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It's a dog's afterlife

It's a dog's afterlife

12/16/14 09:34PM

Rachel Maddow shares video from today's story meeting in which the staff try to figure out how the standing of dogs with respect to getting into Heaven has changed in the eyes of the Catholic Church according to different popes. watch

Deadly school attack shocks Pakistan

Deadly school attack shocks Pakistan

12/16/14 09:21PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the horrific attack on a Pakistani school by the Pakistani Taliban targeting the children of members of the Pakistani military, and explains some of the context of the Pakistani Taliban and its war with the Pakistani government. watch

2015 is coming and it's going to be OK

2015 is coming and it's going to be OK

12/16/14 09:19PM

Rachel Maddow shares video of the Times Square New Year's numbers being tested before they're installed ahead of the city's annual celebration and reassures viewers that the slight malfunction on first testing is not an omen. watch

Ahead on the 12/16/14 Maddow show

12/16/14 08:29PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Amna Nawaz, editor at NBC Asian America, former NBC News Islamabad correspondent and bureau chief
  • Jane Mayer, staff writer at the New Yorker

Here's executive producer Cory Gnazzo with a preview of what's coming up:

read more

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 12.16.14

12/16/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* The scope of the bloodshed is just overwhelming: "Pakistan was plunged into mourning Tuesday after Taliban militants in suicide vests laid siege to a school, massacring more than 130 children during eight hours of sheer terror. In total, 145 people were killed, officials said. Those who survived emerged with stories of horror -- of gunmen shooting indiscriminately into crowds or killing youngsters one by one."
 
* Pennsylvania: "Bradley Stone, the man prosecutors say is responsible for killing his ex-wife and five of her family members and seriously stabbing one other before going on the run, has been found dead in the woods near his home, the Montgomery County District Attorney said."
 
* Russia is in very deep trouble: "Despite the Russian central bank's extraordinary move to defend the currency, the ruble's value continued to slide on Tuesday, presenting President Vladimir V. Putin with an acute set of political and economic challenges."
 
* Related news: "President Obama has decided to sign legislation imposing further sanctions on Russia and authorizing additional aid to Ukraine, despite concerns that it will complicate his efforts to maintain a unified front with European allies, the White House said on Tuesday."
 
* Afghanistan: "A new report by European Union election observers on Tuesday supported some of the most stark estimates of systematic electoral fraud in the Afghan presidential runoff election in June, and said an earlier audit of the voting had invalidated only a small fraction of suspect votes."
 
* More on this tomorrow: "A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled on Tuesday that President Barack Obama's administrative actions on immigration, which could grant deportation relief to up to 5 million people, go beyond "beyond prosecutorial discretion" and are therefore unconstitutional."
 
* Thanks, Ted Cruz: "Dallas prosecutor Sarah Saldaña won confirmation this afternoon as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the second largest federal law enforcement agency after the FBI."
Confetti lie over the floor on the last day of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The pitfalls of 2016 polling

12/16/14 04:02PM

Just because the 2016 presidential election is 23 months away doesn't mean it's too early for national polling. But at this stage in the race, all of the data should come with a big "caveat emptor" stamped at the top.
 
To be sure, the race is just starting to take shape and likely candidates are moving forward with preliminary plans. Jeb Bush is setting up an exploratory committee; Bernie Sanders is in Iowa; Martin O'Malley is hiring staff; Ben Carson is ... doing whatever it is Ben Carson does; etc.
 
And as this preliminary phase unfolds, there's national polling, too. Here's the latest from McClatchy/Marist:
If Romney did run, the poll found that he would be supported today by 19 percent of Republicans and Republican independents, followed by Bush with 14 percent. They'd be followed by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, each with 9 percent, and physician Ben Carson with 8 percent. The rest of the potential field trails behind in smaller single digits.
 
If Romney didn't run, Bush would lead with 16 percent, followed by Huckabee with 12, Christie with 10 and Carson with 8.
And here's the Washington Post/ABC News poll:
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents released Tuesday shows [Jeb] Bush running first in a GOP field without Mitt Romney, though not leading by a statistically significant margin. He gets 15 percent, compared to 11 percent for both Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
 
In a field with Romney, Romney leads Bush 20-10 percent, with Paul at 9 percent and Ryan at 8 percent.
And what does this tell us about the 2016 race? Not as much as one might hope. Let's take a stroll down memory lane:
The sun begins to set behind the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.

A whole new day on filling the federal courts

12/16/14 12:54PM

For much of President Obama's tenure, there have been plenty of complaints from the left -- including some from me -- about the way in which Democrats dealt with judicial nominees. The White House seemed slow to send would-be judges to the Senate for consideration, and the White House would respond there was no rush -- Senate Republicans were blocking too many nominees anyway.
 
It wasn't too long ago that judicial vacancies had reached a crisis level, and the problem seemed intractable with dozens of qualified Obama nominees stuck in Senate quicksand.
 
Slowly but surely, however, there's been some amazing progress on the issue. The Associated Press reported this morning:
No longer impeded by Republican blocking tactics, Democrats are on track to win confirmation of up to 88 of President Barack Obama's top judicial nominations this year, a total that would be the highest for any president in two decades.
 
Last year, Democrats made it harder for Republicans to derail Obama's nominations by weakening the Senate's rule on filibusters. So far this year, the chamber has approved 76 federal court of appeals and district court judges, all of them lifetime appointments.
To put that 76 figure in context, the Senate confirmed 43 judicial nominees in 2013 and 49 in 2012.
 
Also note, this year's total isn't done. Thanks to Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) blunder, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was able to move 12 more judicial nominees towards confirmation this week, which may ultimately bring the overall total for the year to 88 -- more than double last year's tally, and the most since Bill Clinton's second year in office.
 
As of this minute, 291 of Obama's judicial nominees have been confirmed to the federal bench -- one more than Reagan at this point in his sixth year, 37 more than W. Bush, and just seven fewer than Clinton. If, however, the 12 pending nominees are approved this week, Obama will be outpacing them all.
 
Brookings' Russell Wheeler told the AP that Obama and the Democratic-led Senate have "changed the face of the judiciary."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks about recent Republican party gains and the road ahead for his party during a press conference at the Republican governors' conference in Boca Raton, Fla. on Nov. 19, 2014. (J Pat Carter/AP)

Kasich's poor choice for a signature issue

12/16/14 12:13PM

About 20 years ago, John Kasich was effectively the Paul Ryan of his day. The Ohio Republican was chairman of the House Budget Committee; Kasich was considered a numbers wonk by the Beltway media; he had national ambitions; and he was wrong about practically everything.
 
It was Kasich, after all, who took the lead telling Americans that President Clinton's economic plan would be an epic disaster for the nation. Oops.
 
Two decades later, however, Kasich is the governor of Ohio and eyeing a 2016 presidential campaign. As James Hohmann reported yesterday, he's also bringing back an idea he liked back during his Capitol Hill days.
"Republicans have a [national] convention, and all they do is have a debt clock up there and talk about how bad it is," Kasich said in an interview. "You've got to do something about it!"
 
Now Kasich is trying to do something about it, something that's never been done in American history and is all but certain to fail again: He's launching a national campaign to pass an amendment to the Constitution through the states, in this case to require a balanced federal budget. Success, though, may be almost beside the point: Worst case, Kasich is out there fighting for his cause, and raising his profile, ahead of a potential 2016 presidential candidacy.
Yes, plenty of ambitious politicians choose a signature issue, and for Kasich, that issue is changing the U.S. Constitution to prevent deficits forever more. The Republican governor seems to realize that Congress won't approve such a measure anytime soon, so the Ohio governor has an alternative approach in mind.
 
Specifically, as Hohmann reported, Kasich has created a nonprofit group called "Balanced Budget Forever," that intends to amend the Constitution by way of a constitutional convention. He'll need 34 states to call for such a gathering, and then 38 states to ratify the agreed upon changes.
 
To put it mildly, it's a longshot.
 
But it's important to understand that Kasich's long odds are a good thing -- a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution is among the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks during the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 1, 2014. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Jeb Bush moves forward with his presidential plans

12/16/14 11:03AM

Former Florida Gov. John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (R) has given mixed signals of late about his presidential ambitions. On the one hand, the Republican is releasing materials and delivering speeches in ways that suggest he'll be a candidate. On the other, Bush has recently expanded his financial-sector enterprise, and it seemed unlikely he'd walk away from his investors.
 
This morning, however, the former Florida governor brought some clarity to his plans. Through social media, Jeb Bush explained his family's recent discussions:
"We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.
 
"In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC's purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans."
Note, Bush has not yet launched his presidential campaign, per se. Rather, in an awkward sentence, he's decided to "actively explore the possibility" of running for president.
 
The next question, of course, then becomes whether Jeb Bush will actually become president.
US Senator David Vitter (C) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, September 30, 2013.

Vitter gears up to fight Lynch's A.G. nomination

12/16/14 10:14AM

In early November, President Obama introduced U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as his choice to be the nation's new Attorney General, at which point Senate Democrats had a decision to make. Would the outgoing majority hurry up and try to confirm Lynch in the lame-duck session, making it more difficult to tackle other priorities, or would Dems put the nomination on the backburner, confident that Senate Republicans would eventually approve Lynch for the job?
 
Democrats ultimately went with the latter approach. One far-right Republican senator believes he can make Dems regret that decision.
One of the new Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee says next year's Senate should block President Barack Obama's attorney general nominee.
 
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter is trying to stop the nomination of Loretta Lynch, the current U.S. Attorney based in Brooklyn, over Obama's recent executive action on immigration.
In a press release, Vitter characterized his obstructionist plan as retribution for an immigration policy he doesn't like. "I'm looking forward to providing a check on President Obama's illegal executive amnesty," the far-right Louisianan said, adding, "We'll have the opportunity to push back on executive amnesty with one of our first major battles: the Attorney General nomination. The attorney general is one of the linchpins to Obama's amnesty plan, and I'll be working to get the new Congress to block this nomination."
 
No one has ever accused Vitter of having great strategic instincts, but this gambit seems unusually misguided, even for him.
US President Barack Obama (R) listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting in Los Cabos on June 18, 2012 on the sidelines of the G20 summit.   (Photo Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian economy faces freefall conditions

12/16/14 09:34AM

A friend of mine recently asked why I'm so hung up on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the adulation he's received from Republicans in the U.S. I think it comes down to two things.
 
The first is that GOP gushing over the Russian autocrat has always struck me as a historical oddity: I simply can't think of a comparable moment in modern American history in which the United States butted heads with a major foreign rival, and prominent figures from an American political party started publicly praising the other country's leader. It served as a reminder that Republican contempt for President Obama has reached levels that defy simple, patriotic norms.
 
The second, however, is more basic: a variety of conservative Americans not only expressed their admiration for Putin, they also saw him as a strategic mastermind, guiding Russia towards power and greatness, and demonstrating the kind of leadership needed in the United States.
 
And so, as we watch conditions in Russia deteriorate to alarming lows, I continue to believe it's incumbent on Republicans to offer an explanation for how spectacularly wrong they were.
A funny thing happened on the way to Vladimir Putin running strategic laps around the West. Russia's economy imploded.
 
The latest news is that Russia's central bank raised interest rates from 10.5 to 17 percent at an emergency 1 a.m. meeting in an attempt to stop the ruble, which is down 50 percent on the year against the dollar, from falling any further. It's a desperate move to save Russia's currency that comes at the cost of sacrificing Russia's economy. So even if it "works," things are about to get a lot worse.
In a not-so-subtle shot at Putin's American fans, Matt O'Brien's terrific report concluded, "Putin might be playing chess while we play checkers, but only if we lend him the money for the set."
 
Russia suddenly has nothing but awful options. Falling oil prices has crushed Russian currency, which leads to brutal inflation. In response, Russia's central bank -- in a panicked, middle-of-the-night move -- created much higher interest rates, which will crush Russian economic growth.
 
All the while, Putin's military misadventures have isolated the country economically and diplomatically, leaving Russia with sanctions that make matters even worse.
 
All of which brings us back to the fact that much of America's right was absolutely convinced of Putin's genius.

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