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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/18/13

Guests: Sheldon Whitehouse, Vanessa Ferreira

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. This is a view from a plane on its way to Alaska. The picture was -- look at that, very nice, right? It was taken, or at least posted September 9th this year. If you are flying to Alaska ever for any reason, get a window seat, trust me. This particular lovely photo was taken by a marketing executive who was flying into Alaska from Chicago. This appears to be another one of his pictures from that same trip as they crossed over from western Canada into Alaskan snow country. Just gorgeous, right? The jet set marketing executive who took these pictures out the window of the plane also wrote this post about the trip, quote, "Blogging at 38,000 feet. Flying over western Canada, our team cannot help but think about being young again." Quote, "When we first received the assignment to ignite a consumer movement in Alaska, we pulled out a map." He says they studied up on the highways and the state capital and then headed up there and they landed in Alaska and they set up this shoot with big cameras and a pristine looking Alaskan lake as a backdrop. We got these photos from their Facebook page, where the Chicago marketing team documented their attempt to "ignite a consumer movement in Alaska." And here`s how that shoot came out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s so much to learn about health care reform these days, and it`s confusing. Luckily, I use to help make sense of it. I thought the new health insurance exchange plans provided a trial period so I could change back, but I was wrong. And there`s an 11-page IRS enrollment form where I have to estimate future income, even seasonal wages. The reform won`t be fully implemented until 2018, so there`s time. Don`t rush your decision. Know the facts. Visit (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Don`t rush your decision. No need to sign up for this health insurance thing right away. Maybe wait until -- what does she say? Wait until 2018, four years from now sound good? You`re not planning on getting sick, are you?, she says at the end there. Here`s I should tell you that the marketing team from Chicago that flew into Alaska after consulting a map, they say they had nothing to do with the associated Web site. They just made the ad. But here is the Web site that that ad was for. It gives you this kind of clumsy warning about how you, you could face IRS penalties if you enroll into a federal exchange plan. And then you take their quiz, this five-question quiz about whether you should sign up for Obamacare, given your personal situation and what`s important to you. So, you take the quiz. You tell them whether or not you are a person who, quote, "likes having choices when selecting a physician or a hospital." Well, do you? Also, are you comfortable regularly updating the government on your health and on your financial challenges? No matter how you answer any of the questions on the website, no matter what you say, the advice you get from the Web site is advice like this -- don`t do it. You would benefit from staying put. Do not sign up for this Obamacare thing, no matter what. is one of two new Web sites in Alaska that both started this month on the same day in practically the same Internet breath. They looked the same, went up at the same time, both have the same mysterious, no contact information, where did you come from? But where the knowthefacts Web site tries to talk you out of signing up for health insurance, the other one, the other anti-health reform Web site, that one up at the exact same time, also for Alaska, it drops the subtlety altogether. The other site just flat out tells you to sign a pledge to not enroll in Obamacare. They want your promise, your signed promise that you will not get health insurance. A local Web site called Alaska Commons first noticed this, this Chicago marketing firm flying into town and then the two Web sites starting up on the same day. Then, "The Alaska Dispatch" followed more clues and figured out who was behind this push to keep people from getting health insurance in Alaska. It turns out, those two Alaska Web sites are the work of a conservative think tank that is based in Naples, Florida! A conservative think tank that has ties to the Koch brothers. A leader of that Florida group told "The Alaska Dispatch" that this group doesn`t technically run the Web sites, really. They just tell the Web sites what to say by providing them with relevant research. The Koch brothers, of course, are the billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch. If they could somehow be a single person, they would be the richest person in America. Mr. and Mr. Koch inherited a privately owned oil and chemical corporation from their dad. That`s where they got their money. And now, collectively, the two of them have more money than basically the rest of the world. And it is this Koch brothers affiliated network that has now wandered all the way from Florida up to Alaska to tell people in Alaska that they should pledge, they should promise to the Koch brothers that they will not get health insurance for themselves and their families. Congratulations to "The Alaska dispatch" and "The Alaska Commons" for figuring out that story, for following that thread based on the stuff that was appearing in their state with no apparent authorship. But what they uncovered turns out to matter way beyond Alaska, because it`s not just happening in Alaska. You might remember from back in the fall, the Koch brothers funding these ads targeting college students. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, let`s have a look. (MUSIC) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Creepy Uncle Sam is still creepy. He`s creepy by design. And it`s creepy to imagine the government forcing you into specific medical procedures against your will, right, Governor Ultrasound? But the point of these Koch brothers funded ads is not to give you the willies about that idea, right? The point is to convince you that health insurance itself is a bad thing that you will be fine without it, you, uninsured person becoming one with the dorm room couch. Don`t just sit there, sign your name and pledge on your honor that you will not get health insurance! You will stay uninsured. Sign your name and pledge to the billionaire Koch brothers that you will remain uninsured, no matter how affordable health insurance might become for you and no matter how long it`s been since you went to a doctor, even about that weird lump you`ve got. The creepy Uncle Sam ads made a huge splash when they first appeared, by design, but way, way, way, way below the radar, something that`s not getting any attention at all is something that the Koch brothers and their affiliated groups do not mean for you to notice the way that they wanted you to notice the college students ad, way, way, way below the radar. The Koch brothers network has been working state by state to stop Obamacare wherever they can. This is Christie Herrera. She`s a veteran of the Koch brothers networks. She started with the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC. That`s the group that writes a lot of model legislation for conservative legislators around the country to copy and call their own, bills like "stand your ground" on guns or bills to strip union rights. Lately, though, Christie Herrera has been busy with something else. Here`s a picture of her in Mississippi telling Mississippi legislators there that they should not expand health insurance under Obamacare, they should not expand Medicaid. Here she is in Idaho telling the state senate there that they should not expand health insurance access under Obamacare, they should not let more people have health insurance in the state of Idaho. She also went to New Hampshire, where she told their lawmakers that health insurance access should not be expanded under Obamacare, they should not do it. Last year, she took the same message to Oklahoma, no expanding health insurance access under Obamacare, don`t do it in Oklahoma. Then last month, she showed up again at a government hearing in virgin. We reported at the time that a Tea Party group in northern Virginia celebrated her arrival. They called her "one of our expert witnesses." But when she shows up in your state to tell your state government how to make policy decisions about who gets health insurance and who does not, she does not say, here I am, the nice lady from the Koch brothers conservative network. She shows up as a Medicaid expert, an expert witness from something called the Foundation for Government Accountability in all its glorious, below-the-radar genericness. And here`s where the whole thing gets kind of strange and also a bill little bit giant. When the marketing executive flies into Alaska to ignite a consumer movement, he is doing that not because he`s ever been to Alaska before and can tell it from anywhere else in a map, he`s doing that because he`s getting paid to do it, and when the expert witness travels to yet another state capital, from Idaho to Oklahoma to Mississippi to Virginia, all over the country, that travel, those trips are also somehow being funded. I mean, you would not necessarily expect that one small government Medicaid is bad expert to be playing on a national level, right? And it`s not easy to figure out how they are doing this. But a new report starts to show what`s going on here below the radar, where they hope you`re not looking. Billionaire Koch brothers have been using their money to fund something called the State Policy Network. I should tell you, the group also gets funding from some major corporations, including our corporate owners, the Comcast Corporation, along with corporate funding and Koch brothers funding, the State Policy Network has dozens of member think tanks in states coast to coast, including the Foundation for Government Accountability, whose expert witness now knows where to charge her iPhone in airports across the country. Her group is listed right there under Florida in the state policy network directory. The State Policy Network, this Koch brothers funded network, State Policy Network, SPN, they quite likely have a member think tank near you. You maybe just do not know it yet. For instance, this summer, Georgia Republican Governor Nathan Deal announced that his state would not expand access to health insurance under Obamacare. They would not be expanding Medicaid. Governor Deal said Georgia would leave 650,000 people in the state who might have qualified for Medicaid, it would leave them out of the plan. His decision, 650,000 people without health insurance who otherwise would have had it. The paper in Savannah, Georgia, just the other day, "The Savannah Morning News" published an op-ed praising Governor Deal for that decision. The op-ed cites research from, hey, look, that totally forgettable name, the Foundation for Government Accountability. That same Florida think tank that`s been traveling all around doing this across the country. And the op-ed is signed by somebody from the -- Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which describes itself as an independent think tank in Atlanta. But look, how independent are they? Here they are, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a member of the State Policy Network. You can look it up for yourself. It`s interesting. If you start following this coverage in your state, is your state making a decision about this some time soon? If you see op-eds or news coverage in your town, in your local paper, in your local media, people arguing that people don`t really need health insurance, that the state shouldn`t act to expand health insurance to more people in your state, who`s being quoted? Go to the State Policy Network Web site, click on your state, see for yourself if the group that`s getting quieted in your local paper or talking to your local legislature saying Obamacare should be stopped is part of this network. I will bet you dollars to donuts that you will find more often than not that they are. We`ve posted links to the directory and to the report about their funding at tonight if you want to check it out. It is handy to know about this Koch brothers affiliation, because Obamacare is very, very much a live issue in the states. The governor of Tennessee right now is considering what that state is going to do about how many people are going to have health insurance in his state under Obamacare. In Virginia, where they`re getting a new Democratic governor, that state may soon be expanding access to health insurance under Obamacare because it`s a Democrat in charge now. In New Hampshire, lawmakers are deciding this month whether to expand access to health insurance in that state as well, expanding Medicaid. And just this past Friday, the Republican governor of Alaska, Alaska, announced that his state would not be expanding health reform to include more people. This is a present, live, urgent fight state to state to stop health reform from reaching more people. We talk about this, especially in the Beltway press, as something that is a national issue just affecting President Obama, but you want to know what? Whether or not it works and whatever the political consequences are of it working or not, that gets decided in the states. This is a live issue right now. And once more people get it, right, the forces for and against it agree, those people are going to want to keep it. Once people get health insurance, they do not want to lose it. If you`ve never had it before and you get health insurance, you`re going to want to keep it. So, this has big political consequences as well as life and death consequences for literally millions of Americans. On their public Web site, that Florida think tank has been touting the early troubles of signing up for Obamacare. Look. "The Obamacare exchanges are on track for monumental failure if current enrollment trends continue." At the same time, on the Web site they would like to be less famous for, they are asking people to pledge to do not enroll in health insurance under that program. So, the diagnosis is that everything is terrible. The diagnosis is that in there in their publicly available information, but under the radar, they`re the ones doing everything they can to make that true, to make it terrible. They are making their own weather and they are probably doing it in your own hometown or at least in your own home state. Joining us is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. He`s a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is involved in the oversight of the Affordable Care Act. Senator Whitehouse, it`s really nice to have y here. Thanks for coming back. SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good to be with you. MADDOW: What are the consequences for people who live in states that decide not to expand Medicaid? We can count the numbers up individually, state by state, but are we going to end up in a situation where red states versus blue states have very different health outcomes, very different levels of insurance? WHITEHOUSE: There are two really big consequences. One is that a lot of the families that would qualify for the Medicaid program end up without insurance. And so, you have a huge difference between states like Rhode Island, which are going to help folks to sign up and to get their coverage from states like Alaska, which are going to leave people without health insurance, just deliberately, almost maliciously, not let them get access to health insurance, and at extremely affordable rates, because they`re coming through the Medicaid program. So, there`s an immense personal hit at the families that are involved in this. Then you scroll on, and the secondary hit is to the local hospitals, because they will now have to deal with those people when they get into a car accident or have a heart attack or whatever the condition is that drives them into their emergency rooms, and they`ll be uninsured, and the local hospitals will have to pick up the uncompensated care, and there is not the same level of protection from compensated care that there was beforehand, because the whole theory of the Affordable Care Act was that people would be insured and the hospitals wouldn`t need that kind of support. So, it`s not only if you`re in the Medicaid-eligible band of the population in Alaska that you have a lot to worry about. If you`re on the board of an Alaskan hospital, you`ve got to be looking over at the governor and saying, excuse me, what are you thinking? MADDOW: In terms of the way this campaign is working state to state, when I started looking at some of this reporting coming out of the states, when I started following local papers, who are sort of pulling the threads and realizing that all these groups arguing against people having health insurance are all tied back to these same billionaire funders, it is hard not to personalize this and make it about them and their particular ideology as rich guys who want people not to get health insurance, but these networks really are very tightly intertwined. It seems like it`s a very small and tightly knit group that`s telling people, asking them to promise to not get insurance. I guess I want your reaction to that, what you think about that as a political strategy on the other side from you on this? WHITEHOUSE: It`s a particularly dirty trick, but it`s not a new one. It`s one that is tried and true, and it`s one that the Koch brothers are themselves familiar with in their capacity not as health care insurance attackers but as big polluters. And if you look at their careers as big polluters and the kind of things that they`ve funded and the network of screen organizations that have been established to give the pretense of legitimacy, the pretense of independence and to trot out the same kind of, you know, sort of stable, as I mean, like a horse in a stable, expert that they pull out. We`ve seen this game before. And so, they, I think, have readily adapted the kind of scheming and efforts to mislead the public out of the public health arena that they`ve used for so long, and now they`re using it in the health insurance arena. So, for them, I think it`s kind of an easy reaction to fall into. We`ve got lots of money. We`ll pay a lot of people to try to look independent. We`ll put up a lot of phony organizations to look like this is all legit, and we`ll go out and try to do our dirty business. MADDOW: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, thanks very much for your time tonight, sir. It`s nice to have you here. WHITEHOUSE: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right, so, which set of brothers has the greatest influence on American politics? It`s not the Koch brothers, actually, it`s guys who have really, really, really serious beards. And that story`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: What used to be amazing to watch in this country were fights between Republicans and Democrats -- one person embodying the temperament and policy views of one of the major parties up against an equal and opposite number embodying the other major party in the same way. In a country that has really fascinating political fights, the fights between the two major parties, between Republicans and Democrats, those are supposed to be the main attraction. That used to be how it was. Now, all the best fights in American politics are Republicans versus Republicans. Politicians like these being challenged, being thrown out of office or being forced off the Republican Party line on the ballot by other Republicans who consider themselves more conservative than thou. For a while, it felt like this was just going to be a temporary burst of activity in the Republican Party, sort of post losing everything purge that they would work out of their system eventually once the sting of losing so hugely in 2006 and 2008 wore off. But they are not apparently over it yet. More incumbent Republicans than ever are looking down the barrel at a Tea Party challenge from their right in their own Republican Party primary next year, and a lot of the challengers have a lot of money and a lot of support from Washington conservative groups, and they, therefore, have a pretty good chance of prying these longtime Republican incumbents out of their seats, particularly in the Deep South. And just this year, which is an off-off year for elections, of course, just this year, there have already been two contests that were Republican versus Republican, right? The first was that congressional race in southern Alabama, a Republican primary runoff between one Republican who says he doesn`t know who Eric Cantor is and President Obama was definitely born in Kenya, against another Republican who was a more mainstream guy, a mainstream conservative Republican, but still, more mainstream than the birther guy. That race was a couple weeks ago, and the birther guy lost, score one for the Republican mainstream in Alabama. The second Republican-on- Republican race was this weekend, for some reason. A weekend election? OK. In Louisiana, a congressional race in the 5th district there that, again, was between two conservative Republicans. There`s no Democrat in the race. The paper in Baton Rouge, "The Advocate" described them as both being very conservative Republicans, both having very similar views, except one of them was a little more pragmatic, a little less hard core, specifically on the issue of health care. And it was the guy who took that more pragmatic approach, who said Louisiana ought to be expanding Medicaid, who said if we Republicans are going to repeal Obamacare, we ought to replace it with something, it was that guy, the shockingly more middle of the road on health reform guy who won the race this weekend, and he also wants immigration reform, apparently. I mean, both of these guys are conservatives, but the guy with less of a "burn the place down" conservative mentality won this race. So, same as in Alabama. So, two for two for the mainstream, right, for Republicans finding their way to the center. This is almost a pattern. We can extrapolate from this, right, to a larger thesis about the Republican Party and the power of its hard right breakaway faction, right? No. Because actually, what appears to have happened here in the Louisiana race is this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are y`all doing? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever. Have we got the duck calls done? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we`re going to need them in the morning! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s it. Tomorrow`s the day. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are we going to camp at on the property? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, what are we going to camp at? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re going camping? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a tradition. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The night before duck season, we rough it. We`re going to wake up and show nature who`s still in charge. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Manhood alert, Willie`s back! I hadn`t lost my redneckedness. UNIDENTIIFED MALE: Willie`s idea of roughing it is opening a garage door manually. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Willie`s idea of roughing it is having the wrong comfort setting on his sleep number bed. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is from the reality TV show "Duck Dynasty." I saw that one. It`s really good. And these guys, specifically two of these guys, from "Duck Dynasty," Willie and his dad, Phil, they endorsed the Louisiana candidate who ended up winning in that Republican-on-Republican race this weekend in Louisiana. And if you think that I`m kidding, that the "Duck Dynasty" endorsement could have made the difference in that race, then you are not in full quantitative appreciation of the power of "Duck Dynasty." Have you ever watched it? If you haven`t watched it, you owe it to yourself to watch it just so you understand your country, in the sense that you need to understand what everybody else is watching. "Duck Dynasty" is a phenomenon like no other on the TV machine in America. Their season premiere in August broke all records for cable TV, 12 million people watched, the largest audience ever in history for a nonfiction series on cable. Remember when "Jon & Kate Plus 8" was a big phenomenon? They were the old record-holder. "Duck Dynasty" blows them away in the ratings. "The Jersey Shore," you`ve heard of, the housewives of whatever, "The Real World," the Kardashian shows, all of them are nothing compared to the duck dies. The series finale of "Breaking Bad," which completely dominated the American cultural conversation for weeks leading up to it and even after, that finale got 10.3 million viewers. Yeah, great. "Duck Dynasty`s" premiere had an audience larger by 1.5 million people. "Duck Dynasty" is bigger than the Beatles right now. It is bigger against anything on TV. Some nights it`s up against "American Idol" which is on network TV, and everybody gets that for free. "Duck Dynasty" is on cable, but "Duck Dynasty" beats "American Idol." You may not watch "Duck Dynasty," but look to your left and look to your right and call your cousin in Louisiana and one of you, statistically speaking, is watching "Duck Dynasty" right then, or they`re online at that moment shopping for "duck dynasty" tie and fashions, bed sheets and car seat covers. And so, when Phil and Willie, from that cultural juggernaut decided to wade into a low-turnout, weekend runoff for an odd-year Louisiana congressional seat this weekend? Yes, the guy they endorsed wins! And it`s not close. He wins by a mile. He wins by 20points! Even though he`s never held office before and he`s running against a state senator who everybody knows. And, yes, maybe there`s a trend here, and maybe it will be borne out next year, too, that the Republican Party is done electing their craziest options and they`re going to go back to just electing far right guys. Maybe there is a lesson here even that running against health insurance in parts of the country that are poor is a bad electoral strategy and that people actually do want to vote for the guy who promises more health insurance and not less. Maybe this all means that the end is neigh for the Tea Party ascendancy in Republican politics. Maybe. Or maybe it`s basic cable. Maybe it`s just "Duck Dynasty." Time will tell, but do not underestimate the power of "Duck Dynasty." (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I`ll say this for Thanksgiving. It has traditions like no other American holiday. It is always on a Thursday. Everybody eats turkey, or at least tofu shaped like turkey. There is football on TV every single year. Thanksgiving never changes. Everything else changes in all holidays, seems like, but Thanksgiving never changes, until this year. New tradition this year. Bad, new tradition being unveiled this year that really ought to be nipped in the bud before it becomes the new normal. And that story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, on Thanksgiving Day, there is the Macy`s Thanksgiving Day parade, right? You`re either a parade-watching family or you`re not a parade-watching family. I am from a parade-watching family, and Susan`s family is even more agro about it than my family is. Pity the fool who comes between one Mikula woman and a television during the Macy`s parade or the Rose Bowl parade or any parade. They just really like parades. But the hallmark of the Macy`s parade, of course, is the balloons, right? The giant balloons that fly all the way downtown, down the avenues. And sometimes, they get scary in the wind, right? Here`s the thing, the first year that they did balloons in the Macy`s Thanksgiving Day parade was 1927, but they did not make them helium balloons that year. They were just blown up with air. So, the first year of giant balloons in a parade, they had to prop them up on sticks instead of holding the balloons down with ropes and weights like now, they had to hoist them up and carry them down Broadway like puppets. Eventually, they switched to helium, and in the early days, at the end of the parade, they just released the balloons into the sky. They put a return address on them in hopes that somebody would bring them back. That plan reportedly did not work out very well, even though there was a reward for returned balloons, but the parade survived. With balloons and without, with helium and without, with huge littering in the sky and without, but always with Santa Claus making a grand appearance and always on Thanksgiving Day. The Macy`s parade has been around for 87 years now to mark the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season. And every year since that first year, the actual Macy`s Store has been closed on Thanksgiving Day and shopping started the day after. But not this year -- for all of these years, they`ve been kicking off the shopping season on the holiday and then you shop the next day. But this year, for the first time in the 155-year history of the store, Macy`s, they are planning on being open on Thanksgiving so people can in shop there on Thanksgiving night, which used to be a holiday. This year, way more than ever before, tons of major American retailers are deciding to cancel Thanksgiving. They are expecting their employees to be at work that day because now they are expecting their customers to also leave their families that day, too, to start shopping, to start their shopping for Christmas on Thanksgiving Day. A lot of stores are going to be open to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. Kmart`s going to open at 6:00 a.m., Thanksgiving morning. They`re going to stay open for 41 hours straight. That will be nice for the people who work there. That`s a patriotic way to spend this American holiday. Wal-Mart, Target, Toys "R" Us, JCPenney, Best Buy, Big Lots, Kohl`s, Sears, Old Navy, they`re all going to be open on Thanksgiving. Staples is going to be open on Thanksgiving? OfficeMax, really? We need to cancel Thanksgiving for tens of thousands of American families so people can go buy office supplies on Thanksgiving Day? Staples and OfficeMax absolutely need to be open for some kind of Christmas rush on task chairs? Highlighters? Come on! I love highlighters, but really? An employee at a Kmart in the Chicago area snapped a shot of this sign posted at his or her place of employment. They sent it to "The Huffington Post." It`s a message from Kmart management telling workers that no one will be given the day off on Thanksgiving or the day before Thanksgiving or the day after Thanksgiving. Happy holidays! Family values! America! This is the kind of thing that FOX News would call a war on Thanksgiving, if there were any way to blame it on the Democrats. And this isn`t a war, but it is a rather grave threat to Thanksgiving, or it`s at least a mugging of Thanksgiving, since a huge swath of the major retailers in America have decided to just take that holiday away from their employees. But not everybody. RadioShack did have their stores open on Thanksgiving last year, but they decided this year that it was not worth doing. They told "Think Progress" that, quote, "In honor of Thanksgiving and the time-honored tradition of gathering with family and friends, RadioShack will not be open on Thanksgiving this year." Apple also had planned to have most of their stores open on thanksgiving, but the company`s CEO reportedly decided to wade in over the objections of Apple market directors to say that only three stores in the whole country would be open on Thanksgiving, so most employees can be with their families that day. It is sort of still a Thanksgiving robbery if you work at one of those three stores that`s going to be open on Thanksgiving, but it`s better than what appears to have been their original plans. "Think Progress" has also tracked these national retailers who are pledging not to be open on Thanksgiving, so their employees can be with family. In addition to RadioShack and most of the Apple Stores, also not canceling Thanksgiving and letting their employees have the holiday this year are stores like REI, American Girl, Burlington Coat Factory, Costco, BJ`s Wholesale, Nordstrom, Patagonia. Those companies are actually giving their employees the day off, honoring the holiday. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart, the nation`s largest employer, plans to be open Thanksgiving night and fully staffed. Apparently, by a lot of folks who not earn enough money working at Wal-Mart to afford Thanksgiving of their own. Today, this photo, look carefully at this. This is taken by an Ohio Wal-Mart worker, published in the Cleveland "Plain Dealer." It shows a donation bin with a sign saying, "Please donate food items here so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner." Associates means they`re talking about their fellow Wal-Mart employees here. This is in an employee area of the store, reportedly. It`s not a food drive for the community. This is a food drive to try to get Wal-Mart workers to feed each other in case working at the nation`s largest private employee is not paying you enough in salary to feed your family on Thanksgiving Day. Before this happened in "The Plain Dealer" today, protests against Wal-Mart were already scheduled in Ohio for this week. The company`s consistently been at the center of calls for a living wage for millions of employees. But now, today in Dayton and Cincinnati and Cleveland, current and former Wal-Mart employees organizing against the company are saying that those in-house donation bins at that one Ohio Wal-Mart, that picture is sort of making the case for them. Vanessa Ferreira is a former Wal-Mart worker who says she was fired for organizing for better wages at the store. She told "The Plain Dealer" today that the company needs to stand up and give its employees a living wage so they do not have to worry about whether they can afford Thanksgiving. Joining us now is Vanessa Ferreira. She`s a former Wal-Mart employee. She`s a member of the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart called OUR Walmart. It`s a group that`s trying to unionize Wal-Mart stores. Ms. Ferreira, thank you very much for being with us. It`s nice to have you here. VANESSA FERREIRA, OUR WALMART: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: So, what`d you think when you heard about this canned food drive at a northeast Ohio Wal-Mart? Were you surprised by that, having worked at the store? FERREIRA: I was outraged. Outraged. MADDOW: When you worked at Wal-Mart, I understand that you were involved in essentially a protest action against the store, organizing for better wages, and that resulted in you losing your job. What happened there? FERREIRA: They retaliated against me. They didn`t fire me right away. They surveillanced me and intimidated me, and they fired me for extended breaks, so -- MADDOW: In terms of your experience working there, obviously, they know that some employees have grievances against them because of the protests like the one you were involved in and the organizing you`re doing now, but did you ever have the impression that the company was aware that their own employees were in financial hardship because of the low wages? FERREIRA: They are very much aware of it, because they`re the ones who give them the low wages. They`re the ones who cut their hours. With the food bins, they`re asking people, the associates to donate to their own associates. I mean, this is a multimillion dollar company. What do they want these associates to donate with, their food stamps? MADDOW: There`s protests today, picketing actions in Dayton, in Cincinnati. There`s been other protests in California, in Florida, in Wal- Marts around the country. What`s the goal of the movement? What`s the goal of OUR Walmart, of which you`re a member now? FERREIRA: Our goal is to speak out and stop the retaliation. We want our respect back. We want our 40 hours and a livable wage. MADDOW: In terms of a livable wage, how much more than you were being paid would you consider to have been a living wage? What kind of raise do you think you should have had? FERREIRA: We would like our associates full time to be making $25,000 a year. MADDOW: How does that relate to what you believe most associates are making now? FERREIRA: I`m hearing -- I`m seeing and hearing $15,000 to $17,000 a year, because they`re not getting 40 hours. MADDOW: What do you think about the fact that Wal-Mart employees are going to have to work on Thanksgiving, earlier in the day on Thanksgiving than ever before? You think that`s reasonable? FERREIRA: No, it`s not reasonable. It`s corporate greed. MADDOW: Vanessa Ferreira, former Wal-Mart employee, now a member of OUR Walmart, part of a group that`s organizing for better wages for Wal- Mart workers, the largest private employer in the country -- thanks very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to see you. Thank you. FERREIRA: Thank you. MADDOW: I should tell you, when we reached out to Wal-Mart about Ms. Ferreira and her claims today, they said that they repeated her claims that she had abused break privileges, but regardless of the means by which she was terminated, she`s now organizing with other former workers and current Wal-Mart workers to try to get their wages up and improve their conditions. All right. Did you see that duck that we had here on set a minute ago? Did you see the duck that we had on the desk? Hold on. The duck lord returns in just a moment. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There has been a fight among the show staff today concerning the "Duck Dynasty". Can we bring the duck back? OK. We have a magic duck. We never used it for anything before, but there it is. There was a fight among the RACHEL MADDOW staff show whether the "Duck Dynasty" endorsement in the Louisiana congressional this weekend was the most important reality show reference in American politics today. I think that it was. I think that the whole duck thing, no offense, decided that race. But there is a hard core contingent around here who thinks that the most reality show reference in American politics today has nothing to do with the ducks. It`s not about "Duck Dynasty". It`s about sisters fighting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not OK to come into my life -- (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m only acting on what you already said. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to get out of here. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my house. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to get out of here. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you say to her? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She knows. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? Because of you. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not because of me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sisters fighting in public on TV. And the most bizarre family drama story in American politics in a long time, we have to say good-bye to the duck. Good-bye duck. Now the duck is gone. But the sisters, that allegory is next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Centuries from now when historians are looking back on our time on Earth, they are inevitably going to come across evidence of a U.S. senator from Wyoming named Alan Simpson, and those historians are going to be confused. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORMER SEN. ALAN SIMPSON (R), WYOMING: I think, you know, grandchildren don`t write a thank you for the Christmas presents. They`re walking on their pants and their hat on backwards listening to enema man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dog and they don`t like them. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dog and Alan Simpson, everybody. Yes. Alan Simpson once called Social Security a milk cow with 310 million rhymes with zits. He said if you come across somebody who thinks we don`t need to cut Social Security, you should walk out the door, stick a finger down your throat and give them the green weenie. Alan Simpson in defending gay rights, defending gay rights, said, you can go worship the Great Eel at night, I don`t give a rat`s. The rat`s, you give the point. Alan Simpson is quotable up to the point where he cannot be quoted on TV. One time he got mad at me and referred to me as a "that". It. That. That was fun. Earlier this year, Alan Simpson publicly blew a gasket. He released a 13-paragraph long statement to a Wyoming newspaper. I will not read the whole thing. But here`s the flavor, "In public life I have been called everything. A fool, an idiot, a boob, a bonehead, a dink, a slab, a greenie, a soot-covered slab, and all the rest, and that is fair, believe it or not in politics. But what is not fair in my mind and never has been is when someone tries to distort who I am as a person and that was done on the evening of September 21st." September 21st, Alan Simpson had a run-in with the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney, who`s also the mother of current Republican Senate hopeful, Liz Cheney. Liz Cheney is currently waging a primary challenge against long-time Wyoming senator Mike Enzi. Alan Simpson is supporting Mr. Enzi and Liz Cheney`s mom is apparently very upset about that. Quote, "She said, `How could you forget that 8- year-old girl who campaigned with us and for you in 1978? How could you not support her?` I said, `You don`t understand. I`ve known Mike Enzi for over 35 years.` And then Lynne said, `Oh, I`ve heard enough about that and I don`t want to hear any more. I just want to tell you something. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.` Three times. I wandered off stunned." Liz Cheney`s mom telling Alan Simpson to shut up. At that point, that was the biggest thing to happen in the Wyoming Senate race yet. But then, Liz Cheney`s dad got into the mix as well. Last month, after Senator Enzi told "The Daily Beast" he felt blind sided by the challenge to his Senate seat, especially because he and Dick Cheney are old fishing bodies, Dick Cheney publically came out on TV to declare that in no was he a fishing buddy with Mike Enzi. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he felt a bit blindsided by your family. He thought you were his friend. How do you respond to that criticism? DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Mike also said he and I are fishing buddies, which is simply not true. It never happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: People talk about not wanting the Clintons back in public office. We don`t want to deal with the all the Clinton family drama. What about the Cheneys? The Alan Simpson thing is with mom, the Mike Enzi fishing thing with dad, and today it was the sister getting in the mix. Yesterday, Liz Cheney went on "FOX News Sunday" and once again declared her opposition to marriage equality. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LIZ CHENEY (R), WYOMING SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe it`s an issue that has got to be left up to the states. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage. CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: You`ve talked about your position against same sex marriage. Your sister Mary who is married to a woman put out this post. She said, "For the record, I love my sister," you, "but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage." L. CHENEY: Yes, listen, I love Mary very much. I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. Moments later, the response on Facebook from Liz Cheney`s gay sister Mary. Quote, "Liz, this isn`t just an issue on which we disagree. You`re just wrong and on the wrong side of history." Then, today, Dick Cheney and his wife put out a press release in which they took sides in this fight between their two daughters. Quote, "Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She`s also always treated her sister and her sister`s family with love and respect. Liz`s many kindnesses should not be used to distort her position." The extent that this is a fight about policy, Liz Cheney`s position on same sex marriage, who knows what the political impact of that will be. Nationwide, the majority of the country is in favor of same sex marriage rights. But in Wyoming, the numbers are essential flip. Both Liz Cheney and Mike Enzi are anti-gay on this issue, so, substantively, who knows how this will work out? But nobody is poling yet on whether or not Wyoming voters want a senator whose parents fight with their sister on their behalf via press release after a nasty Facebook feud involving the salient question of "whether or not I was lying on `FOX News Sunday` about how much I hate you or maybe I was lying before we stopped talking when I was still being nice to your kids." Are you looking forward to that in your elected officials? There has been no polling on that particular aspect on the race in Wyoming but there will be on August 19th, which is when the Republican Senate primary is in the state. It`s either the fighting Cheney clan or keep Mike Enzi. Good luck, Wyoming Republicans. Good luck making your decision. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END