The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/10/09
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. I enjoyed your final segment very much.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thank you at home for being with us on this unusually nosy Tuesday night.
Senator Joe Lieberman, it turns out, owes Congressman Bart Stupak a fruit basket or something—because thanks to Mr. Stupak, Mr. Lieberman might not be so alone in his efforts to filibuster health care reform to death.
Blackwater has been called out in a bombshell “New York Times” story that has just broken tonight. We‘ve got the latest on that.
And, big, big, big businesses latest crusade against the laws against slavery and child labor. Oh, if only I were making it up. Now, we have to fight the civil war all over again? It‘s a sort of “have to see it to believe it” news day, which makes this a sort of “you have to see it to believe it” news hour.
And we begin with the top Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, announcing that the full Senate will start debating its health reform bill next week. So, clear your calendar. According to Senator Reid, the Senate will pass a bill by Christmas.
Some of the Senate Democrats who will be voting on that bill got a moral boost visit today from former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton returned to the Hill 15 years after his failed effort to reform the health care system. His mission this time was to rally Senate Democrats during their weekly closed-door luncheon.
The prospects of getting health reform passed this year also got a boost in recent days from the renewed support of the American Medical Association. The AMA fully endorsed the House version of the bill that passed over the weekend and it was among the organizations that put itself on record in favor of reform during a Rose Garden event with President Obama last month.
Now, having AMA on the side of comprehensive health reform has been a huge boom for those who are in favor of it. This is the American Medical Association, which is why it‘s causing a bit of a stir. That there‘s an internal debate at an AMA policy meeting in Houston this week over whether or not they will rescind that all-important endorsement.
The “rescind the endorsement” effort is being led by a Louisiana doctor named Donald Palmisano, who is a former president of the AMA. In addition to being a former AMA president, Dr. Palmisano is also the national spokesman for a group called the Coalition to Protect Patients‘ Rights. Coalition to Protect Patients‘ Rights—why does that name sound so familiar?
Oh, OK. Coalition for patients‘ rights, Conservatives for Patients‘ Rights, two different things, both against health reform. Conservatives for Patients‘ Right is another anti-health reform group that‘s run by Rick Scott, former head of a hospital chain, resigned and disgraced after his company got caught defrauding the government. The company had to pay a $1.7 billion fine—billion with the B. That‘s Conservatives for Patients‘ Rights.
This is the other group. This is Coalition to Protect Patients‘ Rights, an extensively grassroots organization that‘s been lobbying aggressively against health reform for months now. On their Web site, they call themselves, quote, “a non-partisan grassroots coalition made up of over 10,000 doctors, health care providers, advocacy groups and concerned citizens.” It‘s just a grassroots coalition, just sprung up organically.
Well, back in July, this grassroots Coalition to Protect Patients‘ Rights held a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. At the time, the press club‘s official Web site listed an organization called the DCI Group as the official sponsor of that event. Well, the DCI Group confirmed to the Web site Think Progress that they were, in fact, coordinating the P.R. for the Coalition to Protect Patients‘ Rights.
What‘s the DCI Group doing the P.R. for this ostensibly organization? Well, the DCI Group is a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying and P.R. firm that represents some very, very, very big-time corporate clients. This year, for example, DCI has been busy lobbying Congress on behalf of the giant oil company, ExxonMobil. DIC has also been doing lots of lobbying work for the U.S. Telecom Association, and specifically, for the big wireless provider, Verizon.
Before forming this lobbying venture, you should know that DCI‘s chairman, CEO, and one of their founding partners all came from the tobacco industry—all have worked for the tobacco giant, R.J. Reynolds.
In the ‘90s, when R.J. Reynolds was trying to defeat restrictions on smoking and new regulations and taxes on the tobacco industry, the soon-to-be DCI executives got to work creating grassroots-ish Smokers‘ Rights Groups. Remember this? R.J. Reynolds hired the company of DCI current CEO to develop a, quote, “network of smokers‘ rights groups and other coalition partners within the region that will speak out on issues important to the company.”
The idea was to draft letters to the editor and bombard local talk radio to make it look like there was all this grassroots support for the tobacco industry. DCI executives took that craft that they projected at R.J. Reynolds with the fake grassroots smokers‘ rights campaigns and they‘ve been applying it to the needs of all sorts of corporate clients ever since.
When the Bush White House, for example, wanted to drum up fake grassroots support for privatizing Social Security back in 2005, they called the group run by DCI.
When corporate clients like Exxon or Microsoft hired DCI to lobby for them, they get DCI‘s fake news Web site which specializes in editorializing for those corporate interests but making it look like legitimate independent news and commentary. For example, “Chemical Ban Will Not Help Kids. Or there‘s this one? “Socializing Medicine in Three Easy Steps.”
It‘s corporate P.R. spin made to look like news, or made to look like grassroots oppositions to smoking bans, or made to look like grassroots opposition to health reform. Except when you spend 15 minutes googling them and it all just falls apart—like something made out of spun sugar in a rainstorm.
Joining us now is MSNBC contributor and “Newsweek” investigative correspondent, Michael Isikoff.
Mr. Isikoff, good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know you‘ve done some reporting on the DCI Group in the past. What can you tell us about other political issues they‘ve been involved in in Washington that we might know about?
ISIKOFF: Well, they‘re sort of a state-of-the-art multidimensional Washington lobbying political firm. One thing that I think you touched on, but they‘ve always had a distinctly political bent. They were very much involved in a group called Progress for America during the 2004 campaign. That was one of these so called 527s, independent advocacy groups that essentially was running ads for the Bush campaign, promoting Bush‘s re-election.
But because it was a 527 and both sides did this, but Progress for America was the big player on the Republican side, there was no disclosure of who was financing the organization, who was contributing. Now, what‘s interesting about those lobbying records, and this is a continuing theme here—you showed they now represent ExxonMobil, Verizon, but you won‘t see any reference to them representing any health care companies or health care interests—because they‘re doing this Coalition to Protect Patients‘ Right as under the rubric of grassroots Astroturf lobbying, they don‘t have to disclose who‘s paying for that.
So, we can presume that some health care companies‘ interests are financing this, but there‘s no disclosure. That‘s, I think, the theme that you get when you look at how DCI Group operates.
MADDOW: And a lot of these groups operate—I feel like all of the Astroturfing reporting we have done runs up against that over and over and over again. As long as they say it‘s grassroots-y and nonprofit, no matter who‘s running it, they don‘t have to disclose it.
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. And I do want to point out, Rachel, both sides do this.
Last year, I wrote about a company called ASK Strategies of Chicago, a public relations firm that happened to be, one of its senior partners was one David Axelrod who said he was never a lobbyist. They organized the company, a grassroots organization called Consumers for Reliable Electricity in Illinois, funded by Commonwealth Edison. But they were able to say, “We‘re not lobbying, we‘re just running this grassroots organization.”
So this is very much a bipartisan phenomenon.
MADDOW: On that, though, I remember that around the time of the Republican National Committee, one of the things that you reported on was that the D.C. –.the head of DCI was going to be running the Republican convention for the Republican Party, and they were able to be tied to some specific lobbying that made them so—made him such a political hot potato that he got fired after he got hired, right?
ISIKOFF: Right, exactly. This is one area where they were forced to disclose and much to their chagrin. John McCain had selected the CEO of DCI Group, Doug Goodyear, to manage the Republican convention last year.
I wrote a story shortly after that, that Doug Goodyear‘s firm, DCI Group, had previously represented the Burmese military junta. They‘ve been hired after George Bush was elected to help the burnish the Burmese junta‘s image. And they ran a public relations campaigning talking about how they were cracking down on the drug trade and how some of the allegations against them were false.
And, of course, the Burmese junta was long known as one of the most authoritarian, anti-democratic regimes in the world, with one of the worst human rights records. It happened to be my story, a rather unfortunate for Douglas Goodyear, because this was right after the 2008 cyclone in Burma where the Burmese junta was keeping out NGOs and outside relief workers. So, I think the timing forced Douglas Goodyear to resign shortly after the story came out.
MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, MSNBC contributor and “Newsweek” investigative correspondent—thank you very much for your time tonight, Mike.
ISIKOFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I should note that we invited the president of the DCI Group to come on the show tonight. Unfortunately, he told us he was unavailable this evening. I‘m also available tomorrow at the same time, and I‘m also available like every weeknight at this time. So, maybe we will yet get a chance to talk.
On the same day that President Obama paid tribute to the victims of the Fort Hood killings today, the top-ranking Republican in the House Intelligence Committee told “The Washington Post” about e-mails that the alleged shooter received from a cleric in Yemen. How did that top Republican know about that and why did he tell that to the paper? And how psyched is that radical cleric now that he‘s learned in “The Washington Post” about his e-mail being monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. That burgeoning scandal is next.
MADDOW: On the eve of Veterans Day, a memorial was held today at Fort Hood for the 12 soldiers and one civilian killed in last Thursday‘s shootings. Nearly 15,000 people gathered to pay their respects, including the first lady and President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a time of war and these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great state and the heart of this great American community. This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And almost exactly at the same time as the president mourned the mass shooting, over 2,000 miles away in Oregon, there was yet another American multiple shooting. This time, it was at a drug testing facility in a Portland, Oregon, office park. The gunman reportedly killed one woman, wounded two other people before turning the gun on himself.
There‘s more to come on the Fort Hood shootings tonight, including some reckless grandstanding on the issue that is embarrassing one top House Republican. We‘ll have details on that when we return.
MADDOW: Details continue to emerge about the alleged Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. As the news media, investigators and the country try to understand what led to this mass murder at Fort Hood, “The Washington Post‘s” Dana Priest reported today on an incident in June 2007 when Major Hasan was supposed to have discussed a medical topic with Army doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He instead gave a presentation recommending that the U.S. military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors from any war that would have them against other Muslims.
And as information about Major Hasan‘s past comes to light by means of legitimate journalism, the top ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, disclosed yet more information to “The Washington Post,” telling the paper that Major Hasan not only sent e-mails to a radical cleric in Yemen but received e-mails back as well. Quote, “For me, the number of times that this guy tried to reach out to the imam was significant. I believe the responses from Awlaki, the cleric, were maybe pretty innocent. But the very fact that he sent e-mails to this guy and got responses would be quite a concern to me.”
Why is it Pete Hoekstra who‘s taking it upon himself to tell the press that this radical cleric was having his e-mails read by U.S. intelligence agencies? The FBI had not said publicly that this cleric had been emailing Hasan. The CIA, the NSA, the White House—nobody else have reported that this cleric had been e-mailing Hasan. This is just Pete Hoekstra letting us know and letting the radical cleric who‘s under surveillance know that he‘s under surveillance.
We called Congressman Hoekstra‘s office today to ask about how he got this information and why he decided to disclose it to the press. They referred us to the spokesman for the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. So, we asked him if there was any concern that Hoekstra‘s one-man disclosure would be a tip-off to the cleric in Yemen that the U.S. had been watching him.
Said Hoekstra‘s office, quote—excuse me, this is not Hoekstra‘s office. this is the Republican staffer for the intelligence committee, excuse me. The staffer told us, quote, “I do not know, guessing since he was deported, he knew he was a target anyways.”
Don‘t know. Guessing it might have been OK. OK, except that according to the 9/11 Commission, the cleric in question was not even deported. He left the U.S. and reportedly went to Yemen on his own accord.
So, the top Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee is telling us that the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is disclosing information about the investigation that no one else is disclosing on the basis of an uninformed guess that maybe that surveillance target maybe already knew he was being watched, but who knows.
Intelligence committee chairman, Silvestre Reyes, is a Democrat, said in a statement today, quote, “I am disappointed that some have rushed to the news media with unfounded information in order to gain headlines. I hope my colleagues will refrain from speculation, pray for those who are affected by this tragic incident, and let investigators do their work.”
Congressman Hoekstra, who you may have heard is running for governor in Michigan, complained all weekend that he, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, had not received briefings on the Fort Hood situation. There was a congressional briefing on Monday.
That very night, Monday night, Congressman Hoekstra went on cable TV news to admit that he was missing it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But tonight, you had a briefing?
REP. PETE HOEKSTRA ®, MICHIGAN: Well, there was a briefing that was given in Washington. And one of the reasons that I wanted to do the briefing on Saturday is that we were in session. We were going to be in session all day on Saturday. We were until, what, about 11:00 Saturday night.
I knew that the House of Representatives was then going to be gone for more than a week. I wanted access to that information before we left town. There was a briefing today but that—there were no House members at that briefing. We‘re out of town.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I am outraged that they did not brief me at a time that would be more convenient for me to run for office in Michigan. I‘m outraged. I‘d like to continue to complain about the timing of the briefing that I left town and didn‘t receive.
Congressman Hoekstra has been trying to burnish his national reputation by using his position on the intelligence committee to exploit intelligence issues for maximum political gain for a long time now. He recently co-authored an opinion piece in “The Washington Times” with “Baby as prop using congressman,” John Shadegg, which said that President Obama is, quote, “at war with the U.S. intelligence community.”
Congressman Hoekstra can allege whatever he wants about the president, but at least, it‘s not the president who‘s trying to score political points by broadcasting to the world, secret information about who the intelligence services have under surveillance.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation” and contributor to the book on Sarah Palin, “Going Rouge.”
Good evening, Chris. Nice to see you.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Good evening. I think that Shadegg‘s granddaughter had a co-byline in that op-ed as well, just FYI.
MADDOW: Maddie knows.
MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) President Obama is war with.
MADDOW: Yes. Chris, Pete Hoekstra is in a privileged position to get access to a lot of classified and very sensitive information because he‘s the senior most Republican on the intelligence committee. What is his reputation on intelligence matters and politics thereof?
HAYES: Yes. His reputation is an epic grandstander. You know, there‘s been a lot of reporting on this over the years, various intelligence issues that have come before the committee. I mean, this is a guy who, in 2006, called a press conference to great fanfare, to announce that the weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, all right?
This is—this is the same person who has accused CIA of lying to him many times and turned around when Nancy Pelosi said the CIA hasn‘t told the truth about torture and interrogation techniques, said that it was just obviously absurd that the CIA would ever lie to Congress. And now, he‘s turning around, saying the executive was withholding information. So, this – this is what he does from his perch in the intelligence committee.
MADDOW: What about the substance of his allegation? That he wanted a briefing—the shooting happened on Thursday, he wanted a briefing on Saturday because he was then going to leave town. And by the time there was a briefing on Monday, he was still outraged because he was campaigning.
HAYES: Well, A, he can fly back. And B, I don‘t understand the rush, honestly. Why—I mean, this—you‘ve seen this take over in the news media as well. But a politician, particularly, the person who perpetrated this very heinous act is still alive. There is no—you know, as for as we know and it seems, and there‘s no outstanding threat. So, there‘s no reason that everybody has to rush to anything.
And that goes for every single dimension of this story, whether it‘s us in the press or whether it‘s politicians. You know, Barack Obama said back, you know, at a press conference (INAUDIBLE), he‘d like to know what he was talking about before he opens his mouth. And I think Pete Hoekstra should probably take that same advice.
MADDOW: In thinking about the overall national response, really the governmental response to what happened on Thursday, are there sort of competing strategies in evidence between the way the administration is handling the Fort Hood shootings and what Congressman Hoekstra is doing? Does this seem to reflect a larger political approach to this tragedy?
HAYES: Well, I think it‘s, you know, I think it‘s partisan grandstanding. I think they want to find something to sort of impugn the current administration.
But I will say this, from a separation of powers perspective and from a disclosure perspective, no matter how bad, you know—to what degree the bad faith that Pete Hoekstra is engaging in, if his partisan incentives are such to press the executives to disclose the maximum amount possible, I think that can be all to the good in the end. I mean, that‘s the kind of role you want Congress playing. You want them to have a slightly adversarial relationship to the executives when you‘re dealing with this kind of intelligence matters.
And so, as sort of grandstanding and demagogic as Pete Hoekstra can be, I still think in the end, you might—you might get a net benefit from it if the administration has to, you know, disclose and say to the public exactly what went wrong where.
MADDOW: There is this argument among members of the intelligence community—members of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate that they want wider briefings.
MADDOW: Not all of them are asking for it but they‘re saying don‘t just brief the “gang of eight,” brief all of us. And implicit in that is their claim that they can be trusted with the information.
MADDOW: If Hoekstra crossed the line here and disclosed the subject of an American surveillance effort by disclosing these emails came from the imam back to Hasan, is it possible that the intelligence communities—the intelligence committees will discipline him for having done that as a way of re-establishing their own credibility?
HAYES: You know, that‘s a really interesting idea. I mean, if you talk to people in the intelligence committee and I tend to be on the side of more congressional oversight, I‘m strongly on the side of that, they‘re also saying—their counterargument, number one is, we cannot trust members of Congress when we tell them things because they go and tell them to the press. So, this sort of—this sort of thing is really, really not helpful if your end goal is to actually have more oversight, which I think, you know, is absolutely necessary.
I think the “gang of eight” system is broken. But to expand past the “gang of eight” system, you‘re going to have to be able to prove that you can, you know, not go running to the press every time you get briefed.
MADDOW: Chris Hayes of “The Nation,” thanks very much for joining us tonight, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Why would the Iraqi government support the continued presence of Blackwater in their country even after the incident in which Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad? News tonight of $1 million in—please don‘t make a big thing of this money—might help explain that long-standing conundrum. “The Nation‘s” Jeremy Scahill joins us for the interview—next.
MADDOW: “The New York Times” is out tonight with a bombshell of an investigative report that reveals plans by the firm Blackwater to bribe its way out of trouble after its employees shot and killed 17 civilians in Baghdad in 2007. In the wake of that shooting and the outrage it provoked against Blackwater, “The New York Times” tonight cites four of the company‘s former executives as saying that the company approved secret bribes of about $1 million to be paid to Iraqi officials to silence their criticism of the company and to allow Blackwater to stay in Iraq. The bribes were reportedly authorized by Blackwater‘s president at that time, Gary Jackson.
One former executive telling “The Times” that when confronted about the scheme, the Blackwater chairman and founder Erik Prince did not dispute that there was a bribery plan.
The bribe money was allegedly intended for officials in Iraq‘s interior ministry. None of the four former executives who spoke with “The Times” say they know whether or not the million bucks was actually delivered to the Iraqi officials. But they say they do know that the cash was sent from the company‘s operational hub in Jordan to a man named Rich Garner, who was then a top Blackwater manager in Iraq, and who still works for the company.
There are a number of ways in which this plan could turn out to be illegal, as “The Times” points out, if Blackwater followed through with the bribes, the company or its officials could face charges of obstruction of justice and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans bribes to foreign officials.
There‘s also the prospect that Blackwater bribing officials to shut up about the shooting might have impeded the American FBI investigation into the shooting. We don‘t know whether or not Blackwater will be held to account for these new allegations if they are proven.
But we do know that a federal grand jury is investigating the company in North Carolina, where the company is headquartered. And one of the former Blackwater executives, who told the “New York Times” about the bribery scheme, says he‘s also given details of that scheme to federal prosecutors.
Joining us now is Jeremy Scahill, reporter for “The Nation” and author of the book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” Jeremy, thanks for coming on the show tonight.
JEREMY SCAHILL, AUTHOR, “BLACKWATER”: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: How big are the legal implications here? Could this revelation result in criminal charges?
SCAHILL: Sure. Let‘s remember here that we are talking about the single worse massacre committed by a private force in Iraq, how that war committed by Blackwater, the Nisoor Square massacre. It was the biggest diplomatic crisis between Washington and Baghdad at the time.
You had the Iraqi government saying that Blackwater was banned from the country, and then suddenly doing an about face, and Blackwater remains in Iraq to this day. So on the issue of criminality here, if you have the FBI going over to conduct the criminal investigation, if you had Blackwater officials attempting to bribe Iraqis, that‘s tantamount to tampering with the federal investigation.
There is a grand jury sitting right now in North Carolina that has reportedly been informed of these allegations by Blackwater officials. Very serious.
MADDOW: On the issue of Iraqi officials changing their tune, we don‘t, of course, know if the bribes were actually paid to Iraqi officials. But you are saying that the Iraqi government, at least some officials in the Iraqi government, did radically change their mind about how badly they wanted Blackwater out of the country.
SCAHILL: Absolutely. And let‘s remember, Blackwater is a company that had with deep political ties to the Bush White House. Eric Prince, the owner of Blackwater has a home in Wyoming where Dick Cheney has one. This was one of the top companies in the Bush administration.
The State Department was always defending Blackwater. So you had a sort of one, two punch where you had Blackwater literally paying hush money to the families - and we know this be a fact - to the families of people that it shot dead.
And the State Department was facilitating this. And on the other hand, you had Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telling Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to stand down.
And that was a big reason why we saw Blackwater there. The issue of criminality comes up as, if there was an additional layer to it, did Blackwater actually pay off Iraqi officials to essentially look the other way and allow the company to remain in the country?
MADDOW: “The Times” story tonight ends with this coda, that Iraq decided this spring to not give Blackwater a license to operate in the country after all, the exact thing the bribes were supposed to protect the company against.
And “The Times” says that the State Department took away Blackwater‘s Iraq contract and gave it to Triple Canopy, which is why I wanted to talk to you. Isn‘t Blackwater still in Iraq?
SCAHILL: Yes. Blackwater has a $200 million contract in Iraq for aviation services. But the State Department confirmed to me that Blackwater is still armed in Iraq indefinitely.
And I should also say, Rachel, Triple Canopy hired former Blackwater guys after that contract, just transferred to Triple Canopy. You know who is guarding Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan right now? Blackwater. You know who guards members of Congress? Blackwater. They have $500 million in contracts in Afghanistan right now, CIA, State Department, Defense Department.
Why is President Obama keeping these guys on the payroll? There‘s never been a company in recent history that made the case that corporations are corrupt, evil organizations than Blackwater.
MADDOW: The lie in Washington has long been that you cannot get rid of this company, can‘t get rid of these firms because we are not capable as a government or as a military of doing what they do without them. What do you make of that?
SCAHILL: You talk to people in the military and they‘ll say that it‘s nonsense. Another way of looking at this is Blackwater knows where a lot of bodies are buried. These are guys who work in the CIA‘s assassination program, the drone bombing campaign.
And regarding all the senior officials, they know a heck of a lot about what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. And those are not guys that you want on the other side of the fence if you are running things in Washington.
MADDOW: Jeremy Scahill, reporter for “The Nation” and author of the book - good job - “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” Thank you for coming on the show tonight, Jeremy. It‘s great to see you. Thank you.
First, Sen. Lieberman stood alone in the Democratic caucus as the one who would filibuster. Now, Sen. Ben Nelson has been Stupak-ified into saying that he, too, would block a vote on a health care reform bill that doesn‘t include something massively anti-abortion like what just passed in the House. Trouble ahead. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Big business is worried about increased regulations, all of them, including the ones against convict, child and slave labor. I kid thee not. Details ahead.
But first, just minutes ago, the commonwealth of Virginia killed John A. Muhammad, the man known as the D.C. sniper. For one month, in the year 2002, Mr. Muhammad and a teenager named Lee Boyd Malvo terrorized the D.C. metro area with a stolen Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle.
The victims were seemingly chosen at random in parking lots, shopping centers and gas stations. By the time the men were caught, they had shot and killed 10 people in the District of Columbia, in Maryland and in Virginia.
The younger man, Mr. Malvo, is currently serving life in prison. Mr. Muhammad, however, was sentenced to death. After the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal yesterday, his attorneys turned to Virginia‘s governor, Tim Kaine, and argued that their client was mentally ill and brain damaged and that he should be spared.
Today, Gov. Kaine refused to grant clemency. Gov. Kaine personally opposes the death penalty, but he campaigned for governor on the promise that he would not stand in the way of executions.
Virginia has the second most prolific death chamber in the country. Only Texas kills more of its prisoners. John A. Muhammad was pronounced dead at 9:11 p.m. Eastern Time this evening.
MADDOW: The draconian anti-abortion amendment in the health reform bill that passed the House, called the Stupak Amendment, after its co-writer, Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan, effectively split House Democrats. And it appears to be doing the same thing to Democrats in the Senate.
Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska has told “Talking Points Memo” that he plans on filibustering health reform if the Senate bill doesn‘t contain something like the Stupak amendment.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California told “The Huffington Post” she thinks that the pro-choice side of the Senate has enough votes that Nelson and other Stupak supporters would ultimately fail. Montana‘s Max Baucus, also a Democrat, agreed. And Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is seeking to clarify her position after saying this on MSNBC yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): We‘re talking about whether or not people that get public money can buy an insurance policy that has any coverage for abortion. And that is not the majority of America. The majority of America is not going to be getting subsidies from the government. And so I‘m not sure that this is going to be enough to kill the bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some 12 or so hours after those comments, the senator tweeted, quote, “Oppose Stupak. Don‘t think we should change current law which is no public money for abortions, but amendment goes too far, limiting private funds, too.”
Then, a couple hours after that, she tweeted again, quote, “Asked this morning my opinion on whether Stupak amendment would kill the bill (said probably no) and not asked my opinion of the amendment. I‘m opposed.”
Our producer spoke with Sen. McCaskill‘s office today to further clarify. They said the senator is firmly opposed to the Stupak amendment. But they said if she had to choose whether or not to vote for a bill that contained an amendment like that in the Senate, well, she would have to wait and see.
And finally, do you see the screen behind me? That‘s what it looks like in much of Brazil right now. Black. Power is out in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, cities with a combined population of oh, 18 million people, roughly the equivalent of New York City and greater Los Angeles combined.
There‘s no word as to when power might be restored. But Brazilian news media are reporting that there were unspecified problems at a huge hydroelectric power plant on Brazil‘s border with Paraguay.
This gigantic 18 million strong fail comes three days after the CBS program “60 Minutes” reported that several previous power outages in Brazil were actually caused by hackers.
Authorities there downplayed the “60 Minutes” report after it aired. And tonight, they are sitting in the dark. It‘s our sincere hope that everything winds up OK there. It is yet another reminder that infrastructure matters.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party looks for meaning in the political minority, a path out of the political wilderness, the conservative tea party movement on the party‘s fringe is experiencing its own internal split skadoodles.
A day after reporting there that an official tea party had registered itself over the summer in Florida, Ben Smith of “Politico” now says he is getting E-mails from other tea partiers who say there‘s no such thing as a state tea party or a national tea party for that matter.
The vice president of the Ft. Walton Tea Party writing to Ben, quote, “We are a group of independents and people are trying to hijack it. It undermines the whole concept.”
It sort of has a point. When you are antiestablishment, establishing yourself kind of defeats the whole concept, right? Good luck working that out, you guys.
MADDOW: Last week, a miracle happened on Capitol Hill. A huge problem for the country, a multi-trillion dollar problem for the country was pointed out, diagnosed and prescribed treatment in a bill that was exactly two pages long. Two.
It was by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. It was called the “Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act.” And it said the government has to disclose which financial institutions it considers too big to fail, institutions that we think we have to bail out to save ourselves if they got into trouble, but then, gives the government a year to break those institutions up, quote, “so that their failure would no longer cause a catastrophic effect on the United States or global economy without a taxpayer bailout.”
So in just two pages, even with really big print. Look, there‘s your problem, identified, diagnosed and treated. Let‘s make it so a few giant corporations can‘t have our whole economy in a stranglehold anymore. Then, we won‘t feel like we‘ve got to use tax dollars to prop them up like some poor shopkeeper paying protection money to the mob.
That little two-page bill make as lot of sense to me, probably way too much to actually get very far on Capitol Hill. Today, the big proposal for how to fix Wall Street and the financial system so the economy doesn‘t meltdown again the way it did last year finally got introduced in the Senate.
Barney Frank already introduced the House version. Now, Chris Dodd has introduced it in the Senate. And the bill does give the government the power to break up institutions that are too big to fail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT): We will end, for all time, I hope, “too big to fail.” Those words should only be used again in historical context. We cannot allow the collapse of a few firms to threaten the entire economy of our own nation and others around the globe for that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The new rules for Wall Street and the banks will also create a consumer financial protection agency. So in the same way that regulation keeps off the market things that, when used as directed, have a good chance of killing you, things like long darts, or cars with the fuel tank right next to the bumper.
A consumer financial protection agency would keep off the markets, say, really bad mortgages that, when used as directed, are likely to blow up in your face as well. Are these bills from Barney Frank and Chris Dodd the end-all, be-all for Wall Street rules? Will these prevent the shunting of all the financial risk on to the public while those doing the shunting never personally risk anything more than drowning in their own bonus money?
I don‘t know. Surely, these bills aren‘t perfect, but they are a start. And so, of course, the opposition is already lined up and ready to do anything they can to protect themselves and their profits and their profligate risk from any new constraints.
You know, since the last period of them not having rules worked so well for them. The “New York Times” today noting that even before the new regulation bill was unveiled today, quote, “It had encountered sharp resistance from Republicans and powerful business interests in Washington. Mr. Dodd has yet to produce the Republican who supports his plan. Moreover, several provisions will probably be opposed by moderate and conservative Democrats with ties to various industry groups that have raised objections to the measure.”
Even though the country just barely survived the disaster that the financial industry got us into, I supposed that it‘s inevitable that that industry would even now fight new regulations designed to stop that from happening again.
But as Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress start lining up with corporate America and against new regulations now, consider the alliance that they are making.
Populist columnist David Sirota today made this catch from the business newsletter “Inside U.S. Trade.” This is a D.C.-based publication on trade issues. It‘s especially for people in international business.
What else are business groups worried about and lobbying against other than the new Wall Street regulations? I wouldn‘t believe this if I had not seen it for myself.
But check this out, quote, “Business groups are worried by the potential effects of provisions banning the import of all goods made with convict labor, forced labor or forced or indentured child labor that were included in a recent customs bill. American business groups are concerned, upset.” “Worried” was the actual phrase, worried about laws against using slaves and child labor.
Quote, “Business sources say the bill could cause DHS to more actively seek out imported products made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor.”
Oh, no. How will the corporations save themselves from that onerous rule that you can‘t use slaves and prisoners and children to make your products if you want to sell that product in the United States? Darn that liberal red tape.
Quote, “Sources conceded that this was a sensitive issue because industry groups do not want to be seen as opposing strict measures guarding against human rights abuses. However, one source did expect a push from lobbyists closer to the finance committee mark-up of the bill.”
Wow. I‘m guessing that business interests are OK with something like this being discussed in a subscriber-only industry newsletter publication like “Inside U.S. Trade.” I‘m guessing they might not want to let it become widely known that they are lobbying to stop rules against slavery.
But actually, you never know. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think-tank that is very high profile in Washington and that maintains all sorts of Web sites and educational public venues to promote their ideas.
And on the Heritage Foundation‘s “Overcriminalized” blog, the Heritage Foundation, too, singles out the Child Labor Safety Act, which levies fines and jail time for companies using child labor as an example of what they call “trivial conduct that is now often punished as a crime.”
I mean honestly, “Kids these days. In my day, you would be delighted to be chained to the loom for a few pennies a day.” For the record, the Heritage Foundation also singles out Neil Abercrombie‘s bill against war profiteering as another example of making something trivial into a criminal matter.
Business interests and their think-tank friends on the right have every right to lobby on anything they want to. Think that Wall Street, despite almost destroying the whole economy of the United States should be left to its own devices again? Go ahead, make your case. I would love to hear it.
You think that child labor and slave labor and forced convict labor are cheap and therefore cool with you? Go ahead, make your case. I would love to hear it.
But unless you‘re going to make your case for things like that in total secrecy, know that the case against you is there to be made, too and that that will apply to any member of Congress who sides with you as well, you child labor-endorsing, pro-slavery freaks.
MADDOW: We turn now to our embattled beauties correspondent, a man who embodies the whole concept himself, Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: I certainly do. Hi, Rachel. Well, Carrie Prejean has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since coming out against opposite marriage.
MADDOW: No, for opposite marriage. Against -
JONES: For opposite - yes, yes. Well, anyway, we haven‘t her side of it - oh, but until now. And I am proud to present a reading from this book, “Still Standing” by Carrie Prejean.
MADDOW: Oh god.
JONES: Here we are -
PEREZ HILTON, CELEBRITY BLOGGER: Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?
JONES (on camera): “I was being dared in front of the entire world to give a candid answer to a serious question. I knew that if I told the truth, I would lose all that I was competing for - the crown, the luxury apartment in New York City, the large salary - everything that went with the Miss USA title.”
“And suddenly it hit me that the long months of planning dieting, exercising and practicing were on the verge of paying off. If I won, I would become Miss USA, headed for the 58th Miss Universe pageant in Nassau, Bahamas. I would be America‘s girl at the most popular and most watched beauty pageant in the world.”
“Even if I only won Miss USA it would be a platform for national exposure. It would help me land my dream job as an on-air sports journalist on a national network. But even if I looked confident as I walked toward my goal across that state, inside I was thinking, “What if I trip over my heels or give a painfully inarticulate answer?”
“This evening in Las Vegas was my chance to fall flat on my fanny in front of the whole world. I squared my shoulders. ‘Miss Universe, Carrie,‘ I told myself, ‘You got this.‘ I knew if I saw it and felt it, that dream could become reality.”
CARRIE PREJEAN, FORMER MISS CALIFORNIA: We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what? In my country and in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.
MADDOW: In my country.
JONES: Yes. All of that, by the way, is in here.
MADDOW: I was just going to ask you how long it took you to make all of that up.
JONES: No, this long. It‘s all in here.
JONES: Yes. It‘s all real.
MADDOW: I have to say - I don‘t mean any disrespect for this, but it doesn‘t make me feel like I need to read more.
JONES: Yes. I‘ll let you know. I‘ll skim it.
MADDOW: I‘ve got this sort of nutshell, if you know what I mean about that.
JONES: I think you‘re right there.
MADDOW: Well, God bless her. It‘s a shame she doesn‘t have free speech rights anymore.
JONES: I know. I know.
MADDOW: I know. Even those have been taken away from her.
JONES: They took them away.
MADDOW: Cocktail moment for you briefly. Found something that could not be more (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Carrie Prejean. A lot more, which is that a 96-year-old British woman named Mona Webster has just passed away. And she has left her fortune in her will to American opera and British birds.
She‘s a British lady. She‘s given $7.5 million to the Met - Metropolitan Opera in New York and $7.5 million to the Wild Fowl and Wetlands Trust, British bird charity. Only $167,000 to British opera.
MADDOW: She‘s got her favorites.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or
other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>