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European patience with Putin wearing thin

European patience with Putin wearing thin

07/22/14 10:57PM

Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at New School University, talks with Rachel Maddow about Russia's increasing isolation in the world community and patience running out for Russia to end its support of Ukraine rebels. watch

Anti-choice protests put New Orleans on alert

Anti-choice protests put New Orleans on alert

07/22/14 10:52PM

DuVergne Gaines, National Clinic Access Project Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation, talks with Rachel Maddow about anti-choice demonstrations in New Orleans, emboldened by the recent Supreme Court "buffer zone" ruling. watch

Ahead on the 7/22/14 Maddow show

07/22/14 08:05PM

Tonight's guests:

Nina Khrushcheva, professor of international affairs at New School University and the author of "The Lost Khrushchev: A journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind." She is also the granddaughter of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

duVergne Gaines, National Clinic Access Project Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation

No preview video tonight. 

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A frame from a video the Mark Shauer campaign says was created by the Michigan Republican Party while spying on a Democratic event with hidden camera glasses.

The Michigan GOP's spying operation: an exclusive report

07/22/14 05:46PM

A fixture of many modern campaigns is a phenomenon known as "tracking" -- candidates for major offices are trailed publicly by someone from the opposing side, recording every speech, exchange, and off-hand remark throughout the campaign. As George Allen can attest, sometimes the footage recorded by these trackers can make the difference between winning and losing.
But candidates and their campaign teams realize these trackers are omnipresent, at least in public, and try to adjust accordingly. It's all out in the open. What happens, though, when a party wants to start recording private events, too? And what if that party doesn't want its targets to know they're being filmed?
That requires a spying operation.
Last week, the Detroit News published a striking report on the Michigan Republican Party's repeated efforts to record Democratic gatherings with a spy camera mounted to eyeglasses. State GOP officials made no effort to deny their efforts, conceding that the party sent Republican operatives to record Democratic events surreptitiously. Darren Littell, communications director of the Michigan Republican Party, described the spying as "a newer approach" to acquiring information.
What hasn't been previously reported is the scope of the Michigan Republican Party's spying operation.
As it turns out, some of the state GOP's operatives not only failed to record damaging information for later use; they also proved to be fairly clumsy in the spy business itself. The Rachel Maddow Show obtained an exclusive look at footage recorded by Republican staffers and interns, one of whom accidentally left their handiwork behind at a Democratic event on a minidisc.

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 7.22.14

07/22/14 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Ukraine: "Bodies of victims and the flight recorders from the Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a missile last week over eastern Ukraine were delivered by a lumbering freight train on Tuesday to Kharkiv, a city controlled by the central government, completing the initial phases of an agreement with pro-Russian rebels negotiated by Malaysia."
* EU: "Under pressure to display resolve and common purpose following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday discussed limited new sanctions against Russia. But their action fell short of stronger measures, like an arms embargo, that some member states had called for."
* In search of a ceasefire: "Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said that the United States was prepared to address the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the political demands of the Palestinians living there, but that a cease-fire first needed to be carried out."
* Related news: "Federal aviation officials issued an order to airlines prohibiting them from flying to and from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport for 24 hours after a rocket struck near the airport earlier Tuesday. The Federal Aviation Administration said the notice to airmen, also called a NOTAM, applies only to U.S. operators."
* A rare display: "As President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Tuesday -- a job training that passed the House earlier this month -- he thanked Democrats and Republicans alike for the rare moment of bipartisanship, joking 'I am also inviting you back, let's do this more often, it's so much fun.'"
* This was inevitable: "Congress on Tuesday moved one step closer to preventing a shortfall in federal transportation funding that could stall road projects across the country in August. Senate Democrats said they would not pursue their own stopgap fix for the transportation funding, instead bringing up legislation passed by the House that would renew the funding until next spring."
* VA: "President Obama's nominee to lead the troubled Veterans Affairs Department promised Tuesday that he would hold employees accountable for long waiting times that may have contributed to the deaths of some veterans. 'Those employees that have violated the trust of the department and of veterans must be, and will be, held accountable,' Robert McDonald said at this confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee."
* Neil Irwin wrote a great piece explaining why businesses really need to spend more: "Five years into the economic recovery, businesses still aren't plowing much money into big-ticket investments for the future. Nonresidential fixed investment -- what businesses spend on equipment, software, buildings and intellectual property -- still hasn't bounced back to its pre-crisis share of the economy, let alone made up for lost ground from the record lows of 2009."
A patient speaks with Doctor Leon Yeh in the Emergency Room at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, Nov. 26, 2013.

The politics of a health care ruling

07/22/14 03:49PM

Republican-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit today took a step towards gutting the Affordable Care Act, ruling that consumers that receive coverage through the federal exchange marketplace are ineligible for subsidies. If the ruling stands, the effects on "Obamacare" could be catastrophic, which is why it matters that the ruling may not stand.
While we wait for the appeals process to continue -- the status quo of the ACA will remain in place as the case continues -- the politics of today's developments are worth appreciating.
When the right supports tax hikes
Conservatives are absolutely delighted today for reasons that are rather twisted -- for the right, it's terrific news that millions of families, many of them in red states, are poised to lose tax breaks. After all, by contemporary Republican rules, if Americans are receiving a tax subsidy, and policymakers try to take that subsidy away, that effectively constitutes a tax increase.
So let's pause to note the oddity of the circumstances: Republicans nationwide are thrilled by the prospect of millions of working-class families facing a tax hike that may push basic medical care out of reach.
Judicial activism
Too often, "judicial activism" is little more than a lazy criticism -- a euphemism of sorts that means "court ruling I don't like." But when a couple of Republican-appointed jurists, who sounded like Fox News pundits during oral arguments, decide to gut the American health care system based on their interpretation of a drafting error, "judicial activism" seems like the only fair assessment.
The D.C. Circuit duo ignored the context of the statute, ignored Congress' intent, ignored the administration's position, and ignored the findings of lower courts. Since conservatives generally claim to find such activism offensive, I'll be eager to see how many on the right concede today's decision was ridiculous.
An elusive moral center
The right is cheering the prospect of soaring premiums, families facing financial hardship, and more Americans lacking access to basic medical care, all because of the ambiguity of a possible drafting error. If your values guide you towards celebrating others' hardship -- if your character tells you to rejoice at the misfortune of working families -- it's probably time for a long look in the mirror.
A view of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse that houses the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Washington.

Judicial whiplash as 4th Circuit contradicts D.C. Circuit

07/22/14 01:04PM

Following up on an earlier item, Republican-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit have taken a step towards gutting the Affordable Care Act, ruling that consumers that received coverage through the federal exchange marketplace can't receive subsidies. In a 2-1 ruling, a pair of conservative jurists said there was ambiguity in the language of the law, which they chose to exploit to push "Obamacare" towards catastrophic failure.
And in an interesting twist, while many of us were still reading the decision, the 4th Circuit announced the opposite ruling.
In a separate challenge also decided Tuesday, a three judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the IRS rule allowing subsidies in federal exchanges. Federal Judge Roger Gregory wrote that the challengers could not "rely on our help to deny to millions of Americans desperately-needed health insurance through a tortured, nonsensical construction of a federal statute whose manifest purpose, as revealed by the wholeness and coherence of its text and structure, could not be more clear."
Well then.
We're starting to see a pattern here. Two federal district courts rejected the lawsuits as ridiculous. A unanimous ruling from the 4th Circuit rejected the lawsuit as ridiculous. And yet, this morning two Republican-appointed activist judges said they have no choice but interpret a possible drafting error in the most foolish way possible.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.22.14

07/22/14 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:
* Republican voters in Georgia will go to the polls today to decide several primary runoff elections, including choosing the party's U.S. Senate nominee. There are also congressional runoffs in the 1st, 10th, and 11th districts. Polls close at 7 p.m. (ET).
* In Montana, it's been widely assumed that appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) faced insurmountable odds in his race against Steve Daines (R), but PPP shows Walsh narrowing a 17-point gap to a 7-point disadvantage since November.
* While Democrats had been quite confident that Iowa's U.S. Senate race would break their way, the contest has quickly become a toss-up. With this in mind, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is launching a major new ad buy to boost Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), reminding voters of state Sen. Joni Ernst's (R) extremism on issues like Social Secuirty.
* In Texas, Planned Parenthood's political arm is reportedly "embarking on the most aggressive campaign it has ever waged in Texas," with plans to invest $3 million to turn out voters for Democratic state Sens. Wendy Davis for governor and Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor. (Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but played no role in this piece).
* Any chance the Republican Governors Association will try to boost Rob Astorino (R) in his bid against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)? No. RGA Chair Chris Christie said yesterday his group won't invest "in lost causes."
* Speaking of Christie, the New Jersey governor was in Connecticut last night for a fundraiser, where he was confronted with nearly 200 protesters, condemning his recent decision to veto legislation to reduce gun violence.
"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.

Appeals court swings a sledgehammer at the ACA

07/22/14 11:13AM

Most of the nation has been working under the assumption that the fight over the Affordable Care Act's existence is over. The Supreme Court has already endorsed the law's legality; Congress has effectively given up on its repeal crusade; and the law's implementation is proving to be a great success. End of story, right?
Well, no. There's one last court case that we've been following that, in theory, could still destroy much of the federal health care system. At a distance, it's a genuinely ridiculous case, but as Adam Serwer reports this morning, its absurdity didn't stop Republican-appointed judges from making the wrong call this morning.
A federal court has struck down a rule from the Internal Revenue Service making Americans in federally-run health insurance marketplaces eligible for subsidies, a decision that could seriously imperil implementation of the Affordable Care Act. [...]
The ruling was a 2-1 decision by a three judge panel. Judge Harry Edwards, the lone Democratic-appointed judge on the panel, dissented.
If you've been ignoring this lawsuit, it's understandable. In January, a federal district court heard the case and not only sided with the Obama administration, the ruling practically mocked conservatives for filing such a ludicrous case. A separate federal judge recently reached the same conclusion.
But arguably the two most far-right jurists on the D.C. Circuit nevertheless overruled the lower courts, effectively swinging a sledgehammer at the core of the Affordable Care Act. If the ruling stands, there would be a very real possibility that this one outrageous decision could unravel much of the ACA itself.
Which is why it matters a great deal for millions of American families what happens next.
File Photo: Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for governor of Florida, as he campaigns at the Sweetwater Youth Center on August 31, 2010 in Sweetwater, Florida.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images/File)

Florida's Scott finds himself in hot water

07/22/14 10:19AM

Exactly how many Republican governors have found themselves embroiled in various scandals this year? It's getting tough to count, but there's New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. That doesn't even include  former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who's facing corruption charges.
And then there's Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), in the middle of one of the nation's most competitive gubernatorial races, who's suddenly found himself in the middle of three unrelated controversies.
Issue #1 came up last week, when the Republican governor was accused of coercing on-duty police officers to play the role of political props at a campaign event. (I hope everyone caught his unintentionally amusing response.)
Issue #2 came up yesterday, when Scott was accused of personally profiting from a gas pipeline he supported.
Upon his election in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott's transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company's plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades. [...]
In May and June 2013, he signed into law two bills designed to speed up permitting for what came to be known as the Sabal Trail Transmission -- a controversial, 474-mile natural gas pipeline that's to run from Alabama and Georgia to a hub in Central Florida, south of Orlando.
Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state's third major natural gas pipeline.
What wasn't known at the time is that Scott owned a stake in in Spectra Energy, which was chosen to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. The governor's team insists the investment was made through a blind trust, though there are unanswered questions about when the shares were acquired and just how blind that trust really is.