'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, August 13
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August 13, 2009
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Kent Jones, George Felos, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Paola Gourley
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for that.
And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Whether or not we are going to get health care reform at last in this country depends now mostly on the United States Senate. The top Republican in the United States Senate on health care reform is this man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA: I think the best thing to do is if you want people to think about end of life, number one, Jesus Christ is a place to start.
GRASSLEY: And after that, in the physical life, as opposed to your eternal life, it ought to be done within the family and considered religious and ethical issue and not something politicians deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, not something politicians deal with.
It's the top Republican in the Senate on the issue of health care, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. And he says what happens at the end of your life is something for-within your family. It's not something politicians should deal with. Big round of applause for him on that.
I mean, honestly, though, you know, can you imagine that something as important as a person's circumstances at the capital "E" end would be something politicians would even think they have to right to comment on? Let alone intervene in. Can you even imagine that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president abruptly returned from his Texas ranch Sunday as the crisis unfolded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a moral obligation to protect and defend her.
REP. PATRICK MCHENRY ®, NORTH CAROLINA: We've not been able to act quickly enough as Congress to step in.
FMR. TOM DELAY ®, TEXAS: If we do not act, she will die of thirst.
REP. ROY BLUNT ®, MISSOURI: This is not a political issue. This is an issue about this girl's life.
FMR. SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA: I thought it was appropriate for the federal government to protect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, it was appropriate for the federal government-specifically for the Republican Party-to get involved in a private family health care decision in 2005. When Terri Schiavo's next of kin, her husband, Michael Schiavo, tried to carry out what he said were his wife's end-of-life wishes, it was the Republican Party who decided that actually the government knew better-actually the politicians understood this better than that family and the government should intervene.
And now, many of the very same people who interfered in Michael and Terri Schiavo's health care decisions at the end of Terri Schiavo's life, the politicians who brought that end-of-life decisions to floor of the U.S. Capitol, they are arguing against health care reform now on the grounds that they don't want the government to interfere an end-of-life decisions.
What the big D, Democratic government of 2009 put in the House health care reform bill was Medicare funding for people who, of their own volition, wanted to seek living wills or counseling about end-of-life decisions from their doctor. And as of today, that good policy idea, the genuinely righteous, previously totally non-controversial, nonpartisan effort to put patients in control of what happens at the end of their lives is apparently off the table.
Senator Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, announcing that the living wills provision will be taken out of the Senate's proposed health care reform bill.
You know, there may be authentic reasons that many Republicans oppose reforming health care. But a concern about government inserting itself into decisions about end-of-life matters is not one of them. That purported concern coming from the people who brought you the president of the United States cutting short his vacation in order to interfere in one family's end-of-life health care decision. The president who couldn't cut short his vacation for "bin Laden determined to strike inside the U.S." but could cut short his vacation to big foot the end-of-life decision-making of Michael and Terri Schiavo.
Joining us now is George Felos. He was the attorney for Michael Schiavo during the battle over the death of his wife.
Mr. Felos, thanks very much for coming on the show.
GEORGE FELOS, ATTY. FOR HUSBAND OF TERRI SCHIAVO: My pleasure, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Having fought this battle with Michael Schiavo in 2005, do you feel like you are seeing some of the same people who were interfering in the Schiavo's medical decision then now arguing against health care reform ostensibly because they don't think the government should interfere in personal medical decisions?
FELOS: Well, there are some similarities to the Schiavo in the debate. And I think one of them is this: end-of-life decision-making for patients is a very sensitive issue. People have legitimate fears. They have legitimate concerns about that.
And in the Schiavo case, those legitimate fears and concerns were exploited for political and ideological reasons. And I think that's what we're seeing now done in an opposite way.
MADDOW: Of course, it has been demonized to get people to be afraid of health care reform. And now apparently this provision is out of the bill.
But can you describe the utility of the kind of living will provision that is at the heart of all of this? The idea that Medicare would reimburse doctors if they want-if patients wanted to get living will counseling, end-of-life counseling from their doctors and they were already covered by Medicare?
FELOS: Well, this conversation between a doctor and the patient, which has been so demonized and mischaracterized, is very simple.
You have a patient, let's say, who's in a terminal condition or end stage condition, and perhaps they are being admitted to a facility, a hospital, a nursing home, or the time comes to have the conversation. And the doctor may say, well, you know, if your heart stops beating, what do you want to have happen? Do you want to be resuscitated or not? The patient says, "Well, what's the pros and cons." And the doctor may say, "Well, you know, if we resuscitate you, there's 20 percent chance that you'll be unconscious. There's a 40 percent chance that you may awake but be-have severe brain damage. And there is a 40 percent chance you may be all right."
And the patient may say, "Well, you know, how much more time may that buy me?" And the patient-the doctor may say, "Well, that's about four months, six months." The patient digests that information, talks to his family members about it and comes to a reasoned decision. That's the most sensible and practical thing a patient can-and the patient and doctor can do. And that empowers patients to make decisions that's right for them and right their families.
MADDOW: By talking about that, by characterizing that kind of conversation as a way, essentially, to enforce euthanasia in this country, in order to even kill people against their will, even tell people who are considering health care measures that they can't have those health care measures because there's-they are not economically worthy. Those are the ways what you've just described has been sort perverted in the description about health care reform.
Do you think that permanent damage is being done to the idea of people getting living wills?
FELOS: Well, I certainly hope not. And you have to remember that propagation of fear as a-as a technique may work in the short-term but it never works in the long-term. If you take the Schiavo case as an example, those proponents of interfering with private decision-making, those opponents who exploited the Schiavo case, it was downhill for them politically after that.
So, you know, I hope there's no damage being occurred because people need-physicians and patients need all the help they can get to get together and make these decisions. Rachel, most people don't want to die in an ICU, on a ventilator, or with tubes in their-tubes in their body. People would like to die at home. They'd like to die in familiar surroundings with their loved ones and pain-free.
But unless you tell your doctor what you want and you refuse those procedures, the default-the default position is treatment. And you have countless Americans in this country who don't talk to their doctors and they don't have that communication that get aggressive treatment at the end of the life that they don't want. And that's a tragedy. And it's a tragedy, also, that-that the opponents of this provision are mischaracterizing it so greatly.
We need a genuine conversation about end-of-life decision-making, how to help the patient and how to help the physician. And the only thing that this bill does is say, well, pay the doctor for the conversation.
MADDOW: George Felos.
FELOS: That's it.
MADDOW: . former attorney for Michael Schiavo-perfectly clarifying remarks on this tonight. Thanks for helping us get through it. I really appreciate it.
FELOS: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: As the effort to make people afraid of health care reform demonizes the previously totally, non-controversial idea of living wills-as Mr. Felos is just explaining-do you think it would discourage any of these fearmongering, deathers folks to know that for the small cost of a commercial sponsorship, both Rush Limbaugh and I, Rachel Maddow, would encourage you look into getting a living will.
Rush and I have something in common. I will explain, I promise.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Full disclosure: In addition to this show here on MSNBC, I have a radio show on Air America. As part of my responsibilities for my Air America job, I sometimes voice advertisements, which means that I read copy promoting the goods or services of companies that pay radio stations or pay Air America for the promotion. It's what people in talk radio do.
One read I used to do was for a company that provides legal forms for a do-it-yourself living will. Now, I also happen to believe a living will is a good thing to have, so I have absolutely no qualms about having done that read for that ad once upon a time.
But in this fight that I hesitate to call a debate about health care that we're having as a country right now, getting a living will is being likened to murder or forced suicide or fascism or something.
The conspiracy theory that the government promoting living wills, which the government has done for 20 years, is somehow now a secret plot to kill old people was started-as we have said many times on this show-by a woman named Betsy McCaughey. She's director of a medical device company called Cantel Medical Corp. She's a former director of a biotech company called Genta. And she's a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, which is right-wing think tank funded by some of the biggest pharmaceutical firms in the country.
"The living wills are secretly a plot to kill people" myth was started by Betsy McCaughey. She advanced it on the pages of Rupert Murdoch's "New York Post." She promoted it on right-wing talk radio shows, including one hosted by-Fred Thompson, the actor and former presidential candidate.
But once that conspiracy theory got its start, it frankly has really been popularized not by people like Betsy McCaughey-that nobody has ever heard of-but by Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich and the influential Republican talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: People at a certain age with certain diseases will be deemed not worth the investment, and they will just-as Obama said-they'll give them some pain pills and let them loop out until they die and they don't even know what's happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, I have given some full disclosure about my talk radio career. Here's a little full disclosure about Rush Limbaugh's talk radio career.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: August is national make a will month. Visit NationalWillMonth.com or better yet, set aside 10 minutes, go to LegalZoom.com and get started. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, take control. Now, LegalZoom is not a law firm, it was started by top attorneys to provide self-help services at your specific direction. LegalZoom.com. That's LegalZoom.com.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Talk radio is kind of a small world. Rush Limbaugh and I voice ads for the same company-a company that I think does a relatively good constructive thing in the world by promoting-among other things-living wills.
Mr. Limbaugh, on the other hand, has been railing on his talk radio show all month about how he thinks that promoting living wills is secretly a plot to-what did he say again?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: Let them loop out until they die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. According to Mr. Limbaugh, living wills are a secret plot by the government to kill you-to let you loop out until you die. I don't know what loop out means but it sounds bad.
What's this all mean? It means that either Rush Limbaugh doesn't really believe the health care reform and living wills are a secret plot to kill old people conspiracy, or he does believe it, but for a few pesos, he will tell to you look into it because it's not that bad an idea.
You know, and it's not just Mr. Limbaugh. At TrueSlant.com yesterday, intrepid reporter Matt Taibbi brought us the same kind of full disclosure for a conservative you might have heard of called Newt Gingrich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: You are asking us to trust the government. Now, I'm not talking about the Obama administration but about the government. You're asking us to decide that we believe that the government is to be trusted. We know people have said routinely, well, we are going to have make decisions, you have to decide.
Communal standards, historically, is a very dangerous concept.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's not in the bill.
GINGRICH: But the bill is 1,000 pages of setting up mechanisms. It sets up 45 different agencies. It has all sorts of panels.
You are asking us to trust turning power over to the government when they are clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People in the government believing in establishing euthanasia. You are asking us to trust the government about asking us to make the decisions? Of course, people are concerned. It's very dangerous.
Mr. Gingrich has been as enthusiastic as any figure on the right in claiming that health care reform and its provision to promote people making living wills should be viewed as a secret plot to kill old people.
Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Gingrich, however, was all for it, praising exactly the same kind of end-of-life counseling plan in the pages of "The Washington Post" that he now demonizes. On July 2nd, he said in "The Post," quote, "More than 20 percent of all Medicare spending occurs in the last two months of life. Gundersen Lutheran Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, has developed a successful end-of-life best practice that includes community-wide advance care planning, where 90 percent of patients have advance directives."
That's a living will.
"The Gundersen approach empowers patients and families to control and direct their care. Gundersen delivers at a 30 percent lower rate than the national average. If Gundersen's approach was used to care for the approximately 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who die every year, Medicare could save more than $33 billion a year."
So, Newt Gingrich not only says advanced directives-living wills are a great empowering thing for patients and their families to control and direct care, he thinks that everyone on Medicare should get them, too.
You know what? That's exactly what was proposed in the House health reform bill which Gingrich then denounced as a secret plot to euthanize everyone.
Can I give you just one more here? The person who has probably done more than anyone other than Betsy McCaughey, who made it up in the first place, to promote this idea of living wills as a secret plot to kill you, it is-is former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. She has now released a second statement on her Facebook page-this one has footnotes. And it's denouncing the living wills provision of the House health care bill and she denounces it once again as a death panel.
I regret that it is also time for some full disclosure about Sarah Palin on this issue. In order to do that, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is not quite proud to present Governor Sarah Palin's declaration of April 16th, 2008, as "Healthcare Decisions Day" in Alaska-as read by Rod Blagojevich because that's who we pay to read that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whereas, Healthcare Decision Day is designed to raise to public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decision, related to end of life care and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to encourage the specific use of advance directive to communicate these important healthcare decisions.
Whereas, one of the principle goals of Healthcare Decisions Days is to encourage hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and hospices to participate in a statewide effort to provide clear and consistent information to the public about advance directives, as well as toe encourage medical professionals and lawyers to volunteer their time and efforts to improve public knowledge and increase the number of Alaska's citizens with advance directives.
Now, therefore, I, Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, do hereby proclaim April 16, 2008 as healthcare decision day in Alaska.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: As read by our Rod Blagojevich impersonator.
So, how exactly do we get from advanced directives-living wills -getting their own celebratory day proclaimed in Alaska by Sarah Palin, how do we get from there to Sarah Palin condemning living wills as death panels?
You know, if you or someone you know is getting on in years, and if you are that person you know, here's someone like Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich, or Sarah "whereas" Palin, telling you or them that health care reform includes a plot to kill the elderly in this country-A, don't be afraid; and B, know their record.
And know this-even they don't believe this bullpucky that they are selling you. Even they don't believe it.
MADDOW: We now present today's greatest hits from the right-wing's "summer of ginned up discontent" playing every afternoon at a school gym or at VFW hall near you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm here to give you a brief report-a brief report of what I have been doing. President Obama has said that he will not sign a bill which adds to the deficit. And I will not .
SPECTER: And I-and I-I will not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to stay that I fully support everything that President Obama is trying to do especially where health care is concerned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are talking down to the American people if you think we are that stupid to accept this!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Confronted with scenes like this pretty much every day now, confronted with this as the new face of opposition to President Obama, the only elected national leader of the Republican Party, that party chairman Michael Steele has plumbed newly found depths of empathy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: The American people are ticked off, as one of the participants said yesterday, and they're very concerned. They are not being un-American. They are being distinctly American. They are being uniquely American in expressing openly their frustration with what they hear their political leadership saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What do you want us to do about it? They are concerned. They're scared. We are just responding to the fact that they are concerned and scared.
Why exactly are they scared? Where is the scary information coming from that is scaring them so, that the Republican Party is just reacting to the scariness of the scared people?
Well, one of the places where scary information is coming from-one of the places where town hall protests are being promoted and town hall protesters are getting their marching orders before they go-is a place called ResistNet.com. If you surf over to ResistNet.com, you will see that they bill themselves as, quote, "The online community for patriotic citizens who are opposing the Obama-led socialist agenda." Right there on the front page, right at the top is the message, "WE NEED YOUR HELP," all caps, "August Recess Health Care Blitz."
So, what sort of information is available at ResistNet.com for people who might want to blitz something in the August recess? Well, there's this video which is titled Obama equals Hitler. The contents of which you can probably figure out based on the not-at-all ambiguous name and these nice shots.
You want to know specifically about what they say about health care?
Well, there's this helpful post, quote, "Waiting lines will be long. Others will die. Why is this being done? Back door reparations. I pray that God will strike Obama dead and all who stand with him, they are evil."
So who runs ResistNet.com? Well, if you scroll way down to the bottom of this Web site, you will see that it is run by something called Grassfire.org. In fact, on their "about us" page, you will find that Grassfire is funding ResistNet as part of, quote, "our overall patriotic resistance efforts"-which is an awfully nice thing for Grassfire.org to do, I mean, to completely fund this Web site that's calling President Obama "Hitler" and organizing against health care and posting death threats against the president. I mean, you know, kind of makes me want to know more about Grassfire.org.
Well, according to independent watchdog group Public Citizen, Grassfire.org is represented by the Washington, D.C.-based P.R. firm Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. The Shirley is Shirley & Banister Public Affairs is a man named Craig Shirley. Craig Shirley is a very long-time Republican P.R. operative whose resume includes the famous race-baiting Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign.
So, the next time you hear Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele say something like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEELE: And anyone out there who says that the Republican Party or state parties or Republican activists are out there doing that are flat-out lying. They are wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Flat-out lying, they are wrong. Actually, they are not wrong. The Willie Horton ad-making Republican P.R. activist guy is the same guy that writes (ph) the anti-health care reform Obama equals Hitler Web site. No wonder people are afraid.
We have been tracking the sort of astroturfing and false-flagging really for the entire month of August now-mainly because this sort of thing still isn't being widely reported-which amazes me. This is a perfect system for the Republican Party. It's a constant feedback loop. The Republican Party activists stir up fear and anger on the Internets.
Fearful, angry people go to town hall events and then Republican Party officials say they are just responding to that anger and they have no idea where it came from. It's perfect cycle. Rile them up with made-up stuff and then sympathize with them that are so riled.
Joining us now is Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont. He's a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee.Senator Sanders, thanks very much for coming back on the show tonight.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: My pleasure.
MADDOW: I know that you have two town hall events scheduled for this weekend. In watching some of the events that have unfolded, some - way events unfolded around the country over the last couple of weeks with your Senate colleagues, what are you preparing yourself for?
SANDERS: Well, I think for months those - little differently than other places around the country. I have done hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings from one end of the state to the other. And frankly, up until now, we've had zero problems.
In this state, at least, people listen to other people. If they disagree with them, they are polite about it. And we engage in serious discussion. And we expect, fully expect, that that's exactly what will take place this Saturday. There will be large turnout that I suspect the dialogue will be respectful.
What concerns me very much about the whole business, Rachel - I think you did a great job analyzing the whole process - is that deflects attention away from the real healthcare crisis this country is facing.
The question we should be talking about is not the end-of-life phony discussion of Rush Limbaugh, et cetera. What we should be talking about is how it can be that this nation spends almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation and yet we have 46 million people uninsured, more underinsured.
18,000 people a year are dying because they don't go to a doctor when they should. And our health care outcomes are behind many other countries. That's the kind of debate that we should be having. Not the issue of, does Barack Obama want to kill off the old people or the disabled? That is insane.
And what we have got to do is put forward a progressive health care plan. We have got to rally our base, the people who don't have health insurance, the small business people who can't afford health insurance for their workers and American people who know that there is something wrong when our system is so far behind many other countries.
MADDOW: If it is harder to rile people with hope than it is to rile them with fear, it may be hard go sort of base versus base, activist versus activist. Honestly, shouting person versus shouting person at some of these events and in terms of competition for the overall narrative around health care.
Do you think that the people who are saying - who are promoting these myth, that the president does want to kill old people, all of these crazy things about health care reform - do you think that they should just be ignored? Is it worth debunking them or mocking them?
SANDERS: Oh, no. I think what you are doing and all of us have to do - we have to call a lie a lie and they lie a whole lot of times. And we have to hold the Republican Party and the officials who support these lies accountable.
But that's not enough. What we need to do is do what Obama did during his very brilliant campaign, and that is rally tens of millions of people to stand up and say that health care is the civil rights issue of the moment, that it is not acceptable that 1 million people a year, this year, are going to go bankrupt because of medically-related costs.
We need to do grass roots organizing. I'll tell you what else we need to do. We need to understand that it is very, very hard for the president or anybody else to take on, not just the Republican Party - that's the easy part - to take on all of right-wing talk radio which covers 90 percent of talk show hosts, a whole FOX Network which is nothing more than an arm of the Republican Party.
And the Democrats got to think long term. Why is there not a progressive television network? Why aren't we supporting good and effective personalities on radio as well as building up the network there, so that we can have that kind of political consciousness-raising that the Republicans, in fact, are doing so well now?
MADDOW: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. Good luck with your town hall meetings this weekend.
SANDERS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up, our reporting on the money behind many of the anti-health reform shouter moms seems to have touched a nerve with a lobbying firm run by former Republican Congressman Dick Armey. Touching a nerve is turning out to be a specialty around here. You will want to stay tuned for this.
MADDOW: Coming up, one of "Newsweek's" reporters is being held in prison in Iran. His wife, 6 ½ months pregnant with their first child, joins us to tell us what is being done to try to get him out. Honestly, I hate that we're developing almost a template for how to cover these journalists in jail for no reason other than doing his or her job stories.
We take lot of freedoms for granted. Freedom of the press, really not being taken for granted, especially not this year. That very dramatic story is coming up.
But first, it's time for a couple of holy mackerel stories. The "New York Times" completed its two-part series today on the history of the Bush administration's torture program. Now, this is not the big picture stuff about why we were torturing people, not the "whose idea was it" stuff. It's not even the "how did they think they would get away with it" stuff.
What they have reported on - what the "Times" has reported on these past two days is actually the small stuff, really detailed reporting. Yesterday, on the two guys who were paid millions of dollars to design the how-to instructions for torture.
These are the guys that wrote up quite literally the blow-by-blow for how Americans should torture prisoners during the Bush administration. We now know that Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell had never, ever, in their entire lives, ever done a single interrogation when the geniuses in the Bush administration decided to pay them to overrule every experienced interrogator in the U.S. government so they could implement their made-up reverse-engineered "get a false confession" torture program.
Jim Mitchell's academic expertise, for example, was comparing the effects of diet and exercise for combating hypertension. But that didn't stop him from getting the contract to design the torture program. In part two of the series, we learned today of another aspect of the torture program that was not only toxic to our values, counter-strategic in terms of our national security, potentially dangerous in terms of the safety of Americans around the world.
Today we learned of another aspect of the torture program that was not just strategically and morally bankrupt but was actually just pathetic. When the Bush administration decided that the CIA should build secret prisons in other countries to administer its torture program, they turned to a CIA operator named Dusty Foggo to build those prisons.
The name Dusty Foggo may be familiar to you because he's in jail for corruption. Mr. Foggo pled guilty to giving padded, top-dollar CIA supply contracts to a buddy of his who then repaid the favor by taking Dusty on really expensive vacations, by paying for some of Dusty's rather lavish living expenses, and by promising Dusty a job once he was out of the CIA.
Dusty's friend is a guy named Brent Wilkes. That name may also be familiar to you because he's also in prison right now for bribing Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham. Corrupt imprisoned Dusty Foggo and his corrupt imprisoned contractor friend, Brent Wilkes, are the guys the Bush administration hired to build and equip their secret torture prisons in Romania and Morocco and some unnamed other former eastern bloc city.
Like it's not bad enough we have to live with the fact that the last president set up a torture program for the United States, we also have to live with the fact that it was pathetically, horrendously, embarrassingly corrupt. Is it wrong to have expected higher standards from my government's secret prison and torture program?
And finally, all month long, we have been talking about the extent to which the angry protests at congressional town halls on health care are being organized and promoted by both the Republican Party and corporate-funded Republican allied beltway PR and lobbying firms.
Naturally, that brought us to a group called Freedom Works, an ostensibly grassroots group that has claimed credit for organizing and promoting town hall protests. Now, Freedom Works is chaired by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey with whom I will be appearing on "Meet the Press" this Sunday.
Mr. Armey is also a senior policy adviser at a D.C. lobbying firm called DLA Piper, which happens to represent a bunch of companies in the healthcare industry. After we discussed Freedom Works and Mr. Armey and DLA Piper on this show a couple of days ago, we were lucky enough to obtain this internal DLA Piper memo which was sent out by the lobbying firm's joint chairman to all of the firm's employees.
It reads, "Recently, several media commentators," I think that might mean me, "have suggested that DLA Piper might be opposing healthcare reform. Some of the reports have gone so far as to suggest that the firm itself, or on behalf of its clients, may be supporting activities to disrupt the national debate on healthcare reform.
All of these suggestions are entirely false. The firm has not, on its own behalf or on the behalf of any client, directly or indirectly opposed any of the pending healthcare reform bills; and firm strongly opposes any activities designed to disrupt the national debate about healthcare reform or any other public policy issues. On the contrary, DLA Piper represents clients who support enactment of effective healthcare reform this year and encourages responsible national debate We have contacted news outlets to set the record straight and urge correction of the inaccurate reports."
For the record, we have checked and no one from the lobbying firm DLA Piper has contacted me or anyone else on had show by E-mail or fax or telephone or carrier pigeon or smoke signal.
If anyone from DLA Piper would like to talk to us and explain how exactly the firm is encouraging responsible national debate and strongly opposing disrupting the national debate about healthcare reform while its senior policy adviser is also running Freedom Works which has been putting its officials on TV to brag about blowing up town hall events - their words, in the mine - and calling on those who attend those town halls to be, and I quote, "aggressive," we here at the show would love to hear that explanation.
We would love to hear from you, honestly. Or you can keep communicating with us via another internal memo to your own employees who will then leak it to us. Whatever works for you.
MADDOW: If you go to the Web site of "Newsweek.com," what you get is news of the day, promotion of their blogs and stuff, promotion of their global edition, and you get this, "Free Maziar Bahari."
"Newsweek" isn't Amnesty International. They are not even Pacifica. They are not known as a crusading cause-endorsing publication. But "Free Maziar Bahari" is their cause now because Maziar Bahari is their reporter. And the government of Iran has not only locked him up for being "Newsweek's" reporter, they've also forced him into a show trial.
Two weekends ago, Bahari was one of 100 journalists and activists and opposition figures and Iranians with dual citizenship who were all put on trial in one big group trial ala Stalin, charged with helping foreigners undermine the government of Iran by somehow orchestrating these massive anti-government protests that have roiled Iran since the disputed elections there in June.
Mr. Bahari, who has dual Iranian-Canadian citizenship, was even brought out solo on speak to reporters on the sidelines of that show trial. He gave what a "New York Times" account described as a chilling lecture to those reporters on the media's role in fomenting revolution. It is chilling, of course, because it is forced.
Maziar Bahari is a reporter. He's not an agent of any foreign power. He wasn't fomenting anything. He was doing his job as a professional objective journalist, one accredited by the Iranian government itself to cover the elections in Iran and the reactions to them.
"Newsweek" and Mr. Bahari's family and supporters have now made the difficult decision to take their efforts to have him freed from prison public. They are hoping what they have not been able to accomplish through back channel efforts and client diplomacy might be accomplished if enough people know about this and are moved to speak out to free Maziar Bahari.
Joining us now is Mr. Bahari's wife. Her name is Paola Gourley and she joins us from London. Ms. Gourley, thanks very much for agreeing to talk with us about Maziar.
PAOLA GOURLEY, WIFE OF MAZIAR BAHARI: Thank you.
MADDOW: First of all, I don't know you and I hope you don't mind me asking because it is somewhat personal. But I do want to ask just how you are doing, how you and your family are holding up through all of this.
GOURLEY: Well, it's a very difficult time, one that I could never have imagined would ever be like this, ever. I'm 6 ½ months pregnant and so I just have to keep positive always. And it's such a struggle to remain always with hopes and to get through this time.
MADDOW: Have you been able to be in touch with Maziar at all? Or has anybody in your family been able to be in touch with him?
GOURLEY: Maziar's mother has spoken very briefly with Maziar a few times during the last month and a half. Maziar's mother was able to see Maziar in the prison with Maziar's brother-in-law. But I haven't had any details about that meeting, other than that it was very brief and I think Maziar said he was OK. Other than that, I've not spoken to Maziar at all, not been able to meet with him.
MADDOW: I know that the semi-official news agency, the Fars News Agency in Iran, a week or so ago, released some photos of him and some of the other people with dual citizenship who they have been holding. How did he look to you when you saw him in those photos, just compared to how you knew him before he left for this trip?
Well, before the trip, Maziar looked healthy. He looked happy. And when I saw the photo of him, as soon as it popped up on to my screen, I burst into tears and was inconsolable, because he looked so gaunt and unhappy. He just didn't look like the same person. It broke my heart.
MADDOW: In terms of what he is accused of, the Iranian government, of course, accuses him of helping foment revolution, endangering Iran's national security. The Iranian media quotes him as having stated as a journalist and a member of this great western capitalism machine, he said he had either blindly, or on purpose, participated in projecting doubts and promoting a color revolution. Does that sound like anything he would say of his own free will?
GOURLEY: Absolutely not. I mean, Maziar is incredibly fair-minded. His reporting has always been very balanced. It's certainly not something he would ever say at all of his own free will. Maziar is known and respected for his balanced work, and even in Iran, has always been given appropriate accreditation throughout his long career for working in Iran.
And it's just preposterous now that they can say that he's been a danger to national security, when he was simply doing his job in the fair manner in which he's always done it.
MADDOW: One last question for you. If people watching this now are moved to try to help, I know that you, other members of your family, supporters, "Newsweek" and others have decided that it's in his best interest, that there be a public campaign to try to free him. If people are moved to try to help, what do you suggest that people do?
GOURLEY: I think the easiest way is to go to the Web site, "www.FreeMaziarBahari.org <http://www.FreeMaziarBahari.org>." And there's a page on that for petitions. There's also a page on that for Italian petition. The petitions are online and you can just join the petition and also just get in contact, as well, by the Website, if anyone has any ideas on how to promote the awareness of Maziar's plight.
MADDOW: Paola Gourley, the wife of Maziar Bahari, thank you so much for being here, and of course, all the best luck to you on this.
GOURLEY: Thank you very much. Thanks.
MADDOW: You can keep up to date on Maziar's condition, his case, the efforts being made to free him at "FreeMaziarBahari.org." Don't worry if you can't spell that at the top of your head. There is a link to it at our homepage which is "Rachel.MSNBC.com." We will be right back.
MADDOW: We turn now to our furs, skins, and pelts correspondent, Mr. Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel. Especially the pelts. You know, some people like to dress up as animals because it's Halloween. And then, there are people who like to dress up as animals because it's a slow Wednesday, something like that.
JONES: Here's what fun looks like for those people.
(voice-over): In America, what does it mean to be truly free? The freedom to speak? The freedom to pray? The freedom to walk around in public dressed as a giant cartoon skunk.
Rejoice, patriots, this is the third annual Rocky Mountain Fur Con, a confab of nature-loving furries who like to do everything dressed as huggable woodland creatures, and I do mean everything.
Nearly 300 anthropomorphs turned out in their alternate personas for one of the rare events where having a hairy back is not only tolerated, but preferred. Our mammalian costumes are well-represented, each guaranteed to bring joy to children, or quite possibly, haunt their dreams for eternity.
Participants at Fur Con hope that this peaceful gathering will dispel the growing perception that the costume community is fraught with savagery and even violence.
What are we? Animals?
MADDOW: Is it possible to buy a fur suit with head and everything, on the open market?
JONES: Probably so.
MADDOW: Are these home-knit things?
JONES: Perfectly legal here in the United States to put on a giant head and big, fuzzy shoes and just do what you've got to do.
MADDOW: When I heard that you were doing this, when I heard that Fur Con existed, I assumed it was people in mascot outfits, like I assumed that people can buy mascot outfits for their school. But they don't look like mascots.
JONES: No. A lot of these, I think, are of the homemade variety. A lot of creativity.
MADDOW: Yes. Really, intensely homemade. Thank you, Kent.
MADDOW: Thank you for watching tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow night. "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a good one.
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