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Ferguson strife becomes national symbol

Ferguson strife becomes national symbol

11/26/14 09:00PM

Steve Kornacki shows how the issues at play in Ferguson, Missouri have become part of a collection of American cultural landmarks, and reports on how the death of Michael Brown has motivated protests nationwide. watch

Ahead on the 11/26/14 Maddow show

11/26/14 07:41PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Wesley Lowery, reporter for The Washington Post
  • Ryan Grim, Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the Huffington Post
  • Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for the Wall Street Journal

And here's TRMS producer Julia Nutter with what everyone's working on for tonight:

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.26.14

11/26/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* St. Louis: "Police in riot gear threatened to use tear gas Wednesday as they broke up a protest at City Hall in St. Louis. An officer at the scene shouted to demonstrators that the protest became unlawful when the demonstrators forced their way into the building. The officer threatened to use 'chemical munitions' and encouraged people with children to leave the scene."
* What was different about the Ferguson grand jury? Just about everything that matters.
* Stunning video: "Police shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice seconds after arriving at a Cleveland park last Saturday where the boy was waving around a toy 'airsoft' gun, surveillance video released Wednesday showed."
* Putin's latest game: "Russia pointed on Wednesday to rioting in Ferguson and protests across the United States as evidence that its detractors in Washington were hypocrites and in no position to lecture Moscow on human rights."
* A striking image: "Illustrator and former St. Louisan Bob Staake has created an image of the Gateway Arch in black and white for The New Yorker in its Dec. 8 issue with coverage on Ferguson."
* Great piece: "The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, reveals many things about America. One of them that has not yet received adequate attention is that there is a strong case for a form of gun control that is much stricter than anything that's remotely plausible in the context of American politics.... A system in which legal police shootings of unarmed civilians are a common occurrence is a system that has some serious flaws."
* Sierra Leone: "The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has been surging in recent weeks, may have reached its peak and could be on the verge of slowing down, Sierra Leone's information minister said Wednesday."
President Barack Obama announces executive actions on U.S. immigration policy during a nationally televised address from the White House, Nov. 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Jim Bourg/Pool/Getty)

Immigration outrage remains quite limited

11/26/14 04:15PM

It's been about a week since Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told USA Today that Americans were poised to "go nuts" in opposition to President Obama's immigration policy.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama's executive order on immigration Thursday.
"The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation," Coburn said on Capital Download. "You're going to see -- hopefully not -- but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."
Americans certainly saw violence in Ferguson, Missouri, but the prediction that the country is "going to go nuts" in response to presidential overreach doesn't seem to be holding up especially well.
Gallup's daily tracking poll, for example, shows Obama's approval rating at 44% -- which is up a little, not down, since the immigration announcement. In fact, at this point, Obama is nearly as popular as Ronald Reagan was at identical points in their presidencies. A CNN poll also shows Obama at 44% approval.
And speaking of the CNN poll, the survey posed an interesting question to respondents: "A major part of Obama's new policy changes will allow some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to stay here temporarily and apply for a work permit if they have children who are U.S. citizens. Other immigrants in the U.S. illegally will not be eligible for this program and can still be deported. Do you think that plan goes too far, does not go far enough, or is about right?"
The responses probably weren't what Republicans were hoping for:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt

The great national 'Franksgiving' uproar

11/26/14 02:44PM

The story of Franklin Roosevelt moving Thanksgiving is probably pretty well known, but with the holiday coming up tomorrow, and with the ongoing debate about executive powers apparently fresh on the political world's mind, it's probably worth a trip down memory lane.
Historically, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the final Thursday of November. But in 1939, with the nation still dealing with the effects of the Great Depression and the unemployment rate above 15%, there was a small problem with the calendar: Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 30.
This may not sound especially important, but for businesses relying on holiday sales, this was a threat to bottom lines -- it shortened the number of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Business owners, pointing to the weak economy, demanded action.
And FDR delivered, issuing an executive order that moved the official date of Thanksgiving up a week, from Nov. 30 to Nov. 23. As Andrew Prokop explained, this really didn't go over well.
What may have seemed like a wonkish, technocratic, good-government policy clashed with what turned out to be deeply-ingrained feelings among many Americans about when Thanksgiving should be celebrated. The Associated Press story announcing the move said Roosevelt "was shattering another precedent," and quoted a town official of Plymouth, Massachusetts saying the traditional date was "sacred." [...]
Republicans pounced, and used the move to portray Roosevelt as a power-mad tyrant. In an early example of Godwin's Law, FDR's recent presidential opponent Alf Landon said Roosevelt sprung his decision on "an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler." Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire suggested that while Roosevelt was at it, he should abolish winter.
One Republican mayor labeled the new date "Franksgiving." Extending the protest further, roughly half the states chose to honor the old date rather than the new one.
The date then bounced around for a couple of years, until Congress eventually passed a new law, moving the date from the final Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November.
In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of a coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kan. (Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP)

Obama admin eyes major new pollution limits

11/26/14 12:25PM

Either no one has told President Obama how lame-duck presidents are supposed to act or he really doesn't care.
Two weeks ago, the president announced the framework of a breakthrough climate deal with China, and even at the time, there was a realization that additional environmental policies were on the way, including an Environmental Protection Agency policy to limit smog-causing ozone.
That policy is now done and ready for its unveiling. The New York Times reports:
The sweeping regulation, which would aim at smog from power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, would be the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama's administration.
Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach.
The existing smog standard is 75 parts per billion, a limit many consider too high given that ozone is pollutant linked to asthma and heart disease. Indeed, that standard was set by the Bush/Cheney administration, which ignored the recommendations of its own EPA scientific advisory panel at the time.
The Obama administration is targeting a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion -- which is still higher than what many environmentalists want -- though as Rebecca Leber recently reported, Republicans are already committed to blocking the pollution limits. Indeed, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has a proposal that would prevent the EPA from creating new standards until there's 85% compliance with the old, inadequate standards.
I can appreciate why discussions about "parts per billion" seem a little dry, but don't let the jargon get in the way -- for those who breathe, this is an important environmental policy.
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses for a photo in her chambers at the Supreme Court in Washington, on July 24, 2013,

Justice Ginsburg undergoes heart surgery

11/26/14 11:36AM

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reportedly underwent heart surgery this morning, after feeling discomfort during exercise. NBC News' Pete Williams reported:
Ginsburg, 81, had a stent placed in her right coronary artery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. She was resting comfortably and was expected to be discharged within 48 hours, the court said.
The blockage was discovered after she felt discomfort on Tuesday night, the court said. For the past few years, Ginsburg has been working out with a personal trainer at the Supreme Court gym, and a court official said she was there when she felt the discomfort.
For Ginsburg, the Supreme Court's oldest justice, this is not her first health scare -- she's also persevered through two bouts with cancer.
I'm no medical expert, but as I understand it, stent placements are a fairly routine procedure, and there's no reason to believe this will keep Ginsburg from her duties for very long. Indeed, she'll probably be home by the weekend.
That said, whenever an 81-year-old with a history of health issues has heart surgery, it inevitably leads to renewed conversation about the benefits of retirement.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

GOP demands a pound of flesh in tax deal

11/26/14 11:05AM

House Republicans haven't had much success this Congress passing actual legislation into law, but they've nevertheless invested quite a bit of time focusing on one of their favorite pastimes: cutting taxes without paying for it.
The Democratic-run Senate has largely ignored the bills from the lower chamber, but in recent weeks, House Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) have been negotiating a deal on tax breaks set to expire at the end of 2014, and yesterday, a deal took shape. Before we get to the substantive details, it's important to note how GOP lawmakers approached the talks:
Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats: a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor. Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president's executive order on immigration, saying a surge of newly legalized workers would claim the credit, tax aides from both parties said.
We really have reached a farcical level of policymaking. Republicans aren't just obsessed with tax cuts, they're deliberately scrapping breaks that go to working families. Why? Largely because GOP officials aren't done with their tantrum over immigration policy -- right-wing hissy fits rarely produce sound public policy -- and Republicans feel as if they're entitled to a pound of flesh because the Big Bad President hurt their feelings.
The result is a tax deal that treats the working poor as collateral damage in a political war. Sorry, struggling families, Americans elected a far-right Congress, and your loss is their "payback."
And as important as this is, it's not even the most offensive part of the agreement on taxes that came together yesterday.
Two bride figurines on top of a cake.

Courts back marriage equality on Mississippi, Arkansas

11/26/14 10:00AM

Marriage equality has already reached most of the country, though state bans on same-sex marriage are still common in the Deep South. It makes it all the more notable, then, when federal courts strike down these bans in Mississippi and Arkansas.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Mississippi said the state's gay marriage ban violated same-sex couples the rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He stayed his ruling for 14 days but also noted clerks could not issue gay marriage licenses until further guidance was given from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court (the 5th circuit is currently considering challenges to same-sex marriage bans from other states in its area). [...]
Attorney General Jim Hood said the state would appeal the decision to the 5th Circuit and ask for a stay until that court decides the cases before it.
In Arkansas, Judge Kristine Baker issued a similar ruling yesterday afternoon. As in Mississippi, the Arkansas ruling is on hold pending appeal.
As Miranda Leitsinger's report noted, if these rulings stand, they'll become the 36th and 37th states to extend equal marriage rights to all couples.
But before we move on -- and wait for the U.S. Supreme Court -- a portion of the Mississippi ruling stood out as especially noteworthy.
President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address

Will the GOP scrap Obama's State of the Union address?

11/26/14 09:06AM

In early 1999, the political environment in Washington, D.C., bordered on surreal. President Clinton had just been impeached. House Speaker Newt Gingrich had just been ousted from his leadership post, forced out by his own members. Gingrich's apparent successor, Louisiana's Bob Livingston, was soon after forced to resign in the wake of a sex scandal.
And at the same time, the U.S. Senate was weighing the charges against Clinton, hearing arguments as to whether or not to remove the sitting president from office.
It was against this backdrop that the White House announced in mid-January that it was time for the annual State of the Union address. TV preacher Pat Robertson, an influential figure in Republican politics at the time, gave his GOP allies some stern advice: don't let Clinton speak. To give the president an august national platform, Robertson said, would allow Clinton to solidify his support and end the impeachment crusade. Congress isn't required to host the speech, so there was nothing stopping Republicans from denying Clinton's request.
GOP leaders on Capitol Hill weren't prepared to go nearly that far. So, Clinton spoke, he pretended like impeachment hadn't just happened, and Gallup showed the president's approval rating reaching 69% soon after.
Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right's mind.
"Yes, there's a risk to overreacting, but there's a risk to underreacting as well," said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. "And I fear that's the way the congressional leadership is leaning."
Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. "If I were John Boehner," he said, referring to the House speaker, "I'd say to the president: 'Send us your State of the Union in writing. You're not welcome in our chamber.'"
Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it's important to note that he isn't the only one publicly pushing the idea.
Then U.S. Under Secretary of Defence Michelle Flournoy looks on during a meeting at the Bayi Building in Beijing on Dec. 7, 2011. (Photo by Andy Wong/AFP/Getty)

Why the vacancy at the Pentagon matters

11/26/14 08:33AM

By all appearances, Michèle Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense, was the frontrunner to succeed Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon. She was a finalist for the post last year; some Republican senators had already suggested she'd be an acceptable nominee; and far-right websites were already complaining about her. It seemed as if the job was hers if she wanted it.
But as it turns out, she didn't want it.
Foreign Policy reported yesterday afternoon that Flournoy has withdrawn from consideration.
Flournoy, the co-founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security, a think tank that has served as a farm league for future Obama administration officials, would have been the first female secretary of defense had she risen to the position.
But in a letter Tuesday to members of the CNAS board of directors, Flournoy said she would remain in her post at the think tank and asked Obama to take her out of consideration to be the next secretary of defense. Flournoy told the board members that family considerations helped drive her decision.
The reporting was later confirmed by other major news organizations, including msnbc.
Attention now shifts to other possible contenders, but before we get to that, it's worth pausing to appreciate why the Pentagon post may not be an in-demand job right now.
Don't get me wrong, serving as the Secretary of Defense is incredibly important, especially during a war, but it's the broader circumstances that make this a difficult time for almost anyone to take the job.
Look at this from Flournoy's perspective:
A protester gestures with his hands up in front of police officers during a second night of protests in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 25, 2014. (Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

As protests spread, a 'much better night' in Ferguson

11/26/14 08:00AM

It would be an overstatement to say developments in Ferguson last night were quiet, though compared to Monday night, the violence subsided. The overnight report from the msnbc team on the ground:
Protesters returned to the streets of Ferguson Tuesday for a predominantly peaceful night of demonstrations that eventually gave way to small and isolated outbursts of damage to local businesses and property on a night marked by a heightened National Guard presence.
Scores of demonstrators braved the bitter cold and gathered before the Ferguson Police Department Tuesday night as isolated flare-ups of destruction to public property and tense stand-offs between the crowd and police at times resulted in protesters being taken away into custody.
In an early morning press conference, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters, "Generally it was a much better night." That said, there were at least 44 arrests -- mostly for misdemeanors -- and as NBC News' report noted, windows were broken at City Hall.
The improved conditions coincided with a vastly larger National Guard presence, with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) more than tripling the number of guardsmen and women to 2,200 last night.
What made last night especially noteworthy, though, were the related protests in cities far from St. Louis.

Brown's family reacts and other headlines

11/26/14 07:50AM

Michael Brown's mom reacts to Darren Wilson's first public comments. (

Brown family condemns broken system. (The Hill)

St. Louis cancels its Thanksgiving Day parade. (KSDK)

Black Friday gun buys test background check system. (AP)

Court denies Arizona request to block driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. (Washington Post)

Pres. Obama threatens to veto $440 billion tax deal. (NY Times)

Supreme Court to review EPA mercury emission rules. (USA Today)

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