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A demonstrator protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown talks to the police in Ferguson, Missouri August 19, 2014.

Media was target of Ferguson flight ban: AP

11/03/14 08:09PM

After more than a week of protests, arrests, and clashes with police following the police shooting of Michael Brown, the FAA renewed a flight ban over Ferguson, Missouri. Rachel Maddow pointed out how the no-fly zone inhibited the media's ability to cover the story and thereby hurt the American public's ability to understand the situation on the ground.

From the August 19 Rachel Maddow Show:

Rachel Maddow: And it was hard to know for sure, but that's a really important part of the story, that we honestly cannot witness from the perspectives that we are allowed and we thereby cannot communicate to you at home trying to be an educated news consumer about this story. We cannot communicate an important part of what police are doing on the streets of this town. We can see what's directly in front of our ground level vantage points, but it has been impossible to tell how scenes like this related to, say, the streets nearby.

That kind of perspective is why news organizations use helicopters in the first place. Without a view from high up, in a circumstance like this, it is hard to get beyond the running moment-to-moment experiential level.

And frankly, that is not enough to accurately and objectively report on the rationality and reasonableness and the effectiveness of police tactics and protesters' tactics. It's hard to tell what's happening when you can only see it from five feet off the ground.

And part of the reason we cannot tell what's happening from a better vantage point is that the media just literally cannot show it. Physically, the media is not being allowed to show what we need to be able to show in order to characterize this in a way that is objective and makes the most sense.

According to the AP, that was the intended effect.

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Ahead on the 11/3/14 Maddow show

11/03/14 08:05PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Andrea Mitchell, host of Andrea Mitchell Reports on msnbc, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent
  • Steve Kornacki, host of Up with Steve Kornacki, weekends on msnbc, master of the magic board
  • Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

After the jump, executive producer Cory Gnazzo shares a peek at what's in the works:

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Monday's Mini-Report, 11.3.14

11/03/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* ISIS: "Islamic State group militants publicly shot dead 36 Sunni tribesmen, women and children Monday, an Iraqi official and a tribal leader said, pushing the total number of members slain by the extremists in recent days to more than 200."
 
* Iraq: "Iraqi security forces, backed by American-led air power and hundreds of advisers, are planning to mount a major spring offensive against Islamic State fighters who have poured into the country from Syria, a campaign that is likely to face an array of logistical and political challenges."
 
* Retired Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi is on his way home: "A Mexican judge has ordered the immediate release of a jailed U.S. Marine veteran who spent eight months behind bars for crossing the border with loaded guns."
 
* The lawsuit was a long shot: "A Kentucky judge on Monday rejected a court motion filed by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes seeking an immediate injunction to stop Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign from sending out mailers that have the appearance of an official Kentucky notice."
 
* W.H.O.: "The leader of the World Health Organization criticized the drug industry on Monday, saying that the drive for profit was one reason no cure had yet been found for Ebola."
 
* Accommodating Russia's anti-gay law isn't always easy: "A memorial to Apple Inc founder Steve Jobs has been dismantled in the Russian city of St Petersburg after the man who succeeded him at the helm of the company came out as gay. The more than six-foot-high monument, in the shape of an iPhone, was erected outside a St. Petersburg college in January 2013 by a Russian group of companies called ZEFS."
 
* This story keeps getting weirder: "An October report from an independent Inspector General investigating an incident where Secret Service agents were taken off duty at the White House perimeter to guard a colleague's home found that the problem was less prevalent than reported, though still 'problematic.'"
Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer pauses during a news conference, Feb. 26, 2014, in Phoenix, Ariz.

Arizona law leads to 'edit' of biology textbook

11/03/14 04:51PM

If you missed the show on Friday, I'm just amazed by this story.
School district staff [in Gilbert, Arizona] will "edit" a high-school honors biology textbook after board members agreed that it does not align with state regulations on how abortion is to be presented to public-school students.
 
Gilbert Public Schools board members, backed by a conservative religious group, voted 3-2 to make the change, arguing that they are complying with a 2-year-old state law that requires public schools to "present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion." [...]
 
The board made its decision after listening to a presentation from Natalie Decker, a lawyer for Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom. The advocacy group brought the chapter to board members' attention.
Apparently, in 2012, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into a law a measure that requires public schools to present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.
 
What's wrong with that? In Gilbert, the honors biology class uses a textbook with a page that told students, "[C]omplete abstinence, avoiding intercourse, is the only totally effective method of birth control." The same page includes information -- rather clinic information -- about the morning-after pill and medically-induced abortion. The procedure, the text says, "requires a doctor's prescription and several visits to a medical facility."
 
The state Board of Education and its lawyer said the paragraph in question isn't a problem -- it doesn't advocate or encourage abortion -- but apparently that didn't matter. Conservative activists and local Republican officials insisted the textbook is illegal under the law created by Brewer two years ago.
 
As a practical matter, they conceded that the textbook pre-dates the Arizona statute, and that the school district can't just go out and buy new textbooks because of one paragraph the right finds objectionable, so in the interest of expediency, conservatives want to "excise" the offending page -- which is to say, they want to literally tear out the page that mentions abortion from the book.
 
And that's where "The Rachel Maddow Show" enters the picture.
Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Oct. 31, 2014. (Photo by Nati Harnik/AP)

Obama can be 'apathetic' or a 'dictator,' but he can't be both

11/03/14 03:21PM

Even after six years, President Obama's loudest critics can't quite decide what it is about him they don't like. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem were it not for the fact that so many of their condemnations contradict each other.
 
The list is likely familiar to regular readers. He's a ruthless Chicago thug and a "wuss." He's sticking to the Bush/Cheney script on national security and he's putting us at risk by abandoning the Bush/Cheney national security agenda. He's cutting cherished entitlement programs like Medicare and he refuses to cut entitlement programs like Medicare. He's waging a class war against the rich and he's coddling millionaires.
 
But the one contradiction Republicans -- and much of the Beltway media -- find most exciting is the notion that Obama is a bystander, who sits around and watches events pass him by, and a tyrannical activist, who acts unilaterally and tries to seize control of all federal power.
 
All of which brings us to this amazing report from Ben Terris on Joni Ernst's (R) right-wing U.S. Senate candidacy in Iowa. It was Ernst who famously referred to President Obama as an overzealous "dictator" who is constantly "overstepping his bounds." And now it's Ernst who's convinced Obama is "an apathetic president," reluctant to do any work at all.
After the event, Ernst elaborated without elucidating exactly what she meant.
 
"He is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive," she said. "With Ebola, he's been very hands off."
 
"What should he have done about Ebola?" Esquire blogger Charlie Pierce asked her. "One person in America has Ebola."
 
"OK, you're the press, you're giving me your opinion," Ernst said.
Let's stop right there. For one thing, it's not "opinion" that there's one person in America with Ebola. For another, there's simply no sane way to characterize Obama's response to the Ebola threat as "hands off." I realize that Ernst has struggled routinely with the basics of current events, but this is plainly ridiculous.
Georgia U.S. Senatorial candidates including Libertarian Amanda Swafford, left, Republican David Perdue, center, and Democrat Michelle Nunn, right, participate in a debate on Oct. 26, 2014, in Atlanta. (Photo by David Tulis/AP)

Georgia's Perdue: 'Sure, we closed down plants all the time'

11/03/14 12:52PM

When Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) announced his retirement, Republicans were pretty optimistic about keeping the seat. After all, Georgia is a state in the Deep South, led entirely by GOP officials. When David Perdue emerged from a crowded Republican primary field, he was assumed to be the frontrunner.
 
But Perdue's race against Michelle Nunn (D) has proven to be far more competitive than expected, thanks to Georgia's woeful jobs landscape -- the state ranks 50th out of 50 in unemployment -- and Perdue's controversial private -sector background.
 
As recently as this morning, the Republican still finds it difficult to explain his record in business. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports today:
The biggest thing holding Perdue back from securing a Senate seat in the past couple months has been outsourcing. He faced another press question on the topic this morning, particularly as to why he gave a flat "no" when asked if he outsourced jobs when his companies did close plants as he increased jobs overseas. Said Perdue:
 
"Sure, we closed down plants all the time. I mean, but it was never in direct relationship to things going on offshore."
For months, Nunn and her allies have found it pretty easy to paint Perdue as an inexperienced version of Mitt Romney -- his extensive outsourcing efforts have made the GOP nominee look woefully out of touch in a struggling state. Perdue's preferred defense is that the public just doesn't "understand" business well enough to appreciate the benefits of layoffs.
 
But that's not exactly persuasive coming from a guy who's boasted, more than once, about the record of job losses, factory closings, consolidations, and reduced work hours at U.S. facilities.
 
The fact that Perdue is still saying, literally the day before Election Day, "Sure, we closed down plants all the time," only helps underscore why his campaign isn't doing better.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.3.14

11/03/14 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:
 
* Secret money in a democracy is never good: "A stealthy coterie of difficult-to-trace outside groups is slipping tens of millions of dollars of attacks ads and negative automated telephone calls into the final days of the midterm campaign, helping fuel an unprecedented surge of last-minute spending on Senate races."
 
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, the final Des Moines Register poll shows Joni Ernst (R) leading Bruce Braley (D) by seven points, though a new Quinnipiac poll shows the two candidates tied.
 
* In Colorado's U.S. Senate race, Quinnipiac shows Cory Gardner's (R) lead over Mark Udall (D) shrinking from seven points to two, while PPP puts Gardner's lead at three points.
 
* As for Colorado's gubernatorial race, Quinnipiac also found former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) ahead by two over incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).
 
* In Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, an NBC/Marist poll found Mitch McConnell (R) leading Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) by nine points, while PPP has McConnell up by eight points.
 
* In Georgia's U.S. Senate race, the NBC/Marist poll found David Perdue (R) retaking the lead over Michelle Nunn (D), 48% to 44%. If neither candidate tops 50%, they'll face each other again, this time in a head-to-head a runoff.
 
* In Wisconsin's gubernatorial race, PPP shows Gov. Scott Walker (R) with a one-point lead over Mary Burke (D), 48% to 47%.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Science Committee chair shrugs off terrifying new climate data

11/03/14 11:19AM

Over the weekend, the United Nations published a synthesis report of its "most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever." As Jane C. Timm noted, "The 40-page report sums up 800 scientists' thousands of pages of research from over 13 months, using an enormous amount of science to argue that carbon emissions must be dramatically reduced."
 
The findings can fairly be described as terrifying. The New York Times' report noted, "Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year."
 
The U.N. report pointed to the "increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."
 
And though the document was specifically intended to help provide guidance to policymakers, Republican officials just don't care.
The chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee said on Sunday that a United Nations report that said the earth is heading toward "severe, pervasive, and irreversible" climate change impacts is "nothing new."
 
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement that he appreciates efforts "to better understand the complex science of our ever-changing planet," but adds that the new report "says nothing new."
 
"Similar to previous reports, the latest findings appear more political than scientific," he said. "People are tired of the re-packaged rhetoric. It's time to stop fear mongering and focus on an honest dialogue about real options."
Smith may not fully appreciate what the word "scientific" means.
 
For elected U.S. officials, who are ostensibly interested in Americans' well being, to casually dismiss terrifying warnings is alarming. It is not, however, surprising -- contemporary Republican politics is dominated by a fairly aggressive strain of climate denial.
 
Indeed, it's about to get considerably worse.
Voting booths are illuminated by sunlight as voters cast their ballots at a polling place on Nov. 6, 2012. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)

'Push their heads under the water ... until they cannot breathe'

11/03/14 10:43AM

As the end of an election cycle nears, it's not uncommon for emotions to run high among those in the political arena. The combination of excitement and anxiety leads to frayed nerves and occasional lapses in judgment.
 
The result is predictable: partisans who use language they probably shouldn't. Take this report, for example, published this morning by New Hampshire Public Radio.
If you are seeking nuance or restraint, you won't find it at a get-out-the-vote rally on the Sunday before a tight election.
 
Here's State GOP chairman Jennifer Horn last night in Manchester:
 
"This is our time. We need to crush it. We need to grab it, run with it, push their heads under over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore, until the elections are over Tuesday night."
How charming.
 
Now, before anyone sends me angry emails, I realize that the chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party was not literally calling for the murder of local Democrats.
 
But can reasonable people agree that it's more than a little over the top when a state party chair calls for pushing rivals' heading "under the water over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore"? Maybe there's some other, less-homicidal metaphor partisans can use?
N.J. Governor Chris Christie speaks at an event in Belmar two years after Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29, 2014. (Kena Betancur/Getty)

Chris Christie embraces the spirit of forgiveness

11/03/14 09:54AM

Early last year, when House Republicans killed emergency relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, few were quite as hostile towards the aid package as Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). The right-wing Arkansan not only railed against the relief, he gave a speech rejecting the very idea of helping communities in New York and New Jersey.
 
"I don't think Arkansas needs to be bailing out the Northeast," Cotton said at the time.
 
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was publicly disgusted with his party's antics. The Republican-led House, the governor said, "failed that most basic test of public service, and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state."
 
In time, Democrats were able to pass an aid bill over GOP objections, and the issue faded. In an amazing twist, Christie seems to have forgotten the whole mess.
Here's an awkward endorsement.
 
Gov. Chris Christie's 19-stop tour in support of Republican candidates took him to Arkansas on Friday morning, where he joined a rally with Representative Tom Cotton, who is hoping to unseat Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat.
 
Although Mr. Christie is known for flashing his temper, he can also be forgiving, evidently.
Yes, last year, Cotton may have failed the most basic test of public service, and he may have shown callous indifference to the suffering of Christie's own constituents, but this year the governor has decided Cotton has an "R" after his name -- and that's good enough for him.
Ron Barber Gun Violence - Jane Timm - 09/18/2013

Republicans keep blasting Dems for being too conservative

11/03/14 09:12AM

Rep. Ron Barber's (D) re-election campaign in Arizona's 2nd district is one of the most competitive -- and expensive -- House races in the country. The congressman narrowly prevailed against Martha McSally (R) in 2012, and this year's rematch is neck and neck.
 
Dylan Matthews reported late last week that the Arizona Republican Party is so eager to help tip the scales that it sent out direct mail last week, condemning Barber for voting with ... House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
 
"What makes Ron Barber so scary?" the flier asks voters. "His vote for the terrifying Paul Ryan budget." The Arizona Republican Party's piece, which leans heavily on a Halloween theme, goes on to call Paul Ryan's plan a "bone-chilling" budget that "cut vital assistance programs."
 
Before we consider the politics, let's not brush past the relevant facts.
It's important to clarify that the mailer is not attacking Barber for supporting the House Republican budget, which Ryan designed and which is often referred to as the "Ryan budget." Barber voted against that budget in both 2013 and 2014.
 
What the mailer is attacking Barber for is supporting a small-bore budget compromise worked out by Ryan and Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA).
This compromise budget was far less extreme than the original Ryan blueprint, which Barber rejected. It did include some harsh cuts, but it was Republicans who demanded those cuts -- which didn't go as far as the right had hoped. Barber voted for the compromise, which avoided another government shutdown, but so did most House GOP lawmakers.
 
What we're left with is the Arizona Republican Party attacking a Democrat for being too conservative.
 
It's not just Barber and it's not just Arizona -- this keeps happening.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 9, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Rand Paul wants less GOP rhetoric on voting restrictions

11/03/14 08:30AM

More so than any other national Republican figure, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants to be seen as the GOP's voting-rights champion. While his Republican brethren nationwide impose harsh and unnecessary voting restrictions, as part of a campaign unlikely anything seen in the United States since Jim Crow, the Kentucky Republican routinely tells audiences, "Why don't we be the party that's for people voting, for voting rights?"
 
On the surface, it all sounds quite refreshing. And with this in mind, Chuck Todd asked the senator about the issue on "Meet the Press" yesterday.
Paul, a likely 2016 presidential contender, said that one step towards that goal is deemphasizing voter ID as a campaign issue, although he said he still supports requiring identification at the polls.
 
"It doesn't mean that I think it's unreasonable, I just think it's a dumb idea for Republicans to emphasize this and say 'this is how we are going to win the elections," he said.
The senator made similar comments on "Face the Nation," telling Bob Schieffer, "I'm not really opposed to [voter ID laws]. I am opposed to it as a campaign theme."
 
I'll give Paul credit for creativity. Voting-rights advocates believe forcing Americans to show documentation they never before had to produce, just to cast a ballot in their own democracy, is outrageous. Proponents of voter-suppression techniques see these policies as beneficial to Republicans, while pointing to largely imaginary "voter fraud."
 
The junior Republican senator from Kentucky, however, thinks he's found Door #3: voter-ID laws are reasonable, he says, but his party shouldn't "emphasize" the issue while talking about elections.
 
The problem, of course, is that Paul's approach is a substantive mess.
A voter casts her ballot at a polling site during early voting for Georgia's primary election in Atlanta on May, 16, 2014.

The voting gap likely to define the 2014 midterms

11/03/14 08:00AM

When election watchers keep an eye on the polls, they're right to focus on the attitudes of likely voters, not registered voters. After all, those who want to know who's favored to win need to study the attitudes of voters who actually plan to participate in the election.
 
But on the eve of Election Day, it's worth pausing to note the gap that may ultimately define the cycle, at least as far as Democrats are concerned: the gap between likely voters and registered voters will probably make the difference between victory and defeat.
 
This jumped out at me in the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked heading into Election Day, with 46 percent of likely voters preferring a Republican-controlled Congress, and 45 percent wanting a Democratic-controlled one, according to the final national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll before the election. [...]
 
Among the larger universe of all registered voters in this new NBC/WSJ poll, Democrats hold a four-point edge in congressional preference, 46 percent to 42 percent, which is unchanged from last month.
A Washington Post/ABC poll published last week found similar results: among registered voters, Democrats led Republicans by three points; among likely voters, Republican led Democrats by six points.
 
This gap may not sound like much, but in a cycle like this, it's everything -- Americans this year prefer Democrats; Americans who actually intend to show up prefer Republicans.
 
This is evident in statewide polling, too. On Friday, CNN's latest surveys found Bruce Braley (D) leading by six points in Iowa's U.S. Senate race among registered voters, but he trailed Joni Ernst by two points among likely voters. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan (D) leads by two points among likely voters, but that margin grows to a far-more-comfortable six points among registered voters.
 
In other words, pretty much everywhere we look, with precious few exceptions, we see Democrats running into the same dynamic party leaders find so excruciating: Republicans get engaged in midterms, Democrats stay on the sidelines, and the consequences are severe. It happened in 2010 and it appears to be happening again in 2014.

13 years later and other headlines

11/03/14 07:25AM

World Trade Center reopens for business. (AP)

Pres. Obama: 'Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.' (Politico)

Independent candidate drops out of Connecticut governor's race, endorses Republican. (Hartford Courant)

Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox on why she felt she had to fight Govs. Christie and LePage. (Portland Press Herald)

The armed security guard on a CDC elevator with Pres. Obama was not a convicted felon. (Washington Post)

Iraqis prepare ISIS offensive with U.S. help. (NY Times)

U.S.-backed Syrian rebels routed by fighters linked to al Qaeda. (Washington Post)

Thieves steal the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate from Germany's Dachau concentration camp. (NBC News)

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A frame from the Chris Nolan's "Interstellar," depicting a black hole.

The Week in Geek: Black hole edition

11/02/14 11:28AM

Ever since black holes were found to be a theoretical prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity, they've captured the public's imagination. They are viewed as awesome and terrifying, inescapable and all-consuming. Some of which is true, some of which is hype.

Black holes come in different sizes. There are two main categories: stellar and supermassive. When most people think about black holes, they are picturing stellar black holes. Stellar back holes are basically just dead stars. They form when massive stars live fast, die young, and go out with a bang, collapsing in on themselves. Only around 1% of all stars end their lives this way, so with 100 billion stars in our own galaxy, that means there are roughly 1 billion black holes. But I can assure you, they pose no threat. In contrast to stellar black holes, supermassive black holes are like millions of stellar black holes combined. How they form is still a mystery (and an active area of research), but we think they exist at the center of every galaxy in the Universe, including our own. 

How can we see something that's black? How do we know black holes are real?

While we can't see black holes directly, we *can* see their effects on their surroundings and therefore detect them indirectly. Stellar mass black holes are often found in binary systems where the other star is a white dwarf. So even though we can't see the black hole, the orbit of the white dwarf betrays its presence. John Archibald Wheeler, a theoretical physicist who made many contributions in this area, gave a wonderful analogy of this in a documentary based on Stephen Hawking's book "A Brief History of Time" (jump to minute 37:55). The same goes for supermassive black holes, only they have a larger reach so they have even stronger effects on their surroundings. 

This week, both physicists and non-physicists alike will have the chance to see these effects on the big screen in Christopher Nolan's new film "Interstellar." This isn't a movie promotion, but rather a physics promotion. "Interstellar" contains the most accurate visualization to date of a black hole on film. That's because theoretical physicist and black hole expert, Kip Thorne, consulted on the film (he consulted on "Contact" as well). Wired Magazine recently did a feature article on Thorne's contributions that I can't recommend enough. Essentially, Hollywood's budget allowed for more computing power than most academics get access to in a lifetime: generating almost 800 terabytes of data. 

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