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US moves to block Iranian ships off Yemen

US moves to block Iranian ships off Yemen

04/20/15 10:29PM

Rachel Maddow shows the consequences of collapsed governments, from a refugee crisis from Libya to war in Yemen. Dion Nissenbaum, Wall Street Journal Pentagon reporter, joins to discuss a U.S. move to intercept Iranian ships in the Gulf of Aden. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 4.20.15

04/20/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Watch this story: "American warships are prepared to intercept a convoy of Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons to Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, senior defense and military officials told NBC News on Monday."
 
* East Africa: "A bomb attack targeting a van carrying workers to a United Nations compound killed nine people on Monday, police said.  Authorities suspect Islamist al Shabaab militants of being behind the blast in Garowe in the Somali region of Puntland, police officer Mohamed Abdi said at the scene. Six bystanders were wounded, he added."
 
* High court: "The Supreme Court threw out a ruling from last year that upheld Republican-drawn congressional and state legislative districts on Monday, ordering North Carolina's highest court to reconsider its decision that state legislators didn't rely too heavily on race when drawing the district lines."
 
* Labor Secretary Thomas Perez talked with Greg Sargent today, offering a spirited defense of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama may soon negotiate with "fast-track" authority.
 
* ISIS: "The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from its branches in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting."
 
* I'd like to hear more about this: "The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000."
 
* Michigan: "A suburban Detroit police officer who was seen on dash-cam video dragging a black man from his car before kicking and punching him repeatedly will be charged with two felony counts, a county prosecutor said Monday."
Barack Obama, Dilma Rousseff,

The race for 21st-century primacy

04/20/15 05:13PM

At first blush, it's likely the White House's critics will gravitate to this New York Times piece, headlined, "At Global Economic Gathering, U.S. Primacy Is Seen as Ebbing." But I hope they'll do more than just read the headline.
As world leaders converge here for their semiannual trek to the capital of what is still the world's most powerful economy, concern is rising in many quarters that the United States is retreating from global economic leadership just when it is needed most.
 
"It's almost handing over legitimacy to the rising powers," Arvind Subramanian, the chief economic adviser to the government of India, said of the United States in an interview on Friday.... Other officials attending the meetings this week, speaking on the condition of anonymity, agreed that the role of the United States around the world was at the top of their concerns.
For Republicans and a variety of lazy pundits, one assumes the reaction to such reports is reflexive : "See? President Obama obviously needs to lead more."
 
But there's a more meaningful takeaway from reports like these, published to coincide with the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The Times' piece notes that it was the United States that was largely responsible for building the global economic stage after World War II, it was the United States that's directed the stage for generations, but it's now the United States that's struggling to maintain its primacy.
Washington's retreat is not so much by intent, Mr. Subramanian said, but a result of dysfunction and a lack of resources to project economic power the way it once did. Because of tight budgets and competing financial demands, the United States is less able to maintain its economic power, and because of political infighting, it has been unable to formally share it either.
And this is the part that the political world should pay attention to. For all the assumptions on the right about President Obama retreating from the global stage, that's almost entirely backwards -- Republicans are almost exclusively referring to a willingness to fight and prolong wars when they make the complaint. It's the White House, however, that welcome greater international engagement, but faces an intransigent Congress run by a far-right party.
 
As the world looks for more investment, American lawmakers ask, "How can we spend less?" As China looks to expand its influence, it's the U.S. Congress that asks, "How can we scale back even more?"
Governor Mike Pence (R-IN) holds a press conference March 31, 2015 at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty)

Pence extends needle-exchange program after HIV outbreak

04/20/15 03:49PM

When Indiana state policymakers last month tackled a new right-to-discriminate law, it was an unfortunate move for all kinds of reasons. There were, of course, the obvious problems of sanctioning discrimination and doing lasting damage to the state's reputation, all in the hopes of solving a problem that didn't exist.
 
But there's also the fact that Indiana policymakers had other issues on their plate that deserved their immediate attention.
An Indiana county at the heart of an H.I.V. outbreak has seen a "significant increase" in the number of cases more than two weeks into a short-term needle exchange program, state health officials said.
 
There are now 120 confirmed H.I.V. cases and 10 preliminary positive cases tied to Scott County, the Indiana State Department of Health said on Friday. That is up from 106 the previous week.
 
Health officials who declared an epidemic last month have said that they expect the number of cases to rise as more people are tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent staff members to Indiana last month to help with testing, the Health Department said in a news release.
In late March, Gov. Mike Pence (R), on literally the same day he signed the right-to-discriminate measure into law, approved a temporary needle-exchange program intended to address the public-health emergency in the affected area of Indiana.
 
This afternoon, the governor, citing the preliminary progress over the last four weeks, extended the program. Note, Indiana law prohibits needle exchanges, but Pence is pursuing the policy anyway through a gubernatorial executive order.
Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Ia., March 7, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Bush ignores right-wing myth, wades into 'death panel' politics

04/20/15 01:01PM

As awful as Republican rhetoric became during the debate over health care reform, the "death panel" talking point continues to stand out as a uniquely stupid allegation. The irony of the attack is that it was one of the more bipartisan elements of the entire reform initiative.
 
The idea was simple: doctors would be reimbursed through the Affordable Care Act for helping guide seniors through their end-of-life care options. One of the idea's more notable champions was Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) who explained back in 2010 that having advance directives or a living will "empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you."
 
The right didn't care. A certain former half-term Alaska governor started throwing around the phrase "death panels"; some policymakers who knew better embraced the lie; and the worthwhile idea was quietly scrapped, chalking up a victory for mindless propaganda over sensible policymaking. An Obama administration proposal for "voluntary advance care planning" in 2010 was also pulled in the face of right-wing apoplexy.
 
Given this history, it's kind of amazing to see the debate come full circle.
Jeb Bush, defending his efforts to keep alive Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman, when he was governor of Florida, suggested on Friday that patients on Medicare should be required to sign advance directives dictating their care if they become incapacitated.
Campaigning in New Hampshire over the weekend, the unannounced candidate was asked about his handling of the Schiavo matter. Bush said, looking back, "I don't think I would change anything." Given his decisions during the controversy, that itself is a striking posture.
 
But Bush added, "In hindsight, the one thing that I would have loved to have seen was an advance directive where the family would have sorted this out.... I think if we're going to mandate anything from government, it might be that if you're going to take Medicare, you also sign up for an advance directive where you talk about this before you're so disabled."

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.20.15

04/20/15 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 national CNN poll shows Jeb Bush leading the Republican presidential field with 17% support, followed by Scott Walker with 12%. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are close behind with 11% each.
 
* In the same poll, Hillary Clinton enjoys double-digit leads over each of the GOP candidates, with the former Secretary of State leading Rubio by 14 points, Bush by 17 points, Rand Paul by 19 points, and Scott Walker by 22 points.
 
* In a bit of a surprise, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced yesterday that will run for re-election to the Senate, rather than return home to run for governor in West Virginia.
 
* On a related note, in 2012, Manchin did not endorse President Obama and did not attend the Democratic National Convention. This year, however, Manchin has already endorsed Hillary Clinton.
 
* If each of the top Republican presidential candidates is going to have his own billionaire, it's worth getting to know Rubio's benefactor: Norman Braman, an 82-year-old Miami businessman.
 
* In New Jersey, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Gov. Chris Christie's (R) approval rating continuing to slide, reaching just 38% in the latest statewide survey. It's easily his all-time low.
Marco Rubio, senateur republicain de Floride, lors de la CPAC  2015, conference d'action politique conservatrice, a National Harbor

Does Rubio support his own immigration bill?

04/20/15 11:26AM

There came a point in Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign in which the Arizona Republican felt stuck. He'd worked with Democrats and George W. Bush on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which his party ended up rejecting. In a primary debate, McCain, running low on options, declared publicly that he would vote against his own bill.
 
Nearly a decade later, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) finds himself in a similar position, having worked with Democrats on a similar comprehensive immigration reform package, which his party hates even more than McCain's 2008 bill. If he sticks to his position, the far-right senator will alienate the GOP base. If Rubio abandons his own legislation, he looks craven and weak.
 
At least for now, the Florida Republican hopes to resolve the problem by taking both sides simultaneously.
 
As of last week, Rubio had written a bipartisan reform bill, then criticized it, then voted for it, then abandoned, then bragged about having worked on it. Yesterday on "Face the Nation," host Bob Schieffer asked the candidate, "If you became president, would you sign the bill that you put together into law?" The senator didn't want to answer.
"Well, that's a hypothetical that will never happen.
 
"What I would do if I was president, the first thing I would do is, I would ask Congress to pass a very specific bill that puts in place E-Verify, an entry-exit tracking to prevent visa overstays, and improve security on the border. Once we achieve that, step two would be, we would modernize our legal immigration system, less family- based, more merit-based.
 
"And then the third step would be to pass the bill that goes to the 10 million people that are here, or 12 million that are here illegally. If they have been for longer than a decade, they have to pass background check, they have to learn English, they have to pay taxes, they have to pay a fine. And they would get a work permit."
Under the bill Rubio helped write, undocumented immigrants who passed a background check, learned English, paid taxes, and paid a fine would then be eligible to apply for citizenship. Under Rubio's new position, they'd "get a work permit."
 
After a "substantial period of time," the immigrants could then apply for "legal residency," and after an additional number of years, the pathway to citizenship would open up. In other words, Rubio's new plan isn't quite in line with his old one.
The coal-fired Plant Scherer is shown in operation early Sunday, June 1, 2014, in Juliette, Ga.

Will the climate debate be more than hot air in 2016?

04/20/15 10:50AM

In the last presidential election, the Republican nominee couldn't seem to decide whether or not he cared, or even believed in, the climate crisis. Mitt Romney ended up changing his mind more than once, depending on his audience at the time. The GOP candidate always seemed torn between acknowledging reality and alienating his Republican brethren who see climate science as an elaborate international "hoax."
 
We may be poised to a replay. Benjy Sarlin reported the other day on Jeb Bush's latest comments about global warming at an appearance in New Hampshire.
The most surprising turn came earlier Friday at a breakfast event at St. Anselm College, where Bush said "we need to work with the rest of the world to negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions."
 
The comments marked a big shift from his previous criticism of climate science. While Bush criticized Obama's environmental regulations as an economic drain, his comments put him to the left of the Republican field, which has tacked hard towards climate skepticism since 2008.
A massive field of Republican presidential candidates is taking shape, and it's been hard not to wonder whether the field would be made up entirely of climate deniers. It's admittedly setting the bar awfully low, but the Florida Republican's willingness to express some concern about emissions is a positive sign.
 
At least it was, right up until Jeb Bush started adding caveats. Rebecca Leber added:

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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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