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Monday's Mini-Report, 6.1.15

06/01/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* An 8-1 ruling: "Abercrombie & Fitch likely broke the law when it refused to hire a Muslim teenager because she wore a headscarf, eight justices of the Supreme Court ruled Monday in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia."
* Another noteworthy case: "The US Supreme Court said Monday that the government cannot base a prosecution for sending an Internet threat solely on how the message was perceived. Although the ruling was based on interpreting criminal law, and not on the First Amendment, it amounted to another strongly pro-free expression decision from the court under Chief Justice John Roberts."
* Yemen: "Houthi rebels in Yemen on Monday released an American freelance journalist who had been in their custody for about two weeks, the State Department and the journalist's family reported."
* ISIS: "Islamic State militants drove a tank rigged with explosives into a base south of the Iraqi city of Samarra on Monday, killing 38 policemen, military and police sources said."
* Iraq: "Iraq's security forces lost around 2,300 Humvees to ISIS when they retreated from Mosul last year, according to the country's prime minister."
* Police shootings: "The three are among at least 385 people shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the rate of fatal police shootings tallied by the federal government over the past decade, a count that officials concede is incomplete."
* Arraignment: "Former House speaker Dennis Hastert is set to be arraigned Thursday on a federal indictment stemming from allegations that he sought to cover up what prosecutors contend was a deal to pay $3.5 million to an acquaintance over 'prior misconduct' by the longtime politician."
* Ouch: "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to Boston for medical treatment on Monday after breaking his right femur while riding his bike over the weekend near Scionzier, France -- an accident experts say will likely involve months of recovery."
A view of the state capitol on March 6, 2015 in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Alabama's Confederate-rich calendar

06/01/15 04:20PM

Every January, Alabama is one of only three states to celebrate a statewide holiday honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday.
Every April, Alabama is one of only three states to recognize Confederate Memorial Day as an official state holiday, complete with closed state offices.
All of which brings us today, and this report from Gawker:
Yes, it is another first Monday in June, which means it is Jefferson Davis Day, Alabama's official commemoration of the Confederate States' first and only president. A holiday still celebrated by two thirds of state residents. The only state holiday, in fact, to commemorate ol' JD. Offices are closed, just like they would be on Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee Day in Alabama!
It's a peculiar holiday, given that Jefferson Davis' birthday is actually on June 3, and also given that Davis was born in Kentucky, ruled in Virginia, fled through the Carolinas and Georgia, retired in Tennessee, and settled in Mississippi, with only the briefest of layovers in Alabama.
In case this isn't obvious, it's probably worth noting that this isn't a joke. Alabama journalist Leada Gore wrote in a piece this morning that if you need to do business with the state of Alabama today, "you're out of luck."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Tripling down? Walker misstates his own ultrasound policy

06/01/15 02:51PM

Over the last week or so, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has helped make one thing very clear: Wisconsin's law mandating medically unnecessary ultrasounds before abortions is tough to defend.
The Republican governor's recent troubles started 10 days ago, when he tried to defend the policy he signed into law by saying ultrasound images are "a lovely thing," and the technology itself is "just a cool thing out there." For Walker, this is apparently a justification for Wisconsin forcing women to undergo unwanted procedures for no medical purpose.
The governor dug a little deeper four days ago, suggesting the controversy itself is unnecessary. "Who's opposed to an ultrasound?" Walker asked, deliberately missing the point.
All of this led to yet another development, this time on Saturday at a campaign event in New Hampshire. The Concord Monitor reported:
Another questioner, Mary Heslin, put Walker on the spot for a Wisconsin law enacted during Walker's time as governor that requires pregnant women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion. Heslin initially questioned Walker by asking whether he understood how "invasive" transvaginal ultrasounds are, but Walker responded by saying those are not required under Wisconsin's law.
"It has to be offered for the individual," Walker told Heslin. "They can choose whether they want to see it or not or have it done or not, and it doesn't designate what form."
Right Wing Watch posted an audio clip, and there's no real ambiguity. In reference to the state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, Walker told the voter, "The law says it has to be offered, it doesn't have to be done." He added that the woman "can choose whether they want to see [the ultrasound] or not, or have it done or not."
The problem, of course, is that this is plainly untrue.
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham arrives onstage to formally announce his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in Central, South Carolina June 1, 2015. (Photo by Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters)

Lindsey Graham hopes voters overlook his track record

06/01/15 12:40PM

The massive field of Republican presidential candidates got a little bigger this morning, when the senior senator from South Carolina threw his hat into the ring. NBC News' Andrew Rafferty reported:
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham officially added his name to the growing list of Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 on Monday, focusing his message on the hawkish foreign policy positions that have made him a leading voice among the Senate GOP.
"I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them," Graham said in Central, South Carolina, his childhood home.
The rhetoric wasn't subtle. Indeed, arguably more so than any other candidate in either party, Graham is going out of his way to base his national candidacy on his foreign policy vision.
"I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race," the Republican senator insisted this morning. He quickly added, in reference to the Democratic frontrunner, "That includes you, Hillary."
That may not be a compelling enough pitch for a national Republican audience. Graham has maintained a fairly high profile for many years in GOP politics, but as his presidential bid gets underway, polls show him near the bottom of the crowded field, with poll support below 1%. His chances of even participating in candidate debates, barring unforeseen developments, are poor.
The fact that Graham hails from South Carolina is a relevant angle -- the Palmetto State holds the third nominating contest next year, following Iowa and New Hampshire -- but even here, his home-field advantage probably won't translate into an early primary victory.
What's more, Graham, after nearly a quarter-century on Capitol Hill, may pick up some support from the party establishment -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has already endorsed him -- but of the four sitting GOP senators running for the White House, Graham is likely to trail the other three in fundraising and endorsements.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.1.15

06/01/15 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:
* Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) formally kicked off his presidential campaign this morning. We'll have more on this a little later today.
* Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) campaign confirmed over the weekend that the senator will not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll. He joins  Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Huckabee in skipping the quadrennial event, and that list is likely to grow.
* The latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows Scott Walker continuing to lead the Republican presidential field in the Hawkeye State, this time with 17% support. Rand Paul and Ben Carson are tied for second in the poll with 10%, followed by Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush at 9% each.
* Among Democrats, the same Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll shows Hillary Clinton with 57% support among Iowa Dems, followed by Bernie Sanders with 16% and Vice President Biden with 8%.
* As annoying as it may sound, Jeb Bush continues to pretend that he's not a presidential candidate yet. "I hope I run, to be honest with you," the former Florida governor told CBS yesterday. "I would like to run. But I haven't made the decision."
* Rand Paul used footage from his recent 10-hour Senate floor speech in a new campaign video, apparently in violation of Senate rules.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and a Republican presidential contender, speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate, May 20, 2015, at the Capitol in Washington, during a long speech opposing renewal of the Patriot Act. (Photo by Senate TV/AP)

Rand Paul reconsiders whether his critics want a terrorist attack

06/01/15 11:06AM

Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appeared on msnbc and raised a few eyebrows by linking ISIS to hawks in his own party.
"ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately," the Republican said. "And most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS's job even easier. They created these people."
The assertion that Republicans helped "create" ISIS was not well received among Paul's Republican brethren, but last night, he made matters far worse during the debate on Patriot Act provisions. Some of his critics, Paul said on the Senate floor, may "secretly want there to be a [terrorist] attack on the United States so they can blame it on me."
It's a striking accusation. As we discussed earlier, a senator and presidential candidate seemed to suggest his rivals -- including his ostensible allies in his own party -- are actually hoping for a deadly attack in order to spite Rand Paul.
This morning, the Kentucky lawmaker appeared on Fox News, where he was unwilling to stand by his talking point (thanks to my msnbc colleague Dafna Linzer for the heads-up). When the Fox host asked who he was referring to, Paul said:
"I think sometimes in the heat of battle, hyperbole can get the better of anyone. That may be the problem there."
May be?
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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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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