* New York: "Richard Matt, one of the two killers who escaped an upstate New York prison three weeks ago, was shot and killed Friday, two senior New York state officials told NBC News. The whereabouts of the second escapee, David Sweat, were also not immediately known."
* Tunisia: "At least 37 people were killed and dozens wounded when gunmen opened fire on a beach popular with tourists in Tunisia on Friday, officials said."
* Not just Tunisia: "Terrorists launched horrific attacks across three continents Friday, killing dozens of people just days after ISIS urged supporters to unleash "a month of disaster" during the Muslim holy period of Ramadan. A man was decapitated in an apparent Islamist attack on a U.S.-owned gas factory in southeastern France, while 25 worshipers were killed and 200 wounded during Friday prayers at a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait."
* A story to keep an eye on: "Some couples who wished to get married immediately after the Supreme Court lifted the bans on same-sex marriage in the 14 states that prohibited it Friday were met with roadblocks."
* The other big ruling today: "In the case Johnson v. United States, the Supreme Court just struck down a provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act that says that someone's past crimes count as "violent" if they involve a risk of serious injury to another person -- even if the crime didn't actually involve violence."
* Congress: "Two measures were discussed in the House chamber Thursday: one pertaining to Confederate Battle Flag imagery in the U.S. Capitol, and another banning the iconography from the South Carolina Capitol and any government property."
When Barack Obama's presidency is over, I have a strong hunch people will still be talking about the eulogy he delivered in South Carolina today for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Because the president's remarks today were about Pinckney and other victims of last week's mass murder in Charleston, but it was also about much, much more.
It was about the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina capitol.
"The flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.
"Removing the flag from this state's capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong. The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.
"It would be one step in an honest accounting of America's history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.
"By taking down that flag, we express God's grace."
It was about the criminal justice system.
"Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system's not infected with bias -- that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure."
For Democratic presidential candidates, today's Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is unqualified great news -- Hillary Clinton and her rivals can celebrate without reservation, knowing that their party's base sees today as a breakthrough for American civil rights.
For Republicans, it's just a little more complicated. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin had a good piece on this today.
Republican presidential hopefuls responded to the Supreme Court's historic same-sex marriage decision Friday with a mix of tepid disapproval and fiery condemnation, reflecting the party's deep unease with an issue where public opinion tilted decisively toward equality well before the law had caught up.
Consider Jeb Bush's measure tone, for example. "I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision," the Florida Republican said in a statement. "I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments."
It's not exactly Scalia-esque.
And it's easy to understand why. On the one hand, GOP presidential candidates realize that much of their party's right-wing base -- including the religious right movement, which is powerful in early nominating states like Iowa -- sees today's decision as a genuine travesty. On the other hand, the American mainstream has already embraced marriage equality, and Republicans who plan to compete nationally have to be careful about alienating a general-election audience.
It's a dynamic that leads to some caution. Literally every GOP candidate criticized the high court's decision, and nearly everyone in the field stressed "religious" liberty, which must have done well in focus groups.
But from there, two camps emerged, divided by strategies over what happens next.
It's fair to say President Obama has had a rather extraordinary week. It was literally just a week ago when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) mocked the president as a "very, very lame duck," though few seem to be using the phrase today.
This was the week Obama's trade agenda -- one of his principal second-term goals -- took a giant step forward. This was the week Obama's health care reform law withstood a challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court, cementing his place as "one of the most consequential presidents in American history."
And this was the week Obama was able to stand in the Rose Garden of the White House and celebrate the day marriage equality came to the United States. MSNBC's David Taintor reported:
President Obama on Friday celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the country, calling the historic ruling a "victory for America."
"Sometimes, there are days like this," the president said in a statement from the Rose Garden outside the White House, "when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."
Obama, who's advanced the cause of gay rights further and faster than even optimists could have predicted, added, "Today we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we've made our union a little more perfect.... America should be very proud."
Watching this president discuss this ruling from this location served as a striking reminder about the extraordinary historical circumstances we find ourselves in.
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:
* For the second time this week, a statewide poll in New Hampshire shows Donald Trump gaining traction, at least for now, in the Granite State. The new WMUR/CNN poll shows Jeb Bush leading the Republican presidential field with 16% in the first primary state, followed by Trump with 11%. No other candidate reaches double digits.
* On a related note, a WMUR/CNN poll shows Hillary Clinton with only an eight-point advantage in New Hampshire over Bernie Sanders, 43% to 35%. Literally every other recent, independent poll in the state shows Clinton with a larger lead.
* As Rachel noted on the show last night, there are multiple reports, no doubt based on intra-campaign leaks, which say New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will kick off his presidential bid on Tuesday. Asked on a radio show yesterday whether he's prepared to deny these reports, the governor replied, "I can`t deny that, because I haven`t made a decision." No one actually believes he's telling the truth.
* Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson has apparently argued that secret communists have "infiltrated our society." The secret communists are, he claims, "organized" in their effort to "bring America down."
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages, making marriage equality officially the law of the land.
Two questions stood before the high court: Does the 14th Amendment require states to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and does that same amendment require a state to recognize legally valid same-sex marriages performed elsewhere?
The court ruled that the answer to both questions is "yes," clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states.
This post will be updated shortly (and repeatedly).
First Update: The ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges is online here (pdf). It's a 5-4 decision, with Justice Kennedy writing for the majority. He was joined, of course, by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
Second Update: Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented. In an unusual move, each of them wrote their own dissenting opinion.
Third Update: Roberts read his dissent from the bench, which is reportedly a first since the Chief Justice joined the court a decade ago.
Civil-rights proponents scored an unexpected victory at the Supreme Court yesterday, when the justices, in a 5-4 ruling, shielded the Fair Housing Act. For more details, check out our report from yesterday, but the key detail is that the high court found that those facing housing discrimination can challenge laws and policies, even if they're not intended to be racially discriminatory.
What matters is the effect, not the stated objective, of a policy.
The New Republic's Rebecca Leber flagged an unfortunate argument from one of the four dissenting justices.
[Yesterday's ruling] upheld the "disparate impact" standard, which allows complainants to show a policy led to unequal results, no matter the original intention.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision.... He argued that "disparate-impact doctrine defies not only the statutory text, but reality itself." To make his case, Thomas pointed out that minorities sometimes do quite well.
To prove his point, the far-right justice pointed to -- in all seriousness -- professional basketball players.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia threw a bit of a tantrum yesterday in King v. Burwell, outraged that six justices considered legislative intent, legislative history, and context. "[The six-member majority] rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere," Scalia complained. "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,"
Soon after, as the Washington Postreported, a House Republican announced new legislation to force the high court's justices to use the Affordable Care Act. It's called the "SCOTUScare Act of 2015."
Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) introduced a bill, piggy-backing off Justice Antonin Scalia's sarcasm, that would require all the justices and their clerks to get their health coverage through an Obamacare program as members of Congress and their staffs already do.
"By eliminating their exemption from Obamacare, they will see firsthand what the American people are forced to live with!" Babin said in a statement.
What Babin doesn't like about the ACA is not altogether clear. (If his name sounds at all familiar, the far-right Texan, less than a month into his first term in Congress, announced his belief that President Obama, without a doubt, "deserves impeachment.")
For what it's worth, the Republican freshman wasn't just blowing smoke -- he actually introduced this bill yesterday. The proposal picked up a bill number (H.R.2905), and was quickly endorsed by two co-sponsors: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.).
It's too soon to say whether the bill will gain any real traction, but either way, there's something oddly perfect about the proposal.
It's very unusual for a sitting governor to be impeached. In fact, over the last century, it's only happened six times, the most recent being former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who's currently serving a 14-year prison sentence.
In Maine, there's a very real possibility that this small club will gain a new member. Consider this powerful editorial published yesterday by the Portland Press Herald.
Sabotaging House Speaker Mark Eves' private career revealed more of the mean-spirited, small-minded revenge politics for which Gov. LePage has become famous. But this time, he may have gone too far.
The Maine House should immediately begin an investigation of the governor, and if no new facts emerge that put his conduct in a positive light, he should be impeached and tried in the state Senate.
That may sound like an extreme reaction, but the governor's conduct takes Maine into new territory.
For those who've followed the far-right governor's strange career, LePage has earned a reputation for buffoonery, offensive antics, and a regressive policy agenda, but this new controversy points in a far more alarming direction.
When the governor tells unfortunate jokes about killing media professionals he doesn't like, it's cringe-worthy. When he's accused of using his office and public resources to punish political rivals, it may well turn out to be impeachment-worthy.
Let's back up and consider what the controversy is all about. Over at Daily Kos, Bruce Bourgoine published a good summary:
In early November 2012, literally just two days after President Obama won a second term with relative ease, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested it was time to bring his party's crusade to repeal the Affordable Care Act to a close. "It's pretty clear that the president was re-elected," the GOP leader said. "Obamacare is the law of the land."
The comments made quite a bit of sense. Republicans had tried to bring down the ACA through the courts, and that failed. Republicans had tried to bring down the law through legislation, and that failed. Republicans had tried to bring down the law at the ballot box, and that failed. Boehner's desire to simply move on was understandable -- he and his party had given it their best shot and came up short.
The Speaker's brief flirtation with reality, we know in hindsight, didn't last, and the GOP's repeal crusade was renewed soon after. Three years later, however, after losing a Supreme Court case they were certain they'd win, maybe now Republicans are prepared to move on and stop trying to take families' benefits away?
Of course not. The conservative Washington Examinerreported yesterday on Boehner's familiar posture.
"Obamacare is fundamentally broken, increasing healthcare costs for millions of Americans. Today's ruling doesn't change that fact," Boehner said. "Republicans will continue to listen to American families and work to protect them from the consequences of Obamacare."
"And we will continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families," he said.
As a substantive matter, Boehner's stale talking points are impossible to take seriously. As a political matter, the notion that the Speaker believes the public is clamoring for repeal is demonstrably false.
But the broader takeaway is more important: even now, despite a lengthy series of Republican debacles, despite the painfully obvious ACA successes, despite unambiguous court rulings, the GOP dream of dismantling the American health care system simply will not die.
Rachel Maddow reports on the latest developments in the ever-expanding field of Republican presidential candidates and highlights a peculiar mailer distributed by the Republican National Committee that lists non-candidates among candidates on a fake... watch
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