official White House documents known as "statements of administration policy." GOP leaders say Mr. Obama has proved he's not interested in working with them on bipartisan goals and instead is intent on blocking Republicans' agenda at every turn.
 
"Despite Republicans reaching across the aisle to pass good legislation, the president has responded with veto threats President Obama has shown time and again that he is unwilling to work with Congress by threatening to veto bills before they even get a chance to reach his desk," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, wrote on his website last week. "The American people don't want vetoes. They want Washington to work. But it can only work if the President stops his obstruction and starts cooperating with Congress."
The House Majority Leader wasn't kidding -- he's actually accusing the White House of "obstruction." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Fox News have recently used similar rhetoric.
 
You can almost hear irony crying somewhere in a corner.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.4.15

05/04/15 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:
 
* In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie's (R) support appears to be reaching new lows at the worst possible time. A new Monmouth University poll puts the governor's approval rating at just 35%, with only 30% having a favorable opinion of Christie personally.
 
* On ABC yesterday, George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) if he would support the Democratic presidential nominee if his campaign comes up short. "Yes," Sanders replied, adding that he would "absolutely not" run as an independent.
 
* On a related note, Sanders said in New Hampshire over the weekend that he would register as a Democrat if it were procedurally necessary to compete in all 50 states.
 
* Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) surprised a few people over the weekend, offering supportive comments about Bruce Jenner: "If [Jenner] says he's a woman, then he's a woman." Last night, the unannounced presidential candidate said his remarks about Jenner were "meant to express empathy not a change in public policy."
 
* A conservative group funded by the Koch brothers are trying to curry favor with Latino voters through something called the "LIBRE Initiative," which is reportedly now up and running in nine states.
 
* For the fourth time in recent weeks, a high-profile Republican Floridian has passed on next year's U.S. Senate race. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) bowed out late last week, following similar announcements from Rep. Tom Rooney, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, and Florida's elected chief financial officer Jeff Atwater.
Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina speaks at the New England Council's "Politics and Eggs" breakfast in Bedford, N.H., Feb. 10, 2015. (Photo by Gretchen Ertl/Reuters)

Carly Fiorina launches longshot White House bid

05/04/15 11:20AM

As a rule, presidential candidates enjoy a flurry of attention on their first day, which campaigns are eager to exploit for fundraising and generating interest. It's why most campaign kickoffs are spaced out well -- everyone wants the spotlight to themselves, at least for a little while.
 
This week, however, is a bit of a mess. Ben Carson launched his national candidacy this morning; Mike Huckabee will make his announcement tomorrow; and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina made her bid official a few hours ago.
In a video posted online, Fiorina immediately painted herself as Hillary Clinton's chief critic, beginning with a brief clip of the former secretary of state's own presidential announcement. 
 
"Our founders never intended us to have a professional political class," she says in the video. "We know the only way to reimagine our government is to reimagine who is leading it. I'm Carly Fiorina and I'm running for president"
 
Fiorina -- who first announced her bid on ABC's "Good Morning America" -- will follow her announcement with a social media roll-out and visits to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina later in the week.
Fiorina has never held public office. She ran for the U.S. Senate in California in 2010 -- arguably the single greatest election cycle for the Republican Party in generations -- and Fiorina lost by double digits. She was also an ineffective campaign surrogate for John McCain's and Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaigns.
 
Indeed, at one point in 2008, the McCain/Palin team was so annoyed with Fiorina's ineptitude that it pulled her from the team of surrogates allowed to speak for the campaign on TV.
 
In theory, some politicians try to parlay private-sector success into successful campaigns, but Fiorina's business background is arguably her most glaring weakness -- her HP tenure was a "disaster" that "almost destroyed the company." By some measures, she was among the worst American CEOs of all time.
 
There are some reports this morning that Fiorina  may thrive as a tech-friendly candidate, but she neglected to register CarlyFiorina.org -- an oversight her critics were eager to take advantage of.
 
So, what's left? A candidate with no public support, no experience, no relevant skills, and an unfortunate track record of falling up. Given all of this, why in the world is Carly Fiorina joining an already crowded Republican presidential field, launching a campaign that stands no credible chance of success?

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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