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Paul LePage

'Unglued' governor makes bold demand on taxes

06/01/15 10:40AM

It's generally not up to governors to dictate what state legislators will work on and when, but that doesn't stop some governors from trying. Indeed, it occasionally even works -- a couple of years ago, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) told her state's legislature that she would veto everything it passed unless and until it approved Medicaid expansion
 
As the Bangor Daily News reported, Maine's notorious Republican governor, Paul LePage, is launching a similar gambit in the Pine Tree State, though on a very different issue.
During a fiery news conference that lasted nearly an hour, Gov. Paul LePage pledged Friday to veto every bill sponsored by a Democrat until his opposition relents and accepts his constitutional amendment to eliminate Maine's income tax.
 
LePage this year has proposed a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the state's income tax by the year 2020. Republicans, who have shied away from the governor's more comprehensive tax reform efforts, have rallied around the amendment. Democrats have opposed it, sparking LePage's trademark fury during a news conference at the Blaine House.
The far-right governor, who won twice after the mainstream vote was split in three-way contests, is still willing to sign legislation sponsored by members of his party. It's just Democrats whose bills he's vowed to kill without regard for merit.
 
It's worth noting that Maine's state legislature is split -- there's a Democratic majority in the state House and a Republican majority in the state Senate.
 
As far as LePage is concerned, it's a simple calculus: Maine Democrats should no longer be allowed to write laws because they're blocking his plan to hold a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment scrapping the state income tax.
 
"The Maine people deserve to have a say in the income tax, and until they lift it, that's my leverage," he said Friday. "And, yes, is that politics? I'm playing their game. I am finally learning to play the game of the politician. And it's despicable what they are doing."
 
Well, that's certainly one way to look at it.
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)

Seventeen years later, history haunts Hastert

06/01/15 10:00AM

Much of the political world is still coming to grips with the scandal surrounding former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), which caught so many of us off guard.
 
But while the legal process continues, it's worth appreciating some historical context. Over at the Washington Post, conservative Orin Kerr did a nice job putting the charges against Hastert in the context of developments from late 1998 and early 1999.
If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy
Right. Ignoring public attitudes entirely, congressional Republicans spent 1998 pursuing an impeachment crusade against then-President Clinton over an adulterous affair. Leading the charge was then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who was having an adulterous affair -- with a younger aide -- at the time.
 
Gingrich was soon forced to resign, and his successor was Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who was caught in his own adulterous affair and forced to resign. (Livingston was replaced in Congress by David Vitter, a right-wing family-values Republican who was later caught having his own adulterous affair, this time with prostitutes.)
 
Livingston passed the Speaker's gavel to Dennis Hastert, who now stands accused of trying to cover up sexual misconduct with a high-school student.
 
We can, however, add just one more detail.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas waits to be announced to speak at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) meeting, April 29, 2015, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Cliff Owen/AP)

Cruz balks at questions on flooding, climate

06/01/15 09:20AM

Storms in Texas last week caused deadly flooding, and conditions in some areas grew even worse over the weekend. NBC News has confirmed that at least 24 people have died in Texas in the floods, and the death toll climbs when victims in Oklahoma and Mexico are added to the tally.
 
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), like many officials in the Lone Star State, has worked on securing federal disaster relief for the affected areas. What the far-right senator has not been willing to do, however, is answer questions about the environmental conditions that may be contributing to the floods themselves.
 
CNN reported the other day that Cruz finds himself "in a bind on climate change."
The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government's response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question.
 
"In a time of tragedy, I think it's wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster -- and so there's plenty of time to talk about other issues," he said in response to a question on his views on climate change during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
It's a curious response. For one thing, it's not entirely clear how Cruz defines "politicize" -- to talk about environmental conditions contributing to an environmental disaster is "political"? Are we to believe references to science are inappropriate when Ted Cruz doesn't like the data?
 
For another, Cruz's rhetoric makes it sound as if he'd welcome a discussion about the climate crisis and its devastating, real-world effects -- just not now. There's "plenty of time" for this conversation, he said.
 
But the point is, Cruz has it backwards. As the crisis intensifies, and the disasters become more frequent and severe, there isn't "plenty of time" for conversations that climate deniers always want to push away.
Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland, waves to the crowd after announcing he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in Baltimore, Md. on May 30, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Maryland's O'Malley faces long road to Dems' nomination

06/01/15 08:40AM

Martin O'Malley has been laying the groundwork for a national campaign for quite a while, and over the weekend, the Maryland Democrat made it official over the weekend, announcing his presidential candidacy at an event in Baltimore.
 
O'Malley, a former two-term Baltimore mayor and former two-term Maryland governor, brings an impressive resume to the table, and as msnbc's Steve Kornacki explained, he "checks off a lot of boxes for Democrats."
His gubernatorial record includes the enactment of a state-level Dream Act, strict gun control, gay marriage, and the abolition of the death penalty. So he can -- and does -- brag that he's delivered on the party's agenda in a way that no other would-be Obama successor (or, for that matter, Obama himself) has.
 
He's also touting a populist economic message that's very much in sync with the liberal grassroots: hiking the minimum wage, reinstating Glass-Steagall and expanding Social Security.
Indeed, in O'Malley's kickoff speech, there were was little doubt that he hoped to connect with the "Draft Elizabeth Warren" crowd, calling out Goldman Sachs by name, and blasting Wall Street for its role in the 2008 crash. "Tell me how it is that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light in our country, but if you wreck the nation's economy you are untouchable," O'Malley said.
 
But despite all of this, O'Malley faces extremely long odds, and enters the race with support among Democrats at the national level around 2%. It's worth appreciating why.
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."

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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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