Last year, Judge Edith H. Jones of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals spoke to a conservative legal group and made a series of controversial remarks about race. There is no official transcript or recording, but affidavits from attendees pointed to deeply problematic language, especially from a sitting federal judge.
According to an ethics complaint, Jones, a Reagan appointee, told the audience that "racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime." A veteran attorney who was in the room said Jones "noted there was no arguing that 'blacks' and 'Hispanics' far outnumber 'Anglos' on death row and repeated that 'sadly' people from these racial groups do get involved in more violent crime." She was also accused of having said defenses often used in capital cases, including mental retardation and systemic racism, are "red herrings."
An investigation ensued, but the Associated Press reported yesterday that a panel of judges dismissed the misconduct complaint.
"It appears likely that Judge Jones did suggest that, statistically, African-Americans and/or Hispanics are 'disproportionately' involved in certain crimes and 'disproportionately' present in federal prisons," said the panel.
"But we must consider Judge Jones' comments in the context of her express clarifications during the question-and-answer period that she did not mean that certain groups are 'prone to commit' such crimes," the panel of judges said.
"In that context, whether or not her statistical statements are accurate, or accurate only with caveats, they do not by themselves indicate racial bias or an inability to be impartial," said the panel. "They resemble other albeit substantially more qualified, statements prominent in contemporary debate regarding the fairness of the justice system."
One wonders if Americans from minority communities, whose legal fate rests in Jones' hands, would have comparable confidence in the conservative judge's impartiality.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has mastered the art of criticizing those who've followed his advice. As Rachel noted on the show in June, it was McCain who insisted that President Obama should respond to Russian aggression by excluding Putin from a G-8 meeting, then following that up with economic sanctions.
When Obama did exactly what, McCain complained that excluding Putin from a G-8 meeting, then following that up with economic sanctions, was a feckless and ineffective foreign policy towards Russia.
Of course, the Arizona Republican isn't the only one who knows how to play this game. Simon Maloy noted that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is outraged by the White House's ISIS strategy, which follows the course recommended by Marco Rubio.
On Monday, Rubio went on Fox News and tore into the administration's anti-ISIS strategy. "This is what happens when your decisions on foreign policy are driven by politics," Rubio said. "You cannot defeat an army on the ground simply from the air. And to put all your eggs in the basket of hoping that local ground forces will be able to do the job was a deeply flawed strategy from the beginning."
And on the surface, that's not an unreasonable argument -- plenty of observers on the left and right believe the administration's strategy has been "flawed ... from the beginning."
But as the political fight over U.S. policy towards ISIS began in earnest, the Florida Republican wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post laying out his recommendations for addressing the threat posed by Islamic State militants:
Early last year, with Republicans taking control of the Arkansas' General Assembly for the first time since the 1870s, the new GOP majority got right to work -- quickly tackling new voting restrictions. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) vetoed a needlessly harsh voter-ID bill, but Republicans overrode the veto and imposed the voter-suppression policy on the state.
Conservative lawmakers cannot, however, easily circumvent a ruling from the state Supreme Court. Zach Roth and David Taintor reported last night:
The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state's voter ID law Wednesday evening, meaning it won't be in effect for the impending midterm elections.
The court's majority upheld an appeals court ruling that found that by requiring ID, the law added an additional voter "qualification," which violates the state's constitution.
Initial analyses suggest the ruling blocks enforcement of the voter-ID law in this year's elections, which may have an important effect -- Arkansas is home to several competitive statewide elections this year, including U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races.
The entirety of the 20-page ruling is available online here (pdf). There theoretically could be an appeal to the federal courts, but given that the case deals with the state Constitution, it seems unlikely.
It's worth re-emphasizing that the Arkansas Constitution, unlike the U.S. Constitution, guarantees voting rights in a rather explicit way, and by adding new restrictions on citizens' access to participate in elections, legislators made it easy for the courts to reject the new law.
In fact, Republicans in the state were rather brazen about it, imposing restrictions that were even more outlandish than voter-suppression efforts elsewhere.
Rep. Cory Gardner's (R-Colo.) "personhood" problem long ago stopped being simply about his support for a radical piece of legislation. As his U.S. Senate campaign has unfolded in Colorado -- a race the far-right candidate is now actually favored to win -- Gardner has instead been dogged by questions about his integrity, his character, and his competence, all because of this key issue.
To briefly recap, the Republican congressman has spent much of his career supporting personhood, which would ban all abortions and common forms of birth control. Gardner dropped his longtime support for the policy at the state level, but continues to champion the policy at the federal level. Asked to explain, the right-wing Coloradan routinely says there is no federal personhood bill -- though our eyes and reality say differently -- and that the legislation does not say what it plainly says.
Last night, Kyle Clark, a reporter for the NBC affiliate in Denver, pressed Gardner on this in ways no one else has:
"You continue to deny that the federal Life Begins At Conception Act, which you sponsor, is a personhood bill to ban abortion, and we are not going to debate that here because it's a fact. Your co-sponsors say so; your opponents say so; and independent fact-checkers say so.
"So let's instead talk about what this entire episode may say about your judgment more broadly. It would seem that a charitable interpretation would be that you have a difficult time admitting when you're wrong, and a less charitable interpretation is that you're not telling us the truth. Which is it?"
Gardner dodged the question, saying the federal legislation is "simply a statement that I support life." This claim, unfortunately, is a rather brazen lie.
The reporter, aware of reality, pressed further. "Why does no one else think that?" Clark asked. "That's what we're getting at." Gardner dodged again, insisting he's already answered these questions.
Clark, to his credit, stuck with it. "What I'm asking you about here is what appears to be the willing suspension of the facts. People who agree with you on the issue of life think you're wrong about how you describe the bill. Everybody seems to have a cohesive idea about what this is -- with the exception of you. And I'm wondering, what should voters glean from that?"
Gardner dodged again, saying people have different opinions about reproductive rights, which is true, but completely unrelated to what he was asked.
If you've watched Wall Street lately, you know global tumult has rattled investors. But if anyone's looking for encouraging economic news, look no further than the new figures from the Labor Department on initial unemployment claims.
The number of people who applied for U.S. jobless benefits fell 23,000 to 264,000 in the week that ended Oct. 11, hitting the lowest level since April 2000, showing that employers are laying off few workers, according to government data released Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits to bump up to 289,000 in the latest weekly data from 287,000 in the prior week.
The four-week average of new claims, a smoother barometer of labor-market trends, fell by 4,250 to 283,500, also reaching the lowest level since 2000, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
That's not a typo -- jobless claims have improved to a level unseen in 14 years,
That said, to reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
It's easy to remember political debates in which a candidate performed so poorly, it helped ruin his or her career. It's also not hard to think of some debate performances that were so impressive, they are remembered as an important part of a politician's legacy.
But last night in South Florida was something altogether different: the most memorable moment in a televised gubernatorial debate occurred when one candidate hid backstage, briefly refusing to participate.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist stood alone on stage for a visibly awkward four long minutes as Republican Gov. Rick Scott refused to come out, claiming that the small fan below his opponent's podium violated debate rules.
CBS Miami moderators fumbled over their words, announcing initially that both candidates were "not stepping up on the stage" due to "an extremely peculiar situation." They then quickly introduced Crist, who walked out and took his spot behind the podium.
The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo noted that Scott supporters "privately" said that the moment the governor refused to go onstage "was the moment he lost the election."
For context, it's worth noting that the high yesterday in South Florida was, quite literally, 90 degrees with high humidity. I don't care what your politics are -- if you're wearing a suit on a hot day in the subtropics, getting ready to stand under stage lights for an hour, a small fan seems like a rather modest, sane idea.
But according to Scott and his team, fans were against the rules, prompting the governor to throw an odd tantrum.
The Democratic challenger seized the opportunity to stand alone on the stage. "Are we really going to debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education, and the environment and the future of our state?" Crist asked. "I mean, really."
The former governor added Scott's absence was "the ultimate pleading of the Fifth I ever heard" -- a brutal reference to the Republican taking the Fifth 75 times during a deposition in which Scott didn't want to talk about his company's Medicare fraud.
The incumbent governor eventually realized his absence was hurting his cause, but after Scott emerged, his explanation for his behavior was just as strange as his conduct.
Rachel Maddow provides a detailed description of the pathology of Ebola, from the nitty-gritty of its symptoms to its development in a person over time, as a means to understanding the protocols for its handling and the likelihood of its spreading. watch
Dr. Adam Levine, member of the International Medical Corps' Emergency Response Team, talks with Rachel Maddow about the hard facts of Ebola's symptoms and spread, and how to properly protect health care workers treating Ebola patients. watch
Rachel Maddow shares video of the most bizarre beginning to a political debate in recent memory as Florida governor, Rick Scott, initially refused to join a debate with former governor Charlie Crist over objections to Crist's use of a fan. watch
Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Judge, talks with Rachel Maddow about lessons learned at the center of the nation's only cases of Ebola transmission and how Dallas is preparing for the possibility of more cases among the workers who treated Thomas Eric... watch
Rachel Maddow shares a newly released photo of Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker in a tuxedo, receiving an award for excelling at outsourcing jobs, though job creation has been part of his campaign platform. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that with less than three weeks to go before the midterm elections, and with some states already early voting, polls are showing statistical ties in several high profile races, increasing the danger of cheating. watch