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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker fields questions from Bruce Rastetter at the Iowa Ag Summit on March 7, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Walker defends state-mandated, medically unnecessary ultrasounds

05/27/15 09:24AM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) isn't the only far-right policymaker to push state-mandated, medically unnecessary ultrasounds. He is, however, arguably the most deliberately obtuse when it comes to understanding why the policy might be controversial.
 
Right Wing Watch reported yesterday on Walker's latest interview with conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch, and the governor's curious defense for his policy.
Walker told Loesch that criticism he received about the ultrasound bill was merely an attack from the "gotcha" media, and that he was in fact just trying to provide women with "a cool thing."
 
"The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea," he said. "Most people I talked to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are, so that's a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds. It's just a cool thing out there."
 
"We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child," he said.
Willful ignorance is an amazing thing.
 
This has been going on for quite a while -- long enough for the far-right governor to get a clue about the subject. In 2013, for example, Walker defended his policy by defending ultrasounds themselves. "I don't have any problem with ultrasound," he told reporters. "I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine."
 
A year later, Walker said the ultrasound policy simply provided "information." Now he thinks it's a "gotcha" story from the media, which suggests he doesn't know what those words mean, either.
 
It's hard to say with confidence whether the Wisconsin Republican is pretending to be dumb for political expedience or whether he's genuinely confused, but either way, it's probably worth setting the record straight.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks during a town hall meeting at the Loins Club hall with area residents, on May 11, 2015, in Londonderry, N.H. (Photo by Jim Cole/AP)

Rand Paul's new book draws fire on its first day

05/27/15 08:44AM

There's nothing unusual about a sitting senator writing a book. About a third of the current Senate includes published authors, who've written books on policy, fiction, history, and even children's literature.
 
But has there ever been a senator quite as prolific as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)? In 2011, his first year in elected office, Paul authored, The Tea Party Goes to Washington. A year later, the Republican wrote an updated version of the book called, Not Politics As Usual, and then also released, Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds.
 
This week, Paul released his latest book, Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America, and in the fall, the senator's publisher said yet another Paul book, Our Presidents & Their Prayers: Proclamations of Faith by America's Leaders, will hit bookshelves.
 
It's astounding, isn't it? Rand Paul has time to be a U.S. senator, tend to constituent needs, attend committee hearings, participate in debates, maintain a high public profile, appear in media, travel, prepare a presidential campaign, and still churn out one book after another. A cynic might question whether the Kentucky lawmaker is actually writing any of them.
 
Of course, as BuzzFeed noticed, just because the Republican is releasing books doesn't mean the books tell the truth.
The publisher behind Rand Paul's new book will update future editions to correct a mistake: The book misstates the number of people killed in the Benghazi attack. [...]
 
"I believe judgment day for Benghazi is also at hand," writes Paul. "When the secretary of state answers a question concerning the murders of six Americans, including an American ambassador, by saying, 'What difference, at this point, does it make?' I think that's a pretty clear indication that it's time for that person to go."
This is actually two glaring errors at once. As Paul -- or his possible ghost writer -- should know, four Americans were murdered in Libya. What's more, Hillary Clinton did not say, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" in reference to the slayings.
 
Wait, it gets worse.

Putting 'one person, one vote' on the line

05/27/15 08:00AM

Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court have already undermined some important pillars of modern American life. Is the "one-person, one-vote" principle next? The answer, as of yesterday, is maybe.
 
The high court announced yesterday that the justices will hear arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. As Adam Liptak summarized:
The case, a challenge to voting districts for the Texas Senate, was brought by two voters, Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger. They are represented by the Project on Fair Representation, the small conservative advocacy group that successfully mounted the earlier challenge to the Voting Rights Act. It is also behind a pending challenge to affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin.
 
In the new case, the challengers said their voting power had been diluted. "There are voters or potential voters in Texas whose Senate votes are worth approximately one and one-half times that of appellants," their brief said.
Under the status quo, legislative districts are based on total populations: the Census counts the number of people and lines are drawn accordingly.
 
But some conservatives want a more restrictive model. Counting everyone, they argue, ends up including people who can't vote -- noncitizens, ex-felons, and those under the age of 18 -- which skews district lines. It's better, the right insists, to look exclusively at the number of eligible and/or registered voters.
 
And why are they pushing this change? Because, as elections-law expert Rick Hasen explained yesterday, "A ruling that states may not draw legislative district lines taking total population into account will benefit rural voters over urban voters, and that will benefit Republicans over Democrats."

Death penalty showdown and other headlines

05/27/15 07:49AM

Nebraska's showdown over the repeal of the death penalty happens today. (Omaha World Herald)

Hackers stole personal info of 104,000 taxpayers: IRS. (Washington Post)

Hillary Clinton makes her first campaign trip to South Carolina today. (The State)

Texas House passes watered-down campus carry bill. (Houston Chronicle)

Multiple ISIS suicide attacks kill 17 troops in Iraq's Anbar. (AP)

FIFA officials arrested over alleged corruption in soccer. (NBC News)

Military bans Big Macs, other treats, at Guantanamo legal meetings. (Miami Herald)

read more

American journalist begins 'trial' in Iran

American journalist begins 'trial' in Iran

05/26/15 10:29PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the arrest of Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, in Iran on what were eventually revealed to be espionage charges. The trial, shrouded in secrecy, began Tuesday and adjourned with no word of when it will resume. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 5.26.15

05/26/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* After their will to fight was questioned, Iraqi forces have something to prove: "Iraq has launched a military campaign to drive ISIS militants out of Anbar province, senior security officials said Tuesday."
 
* Republican judges on the 5th Circuit, doing exactly what's expected of them: "An appeals court on Tuesday rejected the Obama administration's request to lift the temporary freeze placed on the president's sweeping executive actions on immigration."
 
* Cleveland: "The Department of Justice has reached a settlement with the city of Cleveland over what federal authorities have described as a pattern of excessive use of force and unconstitutional, biased policing."
 
* Related news: "A Cleveland police officer has been found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the killing of two unarmed passengers whose car hood he mounted, sending a barrage of bullets into their windshield."
 
* Deadly storms: "Tornadoes and dangerous thunderstorms continued to race across the south-central U.S. after menacing Texas and Oklahoma on Monday with historic flooding that sent rescuers searching for 12 people still missing, including at least three young children."
 
* Will the votes be there for an override? "Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska vetoed a bill on Tuesday to abolish the death penalty in the state, testing the strength of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said they would try to override his decision."
 
* Fast-track cleared the Senate. Clearing the House will be harder.
"Obamacare"  supporter Margot Smith (L) of California pleads her case with legislation opponents Judy Burel (2nd R) and Janis Haddon, both of Georgia, at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 28, 2012.

A moment of GOP candor on 'Obamacare'

05/26/15 04:22PM

In the political debate surrounding the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court, there are effectively two competing factions: those who acknowledge that the litigation is hopelessly insane, and those who know the case is hopelessly insane but pretend otherwise for the sake of appearances.
 
Once in a while, even a congressional Republican is willing to stand in support of reality.
 
At issue in the case is whether half of a sentence, buried within the law and removed from context, should be used to tear down the American health care system and strip millions of families of their health security. The New York Times set out to determine how that half of a sentence wound up in the law, and reporter Robert Pear talked to "more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law." Not one of them endorsed the argument put forward by the plaintiffs.
"I don't ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies," said Olympia J. Snowe, a former Republican senator from Maine who helped write the Finance Committee version of the bill.
 
"It was never part of our conversations at any point," said Ms. Snowe, who voted against the final version of the Senate bill. "Why would we have wanted to deny people subsidies? It was not their fault if their state did not set up an exchange."
Right. As Charles Gaba has noted, this is precisely how every member of the House, every member of the Senate, every congressional staffer, every White House staffer, everyone at HHS, everyone at the IRS, everyone at Treasury, everyone at the Justice Department, everyone at the Congressional Budget Office, every journalist covering the debate, every governor, every state legislator, every insurance company, and every hospital interpreted the law.
 
Though Snowe is too polite to say so explicitly, she's effectively acknowledged that the case her party is pushing to take coverage from millions of families is based entirely on a lie.
 
It's not just Snowe, either.
In this Oct. 24, 2012 file photo, former Chief Justice Roy Moore poses for a photo in his Montgomery, Ala., office. (Photo by Dave Martin/AP)

Roy Moore wants Ruth Bader Ginsburg impeached

05/26/15 03:18PM

The U.S. Supreme Court probably won't rule on marriage equality until the end of June, and when it does, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to side in support of equal-marriage rights.
 
For the right, this will be deeply annoying -- not just because of conservative opposition to marriage equality in general, but also because much of the right believes Ginsburg shouldn't be able to participate in the case at all. Right Wing Watch had this report this afternoon:
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore spoke with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Friday about his belief that states should "resist" a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, saying that Congress and the states should simply defy a court decision they disagree with by stating "that there is no right to redefine marriage" in the U.S. Constitution.
 
"We have justices on the Supreme Court right now who have actually performed same-sex marriages, Ginsburg and Kagan," Moore continued. "Congress should do something about this."
Such as? Moore raised the prospect of impeachment proceedings.
 
Perkins concluded, in reference to Ginsburg, "This is undermining the rule of law in our country and ushers in an age of chaos."
 
Oh, please.
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)

A missed opportunity on voting rights

05/26/15 12:41PM

Hillary Clinton told a group of Iowans that she "totally disagrees" with the idea of permanently stripping ex-felons of their voting rights. "I think if you've done your time, so to speak, and you've made your commitment to go forward you should be able to vote and you should be able to be judged on the same basis. You ought to get a second chance."
 
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) chided Clinton's position, insisting he'd endorsed the policy first, which turned out to be completely wrong. (Clinton sponsored legislation on this in 2005, when Paul was still creating a self-accreditation body for his ophthalmology practice.)
 
But the fact that there would even be a dispute over who endorsed the idea first is itself evidence of progress -- it suggested the proposal had reached a level of mainstream credibility. Alas, as msnbc's Zack Roth reported, the progress was less evident in Maryland.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland vetoed a bill Friday that would have restored voting rights to around 40,000 former felons. [...]
 
Currently, over 63,000 Marylanders are disenfranchised because of past felonies, according to numbers compiled by The Sentencing Project. Around 65% of them are African-American.
The details, of course, matter. Maryland already helps restore voting rights for ex-felons eventually, but they're required to complete parole and a probationary period. Newly passed state legislation intended to expedite the process and restore voting rights faster -- once an otherwise eligible Maryland resident has completed his or her sentence, he or she would once again immediately be eligible to participate in elections.
 
According to Maryland's new Republican governor, that's too quick.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.26.15

05/26/15 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. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will host a presidential campaign kickoff event in his home town of Burlington, Vermont, this afternoon. On the other side of the partisan aisle, Rick Santorum joins the race tomorrow, followed by George Pataki on Wednesday. On Saturday, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley will join Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic field.
 
* The Koch brothers are prepared to invest roughly $900 million in the presidential race, but not necessarily in support of one candidate. "We are thinking of supporting several Republicans," David Koch told Larry Kudlow on Saturday. "If we're happy with the policies that these individuals are supporting, we'll finance their campaigns."
 
* Despite recruiting efforts from national party leaders, Rep. Josh Shapiro (D) has decided not to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania next year.
 
* National Democratic leaders believe Sen. Richard Burr (R) will be vulnerable in North Carolina next year, and they believe former Sen. Kay Hagan (D), who lost her re-election bid last year, is the best candidate for the job.
 
* At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson won the presidential straw poll with 25.4% of the vote.
 
* At the same event, Carly Fiorina told the Republican crowd, "Nowhere is leadership more important now than in the world." I'm not entirely sure what that means.
Ann Kirkpatrick waves as she enters a room full of supporters during an election night in Flagstaff, Ariz., Nov. 6, 2012.

Kirkpatrick to take on McCain in Arizona

05/26/15 11:20AM

Sen. John McCain (R) has been running in congressional elections in Arizona for a third of a century, and in that time, he's had exactly zero tough races against Democratic challengers. McCain won the closest general election of his career in his home state by 21 points.
 
With a record like this, even ambitious Arizona Democrats might steer clear of the longtime incumbent, but as Roll Call reports, the candidate the DSCC recruited has reportedly said yes.
Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick will challenge Republican Sen. John McCain for Senate, according to a source with knowledge of Kirkpatrick's plans, giving Democrats a top recruit and a potential pickup opportunity.
 
Kirkpatrick made calls Monday to inform people of her plans, the source told CQ Roll Call. Her bid also opens up Arizona's 1st District, a GOP-leaning seat that 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney captured by a 3-point margin in 2012.
Kirkpatrick, you'll recall, was a top target last year, though she persevered anyway, bolstered by her "Boots" ad -- one of the cycle's more memorable Democratic spots.
 
Realistically, the congresswoman would start the race against McCain as an underdog, but there may be more to this race than appears at the surface.
Senatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, (R-Colo.), left, gestures during a debate with incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, (D-Colo.), in Denver on Oct. 6, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Senate Republicans return to controversial contraception posture

05/26/15 10:42AM

Last fall, Cory Gardner's Republican Senate campaign in Colorado found itself in a tough spot. The far-right candidate had spent much of his career trying to ban common forms of birth control -- which made him look like an extremist -- and Gardner continued to support a federal "personhood" policy, which he'd been caught lying about repeatedly.
 
In early September 2014, the Republican tried to fix his problem with a sort of Hail Mary pass: Gardner, despite years of service as a right-wing culture warrior, told Coloradans that he's actually a progressive champion of contraception access. To prove it, the conservative congressman vowed to introduce legislation to make birth control available over the counter without a prescription.
 
It was a brazen move, which was largely successful: Gardner won the race. As the Denver Post reported late last week, the GOP lawmaker followed through on the promise he made last fall.
The legislation encourages drug manufacturers of "routine-use contraceptives" to file an application with the Food and Drug Administration to sell their products over the counter.
 
Gardner is sponsoring the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. Their bill also would repeal the Affordable Care Act's restriction on the use of health, medical and flexible savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter drugs without a prescription.
As longtime readers may recall from last fall, this may seem like a reasonable resolution to an ugly mess. If anti-contraception employers don't want to cover birth control as part of employees' health plan, and religiously affiliated employers have moral objections to insurers' paperwork, this over-the-counter approach makes the purchases more direct: if the FDA approves contraceptive medications for over-the-counter sales, it wouldn't matter what employers, insurers, or even physicians like or dislike.
 
But in practice, it's not quite so simple.

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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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