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E.g., 4/28/2015
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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)

Top Senate Republican rejects call for voting-rights fix

04/28/15 10:00AM

It was just last month when much of the nation's attention turned to Selma, Alabama, where Americans saw former President George W. Bush stand and applaud a call for Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act with a bipartisan bill. Many wondered if, maybe sometime soon, Congress' Republican majority might agree to tackle the issue.
 
Voting-rights advocates probably shouldn't hold their breath. Soon after the event honoring those who marched at the Edmund Pettus Bridge a half-century ago, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) dismissed the very idea of working on the issue. "I think Eric Holder and this administration have trumped up and created an issue where there really isn't one," the Texas Republican said.
 
Asked if Congress should repair the Voting Rights Act formula struck down by the Supreme Court, Cornyn replied, simply, "No."
 
Yesterday at the National Press Club, another key GOP senator echoed the sentiment.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Monday he doesn't expect to bring up legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, because lots of minority people are already voting. [...]
 
"It depends on what you want to fix," he said. "If you want to fix more minorities voting, more minorities are already voting."
The Iowa Republican said the "original intent" of the Voting Rights Act is no longer applicable because "in the last 50 years, it's made great progress."
 
As a factual matter, it's true that lots of voters from minority communities vote. It's also true that the nation has made "great progress" as compared to a half-century ago.
 
But given every relevant detail, Grassley's posture is tough to defend.
U.S. Senator Warren talks with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Kagan and Sotomayor as Justice Breyer looks on before U.S. President Obama's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington

The laughable calls for high-court recusals

04/28/15 09:20AM

Nine U.S. Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments this morning in a case may bring marriage equality to the United States, but if some conservatives had their way, only seven justices would be in the chamber today.
 
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, among many others, has been pushing for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan to recuse themselves because they've officiated same-sex weddings. Yesterday, it was even the basis for some far-right activism.
Standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, told reporters he's filing a motion with the Supreme Court calling for the recusal of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.
 
[Lively] and more than a dozen leaders of anti-gay-marriage groups stood behind a wall of empty cardboard filing boxes stacked on the steps of the court on Monday morning. The boxes -- 60 in all -- were there to "symbolically" represent 300,000 restraining orders that Faith2Action President Janet Porter said will be delivered to the Supreme Court and to Congress to keep the justices from ruling on gay marriage.
Just so we're clear, these aren't actual "restraining orders," so much as they're props created by anti-gay groups looking for a way to get far-right activists engaged.
 
Of course, the fact that opponents of marriage equality have been reduced to making arguments with boxes that are literally empty was, in fact, "symbolic" -- though probably not in the way conservatives intended.
 
Not surprisingly, the push failed -- Ginsburg and Kagan will be on the bench this morning -- but what's especially interesting about the hullabaloo is the right's selective standards.
Microphones are set up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Jan. 13, 2014.

Marriage equality gets its day in court

04/28/15 08:40AM

The question was never whether the U.S. Supreme Court would weigh in on marriage equality; the question was when the justices would resolve the dispute. Many expected the high court to take up the issue last fall, but it declined. Three appellate courts -- the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits -- had already cleared the way for same-sex marriages in much of the country, and soon after the high court took a pass, the 9th Circuit reached the same conclusion. With so much unanimity, the justices took a pass.
 
But when the 6th Circuit went the other way, the Supreme Court effectively had no choice but to intervene. It set the stage for today's historic oral arguments. Emma Margolin reported overnight:
It will be history in the making in the nation's capital Tuesday when the Supreme Court hears arguments in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which is widely expected to bring marriage equality to all 50 states. [...]
 
Before the high court now are two questions: Does the 14th Amendment require states to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and does that same amendment require a state to recognize legally valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere? If the answer to each ends up being "yes," marriage equality will become law of the land. If the answer is "no," the country's remaining 14 same-sex marriage bans will survive, while the effort to reinstate fallen bans will revive.
Civil-rights supporters are cautiously optimistic about their chances. Remember, it was this same court that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act two years ago, effectively creating the legal tidal wave that washed away bans on same-sex marriage in most of the country.
 
The Obergefell v. Hodges case serves as the justices' opportunity to finish the job and extend equal-marriage rights to Americans nationwide. Tom Goldstein, a lawyer who's argued several times before the Supreme Court, told NBC News earlier this year, "It's impossible to overstate the historic significance of a decision on such a fundamental piece of our social fabric."
A rioter stands atop a burning car as another man pours fuel onto the fire while Baltimore firefighters behind them fight fires in mutliple burning buildings set ablaze by rioters during clashes in Baltimore, Md., April 27, 2015. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The morning after in Baltimore

04/28/15 08:00AM

Violence erupted in Baltimore, Maryland, last night, with local law enforcement making dozens of arrests following riots that began late yesterday afternoon. MSNBC's Trymaine Lee and Anna Brand report this morning on where things stand following a night of unrest.
Officers in Downtown Baltimore took position on many corners as the sun came up Tuesday morning following a night of violent unrest that led to a state of emergency and the activation of the National Guard by the Maryland governor.
 
Thousands of schoolkids won't be in public school as a mass of officers and National Guard troops spread over the 80-square-mile area here with many concerned with a repeat of Monday evening. A city curfew will go into effect tonight at 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., and will be in effect for a week, and extended as necessary.
The event that helped trigger the unrest was the recent death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who was arrested on a weapons charge two weeks ago, but who died a week later. According to family attorneys, Gray's death was the result of a severed spine, which local officials have not yet explained.
 
That said, I hope it's obvious that a city does not descend into chaotic violence like the rioting we saw in Baltimore because of one case of alleged abuse. There are systemic conditions at play.
 
In addition to looting and fires, several police officers were injured in Baltimore overnight, but officials told news outlets that each of the officers are expected to recover.

Baltimore cleans up and other headlines

04/28/15 07:33AM

Baltimore cleans up as the National Guard troops arrive. (AP)

Maryland Governor cancels events today to address Baltimore rioting. (Baltimore Sun)

Fmr. Gov. and possible presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley cuts short a trip abroad amid unrest in his state. (Washington Post)

More looting overnight. (Washington Post)

Ta-Nehisi Coates: nonviolence as compliance. (The Atlantic)

Why is the rising death toll in the Nepal earthquake still lower than predictions? (New York Times)

Supreme Court gay marriage case reunites hometown opponents. (USA Today)

5th Circuit to hear Texas voter ID appeal today. (Houston Chronicle)

Groups want review of Shell's Arctic regulatory filings. (AP)

Rand Paul calls Saddam Hussein's ouster a 'mistake' and Qaddafi's a 'disaster.' (New York Times)

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Al Sharpton called to help in Baltimore

Al Sharpton called to help in Baltimore

04/27/15 09:34PM

Rev. Al Sharpton talks with Rachel Maddow about the violence in Baltimore and the invitation by Baltimore's mayor that he come to the city to model peaceful protest. Rev. Sharpton offers historical context on how to keep protests peaceful. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 4.27.15

04/27/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Heartbreaking tragedy in Nepal: "Rescuers struggled to reach Nepal's more rural communities on Monday to assess the damage from a devastating earthquake that has left more than 3,800 people dead."
 
* Unrest in Baltimore turns violent: "Seven officers were reportedly injured when protests turned violent in Baltimore Monday afternoon after a "group of juveniles" faced off with police... [Freddie] Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died on April 19 of what his family's attorney said was a severed spine that allegedly occurred after he was arrested on a weapons charge in Baltimore on April 12."
 
* There's live msnbc coverage of clashes in Baltimore online here.
 
* Related news: "A photo editor for a Baltimore newspaper says he was beaten by police at a protest over the death of Freddie Gray. J.M. Giordano, who works at the City Paper, says Baltimore police 'swarmed over' him and hit him repeatedly. A video posted to the newspaper's website Sunday shows at least two police officers in riot gear hitting and kicking Giordano as the person filming screams, 'He's a photographer! He's press!'"
 
* Oklahoma: "A top sheriff's official resigned on Monday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where an unarmed man was shot and killed earlier this month by a volunteer reserve deputy who says he mistook his gun for his Taser."
 
* Detroit: "Video obtained by a Detroit television station and published Sunday appeared to show police fist-bumping and imitating a man they'd allegedly beaten during a traffic stop. In the video obtained by WDIV, the Inkster, Michigan police officers appeared to celebrate as they wiped off their hands and uniforms."
 
* An alarming look at 250 police-involved shootings in Palm Beach, Florida, and the "disturbing" pattern that emerges.
 
* It took months longer than it should have, but Attorney General Loretta Lynch was sworn in today and officially began her new job.
Tom Cotton (PHoto by Lauren Victoria Burke/AP)

GOP sees Cotton sabotage strategy as 'an educational effort'

04/27/15 04:45PM

It was about a month ago when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) started publicly warning U.S. negotiating partners around the world about climate negotiations.  Foreign nations should "proceed with caution," the Republican senator said, before reaching an agreement with the United States about reducing carbon emissions -- President Obama may say we'll reach our goals, McConnell said, but the world should be skeptical of America's word.
 
As we talked about at the time, it's become a familiar gambit for GOP senators. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and 46 of his Republican pals also publicly warned a foreign nation not to consider the United States trustworthy in the context of an entirely different set of international diplomatic negotiations.
 
When McConnell duplicated the strategy on climate, a Sierra Club official said McConnell had effectively "stolen Tom Cotton's playbook for undermining American leadership in the face of international crises."
 
But it's not just McConnell. The Wall Street Journal reported today:
President Barack Obama and Congress are headed for another power clash on the international stage, as key Senate Republicans challenge his efforts to forge a global pact on climate change.
 
The White House considers the agreement with nearly 200 nations a historic opportunity to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions world-wide. But some GOP senators view it as executive overreach, and they are quietly considering ways to warn other countries that the president doesn't speak for them and may not be able to deliver on his promises to slash emissions.
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, wasn't subtle when describing his sabotage ambitions.
 
"The Tom Cotton letter was an educational effort," Senator Snowball told the WSJ.

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