The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/29/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, Lawrence. I appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Do you remember the BP oil spill? What we think of as the BP oil spill? Remember that a company called Transocean was actually operating the rig when the big blowout happened that cause the spill. You know, Transocean put out their final official report on what happened in that disaster this past week.
And wouldn‘t you know it, when Transocean looked into Transocean‘s liability in that disaster, Transocean concluded that it was not Transocean‘s fault. They blame BP for all of it.
But one of the incredible things we all learned about Transocean during that whole disaster was that despite being called Transocean, despite being an offshore drilling company, meaning offshore as in the ocean, Transocean is headquartered in a country that is landlocked. In 2008, Transocean moved their office headquarters to this office park in landlocked Switzerland. They moved to a place called Zug in order to avoid taxes and regulations.
But I submit to you tonight that even weirder than a company called Transocean being headquartered in a landlocked country is the story reported by “Reuters” this week of the more than 2,000 companies that are headquartered at this single family home in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
When we found out about Zug, you may recall we put Kent Jones in lederhosen with one of those big trumpety things that lays on the ground. It turns out now there is a Zug in Wyoming, too. Poor Kent. Eventually, we will do a story about a creepy corporate tax haven where the native dress is more flattering to Kent.
But this is the house. This is the headquarters of more than 2,000 American companies. None of which are actually physically located at this place.
From all appearances, there is exactly one person who works at this headquarters of 2,000 companies. She seems very nice, actually, from the “Reuters” reporting. We know that her name is Rhoda (ph).
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m going to ask you to leave.
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MADDOW: “The Reuters” investigative report on this building, which is called Wyoming Corporate Services, this week describes no apparent physical activity at this corporate headquarters for 2,000 companies other than the mail carrier arriving every day and Rhoda herself going outside every once in a while for smoke breaks.
Why would a company want to be headquartered here? Why would a company want to be headquartered in one of these tiny frail looking cardboard shelves over Rhoda‘s head in this house in Wyoming? What is the advantage to 2,000 companies being headquartered there?
Here‘s their pitch.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may surprise you to know that studies show Wyoming to be the most business-friendly, lowest tax state of all 50 states.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s right. According to a consecutive year review –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: – by the tax foundation State Business Tax Climate Index –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wyoming has the most business-friendly tax system of any other state.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that‘s just the beginning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wyoming Corporate Services Inc. has been in business in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for many years. We specialize in helping you incorporate in Wyoming, a state that has no income taxes on corporations.
Wyoming Corporate Services also has strategies to help you lower your tax liability in your home state. Increase your asset protection and give you back your privacy.
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MADDOW: Strategies to help you lower your tax liability in your home state an of course you‘ll pay none here. Who could resist? Who wouldn‘t want to live in a rickety mailbox in Cheyenne with Rhoda? Look at what they‘re offering?
This is what they are pitching, “A corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy. A person you control yet cannot be held accountable for its actions. Imagine the possibilities.”
They actually say that. Imagine the possibilities.
“Reuters” reports the proprietors of these companies that have imagined the possibilities, the possibilities of these companies that live only in a little rickety mailboxes over Rhoda‘s head, the proprietors of these companies include a former prime minister of Ukraine, who is using one of these companies in the little box over Rhoda‘s head in Wyoming, he‘s using one of these companies to hide his real estate investments while he‘s in prison for corruption. Also, the owners of two firms accused of selling counterfeit truck parts to the United States military. Also an alleged Internet credit card telemarketing online gambling and pharmacy scam king.
Offering corporations an existence in a box is legal, and Wyoming is not the only state that does it. Nevada is also a haven for what they call incorporation mills for companies whose business is not all that clear. Delaware quite famously operates in this sort of way, too. Why do you think every credit card company in the world is basically headquartered in Delaware?
This is essentially the landscape now of corporate tax loophole-palooza.
President Obama, in his campaign for president in 2008 and Democrats broadly speaking that year, made the case to voters that offshore tax havens were amoral and fiscal outrage that should be shut down.
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BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You‘ve got a building in the Cayman Islands that supposedly houses 12,000 corporations. That‘s either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam on record.
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MADDOW: But it‘s not just the Cayman Islands. It‘s not just offshore. It is here, too, in the United States.
The most presidential thing a president can do, absent major news, is to exercise his prerogative to make his own news just by virtue of the fact that he is president. The formal presidential news conference, President Obama did one of those today—the first one in a long time.
But as he did that today, underscoring his biggest advantage over all the candidates who are looking to replace now, the president also himself started to look a little bit again like a candidate today, defining territory that he sees as the divide between Democrats and Republicans.
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OBAMA: The tax cuts I‘m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners. I think it‘s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up that tax break that no other business enjoys.
I‘ve said to some of the Republican leaders you go talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents, and ask if they are willing to compromise their kids‘ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break. If everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows, and do tough things, in order to achieve the goal of real deficit reduction, then I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important, that we‘re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done.
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MADDOW: This press conference today saying essentially, OK, Republicans defend this. I dare you. Defend corporate tax loopholes. Go ahead. Tell the American people you are for giant corporations dodging their taxes. That‘s going to go over great.
Response from the Republicans, so far? Well, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor‘s office issued this statement today. Quote, “Despite the lecture from the president today, the House will not agree to a debt limit increase that raises taxes. This argument is not about this loophole or that loophole, it‘s about raising taxes in a lagging economy when we should be focused on growth and getting people back to work.”
“Also, I‘d point out for your guidance,” the statement says, “that the corporate jet loophole that he was talking about only amounts to about $2 billion.”
I should note that there is no evidence to suggest that Eric Cantor‘s office was actively swirling his mustache at the time they issued the statement. But, seriously, that loophole only saves us $2 billion. It‘s only $2 billion!
Actually, it turns out it could be as much as $3 billion. “The Wall Street Journal” reporting that amendment, a walk-back of sorts to Mr. Cantor‘s statements today, from what they described as an industry source and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor‘s office.
So, what‘s $2 billion or $3 billion here or there if you‘re the party of fiscal conservatism anyway? Leave taxpayer subsidies for rich guys‘ corporate jets alone.
But, you know, as Eric Cantor‘s office falls back on the argument that $2 billion or $3 billion is no biggie, no reason to bother closing a little corporate tax loophole, that teeny, it is funny to look how many things Republicans have said this year we must cut. We can no longer afford—things that do not cost taxpayers nearly as much as that measly $2 billion or $3 billion on subsidizing corporate jets.
Like, for example, the $868 million that proposed cutting from WIC, the food program for women, infants and children. Or the $7.3 trillion they proposed cutting from the Smithsonian, or the $51 million they proposed cutting from the National Park Service or the $899 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy. How about $2 billion from job training programs Republicans are cutting?
It‘s not they don‘t want to cut things that don‘t cost much money. They say we can‘t afford any of those things. But $2 billion to $3 billion for taxpayers to subsidize rich guys‘ corporate jets, they say leave that in, because that one, that‘s no biggie.
The president had not called the full White House press conference since March. We got less than a day‘s notice that he was going to do this one today. And now, we know why he did it—to go on offense on the economy, to see if Republicans really are going to defend some of the indefensible things that corporations do—starting with the fact that corporate jets are taxpayer subsidized.
This is where the president is trying to draw the line, for the debt ceiling fight, for the budget fight in Washington, for the year frankly for his re-election—go ahead, Republicans. Defend this single family house in Wyoming being the corporate headquarters for more than 2,000 companies - - thanks to these convenient loopholes. More than 2,000 companies headquartered here—none of which actually have anyone on site here who works there. Except for good old Rhoda.
Defend America having our own onshore Zug corporate tax havens, Republicans, or people set up shill companies to hide their assets from the government while they‘re in prison or busy defrauding the Pentagon.
Defend the fact that the oil companies, the most profitable industry in the world, defend the fact that they are getting taxpayer subsidies even today.
Today, the president said let‘s start by seeing. Let‘s start by seeing for you will defend taxpayer subsidies for corporate jets—and the Republicans bit.
Joining us now is Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.
Good to have you back, Senator. Thanks for being here.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: The president today pretty much, as I see it, dared Republicans to defend tax breaks, royal companies and private jets. Republicans today took the dare, suggesting that spending is no big deal.
Do you think this is sort of sketching out the landscape for the political fights of the next year?
BROWN: Yes, it‘s good news because the president is stepping forward and doing what we‘ve been hoping he would do and that is making the distinction. I mean, people in this country, as we all know, and maybe Eric Cantor where he hangs out in his clubs and the capitol, and his staff and all doesn‘t know this, but there are a lot of people suffering in Virginia and Ohio, all over this country.
And when they see these tax breaks for oil companies and tax breaks for corporate jets and see these huge bonuses, and then they see the Republicans saying that we need to cut Pell grants for the middle class and turn Medicare over to the insurance companies and subsidize the insurance companies and cut seniors‘ benefits—I mean people are beginning to see we need the president to lead on this to make the contrast, that this stuff is just not fair, that the middle class and working families and unemployed people have sacrificed so much and lost so much in the last three years, it‘s time the richest 2 percent or 3 percent or 5 percent stepped up and did their part. That‘s really all the president is asking for.
MADDOW: How do you see this ending, though? I mean, the Republicans are defining taxpayer subsidies for oil companies, taxpayer subsidies for corporate jets. They‘re defining the idea of getting rid of those subsidies or those tax loopholes as a rise in taxes. And they‘re saying there will be no rise in taxes as long as we‘re here. It doesn‘t matter what the tax is. It will be over our dead bodies.
With them drawing that kind of line in the sand, calling everything that has any revenue consequence a tax rise and saying that‘s off the table, is there a way to see this ending? I‘m not sure I know where this story goes.
BROWN: Well, they draw this line in the sand on corporate jets, on oil country subsidies—oil company subsidies, on what‘s happened in Wyoming with the 2,000 sort of shill companies, they draw that line in the sand. They‘re going to se most of America walk across that line from the other side from where Republicans are.
You know, the only thing that Cantor missed is usually they say when President Obama does something like that or when we do something like that, they usually accuse of class warfare, when in fact we‘re not committing class warfare. We‘re just pointing out how they‘ve committed class warfare for two decades by loading up the tax code for all these breaks for people who already have privilege.
And I mean, most of the people on the other side of the aisle in the Senate, most people around here have a good bit of personal wealth, and most people on the other side of the aisle, including Eric Cantor, they—
I don‘t know about him personally, many of them come from privilege, and their goal in the Senate and the House seem to be protect the privilege of their social class. And that‘s not class warfare, that‘s what—I mean, that‘s—I‘m just pointing out what they do.
It‘s time that we play fair a little bit better, protect Medicare and protect Pell grants and protect things like Planned Parenthood and have people who have done very, very well in the last two years or 10 years simply pay their fair share. That‘s what the president called on today.
MADDOW: In your home state of Ohio, we‘re seeing the most radical anti-abortion bill to have yet passed the House and the legislature this year. Pass the House this week. It would ban abortions at five to six weeks.
We‘ve seen the most draconian union rights stripping bill signed into law by John Kasich. We‘re going to be talking about that in a moment, the effort to get that repealed by the voters.
Do you think that those sorts of fights by red state governors and red state legislatures are going to resonate for national politics? Is that part of the national conversation that we‘re having, or is that a state by state issue?
BROWN: Oh, I think it‘s percolating upward. I mean, people are seeing what the governor of Ohio did. And Mike Weinman will talk about it, the Columbus retired police officer a few minutes on the show, how they overreached on collective bargaining rights, how they overreached in taking away rights for women, how they‘ve overreached on voting rights in Ohio—done the same in Florida, done the same in Wisconsin, doing the same in New Jersey. And they‘re overreaching in Washington by protecting oil companies and proposing huge cuts in Medicare and in stripping away from many middle class kids, some of their Pell grants that they need to go to school.
They simply overreached. They have this radical agenda that is
squeezing the middle class. And we‘ve got to fight for the middle class,
not find ways to undermine it. When everything—when they have this bias
towards always helping people with privilege, of course, it shrinks the
middle class because this country was built around collective bargaining
rights and built around equal rights and built around providing opportunity
and all of that consensus that we‘ve had for decades in the country, and you and I have talked about on this show several times, Rachel, that consensus we build around these rights, they want to unravel.
And they‘re not going to get away with it. As you‘re seeing in Ohio tonight when Mike makes his announcement today about what they did in my state in the last 60 days. And you‘re going to see it with the president standing up and speaking out.
MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, it‘s always nice to have you here, Senator. Thanks very much for your time.
BROWN: Always good to be with you. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up next, as Senator Brown was alluding to, sort of a big announcement out of the Midwest, it involves 1,298, 301 signatures. It involves a bunch of fire trucks, a drum line, bag pipes and lots of loud motorcycles—and one retired Columbus police officer with an incredible story to tell. Some states do politics than others.
Please stay tuned for this one.
MADDOW: On March 31st, 90 days ago today, Ohio‘s Republican governor and former FOX News personality, John Kasich, he‘s the governor who Sean Hannity did fundraising for on his Show, 90 days ago today, Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill that would drastically strip union rights from hundreds of thousands of residents for the state of Ohio.
What happened in Wisconsin first happened in Ohio second. And in Ohio, it was even more draconian.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the stroke of a pen, Governor John Kasich inks a bill that one side says will bust unions while the other side says will help local governments and the state create jobs and balance the budget.
Since the first inkling of this controversial measure, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest the central focus, on what came to be viewed as an assault on unions, worker salaries and benefits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Throughout the Republican debate on this union-stripping bill in Ohio, throughout the lead-up to signing of the bill, even the night of the signing, there were big protests in the streets of the state capitol against what the Governor Kasich and Ohio Republicans were doing.
But because of the way that Ohio state law works, those protesters immediately channeled their anger into efforts to repeal the union‘s stripping law. You can repeal a new law in Ohio by putting it up for a popular vote, by putting it on the ballot, even though that is technically possible for any bill, the reason it doesn‘t happen all the time in Ohio is because it‘s really hard to pull off. Opponents of this bill had 90 days for the day that Governor Kasich signed it into law to collect more than 231,000 verified signatures from all across the state.
That is a huge, huge number in a short period of time. That night this bill was signed on this show, I spoke with the Democratic leader of the Ohio general assembly about how on earth he thought that people opposed to that bill might be able to get that many signatures in such a short time. It seemed impossible.
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MADDOW: How will Democrats and the Democratic base get those many, many signatures you guys need in the next 90 days to get a ballot referendum? I mean, 231,000 signatures is a very high bar.
STATE REP. ARMOND BUDISH (D), OHIO: And that‘s 231,000 valid signatures. We‘re going to have to collect 450,000 signatures or more to get the right number that are valid. And what we‘re going to do, we‘re going to work like hell and fight like hell to do it. That‘s all we can do.
We will be out at everything. You will see people collecting signatures at baseball games, at churches, at every possible venue. And I believe people will respond and we‘ll get the signatures and we‘ll get them before the end of the 90 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We‘ll get those signatures and before the end of the 90 days.
What I was pointing out during that interview was that opponents of the union-stripping law needed to get this many signatures by the end of 09 days in order to get it on the ballot. What the Democratic leader was saying was that in order for them to make sure they had enough valid signatures, they would need to get this many signatures collected from around Ohio.
Today, the 90 days were up. Want to see how many signatures they actually got? Wait for it! Yes. Wow!
That‘s the most signatures ever turned in on any measure of any kind for any purpose in Ohio in the entire history of the great state of Ohio. They needed about 231,000 signatures. They got 1,298,301 signatures. They needed less than a quarter million, they got a million more than that and then some.
If Governor Kasich‘s triumphant bill-signing ceremony was a challenge to the people of Ohio who opposed what he was doing to strip union rights, this was their response 90 days later.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Members of the grassroots group We Are Ohio delivering 1.3 million signatures to the Kasich administration today—one day early and five times the required number.
They held a parade in Columbus before they delivered the signatures today. Beforehand, they expected about 1,000 people to show up for the parade. They got more than about 6,000, according to the local press.
The signatures delivered in 1,502 separate boxes. They came in from all of Ohio‘s 88 counties.
If about, again, 230,000 of those 1.3 million signatures are validated, that means that the repeal of this union-stripping thing will be on the ballot in Ohio on November 8th. So far, statewide polling suggests that a clear majority of Ohioans will vote to repeal the union-stripping law.
What does that mean between now and then? It means two things.
Number one, the union stripping-bill will not go into effect now.
Until the voters have a chance to vote on it.
Number two, if you live in Ohio, prepare to be buried underneath a pile of right-wing billionaire money, telling you that police and firefighters and teachers are your enemy, and that you have to vote with John Kasich and against them on November 8th.
Joining us now is Mike Weinman. He‘s a retired Columbus police officer and the director of government affairs for the Ohio state Fraternal Order of Police. Officer Weinman is a U.S. Air Force veteran.
As an officer with the Columbus Police Department, he was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty. He returned to the police force to work as a civilian employee after his injury. His wife is an Ohio public schoolteacher. He‘s also a lifelong Republican.
Officer Weinman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
MIKE WEINMAN, OHIO FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: Thank you for having me, ma‘am.
MADDOW: Let me ask you if I have the basics of the story right as I just explained them. If enough signatures are validated in the next few weeks, this law is going to appear on the ballot in November. The way I explained how this is going to work match up to you? And how are you feeling about the chances of repeal here?
WEINMAN: Yes, absolutely. Once the signatures are validated, they have up to 150 days to validate them, and then the ballot board will decide on the language of what will appear on the November ballot.
So, it will appear on the November 8th ballot, and we feel pretty confident that we had 1.3 million people sign our petition. We feel pretty confident in November, like you said. It does look like we‘ll be outspent, but we‘re going to work very hard.
MADDOW: Unlike the union-stripping law that passed in Wisconsin, and goes into effect today actually, in Ohio police officers are affected by the union stripping measure.
How do the restrictions in the bill when it comes to stuff like working conditions and safety equipment relate to your own experience as a police officer?
WEINMAN: Well, one of the things that we bargained for here in Ohio is safety equipment. I was wearing a bullet resistant vest that night. A lot of agencies have to bargain for the bullet resistance vests.
Under the Senate Bill 5 now, the final say would be up to city council whether or not you get the safety equipment. The safety equipment is very important. We‘re also, you know, faced with an issue where police forces will be politicized with this merit pay system that they still have to develop.
MADDOW: Given what Republicans in Ohio have done here, I know that the Fraternal Order of Police—the membership of the Fraternal Order of Police tends to lean conservative, lean Republican, there‘s been a lot of Republican endorsements by the FOP in Ohio and around the country—do you feel like what Republicans in Ohio have done here have changed the relationship between the Republican Party and police officers and a lot of other dyed in the wool conservative Ohioans?
WEINMAN: Yes. We estimated about 70 percent of our membership is Republican. We are a conservative-leaning organization. We endorse a lot of the same people that voted for Senate bill 5.
There‘s a lot of bitterness there. A lot of folks couldn‘t understand how our friends would do something like that to us.
MADDOW: Officer Mike Weinman, retired Columbus police officer, director of affairs at the Ohio state Fraternal Order of Police—I know you worked very hard on this recall effort, sir. Congratulations on exceeding expectations and thanks for your time tonight.
WEINMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Somewhere between the children‘s classic make way for ducklings and the cinematic classic that is “Airport ‘77,” you will find today‘s “Best New Thing in the World.” It is coming up at the end of the show today.
If you had a bad day and need a happy making moment here on the television machine, if you had a bad day today in particular, you should stay tuned. It might be our best one ever.
MADDOW: All yearlong, we have been reporting how this is the year the Republican Party has decided to make their biggest push in decades against abortion rights. And that‘s true. States this year have passed measure restrictions on abortion than at any other time since Roe versus Wade was decided in 1973. But now, something qualitatively different—the great state of Kansas is poised to succeed in its efforts to ban abortion by Friday, by the day after tomorrow.
If nothing happens to stop the current chain of events in Kansas, by the end of the week as far as we can tell, American women will have no access to abortion in roughly this wide swath of the country from Columbia, Missouri, to Denver, Colorado.
After Republican Governor Sam Brownback last month signed a brand new punitive regulation scheme into law that only applies to abortion clinics, Governor Brownback‘s health secretary distributed 36 new pages of regulations—brand new rules for everything down to the number of rooms that have to be in each clinic, the room size, the number of bathrooms, the number of exits.
Kansas abortion clinics got the state‘s draft of the new regulation last Monday. And then Governor Brownback‘s administration started inspection to see if the clinics in compliance with those new rules on Wednesday, two days later.
Now—surprise—Governor Brownback‘s administration says no clinics have been able to meet these new rules.
If you have two days to architecturally redesign and reinstruct the building you work in and finish the construction two days for the day you found out you had to do it to the day the new building had to be complete, could you do it in 48 hours?
So far, the only Kansas clinic that has actually been inspected is the one run by Planned Parenthood. The group‘s regional president, Peter Brownlie, told us that the process for finalizing the regulations has been and continues to be in his words, “absurd.”
Quote, he says, “It is a bizarre and absurd process. The state rules and regulation board is meeting Thursday, that‘s tomorrow, at 9:00 a.m. with this item on the agenda. So the regulations aren‘t even official at this point. And the law goes into effect the next day, on Friday. So a scenario is the regulations get approved and in 24 hours, a license has to be granted or not.”
Just as word was coming down that the state plans to deny licenses to operate to all abortion clinics in the state based on these magic new rules, one of the state‘s three clinics canceled its plan inspection and instead just filed a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of this sham licensing process that the state of Kansas is using to shut down all abortion providers in the state.
The doctors who are suing have filed for a temporary restraining order that would block the new regulations from taking effect. Today, an attorney for a second Kansas clinic tells us they are also seeking to join that lawsuit.
If that lawsuit does not work to stop what Kansas is doing right now, Roe versus Wade or not Roe versus Wade, constitutionally protected right to abortion or not, Republicans in Kansas will have banned abortions in Kansas, as of Friday.
In Ohio this week, a development that deserves billing alongside news that stark. In Ohio, a bill outlawing abortions after just five to six weeks of pregnancy—a point at which many women do not even know they are pregnant—has passed the Republican-controlled House. The bill does not include exceptions in the case of rape or incest. The state, in other words, will force every woman in Ohio who gets pregnant under any circumstances to give birth unless she knows about the pregnancy and finds a way to get an abortion before five weeks.
The bill must still be passed by the state Senate and signed by Ohio‘s governor before it becomes law. But if it does advance and become law, and both the Senate and Republicans mansion are held by Republicans, so there‘s a good chance of that, Ohio would have the most restrictive ban on abortion in the country.
Roe versus Wade is generally interpreted as saying that you can‘t ban abortion in America before 22 weeks. In Ohio, it would be banned at five weeks. Even in a year like this, what Ohio is doing is such an outlier nationally that some anti-abortion groups have declined to support it for the fear that the inevitable legal challenge to it that Ohio taxpayers will pay to defend against, any challenge to it will succeed and this is so blatantly unconstitutional that the ruling against it will put other milder anti-abortion legislations in jeopardy.
So, to review, in Kansas the government using regulatory power to shut down all abortion providers in the state. In Ohio, the window for safe and legal abortion closed to before many if not most women to when before—if not most women even know they‘re pregnant.
What Kansas is now doing and what Ohio Republicans are trying to do would not just limit access to abortion services, like other red states are doing, these states would outlaw abortion all together, which kind of seems like a big deal.
MADDOW: I have to tell you something. “The Best New Thing in the World Today” will make you happy. Even if you are having the worst day you have had in a long time, it will make you happy. It is the last thing in the show tonight. It is “The Best Thing in the World.”
It comes with a money-backed happiness guarantee from me. I swear.
MADDOW: Here‘s New Mexico. Las Cruces down there by the Mexican border. Albuquerque, state‘s largest city. Just northeast of Albuquerque, the capital of Santa Fe. Red or green. Lovely Santa Fe.
And here is Los Alamos nuclear laboratory. It was called Project Y during World War II when it was formed secretly as the American lab that would develop the world‘s first nuclear weapons.
To this day, the shipping address at Los Alamos is on Bikini Atoll Road, just off Omega Road, just off Mercury Road. Along with Lawrence Livermore Lab in California and Sandia National Lab, Los Alamos is still only one of a handful in the U.S. that continues classified development work on nuclear weapons. They‘ve been doing nuclear work for nearly 70 years there, including some nuclear testing. It‘s still an active nuclear weapons lab.
And on Monday, the town it is in, the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, was put under a mandatory evacuation order because a huge wildfire is closing in on it. This is the second fire in about a decade to threaten the lab. This is a big one. So far, it has torched almost 108 square miles.
And despite all the manpower and the hours spent fighting this fire. Despite all the effort, fire crews have been able to contain just 3 percent of the fire so far.
Here‘s what the fire looks like from space.
Fire officials announced today that they intentionally burning some land around the Los Alamos Lab to prevent the fire from spreading into it. They call that a black line or a burn line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG TUCKER, LOS ALAMOS DEPUTY FIRE CHIEF: The smoke you‘re seeing now is a black line. And a black line is an effort to build a space, a defensible space.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The danger, of course, with intentional fires is that unintentional things can happen—like an intentionally set fire flopping over into an area you did not mean to set on fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: We‘ve had one slop over fire on the lab property. We have had no spots on property other than the little slop over a couple days ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That little slop over a couple days ago they say was on a single acre in a remote part of the lab‘s property. There was no radiation risk, they say, or risk to any structures.
One area of particular concern with the fire is called Area G. It is a small mesa just outside White Rock that holds about 20,000 barrels of plutonium bearing waste. As of yesterday, the fire was in two miles of the site. Today, as a precautionary measure, officials dispatched a twin engine plane outfitted with radiation-detecting equipment. It flew over the laboratory, just as the same plane—excuse me—flew over New York City to take air samples after 9/11.
Officials say in all the air sampling they have done, they have turned up nothing unusual so far. The lab‘s director is saying those results show that what we see in the fire is what we see in any fire across New Mexico.
So, what is admittedly a scary situation with the Los Alamos nuclear lab in the path of this big, out of control fire, authorities are trying to assure the public that everything is safe.
And at the same time, they‘re also assuring us of the safety of the nuclear plants in the way of the mammoth Missouri River flooding in Nebraska.
As the worst global nuclear crisis in a generation continues, it is still not over in Fukushima, Japan. America‘s crop of 40-year-old nuclear power plants and even older nuclear facilities are frankly being tested at multiple sites around the country by the elements like they have never been tested before. And that ultimately is a test of our faith in the agencies that are assuring us every day now that everything is still safe.
Joining us now is Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a senior member of the energy and commerce committee and a ranking member of the natural resources committee. He has served on committees that oversee nuclear issues for 35 years.
Congressman Markey, thanks for your time tonight.
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: How is your faith about the agencies assuring us about the safety of our nuclear sites under stress around the country tonight?
MARKEY: Well, what I did after Fukushima was ask my staff and many of my staffers have been with me more than two decades working on these nuclear safety issues—I asked them to do an assessment after Fukushima of the deficiencies which exist within the United States system for responding to a nuclear disaster.
And what we produced was a 28-page report, “Fukushima Fallout.” That is where the problems exist within the United States‘ nuclear safety system. And this is a blistering, scalding indictment of the system that we have here in our country. There is still too much of an assumption that things can‘t go wrong, that a tsunami can‘t hit, that an earthquake won‘t be that bad, that a flood can‘t do the damage, that a fire can‘t cut off the electricity to a nuclear power plant triggering a meltdown.
And instead of having a little bit of humility of all the lessons which Mother Nature has been teaching us this year, unfortunately, too many people at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—I‘m not talking about the chairman here, but many of the other members still refuse to learn those lessons.
MADDOW: Why do you think that is? What explains the sort of mistaken mindset or mistaken footing that the regulatory bodies here have toward the industry? Is there too much—I guess you‘re hoping for a more confrontational relationship in the industry and they‘re looking for a cooperative relationship?
MARKEY: I think it‘s not unlike what happened in the Gulf of Mexico with BP. There‘s the assumption that nothing can go wrong, and as a result, the representations that are made by industry, that they don‘t need batteries for backup generators, they don‘t need to make sure that the diesel fuel generators work, they don‘t have to make sure that the emergency evacuation plans actually can work. They don‘t have to distribute the potassium iodide pills. They think don‘t have to make sure that in the event of a meltdown, there is an emergency response plan that ensures that the reactor operators know what to do, and it‘s not voluntary, but mandatory—all of that remains untended to because there is still this sum in assumption that a big accident cannot go wrong, even after Fukushima, after the BP oil spill. That is the mentality unfortunately which dominates those industries.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about a looming issue about nuclear power plants in particular that the “Associated Press” has been doing some incredible investigative reporting on this year, and that is that, essentially, all of the country‘s nuclear power plants are hitting the end of their planned life span at the same time. They were all built 40 years ago to last 40 years.
Do you believe—after all your experience overseeing this industry -
do you believe there‘s anyway to retrofit an old fleet of nuclear power plants to be safe and to handle the real threats that we face today?
MARKEY: I think it is possible if there is basically an order given to the nuclear industry and the industry is willing to spend the money. Now, the problem is this, the industry makes more money the longer the plant operates. It‘s a very expensive way to boil water.
So, in the early years, they don‘t make much money because it costs a lot to build the plant. They make more money if the plant operates for 40 years, for 60 years.
But the problem is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission then would have to order all new safety procedures built into these plants in order to guarantee that they are safe. So, for example, up at Seabrook right now, they want an extension for 20 more years for the operation of that plant. But this existing license has 19 more years to go before they hit that next 20 years.
Now, what we found in the last month is that water is now corroding the concrete at the plant where it protects safety features. Should we give them another 20 years right now, even though there‘s 19 more years to go on the license? Or should we wait, learn all the lessons where safety might be compromised, mandate that they have to build in those safety measures as a precondition to getting the extra 20 years?
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission—believe it or not—since Fukushima has given five new 20-year extensions to these already old nuclear power plants without mandating the implementation of any of the safety lessons from Fukushima, that‘s what‘s scary. That‘s what makes you believe that the lessons haven‘t been learned, that the industry unfortunately still looks at the NRC as a lap dog and not a watchdog. And as a result, I think that we should all be casting arched eyebrows towards whether or not the safety procedures are, in fact, adequate.
MADDOW: Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, senior member of the energy and commerce committee—thanks very much for your time tonight, sir. Appreciate it.
MARKEY: Thank you.
MADDOW: We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: First thing, no turtles were harmed in the making of this story, so do not worry, OK? “Best New Thing in the World”—diamondback terrapins at JFK International Airport in New York. There they are near giant planes. But as I said, do not worry about them, they are OK.
All right. Here is New York City. Here is the island of Manhattan. Here is the borough of Queens, here is JFK airport, right on the edge of Jamaica Bay, which is where these guys live, diamondback terrapins. Airport or no airport, this time of year, a turtle‘s got to do what a turtle‘s got to do.
Female turtles crawl out of Jamaica Bay looking for a nice sandy sheltered beach to lay their eggs, say, for example, right here. And this morning, at about 6:45 a.m., we learned that the turtles were on the move. The problem this—right there next to that nice sandy beach is an active runway, Runway 4L. Luckily, it is not that active this time of year, JFK, something about seasonal wind patterns, but still, there were planes on Runway 4L and its taxi ways when the turtles showed up this morning.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American 1009, there‘s a report of a turtle on the runway, do you want to have it removed first?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American 1009, cancel takeoff clearance, hold the position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holding position American 1009. I was wondering where those things were.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American 1009., be advised 30 feet into the takeoff roll, left side of the center line is another turtle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. There‘s another one on the runway?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the face of the turtles very slow runway march, the Port Authority which operates JFK shut down Runway 4L, delayed some flights by about a half hour. Wildlife specialists went out and gathered up about 100 turtles and relocated them to a safer part of the airport where they could still have access to their nesting site without the risk of a confrontation between one of them and a 747.
Single best thing about this story other than these pictures on the runway is that the Port Authority knew what to do when the turtles showed up, they had wildlife specialists standing by, because this happens every year in America‘s greatest metropolis. You know, two times a year, the sun lines up perfectly with the street grid of Manhattan, a phenomenon that is come to be known as Manhattan hinge.
In the height of the summer when some magical temperature is reached, the firehouses of New York open the fire hydrants on some city streets. And every year, in late June or early July, these little cute diamondback terrapins emerge from the sea to cross the runway at JFK airport.
These are not strictly holidays. You won‘t see them as defaults on your Google calendar anytime soon, but when the turtles hit the tarmac, that is as close as to a holiday as you can get in New York City. Happy turtle day. “Best New Thing in the World Today.”
Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Have a great night.
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Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>