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Firings don't fix police culture problems

Chicago police culture problems run deeper than symbolic firings

12/01/15 09:29PM

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, Temple University assistant professor of criminal justice, talks with Rachel Maddow about the deeper problems within the Chicago Police Department that are not addressed by today's firing of the superintendent, and why new policies that encourage and protect whistleblowers is a necessary step toward reform. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 12.1.15

12/01/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Another deployment: "Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday the U.S. military will deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force to Iraq to launch unilateral raids and 'put even more pressure' on ISIS. U.S. special operation forces will conduct operations in Iraq 'at the invitation of the Iraqi government' and be in position 'to conduct unilateral operations into Syria,' Carter said."
* Chicago: "Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy was fired Tuesday, exactly one week after dash-cam video showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released. The announcement came during an 11 a.m. press conference announcing Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new task force on police accountability."
* Presidential optimism on climate: "'I'm optimistic. I think we're going to solve it,' Obama said during a 47-minute news conference capping a two-day visit to the gathering. 'The issue is going to be the pace and how much damage is done before we're fully able to apply the brakes.'"
* ISIS: "American authorities this year have arrested nearly five dozen people in the United States for helping to support or plot with the Islamic State, according to a new study, the largest number of terrorism-related arrests in the country in a single year since September 2001."
* Highway funding: "House and Senate negotiators struck an agreement Tuesday on a $305 billion highway bill that would extend federal transportation funding for five years, setting up an eleventh-hour dash to win approval in both chambers."
* Elite currencies: "The Chinese renminbi was anointed as one of the world's elite currencies on Monday, a milestone decision by the International Monetary Fund that underscores the country's rising financial and economic heft."
* Minnesota: "The Hennepin County attorney's office charged four men with felony assault and riot crimes Monday in connection with a shooting Nov. 23 near the Black Lives Matter encampment in north Minneapolis that wounded five black protesters."
* The final vote on the nomination was 79 to 7: "The Senate on Monday voted to confirm Gayle E. Smith, a former national security aide to President Obama, to lead the United States Agency for International Development, the federal agency responsible for overseas humanitarian issues like feeding refugees, building clinics and distributing foreign aid."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on Aug. 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

Christie, Rubio stumble badly on basics

12/01/15 04:06PM

President Obama told reporters this morning that throughout much of the world, there are officials who argue about all kinds of issues, but the "one thing they're not arguing about is whether the science of climate change is real and whether or not we have to do something about it."
Obama added, in a not-so-subtle shot at the Republican radicals running to replace him, "I think the president of the United States is going to need to think this is really important. Your credibility and America's ability to influence events depends on taking seriously what other countries care about."
The problem, of course, is that the GOP presidential hopefuls aren't especially concerned with credibility on the international stage. The New York Times' David Brooks explained this morning that the Republican Party "has come to resemble a Soviet dictatorship" when it comes to climate science: even politicians who know the truth about global warming say otherwise "because they're afraid the thought police will knock on their door and drag them off to an AM radio interrogation."
As if on cue, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told MSNBC this morning that there is no climate "crisis." Asked if he's relying on evidence, the governor replied, "That's my feeling. I didn't say I was relying on any scientist."
And nothing says "presidential leadership in the 21st century" better than relying on "feelings" rather than facts.
Christie's comments follow Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, where the climate-denying senator stuck to his stale talking points -- "the climate changing has always been changing" -- before viewers saw this amazing exchange.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you disagree with the president saying that it's very important to future generations?
RUBIO: Well, that's not what he is saying. What he is saying is that it's the greatest threat facing future generations and that I don't agree with. I think the greatest threat facing future generations domestically is $19 trillion debt for which there is no answer in place.
Remember, among Beltway insiders, Rubio's supposed to be one of the wonkier members of the Republican presidential field.
Image: FILE PHOTO: The Pill Turns 50: A Look Back At Contraception

Ted Cruz tackles 'the condom police'

12/01/15 12:54PM

Ted Cruz doesn't usually stray too much from his usual campaign stump speech at various events, but last night in Iowa, NBC's Vaughn Hillyard reported that the Texas Republican was asked about his position "on making contraception available for women." Cruz seized the opportunity to share some unexpected rhetoric, calling the controversy surrounding Republicans and birth control "an utterly made-up nonsense issue."
"Last I checked, we don't have a rubber shortage in America," Cruz exasperatingly said to the rather boisterous crowd. "Like look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in -- and voila!"
Cruz added that he expects Hillary Clinton to run against "the condom police" in order to "try to scare a bunch of folks that are not paying a lot of attention into thinking someone's going to steal their birth control."
And if there were only one form of birth control available to American consumers, Cruz would almost have a credible point. At the Iowa event, the senator said he's never met "any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives" -- Cruz might want to chat with Rick Santorum -- but the Texan's focus was exclusively on condoms.
Cruz is right that there is no "rubber shortage." What he's wrong about is, well, literally everything else.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.1.15

12/01/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In a surprising Bloomberg Politics interview yesterday, Ted Cruz blasted Marco Rubio's foreign policy, slamming his rival as a proponent of "military adventurism," and suggesting the Florida senator is part of a group of "aggressive Washington neo-cons."
* Bernie Sanders underwent an elective hernia procedure yesterday, though the senator's office expected him to return to work today.
* Donald Trump held an hours-long meeting with dozens of African-American ministers yesterday. The Republican told reporters after the closed-door discussion, "It went longer only because of the love. It didn't go longer for other reasons."
* Speaking of Trump, the current GOP frontrunner suggested yesterday he may seek $5 million from CNN as a prerequisite for competing in the next debate for the Republican presidential field.
* In Illinois, Sen. Mark Kirk (R), facing a tough fight against Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D), went after the Democratic veteran yesterday for her position in support of Syrian refugees.
* Asked last week about Trump's ridiculous 9/11 claims, Chris Christie hedged, saying he doesn't "recall" Muslim Americans celebrating in Jersey City, "but you know there could be things I forget." Yesterday -- a full week later -- the governor was more forceful in saying Trump was wrong.
* Despite their notable disagreement over the USA Freedom Act, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) yesterday became the latest congressional Republican to endorse Marco Rubio's presidential campaign.

Texas universities take a pass on state's new campus gun laws

12/01/15 11:20AM

After a series of school shootings, policymakers of all stripes offered a series of possible solutions. In Texas, for example, Republican state policymakers responded to the tragedies by allowing Texans with a concealed-carry license to bring loaded firearms into on-campus buildings.
The idea is based on the argument that there will be fewer shootings when there are more guns.
The state law, however, makes the policy optional for private colleges and universities, which can opt-out "after consulting with students, staff and faculty." Soon after, Baylor, Trinity, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, and others said they'd given this some thought and decided to pass on the state law, which takes effect in August 2016..
Yesterday, the Houston Chronicle reported that the list is getting longer still.
Guns will not be allowed at Rice University, despite a new state law letting some Texans carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
Rice on Monday joined a growing list of private schools signaling they will opt out of the law. President David Leebron announced the decision after extensive conversations with campus groups.
In an email to the university, Rice President Leebron wrote, "Not a single constituency consulted has endorsed having guns on our campus; in fact, each overwhelming(ly) opposed it. Maintaining the safety of our students and employees is our highest priority. There is no evidence that allowing the carrying of guns on our campus will make the campus safer, and the most knowledgeable professional groups believe that guns will make campuses less safe."
Imagine that.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Md. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Rubio makes his case against the Paycheck Fairness Act

12/01/15 10:40AM

At a campaign event last night, Hillary Clinton told voters she's prepared to "move heaven and earth" to get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed and signed into law. The proposal, intended to help protect women from wage discrimination in the workplace, would already be law -- President Obama is eager to sign it -- but congressional Republicans have killed it in each of the last three Congresses.
Among the GOP lawmakers who've contributed to the measure's defeats is none other than Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). ThinkProgress posted an item yesterday, noting what happened when members of the work/family organization Make It Work confronted the Republican senator for an explanation.
[Rubio] indicated that the [pay gap between men and women] shouldn't even exist today. "It's already illegal to pay women less than men," he responded. "If I pay a woman less than a man for the same job, it's illegal now. You can be sued now."
Though he offered up lawsuits as the remedy for unequal pay, Rubio is against the Paycheck Fairness Act because it would result in more lawsuits. "The Paycheck [Fairness] Act, all it did was allow trial lawyers to sue," he said. "The reason I voted against it is because ... all it really did is just help lawyers sue."
Rubio has had years to come up with a proper defense for his position, and the fact that this is the best he can come up with is a little surprising.
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)

White House urges Congress to act on ISIS

12/01/15 10:00AM

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) realizes some important congressional deadlines are coming up, and there remains a possibility that Republicans will push for another government shutdown, but the GOP leader considers it unlikely. McCarthy told reporters yesterday that congressional Republicans are primarily focused on national security and ISIS in the wake of the Paris attacks two weeks ago.
Of course, if that's true, Congress can prove it by doing actual work on the subject.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama and his team have been quite busy on the counter-terrorism front. In addition to the military offensive against ISIS targets in the Middle East, the White House announced yesterday that Rob Malley, the National Security Council's Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, will now "focus solely on efforts to degrade and destroy" ISIS, "ensuring full interagency coordination across all lines of effort."
The Obama administration also announced changes yesterday to "the government’s visa-waiver program to try to stop those who have visited conflict zones from easily boarding American-bound commercial flights, a move intended to prevent an attack in the United States similar to the ones that struck Paris."
Against this backdrop, what's Congress up to? Not much. Republicans occasionally complain about Obama not doing enough about ISIS, but it's the legislative branch that's done practically nothing since the president began targeting ISIS nearly 16 months ago.
White House officials argued yesterday that it's time for Congress to begin doing some real work, starting with authorizing the U.S. military campaign.
Speaking in Paris, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that Congress needs to implement a series of proposals rather than engage in politically motivated posturing that is “wrong, dangerous and falls far short of what the America people deserve.”
Earnest said Congress should also fully fund an aviation security proposal in a budget deal, confirm a counterterrorism financing chief for the Treasury Department and institute a law banning people on the no-fly list from buying guns.
So, any chance congressional Republicans will stop talking and start acting?
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the Sunshine Summit conference being held at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Nov. 13, 2015 in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Ted Cruz: Most violent criminals 'are Democrats'

12/01/15 09:20AM

A couple of months ago, Rush Limbaugh reflected on the series of school shootings in the United States, and the Republican host drew a partisan conclusion: "The people that are shooting up schools more than likely vote Democrat."
There's no evidence to suggest this is true, but accuracy obviously isn't a priority. The goal with rhetoric like this is to distract from potential policy solutions while exploiting violence for partisan gain.
And in an unexpected twist, a Republican presidential hopeful yesterday made the implicit case that Limbaugh wasn't ambitious enough. For Ted Cruz, it's not just school shooters who are Democrats, but violent criminals in general who are members of the party he holds in contempt. Politico reported yesterday:
Ted Cruz on Monday equated Democrats with violent crime.
In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, the Texas senator said that "the simple and undeniable fact is the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats."
In the same interview, the Texas Republican added, "There's a reason why the Democrats for years have been viewed as soft on crime. The Democrats know convicted felons tend to vote Democrat."
Media Matters posted the audio clip and transcript of the exchange.
The Cruz campaign hasn't substantiated the claim, but again, the point of partisan vitriol isn't to make substantive policy arguments. The presidential hopeful is being provocative for the sake of being provocative.
A Planned Parenthood location is seen on August 5, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)

Dems push to end Congress' anti-Planned Parenthood campaign

12/01/15 08:40AM

From the outset, one of the more important flaws in the Republican campaign against Planned Parenthood was its post-policy rationale. As we discussed a few months ago, when GOP lawmakers in Congress first saw controversial videos about the health organization over the summer, Republicans quickly hatched a plan to accuse the group of outrageous crimes and abuses.
There was just one nagging detail: there's literally no evidence Planned Parenthood did anything illegal. It didn't sell fetal tissue for a profit; it didn't misuse public resources, and it didn't violate any laws. The Republican plan was based on a foundation of quicksand.
GOP lawmakers, however, wouldn't let these pesky facts get in the way. They proceeded to launch hearings, investigations, and a new select subcommittee anyway, without much regard for whether the anti-Planned Parenthood campaign made any substantive sense.
For Democrats, this seemed like an annoying distraction from Congress' real-world priorities. But after a series of attacks on Planned Parenthood facilities, including last week's deadly mass shooting in Colorado Springs, BuzzFeed reports that congressional Dems are starting to see the Republican campaign as less of an aggravation and more of a danger that needs to end.
Democrats in Congress are using the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado to once again put pressure on Republicans to disband a select committee tasked with investigating the women's health organization.
Returning to Washington after Thanksgiving break on Monday, some Democrats more forcefully called for ending the committee, which was formed by House Republicans after the release of a series of undercover videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling aborted fetuses' organs and tissues. Democrats also referred to the shooting on Friday, which killed three people, as an act of terror -- language that abortion rights supporters have pushed lawmakers to use to suggest that a network of anti-abortion groups and advocates have helped fuel violence.
Among the lawmakers calling for Congress to scale back its anti-Planned Parenthood crusade are Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who also happens to be a member of the new select committee.
Remember, the panel, which is currently hiring taxpayer-financed staffers and which has held no hearings, has not yet explained its purpose for existence. Writing in the Washington Post yesterday, Paul Waldman noted, "The idea, as it seems to be in most congressional investigations Republicans launch, is that while they don't really know what they're looking for, if they look hard enough then they'll find something that can be used against Planned Parenthood."
And while such a shamelessly partisan fishing expedition seemed exasperating before, the question now is whether congressional Republicans are contributing to a dangerous, toxic political climate for no substantive reason.
US President Barack Obama walks offstage during the 'Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution' meeting at the COP2 in Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30 2015. (Photo by Ian Langsdon/Pool/AP)

GOP sabotage campaign targets Obama administration (again)

12/01/15 08:00AM

Congressional Republican efforts to sabotage U.S. domestic policy is unique in modern American history. For generations, Democrats and Republicans have waged fierce fights over all kinds of policy measures, but even bitter partisans didn't make much of an effort to weaken existing American laws and programs after they were implemented -- though that's exactly what Republicans did during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
But U.S. policymakers taking steps to sabotage U.S. foreign policy is qualitatively different, and far more alarming -- and in the Obama era, far more common.
We've occasionally seen individual Republicans taking steps to undermine the White House on the global stage. For example, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) traveled to Guatemala last year and worked against U.S. foreign policy during the migrant-children crisis. In 2010, then-House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) traveled to Israel in the hopes of undermining U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. As long-time readers know, actions like these used to be unheard of in the American tradition, but once President Obama took office, Republicans largely re-wrote the rules.
Earlier this year, 47 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), took the campaign to an entirely new level, sending a letter to Iran, telling officials not to trust the United States. The goal wasn't subtle: GOP lawmakers hoped to sabotage their own country's foreign policy in the midst of delicate international nuclear talks.
A month later, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation's most aggressive climate deniers and the man Senate Republicans chose to lead the Senate committee on environmental policy, boasted, "The Tom Cotton letter was an educational effort." As global climate talks get underway at the COP21 conference in Paris, Republicans hope to apply the lessons of the educational effort to try to sabotage the White House once more.
In Washington, congressional Republicans have drawn a line against the president’s climate initiatives, and the House is scheduled to vote this week on legislation that would undo new Environmental Protection Agency rules on power-plant emissions -- a major element of the administration’s efforts to address climate change.
The legislation is unlikely to become law, but Republicans hope it shows the international climate negotiators that the nation is not united politically behind the president’s proposals.
It's that last sentence that carries the most weight: congressional Republicans aren't participants in the international climate talks, but they're nevertheless hopeful that they can play a role in derailing the negotiations from afar.

The Paris attackers and other headlines

12/01/15 07:21AM

How the Paris attackers honed their assault through trial and error. (New York Times)

Pentagon may send more U.S. troops to Syria. (USA Today)

For Clinton, one glaring holdout among female Democratic senators. (Washington Post)

Syrian refugees become issue in Illinois Senate race. (AP)

On Ukraine's front lines, U.S.-supplied equipment is falling apart. (Washington Post)

Alabama marks the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott. (

Japan probes mystery boats carrying dead bodies off coast. (AP)

Long-hidden details reveal cruelty of 1972 Munich attackers. (New York Times)

George Lucas explains why Greedo shot first. (Time)

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