Rachel Maddow looks at some of the risks inherent in U.S. actions in Syria and Iraq in pursuit of ISIS and implores Congress to fulfil its constitutional role and help devise U.S. policy and debate the authorization of force. watch
Senator Tim Kaine, member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, talks with Rachel Maddow about why he hopes Congress takes up the debate over whether to authorize President Obama to use military force in pursuit of ISIS. watch
Hannah Rappleye, NBC News Investigative Unit reporter, walks Rachel Maddow through the strange story of a Victor White III, whose death in the back of a police car was ruled a suicide despite being shot in the chest while he was handcuffed behind his... watch
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* Cease fire: "Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years -- but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict."
* Well, this complicates things: "Ukraine said Tuesday its forces detained a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev warned of a possible "Russian-directed counteroffensive" by pro-Moscow separatists, raising tensions between the two countries as their presidents attended a regional summit."
* ISIS: "President Obama on Tuesday vowed to address the threat posed by the 'barbaric terrorists' of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as the administration weighs the possibility of expanding U.S. airstrikes to target militants operating in Syria. Airstrikes are already taking place in Iraq."
* Syria: "The battle in itself seemed tragically normal. Two Syrian opposition groups fought and there were heavy casualties on both sides. Then victorious rebels rifled through the pockets of the dead. One contained about $800 in cash -- and an American passport. Douglas McAuthur McCain, of San Diego, California, was killed over the weekend fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to the Free Syrian Army."
* On a related note: "President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad."
* Congress has some work to do: "The Obama administration must get congressional approval before carrying out airstrikes against Islamist militants in Syria, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday. 'We should certainly authorize this,' Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on MSNBC."
* A lot of the early reporting on this turned out to be wrong: "Investigators found no conclusive proof that delays in medical care caused patient deaths at the Phoenix VA Health Care System."
* Climate: "Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts' over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report."
* Ebola: "That makes five. The first was Guinea. Then, three days later on March 27, the World Health Organization reported that there were 'suspected' cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Months passed before the disease, which has now killed 1,427 people across West Africa, reached Nigeria in early August. Now it's the Democratic Republic of Congo."
* On a related note, much of this isn't rational: "According to a Harvard School of Public Health/SSRS poll, 68 percent of the US population believes Ebola spreads 'easily.' Four in 10 are worried there will be a large outbreak in the United States. And a quarter of Americans are afraid the virus will infect them or someone in their families."
If you heard jokes this morning about House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) releasing a video of himself with a toy monkey, it's worth noting that those jokes were true.
In one of the more unexpected things to come out of Boehner's office in a long while, the Speaker's official blog posted an item of a toy monkey that's apparently become something of an unofficial mascot.
It all started in the fall of 2011, when Speaker Boehner joked in an interview that some days he felt like a windup toy because his jam-packed scheduled kept him so busy. So, as a light-hearted token of appreciation (and a less-than-subtle reminder to not use that metaphor again), Speaker Boehner's staff brought the monkey to the U.S. Capitol.
The Speaker got the joke, and as seen in the video above, the monkey has been eavesdropping and photobombing from the comfort and convenience of his home on the Speaker's coffee table ever since.
In the video, the Speaker says to the camera, "My staff gave it to me.... Every 15 to 30 minutes, they come in and wind me up and I do my thing."
The video also shows Boehner telling some children in his office, pointing to the monkey that mindlessly bangs cymbals together over and over again, "That's what I do all day." In a voice-over, the Speaker adds, apparently in reference to the toy, "This is me."
For what it's worth, I'm not inclined to criticize lighthearted videos like these. Everyone has their diversions -- Speaker Boehner has a toy monkey in his office; I have Monty Python figures in mine -- so there's no judgment here.
But watching the video, a couple of things occurred to me.
Remember the IRS "scandal"? It ran out of steam quite a while ago when literally every allegation fell apart, but it appears that some conservatives continue to hold out hope.
A far-right group called Judicial Watch, which continues to pursue the discredited controversy, touted the "discovery" yesterday of computer backups that may uncover missing emails from Lois Lerner. The New York Observer ran an "IRS Shocker" headline, and soon after, all the major far-right blogs had run with the story, as had Fox, Breitbart, Glenn Beck's The Blaze, et al.
I received some emails from conservative readers convinced that this time, after over a year of false starts, the story really will gain traction. There may be, the new argument goes, some heretofore unmentioned back-up tapes of government emails that may have IRS messages, which may include Lerner emails, which may have damning evidence.
[A]n administration official with knowledge of Friday's conversation said Judicial Watch's statement, which runs counter to months of statements from a variety of administration and IRS higher-ups, was off-base. The administration official said Justice Department lawyers had dropped no bombshells last week, and Judicial Watch was mischaracterizing what the government had said.
[B]ackup tapes are routinely recycled and written over, but it's possible that some of the tapes weren't entirely written over. There's a chance that old emails might still be at the tail end of some of the tapes and could be recovered. And who knows: maybe some of them were Lerner's. This is, as you can imagine, (a) the longest of long shots, and (b) a pretty difficult forensic recovery job even if some parts of the backup tapes contain old messages. It's certainly not a jaw-dropping revelation.
And just to add to this line of thought, there's nothing to suggest Lois Lerner's emails are all that interesting anyway.
Robert Draper recently generated some interesting discussion in the political world, asking, "Has the 'Libertarian Moment' finally arrived?" There's fresh evidence that the answer is, "Probably not."
The Pew Research Center's Jocelyn Kiley published a report yesterday that found while many Americans don't really know what "libertarian" means, the more striking detail is that Americans who self-identify as libertarian don't have views that differ much from the rest of the public.
Self-described libertarians tend to be modestly more supportive of some libertarian positions, but few of them hold consistent libertarian opinions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues. [...]
In some cases, the political views of self-described libertarians differ modestly from those of the general public; in others there are no differences at all.
As Ed Kilgore noted, the Pew Research Center's report focused on the views of actual libertarians -- those who self-identify as adherents and know what the term means -- which meant stripping away some Americans who think they're libertarians but aren't. (Some respondents apparently confused the word with "Unitarian," which struck me as kind of hilarious.)
Regardless, the results were unexpected. Nearly four-in-ten libertarians see government aid to the poor as worthwhile. A slightly higher percentage believe government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest. A slightly higher percentage still agree that "it is best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs."
In some cases, self-identified libertarians are less in line with libertarian principles than the public at large, which suggests we're looking at a political movement with a coherence problem.
It reminded me of a recent quote from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), arguably the highest-profile member of the GOP's libertarian wing.