As regular viewers know, The Rachel Maddow Show has devoted a great deal of time to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, but if you haven't been focused on this scandal yet, it's important to get up to speed.
Over the weekend, for example, the editorial board of the Detroit Free Pressturned its attention directly to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who's facing calls for his arrest from protestors, comparing his handling of the Flint crisis to George W. Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina.
Right now, the State of Michigan should be able to say that it has ensured the delivery of bottled water and water filters to every Flint resident whose drinking water has been contaminated by lead.... Instead, the governor is offering placid responses and slow-walking important remedies, while the investigation into how one of Michigan's greatest man-made public health crises unfolded comes up with explanations in dribs and drabs.
It's not just derelict -- it invokes inglorious comparison to other callous and insensitive official responses to tragedy. Think of the shameful federal response to Hurricane Katrina, where the same lack of urgency delayed life-saving aid. The poverty rate in Flint is 40%; 52% of Flint residents are African-American. And so we are prompted to ask: How would the state have responded to a crisis of such proportions in a community with more wealth and power?
Of course, there's a key, heartbreaking difference between recent developments in Flint and the crisis in New Orleans in 2005: Katrina was a natural disaster; Flint's disaster was the result of public officials showing breathtakingly bad judgment.
First up from the God Machine this week are some unsettling remarks from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who sounded an awful lot like the head of a religious right activist group last weekend.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Saturday the idea of religious neutrality is not grounded in the country's constitutional traditions and that God has been good to the U.S. exactly because Americans honor him.
Scalia was speaking at a Catholic high school in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Louisiana.
At its root, Scalia's remarks emphasized two broad points. The first is the justice's belief that the United States has received divine favor in exchange for symbolic, rhetorical references from public officials.
"God has been very good to us," Scalia said. "That we won the revolution was extraordinary. The Battle of Midway was extraordinary. I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done Him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke His name we do Him honor, in presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations, and in many other ways."
The second, and arguably more important, point was that Scalia believes government neutrality on matters of religion is fundamentally wrong: the Supreme Court jurist explicitly argued that there's nothing wrong with the government favoring "religion over non-religion," effectively making atheists and related secularists second-class citizens in their own country.
Or put another way, Scalia considers the principle of church-state separation obsolete, sees the Constitution's secularism as an annoyance, and prefers an American system in which government is so big, it falls to politicians and government officials to promote, support, and encourage religiosity.
My friend Rob Boston's reaction rings true: "Scalia has been on the court since 1986. In March, he will be 80 years old. Although he appears vigorous, there's a good chance he'll have to retire in the next few years. With any luck, his views on church-state relations, which seem to be anchored in the late-19th century (as does much of Scalia's worldview), will go out the courthouse door with him and never return."
Rachel Maddow presents a mock-up for the kind of form that would be required if a new bill proposed in Missouri to require politicians to declare sex with lobbyists as a political gift actually becomes a law. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on a police officer in Philadelphia being ambushed by a gunman who took at least 11 point-blank shots, hitting the officer three times before running away. The injured officer chased the shooter who was eventually captured. watch
Rachel Maddow shares the results of the annual accounting by the MaddowBlog's Steve Benen of who made the most appearances on the Sunday morning political talk shows. The results show one or two surprises, but the overwhelmingly Republican top 20 fits a well-established pattern. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the latest developments in the 2016 campaigns, including newly announced debate criteria for the Democratic candidates that put Martin O'Malley barely over the line to qualify. watch
Since we started covering the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the drinking water has been poisoned with lead, we have received many calls from our viewers about how they can help.
The situation on the ground now is that many people still do not have filters to protect themselves from lead in their tap water. As we reported last night, there is no government-run program for giving bottled water to people who cannot afford to buy it. If you need water in Flint right now, your best choice is turning to one of the local nonprofits that are giving it away. At this point, those nonprofits are running solely on donations.
And that is where you come in. We talked to several of these Flint nonprofits today, and they broke it down for us like this:
* It's incredible the officer survived this shooting: "A man who shot and wounded a Philadelphia police officer sitting in a patrol car told investigators that he did it in the name of Islam and the Islamic State, police officials said Friday, adding that the gunman gave no indication that he was part of a broader conspiracy."
* Wasting no time: "President Barack Obama notified Congress on Friday that he has vetoed their legislation to repeal huge parts of the Affordable Care Act, because of course he did."
* Mexico: "Infamous drug kingpin Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, who humiliated authorities when he tunneled out of a maximum-security prison in July, has been captured, Mexico's president said Friday."
* LePage: "Maine's tough-talking governor admitted he made a 'mistake' and apologized Friday for making what has been widely condemned as a racist remark at a town hall meeting. But Gov. Paul LePage insisted he was being unfairly pilloried for 'one slip-up.'"
* Wall Street: "U.S. stocks ended one of their worst opening weeks in history with another sharp decline on Friday, as concerns about sagging energy prices overwhelmed early optimism about stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs numbers and a stabilization of Chinese markets."
* Quakes: "Oklahoma was rocked Wednesday night by two of the state's largest earthquakes in recent years, further fueling scientists' concern that the continued burial of oil and gas wastes in seismically active areas was courting a much more powerful earthquake."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) delivered a widely noticed speech in September 2011, condemning President Obama in a fairly specific way. "We continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office," the governor said. "We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things."
Even at the time, the rhetoric was bizarre, since Obama has spent his entire presidency taking on "really big things," and more often than not, succeeding. But this week, Christie revised his entire perspective on the president, complaining Obama acts "as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator."
I've long been amazed at the degree to which conservatives have contradictory complaints about the president, and this is emblematic of the pattern. Obama can be a hapless bystander, doing too little, or he can be a tyrannical dictator, doing too much, but he can't be both.
On Monday, Christie went a little further. The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe noted this gem from the scandal-plagued governor:
"We have a guy in the Oval Office who we don't know. He's been serving us for seven years and we don't know him."
I suppose the obvious question for Christie is, "What do you mean 'we'?" After all of these years, some of us have gotten to know and understand this president quite well. After a two-year national campaign in 2007 and 2008, an autobiography, and seven years of intense scrutiny in the White House in which his every move was analyzed from every direction, it's hard to imagine the public knowing a stranger better than we know Barack Obama. There is no mystery about who this "guy" is.
But that's probably not where the governor is going with this.
In 2013 and 2014, then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) made more Sunday show appearances than anyone else in the country. But last year, Rogers was no longer in Congress, relinquishing his crown, and clearing the way for someone new to win the Great 2015 Sunday Show Race.
For the third straight year, I tallied up the guests for "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation," "This Week," "State of the Union," and "Fox News Sunday," and in 2015, Donald Trump was the big winner, making 36 appearances (Rogers won last year with 30). To put the Republican presidential frontrunner's tally in perspective, that works out to an average of roughly one appearance every 1.4 weeks -- or three Sunday show appearances a month, every month for a year.
It's worth emphasizing that many of Trump's 2015 appearances came via telephone -- as opposed to an in-person, sit-down interview -- which may lead some to believe his overall victory should come with an asterisk.
For those inclined to overlook his total, Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson were pretty busy on Sunday mornings, too, with each making 28 appearances.
Broadly speaking, once again, Republican voices easily outnumbered their Democratic counterparts last year. The above chart shows every political figure who made 10 or more Sunday show appearances this year -- based on Nexis transcripts and the shows' archives -- with red columns representing Republicans and blue columns representing Democrats.
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.