The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/02/14

Guests: Howard Simon, Daryl Kimball

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy New Year. In the first month that Massachusetts did its own version of Obamacare, the first month of health reform at the state level, where people were allowed to sign up on their own in Massachusetts, state-wide enrollment for coverage in month number was a grand total of 123 people. Not 123,000, just 123 people. By the end of the second month in Massachusetts, 2,000 people had signed up for health insurance in that state. By the end of the third month, it was 5,000 people who had signed up for health insurance in Massachusetts. So, it was a very, very slow start, but then it took off. And the Massachusetts plan, which is the model for what we did as a country, Massachusetts is now seen a huge success, or it`s at least seemed to have done exactly what it was designed to do. In Massachusetts, something like 98 percent of the population now has health insurance because of that law. But that`s how it started. And that is the template. That is the blueprint that we are following for health reform nationwide. And now, now, because December has ended -- again, happy New Year -- now we can see how we are doing as a country, alongside the blueprint, alongside that previous example of how Massachusetts did as a state. We can look at our first three months against how Massachusetts did in their first three months. We know that the Massachusetts plans, the Massachusetts plan worked in the end. And now we know, as a nation, that our experience with the first three months of this policy as a country, our first three months looks a lot like what those first three months looked like in New England seven years ago, on that much smaller scale. I mean, everybody was very worried, when the first month` number came out on Obamacare and showed that only 100,000 people had enrolled for health insurance. But by the end of the second month, nationwide, by the end of November, it was up to 365,000 people. Now, we just got the new data for December, and it turns out that as went Massachusetts, so goes the nation. We`re now up to 2.1 million people enrolled. And that is just for people who have signed up for new health insurance using one of the exchanges. In addition to that, nationwide, another 3.9 million people have gotten new coverage thanks to Obamacare. Not through the exchanges, but, instead, through the expansion of existing insurance programs like Medicaid or SCHIP, which is the program for kids. So, 2.1 million through the exchanges, another 3 million through these existing programs being expanded. How did 2013 end up going for the signature legislative achievement of this presidency? Yes, it started off bumpy, but it kind of now looks like it`s going to work. I don`t know why more writing about Obamacare doesn`t compare Obamacare to or at least put it in the context of the state where we piloted this experience, just seven years ago, in Massachusetts. But when you do compare them, when you compare the test drive to now owning the car, what`s happening federally looks like it really does mirror the launch of that ultimately successful state-level program that nobody likes to call Romneycare. And this, of course, is good news if you want health reform to work. The number of people signing up and the rate at which that line graph is ascending, that`s good news if you want health reform to work. It is terrible news if you want health reform to not to work. And one of the fascinating things to watch this year is going to be, what becomes of the right-wing cottage industry that sprung up over the last few months in this country to argue that people should not want to get health insurance. I mean, this is going to go down into the annals of American political history as one of the weirder things that the American political right has ever worked on. And it may be just an obsession of right-wing groups that take money from the Koch brothers. It does seem like most of these don`t get insurance things are founded by the Koch brothers. And, of course, the Koch brothers are some of the world`s richest men and they can afford all sorts of expensive failures. But what`s going to happen in the long run? What is going to happen even over the course of this New Year in 2014? What is going to happen to the giant, creepy, Uncle Sam paper-mache head that pops up in your gynecologist`s office? I mean, as more and more millions of Americans decide that they do want to get health insurance, are the Koch brothers going to keep funding these ads and organizations, trying to convince college students that refusing to have health insurance is doing your part for the revolution or whatever? I mean, at the end of 2014, are they still doing to be trying to sell the idea that if you have health insurance, that means there will be a creepy puppet with a giant head doing your prostate exam. And you don`t want that now, boys, do you? I mean, what happens to those ads? What happens to these groups? What happens to Web sites like this? Uncover Obamacare, which have been gleefully plotting the low number of people enrolling to get health insurance. But then they just stopped updating their ticker when the numbers got uncomfortably high, so they keep showing old numbers now. Even though this particular group is based in Florida, it`s the same group that have been running those ads in Alaska, the ones that tell people in Alaska they shouldn`t enroll for health insurance either. These billionaire-funded ad campaigns and Web sites and organizations telling Americans that you`re a sucker if you got health insurance, I think this is one of the weirdest and most underreported turns in right-wing politics this year. But the way things are going now, with health reform now seemingly starting to work, it`s going to be fascinating over the course of 2014 to see if those groups stick around, to see if those groups and those campaigns and those Web sites and those creepy ads are still around this time next year. But telling people not to get health insurance is not the only thing this these groups have been working on. The Florida Foundation for Government Accountability, this Koch brothers affiliated group that ran the Alaska don`t enroll came, and then sent its experts traveling around not just to Florida but to Oklahoma and Idaho and Mississippi and New Hampshire and Virginia, telling all those state governments to make it as hard as possible for people to get health insurance in their states, that group is also now just turned up as a loser in another big political fight in Florida. Now, if you want to know what these Koch brothers affiliated state groups are working on, other than telling people not to get health insurance, in Florida they, at least, have been promoting forced drug tests for people who are on welfare. Florida Republican governor Rick Scott loved this idea when he first ran for Florida governor in 2010. After he signed it into law in 2011, the Koch brothers connected Florida group helped champion and defend this policy as well worth the money. That law ultimately led the state of Florida to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars proving that, as it turns out, welfare recipients appear to use drugs at roughly one-fourth the rate of the general population. Florida`s drug test to the poor bill was initially proposed as a way that the state would save tons of money, but it ended up being a boondoggle, a hugely expensive way to discover almost no illegal drug use. And a series of court rulings has now found it to be wildly unconstitutional. A few months after the program was first implemented, a federal court ruling blocked it, and the court ruling, the judge of the court ruling went out of her way to basically laugh at the state for having cited one particular Florida think tank for their evidence as to why the law was such a good idea. Look at this -- this was from the ruling. You almost never see anything this blunt in a court order. "Thought the state offers, as evidence of the cost savings, a pamphlet from the Foundation for Government Accountability, the data contained in the pamphlet is not competent expert opinion nor is it offered as such, nor could it be reasonably be construed as such." That`s the Koch brothers group that has been promoting this idea, right, the same Koch brothers group that has been telling people not to get health insurance. They`re the ones that came up with the idea that it`s a great use of state funds. The court laughed out loud at that in their ruling. So, that court ruling was from the fall of 2011. Just a few months before the Florida drug test the poor policy went into effect. The policy got blocked by the courts. The state was mocked for having tried to pretend that this Koch brothers affiliated group was some sort of expert think tank on the subject. But even after that, that same group, the Koch brothers affiliated group, they traveled around the country marketing Florida`s great policy success as something that all the Republican-controlled states should try to do. Look, here`s their press release about how they attended public hearings in Georgia to share Florida`s drug test the poor success story. Here`s the guy who was the author of that pamphlet that the court laughed at in its court ruling. Here`s him being photographed at a Republican state senator from Wisconsin. We got to hear all about Florida`s awesome new drug test to the poor law, when this group presented it as a success story, that other states should emulate at a conference hosted by ALEC, the conservative corporate-funded policy group that markets model legislation for state lawmakers. That process of taking a piece of legislation that Republicans managed to get passed somewhere and turning it into a national phenomenon, that is one thing that the right does really, really, really well right now. And so, even as Florida`s policy, this drug test the poor policy, became a laughing stock in the state, even as it was declared unconstitutional as soon as they tried to put it into effect, even at it became a really obviously apparent boondoggle in the state that definitely wasn`t going to save any money, and that was going to cost a ton of money, and that was going to expose the opposite of the problem that it purported to solve, even as all of that was happening, in Florida, the place that came up with this law in the first place, these conservative groups, through networks like ALEC, right? They were able to convince other Republican-controlled states to try it as well. Quote, "In 2013, alone, at least 30 states proposed bills related to drug screening and testing, with some even extending it to federal benefits, such as unemployment insurance." That`s from the Minneapolis "Star Tribune," which wrote about this over the holiday break, wrote about the worries and the state of Minnesota over the implementation of that state`s version of the law. Quote, "There was little debate in the Minnesota legislature last year when random drug testing was added as an amendment of an omnibus health bill. The bill passed the Republican lead state Senate in 2012." But now that it`s going into effect, quote, "counties across the state of Minnesota are scrambling to enforce the rules. For many county governments across Minnesota, the law has become a logistical headache." The new law, quote, "could end up costing taxpayers far more than it saves." Just one day before that, similar worries in the "Kansas City Star", where Missouri this past year was the most recent state to install drug testing for welfare recipients and where neighboring Kansas is scheduled to be next. The program`s price in Missouri described as, quote, astronomical by one state`s legislature, quote, "a horrible waste of state resources." Costs in Missouri include $170,000 just for staffing administrative hearings for the people that are getting denied benefits. In Kansas, they`ve already earmarked nearly $1 million to pay for this policy, including $600,000 for upgrading computers to get ready for the testing program. Really? You think you`re going to save money with that much money invested? On New Year`s Eve, a federal appeals court in Florida ruled again on the policy that started this new trend in the red states. Remember, the Florida policy was originally stopped by the courts just a few months after it was implemented in 2011. But on New Year`s Eve, on Tuesday Night, the appeals court affirmed that ruling and shut the program down. Saying, in no uncertain terms, quote, "there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied." It`s over. I mean, Rick Scott in Florida is running for re-election, as governor. He says he will appeal this ruling. He says he not only wants to keep this drug testing, he loves this program, but he wants to expand. He wants to run on that when he runs for re-election. But unless the U.S. Supreme Court does something really unexpected and overturns this series of court rulings, it kind of seems like Rick Scott`s signature "drug test the poor policy" is dead. It is at least dead at home. But thanks to the Foundation for Government Accountability, this Koch brothers related group, and thanks to ALEC and all these other right-wing groups that spread this stuff around the country, even though it`s dead at home, policy like this may still be coming soon to a state near you. The day after that ruling, killing the Florida policy, the "Jackson Clarion Ledger" in Mississippi ran an interview with Mississippi`s Republican Governor Phil Bryant. They asked him what his big ideas were for the state of 2014. And he said his big priority for Mississippi, for 2014, for this New Year is, drug testing for welfare recipients. It`s constitutionally dead in the place that started it. Everyone else that has taken it on thinks it`s a failure and a boondoggle. But still, this stuff still keeps spreading, because if there`s one thing the right actually is good at, it`s spreading bad ideas nationwide. Joining us now is the executive director of the ACLU of Florida, Howard Simon. Mr. Simon, thank you for being here tonight. Appreciate your time. HOWARD SIMON, ACLU FLORIDA: Thank you, Rachel. Nice to be with you again. MADDOW: I know that you`re involved in this case that ultimately seems to have struck down Florida Governor Rick Scott`s sort of signature drug testing law. Why do you think the governor championed this law in the first place? Was it addressing a known problem in the state? SIMON: Well, he trapped himself into this by his rhetoric when he was a candidate for governor. I have to say that what he did because shamelessly exploit ugly prejudices and false stereotypes that people have about the poor. I say shamelessly, because he knew the facts, some of the facts, beforehand. There was an experiment in Florida several years ago that failed and then he kept repeating the same thing over and over again, even after three months into the program, as you have just reported, the rate of positive tests for people who are applicants for welfare was about one-fourth of the general population. And he knew that. And he kept repeating it. And I think, frankly, what it`s all about, it`s more about politics than it is the law. It`s his effort to exploit for political purposes, what he thinks are the ugly stereotypes and prejudices that people have about people on welfare. MADDOW: The thing that seems fascinating to me about this policy is that because of your court case, because of the case in Florida that stopped this so early on, and because the initial data about what went wrong immediately with this policy once it was implemented, it seemed like it was very, very apparent to be a failure, just seemed like it was very clearly a misfire. Hugely expensive, it showed the opposite of the problem that it purported to solve. It showed people who were receiving welfare benefits were using drugs at much smaller than the rate of the regular population. So, to see that failure in Florida not translate into other states recognizing that Florida screwed up so they don`t have to, seeing it then thereafter spread around the country is a hard thing to understand. Is there anything about this court ruling that will affect it applicability in other states? SIMON: Well, Rachel, it depends what you mean by success and failure. Wasting a lot of the state`s money, Rick Scott is spending other people`s money. The fact that it doesn`t work, I don`t think he really cares about that. What is success and what`s failure? It`s a popular issue to be exploited by right-wing politicians like our governor. The fact that it doesn`t work is irrelevant. The fact that it whips up the public and generates a lot of support, that`s what he would define, I think, as success. He rode into office, in part, this was one of his big issues, and apparently crusading on this issue, going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, is what he`s prepared to run on for re-election. MADDOW: Do you think if this does become an issue in his re-election effort, if the Democrat running against him takes the opposite side of this argument, do you have any sense in Florida about how that might cut politically? Obviously, people pander on issues like this, because they think it`s going to win them votes. SIMON: I`m -- I don`t want to be Pollyannaish about it, but there are a lot of people that are very capable of being seduced by ugly stereotypes and prejudices. Bear in mind, Rachel, this is -- you`ve been reporting on voting issues, well, this is one par of a comprehensive assault that this governor has launched on the constitutional rights of the people of Florida. We have been involved in about 12 different lawsuits, mostly on voting, some on drug testing. There`s a companion lawsuit that we have in which he is insisting upon drug testing, not merely applicants for territory assistants, but all state workers, everybody who works for state government. This is part of a comprehensive assault on the constitutional rights of Floridians that we are fighting back on. MADDOW: Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. Thank you for being here tonight. Congratulations on this ruling. Thank you. SIMON: Thank you very much, Rachel. MADDOW: I should tell you that we received a response from a representative for the Koch brothers -- SIMON: Wait, there is an error. Hello? MADDOW: We received a response from a representative from the Koch brothers tonight, when we called to ask them about their thoughts on drug testing welfare recipients, since this group affiliated with them in Florida has been promoting that, alongside their promotion of more hard- profile issues like telling people not to get health insurance. The spokesperson for the Koch brothers we reached tonight told us this on this subject. Quote, "Not sure I see how we would say anything to say on this, since we are not involved in this issue in any way." There you have it. Much more to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is sort of a stunning piece of video right here. Check this out. This tape is paused right now, but what you`re looking at off in the distance there, right underneath the big plume of smoke, that`s a row of rail cars. Can you make that out? See that? That little bumpy line right there. Those cars ran off the tracks, caught fire, and then this happened. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: Wow. That rather Armageddon-like mushroom cloud lit up the sky above North Dakota, just a couple of days ago, earlier this week. And the reason that a train derailment turned into what looked like the end of the world is because that mile-wrong train which you see blowing up here, that train was in the process of transporting highly flammable crude oil across North Dakota when this explosion happened. The train derailment and that subsequent massive explosion happened on Monday afternoon in the town of Casselton, North Dakota, which is just outside of Fargo. Castleton`s a town of about 2,400 people. Nearly all of them were forced to temporarily evacuate their homes after that explosion sent who knows what into the air above them. The fire ranged on for more than 24 hours. The temperature of the fire was reportedly so hot that fire crews could not get even close enough to it to try to start to put it out. So they just had to let it burn and burn and burn for more than a full day, before they could get close enough to fight it. The mayor of Casselton, North Dakota, told reporters after the explosion, quote, "This is too close for comfort. There have been numerous derailments in the area. It`s almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we`re going to have an accident, it`s when." To the extent that North Dakota is now a regular fixture in the national news, it is too often because of incidents like this. Last month, the same rail company involved in this accident had another train derailment that involved rail cars that transport crude oil. In October, a North Dakota farmer turned out what to be one of the largest oil spills in state history, 20,000 barrels of what leaked from a pipeline into his North Dakota wheat fields. And while North Dakota isn`t the sight of the oil-related disaster, it is, in some ways, the source of it. When that massive explosion in Quebec in July killed 40,000 people, that explosion was caused by the derailment of a train, carrying a load of sweet, light crude from North Dakota, from the Bakken shale. North Dakota over the last decade or so has become a state that`s increasingly dependent on one industry. There`s essentially an oil gold rush happening in North Dakota right now. Before the boom in 2008, the state was shipping about 18,000 barrels of oil a day by rail. By 2012, it wasn`t 18,000 barrels a day. It was 425,000 barrels a day. And that number rose by another third in 2013. Watching the state of North Dakota deal with its sudden and new and dramatically different reality has been a fascinating experiment in watching the adaptability of governance. But the way that North Dakota has adapted has also sometimes been alarming. This was the front page of the "Bismarck Tribune" newspaper today. Look at that right up there at the top. "Ross oil pit shut down." Company ordered to stop using oil pit over town`s drinking water. North Dakota officials gave an oil company there the go-ahead to start dumping all their excess drilling material into a football field-sized waste pit on their drilling property, a waste pit that just happened to sit on top of one local town`s water supply. What`s the big deal? When residents there started to raise a fuss about it, officials finally ordered the company to stop dumping there. The local resident who raised the concerns about it in the first place told the paper, quote, "It`s a little frustrating, because we are not being protected by the people who are supposed to be protecting us." The state official, who`s at least nominally in charge of protecting the state and its residents from the oil industry would be this guy. This is the state`s top oil regulator. That train derailment and explosion that happened earlier this week on December 30th, just 2 1/2 w before that, the state`s top regulator in charge of the oil industry announced that his agency was putting together a special paper, a special paper to, quote, "dispel this myth that oil is somehow an explosive, an explosive really dangerous thing to have traveling up and down your rail lines." He said he was going to do a special report to assure the people of North Dakota that there`s really no reason to worry about shipping oil around the state. Nothing to see here, folks. Don`t worry about a thing. Why would you think it`s dangerous or explosive? He said that 2 1/2 weeks before this happened. Here`s how weird things have gotten in North Dakota. Last month, state regulators determined that an Oklahoma energy company has been operating a pipeline in the state of North Dakota for two years totally illegally. They had no permit to operate their pipeline. It was a natural gas pipeline. They never bothered to get the proper permits for it. They built it illegally and run it totally illegally, for two full years. By law, that kind of violation is subject to $10,000 fine. And not $10,000 total, but $10,000 per day, for each day the violation persists. Well, last month state regulators in North Dakota looked into that violation. They determined that the company was, in fact, running an oil pipeline in the state for two years without a permit, and then they decided that the company will not face any fine whatsoever for doing that. No big deal! Don`t worry about it. Don`t worry about it, North Dakota residents, nothing to see here. One of the state commissioners who made that decision said that fining that company might deter other oil companies from considering future investments in the state. So, go ahead, companies. Operate your pipelines without a permit. Build illegally and operate them illegally. We don`t care. North Dakota is pumping a ton of oil and a ton of natural gas right now. North Dakota is also, while they are doing that, experimenting with a type of governance that is usually called anarchy. Corporate anarchy. And so far, the result is kaboom. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Reading spy novels and learning to lovely bitters all over again? Me too. Well, while we were all doing that, about 70 hearty souls spent their last week and a half stuck on a Russian ship in Antarctica. This is supposed to be a Russian ice-breaking ship. But on a trip home from a month-long research expedition, the icebreaker learned that it could not, in fact, break the necessary ice to keep moving and it got stuck. It got stuck on Christmas Eve and it stayed stuck until today when, finally, all 52 tourists and scientists on board got rescued. They got scooped up from a makeshift icy helipad by a Chinese helicopter and then they were flown to another ship that was nearby. Twenty-two crew members stayed on site with the ship, so they can move it out of there when the sea ice breaks up and it can move. But, thankfully, the days stuck on the ship were not for nothing. The Antarctic scientists said they used their stuck days to research the birds in the area. And drilled through the ice that they were stuck in to take undersea photographs of whatever was alive down there and not stuck like them. We`ve got a story coming up in just a moment about an even more intrepid adventure at sea, including never before seen footage of something the United States has just invented -- something that has never been done before, that is about to start in international waters on heavy and secretive armed guards. That`s straight ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a merchant vessel called the Cape Ray, built originally in 1977, acquired by the United States of America in the 1990s. It`s a 648-foot-long government-owned cargo ship. Its crew is usually only about nine mariners. It`s part of reserve of four dozen ships like this around the country that are kept in near operational state all the time, in case they`re needed somewhere around the world. The Cape Ray from go to at-rest to fully operational in five to 10 days which is impressively short, for such a big ship and for particularly for one with such a small crew. These cargo ships are flexible vessels that can be used in all sorts of circumstances. For example, in 2005, the Cape Ray was deployed to the Gulf Coast to deliver relief supplies for hurricane Katrina. The Cape Ray was deployed again in 2010, to Haiti, to help supply the relief effort after the massive earthquake in Haiti. The Cape Ray was activated twice to help move logistical supplies for the war in Iraq. And again last year, the Cape Ray was used on the east coast for the relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy. The Cape Ray is now docked along the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Virginia. And it`s preparing to deploy again for its next big endeavor. But the Cape Ray is about to do something that it`s never ever been done before anywhere in the world. You`ll recall that in 2013, that was the year we did not go to war in Syria, even though it seemed like we were going to, after President Obama announced that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own people. After he asked congress to authorize the use of military force, there was a diplomatic breakthrough on the issue. Not a diplomatic breakthrough on the issue of the war overall so much, but on the specific issue of chemical weapons. It was a surprising, last-second, we`re not going to bomb Syria after all deal, in which Syria not only admitted for the first time that they had chemical weapons, they agreed turn them over to be destroyed. And the inspectors went in, they were shown the facilities where are the stuff was stored, they were able to disabled the equipment that lets those be weaponized. The plans were started underway to get all of Syria`s chemical weapons moved out of that country and destroyed, even as the civil war there rages on. One problem, though. For a while, it seems like the biggest problem in this plan is that there was no were to ship this stuff. No country in the world wanted to have Syria`s chemical weapons on their territory. The nation of Albania was asked. They said no. The nation of Norway was asked. They also said no. Eventually, the United States started to consider a new plan to destroy Syria`s chemical weapons somewhere where there are no countries. Eventually, the U.S. decided to dispose of Syria`s chemical weapons in the same place they disposed of the body of Osama bin Laden -- at sea, in international waters. We know how to destroy chemical weapons. We`ve done it for years in places in this country like Anniston, Alabama and, Deseret, Utah. Where it has never been done before, though, is on a ship floating around on the ocean. That is the political solution that apparently making the most sense for these chemical weapons and for now, that is the scientific solution that had to be invented, because it`s never been done before. But the U.S. Department of Defense has now rolled out a new mobile system to destroy chemical weapons in bulk, on a ship, roiling out on the open ocean. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANK KENDALL: This team`s effort didn`t start today. It started about a year ago. There was a recognition that something was going to happen in Syria, in all likelihood, that would require us to do something with those chemical materials that were known to be there. We had no idea what scenario it would be, that would play out. There were several options. I don`t think we would have picked the one that we`re absolutely implementing now, if we had been asked to guess or even write down several possibilities. But a year ago, we were not in a position to do this. A year ago, we did not have the kind of capacity that was needed to go and remotely, in some other location, destroy chemical materials that were used in chemical weapons. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A year ago, that process did not exist. But today, we got to take a firsthand look at this system. It`s called the field deployable hydrolysis system. And it didn`t exist a year ago, but now it does. The system neutralizes chemical agents by mixing them with water, hot water and other chemical agents. You can see them stored here in these tanks. After mixing them in the system, they then get heated, and that turns them into compounds that can no longer be used as weapons. The liquid waste, the by-products of the process are then pumped into interim holding tanks for cooling, and eventually disposal by the same means that industrial waste is disposed of. This system, which, again, has been invented for this process to be used at sea, it is a transportable system, it`s self-sufficient and includes its own power generator. And for the first time on earth, it is designed to do this while and for the first time on earth, it is designed to do this while floating. And consider the international effort here. The loading of the weapons is going to go first on to a Danish ship, with support from the Norwegians and the Fins. Russian and China say they will provide security in Syrian territorial waters for that part of it. Then that ship out of Syria, carrying the weapons, is going to go to a port provided by Italy. A port in Italy, where the weapons will be cross-loaded on to the U.S. ship, the Cape Ray, and then that U.S. ship will be sailing out to sea, into international waters, which nobody knows, and that`s where the destruction of the chemical weapons will happen, using this process for chemical weapons that has never been done in this way before. All 700 tons of Syria`s chemical weapons are going to get destroyed that way. The process is expected to take 45 days. They`re allotting themselves twice that time to account for bad weather, during which time they will stop the process if they need to. This is brand-new technology. This is technology that has been used on land here in the U.S. to destroy chemical weapons, but it has never been tested at sea. It has never been used at sea. It is unclear, precisely, as to what we should expect, but this is a brand, brand-new thing. Joining us now to help us understand is Daryl Kimball. He`s executive director of the Arms Control Association, which is a national nonpartisan group, supporting arms control policies and programs. Mr. Kimball, thanks very much for being here tonight. Nice to have you here. DARYL KIMBALL, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: Good e here. MADDOW: I am somebody who is interested in this stuff, but I have a totally nontechnical understanding of it. Did I explain anything wrong there about what`s about to happen here? KIMBALL: Your explanation was excellent. I mean, that`s a very good technical description. I think you`ve summarized that this is unprecedented in the sense that this operation has not been done at sea. The technology has been proven, this hydrolysis technology, but this is the first time they`re doing this at sea. And I think it`s going to be very difficult, but it`s doable. It`s going to be -- it`s a dangerous operation anytime you`re dealing with these chemical weapons, precursor materials, as they`re called, but they`ve got an expert team, many of them who are based near the Aberdeen -- from the Aberdeen proving ground. It looks as though their going to be able to do this, if the chemical materials can be moved by the Syrian government to the port of Latakia and put on board that Danish ship that you referred to. MADDOW: So that to you, at this point, is the question mark, or at least the thing that`s worth worrying about the most in terms of the potential success of this operation, whether or not it can start, because the chemical weapons get moved to the right place to start the process. KIMBALL: Well, exactly. You know, the Syrian government has been cooperating with every step of this chemical weapons elimination plan that was first worked out by the U.S. and Russia, but they`re now at the phase where they have to move in dozens of ground transport vehicles, in big trucks, the material across land, on a road that is contested right now in the civil war. So, security is an issue. Weather has been an issue, getting the right trucks and equipment to the Syrians for the operation. Russia has helped with that, has been an issue. My sources suggest that the Syrians have all the equipment they need to move this, and so it`s just a matter of making sure the road is secure, to get it to the port, so these operations at sea can begin to destroy this very dangerous material. MADDOW: What about the by-products of this process. Obviously, we`re not creating anything novel by virtue of doing this at sea rather than on land, but the products, the by-products that are the results of this hydrolyzing process are not themselves chemical weapons but they are still dangerous. What`s going to happen to that stuff? And is it dangerous to have it on a ship rather than on dry land? KIMBALL: Well, the 1,700 tons of chemical precursor material is going to be transformed into hazardous industrial chemical waste, the effluence, about 1.5 million gallons will be produced. And that has to be disposed of on land, at sites that have yet to be determined. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is now taking bids from about 38 different commercial entities to do that part of the work. So, this is also dangerous material, but it is not chemical weapons precursor material. These sort of operations, industrial chemical waste disposal are done all the time. Some of them are transported on rail through our cities, like in the segment we just saw a few minutes ago. So, all the steps in this operation have to be done carefully, but that part of the process is the least dangerous, but is getting this material on the ships, so it can be done properly, through this hydrolysis technology. That`s the key. MADDOW: Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association -- thanks very much for helping us understand this tonight. Please stay in touch, as we learned more about what`s about to start in the couple of weeks. I appreciate it. KIMBALL: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. If you are ever completely lost and without a compass while out walking with your dog, fear not. Your dog can help. Your dog might have a way to let you know where you are. Just give him time. A moment of geek, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: An interesting help wanted ad popped up in Utah this week. The office of the attorney general in that state is officially looking for, quote, "qualification and fee proposals for outside counsel to assist with the case of Kitchen et al versus Herbert et al." If you don`t recognize, the Kitchen versus the Herbert case is the case that shut Utah`s ban on same-sex marriage right before Christmas. That ruling sent hundred of Utah couples streaming to their county clerks` offices. In some counties like Salt Lake people raced to the clerk`s offices Friday when the ruling happened, more people came back on Sunday night to wait online all night Sunday to be first in line if they could when the clerk`s offices opened up again on Monday morning. And that sort of immediate, race done to the clerk`s office response, doesn`t usually happen after a court ruling, right? I mean, Utah is appealing the ruling. It`s not necessarily a final decision. Even so, there is usually a delay until things go into effect, right? But in this case, it turns out Utah screwed it up. The state made a mistake in the way they handled the gay marriage case. That`s why all the couples in up taupe were literally able to run into their clerk`s offices and start getting married as soon as the ruling came down. The Utah attorney general`s office is who screwed this up. Like all attorney general`s offices, they are responsible for defending the state`s laws in court. But in Utah, that office has just been a bit of a mess lately. This man, John Swallow, was just elected attorney general. He had to resign, not that long after being elected, after months of swirling allegations about ethics violations, false and misleading statements about his finances during his campaign, and maybe a bribery plot that involved some one stealing part of the bribe. Mr. Swallow continues to deny all of the allegations against him. But still, he did quit as the attorney general of the state of Utah at the beginning of December. Once he quit, Utah needed an acting attorney general immediately. That acting attorney general gig fell to this guy. He`s name is Brian Tarbet. And under this guy, Brian Tarbet, the federal court ruling came down on marriage just before Christmas, the Friday before Christmas. It turns out that the state attorney general`s office forgot to tell the court that oh, hey in case your ruling will go against us, we want to ask ahead of time for a stay of the ruling because we are going to appeal it. The acting attorney general in Utah, the one who`s filling in for the guy who got run out in disgrace, he forgot to file that request for a stay. Just forgot to. And that`s why the ruling was not stayed. And that is why it went into effect right then that very minute when the judge made his decision. And that in the immediate sense is why hundreds of couples are legally and happily married in Utah, because the attorney general`s office forgot to do something that you learn to dupe as a one L in law school even if your law school its not a good law school. Wow. Pretty quickly after the events. The governor chose a permanent attorney general. Unfortunately for Brian Tarbet, Brian Tarbet was not the governor`s choice. And that`s maybe because, well, giant failure. The governor instead of Brian Tarbet chose another guy, a guy named Sean Reyes. Sean Reyes spent his first day on the job putting together working on Utah`s appeal of the district court same-sex marriage ruling. It`s a little bit like having off to take the final exam on your first day of school. That is what brings us back to the help wanted ad, which is basically a giant SOS from the brand new totally in turmoil screw-up attorney general`s office. The state of Utah`s number one officer of the law is looking for help, help, help, from anybody. Help from somebody, anybody who has experience in the federal courts of appeal and also please has expertise on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and also please some understanding of a state`s right to define marriage. And can you start yesterday? No, OK, today would be fine. Tomorrow is a little late, because according to the help wanted ad, proposals to help the state with its massive lawyering problems, are due in less than a week. Applications are due on Tuesday, at 5:00 Mountain Time. Must be welling to workweek ends. So, how is it going in the Utah attorney general`s office right now? I mean, think about it. After seeing the first guy resign, then the second guy lose the same-sex marriage case, and then fail to request the stay, and then appointing a new guy to replace the losing and stay request failing guy, then begging anyone who can help to please help -- I refer again to the help wanted ad. Look. Written proposals shall be submitted to Brian Tarbet by e-mail. That`s who they had to put in charge of hiring the new help, the guy who was given the task of cleaning up the big mess, lost the case, forgot to file the stay request, who then passed over for the big job. Now -- Brian? We`re going to need you to go ahead and look through the resume pile for anybody who can help us. Help. The story is not over. The state has the asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a hold on same-sex marriages in Utah while the appeal is in process which could happen. So watch this space. But in the meantime, spare a thought for old Brian Tarbet, right? However it turns out, man, May 2014, job-wise go better for you than 2014 did. Seriously. Poor guy. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you are a dog owner or lover, this routine will look familiar to you. Circle, circle, circle, spiny dance your dog does before getting down to business. Susan calls this squaring off to bunt when poppy does it. You know the move. You know what it means. If YouTube is a guide, a thing people like to document abut their dogs because it`s funny. It`s probably somebody out there right now in a snowstorm with a plastic bag in one hand and camera in the other, giving this dizzying display on tape. It turned out there`s an interesting possible explanation for why exactly your dog does that just before going to the bathroom. Turns out it is maybe not just for show. A team of scientists out of the Czech Republic in Germany has discovered that dogs have a directional tendency when it comes to doing their business. Scientists have just published results of a two year-long study of 70 dogs, logging 2,000 occasions that require plastic baggies and 5,500 occasions generally associated with fire hydrants. Their findings have now been published in the journal "Frontiers in Zoology." They found that due to dog`s extraordinary homing abilities, turns out they prefer to excrete with their bodies aligned along a north/south axis, which means that these scientists, if correct, dogs are spinning around because they`re aligning their butts to the earth`s magnetic fields. Dogs prefer a north-south direction for pooping. So, when you`re dog looks he`s just dancing around in circles, really, he`s just trying to read his or her internal compass, trying to fiend north. Circle, circle, sniff, north, poop. And that seems to be true of all kinds of dogs. They measured pooping habits of dozens of breeds, from beagle to Transylvanian hounds in a statistically significant way, they all went north south. Dogs are mango-sensitive, and other animals are, too. Birds use magnetic guidance to migrate. Cattle, deer are said to graze on a north/south axis. But for dogs, it`s pooping. So, if you are ever lost with your dog in a starless night and you needed guidance or if you ever just wanted to know -- there is a scientific paper for that. He knows what he is doing. I love my job. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END