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Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a news conference at the State House, Jan. 8, 2016, in Augusta, Maine. (Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Paul LePage shows how not to respond to net neutrality questions

01/03/18 09:20AM

The Republican campaign against net neutrality has been quite effective, and just a few weeks ago, it came to an end when Donald Trump's choice to lead the Federal Communications Commission helped scrap the Obama-era policy altogether.

For those who take the idea of an open internet seriously, the developments are as ridiculous as they are scary. The Portland Press Herald  reported yesterday on a high school student in Maine who reached out to Gov. Paul LePage (R) with her concerns about the policy. His response was underwhelming.

In the month leading up to the recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality regulations, Camden Hills Regional High School sophomore Hope Osgood learned about the issue and how junking the longtime principle that all web traffic be treated equally could affect consumers' internet access. While browsing social media, she found an application that would generate a letter expressing her concerns and used it to email a message to LePage.

She wrote, "The internet is the easiest way to access anything. News, information, etc. Companies being able to put restrictions on internet usage isn't ideal! People will be left in the dark about some things. All my school work is internet-based, but what happens if I can't reach what I need to? What about my lessons in school?" [...]

Osgood said she's concerned that the loss of net neutrality could impede her studies. Beyond school, she's worried about the impact on social media because that's how she connects with friends.

The good news is, the Republican governor sent the student a hand-written response. The bad news is, the entirety of LePage's note read, "Hope. Pick up a book and read! Governor."

Ordinarily, Republican opponents of net neutrality try to assuage fears by arguing that the public may not notice the difference. It's an optimistic response, to be sure, but this is generally how conservatives prefer to respond to concerns.

LePage, however, effectively gives away the game. If you're worried about Republicans defeating net neutrality, and the impact this might have on everything from education to commerce, take comfort in the fact that books will be unaffected.

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In this Wednesday, April 21, 2010 file photo, oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig.

Trump weakens safeguards created after Deepwater Horizon crisis

01/03/18 08:40AM

There wasn't anything overtly partisan or ideological about the Deepwater Horizon crisis in 2010, but it didn't take long for the disastrous oil spill to get caught up in a sad political dispute. It started in earnest when Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologized to BP after the oil giant's blowout, and it continued a year later when congressional Republicans targeted regulators' budgets.

The Obama administration nevertheless imposed new safeguards on the industry in the hopes of preventing the next Deepwater Horizon. Though it didn't generate a lot of attention, the Washington Post noted yesterday that the Trump administration is scaling those safeguards back.

At the request of the oil companies, on the Friday before New Year's Eve, the administration softened a pair of rules enacted in the wake of the 2010 BP spill.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) published new regulations for what's called the production-safety-systems rule, which addresses devices used during offshore oil production. The agency also moved to water down the well-control rule, which is intended to prevent the kind of blowout that killed 11 workers.

According to Trump's Interior Department, scaling back the safeguards will reduce "unnecessary burdens" on the energy industry, saving oil giants hundreds of millions of dollars.

About a month after his inauguration, Donald Trump spoke at CPAC and assured conservatives, "We will not answer to donors or lobbyists or special interests."

No, of course not. Perish the thought. Who would be so cynical as to think the Trump administration would care one bit what donors and lobbyists and special interests want?

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Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP-DEPARTS

Trump's nuclear-button boasts turn 'juvenile and frightening'

01/03/18 08:00AM

Donald Trump didn't actually complete any important tasks yesterday, but he managed to stay surprisingly busy. The Republican president called for criminal investigations into some of his perceived domestic enemies, claimed credit for safe commercial air travel, attacked the New York Times, claimed Hispanic voters love his anti-immigration posturing, and threatened Pakistani and Palestinian officials.

But the piece de resistance came in response to North Korea's Kim Jong-un's New Year's boast that it’s "not a mere threat but a reality that I have a nuclear button on the desk in my office." To which the American president responded with his version of strategic nuclear dialogue with a rogue nation.

"Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button," Trump wrote, "but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

As Rachel noted on last night's show, the American president was effectively daring the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea "to prove that his button works." What could possibly go wrong?

This paragraph in the New York Times' report seemed to capture the true absurdity of life in Trump's America.

The president's tone also generated a mix of scorn and alarm among lawmakers, diplomats and national security experts who called it juvenile and frightening for a president handling a foreign policy challenge with world-wrecking consequences. The language was reminiscent of Mr. Trump's boast during the 2016 presidential campaign that his hands, and by extension his genitals, were in fact big enough.

In late December 2016, for reasons that weren’t at all clear, Donald Trump rattled much of the world with an alarmingly ambiguous tweet about nuclear weapons and an expansion of the U.S. arsenal. A day later, the then-president-elect reportedly said he’s prepared for a new international nuclear “arms race.”

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 1.2.18

01/02/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Iran: "The most significant protests in eight years are rocking Iran, with state media reporting Tuesday that the death toll from clashes between demonstrators and security forces had reached at least 20."

* Matthew Riehl: "Weeks before he started shooting, the Colorado gunman who killed one deputy and wounded four more unleashed a verbal barrage against Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock and his department."

* Korean delegation: "Delegations from North and South Korea could meet for the first official discussions between the neighbors since 2015 ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. South Korea proposed Tuesday that talks be held on Jan. 9, said Cho Myoung-gyon, the head of his country's Unification Ministry."

* Middle East: "The Palestinians have announced they are recalling their envoy to the United States for 'consultations', weeks after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not accept any US peace plan in the wake of Mr Trump's move."

* Houston "may have averted a tragedy after a drunk, belligerent man was found to have an arsenal of guns in his hotel room as the venue was preparing for a big New Year's Eve celebration."

* Chicago "ended 2017 with fewer homicides than the year before, but gang violence in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods kept the total number of killings above the 600 mark for only the second time in more than a decade."

* Sadly predictable: "Trees have been planted on one of President Trump's golf courses where CNN cameras captured him golfing."

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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT., talks to reporters as he walks to the weekly Senate policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2013.

Utah's Orrin Hatch to exit stage right

01/02/18 04:50PM

When Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was running for a seventh term, he assured voters his 42nd year on Capitol Hill would be his last. That said. over the last year or so -- often at Donald Trump's urging -- the Utah Republican publicly flirted with the possibility of going back on his word.

As it turns out, Hatch is reverting to his original plan.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of his term this year, ending months of speculation about the political future of the longest-serving Republican in the Senate.

"Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me that time is soon approaching," Hatch, a former amateur boxer, said in a video posted online. "That's why, after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I've decided to retire at the end of this term."

To be sure, Hatch has seen, and been an important part of, all kinds of major political developments over the course of his four decades in Congress. In fact, though it's discouraging to consider in detail, I think his career trajectory is a bellwether of sorts: Hatch used to be a real senator, interested in meaningful and constructive results. But as the Republican Party moved radically to the right, so did he.

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Those arriving at BWI for Southwest and Delta Airlines have their checked bags go through a labyrinth of conveyor belts as they are inspected for explosives, Nov. 10, 2014 in Lithicum, Md. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty)

Trump's latest oddity: he wants credit for safe commercial air travel

01/02/18 01:00PM

Reuters reported over the holiday weekend that airlines "recorded zero accident deaths in commercial passenger jets last year." The findings were released by a Dutch consulting firm and an aviation safety group that tracks crashes, which concluded that 2017 was "the safest year on record for commercial air travel."

Most folks who saw these reports probably said to themselves, "Huh, that's interesting." Donald Trump saw these reports and seemed eager to tell himself, "Wait, I'd like to take credit for that." Here's the message the president shared with the world this morning:

"Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!"

Sometimes, the line between satire and reality is blurred in ways that are almost hard to believe.

At this point, we could take a moment to note that the United States hasn't seen a fatal airline passenger jet crash in nearly nine years -- a detail Barack Obama never thought to brag about. We could also note that presidents whose records are actually impressive don't need to claim credit for accomplishments they have nothing to do with.

We could even explore the mysterious meaning of "strict on commercial aviation" -- your guess is as good as mine -- which comes against a backdrop of the Trump administration having taken steps early last year that actually "hampered the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration to issue safety orders about aircraft."

And while all of those angles are certainly worthy of mention, I'd prefer to focus on something else entirely: when the conversation turns to airplanes, Donald Trump gets a little weird.

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A US Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty)

Trump not done pushing the Justice Department to pursue his enemies

01/02/18 12:32PM

Donald Trump made all kinds of news when he talked to the New York Times on Friday, but of particular interest was the president's perspective on matters of federal law enforcement. He insisted, for example, "I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department."

In the same interview, Trump argued -- without proof -- that former Attorney General Eric Holder was aware of all kinds of scandalous misdeeds committed by the Obama White House, but Holder "protected" the Democratic president. In Trump's mind, this is admirable and worthy of praise: "I have great respect for that, I'll be honest, I have great respect for that."

It's an extraordinary thing to see a sitting president say this out loud and on the record. Trump not only sees himself as an autocratic ruler with "absolute" control over federal law enforcement, he also envisions a system in which an attorney general's principal responsibility should be to protect a president's interests, instead of the public's.

It's against this backdrop that Trump turned to Twitter this morning to share some new thoughts about what he thinks the Department of Justice should be focusing on. The Washington Post  reported:

President Trump on Tuesday appeared to suggest that Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, should face jail time, days after the State Department posted emails found on her estranged husband's computer that included confidential government information.

In a tweet, Trump also urged the Justice Department to act in prosecuting Abedin and former FBI director James B. Comey, who the president fired in May amid the mounting investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election and contacts between Moscow and Trump's campaign.

The president apparently launched his little tirade after seeing a Fox News segment this morning. It led him to not only call for the Justice Department to go after Huma Abedin and James Comey, but also to embrace fringe framing of the institution itself, calling it the "Deep State Justice Department."

It's quite a way to start the new year.

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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