updated 5/27/2010 9:37:43 AM ET 2010-05-27T13:37:43

Guests: Rep. Ed Markey, Jim Hanson, J.D. Johannes

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  That‘s “COUNTDOWN” for this, the

36th day since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began.  I‘m Keith

Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.

And it‘s also day one since the following host declared “Geek Week”

mission accomplished by choppering under the USS Iwo Jima, and announcing

that major combat operations in Barnstable (ph) have ended.  Ladies and

gentlemen, here is flight left-tenant, Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, flight left-tenant.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  No, I have never been on a helicopter before I

went out to do that.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, surprise!

MADDOW:  Well, the problem was that I never do something like that

for the first time with lots of cameras around.  All of the pictures that

we got of me on that chopper and me going like this.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Oh, yes.

MADDOW:  Yes.  It‘s a little terrifying.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I haven‘t been in one since 1985 for that exact

reason.  Over here you can see—yes, I can see quite clearly!  I‘m glad

you landed safely.

MADDOW:  I did indeed.  And I had really good time.  Thank you,

Keith.  Appreciate it.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

There‘s much to report about B.P.‘s latest and current attempt to

stop the out-of-control disaster a mile under water in the Gulf of Mexico

tonight, including some very late breaking news that we‘ve just had in the

last few moments that I‘ll update you on in just a second.

We‘re also going to be joined tonight by two conservative military

veterans, both very influential military bloggers, and they‘re weighing in

on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” as that policy fight crescendos in Washington

this week.

And “Geek Week” takes the turn for the more awesome as we nerd out

over how sailors and marines on board the ginormous USS Iwo Jima run their

flight deck operations like a very loud, very well-armed, very windy

ballet.

That is all coming up.

But we begin tonight with the top kill.  It started at 1:00 p.m.

local time today, an effort essentially to cram a whole bunch of gunk into

the gushing Deepwater Horizon oil well on the sea floor of the Gulf of

Mexico, in the hope that the well can be clogged shut.

They‘re pumping heavy drilling mud from a ship over to a service

rig.  The service rig then pumps this heavy drilling mud in a pipe down to

the sea floor.  It then goes through other hoses and pipes in a manifold

that‘s down there on the sea floor.  And then it goes into the blowout

preventer.  The blowout preventer is sitting on top of the wellhead.

Ideally, they will then be trying to get the mud to flow through the

blowout preventer and down into the well which—remember—has been

gushing oil at a very fast rate.  The key is to pump the mud with enough

pressure that it can cram down that oil that‘s gushing out of the well. 

But not so much pressure that it busts open any of the pipes or hoses it‘s

going through or that it busts open the blowout preventer, or that it busts

open the drill hole from which the oil is gushing out.

If it works, that hydrostatic head of fluid mud, essentially a

column of liquid, will force the flow of oil down beneath where it is

leaking from and reseal the well.  Coming out of the blowout preventer,

coming out of there at that point, if it was working, we would see no

longer oil, just the mud that they‘re pumping down there.  If that works,

they can seal the well, they would get in there and put a concrete plug on

it and seal it permanently—if it works.

This is the late breaking news that we‘ve had tonight: the chief

operating officer at B.P., Doug Suttles, has just said tonight that it

appears that it is drilling mud and not oil that is gushing right now from

the ruptured undersea well.  They said that six hours into the effort to

halt the spill using this top kill procedure.

The exact quote from Mr. Suttles at a news conference tonight was,

“What you‘ve been observing coming out of the top of that riser is most

likely mud.”  He said, “We can‘t fully confirm that because we can‘t sample

it, and the way we know we‘ve been successful is it stops flowing.”

Again, this is hopeful sounding news from B.P.‘s chief operating

officer, not confirmed what he‘s saying they think is happening is that the

top kill essentially is going the way they want it to with drilling mud and

not oil now seen gushing out of the well head on the sea bed.

Joining us now is NBC‘s chief environmental affairs correspondent,

Anne Thompson.

Anne, thanks very much for joining us again tonight.  Nice to see

you.

ANNE THOMPSON, NBC CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  Good

to see you too, Rachel.

MADDOW:  What is the status of the top kill right now?  I know it

started at about 1:00 p.m.  We‘ve heard some hopeful sounding news from

B.P.‘s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, just tonight.  What‘s your

understanding of the situation right now?

THOMPSON:  Well, I think B.P. is fairly pleased, obviously, pleased

that it is going according to schedule.  But B.P. is by no means declaring

victory at this point.  The next 24 hours are crucial.  They will continue

to pump those thousands of gallons of drilling mud into the well to try and

push back the oil, as you described it.

But then after they complete doing that, then they have to take

pressure readings to see if it is working, because that will help tell them

what is happening down there.  And then if they get the readings they‘re

looking for, then they will force cement into the well to seal it.

It is a very high stakes maneuver.  It has never been done at 5,000

feet below sea level.  They obviously are seeing some hopeful signs tonight

but as I said, no one is saying, “Whew, it‘s over” yet.  Not by a long

shot.

      

MADDOW:  If the effort fails, is there a risk that it could actually

make the leak worse?

THOMPSON:  Oh, absolutely.  And that‘s one of the reasons why they

spent so much time doing diagnostic tests in the last 24 hours before they

started doing the top kill procedure.  Because there is—you have to get

that pressure exactly right.  You have to get it—get that mud going in

fast enough so that it overcomes the oil and pushes it back down, but not

so fast that it blows the casing apart or blows the blowout preventer

apart.

I mean, one of the reasons why it‘s taking so long is that B.P. had

to rebuild lines in the blowout preventer so that it could take the mud

through those choke and kill lines and then down into the well.  So, it has

been a very complex procedure.

And, yes, there is always a risk that a new hole could blow at any

time.  So, they have to keep a very close eye on the pressure as they try

to accomplish this goal.

MADDOW:  We‘re also hearing that some of the things they tried or

were going to try before, namely the supposed junk shot, and another

containment dome—these are techniques that they may try again either in

conjunction with this top kill effort, or after the top kill effort if the

top kill effort isn‘t successful?  Is that how you understand the planning

that these other things are sort of still there, as plan G and H at this

point?

THOMPSON:  Yes, absolutely.

MADDOW:  OK.

THOMPSON:  Oh, I think we‘re beyond that.  I‘ve lost the

alphabetical count at this point.

But here‘s the order in which they would go, at least this is my

understanding.  The junk shot is—that‘s where they would throw golf

balls and shredded tires and knotted up rope into the blowout preventer to

try to clog it.  That is one option.

But the next thing that they‘re going to try is what‘s called the

lower marine riser package.  And essentially what they would do is cut off

a piece of the riser at the top of the blowout preventer and put a small

containment dome over that.  And again, that would help take oil up to the

surface to a tanker vessel up above, the way I understand it.  So, that is

the next thing that‘s up for a try, if this doesn‘t work.

But they are also working on several other things, including taking

another blowout preventer, and a blowout preventer is that 450-ton device

that didn‘t work when the accident happened and putting a new blowout

preventer on top of the old blowout preventer and seeing if they could

somehow stop the leak that way.

So, they‘ve got a couple of other ideas.  But again, you know, it‘s

still—the only thing they‘re really sure about is the relief well.  And

they are continuing to drill a relief well, even as they try the top kill

technique.  The problem with the relief well is, best-case scenario, it

would be completed in early August.

So, you know, they are hoping that some time between now and then,

they can find the magic formula to stop this well from gushing.

MADDOW:  NBC‘s chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne

Thompson—as always, just invaluable expository work here for us.  Thank

you so much.  Really appreciate it.

THOMPSON:  Take care, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, the live picture of the leak that you and I can view

online to see if B.P.‘s top kill effort is working, or if any of these

other efforts that they got planned will be working, that image probably

wouldn‘t be up, were it not for Congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the

Select Committee on Energy Independence.

In fact, thanks to him, you can actually see the leak this way, with

multiple camera angles.  These images are coming to you via a Mac, a Mac

computer in Congressman Markey‘s office.  He was able to get a link

directly from B.P. showing the oil leak from multiple cameras, some

stationary and some moving.  And while he‘s not allowed to release the

link, his office is streaming this video live through the House gallery so

everybody can see what‘s going on every minute that passes.

Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts joins us now.

Congressman, thanks very much for your time.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Thanks for having us on.

MADDOW:  So, I have to ask your reaction tonight to this news that

we‘re just getting from B.P., Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles making

some hopeful noises about this top kill effort, saying that it appears that

it is drilling mud and not oil, that is—that can you see now coming out

of the ruptured under sea well, that that would be a hopeful sign for this

top kill effort.

Are you able to add anything or do you have any reaction to that

news?

MARKEY:  Again, we‘re all hopeful.  But they‘re saying that it will

take another day to know whether or not they are successful.  There are a

lot of things that can go wrong.  But we all have our fingers crossed. 

Everyone in America is praying that this is the final 24 hours of this 37,

38-day ordeal.

So I can‘t add anything to it.  It‘s in the hands of the engineers. 

We know that they never had a plan in place to deal with something like

this.  We know they‘re making it up as they go along.  Hopefully, this is

the kind of improvised solution that can finally put an end to this

catastrophic leak.

MADDOW:  In terms of the relationship between B.P. and the

government, between B.P., frankly, and the nation, as this disaster

continues to unfold, you are the one who initially asked B.P. last week to

show video of the leak to the public.  They conceded, but they said they

would take it down during the top kill procedure.

What reason did the company give you for that decision when they

said that?

MARKEY:  I think right from the very beginning, they felt that it

was B.P.‘s spill, and B.P.‘s cameras, and B.P.‘s ocean.  I don‘t think

until very recently they‘ve come to realize that it‘s B.P.‘s spill but it‘s

America‘s ocean.  The American people have a right to know what‘s going on,

and we know that millions of people are watching this on an ongoing basis.

And that‘s why I firmly insisted that they: one, give us the link to

all 12 different angles, which is now up, if people want to look at it. 

And secondly, that they can‘t shut it down when they‘re going in with this

top kill procedure.  The American people have a right to see what is going

on because there are real issues here.  Initially B.P. said it was 1,000

barrels per day.  Then they altered it to 5,000 barrels per day.

And what I found in a document which I received yesterday is that,

of course, B.P. right from the beginning felt that it could be 1,000 to

14,000 barrels.  But they picked 1,000 for that first week because their

liability is tied to how many barrels of oil go into the Gulf.  And it‘s

the difference between tens of millions of dollars and billions of dollars,

depending upon the size of this leak.

I think everyone—including scientists across the country—

should have an ability to be able to evaluate what‘s going on right now.

MADDOW:  And, Congressman, B.P.‘s argument publicly was that any

resources devoted to figuring out the exact size of the leak, the rate of

leaking oil there was essentially a distraction from—a detraction from

engineering resources devoted to shutting the leak off.  They said it

didn‘t really matter how much was spilling because they had to try to stop

it regardless.

To be clear, you think that they had a real financial motivation to

not know how much was leaking, or to minimize the amount leaking, because

that‘s linked to their liability.

MARKEY:  Their own analysis, four or five days into the leak was it

was between 1,000 and 14,000, and they picked 5,000 barrels per day.  Now,

independent scientists, since last Wednesday when this film went up on my

Web site, have determined it could be 40,000 barrels per day, 50,000

barrels per day—and that‘s ultimately going to be central to how much

B.P. is forced to pay in fines, but also for the cleanup.

And I think that, unfortunately, they got their eye on that

liability issue instead of the livability issue for the people in the Gulf.

MADDOW:  Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the Select

Committee on Energy Independence—thank you very much for your time

tonight, sir.  And thanks for the opportunity to see those camera angles we

wouldn‘t have without you.  Appreciate it.

MARKEY:  Thank you.  And thanks for your great coverage of this

whole catastrophe.

MADDOW:  That‘s very kind.  Thanks.

Today, we found something in the NBC News archives that has helped

us a lot with our continued reporting on the B.P. oil disaster in the Gulf

of Mexico.  It‘s footage that has not been seen in 30 years.  We restored

it from the NBC News archives today.  We think it may provide a key insight

into what‘s already happened in the Gulf and what continues to happen

there.  That‘s coming up next.

Plus, more “Geek Week” ahead—including me sort of panicking about

being on a helicopter.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When we were deciding what we were going to do for “Geek

Week” this week, one of the really specific questions we wanted to get an

answer for is something that required a visit to either an aircraft carrier

or amphibious assault ship.  Luckily, for us, the USS Iwo Jima was willing

to let me stop by and ask my really specific “Geek Week” question.  It

turns out that question has a really, really specific answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That is exactly what I came here today to figure out, and

you just made it all make sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It worked!  That‘s coming up tonight for “Geek Week.” 

Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Today in Alaska, crude oil production was all but stopped

on the North Slope.  Oil companies operating there were told to cut their

production by more than 80 percent after thousands of barrels of crude oil

spilled from the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.  The 800 mile Trans-Alaska oil

line at least for right now is shut down.  That spill in Alaska is

happening, of course, in the shadow of a much larger spill in the Gulf of

Mexico.

And, actually, you know what?  If it‘s OK with you guys in the

control room, I think we should probably just have me stop doing this now

and let the gravitas white guy anchor do this part.  Let do that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR:  In Alaska, the pipeline has been

repaired.  Oil is expected to flow again today.  But that crack that

developed Sunday allowed 1,500 barrels of crude oil to escape, 700 barrels

recovered.  And in the Gulf of Mexico, oil workers are trying to handle a

much larger oil spill, burning offshore oil well is dumping 30,000 barrels

of crude each day into the Gulf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So, yes, that was from 1979, June 13th, 1979.  That NBC

News anchor reporting on a pipeline spill in Alaska on the same day that an

oil well was leaking out of control and burning in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thirty-one years ago, in June 1979, an oil well called the Ixtoc

blew out in the Gulf of Mexico.  It started spewing thousands of barrels of

crude oil into the Gulf every day.  And it‘s not just the disaster itself

that should sound familiar to you, it‘s also the techniques that they were

using at the time to try to contain the spill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR:  Airplanes are to be used to drop chemicals

on the oil, but there is a shortage of aviation fuel down there.  And the

workers are also putting up a mile-long boom.  They‘re putting it into

place, trying to contain the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Chemical dispersants being spread across the Gulf by plane,

mile long booms being set up to contain the oil slick on the surface.

If you close your eyes and you just listen to these news reports

from 1979, you would be forgiven from thinking—for thinking that you had

flipped on the news today.

The Ixtoc rig erupted in the middle of the night in 1979 in June, as

it was drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  The drilling was being done

by a company called Sedco.  It later became known as Transocean—the

operator of the rig that blew up this year in the Gulf of Mexico.

The reason the Ixtoc explosion turned into a massive uncontrolled

leak 30 years ago is because the well‘s blowout preventer malfunctioned. 

Does it sound familiar?  The blowout preventer failed to stop the Ixtoc

leak and what followed was an environmental disaster the likes of which the

country had never seen before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE MONROE, NBC NEWS:  Floating barriers are still stretched

across the waterway near South Padre Island to keep approaching oil from

spoiling this popular sports fishing area, which is also vital to shrimp

fishing and endangered wildlife.  Oil skimming vessels are also being put

into service to catch any patches of oil which may get through.

About five miles offshore, another team of private oil containment

workers is prepared to intercept drifting oil before it gets to land.  The

Coast Guard has already said it will be impossible to get it all, and

they‘re particularly concerned about oil moving under water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Plumes of oil moving under water.  Oil containment teams,

skimming vessels—again, these are not badly colorized reports from the

B.P. oil disaster in the Gulf right now.  This is reporting from deja vu

land, from essentially the same disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but in

1979.  The only thing missing back then was worries that the loop current

would carry the oil out of the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the coast of

Florida—oh, wait.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR:  There is now a distinct possibility that oil

spilling from that runaway Mexican well could spread as far as the Gulf

Coast of Florida.  That, from an official of the EPA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The Ixtoc disaster in 1979 in the Gulf of Mexico went on

for weeks.  Then weeks turned into months.  The reason it went on for so

long is because even though oil companies were allowed to drill offshore

like that, it turns out they didn‘t know how to stop a leak when disaster

struck.  Nothing they tried worked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR:  In the Gulf of Mexico, rain and heavy seas

are hampering efforts to cap a Mexican oil well.  It has been spilling

since June 3rd, the worst spill in history.  Workers are trying to put a

giant cone over the well.  Despite inclement weather, they may try again

today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Trying to put a giant cone over the well.  In 2010, this

giant cone strategy is what we were sort of euphemistically calling the top

hat.  I wonder if they had a euphemistic name for it back in 1979.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT:  Officials are calling it “Operation

Sombrero.”  Workers have been trying since the weekend to put a 300-ton

steel cone over the moth of the runaway well.  Officials say, once in

place, the cone will collect up to 90 percent of the crude oil which has

been gushing from the well for more than 3 ½ months, from 10,000 to

30,000 barrels a day, have floated from the Bay of Campeche and the Gulf of

Mexico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  As with B.P.‘s top hat, the Ixtoc spill‘s “Operation

Sombrero” ultimately failed to stop the leak.  But they had other ideas

back then that were sure to solve the problem.  Ideas like shooting metal

spheres into the well to cut the flow of oil.  You have might call that

today a junk shot.

They also tried pumping cement and salt water into the leaking well

to try to jam it up.  You might call that a top kill maneuver.

Neither of those things worked.  For months and months and months

and months and months, the Ixtoc well continued to leak uncontrollably

until—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT:  Two relief wells are still being

drilled to relieve pressure on the blown-out well so it eventually can be

capped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Relief wells.  Nine agonizingly long months after the Ixtoc

well exploded, a pair of relief wells finally allowed the engineers to cap

the leaking well.  That was 31 years ago.  I am 37 years old, and this

happened when I was 6.  Those hair cuts are back in fashion.

And the stuff that did not work back then is the same stuff that

hasn‘t worked now.  Same busted blowout preventer, same ineffective berm,

same underwater plumes, same toxic dispersants, same failed containment

domes, same junk shot, same top kill—it‘s all the same technology.  The

Ixtoc well, which couldn‘t be plugged for nine months, was in roughly 200

feet of water.  Now, in 2010, we‘re using the same exact techniques to try

to plug a well that is leaking in 5,000 feet of water.

Now, look.  Maybe this top kill maneuver will work.  We obviously

hope and pray that it does.  Praying does seem wiser than hoping at this

point.

That said, as we reported earlier this hour, B.P. executive Doug

Suttles says tonight that it looks like it‘s drilling mud and not oil, that

is what‘s now coming out of the ruptured well, but they can‘t tell for

sure.

The thing that‘s been essentially guaranteed to work in the past is

a relief well and that‘s still months away from being complete.  The oil

companies keep talking about how technologically advanced they are—but

what they‘ve gotten technologically advanced at is drilling deeper.  They

haven‘t gotten any more advanced on how to deal with the risks attached to

that.  They haven‘t made technological advances in the last 30 year when‘s

it comes to stopping a leak like this when it happens.  All they‘ve gotten

better at is making the risks worse, by putting these leaks further out of

our reach.

Oh, hey, congratulations, now the thing you can‘t stop is a full

mile under water.

That‘s all they‘ve gotten better at that and making themselves the

most profitable industry the universe has ever seen, and I am not

exaggerating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONROE:  Officials say the oil could reach all the way to Florida,

as it continues to threaten the U.S. coast for months.

Willie Monroe, NBC News, South Padre Island, Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Tomorrow is probably the big day on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” 

Senators Ben Nelson and Susan Collins and Robert Byrd now reportedly saying

they‘ll vote for an amendment to repeal the policy after Pentagon review. 

That means the amendment will probably pass.  It would take 60 votes

to strip that amendment out later, so for opponents of the policy, the

prospects, at least on the Senate side, seem pretty good. 

On the House side, Iraq war veteran Congressman Patrick Murphy told us

last night that he has the votes to pass the same amendment.  No one

actually knows for sure if he does have those votes but he says he‘s got

them. 

The vote in the House could be tomorrow as well.  The “Don‘t Ask,

Don‘t Tell” policy has been in place for 17 years.  More than 14,000

Americans serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have had their

careers ended because of the policy. 

The president says he wants it repealed.  The Secretary of Defense and

the chairman of the joint-chiefs-of-staff say they agree that it should be

repealed.  And the Pentagon is currently engaged in a study of how to

repeal it.

Let me repeat that.  They‘re studying how to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t

Tell.”  There‘s been some confusion about that, so let‘s be very clear

about this.  On March 2nd of this year, the Defense Secretary issued a memo

directing this review.  The review has a name. 

It is called the Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of a

Repeal of Section 654 of Title 10 of the United States Code.  In other

words, they are reviewing repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  They‘re not

reviewing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” the policy itself. 

They are reviewing the repeal of it.  They are reviewing how they can

mitigate any potential adverse impact of repealing the policy.  They are

reviewing whether repealing the policy should result in any other changes

for training or standards of conduct. 

They‘re reviewing whether the repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” should

cause other policies and regulations to change as well.  That‘s the review

the Pentagon is engaged in right now. 

It‘s not whether to repeal the policy.  It‘s how to repeal the policy. 

What‘s likely to be voted on tomorrow is an amendment that would make the

actual legislative repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” contingent on the

completion of that Pentagon review. 

Contingent on the president and the brass considering that Pentagon

review, and contingent on the president and Defense Secretary and Chairman

of the Joint Chiefs all signing off then that repeal is a good idea.  That

repeal would be consistent with the standards of military readiness,

effective—excuse me, military readiness, military effectiveness, unit

cohesion and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces. 

This is why everybody‘s talking about this as a compromise.  It says

repeal starts only as early as December, if that Pentagon review and the

chairman and the secretary and the president say it can happen. 

Tomorrow‘s probably the big day for the vote on that compromise.  But

even if it‘s not done tomorrow, a group of influential military bloggers

has made a splash recently because they wrote a joint statement saying they

thought repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is now inevitable. 

It said, in part, quote, “Today it appears to us”—excuse me again,

“Today it appears inevitable to us that the ‘Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell‘ policy

and law restricting open homosexual behavior, those displaying open

homosexual behavior from serving will be changed.  And yet very little will

actually change.  Homosexuals have always served in the U.S. military and

there have been no real problems caused by that.” 

Statement continues, “The U.S. Military is professional and ready to

adapt to the repeal of ‘don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell‘ without compromising its

mission.  Echoing Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen, we welcome

open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.” 

Now, that would be one thing coming from a pinko hippy like me.  It‘s

another thing coming from these guys. 

Joining us now are two of the military bloggers who signed that

letter, Jim Hanson, retired Army Special Operations Weapons Sergeant who

writes for the military blog, “BlackFive.net.”  And J.D. Johannes, a former

Marine who served on the staff of Republican Senator Sam Brownback and who

is the campaign manager for Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline.  J.D. is a

combat correspondent and documentary filmmaker.  He writes at his blog,

“OutsideTheWire.com.”  Gentlemen, thank you both very much for joining us

tonight. 

SGT. JIM HANSON (RET.), ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS WEAPONS, UNITED STATES

ARMY:  Thanks, Rachel. 

J.D. JOHANNES, COMBAT CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Mr. Hanson, let me start with you.  What was the impetus for

trying to put together a statement on this issue at all?  Why did you think

it was important to get on the record in a collective way like this? 

HANSON:  Well, I first wrote about repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” tell

five years ago.  And personally I thought it was kind of ridiculous to say

gay people can serve, but you just can‘t act gay. 

I thought that was a ridiculous thing to do.  So when it came, as we

said, to be more or less inevitable that it was going to happen, what we

wanted was Congress and the White House to go ahead and listen to the

military services as to how to immaterial implement a new policy. 

It‘s not going to be a simple thing.  You know, you can go ahead and

write a new rule that says it‘s changed.  Go ahead and do it and the

military will salute and move out sharply. 

But will they then be as combat effective and as you mentioned, it

will affect unit cohesion, et cetera.  So we wanted them to go ahead and

listen to the services and go ahead and talk to the troops so that they

felt invested in this change and like they‘d been consulted. 

And the problem we saw was Sen. Levin and some other folks seemed

poised to go ahead and do what they‘re doing right now, which is make a

political move and implement this before the military‘s done their study

and let the troops feel, you know, that they hadn‘t been consulted. 

MADDOW:  But the reason—

HANSON:  So we‘re asking them to go ahead and let the troops have their

voice. 

MADDOW:  The reason this is a compromise, though, is it wouldn‘t be

implemented before the study is completed.  It would be implemented

contingent on the study being complete and the study concluding that it‘s a

good idea. 

So it is a compromise and that‘s the thing that‘s changed since—I

guess since you put out the statement, actually, that they‘ve decided that

they would vote but it would all be contingent on the study, right? 

HANSON:  Yes.  And I think that‘s a good thing.  If they‘re willing go

ahead and wait and let the troops have their voice, that the services be

consulted and then have a plan, I think as you mentioned, the military is

ready and as we thought, they‘re ready to do this. 

I think—honestly, I think from the troops perspective, it‘s a

“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Care.”  You know, if someone could pull their weight in a

combat unit, that‘s a heck of a lot more important than who they‘re

sleeping with. 

I mean, you know, gay people are everywhere.  I‘ve heard they even

have their own cable TV news shows these days.  You know, it‘s not a

surprising thing.  I think the troops at the lower levels are ready.  We

just wanted to make sure that the policy is implemented in a way that

doesn‘t affect us while we are in a shooting war. 

MADDOW:  Mr. Johannes, I know in addition to your time in the military and

your time as a journalist, you‘ve been active in conservative electoral

politics.  Do you feel like conservative opinion on this issue is diverse,

that it‘s less uniform on this issue than it was, say, back in ‘93 when we

first got this policy? 

JOHANNES:  It is much more diverse than it was back in the early ‘90s.  And

you‘re exactly right when you‘re using the word “policy.”  What you see

within the conservative side of things is that military readiness is the

priority. 

And being in two active wars and with the threat environment not going

to be changing for years to come, we need to have a structure where we can

bring in as many people who are as qualified to serve.  And eliminating

“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” opens up another pool of potential recruits,

officers, and enlisted people who are already serving and allowing them to

serve honorably and effectively combat now and into the future. 

MADDOW:  J.D., you have spent time with frontline troops in recent years. 

I‘ve seen some of your footage shot in places like Baghdad.  You noted in

the letter that you signed on that there already are gay troops serving—

JOHANNES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  There always have been.  If repeal passes, how do you think the

lives of people who are gay, who are already in the military—how do you

think their lives will change? 

JOHANNES:  Honestly, from the ones that I‘ve known in my service and in my

travels covering the wars recently, I don‘t think there‘s going to be a lot

of big changes.  I don‘t think you‘re going to see a big flood of young men

and women coming out and declaring their openness of their sexuality. 

I think they‘re going to continue to serve with distinction.  And when

you‘re deployed overseas, there‘s a little quirk in the rules called

General Order Number One.  Sexual relations are not allowed under General

Order Number One. 

So you‘re not going to have any changes in actual behavior overseas in

the combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  What you will find is a lot of

young men and women, a lot of officers, a lot of NCOs who are serving with

distinction, doing great work over there, are going to have one less burden

lifted off their shoulders. 

One less thing to worry about—oh, no, what if I get caught when I‘m

home on leave?  What if we rotate back state side and get caught?  That‘s

going to be removed and they‘re going to be able to focus on the task at

hand. 

MADDOW:  Jim Hanson, who I think of as Uncle Jimbo because I‘m a regular

reader of “BlackFive.net,” and J.D. Johannes, thank you both for being here

today.  I know—I‘m sure we have a million disagreements on a million

military and other issues, but I think your insight on this has been both

really interesting and has really stirred up some really interesting

discussion on this subject.  Thank you both for joining us tonight.  Really

appreciate it. 

JOHANNES:  Great to be here, Rachel. 

HANSON:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thanks a lot.  Thank you.  OK.  “Geek Week,” still to come. 

Tonight, starring a 40,500-ton amphibious assault ship and brightly-colored

T-shirts.  Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The headlines out of Jamaica this week almost defy belief.  At

least 49 people, including three police officers and 46 civilians, have

reportedly been killed in a huge militarized outbreak of urban warfare in

Jamaica‘s capital city of Kingston. 

What‘s going on is that the government and the police have decided to

try to arrest an alleged drug lord named Christopher Coke.  He‘s nicknamed

“Dudus.”  Mr. Coke faces extradition to the United States on drug charges

and gun charges. 

His army supporters have essentially barricaded the Tivoli Gardens

section of Kingston to protect Mr. Coke from being arrested.  His gunmen

have torched five police stations.  They reportedly went on a looting and

carjacking spree. 

Police are now conducting door-to-door searches for Mr. Coke.  They

said they have arrested more than 500 people.  Flights in and out of

Kingston have been disrupted.  The State Department has issued a travel

alert warning Americans not to travel to the city. 

Nearly 20 years ago, Christopher Coke‘s father died mysteriously while

he was also facing extradition to the U.S.  At that time, the leader of the

labor party in Jamaica led the funeral procession for the elder Mr. Coke.

Now, it‘s 18 year‘s later, Coke‘s son is also facing extradition to

the U.S.  The current leader of the labor party in Jamaica is the country‘s

prime minister.  The prime minister actually represents as a member of

parliament, the Tivoli Gardens section of Kingston, where Mr. Coke‘s armed

followers are waging war right now when the U.S. first requested that

Christopher Coke be extradited. 

Last August, the prime minister refused—he refused for months.  He

only recently relented and directed his security forces to go arrest Mr.

Coke.  Now, this massive fighting has been the result.  Again, the urban

fighting in Kingston is now into its fourth day.  Almost 50 people killed

so far.  More than 500 arrests.  We will keep apprised as we learn more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When George W. Bush sat as a passenger in a fighter jet that did a

tail-hook landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003, it

was probably the defining photo op of his presidency, maybe the defining

photo op of the decade. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  In the battle of Iraq, the

United States and our allies have prevailed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The banner behind the president declaring “mission accomplished,”

despite the fact we were just six weeks into the Iraq war, a war which even

six years after the “mission accomplished” speech was still very well

underway. 

If you leave aside the whole “mission accomplished” thing for a

second, there‘s one really striking element of the visual from this photo

op that I‘ve always wanted to have explained. 

What‘s with the colored shirts?  Doesn‘t really look like a normal

uniform.  What is that all about?  And that is a question for which there

is an answer, a totally fascinating answer. 

We flew out to the amphibious assault ship, the USS Iwo Jima yesterday

to get that answer, and I didn‘t wear this.  But I understand the desire

to.  That story coming right up.  Mission accomplished.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  If you live in New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Ft. Lauderdale

or Seattle or if you have ever seen “Sex and the City,” you might already

be a fan of Fleet Week.  Fleet Week is when the Navy pulls into port and

shows off some of its ships to the public. 

They let the public board and tour the ships and learn what they do. 

And we civilians, in return, welcome service members from the Navy and the

Marines and the Coast Guard to explore our cities. 

Also, we sometimes buy them drinks and we sometimes hit on them.  At

least, that‘s how it works on “Sex and the City,” I hear.  Anyway, here in

New York, I can definitely say that Fleet Week is something New Yorkers

look forward to every year. 

And Fleet Week in New York started today.  For “Geek Week” we decided

to take advantage of the presence of all these big naval vessels to ask a

nagging systems-analysis geek question. 

What kind of big brain choreography and systems planning does it take

to get aircraft to safely take off, land, refuel and sometimes get serious

weapons reloaded, unloaded and checked on the very confined space of a

flight deck? 

In deafening conditions, while moving on the sea with jet thrust, a

rotor wash that can flatten you with all sorts of soft, squishy humans in

very close proximity to these big moving metal spinning rotor blades and

aircraft. 

Systems-wise, how do they make that work?  So yesterday, as the

amphibious assault ship, the USS Iwo Jima was making its way to New York

City for Fleet Week, I got on board a Sea Hawk helicopter to find out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(on camera):  I have never been on a helicopter before.  I definitely have

never been on a giant, awesome military helicopter like this before.  We

are taking off.  I am very excited.  We are going to check out how Iwo Jima

coordinates all of the (INAUDIBLE) that they coordinate onboard their

landing deck without anybody hitting each other. 

Woohoo.  So the USS Iwo Jima is an amphibious assault ship.  There are

both sailors and marines onboard.  When it‘s fully staffed, there‘s about

3,000 people onboard this ship.  Essentially, a smaller scale aircraft

carrier.  You don‘t have the giant catapult system that you‘ve seen like on

“Top Gun” with the full-scale aircraft carrier. 

Essentially, the aircraft that use a ship like this as a home base are

mostly helicopters.  They call them helos(ph) onboard here.  And in some

cases, aircraft that require a short runway for take-off and landing,

things like carriers. 

So we‘re on a small-scale aircraft carrier.  They‘ve got a huge flight

deck.  What we‘re on right now is the hangar deck.  And essentially, what

we are interested in here for “Geek Week” is how they avoid total disaster

in doing the normal thing that they do every day. 

You think about it.  You‘ve got jet wash.  You‘ve got rotor wash. 

You‘ve got an incredible number of aircraft all taking off and landing,

refueling in a wartime or exercises context actually dealing with ordnance,

actually dealing with weapons going on and off those aircraft and being

checked. 

All of this stuff happening on a single deck with no room for error

and a lot of soft, squishy humans right in the middle of all of these very

fast spinning rotor blades.  How do they do the choreography, the systems

planning here, so they get done what they need to get done and nobody gets

hurt? 

In part, it is color coding.  I‘m not kidding.  Can I ask you what the

yellow means? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yellow means I‘m an aircraft director, which

(INAUDIBLE) into all aircraft landing, launching and recovery, all aircraft

aboard the USS Iwo Jima. 

MADDOW:  But how do you communicate? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Visual hand signals.  Hand signals.

MADDOW:  OK.  Can you show me one and explain what it means? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, ma‘am.  I have command.  I have control. 

MADDOW:  What does white mean on the flight deck?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  White means strictly medical or safety.  In my case, I

wear a red cross which stands for medical because I‘m the only person on

the flight deck stand by in case anything happens. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bring them forward.  Coming in. 

MADDOW:  Sir, you‘re wearing a brown shirt.  When I see you on the flight

deck in a brown shirt, what does that signify?  What does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We deal with everything from servicing engines to

checking all of our service things, from engines, TGB, IDB (ph), main gear

box, anything that turns or requires any movement in the aircraft, I have

to check. 

MADDOW:  AM3 -- what does that mean? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Aviation structural mechanic. 

MADDOW:  Aviation structural mechanic.  I have a feeling that means you fix

things. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When it comes in, it‘s on the hover. 

MADDOW:  What does purple mean? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, purple is aviation fuels.  We work on gasoline,

basically and we fuel the aircrafts that is on the flight deck.  We fuel

the ship. 

MADDOW:  I was feeling really smart and I felt like purple was the one

thing I figured out from watching choppers land on and off the deck.  I

thought, oh, those guys fuel the aircraft.  I had no idea you also fuel the

ship. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Land.  (INAUDIBLE) landed. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s in the hold position. 

MADDOW:  What does red mean? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, red with a black stripe is ordnance. 

MADDOW:  And ordnance to people in the civilian world means—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The missiles and ammunition. 

MADDOW:  Stuff that blows up. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Now, I see you are wearing a red vest and a red shirt but you

don‘t have a stripe there on the front. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

MADDOW:  What does that mean? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m in an aviation (INAUDIBLE).  And I‘m a crash and

salvage.  So I‘m an aircraft firefighter. 

MADDOW:  Is there any tension between the fact that the red people with the

stripes are to blow things up and the red people without the stripes are to

stop things from blowing up? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No. 

MADDOW:  You don‘t get along? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There (INAUDIBLE) boosters.   Boosters in.  Chop and

change. 

MADDOW:  Those guys in the blue shirts—when they come in and they chock

the wheels and tie them down. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, Ma‘am. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) chock and chain. 

MADDOW:  And that is the signal for you to get in there and get to work. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  And then, the signal to take them out is—

take chocks out and take chains off.

MADDOW:  All right.  Chains off as if they are on your arms. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Take them off. 

MADDOW:  That‘s deep.  We are trying to understand in laymen‘s terms how

the flight deck doesn‘t look like a fish-o-matic.  How are you able to put

all those soft humans running around with a lot of important job to do with

all of those machines and rotor blades and keep everybody safe?  What kind

sort of systems planning goes into figuring out how to keep everybody doing

their jobs and are out of trouble? 

CMDR. FRANK DOWD, AIR BOSS, USS IWO JIMA:  Well, the first thing you do is

you minimize the number of people you have on the deck.  So no one

extraneous is up there.  We identify who is doing what by our color-coded

jerseys.

Different functions have a different colored jersey.  And that helps

us separate who‘s who on the flight deck.  I know that the yellow shirts—

they are directing an aircraft.  They‘re either landing it because that is

their function or they‘re moving it with a tow tractor. 

I‘ve got blue shirts who handle all the chalking and chaining.  Once

an aircraft lands, they run out and they install chocks and they chain it

down to keep it safe.  And I‘ve got red shirts who are our crash-and-

salvage personnel. 

If an aircraft were to crash, they are the instant firefighting

response.  They have got firefighting trucks up there.  And they come in

and execute a rescue in a fire.  I‘ve got white jerseys.  They‘re all my—

safety, quality assurance. 

Brown and green jerseys are from the squadron.  And they will go in

and maintain and fix the aircraft.  Purple jerseys, we call them grapes. 

They refuel all the aircraft. 

So just by looking, you can tell who is doing what out there.  Now, if

somebody doesn‘t have one of those jerseys on, they are probably not

supposed to be there and it is pretty easy to separate now. 

MADDOW:  That is exactly what I came here today to figure out and you just

made it all make sense. 

DOWD:  Very good. 

MADDOW:  That‘s the very—smallest accomplishment in your big day.  But I

thank you for that and for your time, sir.  Thank you very much.

DOWD:  Thank you very much. 

MADDOW:  I really appreciate it.

USS IWO JIMA CREW:  Happy Geek Week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  “Geek Week” is far from over.  We have a couple of most excellent

“Geek Week” features planned for tomorrow‘s show.  We even decided to fold

Kent Jones into the geek activities by sending him to Johnson City,

Tennessee in search of—I‘ll let him show you, actually. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Rachel.  “Geek Week” continues.  I‘m

here at East Tennessee State University.  And tomorrow, I‘m going to

introduce you to this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  There is also more behind-the-scenes footage of our trip to the

USS Iwo Jima that‘s posted right now at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.”  It

includes an explanation of what makes the Iwo Jima an amphibious ship. 

That‘s very neat. 

That does it for us tonight.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts

right now.                                                                           

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BE UPDATED.

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