The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/03/14

Guests: Ryan Grim, Raha Wala

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Hey, car companies make pianos. Does everyone know this and I`m the last one to figure it out? I have just started to realize that Yamaha that makes Yamaha pianos is the same Yamaha that makes Yamaha motorcycles. I never knew -- I feel like everybody else knew this. I never knew this. And it would be one thing if it was just about that one motorcycle and piano company, but it`s not. A whole bunch of companies have these kind of combined product lines. Behold, for example, the Hyundai piano. Hyundai makes this very sleek piano that you see right here. It is the same company that also makes Hyundai cars. Pianos and cars, same company. Also, Daewoo, you know, the Daewoo Car Company that has its roots in South Korea, Daewoo cars may or may not be your style, but Daewoo pianos, hey, everybody could admit how nice those look. And it is not just an Asian car company thing either. This for example is the very high style piano that is now made by the car company Peugeot. Now, I cannot say whether or not that sounds better than non-car company related pianos. Looks very nice. I love the, kind of looks like it`s got a clam foot, like the foot that comes out of the clam shell. I kind of like that. Anyway, this apparently is the thing. This product design combination thing has been a thing with Asian car companies for a long time. They`ve been now bee joined by the French car company Peugeot. Peugeot for the record also makes really nice salt and pepper grinders, I have one of the salt ones. Wikipedia says that Peugeot also used to make crinoline dresses. And the car company Peugeot also makes pianos, and the car company Peugeot has also just made history in the island nation of Cuba, because this is the communist government owned Peugeot dealership that has just opened up in Havana, Cuba. And what is important is that this is a dealership in Havana, that is not selling salt grinders or pepper grinders, or crinoline dresses, or pianos. No, this is selling cards and that`s weird because it`s Cuba, right? Today, for the first time since 1959, Cubans are allowed to purchase new cars. The reason the footage from Cuba has romantic appeal to people who like old cars no matter what else is going on in the footage is because before now, practically every car on every road in Cuba aside from some Russian ones, reflected the state policy that only automobiles that were in Cuba before the revolution could be bought and sold among citizens. Given the revolution happened in 1959, that meant that 1959 has been the end of the line in terms of Cuban automobile availability, until now. Now, starting today, under these very, very slowly loosening restrictions on Cuban life under the Castro brothers` dictatorship, as of today, Cuban citizens can now by new automobiles, new vehicles on the open market. At least theoretically they can do that, because the average Cuban wage is only around $20 per month and at the state-run Peugeot dealership, you will find this representative car costing $262,000. What? Yes. That`s the mark up. People make 20 bucks a month, but the cars cost a quarter million dollars. That price of the new Peugeot is roughly seven times the price, you would pay for the exact same vehicle if you bought it in this country. But in Cuba, where the people are least able to afford a vehicle like this, they`ve still got to pay a 400 percent mark up or 700 percent mark up on Peugeot cars, thanks to the government owned dealership. That`s the beauty of the communist economy, right? Real communism, right, in this country, any economic policy advanced by any Democratic president is routinely denounced as a form of communism, but Cuba is the real deal. When President Obama made the decision to bail out the U.S. auto industry in the middle of the financial crisis in 2009, his critics said it foretold not only communism, but the death of the American auto industry because of it. It would never work. Once G.M. became government motors, the American automobile industry was deader than it would have ever been if we just let nature take its course, like Mitt Romney said we should. But the bailout did happen, even as it was being denounced as communism. The bailout did happen. Now, the bailout is over. And the American auto industry is not only not dead, but look at these end-of- the-year numbers. Volume of U.S. auto sales best since 2007 quote, Chrysler finished 2013 with a 9 percent sales increase, posting its best annual numbers in six years, as the auto industry`s hit full stride. Those really positive end of the year numbers for the American automobile industry were sort of a crowning glory for what started off as a very bad few years and ended great for the industry. But end of the year numbers being a real shiny spot for the automobile industry turned out not to have been something for the automobile industry. They were end of the year numbers that were really good throughout the economy. On Tuesday this week, on New Year`s Eve, the U.S. markets finished off what was a record breaking year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the year up 26 percent for the year. 2013 was the best year for the Dow since 1995. The S&P 500 posted its biggest yearly percentage gain in 16 years. The NASDAQ, which has lots of tech stocks, NASDAQ posted its seventh biggest annual gain ever in the history of NASDAQ. Best year since 2009. The U.S. economy itself finished off with a bang, too. The economy grew by 4.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013. That beat expectations by a lot and it marked the fastest growth rate of growth for the U.S. economy in two years. That growth of the U.S. economy was due in large part to increased consumer spending, which was higher than the experts expected. Also, a huge increase in business investment, which also beat out expectations. There`s a lot of really good numbers for 2013. As we head into the New Year, there`s all these economic indicators that frankly look pretty good. The U.S. economy, which has slowly been trying to dig itself out of the ditch it fell into during the financial crisis does appear to be gaining some momentum. Last month, U.S. factory activity hit a two and a half year high. In November, construction spending in the U.S. hit its highest level in nearly five years thanks to what looks like the recovery of the housing markets. That same month in November, the U.S. economy added the total of 203,000 new jobs, which is the number that again beat out expectations. The U.S. economy, for all of the troubles we are still having is finally starting to come along and to build on this success, Congress has just come up with a plan to see those 203,000 jobs we just added to the economy in November, to see those 203,000 jobs and to take away 240,000 jobs. Two hundred and forty thousand jobs lost. That`s the Labor Department`s estimate of how many jobs are going to be lost because of what Congress just did. Because of the decision by Republicans in Congress to end unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for longer than six months. Right after Christmas, just days before the New Year, congressional Republicans decided to cut off employment benefits for the long term unemployed, for people who have been hurt the most by the economic downturn and who have the fewest options. Because those unemployment those checks tend to be injected back into the economy, it`s not like people are sucking them away in their savings, that one decision, that policy decision, is threatening to take what was the economy that was starting to come along. It`s threatening to take that and to throw it right back into reverse. In addition to the 240,000 jobs that are now projected to be lost if this isn`t fixed, economists are now predicting that the decision to kill those benefits will cut U.S. economic growth by 0.4 percentage points in the first quarter of the year. Nearly a half a point on annual economic growth will be cut in the first quarter. And to a certain extent, the damage has already been done. According to a new report out by House Democrats, in the one week since those unemployment benefits have lapsed, a total of $400 million is already been taken out of the U.S. economy, in one week alone. Congressional Democrats right now, by putting out data like that, they are essentially trying to build as much pressure as possible to get Republicans to change their mind on this issue, to get Republicans to come back to Congress and agree to extend those unemployment benefits and stop kicking the economy in the teeth. House Democrats today produced this interactive map where you can see how killing those benefits is killing the local economy where you live. The data that the Democrats put out, it`s zip code by zip code. So, you can go to their Web site, you click on your state, you scroll through to find your zip code where you live, and by doing so, you will find out how many people who live exactly where you live are about to be cut or have just been cut off entirely because of this decision. I did this today for all of the places that I have lived in the last few years that I could remember the zip code for and it`s not -- it`s sad. It`s heartrending. Putting out that sort of information, putting it out in that way where you can make it really local in terms of understanding the impact, that is designed to put pressure on individual members of Congress because you can see how their districts, how their hometowns are affected. It`s supposed to get some individual Republicans, maybe least one individual Republican or two or three or four to come along. And so far, at least one Republican has shown an interest in trying to fix this problem. It`s Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada. Right now, he`s the lone Republican cosponsor of legislation that the Senate is going to vote on on Monday to try to fix this problem for at least another three months, to put off this self-imposed economic face punch for another three months, to extend those benefits. If just a handful of Republicans joined with Dean Heller in the Senate, then the unemployment extension would likely pass in the Senate. That would have to go to the House. And today, the number two House Republican, Eric Cantor, he put out the house Republican agenda for the next month, the list of this things he says might come to the House floor or might come to the House floor, and extending unemployment benefits is not even on the "might" list. Democrats, though, do not appear to be ready to give up. President Obama plans to hold an event in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, with people who have lost their unemployment benefits and if the Senate vote to extend fails on Monday, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats seem to be prepared to make Republicans vote against those benefits over and over and over again, taking votes on this subject and again and again, all of this designed to pressure Republicans into changing their mind. What are the odds of that happening? Joining us now is Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of "The Huffington Post." Mr. Grim, thanks very much for being here. RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: What is your latest prognosis on the odds? Do you think there is any hope of an extension of unemployment insurance benefits taking place? GRIM: Well, in the Senate, I think there is some hope. What I`m hearing is that if Democrats will allow amendments, that you`ll get enough Republicans who will at least allow a debate to happen. Now, they might try to tackle all sorts of weird amendments and then vote against it on -- when it goes to final passage and stuff because like you said, you know, you might get Susan Collins. You have Dean Heller, but that only gives you 57 and gets you short of 60. But maybe the political pressure will be so intense on them that you find a couple more moderates, Mark Kirk, a few others, and you get it through. That puts more pressure on House Republicans. But they don`t feel a ton of pressure on this like Democrats kind of expected they might when they punted on this back in December. MADDOW: You know, when the Labor Department came out with the estimate that this policy decision was going to cost the economy 240,000 jobs and then the economists at JPMorgan came out with their assessment that this would retard economic growth of the entire country by almost half a percentage point for the first quarter, I thought those were kind of slam dunk political bombshells, really, I mean, to mix bad metaphors. But once you`re talking about jobs in those numbers, when you`re talking about retarding economic growth at that level, that it ends up being the sort of thing that does pressure Republicans. Is there anything that explains why economic factors like that wouldn`t be effective right now? GRIM: Yes. Republicans are pushing back with a different type of analysis. What they`re saying is that giving unemployment benefits to people discourages them from taking jobs. So, therefore, you`re actually hurting them. They`re being compassionate by pulling this away. And in a sense, there`s some truth to that. But the political question is you know, what is the value of someone`s basic dignity? You know, sure. If your unemployment benefits run out, then you`re more likely to take an $8 an hour or $9 an hour job, because you have to keep your electricity on, you have to keep food on the table. If you`re getting that tiny unemployment check, $200, $300 a week, then you can try to hold out and try to get a job that was a little bit closer to what you were making before you got let go. Now, and this is the dynamic that has created the inequality that we`re talking about here. This is what drives wages down because job seekers then have less power when they`re negotiating their work. But Republicans are very public that they`re saying you know, people will stop, will take jobs if you take these unemployment benefits away from them. MADDOW: Some of the polls that has been done on the subject is obviously being designed to put maximum pressure on Republicans, Public Policy Polling did some polling recently on the subject where are they looked specifically at Republican districts, including in John Boehner`s districts, show that voters in those districts by large majorities support extending these unemployment benefits. Do you expect to see more tactics like that, targeted polling tactics to this event at the White House, that Democrats putting out this very localized bits of data, do you expect the Democrats to keep pushing in those directions on this? GRIM: Absolutely. But that`s basically all they have left. They had their opportunity in December. You know, they had Republicans over the barrel. They were not going to shut down the government over unemployment insurance. Democrats reasoned well, we`ll get more sequester relief if we don`t go for unemployment now and we can come back and get unemployment in January. So, they kind of gambled with these people`s unemployment checks. The problem here is we don`t really have a national political system. Yes, nationally, this is very popular stuff and even locally, it`s popular, but people are not going to vote out their individual Republican members of Congress over this particular issue and a lot of people know that. Now, there are some moderates who might face the heat and that`s your best chance of getting this through. But broadly, it`s got to be tough to move it at this point. MADDOW: Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of "The Huffington Post" -- Ryan, thanks very much for being with us tonight. Appreciate it. GRIM: Thank you. All right. If you see, read or hear that conservatives have toned it way down with regard to the culture war these past few years, please observe our next segment, which will be filled with some very persuasive dots to exactly the contrary. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In 1990, a total of four abortion restrictions were enacted and it pretty much went along at that pace for much of the rest of the decades in the 1990s. There are few spikes here and there in the late `90s. But in total in that decade in the 1990s, about 130 restrictions on abortion rights were passed into law in various states. These are new figures from the Guttmacher Institute. In the following decade, in the 2000s, the number of new state restrictions on abortion rights got bigger and it was sort of a more volatile process. In total, there were about 189 anti-abortion measures put into place versus 130 the decade before. But then after 2010, the deluge. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 and the years after Republicans took control of lots of state governments across the country, after then, after the 2010 elections, more than 200 measures passed into law in various states -- more than 200 in just three years. Seventy restrictions enacted last year alone. They did more to roll back abortion rights in the past three years than they did in either of the past two decades. A dozen states now have 20-week abortion bans. Half of all states have barred abortion coverage and health insurance. And according to a recent "Huffington Post" survey, over 50 clinics nationwide have been shutdown or have been forced to stop performing services since 2010. And now, the question is whether the pendulum might be able to start swinging in the other direction. Take Virginia under Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, the legislature passed into law this medically unnecessary forced ultrasound exam, right, along with the Trap law which closed down clinic after clinic in the commonwealth, under the direction of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. But then, Ken Cuccinelli ran for governor on the straight antiabortion, male Republican ticket. And he in that whole ticket lost in the November elections. And women`s issues like reproductive health rights were front and center in the Cuccinelli versus McAuliffe campaign. Now, in the wake of the Democratic sweep in the Virginia elections in November, abortion rights advocates in Virginia say they hope to roll back the restrictions that were enacted by the previous administration, telling reporters yesterday they`re readying a repeal of the forced ultrasound law and they`re readying an expansion of reproductive services in the commonwealth. So, that`s Virginia with its shiny new Democratically held executive branch. In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker and Republican- controlled state legislature there cut off funding to Planned Parenthood. They shut down a lot of clinics in the state. They passed the Trap law, ready to shut down more. The state legislature in Wisconsin was all set to pass another round of restrictions on abortion and specifically on contraception, including the "ask your boss" law if you could have your health insurance cover your birth control pills. But that that sparked one state senator, Jon Erpenbach, to declare that he would bring all out hell to the Wisconsin state senate if Republicans tried to push those bills through. Against that backdrop of promised all out hell, it now appears that Republicans in Wisconsin are going to stand down on these new restrictions that they have been considering. A Wisconsin state leader says they will not take up those after all, pushback either worked or at least did not hurt Wisconsin. And while 2013 saw a ton of legislative wins for antiabortion advocates in Republican-controlled state governments, when the issue went to a vote by the general public in the great city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, that super-divisive citywide all out antiabortion referendum in Albuquerque lost and lost badly, and that electoral loss for antiabortion advocates came on the heels in the county, expanding abortion access. In California, where abortion procedures can now be performed by more health professionals, not fewer. It is 2014. There are gubernatorial elections on the horizon this year. Yippee. Several visible pro-choice candidates are running against staunchly anti-abortion Republicans, from Wendy Davis in Texas, to Mary Burke who`s challenging Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Will 2014 be the year to roll back the abortion rights rollback of the past several years? Does this mean things are moving back in the other direction? Will there be a significant pushback against the huge anti-abortion advances we have seen in the states in the past three years? Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So this happened last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida -- thank you for being here tonight. Congratulations on this ruling. Thank you. HOWARD SIMON, ACLU OF FLORIDA: Thank you very much. MADDOW: I should tell you that we received a response from a representative -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, there is an error, hello? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There is a, what? Male voice you heard at the end there is actually a new high-tech feature on this show. It turns out that voice rings out on this show unexpectedly whenever the Koch brothers` lawyer sends us a letter. Actually, the there was an error guy was a totally unrelated thing, but we have stirred up some Koch brothers lawyerly anger apparently, which is fascinating. Ands that rather dramatic story is coming up and you are not going to want to miss it. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: America must be a model citizen. If we want others to look to as a model, how we behave at home affects how we are perceived abroad. We must fight the terrorists and at the same time, defend the rights that are the foundation of our society, we can`t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. (APPLAUSE) I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies. And work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In 2008, the Republican nominee for president ran for president by saying that we should close Guantanamo and getting applause when he said it. By the time John McCain was running for president, by the time he was even running for the nomination for president, the sitting Republican president, the guy who opened Guantanamo, was also saying he wanted to close. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: And obviously, they brought up the concern about Guantanamo. And I understand their concerns, but let me explain my position. First, I`d like to end Guantanamo. I`d like it to be over with. One of the things we will do is send people back to their home countries. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, his belief that we should close Guantanamo was just about the least controversial position that he had taken as a candidate. That position was not only shared by him and the previous president he was succeeding, it was a belief shared by him and by the guy who he ran against. But alas, Guantanamo, still open and part of the reason why is this. Behold, Uighurville, this is technically camp iguana, but apparently, it`s known as Uighurville because it`s part of the prison set aside by a group of Uighurs, a group of Chinese Muslim men for the time that they were still being held at the prison at Guantanamo, even though the United States government admitted that they should not be in prison at all. After the Bush administration decided to stop even trying to contend that these Chinese guys should be seen as enemy combatants. Back in 2013, a federal judge said, well, then listen, if they`re not enemy combatants, if you have no charges against them, no contention against them, then it is unlawful to keep them at Guantanamo any longer. They must be freed. The 17 Chinese prisoners at Guantanamo were essentially guys who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and when there were $5,000 bounties to be paid for handing over suspicious-seeming foreigners to U.S. forces. But when the Bush administration gave up trying to make the case that these guys were dangerous, when that judge recorded them released, it was a long way into them having spent years at Guantanamo and when the judge said they were going to be released, it seemed like this long, strange odyssey of Chinese guys at this prison, with nobody being able to explain why they were there, finally seemed like that was going to come to an end. But then Congress freaked out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: Madam Speaker, it is my understanding that President Obama`s decision regarding the release into the U.S. the number of Uighur detainees held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 could be imminent. Let me be clear, these terrorists would not be held in prisons, but they would be released in your neighborhoods. They should not be released into the United States. When members realize who these people are -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They`re random Chinese guys who are at Guantanamo by mistake. Frank Wolf, Republican member of Congress from Virginia, decided that the Uighurs was the hill he was going to die on. That was the cause he was going to absolutely lie down in front of the machinery and stop the world on. No one was going to let these guys be released. Who cared that even the Bush administration said these guys aren`t terrorists and they aren`t dangerous. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WOLF: You know, Holder and this administration is, they were so wrong. They were actually going to bring Uighurs, people who were picked up in Tora Bora, who came maybe to learn how to kill the Chinese, but were going to kill Americans, they were going to release them on Route 7 across in that mosque in Falls Church. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In Falls Church. That year, Congressman Wolf would let up and Congressman Wolf got his way. The plan to relocate the Uighurs in the United States was scrapped and it was hard to find them anywhere else to go and so, they continued to languish in camp iguana, in Uighurville, as China spent its time pressuring countries all around the world not to take them in. In 2009, four of them finally were sent to Bermuda. Six of them were sent to the island nation of Palau. The following year, two of them went to Switzerland. Last year, two of them went to El Salvador. That left three Uighurs still at Guantanamo Bay with no charges against them, no contention that they`re enemy combatant, no contention that they`re dangerous. Earlier this week, the final three were finally freed after 12 years of imprisonment, they were sent to the nation of Slovakia. At the beginning of the year in 2013, there were 166 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Over the course of the year, 11 of them were released. Nine in the last month alone. That means we`re down to 155 prisoners at Guantanamo. Over half of the remaining prisoners have been cleared for release, and now, the last of the Uighurs, the weirdest group of prisoners at Guantanamo, chronologically speaking, the last of the Uighurs are finally now gone. Should we see that as a sign that more people will soon be able to go? That the burst of activity we saw with releasing people from Guantanamo and finding them places to go around the world will continue? Is progress now afoot? Joining us now is Raha Wala. He`s senior counsel for the law and security program of Human Rights First. Mr. Wala, thank you very much for being with us tonight. RAHA WALA, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: Do you think that the release of these three Chinese men, the last three Uighurs, says anything about the rest of the people who were still being held at Guantanamo, are they really a singular case? WALA: You know, Rachel, I think it does say something about primarily, the main obstacle to closing Guantanamo in the first place, which has been political intransigence. And what the administration has done now with the president giving a speech in May of this year at the National Defense University is reiterate its commitment to follow through and close Guantanamo, with the increase phase of transfers out of Guantanamo that you noted in your introduction. So, I think this is just kind of the icing on the cake at the end of the year here of, you know, moving forward to actually transfer detainees and hopefully close Guantanamo as soon as possible. MADDOW: Do you think that the solution or the closest that this president will get to closing Guantanamo is going to be piecemeal, man by man, prisoner by prisoner, country by country, individual arrangements like this, or is there something that could happen over the course of the next year or two where a large number of prisoners could be freed at once? WALA: You know, I think it`s a little bit of both. One of the big problems is that the majority of detainees, especially the cleared detainees, are Yemenis, and there be some opportunity to have a solution where many of those detainees will be transferred and blocked. But for the most part, these negotiations with countries, including third countries beyond the home countries of the detainees, will have to proceed on a case by case basis, taking into account diplomatic, legal consequences and national security consequences. So, it`s going to be an arduous process, but with the right amount of political commitment and right high level engagement from the president, I believe it can be done. MADDOW: In terms of that political commitment and political engagement, obviously, your senior council at Human Rights First and you`re approaching these rights as advocate and attorney here. But when you look at the political climate, it`s always seemed strange to me that there was this surface level agreement that Guantanamo should be closed, there was a super level agreement that that was inevitable and then as soon as steps started to be taken towards that, there was this really Republican, but really bipartisan freak out about it. Do you think that we are passed that? As more progress is made in 2014 and more people are sent away from that prison, do you think that we`re past the point where we could have another congressional freak out like we saw from Frank Wolf? WALA: Well, you know, there`s also a chance someone will try to play politics with an important issue of national security and American values. But I do think we`re getting to the point, where most people most informed individuals in Congress and beyond see the closure of Guantanamo as inevitable. It`s not a matter of if. It`s a matter of when and how. And so, even seeing Senator John McCain, who was in your introduction, reiterate his commitment to work with the administration that closed Guantanamo. He played an important role on the Senate floor with the defense bill, which actually relaxed transfer restrictions to allow the president more latitude to transfer detainees that was being debated. So, you know, I think we`re making progress here. What happens in 2014 remains to be seen, but I`m hopeful. MADDOW: Raha Wala, senior counsel for the law and security program at Human Rights First, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s nice to have you here. WALA: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Still to come. Debunktion Junction, our latest encounter with the Koch brothers and a completely legitimate news reason to show and revel in this. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hoot, hoot! Debunktion Junction, what`s my function? All right. True or false -- that Russian ship that was stuck in the ice in Antarctica, along with all of its passengers, good news, they`ve been freed and all passengers have been rescued. Is that true or is that false? False. So, technically, the 52 passengers stranded were rescued as we reported here last night and everybody else reported everywhere else, too. A helicopter based on a Chinese icebreaker picked them up and flew them to a third ship, to an Australian icebreaker and that Australian icebreaker set sail for Tasmania, starting voyagers, finally, thankfully, mercifully, on their journey home. The problem is, the problem is that Chinese ship, the one that sent the helicopter to rescue everybody, the Chinese ship might now be stuck in the ice as well. So, the rescued passengers are technically rescued, but the ship they`re on is not moving either. They`re in a holding pattern waiting to see if the Chinese ship which was sent in to save the Russian ship also needs to be saved. At which point, they will be called up to be the savers and not the savees. There you have it. Also, true or false -- there is a newborn island off the coast of Japan shaped like Snoopy. Yes. That`s Snoopy. Is that true or is that false? Please, please, please let it be true. True. I did not believe it when I first heard it, but it`s true. Back in November, a volcanic eruption was spotted about 600 miles south of Tokyo, along the volcano-rich Ring of Fire out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As you can see, the erupting volcano created a new island. And as time went by, which you can watch happening, if you pay attention to it, on the top left of your screen here, the new island started creeping closer and closer and closer and closer to its nearby land mass, until it finally connected to an already existing island. And you know, normally, just another uninhabitable island in the middle of the ocean. Interesting, maybe, but wait a minute. Take a look at this island. Does it remind you of anybody, like maybe somebody from your childhood or your favorite Christmas movie about a sad little tree? Like maybe his best friend should be a bald headed kid in a yellow and black zigzag tee and a bird named Woodstock? Look, there he is -- Snoopy, with a collar and everything. A Snoopy-shaped island right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I thought it was a hoax on Twitter, but it is true and that is almost as awesome as getting a personal letter from the Koch brothers. Not quite as awesome, but close and that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Did I get anything wrong there? Did I get anything wrong? Did I fairly summarize what`s in that package? Did I get anything wrong there? Did I get anything wrong there or did I confuse any of the details? Did I get anything wrong there? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The reason I ask that question of guests on this show sometimes is because inevitably when you are spending $6,000 words a night explaining the news, inevitably some of your word will be wrong. So, like last night, there was this amazing moment at the end of our lead story where I say good night to our guest. He says good night. I think it`s over. Then he says, really loud, and obviously not to me, he says, "There is an error." This is a very strange moment. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congratulations on this ruling. Thank you. SIMON: Thank you very much. MADDOW: I should tell you we received a response. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, there is an error, hello? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Hello? I couldn`t see him. I didn`t know what was going -- he was right. There was an error. That was a really strange way for me to find out about it, but it`s true. The story we are doing is about a federal court order against Florida`s drug test the poor law, and I had characterized it as an action by a federal appeals court, it was an action by a federal district court. So, really, there was an error. He was right. I`m very sorry there was an error. I mean, you never like to get stuff wrong, but it does happen from time to time. And when we get stuff wrong on this show, I try to make sure that we correct it. I don`t mind making corrections. That said, don`t push it. We cover a lot of right-wing politics on this show. I mean, nothing against Democrats, nothing against liberals. But the selection of stories that we cover on the show, reflects my belief as the host, that the most interesting story in American politics this decade is the effort by the Republican Party to remake itself in the wake of the disastrous Bush/Cheney era, and the divide within the party and the divides particularly within the party itself, and conservative movement that thinks that controls the party. I think those are the most interesting and consequential fights in American politics today. And I think that the resolution of those fights, who`s going to win/who`s going to lose, is truly an open question and fascinating important one for who we are as a country. So, we cover the conservative movement a lot on this show. And in so doing, we occasionally find people who have been mentioned in our coverage who are absolutely outraged that they have been mentioned in our coverage -- people who are not used to being talked about by some one who does not take their instructions. And so, what happens is, they tend to try to instruct me, as to how I ought to talk about them. And the conservative political figures who you can most count on to threaten to sue you and call your boss and scream about their victimization as loud as they can whenever they get mentioned by name in a way they do not control, are, of course, the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, who inherited a privately held oil and chemical company from their dad and thereby became almost unimaginably wealthy. If Charles and David Koch were one Koch brother instead of two, if they were one guy, they would be the second richest guy on earth. And they have been political figures as long as they have been richer than God. When David Koch ran for vice president on the libertarian party line in 1980, he minted gold dimes with his own head on them as a campaign trinket. The Koch brothers have so much money, one of the Koch brothers made his own money with his own head on it as a means of trying to persuade you to vote him into the White House. Wow. That`s the level of money and the level of politics at which these guys have always operated. And when you operate at that level, I think maybe you are not used to ever hearing things that you do not want to hear -- particularly things about yourself. And so, very frequently when weep cover the Koch brothers we then hear from the Koch brothers` lawyer. Our lead story last night was about that Florida drug test the poor law, which was smacked down by a federal judge on New Year`s Eve. The law blocked by the courts twice now. It was hugely expensive when it was in effect. And it turned out when it was in effect, it turned up levels by the drug use by the poor in Florida that were roughly 1/4 the level of drug use in the population at large. So, the Florida drug test the poor law has been an expensive and embarrassing failure from the very beginning, and has failed as a fiscal policy. It has failed as a bolster for the stereotypes on which it was based. Nevertheless, the political right has successfully marketed the failed Florida policy to lots of other states. We highlighted local reporting last night from states like Missouri, and Kansas, and Minnesota who have all adopted versions of the failed Florida law, and are all now either reaping the negative consequences of their laws, or are worried that they`re about to. It`s an interesting political question, right, about how obviously failed policies, nevertheless, get picked up and moved into different states even as they fail everywhere they are tried. And, therefore, an interesting political question, as to who does that? Who tells states they ought to do what Florida did with the policy like this? Well, in the case of this Florida law that we looked up last night, it`s the group called the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability. They went to public hearings in Georgia to share the good news about Florida`s terrible policy and why Georgia should adopt it. They went to a national meeting of the group ALEC in Arizona, to market Florida`s terrible policy to state legislators from all over the country. Quote, "ALEC members should look to Florida for free market Medicaid and welfare reforms. Who is this group telling state legislators from all over the country that they ought to adopt Florida`s terrible law?" It turns out they`re part of a huge network of state-based conservative think-tanks that is frankly kind of designed to not look like a network. They all look vaguely indigenous. They all have what look to be locally specific names. But their funding if you follow it comes in part from a central source of big money corporate donors. Including groups affiliated with the Koch brothers. Now, we are not the first news outlet to report on the Koch brothers funding distribution networks and groups small and large all over the country who have received funding through mechanisms that the Koch brothers have set up to support conservative candidates and conservative activism and conservative research and conservative advocacy. And the Koch brothers lawyers are not denying that they fund these networks or that the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability is one of the groups that has been funded through these networks. But they really do not want anyone reporting any connection between what those groups do and who gives them the money that they do it with. The Koch brother letter, includes a script they want me to read to you on the air denouncing my own reporting on the Florida drug test the poor story and telling you that they are not involved in promoting any such issue. I am not going to read their script. I`m not going to renounce my own reporting on the story, because the reporting on the story stands. It is true. And, now we also know that the Koch brother do`s not wish to be associated with the work and causes they have funded through their multimillion dollar, multiyear massive funding of networks of conservative organizations. You not wanting to be known for something that you have done is not the same thing as you not having done it. The Koch brothers do also say that when we contacted them for comment on our story, it was too late in date for them, we should have given them more time to respond. You know what, that is a fair point. We will endeavor to contact them earlier in the day. And I`m sorry that our call came late. But we will not stop reporting on political actions and the consequences of the political actions of rich, powerful men even if they send angry letters every time we do it. I will not read scripts provided to me by anyone else. I do not play requests. I will happily make corrections when I do get things wrong. We do it on the show all the time. But I will not renounce or retract reporting that is true. Even if the subjects of that reporting don`t like it. Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don`t want to be known for it, don`t do it. Don`t just complain when people accurately describe your actions. Your actions are what we are reporting on, we will do that on our own terms as a free press. If you want to control the words that are used when your actions are discussed then speak for yourself. I will renew my invitation now. Mr. Koch, or the other Mr. Koch, you are welcome on the show anytime. I would love to discuss these matters with you, right here, in person, live and without interruption, any time. And it would be easy to set up. You apparently already have my number. That does it for us tonight. We appreciate you being with us. Happy New Year. We`ll see you again Monday. I do have to tell you, that before you can go to your weekend, you do have to spend some very important, quality, quiet time -- in prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END