The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/26/10
CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks so much for that throw.
I am indeed Chris Hayes, here to carry on for Rachel, who has the night off.
Among the other things tonight, there is news about the political nihilism of the Republican Party. 2011 could just make you pine for 1995.
The BP oil disaster did nothing for the new energy bill, but President Obama could do a whole lot with the few strokes of a pen.
And THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW uses a prop in order to explain the total ridiculousness of fiscal conservatives favoring the Bush tax cuts. The prop is a huge chocolate cake. If nothing else, stay for the cake.
But we begin tonight with, what else, the largest leak of wartime documents in this country since the Vietnam War—more than 90,000 U.S. government documents obtained and posted by the Web site WikiLeaks over the weekend. The last time classified information of this volume regarding an ongoing war was published, it precipitated a full-on war between “The New York Times” and the Nixon White House. It was, of course, the leaking of the Pentagon papers during the Vietnam War by U.S. military analyst named Daniel Ellsberg back in 1971.
The Pentagon papers episode was one of the touchstones in the history of the war that helped turn the public against Vietnam War.
The 90,000-plus documents posted by WikiLeaks this weekend are different from the Pentagon papers in so far as they are set of discreet and granular snap shots of the war over the last six years, as opposed to a top-down study of the war initiated in Washington. The WikiLeaks documents are raw intelligence, incident reports, threat analysis as seen through the eyes of the soldier fighting the war—as opposed an analytical view of the war from policymakers. So, in that sense, WikiLeaks is no Pentagon papers.
But there is a glaring parallel between the two that can‘t be ignored.
These WikiLeaks documents have been notable in that they essentially
confirm all of the major points of criticism of the Afghanistan war effort
that elements of the Pakistani government are, too, in varying degrees, in cahoots with the Taliban, that a local Afghan government is loathed and corrupt, that our efforts at smiting the Taliban often lead to horrific instances of civilian casualties, and the money spent on nation-building often ends up lining the pockets of warlords and profiteers.
Those have really been the main critics of this war effort. And they‘re all essentially substantiated in these new documents.
Now, the significance of the Pentagon papers was that they demonstrated that within the U.S. government, there was an analysis of the Vietnam War‘s feelings that precisely echoed exactly what the war‘s critics were saying on the outside. And they were leaked at a team when the White House was attempting to ostracize and marginalize the war‘s critics as just a bunch of flag-burning hippies. They helped transform the anti-war protesters critique into something with a tremendous amount of gravitas.
These WikiLeaks documents threaten to do the same thing with the Afghanistan war. They essentially validate and mainstream the concerns of the war‘s staunchest critics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: It‘s clear that it will shape an understanding of what the past six years of war has been like and that the course of the war needs to change, the manner in which it needs to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining us now from London is Declan Walsh. He‘s “The Guardian” newspaper‘s foreign correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was among the reporters who was given access to these documents before they were released to the public.
Declan, thanks so much for joining us tonight. I know it‘s late in London. So, I really appreciate it.
DECLAN WALSH, THE GUARDIAN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: No problem. My pleasure.
HAYES: I guess the first question is since you did have a jump-start on looking through these documents—what surprised you most, what kind of jumped out at you as you were reviewing them prior to today?
WALSH: The most striking thing was the profusion of reports that referenced Pakistan‘s intelligence service, the service intelligence. There are 180 reports within this dossier which carry a range of allegations saying basically that Pakistan has been manipulating the insurgency, has been supplying them with weapons, with suicide bombers, with money and over the last six—over the six-year period, between 2004 and 2009. And this really, you know—it‘s very difficult to stand up a lot of the allegation that are made in these reports, which are, of course, ground level intelligence reports, and—but they do raise a lot of questions about what the role of Pakistan is in this war.
How this is going to play out between America and Pakistan remains to be seen. I think, you know, this has been a very rocky relationship for several years now. And I think both sides, to some degree, have learned to live with their differences, because the truth of the matter is that the U.S. and Pakistan have different objectives in Afghanistan, and those differing objectives do sometimes clash.
HAYES: I wonder how you would respond. There‘s a certain group of people in the U.S., particularly, who seem to be saying essentially there‘s nothing new contained in these documents. This is essentially old news, but that it confirms a set of critiques that have already existed. It is very similar to the contours of many of the arguments that were made about what‘s wrong with the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
Do you think that‘s a fairly accurate picture, or do you think that misses it?
WALSH: I think, broadly speaking, that‘s probably a fairer picture. I mean, there are a number of, you know, important elements that have come out of this, the ISI element. There have been files that, for instance, have shown that the Taliban have had a greater capacity to shoot down western aircraft to using surface-to-air missiles than what‘s previously. So, that‘s something we didn‘t know.
And for me, really, one of the most valuable things in this exercise is the very unvarnished, you know, gritty, on-the-ground picture of the fighting that you get. You know, in many of these reports, you very much get the sense of the soldiers on the ground grappling with very difficult situations, you know, which often have very tragic outcomes, unfortunately.
I mean, there are a lot of reports in here about civilian casualties -
something that we tend to know about in terms of statistics because these things often happen in remote areas where there‘s no reporting. And these
and sort of dispatchers that you se here from the soldiers actually bring it to life and tell you about the small tragedies, you know, that make the chaos of the war in Afghanistan and that also have a very significant impact on Afghan perceptions of this war and why they think it‘s going wrong.
HAYES: Declan Walsh, foreign correspondent for “The Guardian” newspaper—thank you so much for your time tonight.
WALSH: My pleasure.
HAYES: So, if you are the Obama administration and you‘ve just been informed of this massive leak of government documents, how do you respond? Well, you respond, first, of course, by condemning the leak. That‘s what White Houses do—but then by trying to minimize the important and ultimate impact of these documents. The way the Obama administration has chosen to do that is to stress that these documents are totally outdated, that they‘re years old.
The first response from the administration came from national security advisor, General Jim Jones. He released a statement that read, in part, quote, “The documents posted by WikiLeaks reportedly cover a period of time from January 2004 to December 2009. On December 1st, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years.”
That sentiment that this is old news was echoed today by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In terms of broad revelations, there aren‘t any that we see of these documents. And let‘s understand this—when you talk about the way the war is going in Afghanistan, the documents purportedly cover from January—I think January of 2004 to December of 2009. When the president came into office in 2009, he, in the first few months, ordered an increase in the number of our troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: A little later in the day, the State Department made sure to hit on the same note, quote, “These are in many cases documents that are several years old.”
Ditto Democratic chairman of the Housed Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, quote, “It is critical that we not use outdated reports to paint a picture of the cooperation of Pakistan in our efforts in Afghanistan. These leaked reports pre-date our new strategy in Afghanistan.”
In the past 24 hours or so, it‘s been a full frontal unified P.R. effort from those in power to try to downplay these documents, to say this is all in the past. This is why we decided to change strategy. Everything is new now. These documents don‘t reflect the current reality on the ground.
That‘s what the administration and the administration supporters in Congress have tried to do—to say essentially these documents don‘t matter that much.
The problem with that argument is evident in dispatches coming from the ground in Afghanistan, not in 2004 or ‘05 or ‘06, but right now. Earlier this month, of course, Rachel traveled to Afghanistan and laid out a number of on-the-ground challenges that exist there, challenges that are echoed in these year-old WikiLeaks documents—like, for instance, making sure that U.S. money winds up in the right hands or making sure that local government officials and police aren‘t seen as feckless and corrupt. Those are the challenges in 2010, not 2004.
So, the question is: how much does Afghanistan right now exhibit all the structural problems that surfaced in these documents?
Joining us now is independent journalist with Big Noise Films, Rick Rowley. He just returned from a six-week trip to Afghanistan where he‘s embedded with a Marine division in Marjah.
Rick, thanks so much for your time today.
RICK ROWLEY, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: It‘s great to be here.
HAYES: So, obviously, you‘ve seen all the pushback from the White House, and I guess the first question is: is it different? I mean, you‘ve gone to Afghanistan several times, I think, over a period of time.
HAYES: Are the main things that we see surfacing in the documents, are those really stories of the past, and everything is different now? Or is there a lot of resonance?
ROWLEY: Well, I mean, first of all, we need to look at how shocking that is to say that this is—the fact that it‘s old news means it‘s irrelevant.
These documents prove that the U.S. military has been whitewashing the war since the beginning. They have covered up civilian casualties. They have covered up successful insurgent attacks and downplayed their significance, and they have covered up the violent criminality of the security forces that we‘ve created that are preying on the civilian population and turning civilian population against us.
But, you know, that also being said, the situation on the ground that I saw in Marjah was an Obama surge that had been completely derailed. The administration‘s line right now is that these documents are from Bush‘s war. Obama‘s war began 1st of December.
Well, Marjah was supposed to be the poster child of the point of impact for Obama surge, for the new Obama war, and it has proven to be what General McChrystal called it in one of his more candid moments, “a bleeding ulcer.” There are two Marine battalions there that have been pinned down for months. They‘re unable to bring security.
We can‘t—when I was embedded with the Marines—we couldn‘t take roads with vehicles. We couldn‘t even walk on foot paths because of all of the IEDs and roadside bombs. We walked through the middle of the fields, and once you got between one and three kilometers outside of the radius of a forward operating base, we came under fire. People were taking contact every day. That‘s on the military side.
The political side is even worse. The—General McChrystal talked—hyped a lot the government in a box that was supposed to roll out.
ROWLEY: This is the centerpiece of counterinsurgency, that the Marines come in and clear and then we move in with a civilian administration to fill the gap and build the government there. Well, the entire government in a box failed to deploy. It deserted.
There was supposed to be from the mayor down to one imagine, secretaries, trash collectors, whatever, assembled in Kabul. None of them came to Marjah except for the mayor. A man named Haji Zahir, who is an Afghan expat who lived in Germany for years, went to jail for five years in Germany for attempted murder. That‘s the man who we chose to be the mayor of Marjah, and his role is confined to being helicoptered in by the Marines to sit in front of a meeting and helicoptered out when it‘s over.
HAYES: You mentioned the security forces. And one of the—one of the documents I saw today that was really stunning to me was an incident report about basically the Afghan security forces and the national police getting into a firefight with each other.
How kind of endemic is this kind of turf warfare, actually open arm combat, how reliable are these two different national forces that are being trained?
ROWLEY: Well, I mean, as problematic and awful as that engagement is, it would be great in it were that simple, if it was just the police against the army. But it‘s not. It‘s the police and the army and a half a dozen other kinds of armed forces that are all organized around different sorts of loyalties. There‘s—we made a peace about a tribal militia that was formed, the Shinwari, in eastern Afghanistan, where—with disastrous effects. The U.S. military gave $1 million in aid to support a tribe that said it was going to fight the Taliban, but then turns around and opposes the governor of the province.
There‘s AP3, the Afghan Public Protection Forces, which are local militias under another initiative that they‘re creating in Afghanistan. There‘s local warlords who, like the General Dostum in the north, who operated under completely different terms, who‘s now become the chief of staff of the army.
So, it‘s a complete mess. We‘re arming everybody. Anybody who says they‘re going to fight against the Taliban is being armed, and they all have different allegiances.
HAYES: I guess the final thing I want to ask here is about this—the civilian casualties that are revealed, and, obviously, that has been reported, but it doesn‘t—isn‘t hit home. I wonder to the degree to which that aspect of it—what the impact? I mean, it‘s a sort of a simple question, but it would seem like that is a huge part of why many Afghanis are probably not super-psyched about the American involvement there.
ROWLEY: Yes. It‘s a huge point. I mean, actually, we—when I was there on Nangarhar province, on an earlier trip this year, we arrived the day after a Special Forces raid hit a small compound. The press release that came out of the U.S. military said five Taliban killed, two captured. We arrived and we found an entire farm family, all the male members of the farm family buried—from the father down to a 7-year-old child. Everyone in the neighborhood said that these guys were just farmers. The two people who were captured were just farmers.
A riot ensued where they marched down to the police headquarters and tried to burn it down. They broke the windows. They smashed it up. The next day, the military released the two prisoners without comment, without charge, without any explanation.
So, materially, on the ground, not only is it—is it a humanitarian crisis that civilians are dying, but it‘s undermining the war effort at every turn.
HAYES: Ron Rowley, independent journalist just back from Afghanistan
I really appreciate you coming in tonight.
ROWLEY: It‘s great to be here. Thanks.
HAYES: Thanks a lot.
Today‘s gigantic historic leak about the Afghanistan war may or may not change the course of the world, but it almost certainly changes the course of news and information—the enormity of WikiLeaks with Boingboing.net‘s Xeni Jardin is next.
And later, what will the Republicans do if they take the House in the fall elections? One more word: revenge. OK, one more word: impeachment.
HAYES: Under the heading “Massive Classified Military Document Leak,” there are actually two incredible and important stories battling for your attention today.
The first is, of course, the story of the substance of the leak—precisely, what can be found in those 90,000-plus documents obtained and posted by the Web site WikiLeaks.
But the second story is a story of WikiLeaks itself. The story, exactly, how and by whom all this classified information about the war in Afghanistan was revealed. It‘s both a fascinate and really super important story because WikiLeaks is trying and—at least to some degree—succeeding in transforming the way journalism works and what freedom of the press means in the most practical terms.
Let‘s start with what it is. WikiLeaks is essentially the first-ever stateless news organization. It operates by using in the deepest possible sense the “nowhereness” of the Internet to wage battle against the secrecy that is so central to how governments and companies all over the world operate. The site was launched in December of 2006 by this guy, Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, who describes it as, quote, “an uncensorable system of untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis.”
The classified Afghanistan war documents published this weekend are just the latest in a series of explosive posts that have raised the profile of WikiLeaks.
Last year, the site published the so-called “climate-gate memos,” a series of emails in which British climate scientists were caught talking smack about climate change deniers.
And in April of this year, WikiLeaks obtain and posted this now infamous video showing a 2007 U.S. air strike in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Iraqis who were working for “Reuters.” Incidentally, “Reuters” had been trying for years to get a copy of the video through the Freedom of Information Act, when WikiLeaks posted it to the Internet under the title “Collateral Murder.”
In other words, because of what Julian Assange is doing—something like journalism, but deliberately not exactly journalism—we are living right now in a transformative moment. How journalism works, how freedom of the press works, and how governments all over the world are held accountable could all changes in months and years ahead because of what‘s going on right this moment at WikiLeaks.org.
Joining us now is Xeni Jardin, co-editor of Boingboing.net.
Xeni, thanks so much for your time tonight.
XENI JARDIN, BOINGBOING.NET: My pleasure, Chris.
HAYES: You guys have you written a lot about WikiLeaks, obviously, on Boingboing, and I know you have been in touch with them today. So, I first want to ask: what—what you learn from them today?
JARDIN: So, I spoke with a representative of WikiLeaks who is in Europe, and they told me that these last 15,000 documents—there‘s been a lot of speculation about when they‘ll be released and what they‘ll contain. I know that some journalists have speculated that they might contain information related to the war in Iraq.
I just got an e-mail 10 seconds ago that says that these relate to Afghanistan as well, but they‘re taking time to redact names and specifics that could increase security risks. They‘re basically doing this in an effort to be as responsible as possible.
HAYES: Responsibility is kind of a fascinating question in this context, right, because when you had—you know, when you had the Pentagon papers, you know, the White House went crazy, that “The Times” published it. But “The Times” had a relationship with them. They went to them. In this case, “The Times” had a meeting at the White House, we know, when it was—it was reporting on the documents WikiLeaks had given them.
WikiLeaks has no such institutional or national affiliation, and so, there is both kind of a radical openness, but I think maybe some concerns about, you know, damaging or information that comes out, names of frontline soldiers that could really endanger lives. How much of an effort do you see from them in trying to, as you said, be responsible. What does that mean?
JARDIN: I think the first thing to remember is that this tension that you‘re talking about between the government, between the military, and the press is not something that started today with this disclosure by WikiLeaks. This is something that‘s been going for decades.
What we‘re seeing now, though, it really strikes me that this is like what Napster did to the entertainment industry. It‘s like what BitTorrent did to the movie industry. WikiLeaks represents a sort of tipping point in control, in secrecy, in the dominance of institutions that we‘ve known for generations over the control of the flow of information about what‘s happening with war—a war that we‘re paying for, you know?
This is so much bigger than Julian Assange. It‘s so much bigger than WikiLeaks. It‘s interesting to see so much of the discussion focus on these guys. But what we‘re talking about is one of many possible organizations that could spring up to perform this kind of service.
HAYES: Yes. And I should note that this is all taking place against the context of a massive explosion in the amount of classified documents since 9/11. So, there‘s been—while this is happening at one end, while this WikiLeaks is one tool, there‘s also this massive move by the state to bring things more under this sort of secret protective curtain.
But I do wonder, I think, you know, Assange sort of reminds me, the WikiLeaks operation, of Ben Kingsley in “Sneakers.” Remember this kind of like, sort of like radical vision of openness. And I do—you know, this is the same group that published Sarah Palin‘s emails; they published, obviously, the stuff that came out of East Anglia with climate change.
I do wonder, you know, if there is a certain amount of power that that confers, and it‘s one thing to get documents about a state that‘s waging a war—and I agree this is kind of remarkable. It‘s another when those are the private emails of someone. And, you know, I wonder ultimately to whom WikiLeaks ends up being accountable.
JARDIN: Well, it‘s possible for anybody to publish secrets online. The difference here is that WikiLeaks has a big platform that a lot of people are paying attention to. I don‘t think they realized how powerful they were. I think, over the past six months or so, we‘ve seen them grow up in some important respects. They‘ve certainly applied some restraint in releasing this material, or so the statements would lead us to believe.
I think—for me, what‘s most interesting and most concerning about where this story goes from here is what kind of backlash we‘re going to see.
JARDIN: The government, big institutions wanting to crack down on leaks like this in ways we have never seen before.
HAYES: Xeni Jardin, editor of the famous Boingboing.net—thank you so much for joining us.
JARDIN: It‘s my pleasure, Chris.
HAYES: If Republicans regain the House this fall, they have two choices. One, embark on an ambitious slate of legislation to improve the lives of Americans they have been elected by—or to throw the kitchen sink, the dish washer, the slap chop, and all the sauce pans in an effort to impeach President Obama. Why I think Republicans are going to go ugly. That‘s next.
HAYES: Big election news today, folks—Tom Tancredo news. Last week, former failed presidential candidate and current upsetter of apple carts, Mr. Tancredo, issued an ultimatum to two Republicans running in the Colorado gubernatorial primary: Get out or get Tancredoed.
He demanded that by Monday at noon, both candidates promise to drop out of the race after the primary, after one of them has already won. And if they refuse, Tom Tancredo threatened run as a third party candidate on the American Constitution Party ticket.
Well, Monday at noon has come and gone. No one is dropping out, and Tom Tancredo has made good on his promise.
Tom Tancredo, of course, is the anti-immigrant candidate. He is the “Bomb Mecca” candidate, but perhaps most hilariously, he‘s also the “impeach Obama” candidate. For reasons that are as inexplicable as they are lackey, Mr. Tancredo thinks President Obama should be impeached.
And though Tom Tancredo‘s name will not have an “R” next to it on the ballot, if he makes it that far, it is increasingly clear the Republican governing strategy should the party win back one or both houses of Congress this fall can best be described as Clinton era-esque and then some.
Republicans in the House and Senate wrote a letter late last week to the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee demanding an investigation into the Justice Department‘s decision to not pursue a voter fraud case involving the New Black Panther Party.
They want a full and complete investigation into this outrageous decision by the Obama administration not to pursue criminal charges, just like the Bush administration. But that‘s not the point.
The point is this tactic works. Investigators are now looking into the case which is described by one of those investigators, thusly, quote, “This has to do with their,” meaning Republicans, “fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the Obama administration. My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion that they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president.”
That‘s right. She said fellow conservatives. She‘s a conservative, the Bush administration appointee, and she‘s calling this a witch hunt. But it is Republican Congressman Darrell Issa who has really spearheaded this part of the Republican governing strategy since Obama took office.
He has played all the songs in the Republican greatest hits collection. He‘s requested a special prosecutor to investigate the White House. He demanded travel documents from the administration.
He has promised that if Republicans take back the House this fall, he will practically double his team of investigators capable of issuing subpoenas.
Remember how awesome the Clinton years were? The $2 million Arkansas project launched by a conservative magazine to take President Clinton down - Whitewater, Ken star, Trooper-gate? The conspiracy theory that President Clinton was running drugs out of an airstrip in Arkansas?
Yes, the bad old days. And who could forget Republican Congressman Dan Burton shooting a watermelon in his backyard to prove that an administration official could not have committed suicide.
This is the governing strategy Republicans want to return to if they win back the majority this November. But you don‘t have to take my word for it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): I think all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, Congressional oversight is good for democracy. It is crucial, in fact. And when Darrell Issa demanded treasury release documents related to the bailout of AIG, I cheered. But oversight and witch hunts are two very, very different things.
And the Republican Party today is way more influenced by its kook-end fringe than it was during the days of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, hard as that may be to believe. So if you like the impeach, investigate, subpoena approach of the 1990s, which slowed and/or stopped the function of the government, then no need to hop about into your own hot tub time machine.
Just watch what we‘re in for if the GOP regains Congress in the midterms. I guarantee you it will actually make you miss Ken Starr.
HAYES: By this time tomorrow, the Senate should finally have their hands on an energy bill, an energy bill already gutted by the Democrats of any truly comprehensive effort to curb greenhouse emissions.
Thanks to perpetual Republican opposition, even a scaled-back attempt, some kind of cap on carbon, is off the table. Instead, the bill will focus on just four main areas - liability for oil spills, including raising the liability cap to $10 billion, promoting natural gas, including incentives of about $4 billion for trucks that run on natural gas, energy efficiency with $5 billion going towards incentives for retro fitting homes to be more energy efficient, and green jobs.
That‘s it. That‘s the core of the energy bill. OK, great. Now, there‘s good news and bad news here. OK, well, there‘s really mostly bad news, which is that a coalition of denialist Republicans and cowardly Democrats have watered down vital legislation to the consistency of consomme.
But there is some good news. We want to deliver the hope here where there is, at least, the possibility of action, even with the Senate locked in its current straight jacket of dysfunction.
The president doesn‘t even need the Senate in order to do something truly far-reaching about our dependence on fossil fuel. As Christian Parenti reports in the current issue of “The Nation” magazine, all he actually needs is a pen. Christian Parenti is joining us now. Hey, Christian.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, “THE NATION”: Hello, Chris.
HAYES: How are you doing?
PARENTI: Good. Thanks for having me on.
HAYES: So explain to me how this works. You call it the big green buy. What is it?
PARENTI: Well, the government - state, federal and local - in the United States is about 38 percent of the U.S. economy. So the issue in making a transition from fossil fuels to clean technology, at the heart of it, is a question of the price of clean technology.
Right now, it‘s a little too expensive, so there is a price gap between this new technology and older technology. How does this price gap be eliminated? Maybe there‘s legislation, whatever. Whatever. An easier way would be for the federal government to use the power of the purse to transform the way it is already purchasing energy, buildings, vehicles, to buy clean technology.
The federal government is the largest consumer of energy in the world. It has the largest vehicle fleets in the world. It has a huge stock of buildings. And luckily, Obama, in October of last year, signed an executive order that stipulated that government agencies should, in fact, begin to purchase green power and clean technology and come up with plans for doing this.
There have been a lot of previous executive orders of this sort, but this one included actual targets on reducing the carbon footprint of the federal government. So this would be a good thing in and of itself. But what it will do is it will create economies of scale for this new technology like electric vehicles, for example.
HAYES: Yes. Let‘s talk about that, because in practical terms, you tell the one story of this company that‘s making electric trucks. And they talk about having to order parts, you know, 10 at a time. What would it mean for them if they got an order of, you know, 500 trucks from the government?
PARENTI: It would mean that they could reduce costs between 30 percent and 40 percent on these different components, because what they do is they put electric motors into - on to chassis and - you know, they have to buy wheel chassis, wire harnesses from the automotive supply chain in general.
And buying in bulk reduces your costs. And one of the key things that have to come down in cost are batteries. So there are a lot of ways in which the federal government could expand the use of electric vehicles.
The post office is one of them - 150,000 vehicles, all of which travel basically in 20-mile loops every day, park in the same place every night, perfect for electrification. There‘s really no reason the post office should ever buy another gas postal vehicle, except for the long haul trucks, until batteries are up to speed on that.
HAYES: You know, one of the things that‘s so interesting in the article is you talk about this sort of gap in financing. You know, everyone wants to talk about innovation, but what ends up happening is that we get innovation, and then what happens after that? That second stage - what is the problem there in terms of financing?
HAYES: Developers of clean technology call it the valley of death, so there‘s a lot of capital. Frequently, it‘s government subsidies, to create new technology. This is not just for clean technology. This is for cell phones and flat-screen TVs, to develop - to invent the gadget.
And then, once some sort of gadget has been proven in the market and is profitable, there‘s usually lots of money in the capital markets to buy that company and keep selling the thing.
But in between is the valley of death where there‘s a dearth of capital to get from victory in the lap to victory in the market. So the federal government could help cross that by becoming the main purchaser of clean technology.
And we have to remember that this is how a lot of high-tech has achieved mass market penetration is because the federal government not only paid for the early R and D, but also was frequently the first or second generation consumer.
So another thing that could happen would be for the federal government to create a green bank which would primarily provide loan guarantees to essentially insurance for the frightened private markets to come in and fund companies that are trying to bring new battery technology, in case of vehicles or, you know, storage batteries‘ capacity for storing energy, smart grid technology - all that sort of stuff.
HAYES: Great. Everyone should check out that article, “The Big Green Buy” in “The Nation” by Christian Parenti, who I‘m proud to say is my colleague at “The Nation” magazine.
PARENTI: Thank you very much.
HAYES: Thanks a lot for coming by. Whatever you think the righteous consequences should be from last week‘s spectacularly awful Shirley Sherrod incident? Reverse it. Apparently, the only failure in right-wing politics is failing too small. A lesson in upward futility, next.
HAYES: The shameful eruption of racism around the firing of Shirley Sherrod last week should have ended with a race-baiting conservative Web site losing all credibility as an objective news source.
But since lately, we seem to be living in bizarre-o-world where right-wing smears are taken as truth, 41 votes equals a majority in the Senate, and reverse racism is a bigger problem than, you know, actual racism.
That‘s not what happened. Today, “Talking Points Memo” revealed an invitation to a big RNC event happening next month in Beverly Hills. And whom do Republicans want to be associated with? Who instead of getting run out of town on a rail is the first name featured on the invitation?
The very same guy behind the entire sorry trumped-up hoax, a man whose name I‘ll happily refrain from mentioning. By now after his fake ACORN scandal and after his fake “Shirley Sherrod is a racist and so is everybody at the NAACP” scandal, no one should say that guy‘s name.
There should be an exile or there should be rule in every politician‘s outlook to forward every E-mail with his name on it to junk. Instead, he is a draw. He‘s good for Republican fundraising, in bizarre-o-world.
And now, let‘s look at who lost out during last week‘s frenzy over fake racism. On Thursday, the Senate stripped billions of dollars in an aid out of its emergency war supplemental spending bill, including more than $1 billion in payments to black farmers who won a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Agricultural Department.
The plaintiffs in that case included none other than Sherri Sherrod. She got her settlement last year, but the money Congress was supposed to appropriate for more plaintiffs this year has yet to materialize.
It was in the war spending bill in the first place because Republicans have stripped it from every other bill it was included in this year. We don‘t know if the Shirley Sherrod affair caused the RNC to sign up the culprit as its headliner. That remains unknown.
And it doesn‘t appear that last week‘s fake scandal was what caused the Senate to strip restitution for victims of actual, real-life, documented discrimination from the appropriations bill.
It‘s just that, as the dust clears from last week‘s collective frenzy, take a look at the score - conservative con-artist, one; victims of real world racial discrimination, zero.
Joining us now is John Boyd, Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, himself a farmer in Virginia. Mr. Boyd, thank you so much for your time.
JOHN BOYD, JR. FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BLACK FARMERS
ASSOCIATION: Thank you, Chris, for having me tonight.
HAYES: Let‘s just start with the basics. I think it‘s pretty safe to say most people really don‘t know that much about the class action discrimination lawsuit against the USDA or the history of racial discrimination in the agency.
HAYES: What was at issue in the lawsuit and the settlement?
BOYD: Well, the issue was about black farmers being discriminated and USDA lending programs from subsidy programs. We‘ve lost millions of acres over the past decades. And we‘ve been fighting this lawsuit, the black farmers versus the United States Department of Agriculture, for many, many years.
The first settlement was settled in 1999 with 22,000 black farmers able to go through that process. 14,000 black farmers were meritorious. And after that, the government fought us tooth and nail on class notification, so nearly 70,000 black farmers came after the filing deadline.
HAYES: Right. So let‘s just - people are tracking us.
HAYES: Well, it seems like there was a settlement in 1999. Then people came forward. The USDA was sort of reviewing each person, right, to see if they were going to pay out a claim, and they were striking a lot of them.
BOYD: Well, what happened is many of the black farmers came after the filing deadline. They were denied access to take part in the class action lawsuit, which brings us to today, where we have 70,000 black farmers.
In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama sponsored our bill in the Senate, which passed into law, which allowed those 70,000 black farmers to have their cases heard based on its merit, and also applied $100 million in that bill.
But today - we are out here today still looking for the appropriation where the president pt in his budget for $1.15 billion. So the total settlement is for $1.25 billion, and we‘ve been shut out of the Senate by Republicans.
We never had one Republican vote for this measure in the Senate. And I‘m here today calling on minority leader Mitch McConnell to do the right thing by black farmers. And we are also calling on Senate leader Harry Reid to introduce a bill this week, a freestanding bill.
And we would like to see a vote on that bill this week so that black farmers can finally see justice here in this country.
HAYES: Do you think there‘s support on Capitol Hill for this? And
first of all, I want to make sure that people are - this is - this $1.25
billion as restitution for a very long and documented list -
HAYES: Of the USDA‘s malfeasance and discrimination against black farmers for years and years and years. This is just catching up now. Do you think there is Congressional will on Capitol Hill to have that vote happen?
BOYD: I would like to thank the Congressional black caucus, who helped lead the way along with Speaker Pelosi. Well, that bill passed twice, once in the tax extended bill and here, recently, in the war bill.
Both of those bills failed in the Senate. We were also in a bill earlier this year that also failed. So we‘ve been out here a very, very long time. And it‘s time for the Senate to step up and do the right thing for black farmers and pass this bill so that black farmers can get on with their lives.
Many are older now. We‘re dying. We‘re losing land. I‘ve been to more funerals this year than I‘ve been to in my life here. You know, 10 years ago, the average black farmer was 60, so they‘re now 70 years of age and many are dying off, waiting for justice.
So we‘re calling on the Senate to take the appropriate action and to do it now for our nation‘s black farmers. They shouldn‘t have to wait another day. We went to court. We won in court. There‘s been report after report. The Civil Rights Action Team report at USDA where it investigated itself and found itself guilty of discriminating against black farmers.
So here we are, waiting for justice, and now, look at what
happened to Mrs. Sherrod where she was, you know, just fired, you know,
right on the spot there. And here, we have 80,000, nearly 80,000 late-
filers total. And not one person has been found for the act of
discrimination against the black farmers. So -
HAYES: John, I‘m going to stop you right there.
Sorry, we‘re up against a break. John Boyd, Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, I really appreciate you coming on tonight.
BOYD: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.
HAYES: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN” the PG-13 term one Colorado Republican candidate uses to describe the birthers. Put it this way. The first word is dumb.
And coming up on this show, I will talk about cupcakes and if there‘s time, the deficit, but definitely cupcakes. Explanation ahead.
HAYES: So when I explain the federal deficit, I like to do it with desserts. What, you don‘t? Now, metaphorically, say red ink is calories. The more calories you eat, the more weight you‘ll gain and the less healthy you‘ll be.
So while you can safely indulge and say - oh, I don‘t know - this one little cupcake. Rachel, you missed - you picked a bad week to be on vacation. While you can eat a little cupcake, you want to make sure you don‘t go hog wild and dive face-first into the entire luscious chocolate cake.
Excuse me while I - good? All right. Now, there was a time when our country was practically ready for skinny jeans. President Clinton handed President Bush $128 billion surplus in 2001. Then, President Bush went right for the chocolate cake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The growing surplus exists because taxes are too high and government is charging more than it needs. The people of America have been overcharged. And on their behalf, I‘m here asking for a refund.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And then another serving, cake for breakfast. President Bush offered the wealthiest taxpayers big breaks in 2001 and 2003. Seeing an unhealthy surplus, America cheated on its diet.
I mean, they had been so good for so long, right? Now, the budget reconciliation rules by which Congress passed the tax cuts meant that those cuts would have to expire in 2010.
The cuts added tens of billions to the deficit right away. That‘s the blue part of this graph. Under budget reconciliation, you‘re only allowed to do that for a 10-year period.
So Congress back then essentially locked Congress now into making a choice about whether to keep the tax cuts, which expire at the end of this year. The way it‘s set up, a decision to let those tax cuts go away looks like a tax hike, which of course is dangerous ground for lawmakers in an election year like this.
Problem is, America isn‘t in its skinny jeans anymore. So you would think the deficit hawks would want to cut back on the cake, right? No, hardly. Republicans are acting like the same tax cuts for the rich that drove us back into deficit spending are now the only way to avoid wrecking the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG HEYE, SPOKESMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: And the other thing is Republicans believe that tax cuts create more money, create more wealth.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): You hit small businesses with these kinds of tax rate increases and you‘ll slow down the economy further. Look, 75 percent of those who will get hit with these higher tax rates are successful small businesses.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), REPUBLICAN WHIP: The reality is 50 percent of those affected by the tax hikes are small business people. They‘re the ones creating the jobs. So we got to set the rhetoric aside and I think all commit ourselves to help small business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Seventy-five percent, 50 percent, more, some, any. This is a bipartisan pig-out, I should note. Some, quote, unquote, “fiscally conservative Democrats” are lining up with the Republicans to have their proverbial cake and metaphorically eat it, too, like Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (R-IN): We don‘t need to raise taxes now. Eric is exactly right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Whatever the Bush tax cuts cost us later, if they get extended now, it will be larded directly on to the federal deficit. And these same self-styled deficit hawks, fiscal conservatives who had fashioned themselves as economic nutritionists, are calling for just that outcome.
Some icing for you, Sen. Kent Conrad? He says we know that very soon, we got to pivot and focus on the deficit. But it probably is too soon to cut spending or raise taxes.
Sen. Ben Nelson, whose office says he supports extending the expiring tax cuts at least until the economy is clearly recovering and supports addressing them before the fall elections.
Take a step back from the dessert table for a moment if you can. The center on budget and policy priorities recently looked at the real costs of renewing the bush tax cuts. See the darker orange mass? That represents the Bush tax cuts.
Right now in 2010, their impact on the deficit isn‘t as big as the overall economic downturn or even recovery measures. But watch as we get closer to the end of this decade. If Obama gets his way and the middle class keeps its tax cuts, it would save $700 billion over the next 10 years.
But if he doesn‘t, keeping all the tax cuts is projected to add another $2 trillion to the deficit. $2 trillion is a lot of cake, people. And they want the country to keep eating every day, all day, forever.
And at the same time these same advocates of indulgence for the wealthy recipients of Bush-era gluttony are talking day and night about how all those folks on social security and unemployment need to get themselves on a diet. But if it‘s serious about cutting calories, Congress has an exceedingly easy decision ahead of it.
They can maintain tax cuts for the middle class, throw out the big frosted calorie cluster bomb that is the entirety of the Bush tax cuts. It‘s a simple test, really. So any politician who wants to lecture about the need to put the country on a fiscal diet, make sure they don‘t have any chocolate cake in their teeth.
That does it for us tonight. I‘m Chris Hayes in for Rachel.
“COUNTDOWN” starts now.
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