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Monday's Mini-Report, 11.9.15

11/09/15 05:30PM

Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Missouri: "The president of the University of Missouri system resigned on Monday amid protests against his handling of racist incidents on campus, among other issues."
* Jordan: "Two American contractors and a South African colleague were gunned down Monday at a U.S.-funded police training center in Jordan, according to officials. Government spokesman Mohammad Momani told NBC News that two Americans and four Jordanians also were wounded in the attack, which took place in the cafeteria of the facility southeast of Amman. The attacker -- a Jordanian police officer -- also died, Momani added."
* Elections in Myanmar: "Myanmar’s ruling party conceded defeat in the country’s general election on Monday as the opposition led by democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on course for a landslide victory."
* Russia: "Top Russian athletes have for years participated in a systemic doping regime involving bribery, extortion and destruction of evidence, according to an international anti-doping agency report released Monday in Geneva."
* Keep an eye on this: "A Pentagon plan to close the Guantanamo Bay military detention facility 'is very close' to being delivered to Congress, a Defense Department spokesman said Monday."
* Virginia: Gov. "Terry McAuliffe intends to make another push for Medicaid expansion despite intense opposition from Republicans, who retained full control of the General Assembly in elections last week."
Mortgage Bankers Hold Nat'l Conference in S.F

Karl Rove proteges become candidates themselves

11/09/15 04:57PM

When the political world thinks about Karl Rove's impact, it tends to focus on his work on the Bush/Cheney campaign, his Crossroads operation, and his media work. But there's an underappreciated aspect of the Republican strategist's reach.
Let's not overlook his proteges (thanks to reader R.S. for the tip).
Republican Denise Gitsham announced Thursday that she will be the third candidate running for San Diego's 52nd Congressional District.
She's hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, who narrowly won re-election to his second term in 2014. [...] She worked as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and for Republican political consultant Karl Rove during the 2000 presidential campaign and then in the White House. Rove's political action committee American Crossroads fundraises for Republican campaigns.
If elected, Gitsham wouldn't actually be Rove's first former aide to successfully run for Congress.
Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) meets people following a round table discussion at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty)

Marco Rubio has an arithmetic problem

11/09/15 04:12PM

At first blush, it's tempting to see Marco Rubio's economic plan as a dog-bites-man story: Republican presidential campaign proposes massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, even while saying the opposite. The Florida senator isn't alone on this front, and it all seems sadly predictable.
But in this case, there's more to it. Even if you're unmoved by Rubio's odd inability to handle his own personal finances in a responsible way, the way he intends to deal with the nation's finances as president is arguably a national disqualifier.
The trouble started in earnest at the last debate for Republicans presidential candidates -- the one pundits decided was a triumph for Rubio -- when CNBC's John Harwood pressed the Florida senator on his tax-cut plan.
HARWOOD: The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?
RUBIO: No, that’s -- you’re wrong.
It turns out, analysis from both the left and right scrutinized Rubio's plan and found that he was completely wrong. I can't say whether he was deliberately trying to deceive viewers or simply unaware of the details of his own policy, but in either case, the senator's claims were false.
In the days that followed, scrutiny of Rubio's plan intensified. Vox's Dylan Matthews talked directly to Rubio staffers and discovered that the senator's plan includes even more generous tax breaks for the top 1% than Jeb Bush's and Donald Trump's plans. An analysis for Citizens for Tax Justice also found that the bulk of the benefits in the Rubio plan would go to the very, very wealthy.
Indeed, New York's Jon Chait added, "Rubio’s proposal deliberately provides some benefits to Americans of modest income, which means that its enormous tax cuts for the very rich come alongside some pretty decent-size tax cuts for the rest of us. All told, Rubio’s plan would reduce federal revenue by $11.8 trillion over the next decade. The entire Bush tax cuts cost about $3.4 trillion over a decade, making the Rubio tax cuts more than three times as costly."
A syringe used for intravenous drug use.

Carson connects addictions and 'political correctness'

11/09/15 12:40PM

The 15 Republicans running for their party's presidential nomination broadly agree on most of the major issues of the day, which makes their areas of substantive disagreement that much more interesting. Take addiction issues, for example.
Chris Christie, to his credit, has spoken with great eloquence about people close to him who've struggled with drug abuse, and the importance of treating addiction issues. On the other end of the spectrum, we've seen Rand Paul adopt a more ridiculous posture, telling a New Hampshire audience a couple of months ago, “People always come up to me and say, ‘We got heroin problems and all these other problems.’ You know what? If you work all day long, you don’t have time to do heroin."
And then there's Ben Carson, who appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday, where host John Dickerson asked the candidate for his perspective on "the human side of addiction" based on his experience as a medical professional. Carson responded:
"[U]sually, addictions occur in people who are vulnerable, who are lacking something in their lives. And so we have to really start asking ourselves, what have we taken out of our lives in America? What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the very pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached?
"And why are we in the process of throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?"
Carson then transitioned to complaining about border security, arguing that "there is a transportation of heroin through our southern borders that is unimaginable."

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.9.15

11/09/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Though it can be difficult to know which of his claims are real and which are fantasy, Ben Carson claims he raised $3.5 million for his presidential campaign just last week.
* The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund is throwing its support behind Hillary Clinton, it's earliest ever endorsement.
* Jeb Bush will be in Wisconsin today, appearing alongside Scott Walker at a Hispanics for School Choice in Waukesha. Note, Walker has not yet endorsed any of his former GOP rivals.
* Hillary Clinton announced over the weekend that she now supports removing marijuana from the list of schedule 1 drugs, "a classification that prevents federally-sponsored research into its effects." At a South Carolina town-hall meeting on Saturday, Clinton said, "We haven’t done research, why? Because it’s considered a schedule 1 drug,. I'd like to move it from schedule 1 to schedule 2."
* Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal appeared at the "National Religious Liberties Conference" in Iowa over the weekend, which is notable in large part because the event was organized by extremist right-wing pastor Kevin Swanson. 
* Reflecting on getting bumped from this week's prime-time Republican debate to the kids-table debate, Chris Christie said he doesn't consider it a "demotion," but rather, a "transfer." (Similarly, Christie isn't losing, so much as he's winning backwards.)
* On a related note, since launching his national campaign, Christie has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and NBC a total of 75 times. In the crowded Republican field, only Donald Trump has more.
Smoke raises behind an Islamic State flag after Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters took control of Saadiya in Diyala province from Islamist State militants, Nov. 24, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Reuters)

Will Congress ever authorize the mission against ISIS?

11/09/15 11:20AM

It was 15 months ago this week that President Obama launched a military offensive against ISIS targets in the Middle East. It was 11 months ago that the president called on Congress to authorize the mission. It was eight months ago that the White House, at Congress' insistence, sent draft legislative language to Capitol Hill to encourage lawmakers to do their jobs.
So far, however, neither the Republican-led House nor the Republican-led Senate have done any work on the issue. To their credit, there are some members who believe it's time for lawmakers to take their responsibilities seriously, as the Washington Post reported:
A bipartisan group of 35 House lawmakers is pressing new House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to move forward with a long-stalled effort to provide the White House with specific authority to fight the wars in Iraq and Syria. [...]
"Americans are worried about the track we're on," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), one of the lead authors of the letter that went to Ryan.
One of the striking things about the letter is the ideological diversity of its signers. One might expect a letter co-authored by a Massachusetts Democrat to have limited appeal to GOP members, but those assumptions in this case are wrong: half of the document's endorsements came from Republicans, ranging from the center-right (Oklahoma's Tom Cole) to the Freedom Caucus (South Carolina's Mick Mulvaney) to the libertarian wing of the party (Michigan's Justin Amash).
So why doesn't Congress simply do what it's supposed to do? This is a policy dynamic with several moving parts, but there are basically two angles to keep in mind.

The GOP's challenge: denying Obama's economic gains

11/09/15 10:40AM

Over the summer, Jeb Bush chatted with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, who reminded the Republican presidential hopeful that President Obama occasionally brags about how much better the economy is now compared to when President George W. Bush left office. The GOP candidate was incredulous.
"He’s saying that things are better," Jeb said. "You know, look, it’s just not true.” The former governor added that the president must be "living in an alternative universe."
Even at the time, it was a strange line of attack. By every possible metric, Obama inherited an economic catastrophe from Bush's brother and took effective steps to get the economy back on track. Dan Diamond had a good piece over the weekend noting that Republicans have an even tougher case to make now that the unemployment rate has dropped to 5%.
Six years ago this week, BLS reported that unemployment had passed 10 percent, the first time in decades that the US unemployment rate had hit double digits, and a visible sign of how bad the Great Recession really had become.
Obama can now argue that under his watch, unemployment has been cut in half. It's a striking improvement -- especially when measured against Obama's predecessor.
I put together the above chart to show the unemployment rate over the last quarter-century, and the results probably aren't what Republicans want to see. H.W. Bush saw unemployment climb nearly two percentage points during his tenure, while Bill Clinton saw the strongest jobs boom in modern American history. W. Bush inherited low unemployment, departed in the midst of a jobs crisis, and watched Obama turn things around.
The Vox report added, "The quick rise and dramatic fall of the unemployment rate during the Obama years is unusual. In the past 50 years, there's only been one other president -- Ronald Reagan -- who saw a bigger swing between high and low unemployment during his terms in office."
I'd add for context that the unemployment never dropped below 5.3% in the Reagan era. It's 5% now.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) speaks during a news conference July 26, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Ad shines spotlight on Vitter's prostitution scandal

11/09/15 10:04AM

With only 12 days remaining in Louisiana's gubernatorial race, both John Bel Edwards (D) and David Vitter (R) are pulling out all the stops, looking for an advantage. When it comes to taking their messages to the airwaves, it's led the candidates to take some interesting chances.
Vitter, for example, a Republican U.S. senator, recently aired an ad accusing Edwards of wanting to release "thugs" from state prisons -- an attack that prompted an angry response from the state NAACP, which called the ad "demeaning and racial."
For his part, Edwards, a state legislative leader and retired Army Ranger, initially responded with an ad telling voters, “David Vitter wouldn’t last a day at West Point." Edwards' follow-up spot, however, hits Vitter even more aggressively.
Voters in the Bayou State woke up Saturday to a damning ad from Vitter's Democratic rival, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, attacking the Republican senator for his involvement in the "D.C. Madam" scandal. [...]
The ad, titled "The Choice," contrasts Edwards' military experience with Vitter's solicitation of escorts -- sometimes, the ad implies, at the expense of his congressional duties.
It's about as brutal an ad as you'll see in this or any other election cycle. Edwards "answered our country's call," the narrator tells viewers, while Vitter "answered a prostitute's call, minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom."
It concludes, "David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots. Now, the choice is yours."

Birth control, religion face Supreme Court showdown

11/09/15 09:20AM

When the Supreme Court issued its Hobby Lobby ruling last year, it seemed to have resolved the legal controversy surrounding the Affordable Care Act, employers, and access to contraception. But as it turns out, that's not quite the case. MSNBC's Irin Carmon reported late Friday on the justices heading into Round II.
The Supreme Court on Friday said it will wade back into a years-long conflict between conservative religious groups and the Obama administration's goal of expanding access to contraception. The court accepted seven different appeals from religious nonprofits that challenge a provision of the Affordable Care Act.
Here's the key question, a sort of sequel to the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: Is the government's "accommodation" of religious objectors to contraception itself a violation of religious freedom under the law?
At a certain level, the question itself may seem bizarre. We start with a group of religiously affiliated employers who want an exemption from the ACA's policy related to birth control. The Obama administration crafted a policy intended to accommodate their concerns, effectively telling them, "No problem. Just fill out a form letting insurers know about the moral objection." At that point, the contraception is covered by a third party at no cost to the employer.
For the religiously affiliated employers, that's not quite good enough -- they've argued that the act of filling out the document stating a moral objection is itself morally objectionable. The fix to the Hobby Lobby problem has apparently led to a new problem, since those who benefit from accommodation have decided it's not good enough.
I saw some reports Friday suggesting the dispute is about a religious exemption, but that's an incomplete description. It's better to say this latest legal fight is less about religious employers wanting an exemption, and more about them objecting to having to ask for an exemption.
If it sounds like a massive legal dispute that boils down to some folks who are offended by paperwork, that's because, at its core, that's largely what this case is about.
Christie slip may put him at the kids table

Chris Christie poll slip may put him at the kids table

11/09/15 09:09AM

Rachel Maddow shares the results of a new Fox News poll and explains that depending on how Fox Business does the math for the next Republican debate qualifications, the poor showing by Chris Christie could cost him a spot in the main event and send him to the kids table. watch

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at Civic Hall about the "sharing economy" on Oct. 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)

Rubio's messy finances come into sharper focus

11/09/15 08:40AM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has acknowledged "a lack of bookkeeping skills," even when dealing with his own money, which has led to quite a few problems throughout much of his career in politics.
The Florida senator, for example, co-owned property with a scandal-plagued friend, failed to detail the mortgage on financial disclosure forms, and then faced foreclosure. When Rubio wrapped up his career in the state legislature, he had "more than $900,000 in debt." There's also the odd liquidation of Rubio's retirement account -- even after the senator received a seven-figure book deal.
But it's a charge card given to him by the Republican Party of Florida that's caused Rubio the most trouble. The lawmaker was told the card was for "party business only," but Rubio nevertheless used it more than once for personal charges -- repairing his minivan, charging $10,000 to attend a family reunion, etc. -- and then reimbursed the state GOP later.
Complicating matters, Rubio had also "refused to provide credit card statements from 2005 and 2006," which has long raised concerns among Florida reporters. Over the weekend, as the New York Times reported, Rubio released the previously undisclosed information.
Newly released credit card statements from the years when Senator Marco Rubio was a young Florida legislator on the fast track to leadership show a pattern of falling behind on payments while mingling personal and political spending, disclosures that reinforce the image of a politician who has long struggled with messy finances, at home and in his career.
On Saturday, Mr. Rubio's campaign released roughly two years of charges, from 2005 and 2006, that were made to his Republican Party of Florida-issued American Express card, hoping to at last quiet accusations that he used party money to pay for trips, meals and gifts for him and his family.
So, any bombshells?
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on Nov. 6, 2015 in Palm Beach, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Ben Carson's credibility, personal history under fire

11/09/15 08:00AM

In every possible sense, Ben Carson is a nontraditional presidential candidate. He has no experience in elected office. He has no background in government. He has no areas of policy expertise. He has no depth of understanding of current events. He has no real campaign platform, per se.
What Carson does have, however, is a fascinating personal history and a reputation for honesty. It's helped lead him, at least for now, to the top tier of the Republican presidential race.
But over the last several days, the central rationale for Carson's entire candidacy has faced intense and unflattering scrutiny, with multiple reports casting doubts on the retired right-wing neurosurgeon's version of previous events.
* West Point: Carson has claimed more than once to have been offered a "full scholarship" to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Though some of the initial Politico reporting on this has since been walked back, it's nevertheless clear Carson exaggerated the opportunity and no "full scholarship" was ever offered.
* 1968: Carson bragged about protecting some white students in 1968 from riots in Detroit after Martin Luther King's assassination, but there's no evidence to substantiate his alleged heroism.
* Yale: Carson boasted about events in a psychology course he took at Yale, but it now appears those events did not happen the way he claims. (He tried over the weekend to back up his claims, but his defense didn't exactly help his case.)
* Violence: Carson claims to have been a violent teenager who went "after people" with weapons, including an incident when he was 14, when Carson alleges he "tried to stab someone." Reporters who've spoken to his childhood friends and acquaintances cannot corroborate any of this.
Some of Carson's suspect tales appear to be outright falsehoods -- see, for example, his background with a controversial nutritional-supplement company called Mannatech -- while other anecdotes lack substantiation, but have not yet been entirely discredited.
Either way, the GOP candidate seems eager to present a defense: he's a victim.

No justice, no football and other headlines

11/09/15 07:02AM

32 Mizzou football players boycott in protest over university's handling of racist incidents. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Video of Tuscaloosa police using Taser, nightstick on student under investigation. (AL.com)

A decade into a project to digitize immigration forms, just 1 is online. (Washington Post)

George W. Bush speaks with his father's biographer. (AP)

Aun Sang Suu Kyi's party rises to early lead in historic Myanmar election. (Los Angeles Times)

Questions swirl around fatal shooting of Louisiana boy. (NBC News)

Did you catch Rachel on Meet the Press on Sunday? Watch clips here. (NBC News)

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Week in Geek: Low pressure pull edition

11/08/15 11:44AM

A team of engineers and biologists recently revealed that jellyfish pull rather than push their way through the water.

It has long been believed that the pulsations jellyfish make as they swim were acting to push off the water behind them to move forward. But a collaboration between Stanford engineers and Woods Hole biologists has found otherwise. Instead, it seems that jellyfish create pockets of low pressure behind their "heads" and so higher pressure water in front of them rushes around them to equal things out and in the process, they are propelled forward. The scientists found the same thing to be true for lamprey eels.

The way they figured this out is pretty freaking cool. It's almost impossible to accurately calculate the rate of flow and the pressure exerted by each individual water molecule around the jellyfish (or lamprey) because the number of molecules is astronomical. However, by adding "proxy molecules" to the water in the form of tiny glass beads, they could measure the flow rate and pressure of the beads and thereby infer the same for the water molecules. Add some lasers and some high-speed cameras and they could track the motion of every bead and its affect on the surrounding beads as the jellyfish and lamprey subjects swam through the tank.

You can read the full press release here and watch videos of their data here. And if you were only reading this in the hopes of starring at some stunning jellyfish photos, you can go here.

I love science.

Here's some more geek from the week:

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This Week in God, 11.7.15

11/07/15 07:59AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a national study showing amazing generational differences when it comes to Americans' religiosity.
Six months ago, we talked about the Pew Research Center's report on the U.S. religious landscape, noting, among other things, the sudden increase over the last decade in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans -- including atheists, agnostics, and people who simply identify spiritually as "nothing at all." This week, the researchers published the second half of their findings, and what jumped out at me were the generational differences.
Who are the largely nonreligious adults whose ranks are growing, thus reducing the percentage of Americans who exhibit strong religious commitment? They are mainly young people just entering adulthood. Older Americans -- those in the Silent generation, Baby Boomers and even Generation Xers -- are, by and large, about as religious today as when the Religious Landscape Study was first conducted in 2007.
But these three generational cohorts constitute a shrinking share of the total U.S. population, and, as their numbers begin to dwindle, they are being replaced by a new cohort of young adults (Millennials) who are, in many ways, far less religious than their parents' and grandparents' generations.
Pew Research found, for example, that two-thirds of Americans in the "Silent" generation (Americans born between 1928 and 1945) say religion is very important in their lives. For older Millennials (those born in the 1980s), the total is less than half. For younger Millennials (those born between 1990 and 1996), it's not even 4 out of 10.
According to the study, every younger generation is progressively less religious -- Baby Boomers are less religious than the "Silent" Generation; members of Generation X are less religious than Boomers, Millennials are less religious than Generation X, and so on.
A U.S. News report on the findings noted that only 11% in the oldest generation of American adults are religiously unaffiliated. For the youngest generation of American adults, that total increases to 38%.
There's room for a conversation about whether younger, unaffiliated Americans may grow more religious as they get older, but as things currently stand, these are the kind of results that may very well have a dramatic impact on the national religious landscape -- and perhaps even the broader culture -- in the coming years. At least since the advent of modern polling, the percentage of the U.S. population moving away from religious beliefs and institutions has never been higher.
What will the impact be on the country? Stay tuned.
Also from the God Machine this week:


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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