If the spectacular failures of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) economic experiment, and the ensuing budget crisis, were the only stories dominating the state, it would be more than enough to put the Sunflower State on national front pages.
But recent developments in Kansas go much, much further. Consider this New York Timesreport from the weekend:
The fight between Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas and the state's judicial branch has escalated, with the governor last week signing into law a bill that could strip state courts of their funding.
The measure, at the end of a lengthy bill that allocated money for the judiciary this year, stipulates that if a state court strikes down a 2014 law that removed some powers from the State Supreme Court, the judiciary will lose its funding.
Think about that for a minute. Elected state officials in the Republican-led capital want state courts to endorse a policy on the makeup and budget of Kansas courts. But before the judges decide, those same officials have said the courts' funding hangs in the balance.
As Rachel noted on the show two weeks ago, before Brownback signed the measure late last week, "'You rule one way, you're fine. You rule the other way, we will abolish the courts.' So go ahead and consider that case, Kansas judges. Enjoy your judicial independence."
And just when it seemed conditions in Kansas couldn't become more politically absurd, Brownback found yet another way to push the envelope. TPM reported late last week on the Republican governor's plan to expand Secretary of State Kris Kobach's (R) authority "to prosecute voter fraud cases."
Every national campaign is all but certain to go through some staffing changes over the course of several months, usually for predictable reasons. But the staffing shake-up at Ben Carson's headquarters is anything but routine. The Washington Post first reported:
The presidential candidacy of Ben Carson, a tea party star who has catapulted into the top tier of Republican contenders, has been rocked by turmoil with the departures of four senior campaign officials and widespread disarray among his allied super PACs.
In interviews Friday, Carson's associates described a political network in tumult, saying the retired neurosurgeon's campaign chairman, national finance chairman, deputy campaign manager and general counsel have resigned since Carson formally launched his bid last month in Detroit. They have not been replaced, campaign aides said.
The Post piece added that Team Carson "has been marked by signs of dysfunction and amateurism."
To be sure, at this point, there's nothing to suggest the behind-the-scenes tumult is undermining the far-right candidate's support. At least for now, polls show Carson running fourth in the Republican presidential race, and he's actually seen his backing grow in recent weeks, not shrink.
But when a White House hopeful loses that many top members of his team, very quickly, and struggles to replace them, it suggests there's something very wrong with the campaign -- and that real troubles lie ahead.
One of the most important times of any week is late on a Friday afternoon. That's often when politicians -- those who want to make a controversial move but hope no one notices -- quietly take their most provocative steps.
Take the latest developments in North Carolina, for example. WRAL published this report at 7:45 p.m. (ET) on Friday evening.
Gov. Pat McCrory says he has signed legislation that makes North Carolina one of several states with 72-hour waiting periods for an abortion.
McCrory's office sent an email Friday evening which announced that he had signed pardons for two brothers wrongfully imprisoned for three decades in the killing of an 11-year-old girl. At the bottom of the email, it was noted that McCrory had also signed nine bills, listing each bill by their number without referring to their specific title.
Just so we're clear, North Carolina's Republican governor signed a new law requiring women in the state to wait 72 hours before they exercise their right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, which is a problem for reasons we'll get to in a minute.
But McCrory did so late on a Friday, without a bill-signing ceremony, and announced his actions by tacking on a vague reference to his actions to the bottom of an email, as if to say, "By the way, no need to make a fuss, but I just imposed new abortion restrictions statewide. Nothing to see here. Move along."
And if it seems as if the GOP governor might be a little ashamed of himself, signing a bill in the quietest way possible, there's a very good reason for that.
These days I feel confident saying there are two things I can rely on: 1) the Hubble Space Telescope will continue to reveal amazing things about the Universe around us, and 2) Pluto will continue to surprise us. This week we had both!
Hubble released a new data analysis of two of Pluto's five moons, Nix and Hydra, that show them to be wobbling all over the place. It might be surprising, but Hubble can't actually *see* Pluto and its moons in the same way that it sees the brilliant galaxies and nebulae you are used to hearing about. This is because Pluto doesn't produce any light itself, but rather only reflects what little of the Sun's light reaches it. As a small, dark, rocky object at a great distance, that's not much.
However, using the change in the light Hubble receives from the Pluto system over time, astronomers can begin to constrain their best estimates for the size, shape, and motion of Pluto's moons. The latest data shows that Nix and Hydra are likely oblong, shaped like potatoes, and they are not rotating about an axis of symmetry. So as they orbit around Pluto, the light they reflect appears to change erratically.
First up from the God Machine this week is an alarming concern raised separately by several Republican presidential candidates: the imaginary prospect of Christianity being "criminalized" in the United States.
Right Wing Watch reported this week, for example, on Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee's latest warnings, this time issued to Billy Graham's Decision magazine.
In an interview with Decision, Huckabee repeated his warning that marriage equality will lead to the "criminalization of Christianity," saying, "When you elevate a lifestyle to the status of a civil right, I don't think a lot of believers fully understand or comprehend that once it's risen to that level and our government accepts it, then anyone who disagrees with it could be at least civilly liable, but more than likely would be criminally liable."
He warned that if marriage equality is legalized nationwide, it will become a "criminal act" for a pastor to preach against gay marriage.
It'd be easier to ignore such nonsense if it weren't increasingly common. Also this week, for example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) argued that liberals are trying "to essentially outlaw firmly held religious beliefs that they do not agree with."
And even Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), ostensibly a more mainstream candidate, said last week, "We are at the water's edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech.... That's a real and present danger."
An electoral dynamic in which far-right candidates deliberately try to scare their party's base is not uncommon, but the notion of a major American religion and/or its scriptural tenets being "criminalized" is plainly ridiculous. It's deeply irresponsible for leaders in positions of authority to argue otherwise.
For one thing, we already have a First Amendment, which protects not only the free exercise of religion, but also the right of religious leaders to preach whatever they wish on the major issues of the day. There were Christian ministers who preached for years against interracial marriage -- in some areas, such sermons may still occur -- and while American society and American laws have obviously progressed, Christian critics of interracial marriage have never faced, and could never face, criminal penalties.
For another, marriage equality already exists in much of the country. The grand total of prosecutions against pastors preaching against equal-marriage rights stands at zero.
Rubio, Huckabee, and Jindal are free to make the case against marriage equality, but they really should stop casually throwing around demagogic fantasies.
Tremendous thanks once again to Steve Kornacki for his skilled substituting while Rachel was away tonight. But in case you're still left with a bit of a Maddow hankering, we've got a couple of treats to tide you over until Monday's show.
Steve Kornacki mourns the demise of the Sunlight Foundation's Politwoops site, which was dedicated to archiving deleted Tweets by politicians, from embarrassing turns of phrase to political liabilities like celebrating the release of Beau Bergdahl. watch
Lynn Sweet, DC bureau chief for the Chicago Sun Times, talks with Steve Kornacki about the latest developments in the slowly growing story of the former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's alleged sexual misconduct when he was a high school teacher and coach. watch
Kasie Hunt, MSNBC political reporter, talks with Steve Kornacki about Hillary Clinton taking a stand on voting rights and how she'll take use popular liberal ideas during the primary period when Republican candidates have to appeal to right-wing voters. watch
* Cyber security: "The Obama administration on Thursday announced what appeared to be one of the largest breaches of federal employees' data, involving at least four million current and former government workers in an intrusion that officials said apparently originated in China."
* Related news: "The same Chinese hackers who breached the records of at least four million government workers through the Office of Personnel Management appear to have been responsible for similar thefts of personal data at two major health care firms, Anthem and Premera, according to cybersecurity experts."
* The Hastert scandal takes a turn: "The sister of a now-deceased Illinois man has identified him as an alleged victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Dennis Hastert, according to reports."
* Ten months into the conflict, these tallies appear to be new: "U.S.-led airstrikes are killing more than 1,000 fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria every month, a top Pentagon official said Friday.... It is the first time that a military official has offered an average monthly figure and follows Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken's estimate last week of more than 10,000 ISIS fighters killed."
* Military reforms: "The Air Force has altered its procedures for making determinations about the continued employment of transgender service members, mirroring a recent decision by the Army that advocates hailed as a step forward for a group that has long been marginalized within the military."
* A big win for Dreamers: "After a nearly three-year wait, a five-judge panel in New York ruled this week that César Vargas -- a native of Mexico and longtime New Yorker -- can be admitted to practice law in the state he's called home since he was 5, even though he remains an undocumented immigrant."
* This story's not over: "About a dozen law enforcement officials descended upon the local campaign office of former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Illinois, on Thursday afternoon, removing boxes and other materials from the building."
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a largely overlooked hearing yesterday on health care, which became notable for one very specific reason.
As much of the political world wait for the Supreme Court to issue its ruling in the King v. Burwell case, Republicans at least pretend to believe that the Affordable Care Act was written in such a way as to deny subsidies -- on purpose -- to consumers who enrolled through healthcare.gov.
To that end, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) thought he was making an important point yesterday, addressing the Constitutional Accountability Center's Elizabeth Wydra:
"I think maybe, Ms. Wydra, the statute could have just been written, 'Our goal is to make available health care for all Americans.' That wasn't what the law said, however."
Soon after, Wydra had a chance to respond.
"Sen. Sessions joked that the statute should have been written to say to health care 'should be available for all Americans.' Well, point of fact, Title I of the act is titled, 'Qualify, affordable health care for all Americans.'
"So that is the stated purpose of the law and it wouldn't make any sense for Congress to have written the tax-credit eligibility to defeat that purpose."
Well, look at that. We just saw the entire King v. Burwell controversy get resolved in 41 seconds. Someone let the justices know their input is no longer required. The whole thing was caught on video.
Lucas Vazquez and Kasey O'Brien, TRMS World Cup Correspondents, dig into the controversy surrounding the use of artificial turf at the 2015 World Cup, and preview the United States' first game against Australia. Previously: Episode 1 http://on.msnbc... watch
Hillary Clinton laid out a bold, progressive vision on voting rights yesterday, endorsing both a 20-day early-voting window nationwide and a universal, automatic voter registration system. It was, in effect, the Democratic frontrunner throwing down the gauntlet, challenging her rivals in the other party. "What part of democracy are they afraid of?" she asked.
For voting-rights advocates, it was cause for celebration. But for the right, it's ... complicated.
The challenge for Clinton's Republican critics is finding something substantively wrong with her proposals, which isn't easy. We know from recent history that the GOP's coordinated assault on voting rights, and imposition of voter-suppression schemes unseen since the days of Jim Crow, has positioned the party firmly against voting rights. Indeed, the Republican-led Congress won't even consider repairs to the Voting Rights Act, gutted by their allies on the Supreme Court.
But GOP officials and presidential candidate can't come right out and say they're hostile to voting rights, and they certainly can't admit that they want to restrict Americans' access to their own democracy. So how in the world are they supposed to respond to Clinton's ambitious plan?
So far, it's a work in progress. The Republican National Committee, for example, called Clinton's remarks "misleading," though it has not yet pointed to anything from the Democrat's speech that's untrue. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), whom Clinton called out by name, said her plan "defies logic" -- he didn't say why -- adding, "Clinton's extreme views are far outside the mainstream," as if most of the country is hostile to expanded voting rights.
And then there's New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), also called out by name yesterday, who offered a rather knee-jerk reaction while campaigning in New Hampshire. The Bergen Recordreported:
Governor Christie went on the attack against Hillary Clinton on Friday, saying the Democratic presidential candidate is calling for an expansion of voter registration because "she just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud." [...]
"Secretary Clinton doesn't know the first thing about voting rights in New Jersey or in the other states that she attacked," Christie said. "My sense is that she just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country."
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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