'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, February 12th, 2010
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Guests: Ezra Klein, Cara Perlman>
HOST: Not exactly threatening the dogs more.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: See, I knew it.
OLBERMANN: When they sent the e-mail, I said somebody screwed something up along the information chain here. You‘re not threatening puppies?
MADDOW: No. I will admit to exploiting puppies but I will not admit to threatening them in any way. But you‘ll have to stick around to see.
OLBERMANN: I‘ll get my popcorn.
MADDOW: Yes. Thank you very much, Keith.
And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
On tonight‘s show, we‘ve got a discussion about something that is driving me nuts about the Olympics. It has to do with women not being allowed to ski jump at the Olympics. It is an issue that is totally not settled yet and about which I‘m getting obsessed.
Also, FOX News incredibly politicizing Bill Clinton‘s heart stents.
You stay classy.
MADDOW: All of that coming up on a show that I will admit to being very excited about.
But the first order of business tonight is actually a request for your help. We have frequently, in recent months on this show, talked about a specific thing that is catastrophically important to the future of this country and, also, simultaneously totally catastrophically boring.
This thing is so important it eclipses every cycle of who‘s winning and who‘s losing right now on politics. Which party is going to win which election? Which president is popular? Which president isn‘t?
This is bigger than all of that. This is a beyond the news cycle, beyond the election cycle problem that is about whether or not this country is capable of greatness anymore. Whether or not this country is capable of adapting to the problems that we need to adapt to in order to survive and thrive in this world, whether or not we as a country can make decisions about what to do about our biggest problems.
We‘ve talked about this problem in a lot of different ways on this show in recent months. And people who feel the same way that I do about it often use really dramatic language to try to get across how important it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that if this pattern continues, you‘re going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world. And other countries are going to start running circles around us.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: How long can we as a country thrive when our chief competitor can order from the top-down optimal and we can only produce suboptimal?
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Never since the founding of the republic, not even in the bitter sentiments preceding the civil war was such a thing ever seen in this body.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: None of that is hyperbole. This is just people who recognize this giant problem we have who are using appropriately dramatic language to show how giant this giant problem is.
And yet, even with all of the drama, even with all of this effort to make us realize how existentially important this problem is for the country, we still have not fixed it. We have not even really yet begun to fix it. And the reason we haven‘t fixed it, the reason we can‘t grapple with it, really, I believe, is because ultimately, for all of the dramatic language we use to describe this problem, for all of the exclamation points, for all of what seems like hyperbole but is really just appropriate drama, when it comes down to explaining what this problem really is, it is impossible to get there without using the most boring word in the English language—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Filibuster. I know. Filibuster. I care more about this than I do about almost anything in American public policy today. But I hear that word and it‘s like—I‘m convinced that the reason we cannot cope with this massive problem that quite literally threatens American greatness moving forward in the world is because the word we need to use to talk about it is a really boring word. It‘s boring to talk process anyway.
But talking about process where the ultimate goal is to get people excited about the word filibuster? We are defenseless frankly against the tyrannical boredom of this. Watch.
OK, puppy, so the filibuster is a way to block the majority from passing something in the Senate. Stay with me. This is important. It used to be used really rarely. The filibuster was used once in the—oh, yes, hello—used once in the 1950s but then just last session, it was used 139 times. Puppy, 139 times in the last session.
The filibuster was never supposed to make everything take—stay with me—everything—it was never supposed to make everything take 60 votes in the Senate. Oh, yes—see, having a filibuster on every vote means that essentially nothing can pass. This is hamstringing the whole U.S. government, puppy.
We can‘t make policy any more. Even with clear majorities in favor of things the president wants to pass—now, puppy, yes, hello, it used to take 67 votes to get cloture to stop a filibuster. They changed that back in 1975 to make it 60 votes instead of 67. They could just change it again. It‘s just a Senate rule.
Filibuster, it‘s very important.
I can‘t keep the puppy awake in talking about this and neither can you. There have been countless efforts to try to keep the metaphorical puppy awake of this issue, to keep the country focused on this as a problem. To avoid saying the most boring word of all time, we now talk about the supermajority instead of saying filibuster.
We say supermajority. I mean, supermajority does have the virtue of having the word super in it, so that‘s sort of exciting. And, of course, for the idea of just getting rid of the thing that is the most boring word of all time, there‘s a phrase that they use sometimes. It‘s the nuclear option. That‘s very exciting, very bombastic—nuclear.
For the refinement of that issue, yielded yet another new term, the constitutional option which—yes, exactly. In order to talk about this most important and yet most boring thing in all of American politics and government, without using the actual word for it, sometimes we have used the iconic, beautifully-acted cinematic scene in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” showing the way they used to do this thing they dare not speak its name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just get up off the ground. That‘s all I ask. Get up there with that lady that‘s up on top of this capitol building, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won‘t just see scenery. You‘ll see the whole parade of what man has carved out for himself after centuries of fighting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Compelling, right? Better than using the word to describe what it is that he‘s doing there.
There are ways that people have tried to make interesting this most important and yet most boring thing in all of American politics and government. But ultimately, even these re-branding efforts have failed because when it comes down to explaining what needs to be done, how to correct this existential problem, you sort of ultimately have to use this word “filibuster” and using the word “filibuster” makes us all puppies in bowls of water. We can‘t handle it for the boredom.
And so, we need your help. The most boring, most important thing in America needs a makeover. It needs a new name.
Think about this as a big Venn diagram. You are here. You are at the nexus of really boring and really important. Fixing this problem is essential to the country right now. We are either a country that can make policy or we are a country that cannot make policy. And if we are a country that cannot make policy, we quite literally cannot compete with the rest of the world as the Chinas and Indias and Brazils and Southeast Asias of the world sprint ahead and leave us mired in debt and pollution and traffic and dial-up Internet connections while they sprint ahead.
If we‘re ever going to use our government to do anything for our country again, we‘ve got to recognize and defeat the thing that is stopping us from doing that. And we can‘t do that recognizing and defeating, if every time we start to talk about it, we sleep until our nose goes underwater.
And so, the filibuster must be renamed. There has to be a not boring way to talk about a problem this important. I, for one, am optimistic about this. I believe that if we just can bear to think about it more than five seconds before we fall asleep or get distracted or need to look at pretty pictures, I believe we could actually grapple with what it would take to fix it.
Americans know we have a problem here. “The New York Times” polled on this, and I swear, because they didn‘t use the word “filibuster” in their question, 50 percent of people said yes this undemocratic thing should be fixed. Look at the lengths they had to go to in the question here.
“As you may know, the Senate operates under procedures that effectively require 60 votes out of 100 for most legislation to pass allowing a minority of as few as 41 senators to block a majority. Do you think that this procedure should remain in place or do you think it should be changed so that legislation is passed with a simple majority?” That was the question. If you‘ve got the time to ask it like that then, yes, 50 percent of people say, “Heck, kill that undemocratic nonsense. Forty-four percent said keep it.
If you don‘t, though, have the time to ask it at great length like that, going around it in great detail to not have to say the word “filibuster” that makes everybody‘s eyes glaze over, if you don‘t have the time, the country seizes up and dies because of a needlessly shockingly, sclerotic government that we can‘t grapple with fixing.
What we need to get America focused on whether or not we‘re going to solve this problem, solve any of our problems, whether or not we‘re going to be able to compete in the future with other countries, what we need is a snappy descriptor. It should accurately capture what the problem is, it should be memorable and it should not make people hearing about it do this.
All right. So, please send us your ideas. We really mean it. We‘re really going to try to do this. Go to our Web site Rachel.MSNBC.com. Click where you see it says “the filibuster challenge.” We are going to pool the ideas that we get together. We will then pick a winner.
If you win, you don‘t get much. You get a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW sweatshirt. You get a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW mug that looks like this, made in the USA. Most importantly, though, you get the thanks of your nation.
America needs your help. And if you believe, as I do, that the world needs American leadership, then frankly, the world needs your help, too.
Wake the puppy up. Help America confront this devastatingly important, devastatingly boring problem. Be a hero. Rachel.MSNBC.com.
MADDOW: Frustrated by the way our federal government works? Driven to distraction by super duper majorities and filibusters and blanket holds? Well, take heart. There is another way to do things that is worse—illustrated yesterday in the legislative assembly of New Brunswick in otherwise rather mild-mannered Canada.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! She just gave the finger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Point of order.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, that‘s enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not only a personal attack but we just saw from this side of the house the MLA for St. John Lancaster showing his finger—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to the MLA for Rothesay, Mr. Speaker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is—well, I will let him to—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- I will let him to speak, Mr. Speaker, because probably he‘ll want to apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Don‘t bet on it. Watch what he does. Watch. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll not apologize in this house for that young lady over there. I‘m just going to give you an instance here not too long ago. When Stuart Jamieson who was a member of this house one time, she lied about him. There were no questions about it because it was all on tape.
The next thing she did, she gets in the paper and you talk about honorable. There was nothing honorable. She just switched her words, what a wonderful person he is.
Well, I‘m going to tell you, Dale, I‘ll walk outside with anyone who is here. Don‘t ever laugh at me. Yes, I gave you that. And I‘ll give you that again and I‘ll give you this if you want to go outside. You‘re a punk!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Abel LeBlanc, the “let‘s take this outside” guy with the maple leaf suspended for three days without pay. And I bet he thinks it was worth it.
MADDOW: Before the summer of the screaming town hall, before death panels and fake grassroots anti-health reform bus tours, outrage in the country before all of that was fueling the movement for health reform. That outrage was—the outrage was—it was aimed at the insurance industry for jacking up rates and denying people coverage and dropping sick people from their rolls. Prepare to return to that quaint time, because—thanks to a report out today from the advocacy group Health Care for America Now—we have just learned that the five largest for-profit insurers in this country made a combined $12.2 billion last year.
For those of you keeping track at home, that is a 56 percent increase from 2008, a new profit record set, of course, in the middle of the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. They accomplished this record feat, at least in part, by covering 2.7 million fewer people through private insurance than they did before. It‘s as if someone has pushed the reset button on the politics of health reform.
Once again the country finds itself in a forced confrontation with the reason that health reform is so needed. And, again, like we‘re back to, I guess, last summer again. The right has responded to the threat that health reform poses to the status quo by propounding the theory that health reform is really a secret plot to kill people. In this case, they say it‘s a secret plot to kill ex-presidents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Medical rationing, it‘s a big concern under the Democrats‘ proposed health reform. Would President Clinton have been denied his heart stent procedure under their plan?
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS: President Bill Clinton is now at home and after undergoing emergency surgery yesterday, the president‘s had two stents placed in his coronary artery. Amazing. So, if the Democrats‘ health reform had gone through, would President Clinton have received the stents?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does President Clinton or you or I who needs it get the stent under that new regimen of health care effectiveness?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Welcome to the new health reform debate, same as the old health reform debate. Only instead of health reform being a secret plot to kill old people or a secret plot to kill veterans or a secret plot to kill Republicans, now health reform is a secret plot to kill Bill Clinton. That‘s the story on the right.
The story everywhere else is about insurance companies like Anthem Blue Cross, the largest insurer in the most populous state in the country, California, hiking its rates 39 percent right now just because—just because they can, even though their parent company is making billions in profit.
Joining us now is Ezra Klein, staff writer at the “Washington Post.”
Ezra, thanks very much for coming on the show.
EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Last time we were at this point in the politics of health reform, I think was roughly the end of last summer. Urgency for reform created by the horrible economics and horrible flaws of the current system. Opposition to reform created by weird conspiracy theories about secret plots to kill people.
After this happened, the last time the Democrats, I think, wasted the rest of the year trying to get Republicans to vote for reform. Do you think that they‘re making the same mistake again?
KLEIN: Well, I think they‘re going to waste less time at least. I mean, we got the summit on February 25th and the White House released a very large guest list today which was large enough to make me think nothing is really going to get done there. But after that, they know it‘s pretty much put up or shut up time, right? Once you‘ve had your summit, you have to take your vote.
And today, the most encouraging thing I‘ve seen yet happen, you had Republicans demanding the Democrats not make a secret deal to pass health care reform until the summit, which suggested that they think Democrats might be able to make a deal still to pass health care reform. So, hopefully, they‘ll be able to make it right after the summit and figure this out.
MADDOW: Ezra, we keep hearing that Democrats are looking at reconciliation, that they‘re working on it, that it‘s hard to do. I feel like you get the policy ins and outs of this better than anybody else who I talk to about this subject. How long would it take Democrats, really, if they wanted to pass health reform, if they really got their act together, how long would it take ‘em?
KLEIN: Twenty-four hours. Literally, 24 hours, Rachel.
So reconciliation, which is the second most boring word in English language, is actually not even necessary. The Senate bill, you could argue it‘s better or worse than the House bill, you actually could just pass it on its own, though. You wouldn‘t need to reconcile it. The House could take it up tomorrow, pass it, and Barack Obama could sign by nightfall. That is how long this could take.
And it gets to a really important point about this. It isn‘t about the Republicans right now. It isn‘t about Anthem Blue Cross, though they‘re quite on this. It is about the Democrats. They have the bills. They have passed the bills. They have a president ready to sign them.
If they decide this is important enough to do, they can do it. And if they don‘t, they can‘t blame it anybody else. They have it in their hands and they let go. It is their fault.
MADDOW: Ezra, I am struck by the fact that insurance companies are reporting record profit, astonishing profits and at the same time, millions of fewer customers. What‘s going on with those two things happening at once?
KLEIN: Well, they‘re raising prices. I mean, so, my mother is, in fact, on the Anthem Blue Cross plan out in California, and her premium went from $790 to $1,094 per month for one person. And so, here‘s the plan there, right? What they‘re doing is closing out a plan that has older, sicker people in it.
And what happens to these people when they go to the individual market is that folks look at them and say, “You got a preexisting condition. You weren‘t profitable for Anthem. You won‘t be profitable for us. And they can‘t get insurance.
This is literally what health care reform is there to stop from happening. You wouldn‘t be able to discriminate against people with these conditions. You wouldn‘t be able to participate in the exchange if you did this sort of 40 percent rate hikes. It would kick you right out.
And yet, the thing we seem to think is more relevant than this, than the Anthem Blue Cross situation, which is happening to actual human beings, is Scott Brown, who beat a Red Sox-hating candidate who wouldn‘t shake a voter‘s hand in Massachusetts. It‘s really rather appalling.
MADDOW: Would the bills—to be clear, the bills that have passed the House and the Senate, or you even just say the Senate bill, would they stop this Anthem Blue Cross rate hike from happening?
KLEIN: They would probably stop it at two or three different levels. Number one, you couldn‘t do preexisting conditions. So, this is a high risk plan at Anthem. It is priced up, it‘s an expensive plan. Remember, it was $794 before this. It‘s priced up because these people are somewhat older, but more to the point, they‘re somewhat sicker, there are a lot of preexisting conditions in this pool. That‘s number one.
Number two, in the exchange, where they would have to be, you cannot do a rate increase like this unless you can justify it to the people running the exchange. If they don‘t think it is in their customer‘s best interest, they kick you out. And what happens when they kick you out is you don‘t have any customers anymore. So, you don‘t do this sort of thing.
Health care reform is what gives you power over the health care insurers, and it is the only thing that can stop this sort of shenanigans from happening in the future.
MADDOW: Ezra Klein, staff writer for the “Washington Post”—thanks very much for joining us tonight. It makes me all the more angry to find out that it‘s your mom. So, please give her our best.
KLEIN: Me, too. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks.
OK. So why aren‘t women allowed to compete in Olympic ski jumping? And are they actually better at ski jumping than the men who are allowed to compete? We talked about this subject once before this week and it‘s gotten more complicated and frankly, sort of more ridiculous since we first reported on it. I warned just—because I want to have a good relationship with you as a viewer of this show, I am getting a little bit obsessed with this.
That is coming up.
MADDOW: As of tonight, the Winter Olympics are on. In case you hadn‘t heard, for the next two weeks, the 21st Olympic Winter Games will be broadcast all over the NBC family of networks including our own. We‘re very excited to be part of it.
We‘re also sad to report that just a few hours before tonight‘s opening ceremonies, an athlete from the nation of Georgia was killed in a training accident. Nodar Kumaritashvili was on the final turn of a practice run in the luge when he flew off the track wall he hit a steel pylon. He died shortly afterward in hospital. It‘s just a tragic, tragic incident.
Tonight, Olympic organizers express their shock and grief over the athlete‘s death. They pledged an investigation. Georgian officials said the rest of Georgia‘s Olympic team will stay in the games to honor their fallen teammate. Tonight, organizers dedicated the opening ceremony to Mr. Kumaritashvili‘s memory.
We have been following another Olympic story. It‘s about a group of athletes who will not be participating in this year‘s games, it‘s female ski jumpers. As we talked about on this show on Wednesday, back in 2006, the International Olympic Committee ruled against including women‘s ski jump in this year‘s games. Even though men have been competing in the event since the first Winter Games in 1924, and even though top women ski jumpers are really, really, really good at it right now.
The IOC‘s position has been that the women‘s sport of ski jumping isn‘t developed enough. Women haven‘t been competing on an international level long enough. That said, ski jumpers and their advocates are quick to point out that ski cross is an even newer sport with fewer competitors and ski cross has been allowed to be in this year‘s games. A group of women‘s ski jumpers has claimed discrimination.
Lending support to their argument is this both inspiring and infuriating data point, a ski jumper named Lindsey Van actually set the distance record for the hill that the male Olympic ski jumpers will be competing on tomorrow, but she cannot compete on that hill in these games because, of course, she‘s female.
Joining us now is Cara Perlman. She‘s a filmmaker who has been documenting efforts by women ski jumpers to be included in the Olympics.
Cara, thanks very much for being here. It‘s nice to have you here.
CARA PERLMAN, MAKING FEMALE SKI JUMPING DOCUMENTARY: Thank you.
MADDOW: I will admit to frustration about the fairness issue here, but also some frustration about the facts. I hope you can just help me understand it, most of all.
When Lindsay Van set that record on the hill on which the men will be competing, she started higher up on the mountain. And that was explained to me as being because she was lighter. So, being lighter affords some sort of competitive disadvantage that has to be compensated for by moving you higher up to hill. That sort of made sense to me until I read in “The New York Times” today that the way men try to become more competitive in the sport is by making themselves lighter—in some cases, by starving themselves to the point of eating disorders.
Can you help understand the contradiction here?
PERLMAN: Well, I think lighter is part of it. I think it‘s also, women have hips. I think the bar has been changed for their physiques. I think they have different musculature, different muscle energy. They don‘t have the testosterone. I think it‘s an adjustment on a few levels.
MADDOW: So, when she‘s moved higher up the mountain, it‘s not a decision that‘s made purely on the basis of weight.
MADDOW: Because if that explained it, then you would think it would be like boxing where there would be sort of feather weight, heavy weight, lightweight. People would start at the different parts of the mountain based on their weight class. But that‘s not - it‘s not that simple.
PERLMAN: It is not that simple. I‘m also not a technician, so I couldn‘t go, you know, into the deep, deep reasons for this. But they do it very carefully and they do it so that it‘s safe and so that it‘s fair. And that‘s the solution they came up with - weight, body structure and musculature.
MADDOW: So that‘s why those differences explain different levels of performances and different strengths and weaknesses between the genders in this sport. When women are competing now, they‘re not competing against men. But they do sometimes jump on the same courses so we can compare distances, right?
PERLMAN: Absolutely. And they also train together often enough. You know, they‘re often all together in training.
MADDOW: And when you say that one of the issues is women‘s musculature and just body shape, how does that make a difference in terms of men‘s and women‘s hips being different? How does that make a difference in terms of how they compete.
PERLMAN: I think, you know, I‘m not, again, a coach or a technician.
But I mean, just from watching for all these years, I would say that the
way - the way women‘s physiques - they don‘t get down - they tend not to go
down as low when they‘re coming down the end run. You know, I don‘t -
MADDOW: They approach it differently. In other words, they have to physically approach it differently.
PERLMAN: Yes, they do. And you know, they were saying this year - in the “Times,” there was an article about how women are five times more likely to tear their ACL. And this is because women are not supposed to be trained in the same way as men because they have a different physique, and you know, different things happen.
MADDOW: In terms of these women trying to get into the Olympic Games, obviously, they made a case for themselves that they should have been included in the Olympics. When you started doing - working on this documentary, when you started working with them, did you think they would be persistent?
MADDOW: Really? Why?
PERLMAN: When I first saw them, they were denied access to 2006 in Torino. And there was a real push, largely from the Americans, but the Canadians and the Norwegians also to get these girls in. And they lobbied hard for them.
And there was a meeting in Portugal of the International Ski Federation and they were recommended for the Olympics 114 to 1. So, and that looked like the difficult institution to get on their side and they were thrilled.
MADDOW: But then, ultimately, the International Olympic Committee said just no?
PERLMAN: They said no.
MADDOW: In terms of the future here, I think women have made a strong case for themselves on athletic terms and on fairness terms that they ought to be doing this. Do you expect that the next Olympics will have them? Is it just a case of demonstrating that more women can compete at an international level, there just need to be more people in the sport?
PERLMAN: I‘d like to think that‘s exactly what could happen. And you know, I would be optimistic, yes. But I also think that the IOC has demonstrated their need for sovereignty.
And they have expressed a lot of disdain for the women fighting for their cause and have threatened - some people in the IOC have threatened that if the women keep it up, they might not make it into 2014. So it‘s not clear.
MADDOW: So, stop advocating. We‘ll decide when you‘re there. Shut up and we‘ll take care of it?
MADDOW: I can‘t imagine why that would be annoying to nobody. It‘s hard enough to be a world class athlete. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on a subject like this.
Cara Perlman is chronicling women ski jumpers for a documentary.
Thanks for joining us. I really appreciate it.
PERLMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We have a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW correction to make, coming up. This is one that we‘re happy about, because for once, we‘re not correcting me. We‘re instead correcting something really stupid that Glenn Beck said about one of our guests.
And there‘s only one way left to tell the story of Sarah Palin‘s meteoric rise in politics. Our producers have figured it out to a tee. That‘s ahead.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith has more on everyone‘s favorite, publicly-proven, racist, illiterate tea partier guy who‘s now taking a stand against Sarah Palin.
And later on this show, the latest and bestest way to tell the story of Sarah Palin‘s career. Thank you for the inspiration, Super Bowl ads.
Plus, Meghan McCain holds up a mirror to the Tea Party Nation‘s face. Tea Party Nation does not like its own reflection.
But first, happy new year. Also, happy largest regularly anticipated human migration in the world. It is Chinese lunar new year on Sunday, which is also the world‘s largest movement of people from one place to other places.
Chinese lunar new year in China is called the spring festival. It‘s the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. And as people all over the world do on important holidays, the Chinese travel for this holiday.
A big majority of China‘s 1.3 billion are expected to take at least one trip for new year‘s, totaling more than 2.5 billion excursions. The good news for these billion or so travelers, this largest mass migration in world history, is that, this year, some of those trips will be a lot shorter.
In the last four years, China has spent more than $185 billion on high-speed rail, just on trains. But all of that investment means is that, within about two years, China expects to have 42 new high-speed train lines.
For comparison, here in America, we won‘t even have our first one. We‘re expecting our first high-speed rail line two years after the Chinese are expecting 42 of them. We‘ll get one within four years. China will get 42 in half the time.
Our one little high-speed rail commitment will connect Tampa and Orlando, Florida. China on the other hand has major train routes planned to link all of its major cities. The super-fast trains average about 215 miles an hour. That would be like traveling over land, Dallas to Detroit, in six hours, Birmingham to Indianapolis in a little over two hours, Boston to New York, in an hour.
Wouldn‘t it be awesome if we were doing that instead of China? I‘m sure if we tried, someone would filibuster it. If there is hope for America competing with the Chinese and everyone else on tack on infrastructure and innovation, that hope comes from our geek class which, at this moment, is confabbing at the annual awesome TED Conference in Long Beach, California.
TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. I have never been to a TED conference, but whiled away many an hour online watching videos of the often mind-blowing 18-minute-or-less talks that people give at this conference. They‘re called TED talks.
This year, my early favorite for “cool stuff I didn‘t know about before the person who invented it went to TED” is this thing. It‘s a skateboard-snowmobile-scooter hybrid. They‘re calling it the DTV shredder. Can you, guys, drop the bugs so we can see the bottom over there?
There we go. It can go 30 miles an hour. It makes wicked sharp turns. And of course, it looks totally awesome. It‘s available to the public now for about $10,000. But the Canadian company that makes them, which is called, BPG Works - they‘re accepting down payments for when they cut the price in half within the next few months. The kid who founded the company is a 2010 TED fellow.
And next up, a correction, not for something I said or something a guest said on this show said, but for something someone said about something a guest on this show said.
On his increasingly - radio show today, Glenn Beck played a clip of our show from Wednesday in which I spoke with Bill Nye, the science guy, about people saying that climate change - global warming - couldn‘t possibly be real because it was snowing on the east coast in February. Mr. Beck played the clip and then mocked Mr. The Science Guy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, HOST, “THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM”: All right. Go ahead, Bill.
BILL NYE, “THE SCIENCE GUY”: There‘s more energy in the atmosphere and this is stirring things up.
BECK: Oh, boy -
NYE: If you want to get serious about it -
NYE: These guys claiming that the snow in Washington disproves
climate change -
BECK: Nobody‘s saying that. Stop! Stop! Stop!
NYE: Are almost unpatriotic.
BECK: Oh, boy! Hit the Tim Robbins - I‘m sorry the Mr. Sarandon bite again.
TIM ROBBINS, ACTOR: A chill wind is blowing in this nation.
BECK: Oh, it‘s un-American. Unpatriotic. Unpatriotic to claim - first of all, who has claimed that this snow storm is proof that global warming doesn‘t exist?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who‘s claimed that? Dude, you have. A lot.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BECK: Well, the snow is hammering Washington, D.C. again. I believe God is just saying, “I got your global warming here, eh? You want a piece of global warming?”
MADDOW: Same radio show. Same guy and it‘s not like that was a one-off occurrence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: I don‘t think it takes a genius to see through the “more snow is proof of global warming” claim. Sixty-three percent of the country is now covered in snow. And it‘s breaking Al Gore‘s heart because the snow is also burying his global warming theory.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, “HANNITY”: It‘s the most severe winter storm in years, which would seem to contradict Al Gore‘s hysterical global warming theories. Rumor has it that another storm could be headed this way next week. Global warming, where are you? We want you back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who has claimed that the snowstorm is proof that global warming doesn‘t exist? Who has claimed that? It is one thing to be totally outrageously wrong about facts in science. But the price of that is getting made fun of for it and getting called out on it by, boom, Bill Nye the Science Guy.
On climate change, new rule - you lie, you must pay the Nye.
This message totally not at all authorized by Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
MADDOW: As the Republican Party searches for meaning in the political minority, one of its conservative candidates in the Texas gubernatorial primary has taken her campaign in the direction of the kook end which, who knows, might up her chances.
She‘s a tear party favorite and former Ron Paul campaign volunteer, Debra Medina. She‘s seen here in, I think one of her ads, sitting in a car, inexplicably holding a handgun and smiling.
Ms. Medina surged in the polls this week, coming within just four points of her much-better known rival, Sen. Kay Bailey-Hutchison and coming within 15 points of incumbent Governor Rick Perry.
Of course, that was before Debra Medina admitted to being a 9/11 truther - kind of. It turns out, there‘s more. Here‘s Medina talking to a local TV station yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBRA MEDINA ®, TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The 9/11 commission report, you know - great sections of that are redactive and they‘re top secret. That makes us all wonder, well, what‘s happening back there? The same is true with the birth certificate thing. I think that it‘s healthy that people are asking questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A 9/11 truther and a birther. She‘s also the person that described their hope for a secession battle that would turn into a bloody war. You know, in Texas, that‘s political gold, apparently, covered in platinum, drizzled in crude oil. Good luck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): How‘s that hopey-changey stuff working out for you? Candidate Obama pledged to end closed-door sweetheart deals and no big contracts once and for all. But just last month, his administration awarded a $25 million no-bid contract to Democrat donor? Is that hope? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who is the Republican Party going to run for president in 2012? It is admittedly way too early to know for sure. But something is about to happen that should give us some early indications.
We are entering into Lincoln Day dinner season, when state and local Republican parties have actual parties. They hold their biggest fundraisers and they compete with one another to book the fastest rising stars in the Republican firmament.
At Lincoln Day dinners, said Republican rising stars, typically, try to be as blockbuster and newsworthy as possible, not only to win over the party loyalists audiences to whom they‘re speaking at these events, but also, hopefully, to get free media, to get as much media coverage as they can, too, to try to promote the idea that they‘ll be candidates in the elections.
That‘s generally the way these things work. And that‘s why it is very strange to read in “The Orlando Sentinel” today that the Republican group that was lucky enough to score Sarah Palin as their Lincoln Day speaker has been told by Palin‘s people, no cameras, no media, no video cameras, no still cameras. No one‘s even allowed to make an audio recording of her speech.
The traditional “me, me, me, look at me” Republican media scrum of the year turned into a closed-door, no-recordings event by Sarah Palin. Yet, another truly weird twist in what is turning out to be the most weirdly, twisty of all modern American political careers.
It‘s almost like if you made a movie about it or an ad about it, no one would believe it was true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Only dead fish go with the flow. I hear he goes by the name Ricky Hollywood now. You betcha.
MADDOW: John McCain‘s daughter, Meghan McCain, has proven once again that she is not afraid to head-butt the extremists on the conservative side of the aisle. After former Congressman Tom Tancredo called for literacy tests for voting at the tea party convention last week, Meghan McCain was quick to call him out on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGHAN MCCAIN, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN‘S DAUGHTER: It‘s innate racism and I think it‘s why young people are turned off by this movement. And I‘m sorry, revolutions start with young people, not with 65-year-old people talking about literacy tests and people who can‘t say the word “vote” in English.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right on cue, Les Phillip, a self-identified tea party Republican went looking for Meghan McCain‘s head because of that, putting out a statement that said, quote, “Ms. McCain has led a life of privilege and couldn‘t understand the pressures of living from paycheck to paycheck. I respect her father‘s service to this country, but she ridicules what she cannot understand.”
The allegation is that if Meghan McCain weren‘t so privileged, she‘d understand wanting to bring back Jim Crow-era voting literacy tests that were used for generations in this country to deny black people the right to vote.
That‘s according to, again, this guy named Les Phillip who is a tea party candidate challenging incumbent Congressman Parker Griffith in Alabama‘s fifth district.
And it turns out Parker Griffith is at the center of another quite strange political squabble. For more on that one, we have to turn to our cross-purposes correspondent, Kent Jones. This one requires a little explanation. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. You know, Republicans are going on the offensive in 2010 but I think step one should be figure out who your opponent is. Take a look.
JONES: The National Republican Congressional Committee is fired up and ready to rock. The disastrous election of 2008 - over. Scott Brown is the new senator from tax-achusetts and Republicans got big mo on their side just in time for the 2010 elections.
Bring the pain. Check out the GOP body slam on Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith. NRCC chair Pete Sessions sent out a fundraising letter to donors in Alabama‘s fifth district saying their Democrat in Congress has been falling in line with Nancy Pelosi‘s destructive liberal agenda.
Oh! Bam! He added, “We‘re airing hard-hitting ads against your Democrat member of Congress and it‘s making an impact.” Yes! Whoo! USA, USA! One teeny problem? Congressman Parker Griffith, the target of this Republican swipe, the one Sessions referred to as “your Democrat in Congress,” is actually a Republican.
Yes! USA - what? Yes, Griffith defected from the Democratic Party last December. The NRCC just slimed one of their own. Assume the position, newbie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. May I have another?
JONES: And Congressman Griffith, you might want to consider some permanent ID.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Kent.
MADDOW: A lot weird going on in Alabama‘s fifth district.
JONES: A little bit, yes.
MADDOW: All right. We started the show tonight on a desperate quest to make the whole country interested in the critically-important, but flabbergastingly, boringly named problem that is the filibuster.
Our quest evolved almost immediately into a search for a new, exciting, all-new and improved name for the filibuster problem. The idea being that something called, say, “free beer” stands a better chance of generating interest than something called filibuster. Only the term should be a little more descriptive than that.
We have turned our quest into a contest. We need your help. The country really needs government to work. And to do that, we have to be able to focus for more than five seconds at a time on the boring thing that‘s making it so that government isn‘t working anymore.
Really. We have ceased to be able to make policy in a bad way. We need to be able to talk about this. If you have a good idea for renaming the filibuster problem that we have as a nation right now - and please make it family-friendly - please go to our Web site, Rachel.MSNBC.com. Click on “filibuster challenge” and help.
If we use your idea, we‘ll send you an official RACHEL MADDOW SHOW coffee cup and sweat shirts. Really, we need your help, so thanks in advance - Rachel.MSNBC.com.
That does it for us tonight. We‘ll see you back here on Monday.
“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts now.
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