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Jobless claims climb a bit, reach five-week high

05/28/15 08:40AM

It's never good news when initial unemployment claims go up, especially a few weeks in a row, but no one is sweating numbers like these.,at least not yet.
The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in late May rose to a five-week high, but the rate of layoffs in the U.S. economy remained near a record low. Initial jobless claims climbed by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000 in the week stretched from May 17 to May 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to fall to 270,000 from a slightly revised 275,000 in the prior week.
 
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, increased by 5,000 to 271,500. A week earlier the monthly average had dropped to a 15-year low.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.

In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 31 of the last 37 weeks.
Nebraska lawmakers sit in the dark Legislative Chamber during second-round debate, May 15, 2015, in Lincoln, Neb., on a bill to abolish the death penalty. (Photo by Nati Harnik/AP)

An unexpected win for death-penalty opponents in Nebraska

05/28/15 08:00AM

Since 2000, six states have banned the death penalty, and all six can fairly be described as "blue" states. Four of the six -- Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland -- are in the Northeast, and the other two -- Illinois and New Mexico -- are hardly conservative strongholds.
 
But as Rachel reported on the show last night, there's a new addition to the list, and it's one that would have been hard to predict as recently as a few months ago. From Amanda Sakuma's msnbc report;
The Nebraska legislature abolished the death penalty Wednesday in a down-to-the-wire vote overriding Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto, making Nebraska the first red state in decades to strike capital punishment from its books.
 
In a 30-19 vote that crossed party lines, the unicameral legislature defied the Republican governor's opposition to the death penalty repeal, garnering the exact number of votes needed to overcome his veto.
Nebraska, with its unusual unicameral legislature, technically has a non-partisan state government, but it's hardly a secret that Republican policymakers dominate in this ruby-red state. It made yesterday's vote that much more satisfying.
 
The key to success, oddly enough, was framing the debate in a conservative way -- proponents of the change made the case that the flawed existing system is too expensive; it's at odds with the values of honoring life; and the governments that kill their own citizens are the biggest of all possible governments.

It was close, and the state's Republican governor lobbied hard to keep the death penalty in place, but the argument won the day.
 
Nebraska will now join 18 states and the District of Columbia in banning capital punishment. But how secure is the victory?

Obamacare lawsuit and other headlines

05/28/15 08:00AM

First hearing today in House lawsuit against Obamacare. (AP)

Feds order pipeline company to clean up Santa Barbara coastline. (L.A. Times)

Swollen rivers cause Texas cities to worry about flooding. (AP)

Fewer immigrants are crossing the U.S. border illegally. (Washington Post)

Disgraced Chicago cops posed with black suspect wearing deer antlers. (USA Today)

3 British schoolgirls who ran off to Syria have reportedly made contact with their families. (ITV)

Funny campaign website '404' pages are a thing now. (Wall Street Journal)

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FIFA in turmoil as Women's World Cup begins

FIFA in turmoil as Women's World Cup begins

05/27/15 09:40PM

Megan Rapinoe, Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, talks with Rachel Maddow about the arrests of nine FIFA officials on corruption charges, objections to artificial turf, and rising status of women's soccer in the U.S. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 5.27.15

05/27/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* More on this on tonight's show: "Nebraska has repealed the death penalty following a dramatic vote Wednesday by state lawmakers to override the governor's veto. The high-stakes vote to override the veto of Legislative Bill 268 was 30-19. It requires at least 30 of 49 senators to overturn a gubernatorial veto."
 
* The new rules would apply to more than half of the nation's bodies of water: "President Obama on Wednesday announced a sweeping new clean water regulation meant to restore the federal government's authority to limit pollution in the nation's rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands."
 
* FIFA: "Seven of the most powerful executives in soccer were arrested in Switzerland on Wednesday in what American prosecutors called a generations-long scheme to corrupt the most popular sport in the world."
 
* Deadly storms: "Rescue workers waded through receding floodwaters in southeastern Texas on Wednesday in search of other missing victims who may still be alive. But their efforts came as authorities revised the death toll higher -- identifying at least two more victims while another round of storms rolled through earlier in the morning."
 
* Probably the right move: "President Obama will put off a confrontation at the Supreme Court over his immigration executive actions, choosing not to ask for permission to carry out the programs while a fight over presidential authority plays out in the lower courts, officials said Wednesday."
 
* Arkansas: "A 2013 Arkansas law banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy has been permanently blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in a decision issued Wednesday. The three-judge panel affirmed a district court's earlier decision finding the ban unconstitutional and placed a permanent injunction on the law, which was one of the strictest abortion prohibitions in the country."
The dome of the US Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C., September 20, 2008.

One party has become more extreme (and one hasn't)

05/27/15 04:40PM

Arguably no single development in American politics has mattered more in recent generations than the radicalization of the Republican Party. As anyone who's read Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein knows, the GOP's shift to the far-right has fundamentally remade the policy landscape and changed the nature of the political rules in ways nothing -- no scandal, no crisis, no war -- has in many decades.
 
At least, that's what all available evidence tells us. Peter Wehner, the White House director of "strategic initiatives" in the Bush/Cheney era, not only disagrees with the thesis, but actually suggests the evidence has it backwards -- it's Democrats, he claims, who've become more extreme. From his New York Times piece today:
Among liberals, it's almost universally assumed that of the two major parties, it's the Republicans who have become more extreme over the years. That's a self-flattering but false narrative.
 
This is not to say the Republican Party hasn't become a more conservative party. It has. But in the last two decades the Democratic Party has moved substantially further to the left than the Republican Party has shifted to the right. On most major issues the Republican Party hasn't moved very much from where it was during the Gingrich era in the mid-1990s.
Intrigued, I dug into the piece, eager to see Wehner's proof. He noted, for example, that while many Democrats embraced a conservative approach to criminal-justice reform 20 years ago, most Dems are now widely concerned about the societal costs and effects of mass incarceration and police abuses.
 
I'm afraid Wehner hasn't fully thought this through. Democrats adopted a position, implemented it, and are now weighing changes after scrutinizing the results of their own policy. Plenty of Republicans agree with the Democratic conclusions, and support the same reforms. That's proof of a party that's become more extreme? Not by any definition I'm familiar with.
 
Well, maybe Wehner's piece just got off to a rough start. How about his second piece of evidence? The piece soon after complains that while Bill Clinton reformed welfare, President Obama created the Affordable Care Act.
 
Perhaps Wehner hasn't fully thought this through, either.
Rick Santorum, former Republican senator of Pennsylvania, speaks during the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa on May 16, 2015. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty)

Rick Santorum is ready for his close-up (again)

05/27/15 12:50PM

At the Republican National Committee's spring meeting two weeks ago, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) was eager to remind party activists that over the last half-century, Republicans have nominated just three types of people for president. "No. 1, they were a vice president. No. 2, they were the son of a former president," Santorum said. "No. 3, they came in second place the election before, and ran again."
 
For Santorum, it was a self-serving observation -- he arguably came in second in 2012, winning 11 primaries and caucuses -- which happened to be true. If Republicans regularly turn to the "next in line" candidate, the former Pennsylvania senator has reason for optimism.
 
But realistically, that optimism is almost certainly misplaced. This report from NBC News' Perry Bacon Jr. rings true.
In the early stages of the race, key party officials and donors have bypassed Santorum to back other candidates, particularly ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. In Iowa, where Santorum won in 2012 after visiting all 99 counties, some of his key backers in 2012 are already defecting to other candidates, particularly Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
 
Santorum, despite finishing second in 2012, is so low in national polls right now that he may be excluded from a debate Fox News is hosting in August.... That low standing suggests he built little of a national following during this 2012 campaign.
I re-read this morning the piece I wrote when Santorum quit in 2012, and I was reminded of his improbable success. The former senator, who suffered a humiliating re-election defeat in 2006, parlayed failure into an unfocused, underfunded national campaign that managed to win quite a few states in spite of itself.
 
But in hindsight, we can now say with confidence that Santorum's success was something of a mirage -- lingering far-right skepticism about Mitt Romney led conservatives to look for an alternative who occasionally spoke in complete sentences. Santorum fared pretty well, not because of his competence as a national candidate, but because he was a warm body not named Mitt Romney.
 
Four years later, as Republicans grow the largest major-party presidential field in American history, rank-and-file GOP voters have all kinds of choices -- and they've shown absolutely no interest in the former Pennsylvania senator whom they got to know pretty well the last time around.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.27.15

05/27/15 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:
 
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appeared on msnbc this morning and held many in his party partially responsible for the rise of ISIS militants. "ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most these arms were snatched up by ISIS," he said.
 
* Scott Walker suggested he's prepared to skip Florida's presidential primary, given the notable Floridians already running. "If we chose to get in, I don't think there's a state out there we wouldn't play in, other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are," Walker said yesterday,
 
* Bernie Sanders, who held a big campaign kickoff in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, yesterday, has reportedly raised more than $4 million since announcing his candidacy in late April. Given that the independent senator doesn't take PAC money, that's a whole lot of small-dollar donors.
 
* Carly Fiorina apparently doesn't think highly of the Chinese. "I have been doing business in China for decades, and I will tell you that yeah, the Chinese can take a test, but what they can't do is innovate," she said. "They are not terribly imaginative. They're not entrepreneurial, they don't innovate, that is why they are stealing our intellectual property."
 
* The far-right Club for Growth has apparently taken an interest in Florida's Democratic Senate race. The group launched a new TV ad yesterday, criticizing Rep. Patrick Murphy's (D) support for the Export-Import Bank, while praising Rep. Alan Grayson's (D) opposition.
 
* Though there's been some scuttlebutt that Chris Christie might forgo the presidential race, those rumors appear to be wrong: he's scheduled a series of campaign stops in June in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is reflected in a mirror as he departs after speaking to the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce in Salem, N.H. May 21, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Why Jeb Bush's line on Alzheimer's matters

05/27/15 11:35AM

Like most Republican presidential candidates, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) tends to emphasize his support for cutting spending on most domestic priorities. But as NBC News reported yesterday, there are apparently exceptions to Bush's preferred approach.
Presidential candidate Jeb Bush says that the nation should increase funding to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease and should speed up the approval process for medications to treat it.
 
The GOP presidential hopeful, who spoke last week about his mother-in-law's struggle with the disease, proposed the ideas to NBC News Special Anchor Maria Shriver during an email exchange.
Bush specifically said, "We need to increase funding to find a cure. We need to reform FDA [regulations] to accelerate the approval process for drug and device approval at a much lower cost. We need to find more community based solutions for care."
 
The former governor also tied his policy position to his own personal, family experiences. "My sister-in-law and husband are the caregivers for my now 95-year old mother-in-law," Bush added. "Columba helps all the time. She is a blessing from God."
 
To be sure, there's nothing wrong with this. Endorsing increased funding and related steps in the campaign against Alzheimer's is a perfectly reasonable position to take.
 
But in Bush's case, there are some notable angles to keep in mind. The Tampa Bay Times' Adam C. Smith, for example, noted that the Florida Republican's current position is likely to annoy the state lawmakers in both parties who "recall Bush vetoing their budget items targeting Alzheimer's research and care while at the same time approving tax cuts often mainly for the benefit of specific businesses or wealthier Floridians."
 
Smith noted several key measures, including Bush vetoing funding in 2003 for daycare centers in Boynton Beach serving 100 adults with Alzheimer's Disease, and then in 2004 also vetoing funding for construction of outpatient treatment centers connected with the University of South Florida's Alzheimer's Research Institute.
 
At the time, the Republican governor called it a "want," not a "need."

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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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