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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets members of the audience during a rally in Portsmouth, N.H., July 12, 2016, where Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. endorsed Clinton for president.

Latest polls raise eyebrows as Republican Convention begins

07/18/16 10:00AM

As the Republican National Convention gets underway, it seems like a good time to take stock of the state of the race with three major national polls, each of which were released yesterday.
 
Hillary Clinton: 46% (unchanged since June)
Donald Trump: 41% (unchanged since June)
 
 
Hillary Clinton: 47% (down from 51% in June)
Donald Trump: 43% (up from 39% in June)
 
 
Hillary Clinton: 49% (up from 47% in June)
Donald Trump: 42% (unchanged since June)
 
And so, on the eve of the Republicans' convention, Clinton's lead is getting smaller in one poll, getting bigger in another, and staying the same in a third. When we talk about the importance of averages, this is why.
 
Note, each of these polls was conducted after FBI Director James Comey condemned Clinton's email server protocols, leading to brutal media coverage of the Democrat. The story is widely seen as having taken a toll on Clinton's support.
Police officers walk among people marching to join hands in a peace rally amid preparations for the arrival of visitors and delegates for the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty)

Cleveland police make an appeal over gun policy

07/18/16 09:20AM

As the Republican National Convention gets underway, local officials and Cleveland law enforcement are doing everything they can to ensure public safety. As we discussed last week, those efforts led to creation of a broad zone around the convention site in which a variety of items have already been banned, including "water guns, toy guns, knives, aerosol cans, rope, [and] tennis balls" among other things.
 
But actual firearms are not on that list for a reason: the law in Ohio protects the right of protesters to carry loaded guns outside the venue. Toy guns are prohibited, but real semi-automatics are fine.
 
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported over the weekend, local police believe it's time for state officials to create a temporary policy to help keep everyone safe.
The head of the Cleveland police patrolmen's union is asking Ohio Gov. John Kasich to suspend the state's open carry laws in Cuyahoga County for the Republican National Convention in the wake of the deaths of three police officers in Louisiana, according to WJW-TV.
 
The station reported Sunday that union president Steve Loomis said he is working with an attorney to draft a request to be sent to Kasich for consideration. Reuters reported Loomis asked the governor to declare a state of emergency, which would allow Kasich to immediately suspend the law.
Loomis told CNN that he did not care "if it's constitutional or not."
 
It didn't take long for Ohio's Republican governor, who helped create the state's open-carry law, to reject the appeal. "Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested," Kasich's office said.
People take over a tank near the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge during clashes with military forces in Istanbul on July 16, 2016. (Photo by Gurkan Ozturk/AFP/Getty)

Blaming Obama for Turkey's attempted coup is bonkers

07/18/16 08:45AM

Friday's attempted coup in Turkey didn't last long, though the brevity doesn't negate its significance. Any time the government of a NATO member faces a military coup, it's of enormous international significance. And even though the effort failed, the repercussions of Friday's events will be felt for quite a while.
 
Closer to home, Republicans did what Republicans do: they tried to think of a way to blame Turkey's attempted coup on President Obama. Here, for example, was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Donald Trump's new running mate, on CBS's "60 Minutes" last night:
"I truly do believe that history teaches that weakness arouses evil and whether it be the horrific attack in France, the inspired attacks here in the United States, the instability in Turkey that led to a coup. I think that is all a result of a foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that has led from behind and that has sent an inexact, unclear message about American resolve."
Pence pushed the same line on Friday night, as did assorted conservative media personalities. Trump himself seemed to clumsily make the case over the weekend.
 
Let's take a moment or two to set the record straight. Turkey is its own country, with its own complex domestic politics, its own internal divisions, and its own long history. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a very controversial figure in his country for a variety of reasons, which have contributed to instability.
 
To think that this has anything to do with the Obama administration and American "weakness" is bonkers. Jenny White, a professor at Stockholm University's Institute for Turkish Studies, explained to Slate over the weekend, "Pretty much every 10 years or so since 1960, there has been a coup through which the military took over and threw out the existing government, either because it was too religious or not seen as capable of running the country. In the case of the 1980 coup, there was a civil war that preceded it."
 
I'll look forward to Republicans explaining how American "weakness" and "unclear resolve" are responsible for this cycle. Will they start with blaming Eisenhower for "leading from behind"?
 
The instinct among conservatives to blame the United States for every international development they don't like is quickly becoming farcical.
Police officers block off a road after a shooting of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,  July 17, 2016. (Photo by Joe Penny/Reuters)

After slayings, Trump sees US as a 'divided crime scene'

07/18/16 08:00AM

Details are still emerging after yesterday's murders in Baton Rouge, where a gunman killed three police officers. As of this morning, it appears the killer acted alone and did not use a 911 call to lure the officers into an ambush.
 
NBC News' report noted overnight, "Law enforcement officials initially believed that two other suspects were at large, but later said the deceased suspect was likely the only shooter."
 
The gut-wrenching murders would be tragic under any circumstances, but the fact that the Baton Rouge slayings come on the heels of last week's police shooting in Dallas only intensifies the scope and scale of the heartbreak.
 
What's more, this violence is unfolding against a political backdrop of a presidential campaign and the start of the Republican National Convention, which kicks off today in Cleveland. Yesterday's shootings prompted a variety of U.S. political leaders to respond in competing ways -- and the differences between them matter.
 
President Obama, for example, condemned the attack, extended his support to the community and law enforcement, and called for unity and calm. Similarly, Hillary Clinton explained that there is "no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities." She called for Americans to "stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities."
 
And there was Donald Trump.
"We grieve for the officers killed in Baton Rouge today. How many law enforcement and people have to die because of a lack of leadership in our country? We demand law and order."
So, let me get this straight. A madman killed three police officers because of national "leadership," which the Republican presidential hopeful believes he can address with a '60s-era slogan and a policy matter he knows nothing about.
 
On Twitter, the GOP candidate added, soon after the president urged Americans to stand together, "President Obama just had a news conference, but he doesn't have a clue. Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse!"
 
I've read this a few times, and I'm still not sure what "divided crime scene" means, exactly. If we elect Trump, is he promising to create a united crime scene?
 
This morning on Fox News, Trump went on to say that he sees something more nefarious coming from the White House: Obama's rhetoric about law enforcement is "OK," Trump said, but the president's body language suggests "there's something going on."
This is one slice through the map of the large-scale structure of the Universe from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and its Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey. Each dot in this picture indicates the position of a galaxy 6 billion years into the past.

Week in Geek - Science like a BOSS edition

07/17/16 10:43AM

Astronomers have made the largest and best map yet of the large-scale structure of our universe: a map of 1.2 million galaxies that sheds some light on the mystery of dark energy.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is a collaboration between astronomers from around the world which makes use of a 2.5 meter telescope, located at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, to survey a large portion of the observable Universe. This new result is from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) which uses a spectrograph attached to the telescope to determine the distances to millions of galaxies. The distribution of distances to these galaxies in a 3D volume of the Universe allows astronomers to better understand how dark energy works over time.

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump steps away after greeting Indiana Governor Mike Pence during the introduction of Pence as his vice presidential running mate in New York City, July 16, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Trump's Pence introduction takes 2016 in even weirder direction

07/16/16 04:28PM

Americans have seen awkward announcements in which presidential candidates have introduced their running mates. George H.W. Bush's introduction of Dan Quayle quickly reinforced doubts about the then-senator's abilities. When John Kerry announced John Edwards would be his running mate, Edwards wasn't actually there. When Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan, he accidentally called the congressman "the next president of the United States."
 
But it's fair to say we haven't seen anything quite like the scene this morning in New York.
By the time Donald Trump ushered Mike Pence on stage Saturday, 29 minutes had gone by -- mostly Trump talking about Trump, not his new running mate.
Perhaps this was to be expected. Maybe, given Trump's odd waffling and indecisiveness -- culminating in widely reported second thoughts about the Indiana governor -- it shouldn't be too surprising that this morning's introduction would be so bizarre.
 
But the Republican presidential ticket had plenty of time to get this right. They didn't.
 
About half-way through a long, rambling, self-indulgent diatribe that largely ignored the man who was supposed to be the subject of the speech, Trump told his audience:
"Back to Mike Pence. So one of the primary reasons I chose Mike was I looked at Indiana, and I won Indiana big. Remember, Indiana was going to be the firewall. That's where Trump was going to -- they agreed I'd win New York, I'd win Pennsylvania, I'd win all these places. But Indiana was going to be the firewall. So I got to study Indiana, and I got to study New York and a lot of other places, and I saw how NAFTA, signed by Bill Clinton, has drained our manufacturing jobs, just drained us like we've never been drained before. NAFTA, again, signed by Bill Clinton. NAFTA is the worst economic deal in the history of our country. Manufacturing down in some states 55 percent, 60 percent. It's a horror show, moving to Mexico, moving to other places."
"Back to Mike Pence" was a fascinating realization that Trump apparently forgot the point of this morning's event, but note that Trump didn't actually transition to talking about Pence at all. Rather, he talked about his own primary campaign, before complaining about NAFTA -- a trade deal that Mike Pence enthusiastically supports.
 
Even when introducing his running mate to a national audience, Donald J. Trump really only wanted to talk about his favorite subject: Donald J. Trump. As the Washington Post put it, "Trump botched his first chance on Friday to ensure America understood why he'd (apparently rather grudgingly) selected Pence as his running mate; on Saturday, he spent most of his words talking about himself."
 
But that's really just the tip of a ridiculous iceberg.
The sun rises behind the steeple of a church, Aug. 23, 2015, in Plains, Ga. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

This Week in God, 7.16.16

07/16/16 08:13AM

First up from the God Machine this week is an interesting new report from the Pew Research Center on Americans' religio-political attitudes, and the Washington Post's notable catch in the results.
More American voters than ever say they are not religious, making the religiously unaffiliated the nation's biggest voting bloc by faith for the first time in a presidential election year. This marks a dramatic shift from just eight years ago, when the non-religious were roundly outnumbered by Catholics, white mainline Protestants and white evangelical Protestants.
 
These numbers come from a new Pew Research Center survey, which finds that "religious 'nones,' who have been growing rapidly as a share of the U.S. population, now constitute one-fifth of all registered voters and more than a quarter of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters." That represents a 50 percent increase in the proportion of non-religious voters compared with eight years ago, when they made up just 14 percent of the overall electorate.
For the purposes of the research, "nones" was used to describe religiously unaffiliated voters who consider themselves atheists, agnostics, or "nothing in particular." Pew found this constituency is now up to one-in-five Americans -- up from about 14% in 2008.
 
Greg Smith, the survey's lead researcher, told the Post, "In 2008, religious 'nones' were outnumbered or at parity with white mainline Protestants and white Catholics. Today, 'nones' outnumber both of those groups."
 
That's a striking societal shift, but in recent elections, there's evidence that suggests these secular voters, for whatever reason, tend not to vote as much. This is a growing constituency, but to gain influence, secularists are going to have to start showing up to participate in elections in greater numbers.
 
That said, if they do, it will likely benefit Democrats over Republicans. Pew's report found that in a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump election, "nones" prefer the former Secretary of State by a two-to-margin -- the same proportion these voters preferred President Obama over Mitt Romney four years ago.
 
It's a reminder about the demographic challenges facing the contemporary GOP. As the nation becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, it creates new difficulties for the Republican Party that's overwhelmingly white, but the same is true for religion: if a growing number of Americans are secular, that's yet another advantage Democrats will have going forward over their rivals.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
Video shows intense military action in Ankara

Video shows intense military action in Turkish capital Ankara

07/15/16 09:49PM

Bulent Alirza, with the Turkey Project at The Center for Strategic and International Studies, talks with Rachel Maddow live from Ankara, Turkey about continued action from the military coup in the Turkish capital even as reports from elsewhere suggest suggest the coup effort is fading. watch

Explosions heard in Turkish capital

Explosions heard in Turkish capital

07/15/16 09:34PM

Diego Cupolo, reporter and photojournalist, reports live from the Turkish capital of Ankara about the chaos in the streets as a faction of the military attempts to overthrow the government. watch

Power struggle in Turkey yields coup attempt

Power struggle in Turkey yields coup attempt

07/15/16 09:24PM

Dexter Filkins, contributor to The New Yorker, talks with Rachel Maddow about the political tensions within Turkey, and how they way President Erdoğan wields power made a coup attempt seem likely to some observers. watch

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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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