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Flint crisis unresolved, Snyder keeps talking

Flint water crisis unaddressed, Snyder keeps talking

04/15/16 09:44PM

Michigan State Senator Jim Ananich, who represents the city of Flint, talks with Rachel Maddow about Governor Rick Snyder's new broad water quality proposals as Flint enters its third year with water poisoned by the Snyder administration and still no state action is helping resolve the problem. watch

Snyder challenged to drink Flint water

Snyder challenged to drink Flint water

04/15/16 09:37PM

Rachel Maddow reports on Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's reaction to being challenged to drink water from Flint, and the frightening "Russian roulette" test results Flint water is producing while the Snyder administration has yet to do more than talk about the problem. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 4.15.16

04/15/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Quietly one of the biggest stories in the world: "Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he will visit a U.S. aircraft carrier transiting the disputed South China Sea on Friday, a move bound to anger China, which has been increasingly asserting its territorial claims."
 
* Japan: "A massive earthquake struck southern Japan Saturday, a day after the same region was rocked by a smaller deadly quake. The United States Geological Survey reported the magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck Saturday morning at 1:25 a.m. in the city of Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu, at a depth of 25 miles."
 
* Europe: "Belgian Transport Minister Jacqueline Galant has resigned after a European Union report criticized Belgian airport security. Meanwhile, police in England said that five people from the central city of Birmingham were arrested on suspicion of being 'concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.'"
 
* Brazil's crisis intensifies: "The lower chamber of Brazil's Congress on Friday began a debate on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, a question that underscores deep polarization in Latin America's largest country and most powerful economy."
 
* Historic changes in the U.S. military: "Twenty-two women are among the first class of female members of that branch to be commissioned as infantry and armor officers -- leadership roles that were previously open only to men, military officials announced Friday."
 
* The backlash continues: "Cirque du Soleil on Friday announced that it is cancelling its scheduled performances in North Carolina over the state's law codifying which bathroom a transgender person must use."
Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, March 6, 2016. (Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)

Kasich is sometimes his own worst enemy

04/15/16 04:19PM

In a year in which Republican voters have gravitated towards amateurs, John Kasich offers extensive political experience. The Ohio Republican has run two winning gubernatorial campaigns, which followed nine successful congressional campaigns and some state legislative races in one of the nation's largest states. A rookie he isn't.
 
And yet, Kasich has an unfortunate habit of sounding like an amateur, especially when talking to and about women. Slate's Christina Cauterucci reported today:
At a Watertown, New York, town hall on Friday, John Kasich advised a female college student to steer clear of "parties where there's a lot of alcohol" to keep from getting raped, assaulted, or sexually harassed.
 
His comment came after a first-year student from New York's St. Lawrence University asked the GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor, "What are you going to do in office as president to help me feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment, and rape?"
The governor initially responded by talking about confidential reporting mechanisms and access to rape kits, before telling the young woman, "I'd also give you one bit of advice: Don't go to parties where there's a lot of alcohol."
 
The problem with such a response should be obvious. If a woman goes to a gathering and gets assaulted, it's insane to think it's her fault for having gone to a party where people were drinking. The solution is for men to stop committing sex crimes; encouraging women to make different choices in their social habits badly misses the point.
 
As news of his comments spread, Kasich turned to Twitter to make clear his belief that "only one person is at fault in a sexual assault, and that's the assailant."
 
In the broader context, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind.
Gov. Phil Bryant speaks during an event on Oct. 29, 2015 in Jackson, Miss. (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Governor signs controversial 'Church Protection Act'

04/15/16 02:16PM

If you're of the opinion that there just aren't enough guns in churches, you're bound to like a brand new law in the state of Mississippi. The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson reported today:
Gov. Phil Bryant has signed into law the Mississippi Church Protection Act to allow churches to legally have armed security if they choose. Bryant signed House Bill 786 on Friday.
 
Bryant said in a Twitter post he signed the bill because "churches deserve protection from those who would harm worshippers."
Regular readers may recall we talked about this bill a few weeks ago, and it's a doozy of an idea.
 
Under current state law, people in Mississippi already have immunity from prosecution if they use a gun to defend their home or if their personal safety is threatened, but one of the principal purposes of the "Church Protection Act" would be to expand these legal protections: If someone were to use a gun to defend their house of worship, he or she would also be immune from criminal penalties.
 
Under the plan, ministries would "train members to carry guns and act as security guards during religious services," knowing that if they opened fire in defense of the church, they couldn't be prosecuted.
 
During the legislative debate, one Republican supporter told his state Senate colleagues, "This will allow a church to have a sergeant-at-arms to protect the church body, just like we have [in the legislature]."
 
Of course, ordinarily a sergeant-at-arms has a background in law enforcement.
The RNC's graphics light up the Quicken Loans Arena, who will host the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom/ZUMA)

When it comes to running mates, 'things could be a little nuts'

04/15/16 12:52PM

Ted Cruz acknowledged this week that he's already begun the process of "considering" potential vice presidential nominees, and while that may seem premature, it really isn't.
 
Assessing, scrutinizing, and vetting a potential running mate takes time. In the 2012 cycle, Mitt Romney chose a trusted adviser to oversee the VP search process on April 16 -- exactly four years ago tomorrow -- for a convention that began in late August. This year, the window is even tighter: Republican delegates will gather in Cleveland in mid-July.
 
As bizarre as this may seem, this year's Republican convention will officially get underway three months from Monday. Of course credible contenders are moving forward with the process of evaluating possible vice presidential nominees. It's arguably the most important decision a candidate makes before the election, and in 2016, the schedule is accelerated.
 
But as we look ahead, keep in mind that this year isn't just crazy because of the fight at the top of the GOP ticket. Igor Bobic had a good piece on this the other day:
If the three-man race between Trump, Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich truly drags into July and sets up a contested convention, as is looking likely, the GOP will have to select not just one but two wild-card candidates for the White House.
 
What makes the whole thing even more unpredictable is that, unlike the vote for the presidential nominee, delegates are completely unbound in voting for their candidates' running mate, as Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus noted on Monday.
Priebus told Hugh Hewitt he thinks it's "curious that people aren't talking about" this aspect of the process. He has a point -- things may go in an unpredictable direction.
 
In fact, it's not outside the realm of possibility that the Republican nominee could have a running mate he didn't choose himself.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.15.16

04/15/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Despite the growing national controversy surrounding North Carolina's anti-LGBT law, Ted Cruz told MSNBC yesterday that he supports the policy.
 
* In New York, a new NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders ahead of next week's primary, 57% to 40%. Clinton's lead has grown a little since Monday, when the same poll showed her up by 14 points.
 
* Three days ago, the Sanders campaign announced Simone Zimmerman would be its national Jewish outreach coordinator. Yesterday, Sanders suspended Zimmerman from his team, citing her previous public criticisms of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
 
* John Kasich told MSNBC yesterday that he disagrees with marriage equality, but he's "moving on" from the issue and doesn't intend to change the status quo. "Exactly where it is now, I'm fine with it," the Ohio governor said.
 
* Donald Trump has a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, condemning the current presidential nominating process.
 
* Fundraising totals from individual Senate races can be tough to keep up with, but it's worth noting that in Missouri, Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) narrowly outraised incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R) in the first quarter, reinforcing chatter that this will be a race worth watching.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

'Plumbing new depths in the confirmation wars'

04/15/16 11:20AM

President Obama did something yesterday that was kind of amusing, in a macabre sort of way. Midday, the White House announced the president had nominated three qualified individuals to serve as federal district court judges.
 
"I am honored to put forward these highly qualified candidates for the federal bench," Obama said in a statement, as if the federal government still operated normally. "They will be distinguished public servants and valuable additions to the United States District Court."
 
Except, he knows, as we know, that they almost certainly won't be valuable additions to the District Court because the Republican-led Senate prefers not to confirm this president's judicial nominees.
 
In fairness, it's worth noting that the Senate actually confirmed a district court nominee this week, on a 92-to-0 vote. It was the first floor vote for any judicial nominee in two months. And after the vote, a few Capitol Hill observers wondered aloud whether this was the last confirmation vote we'll see before 2017.
 
The Huffington Post checked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office, which "wouldn't say when, or if, the Senate will vote to confirm the next judicial nominees on the list." And what a list it is.
The delays are part of a broader GOP strategy to punt judicial confirmations to next year, when a Republican might be in the White House and nominate people they like better. [This week's confirmed jurist] is only the 17th judge who has been confirmed since the GOP became the Senate majority in January 2015. By contrast, in the final two years of President George W. Bush's term, Democrats controlled the Senate and had confirmed 68 judicial nominees by this point.
 
Court vacancies have been ticking up in the meantime. They're at 78 now, and 34 of them are emergencies. When court seats go unfilled, people's cases can get delayed for years and judges struggle with burnout.
A separate Huffington Post piece added that, in some cases, Republican senators want judicial confirmation votes for uncontroversial nominees who'd serve in their home states, but "their own party leaders" are ignoring the pleas.
 
The Senate Republican majority's handling of Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination is a scandal of sorts in its own right -- the GOP blockade has no precedent in the American tradition -- but that's really just the highest-profile example of a more systemic abuse.
The National Debt Clock, a billboard-size digital display showing the increasing US debt, on Sixth Avenue August 1, 2011 in New York.

The details debt doomsayers don't understand

04/15/16 10:50AM

If the editors of Time magazine hoped to generate some conversation with its provocative new cover story, they succeeded beautifully. Whether it was the kind of conversation the editors were looking for is a very different question.
 
For those who haven't seen it, Time's cover says, "Dear Reader, you owe $42,998.12. That's what every American man, woman, and child would need to pay to erase the $13.9 trillion US debt. Make America solvent again."
 
I'll gladly concede that issues like these are complex, and for much of the public, confusing. Rhetoric about the budget deficit and national debt, complete with numbers so big they're hard to count all of the zeroes, can sound terrifying. But this dynamic is made worse when lazy journalism paints a wildly misleading picture.
 
It's hard to even know where to start, but Mother Jones' Kevin Drum did a nice job cutting to the chase.
You will never have to pay down this debt. Nor will your children. Or your grandchildren. Just forget about it.
 
And if we ever do have to pay some of it down? We'll get to pay it off over decades, just like any other debt. And the rich will pay a bigger share than you. But I guess "You might someday owe $145 per year" doesn't make a very good magazine cover.
Quite right. Time suggests the debt should be erased, which is wrong. It suggests if we did try to pay off the debt, the costs would be distributed evenly among all Americans, which is also wrong. It suggests the United States is insolvent, which is breathtakingly wrong.
 
Dear editors, if you don't know what "solvent" means, try not to use it on your cover.
 
Slate's Jordan Weissmann responded to the Time article by noting, "You actually need a special, pressure-resistant diving suit to reach these depths of stupidity." The Washington Post's Matt O'Brien added, "The idea that the U.S. government is insolvent right now is so perniciously stupid. I can't even."
 
The harsh criticisms strike me as more than fair under the circumstances -- Time's editors and publishers must know better, and they owe their readers an explanation for this -- but I'd add just one additional point.
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at an event at the American Serb Banquet Hall in Milwaukee, April 1, 2016. (Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

The 'Personhood' problem Ted Cruz doesn't know how to solve

04/15/16 10:04AM

It's not exactly a secret that many Democrats see Donald Trump as a candidate who would struggle in a general election. But we're occasionally reminded that when it comes to formidable Republicans, Ted Cruz wouldn't be much better.
Ted Cruz refused to answer eight direct questions Thursday about whether or not he'd support personhood bills -- legislation that would give Constitutional rights to fertilized eggs -- despite pledging to support it last year.
 
"I told you I'm not going to get into the labels, but what I will say is we should protect life. But I'm not interested in anything that restricts birth control," he said after being pressed at length by Chuck Todd in the MSNBC town hall that will air in full Thursday at 8 p.m. "And I'm not interested in anything that restricts in vitro fertilization because I think parents who are struggling to create life, to have a child, that is a wonderful thing."
Chuck Todd, to his credit, made a valiant effort to get a straight answer out of the Texas senator. Cruz, an experienced lawyer, wouldn't budge.
 
And we know why. Last summer, en route to picking up an endorsement from a far-right group, Ted Cruz signed a pledge promising to "support a personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

As Right Wing Watch reported at the time, the document the Republican presidential candidate signed affirmed the belief that "a continuum of human life and personhood begins at the moment of fertilization." By endorsing the pledge, Cruz gave his word to protect "the civil rights of the pre-born at an embryonic or fetal level."

In practical terms, as long-time readers no doubt recall, we're not just talking about a policy that bans abortions -- though that's part of it. "Personhood" policies also put at risk common forms of birth control.
 
What's more, this wasn't the first time Cruz expressed support for these kinds of policies. The far-right senator voted against a measure to protect workers' access to contraception in 2014, and in 2013, he referred to common forms of birth-control as "abortifacients."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters after speaking at a campaign rally on April 11, 2016 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty)

Latest polls push back against conventional wisdom

04/15/16 09:20AM

At this point in the presidential race, the significance of national polling gets a little murky. As things stand, 32 states have already held Republican nominating contests, and if the point of polling is to offer a guide as to who's likely to do well in upcoming primaries and caucuses, a national survey offers little predictive value -- because most of the country has already voted.
 
But there are other reasons to take note of national polls. Take the new Fox News poll, for example, which asked Republican voters for their presidential preferences:
 
1. Donald Trump: 45% (up from 41% in a Fox poll in mid-March)
2. Ted Cruz: 27% (down from 38%)
3. John Kasich: 25% (up from 17%)
 
A CBS News poll released yesterday pointed to similar results.
 
Granted, because it's a national poll, this doesn't tell us a whole lot about who's likely to win the next round of primaries in the GOP race. For those contests, it's best to look at state-by-state polling.
 
But let's not be too quick to dismiss polls like these. In recent weeks, the conventional wisdom has said Trump's entire national operation has stalled at the worst possible time: he lost Wisconsin; his campaign manager briefly faced a criminal charge; his campaign team has run into behind-the-scenes turmoil; he's struggled through some high-profile interviews; he's feuded with his own party's national leaders; and he's been badly out-hustled at state conventions where convention delegates are chosen.
 
Given all of these developments, much of the political world has started to conclude that Trump's shooting star is finally burning out. Assumptions about his inevitable nomination have morphed into new assumptions about his inevitable failure.
People wait to vote in the U.S. presidential primary election outside a polling site in Glendale, Ariz. on March 22, 2016. (Photo by Nancy Wiechec/Reuters)

Voting lines in Arizona spur Democratic lawsuit

04/15/16 08:40AM

While the results of last month's presidential primaries in Arizona were notable in their own right, the lasting significance of the contests has very little to do with who won and who lost.
 
In Arizona's most populous area, Maricopa County, some voters were forced to wait as long as five hours to cast a primary ballot. Some in downtown Phoenix were reportedly in line until after midnight, long after polls were supposed to have closed. It wasn't long before we learned that local officials, hoping to save some money, slashed the number of available precincts dramatically, forcing a large number of voters into a much smaller number of polling places.
 
In the recent past, the Voting Rights Act might have prevented such a move, but five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the landmark law, opening the door to the mess Arizonans saw three weeks ago.
 
This is not, however, one of those instances in which people complain and move on to the next problem. The Washington Post reported yesterday on an important new lawsuit, filed by Hillary Clinton's and Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns, targeting the state of Arizona over voters' access.
The lawsuit, which will be filed on Friday, focuses on Maricopa County, the state's most populous county, where voters faced the longest lines on March 22 during the Democratic and Republican primaries after the county cut the number of polling places by 85 percent since 2008.
 
Arizona's "alarmingly inadequate number of voting centers resulted in severe, inexcusable burdens on voters county-wide, as well as the ultimate disenfranchisement of untold numbers of voters who were unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines," the lawsuit says.
The case, to be filed in federal court, also alleges that the system was "particularly burdensome" on minority communities, and as the Post added, Maricopa County's black, Hispanic, and Native American communities "had fewer polling locations than white communities and in some cases no places to vote at all."
This handout crime scene evidence photo provided by the Connecticut State Police shows a damaged door of the Sandy Hook Elementary School following the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting rampage. (Photo by Connecticut State Police/Getty)

Sandy Hook lawsuit roils Democratic presidential race

04/15/16 08:02AM

After Bernie Sanders sat down with editors from the New York Daily News last week, the interview raised a few eyebrows, in part because the senator struggled a bit when pressed for details on elements of his platform. But it was Sanders' approach to gun policy that may have mattered most.
 
The newspapers editors noted a lawsuit "waiting to be ruled on in Connecticut. The victims of the Sandy Hook massacre are looking to have the right to sue for damages the manufacturers of the weapons." The editors asked if Sanders believes those family members should have the right to sue gun manufacturers for damages. "No," Sanders replied. "I don't."
 
In last night's debate in New York, CNN's Wolf Blitzer brought up the same issue. From the transcript:
BLITZER: You recently said you do not think crime victims should be able to sue gun makers for damages. The daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed back in the 2012 mass shooting, says you owe her and families an apology. Do you?
 
SANDERS: What we need to do is to do everything that we can to make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of people who do not have them. Now, I voted against this gun liability law because I was concerned that in rural areas all over this country, if a gun shop owner sells a weapon legally to somebody, and that person then goes out and kills somebody, I don't believe it is appropriate that that gun shop owner who just sold a legal weapon to be held accountable and be sued.
Pressed further on whether he owes Sandy Hook families an apology, the Vermont senator said he does not. "They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue," Sanders concluded.
 
There's some awkwardness to his position. Sanders believes these families deserve support as they press their case in the courts, but at the same time, he also backs legal restrictions on the viability of their efforts. As the Huffington Post put it, "[W]hat Sanders was saying is that he believes the Sandy Hook victims should have a right to sue -- and lose."
 
A few hours before the debate, a state court said it's willing to go in a different direction.

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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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