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Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson awaits an interview in his home in Upperco, Md., Dec. 23, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Carson pushes 'surreptitious' monitoring of US education

01/07/16 09:22AM

There are all kinds of oddities to Ben Carson's presidential platform, but his affinity for spying on Americans is arguably the strangest. Over the summer, for example, the candidate told a group of Republican voters he was "thinking very seriously" about adding "a covert division of people who look like the people in this room, who monitor what government people do."
 
A few months later, the retired physician said he intends to use the federal Department of Education to "monitor our institutions of higher education" to look for political bias in classrooms. If the Carson administration found on-campus speech it didn't like, the Republican would cut off universities' federal funding.
 
Yesterday, the Des Moines Register's editorial board asked what in the world Carson is talking about. His response didn't help.
Ben Carson suggested on Wednesday that the Department of Education and other government agencies should secretly enter classrooms, libraries and other government offices to track instances of political bias and inefficiency. [...]
 
When pressed by an editorial writer whether surreptitious federal investigations into college classroom discussions would amount to policing people's thoughts, Carson answered that such action is appropriate any time federal money is involved.
As the candidate sees it, federal officials should "surreptitiously" investigate professors who are accused of using political speech Carson considers "extreme."
 
And then he went just a little further, raising the prospect of secret monitoring of other public agencies.
In this June 26, 2008 file photo John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.

John Yoo wants to talk about federal 'overreactions'

01/07/16 08:40AM

UC Berkeley's John Yoo, a rather important figure from the Bush/Cheney Justice Department, wrote an item for the Federalist Society yesterday on President Obama's new measures on gun policy. Not surprisingly, the controversial lawyer wasn't impressed.
 
But it's the way in which Yoo criticized the administration's policy that was almost amusing, in a lacking-self-awareness kind of way (via Sam Stein).
Supporters of Second Amendment rights should have little difficulty challenging President Obama's new executive orders to restrict gun sales. There should be no problems for plaintiffs to enter federal court. [...]
 
Such a case would prompt not just a good challenge to the scope of the President's authority to interpret the law, on which the Supreme Court has been signaling that it may shift away from deference to the executive branch, but also the scope of the Second Amendment and the federal government's regulatory powers.... In his regulatory overreaction to recent shootings, Obama may begin the erosion of the powers of his treasured welfare state.
Right off the bat, it's curious that Yoo would take aim at the president's "executive orders," since the new White House reforms don't include any executive orders. Given Yoo's role as a legal scholar, it's a little surprising he'd get such a basic detail wrong.
 
It's also odd that Yoo would be so eager to see a legal challenge to a policy that, according to the NRA, doesn't really do much of anything. On Monday, the group's lawyers were ready to pounce on the administration, but notice there's been little chatter about a court case since.
 
But even if we put these details aside, it's the broader context that's worth appreciating: does John Yoo, of all people, really want to have a conversation about federal "overreaction" to violence?
Roy Moore

Alabama's Roy Moore tries to block marriage equality

01/07/16 08:00AM

Following a historic Supreme Court ruling in June, marriage equality has been the law of the land in the United States for over six months. A few politicians still whine about it -- Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio still believes he can turn back the clock and end equal marriage rights -- but most of the country realizes that this aspect of the culture war is over.
 
But then there's Alabama, where the chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court ordered probate judges yesterday to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. MSNBC's Emma Margolin reported:
In his order, Roy Moore -- the Republican chief justice who made headlines last year for similarly standing in the way of same-sex nuptials in Alabama -- said that the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision only struck down the four same-sex marriage bans that were specifically challenged in the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges. That lawsuit was a consolidated challenge to bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee -- not Alabama.
 
Therefore, Moore wrote, Alabama probate judges still have a "ministerial duty" to comply with an order issued by the state Supreme Court last March to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses.
For those unfamiliar with Moore, it's worth noting that his legal views tend to be ... how do I put this gently ... unique. Alabama's chief justice, who's already been thrown off the court once for defying court rulings he found objectionable, has argued repeatedly, for example, that states can ignore federal court rulings whenever they choose.
 
He's also sometimes known as the "Ten Commandments Judge," willing to use his position as a judge to advance his religious agenda. Now the jurist wants Alabama to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling he finds objectionable.
 
In other words, Moore, widely seen as a crackpot by America's legal mainstream, is not to be taken seriously. The problem, of course, is that he's still the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, who just issued an order to probate judges statewide.
 
As of this morning, they're not entirely sure whether to follow the law or follow Roy Moore's bonkers interpretation of the law.
Burlington braces for looming Trump-storm

Burlington braces for looming Trump-storm

01/06/16 11:21PM

Paul Heintz, political editor for Seven Days newspaper in Vermont, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the city of Burlington is preparing for a schedule Donald Trump rally for which there have already been 20,000 tickets issued for a 1,400 seat venue. watch

State dismissed Flint bad water test concerns

Flint water concerns 'blown off' by state: Snyder staffer e-mail

01/06/16 09:37PM

Rachel Maddow reports on a newly obtained e-mail from June of 2015, confirmed by NBC News, that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's chief-of-staff was troubled that Flint's bad water tests were not being taken seriously, part of a string of mails showing the administration's awareness of alarming lead test results even as it insisted... watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 1.6.16

01/06/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* No one seems to believe North Korea: "It will take a couple of days for the U.S. to determine if North Korea's claim it detonated a hydrogen bomb is a big lie or a big problem -- but experts already think it's more likely the event was just a blast from the past."
 
* California: "Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday in Porter Ranch, where thousands of residents have been evacuated due to a massive gas leak."
 
* Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: "The anti-government activists who took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon are going to face federal charges when the siege is over, the local sheriff told NBC News on Wednesday."
 
* Deportations: "The nation's highest immigration court has temporarily halted the deportations of 12 Central American women and children [whom] the federal government detained last weekend as part of its first significant nationwide enforcement effort focused on these recently arrived immigrants."
 
* Middle East fallout continues: "Qatar has recalled its ambassador from Iran to protest attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and Consulate in Mashhad, violence stemming from the Saudi execution of an opposition Shiite cleric."
 
* Georgia: "Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday rescinded an order that sought to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia, clearing the way for new arrivals from the war-torn nation to receive food stamp benefits."
 
* Turkey: "President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey marched across another line last week. Asked about his push for greatly enhanced executive powers, he told reporters that there was a precedent in 'Hitler's Germany.'"
 
* Alaska: "Credit ratings agency Standard and Poor's on Tuesday dropped Alaska's gold-plated credit rating and warned of more turmoil ahead unless lawmakers act to close the state's massive budget gap." For more on this, check out my piece from a month ago.
President Barack Obama (C) hugs an assembly line worker as he tours through the Chrysler Auto Plant in Detroit, Mich., July 30, 2010.

White House has reason to celebrate auto-industry data

01/06/16 04:26PM

Reporters attending White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest's press briefing today were treated to a fairly detailed slide show devoted to a specific topic: the health of the American auto industry.
 
And under the circumstances, it's awfully tough to blame the Obama administration for wanting to take a victory lap. Consider this Washington Post report from yesterday:
Drivers in the United States bought more cars last year than ever before, a staggering turnaround for an auto industry fighting for its life half a decade ago, as low gas prices and a strengthening economy marked a banner year on American roads. [...]
 
Car buyers last year were energized by several economic sparks: the improving wages and confidence of a more robust job market; easy credit and cheap gas; and the pent-up demand of a driving public whose cars, on average, are more than 11 years old. And the explosive results could prove more than a blip, with some analysts projecting that a strong economy could yield another car-lot record in 2016. Last year's estimated $437 billion in car sales capped a six-year growth streak, the industry's first since World War II.
Given the number of Americans employed, directly and indirectly, in the auto industry, and degree to which this represents the backbone of the nation's manufacturing sector, these figures have to be heartening to anyone rooting for the U.S. economy.
 
But there is, of course, a political angle to this that also matters.
John Kasich, left, and Donald Trump, second from right, argue across fellow candidates during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Latest polling shows surprisingly tight race in first GOP primary

01/06/16 03:45PM

There was a two-week lull in which there was very little new 2016 polling available, but with the holiday season behind us, new numbers are starting to appear.
 
Public Policy Polling, for example, released new results out of New Hampshire this afternoon:
 
1. Donald Trump: 29% (up from 27% a month ago)
2. Marco Rubio: 15% (up from 11%)
3. Christie 11: (up from 10%)
3. Kasich 11: (up from 8%)
5. Bush 10: (up from 5%) 
5. Cruz 10: (down from 13%)
 
The remaining candidates are each below 5%, including Ben Carson, who's support has been cut nearly in half over the last month.
 
There's quite a bit to chew on here, including this little tidbit: this is the first time in the entire election cycle in which a New Hampshire poll -- any New Hampshire poll -- has shown six different candidates reaching double-digit support.
 
To an important degree, this helps Trump a great deal: the more establishment-backed Republicans remain divided, the easier it is for the New York developer to stay on top.

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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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