The news from North Carolina's death row this week was stunning. A convicted killer named Henry Lee McCollum, a man whose crimes were cited by Justice Antonin Scalia as justifying capital punishment itself, was cleared by DNA evidence. McCollum, now 50 years old, had spent 30 years behind bars, most of the time on death row, for a crime he did not commit.
In theory, this should raise difficult questions about the death penalty, the criminal justice system, and the process that put an innocent man on death row.
North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), currently his party's U.S. Senate candidate, doesn't seem inclined to ask any of those tough questions. Alice Ollstein reported yesterday:
Now middle aged, [McCollum and his brother] have been in prison -- one of them on death row -- since they were teenagers, wrongfully accused of raping and murdering a child. When ThinkProgress asked Tillis if anything needs to change in light of this case, he said that because they were eventually exonerated, "It's an example of how we have protections in our judicial system in North Carolina."
"I feel very, very sorry for them and I'm glad to know they're out," he said. "At least the process worked, it just took too long."
That's the wrong answer. To see innocent men sent to death row, locked up for most of their lives for a crime they didn't commit, as evidence of an effective system with adequate "protections" is to miss the significance of this story in a spectacular way.
Between February and July of this year, the U.S. economy added over 200,000 jobs a month, every month. The half-year streak was the longest since the Clinton era and renewed hopes that the job market was advancing with increasing vigor. Alas, the streak did not continue.
The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 142,000 jobs in August, far short of expectations. The overall unemployment rate ticked slightly lower to 6.1% -- still hovering around a six-year low.
Once again, public-sector layoffs did not drag down the overall employment figures. Though jobs reports over the last few years have shown monthly government job losses, in August, the private sector added 134,000 while the public sector added 8,000. The latter may not sound like much, but after several years in which that total was negative, it's at least somewhat heartening.
These figures are clearly disappointing, but the larger question is whether the report is an aberration or a warning sign of a larger problem. For what it's worth, the August data will be revised twice more -- today's total is a preliminary figure -- and in previous years, August job numbers have been revised up quite a bit, so today's news should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
As for the revisions, June's totals were revised down from 298,000 to 267,000, while July's figures were revised up, from 209,000 to 212,000. Combined, that's a loss of 28,000.
All told, over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has added over 2.48 million jobs overall and 2.44 million in the private sector. What's more, August was the 54th consecutive month in which we've seen private-sector job growth – the longest on record.
At this point, with the year more than half over, 2014 is still currently on track to be the best year for U.S. job creation since 1999.
It seemed pretty straightforward. Chad Taylor, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Kansas, decided he wanted to drop out of the race and have his name removed from the statewide ballot. He contacted state elections officials, received guidance, filed the paperwork, and announced his decision to the public.
Despite dropping out of the Kansas Senate race this week, Democrat Chad Taylor will remain on the ballot, Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced on Thursday. [...]
Kobach told reporters that candidates must declare they are "incapable" of serving if elected in order to withdraw their name from the ballot. "The law is the law," Kobach said, according to The Kansas City Star.
And if the law were unambiguous, Kobach might have a credible argument. But it's not -- as elections-law expert Rick Hasen explained, the relevant statute isn't entirely clear. Indeed, it's probably why state elections officials reached the opposite conclusion the day before Kobach's decision.
Part of the problem with the process, of course, is that Kobach has an obvious conflict of interest. The far-right Kansas Secretary of State, a notorious figure for all sorts of reasons, is an active supporter of Sen. Pat Roberts (R). At the same time, Kobach is chiefly responsible for deciding who'll appear on the ballot in the race against Sen. Pat Roberts (R) -- and in this case, the Secretary of State apparently wants the senator to have two opponents, instead of one, thereby dividing the vote and improving Roberts' chances.
A legitimate elections process isn't supposed to work this way.
Rosalind Helderman, Washington Post reporter covering the Bob McDonnell case from its beginning, talks with Rachel Maddow about the scene in court as the mostly guilty verdicts were read, and what potential sentences the McDonnells now face. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the guilty verdicts in the corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, and traces the declining arc of McDonnell's pious "family values" political persona to his legal defense of scapegoating his wife. watch
Senator Claire McCaskill talks with Rachel Maddow about Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach's refusal to allow Democratic candidate Chad Taylor to drop out of the Senate race, even though he did so in consultation with the secretary of... watch
Senator Claire McCaskill talks with Rachel Maddow about the use of police body cameras to increase accountability, reduce cynicism about the police department, and avoid repeating violent confrontations like those seen in Ferguson, Missouri last month. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews the incredible wave of significant news stories that all broke within an hour of each other Thursday afternoon, including the death of Joan Rivers, a verdict in the McDonnel trial, a major federal ruling on gay marriage, and more. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on a federal court ruling that BP was grossly negligent in spilling millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, causing the company's stock to plummet and potentially costing them up to $18 billion in penalties. watch
Tonight on The Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel asked Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) if she’s considering a run for the White House in the 2016 presidential race. The following is a transcript of that exchange:
Rachel Maddow: Did I miss some sort of Sherman-esque statement from you about never running for president? Obviously you're involved not only in Missouri issues, not only in federal issues, you're interested in what's going on with the Democratic [Party] more broadly and the Senate more broadly. Why shouldn't I be asking you if you're running for president?
Senator Claire McCaskill talks with Rachel Maddow about why she is not running for president (despite Maddow's estimation that she could win), and states explicitly her support for "the first woman president, Hillary Rodham Clinton." watch
Taylor: "I am planning to challenge the ruling of the Kansas Secretary of State, who serves on Pat Roberts’ Honorary Committee."
* Ukraine: "With Ukraine the primary focus of the NATO summit meeting here Thursday, the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, said he would seek to establish 'a bilateral cease-fire' on Friday between Ukraine's armed forces and pro-Russian separatists that would lay the foundation for a 'stage-by-stage peace plan' for his country."
* Overdue: "The European Central Bank surprised many analysts on Thursday by cutting interest rates from their already record-low levels and said it would soon begin buying packages of bank loans, in its continuing efforts to stimulate lending in the faltering eurozone economy."
* I'll have more on this in the morning: "Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) denied Democrat Chad Taylor's request to be removed from the Senate ballot on Thursday."
* Ferguson: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced plans Thursday afternoon to conduct a federal investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department to determine whether its officers have routinely engaged in racial profiling or a pattern of using excessive force."
* NATO: "President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain have called on NATO to reject 'isolationist' impulses and confront the rising terrorist threat posed by Sunni militants in the Middle East, saying the United States and Britain 'will not be cowed by barbaric killers.'"
* BP: "A federal judge in New Orleans on Thursday ruled that BP's 'gross negligence' and 'willful misconduct' had caused the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and that the company's 'reckless' behavior made it subject to fines of as much as $4,300 a barrel under the Clean Water Act."
* The fight for terrorist primacy: "Al Qaeda has released a video announcing the establishment of a new branch on the Indian subcontinent, saying it is meant to revive jihadist activity in a region that was once 'part of the land of Muslims, until the infidel enemy occupied it and fragmented it and split it.'"
* On a related note, the New York Times ran a stunning report on Ali Hussein Kadhim, an Iraqi soldier, who shared amazing details about his experience surviving an ISIS massacre. Note, the report is brutal, and includes graphic images, but is nevertheless important.
* Noted without comment: "'So, here is the Factor tip of the day: When you hear something on a partisan-driven program, do not believe it,' [Bill O'Reilly] told his audience."