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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) waits to speak during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 28, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Key Patriot Act provisions expire ... for now

06/01/15 08:00AM

There was some rare Sunday-night drama on the Senate floor, and as msnbc's M. Alex Johnson reported over night, at least for now, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has the outcome he wanted.
The National Security Agency's authority to collect troves of bulk telephone metadata under the post-Sept. 11 USA Patriot Act expired at midnight Monday after Republican senators were unable to make a deal.
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought a two-week extension Sunday of two less controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, but that effort was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, his fellow Kentucky Republican who is running for president partly on his strong objections to the surveillance programs.
This admittedly gets a little messy. There's a bipartisan House bill -- the so-called "U.S.A. Freedom Act" -- which Senate Republicans blocked last week, largely because McConnell had an alternative plan that would have simply extended the status quo.
 
But McConnell's strategy failed miserably. By the time Senate Republican decided the House bill wasn't so bad after all, there wasn't time to pass it before last night's deadline -- at least not without Rand Paul's cooperation, which he wasn't prepared to offer.
 
It's worth clarifying a couple of things. For example, Paul said he was targeting surveillance programs started by President Obama, which is plainly untrue -- at issue are measures put in place by the Bush/Cheney administration, and supported for years by Paul's party. The Kentucky Republican also suggested over the weekend that the entirety of the Patriot Act was on the line, and that's not quite right, either.
 
At issue, rather, are three important provisions within the broader law: (1) Section 215, which has served as the basis for the NSA metadata program; (2) a "lone wolf" provision related to surveillance of terrorist suspects unaffiliated with a larger group; and (3) roving wiretaps.
 
Perhaps the most important question, however, is what happens now.

NSA phone data collection ends and other headlines

06/01/15 07:43AM

Rand Paul declares a short-term Patriot Act victory as his opponents bristle. (Bloomberg Politics)

Republican Lindsey Graham announces his presidential campaign today (Wall Street Journal); Martin O'Malley jumped into the Democratic race on Saturday. (BuzzFeed)

Bernie Sanders draws overflow crowd in Minneapolis. (Star-Tribune)

Jeb Bush: retirement age should be phased in to '68 or 70.' (The Hill)

Dick Cheney ramping up new policy push. (Wall Street Journal)

The unlikely race-blind mastermind who's teeing up the Roberts Court just scored again. (New York Magazine)

The search for the woman who dropped off a valuable Apple I computer at a recycling center. (San Jose Mercury News)

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NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, Expedition 20/21 flight engineer, is pictured near the Mice Drawer System (MDS) in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station.

Week in Geek - Mousetronaut edition

05/31/15 12:53PM

It looks like Stuart Little might make a terrible astronaut.

In 2009, NASA sent six mice to the International Space Station (on purpose, yes). Researchers in Belgium and Italy were looking to study how prolonged exposure to micro-gravity might affect the skin and physiology of the mice. Along with the six mice in space, six identical mice were kept on the ground in similar conditions as a control group. Both groups of mice were kept in the specially designed Mice Drawer System containment unit.

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A woman holds a Bible.

This Week in God, 5.30.15

05/30/15 08:50AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected scriptural debate over how to read one of the more widely known verses in the Christian Bible.
 
Matthew 25:40 includes a phrase that many have likely heard, regardless of their faith tradition: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." The phrasing is generally seen as championing the needs of the poor -- to turn your back on those struggling is to turn your back on God.
 
But my colleague Will Femia this week flagged an amazing report from Glenn Beck's conservative website, The Blaze, which put an incredible twist on Biblical interpretation.
Denny Burk, professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky, most certainly isn't the first to make the claim that the "least of these" is actually a reference to Christians who face struggles in sharing their faith, but his stated view on the matter is the most recent proclamation to spark interpretive discussion.
 
"This text is not about poor people generally. It's about Christians getting the door slammed in their face while sharing the gospel with a neighbor," Burk wrote. "It's about the baker/florist/photographer who is being mistreated for bearing faithful witness to Christ. It's about disciples of Jesus having their heads cut off by Islamic radicals."
I see. So, against the backdrop of the right-to-discriminate debate, conservatives want "the least of these" to refer to themselves.
 
No, really. As Ana Marie Cox joked that when conservatives see Matthew 25:40, they've effectively concluded it's "actually about Memories Pizza."
 
My suspicion is this interpretation may struggle to catch on among Christians in general, but I suppose it's something to keep an eye on.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
Friday Night News Dump: Art project edition

Friday Night News Dump: Art project edition

05/29/15 09:52PM

Alison Sanford, with advanced achievement in both news dumps and Friday nights, puts her memory of the week's news coverage to the test for a chance to become the off-site curator of the TRMS "Herman Cain is an art project" banner collection. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 5.29.15

05/29/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* The latest diplomatic breakthrough: "The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama's push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation."
 
* Evidence of stale, backwards thinking: "Former Gov. Jeb Bush continued to take a hard line against normalizing relations with Cuba on Friday, accusing the Obama administration of capitulating to an oppressive regime by removing it from a state-sponsored terrorism list."
 
* An important court ruling: "An Idaho law that prohibits abortions of fetuses 20 or more weeks after fertilization is unconstitutional, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday. The ruling, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, also struck down an Idaho law that required all second-trimester abortions to occur in a hospital."
 
* It's quite an organization: "Sepp Blatter secured a new four-year term on Friday as president of FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, in a vote taken two days after American prosecutors unveiled sweeping corruption charges against his subordinates."
 
* Congress refuses to act on ISIS: "House leaders have tangled in recent days over whether Congress needs to give President Barack Obama explicit authorization to combat the Islamic State: House Speaker John Boehner called the president's request for such authority 'irresponsible' and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Boehner has 'refused' to even debate the issue. But don't expect that heated rhetoric on the House or Senate floor anytime soon, even as militants topple major cities in Iraq and Syria at a stunningly swift pace."
 
* Don't panic: "The economy contracted in the first quarter for the second straight year, a disappointing start that could foil the chance of the U.S. reaching 3% growth in 2015 for the first time in a decade. Gross domestic product -- the value of everything a nation produces -- shrank by 0.7% annual rate from January to March, the Commerce Department said Friday."
Former Speaker of the House, Rep. J. Dennis Hastert in his office in Washington D.C. on March 23, 2007. (Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times/Redux)

NBC News: Hastert paid man to conceal a sexual relationship

05/29/15 04:16PM

As of this morning, we knew about allegations that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) agreed to pay an unnamed individual $3.5 million in order to "compensate for and conceal" unspecified "misconduct." The Illinois Republican was indicted yesterday, not for the misconduct itself, but for his attempts to cover it up.
 
But the follow-up questions were unavoidable. Who was Hastert paying? And why? NBC News' Pete Williams, Erin Mcclam, and Tracy Connor reported this afternoon:
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert paid a man to conceal a sexual relationship they had while the man was a student at the high school where Hastert taught, a federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Friday. 
 
The official spoke on condition of anonymity. [The Tribune Company] reported Friday that two unnamed federal law enforcement officials said that Hastert paid a man from his past to conceal sexual misconduct.
If the leaks from law enforcement are correct, the next round of questions would probably lead to possible other charges for Hastert, but we don't yet have any additional information and we don't know about possible statute-of-limitation issues.
 
The NBC News report added the school district where Hastert worked from 1965 to 1981 said Friday that it had "no knowledge of Mr. Hastert's alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the District to report any such misconduct."
Pro-choice activists hold a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty)

Nation continues to move left on social issues

05/29/15 12:40PM

It was just last week when Gallup reported that the number of Americans who describe their views on social issues as "liberal" now ties the number of social conservatives. The ideological parity wasn't just a surprise, it was also the culmination of a 15-year shift -- conservatives enjoyed a sizable advantage, which gradually shrank, and has now disappeared.
 
But these results, while heartening for progressives, looks at the debate over social issues in the broadest possible way. What are the results like when we start looking at specific issues themselves? Oddly enough, for the left, they're even more encouraging. From Gallup this morning:
Half of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as "pro-life." This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views. [...]
 
While support for the pro-choice position has yet to return to the 53% to 56% level seen [during the mid-to-late 1990s], the trend has been moving in that direction since the 2012 reading.
Women are more likely to be pro-choice than men, but support for pro-choice identification has grown steadily among both groups over the last several years. The same is true among all age groups -- younger Americans are more likely to be pro-choice than older generations, but every group has moved left in recent years.
 
As for the political breakdown, Democrats are far more likely to be pro-choice than Republicans and Independents, but again, those identifying as pro-choice have grown steadily among all three groups of partisans.
 
And the shift is not limited to abortion rights.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.29.15

05/29/15 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:
 
* The field of candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination will grow from two to three tomorrow, when former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) kicks off his campaign.
 
* Is Rand Paul falling out of favor with Fox News? The network showed the latest 2016 poll of Republican presidential hopefuls, and excluded him from the results, even highlighting candidates who had less support in the survey.
 
* Speaking of Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican has "sought to woo a string of powerful Republican megadonors" in recent months, but he still lacks what some of his GOP rivals already have: a billionaire benefactor.
 
* Some universities have begun divesting from Israel, and in response, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wants those schools to lose their federal funding. The Republican presidential candidate added that the divestment strategy is "anti-Semitism plain and simple."
 
* Donald Trump has apparently scheduled a "major" announcement for June 16 at Trump Tower in New York City. He's scheduled an event in New Hampshire for the following day.
 
* Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) lost in 2010, won in 2012, lost in 2014, and now hopes to win again in 2016.
 
* Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said yesterday he doesn't "worry about poll numbers." He might want to start -- most recent national polling suggests the far-right governor is struggling to get past 1% support.
U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin (R-Ky), speaks to a gathering at FreePAC Kentucky, Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Ky.

From 'con man' to governor?

05/29/15 11:20AM

A year ago, Matt Bevin was seen as a rather ridiculous figure in Kentucky Republican politics. He'd launched a primary fight against incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which led the GOP establishment to go after Bevin with a vengeance.
 
The results weren't pretty. Bevin was labeled by leaders of his own party as a "con man" who lies "pathologically." The first-time candidate was exposed a man who lied about his educational background, and whose business needed a taxpayer bailout. By Primary Day, Bevin lost by 25 points, and his career in politics appeared to be effectively over.
 
A year later, however, Kentucky Republicans will have to stop calling him a dishonest con man and start calling him their nominee for governor. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this morning: 
After Thursday's recanvass of votes cast in the Republican primary for governor, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said that there were "no substantial changes" and that she thought Matt Bevin would be the GOP nominee when the vote is certified June 8.
This morning, Bevin's primary rival conceded the race. Bevin will now take on state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in November, in the race to replace outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D).
 
McConnell, who characterized Bevin as a dangerous loon just last year, issued a statement this morning that said, "I congratulate Matt Bevin on his victory and endorse him for governor."

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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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