'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, June 25th, 2010
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Guests: Barney Frank, Ed Markey, Kate Gordon
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Of course, I didn‘t notice it until you just said it. So thank you. Appreciate it, Keith. Have a great weekend.
OLBERMANN: You too.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us as well. We do actually have some breaking news to bring to you right now.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has tonight been admitted to a Washington area hospital complaining of discomfort this afternoon.
According to Mr. Cheney‘s spokesman, he felt unwell today and he therefore visited his doctor at George Washington University Hospital. On the advice of his doctors, Mr. Cheney was admitted to the hospital for further testing.
According to a spokesman, Mr. Cheney is expected to remain hospitalized over the weekend.
Mr. Cheney is 69 years old. He has a long history of cardiovascular disease. He has survived five heart attacks. The first of which he endured at—what I think of as the tender age of 37.
I think of it as a tender age because I‘m 37 right now.
His most recent episode occurred in late February of this year. It was described then as a mild heart attack.
We don‘t have any furtherer details to give you this time about the severity of his condition or the nature of his exact health problem, but of course MSNBC and NBC News will be reporting on the condition of former vice president Dick Cheney as it evolves, and we will deliver you any developments that we are given regarding his health.
To repeat. Former vice president Dick Cheney is in a Washington hospital tonight after feeling unwell this afternoon. He is undergoing tests. He is expected to remain in the hospital all weekend.
We of course wish former vice president Dick Cheney and all of his family all the best. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery.
And we will keep you posted.
We begin our coverage tonight, though, with a bombshell in the newly released financial records of the judge who has blocked the temporary ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
This is a ban that was imposed by the Obama administration in the wake of the BP oil disaster. It essentially says no more deepwater drilling in the Gulf for six months.
Earlier this week that ban was struck down by a U.S. district judge in Louisiana named Martin Feldman. According to our review of documents released today, it appears that Judge Feldman is significantly invested in none other than BP.
Judge Feldman‘s 2009 financial disclosure report provides a detailed list of all the companies and trusts that he is invested in. This is the latest information that we have available. This was his 2009 disclosure reports.
And there is one investment in particular that shows up over and over and over again. It‘s an investment management firm called Blackrock. If you look through this judge‘s financial holdings you‘ll find Blackrock Floating Rate Income Strategies Fund, Blackrock Limited Duration Income Trust, Blackrock Floating Rate Income Strategies Fund again, Blackrock Global Floating Rate Income Trust, Blackrock Global Floating Income Trust, Blackrock Enhanced Dividend Achievers Trust, Blackrock and Blackrock, and Blackrock, and Blackrock and Blackrock.
He took this Blackrock investments listed as having the value of up to $15,000. And if you think you‘ve heard the name Blackrock in the news recently, this was probably where. “The New York Times” last Wednesday, quote, “No single institution has more money riding on BP than Blackrock. The money management firm that is BP‘s largest shareholder.”
Blackrock is the single biggest shareholder in BP. Nobody is more invested in BP than Blackrock. Look at this chart. Look at this chart of the biggest stakeholders in BP. This is published in the “New York Times.”
Blackrock owns more than one billion shares of BP stock. When BP‘s financial future is at stake in the Gulf of Mexico, so is Blackrock‘s.
Again this judge is invested in various divisions of Blackrock. But here‘s what it looks like when you break down how Blackrock‘s components and parts are dependent on BP‘s financial health.
Take for instance, the Blackrock Enhanced Dividend Achievers Trust which this judge is invested in to the tune of somewhere up to $15,000. According to their latest filing with SEC, here is a list of their largest holdings. Look. BP.
And it‘s not just this judge‘s potential financial interest in BP alone. It has always been noted this week that this judge had and sold stock in the drilling company Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig that blew up in the Gulf.
Within the last year, this judge also held stock in a company called the Noble Corporation. Noble is definitely one of the companies affected by the deepwater drilling ban. Noble is currently operating two drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that are sitting idle because of this drilling ban.
According to documents we reviewed today, every day the moratorium goes on, one of those rigs loses roughly $459,000. Every day for that company.
Again, this judge previously owned stock in Noble. But those shares appear to have been sold last year.
And according to these new documents that we have reviewed, Judge Feldman is still invested in all sorts of other energy industry related companies. Drilling companies, pipeline companies, companies that service drilling platforms.
The financial health of some or all of these companies could very easily be tied to this judge‘s rulings on this moratorium.
Then there‘s Exxon Mobile. An oil giant whose financial future is directly at stake with the drilling moratorium. This judge owned stock in Exxon Mobile as of Tuesday. Judge Feldman himself made a special note on his financial disclosure report that, quote, “The Exxon stock was sold at the opening of the stock market on June 22nd, 2010 prior to the opening of a court hearing on the Oil Spill Moratorium case.”
You know what? That wasn‘t just any court hearing that day. Judge Feldman sold his Exxon stock on Tuesday, on the morning of June 22nd. The day he made his ruling to overturn the moratorium.
Why would holding Exxon stock present a direct conflict of interest? Because Exxon operates one of 33 rigs in the Gulf shut down by the moratorium. This judge sold his stock in Exxon on Tuesday. But when he began hearings, right up until the day of the ruling, he was still an Exxon shareholder. He was holding hearings on a case that would directly affect his own financial future. The financial future of a company he held stock in.
Judge Feldman‘s office told us today that the judge says he didn‘t learn that he was an Exxon shareholder until Monday night, the night before his ruling. Then he says he instructed his stock broker to sell his shares the very next day.
The judge is still invested—heavily invested—in parts of a company that holds more than a billion shares of BP in BP‘s single largest investor.
The fact that he‘s invested in all of these companies doesn‘t make this judge a bad man. That‘s not the point here. He shouldn‘t be targeted in any way. I‘m sure he‘s a very nice person. He seems like a very nice person from everything I‘ve read about him. And now I‘ve read a lot.
But how on earth should this be the judge called on to make this sort of ruling? This district court in Louisiana on which Judge Feldman sits reportedly has systems in place to catch conflicts of interest like this. Apparently those systems work about as well as a blowout preventer on a 5,000 foot deep well.
Joining us now is Kate Gordon, vice president for energy policy at the Center for American Progress. She is a member of the state bar of California.
Kate, thanks very much for joining us.
KATE GORDON, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It‘s great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: So we learned a lot in this financial disclosure report as we went through it today. What is the biggest takeaway for you here?
GORDON: I mean this is just amazing to me. We‘re talking about a judge deciding the highest profile case on energy and oil in the country whose dividend checks depend on the outcome of a case that he‘s deciding. And that doesn‘t seem to be a problem for him. It‘s sort of incredible.
MADDOW: If you leave aside all of the other energy related stocks held by this judge, and we went through trying to learn as much as we could about all of the different energy companies that he‘s invested in, there‘s a lot. And it took a lot of time.
Even if you don‘t consider all of those, though, he owned Exxon stock while he was holding hearings in this case.
MADDOW: Even if that was the only thing that was true, wouldn‘t that alone disqualify him from getting the case? Shouldn‘t that have led to a recusal?
GORDON: Absolutely. Any stock that he owned that where there was a direct relationship—again, we‘re not talking about somebody who owned some shares of some oil companies that were in the same industry as BP. We‘re talking shares in a company with a rig directly impacted by the moratorium with hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential loss every day.
It‘s in effect. That means that every day that a judge decides the moratorium isn‘t in effect is essentially money in the pocket to that money, and therefore money in the pocket to the shareholders. There‘s a direct connection.
MADDOW: Kate, tonight the Justice Department filed an emergency request with the U.S. Court of Appeals to put a hold on this judge‘s decision. There‘s a number of grounds on which they are appealing the case.
But in your view, does—do they have a case in terms of this apparent conflict of interest? Is this specifically the kind of thing that might help the government‘s case?
GORDON: I think it is. You know, it‘s often said that all—many of the judges down there own oil stocks. And I think that‘s right. It‘s 50 to 60 percent. But so many cases come up about oil down there that—I mean those courts have got to have a list of judges that don‘t have oil stocks.
And I think that in this case, such a high profile case with so much public attention focused on it, this is exactly the situation where you go to your list and you say, OK, who are we going to get who absolutely has no conflict in this case?
You know, we‘re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. Again it‘s a direct financial interest and it‘s a direct shareholder interest. I think that one—you know, one grounds for a challenge. There are others. But that‘s certainly one, I think, the government could look to.
MADDOW: Kate Gordon, vice president for energy policy at the Center for American Progress, thanks very much for joining us. Really appreciate your time.
GORDON: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. Out of all the dumb analogies we have acted out on this program, seems like a lot of them happen on Fridays.
Out of all the weird costumes we‘ve made Kent wear and stunt that we‘ve pulled, we‘ve never before acted anything out that has to do with NASCAR. First time for everything. That‘s coming up next.
And later, another huge legislative achievement for this Congress and this administration. They said it could never happen but it did. Congressman Barney Frank will join us.
Stay tuned. Caution.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: OK. Out of all the dumb analogies we have acted out on this program, it seems like a lot of them happen on Fridays. Out of all the weird costumes we‘ve made Kent wear and stunts that we pulled, we‘ve never before acted anything out that has to do with NASCAR—first time for everything. That‘s coming up next.
And later, another huge legislative achievement for this Congress and this administration. They said it could never happen. But it did. Congressman Barney Frank will join us.
Stay tuned. Caution. Caution.
MADDOW: When he‘s not rallying for deepwater drilling to start,
again, if something goes wrong, we‘ll just wing it. Louisiana Governor
Bobby Jindal has been telling every camera that he can find that the White
House isn‘t doing enough to fight BP‘s oil disaster
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA: We are not winning this war yet. And we will only be winning this war when we‘re actually deploying every resource and fighting this oil before it comes to our wetlands.
But they could provide more resources.
It‘s clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Jindal has been getting all sorts of praise for this kind of rhetoric. Since it makes for great conservative political grandstanding that Governor Bobby wants to do all that can be done, but those darn feds just won‘t give him what he needs.
Now, CBS News reports that although Mr. Jindal has authority to deploy to the spill effort 6,000 National Guardsmen under his command, he has only elected to call up about 1,000 of them. In fact, none of the Gulf Coast governors is making much use of the National Guard that is available to them. The federal government says the states can call out 17,500 National Guardsmen completely at BP‘s expense.
Even so in Louisiana, as I just said, just over 1,000 out of 6,000 are in action. In Alabama, they could call up 3,000; they‘ve only called up 432. In Florida, they could call up 2,500; they‘ve only called up 97. And in Mississippi, Governor Haley Barbour could call 6,000 National Guardsman, he has only called up 58 -- a total of 58.
Today, Governor Jindal responded to CBS, telling ProPublica he would call out more troops when the state guard commander says they‘re needed.
How about now? This is part of the clean up near Grand Isle, Louisiana, this week where you see plenty of boom that‘s going untended and doing more harm than good for lack of manpower.
How about now, Governor? Really, how about now? How about it?
MADDOW: This is a caution flag or our best approximation of a cheap caution flag we made ourselves. If you watch NASCAR, you‘ve probably seen the flagman, the guy who sands on the platform above all the really fast-moving cars. When something bad happens, when there‘s rain or debris or oil on the track or one of those really fast-moving cars crashes, the flagman waves the yellow caution flag as a signal to the drivers that the track may not be safe.
When the caution flag is waved, the drivers are required to slow down. They‘re not required to pass other cars. The caution flag, in other words, is a safety measure that essentially puts the entire race on pause while whatever is making the track unsafe is fixed.
Once the problem is taken care of, the race can resume and the cars can go back to driving really fast and passing each other and everybody trying to win the race.
OK. So, we‘re talking NASCAR crashes. We had our awesome intern Laura make us this neat knockoff NASCAR caution flag tonight not because Kent Jones is training to be a NASCAR flagman. I can neither confirm nor deny those rumors.
We‘re talking about NASCAR and this particular feature of NASCAR racing because racing big, heavy cars really, really fast is an inherently dangerous thing. It‘s fun. It‘s neat. It‘s loud. It‘s also dangerous.
And the yellow NASCAR caution flag is a smart, logical, essential, basic way to mitigate some of that danger, to make an activity, whose very nature implies some level of danger less dangerous.
And so, another activity in the news lately who‘s very nature implies some level of danger, it is drilling for oil, particularly drilling for oil offshore, not just underwater. Not just like—not just underwater, but deep underwater. Just like NASCAR, oil drilling is dangerous, period, no matter what. That‘s been proven now.
Just try to argue that it‘s safe now. Go on. Try. Go take a leap into the surf at the state park beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, and make that argument to me in the few moments that you have before you barf. Go on. Try.
With oil drilling, nothing is being done to soften or reduce or even prepare for the fairly predictable out come of doing something that is fundamentally dangerous. Unlike NASCAR, there‘s no caution flag in offshore oil drilling. Also, there‘s no ambulance standing by in case of disaster. There‘s no jaws of life on the side of the track to pull people out of the cars.
And even if there were these sorts of things, there are no nearby hospitals. Also, it turns out, there‘s no wall between the track and the spectators to protect the people who didn‘t sign up for the really dangerous race car driver job.
So, what do we do now that there‘s been this horrific, metaphorical crash into the proverbial stands and a lot of people besides the people doing the activity are in trouble because of it—maybe it‘s time for the oil business to get its own version of a safety fence or ambulances standing by.
And while they figure it out what form those measures take as they relate to offshore drilling rigs, it‘s pretty clear how the oil business can approximate NASCAR‘s yellow flag. Stop the action until the last accident and all of its hazards have been fixed. It‘s called a moratorium on drilling. The government is trying to impose one despite the best efforts of a federal judge, who it turns out, is heavily invested in BP‘s largest shareholder, but he still didn‘t recuse himself from the case.
As for the other ways to make drilling safer, NASCAR did it. And NASCAR doesn‘t have nearly the resources of the oil business. But just how likely are we, now, to get meaningful reform of the oil industry? One of the real world prospects of changing the rules, changing the way business is done so we never have to endure something like this again.
Joining us now is Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee. He‘s introduced legislation today that would pursue the goal of the putting some of those very basic safety measures in place.
Congressman Markey, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: So, one of the bills you introduced today would divert money from oil company subsidies to safety and spill response research. How would that work? How much money are we talking about here?
MARKEY: Well, we‘re talking about $50 million a year. But, it‘s money that is right now being used to subsidize the oil industry to drill in ultra-deep waters.
But as we know, they did not, in fact, invest in ultra-safe technology or to be able to respond ultra-fast, if something goes wrong. So, $50 million a year will be the beginning of a process of saying to industries out there, we are going to have a demand for safety technologies. Will you supply us with those technologies? And we have to do something because the oil industry itself only, in fact, invests 1/10 of 1 percent of their profits into safety research.
So, this just begins the process of breaking that connection between the drilling that the industry wants to do so much. And their ignorance or is apathy about doing something about safety and about their ability to responds.
MADDOW: Congressman, I know you held a hearing earlier this month that which you called the oil industry out in rather dramatic fashion for having identical and bad, cut and pasted, out-of-date oil spill response plans. You introduced legislation today, I know, to force those companies to update their plans. What exactly would you require the companies to do here?
MARKEY: Well, as you‘re saying, the plans that the oil companies had was to evacuate walruses from the Gulf of Mexico where they have not lived in 3 million years, to call a dead scientists and their phone numbers are in their response plan. So, what my legislation will do is to mandate that each one of these companies has to put together a brand-new comprehensive plan that can respond to a worst-case scenario.
Right now, every one of them, for all intents and purposes, has been lying about that. Every one of them in testimony admitted that they could not respond adequately to the kind of spill we are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico. So, we just have to use this as the opportunity to ensure that the safeguards are put in place and not allow the industry to, once again, escape from the safety regulation that the American people right now want because they are horrified watching every day this catastrophic event.
MADDOW: One of the things we talked about on last nights show it seems more pressing to me now because of the new news we have about the financial conflicts of interest, apparent financial conflicts of interest by the judge who has ruled against that moratorium down in Louisiana. Is this issue of whether or not we are capable, as a nation of responding if something went wrong on a deep water oil rig now—is it your understanding, Congressman, that there are any resources that we would apply to another spill or another blowout that we‘re holding back right now in case something else goes wrong on another rig or are we all out using everything we‘ve got already?
MARKEY: I think, not only are we at the bottom of the barrel, but BP and everyone else is making it up right from the very beginning. BP obviously did not know what they were talking about from the junk shot and the top kill, all the way through the submarine, a couple days ago accidentally knocking over a part of the containment device down at the bottom of the ocean.
They—we are really beyond the capacity of an industry that under-invested in safety to respond to something like this, because they assumed an accident could not happen. The rig could not sink, that none of these things could happen. And one of the reasons they‘re able to get away with it and you saw it in “The New York Times‘” yesterday, they were—they‘ve been allowed to build this fantasy island of gravel three miles off of Alaska and say that it‘s onshore and not offshore in terms of the safety requirements that would have to be put in place because that accident would be an offshore spill. The same way that the Transocean rig is really registered in the Marshall Islands, and then Norwegians determine how safe it is—and then they move it into the Gulf of Mexico on American shores.
It‘s one thing to drill offshore. It‘s another thing to offshore your safety regulations. And that‘s what‘s been happening. And I‘m afraid Judge Feldman is part of this.
One of the ways in which I basically got to Congress 34 years ago was I had a piece of legislation which banned in Massachusetts judges from keeping their clients. Believe it or not, in Massachusetts, 100 judges still had clients.
It sounds like Judge Feldman doesn‘t understand—you cannot be investing in the companies that you have to make a determination as to whether or not the public health and safety is being compromised.
MADDOW: Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, leading the way in many ways and trying to close some of those completely outrageous loopholes—thanks very much for your time, sir. Appreciate it.
MARKEY: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: Still ahead: it‘s raining oil. It‘s raining oil. It‘s not raining oil. I‘ll explain. Despite what you have heard on the Internet, it‘s not raining oil.
And while they were delivering the morning papers in Washington and just getting home from their fabulous parties in Los Angeles, the toughest financial reform package since the Great Depression was being achieved. Congressman Barney Frank joins us in just a moment.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: I will be the first to admit, that BP‘s oil disaster in the Gulf is scary. It‘s terrifying. It‘s been like living in the shut off the lights, bar the door, hide under the bed, mama make the monsters go away horror movie for 67 straight days now.
And when BP tells us not to worry so much, one of the ways they do that is by assuring us that this oil we see floating in the Gulf of Mexico will evaporate—the way this BP hydrologist did in Orange Beach, Alabama, way back in May.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we‘ve got these things working for us. Number one, 50 percent to 75 percent of the oil will evaporate if given the chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Now, if you just put two and two together, if that‘s all you do, you get oil evaporating to the sky and then coming back down to earn as - as this YouTube video from suburban New Orleans that keeps landing in our inbox over and over and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see it. I mean, it‘s raining oil. It is literally raining oil right here in River Ridge. Very heavy rainstorm came through and you can see this is oil. Isn‘t that crazy, dude? And you smell it. We‘re smelling the oil.
It‘s everywhere all the way on the city sidewalk which means it‘s all over the grass. It‘s all over the street. Unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Unbelievable. Exactly. Precisely unbelievable. The sky might rain frogs. Sometimes I really do think those are next. And high winds or one of those waterspout tornado things might carry some oil from the gulf onto the shore. But raining oil? Not likely to happen in this lifetime or on this planet.
We took the raining oil theory to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - NOAA. They told us, quote, “The notion of oily rain is not realistic. Oil, as a whole, does not evaporate, therefore, it is not possible that it would be in the clouds or coming down in the form of rain.
Oil is made up of component parts, some of which are volatile and do evaporate into the atmosphere. These separate and diffuse out into the air. Other component parts do not evaporate and that is what is left behind in weathered oil residue or tar balls.”
So what the guy in that YouTube video likely saw is just the ordinary oil that cars and trucks drip onto the street every day, getting hit by actually rain, water rain, and making gas-station-y, oily rainbows on the ground. It is gross and scary enough to consider that, to think about how saturated our world is with oil.
But the good news is, I‘m happy to report is oil is not raining from the sky - yet. Maybe after the frogs and boils.
MADDOW: Confirmation hearings for President Obama‘s second Supreme Court pick, Elena Kagan, begin on Monday. Given all the drama surrounding Obama‘s first pick for the Supreme Court, wise Latina, now Justice Sonia Sotomayor, you‘d think we‘d be hearing the same high-decibel bluster all summer long about this next nominee.
Strangely, no. Think about it. Supreme Court nominee‘s confirmation hearings start on Monday. How much have you heard about it already? Not nearly a peep. This time around, the opposition is very, very quiet. And why is that? Is it possible they don‘t have much to go on with Elena Kagan‘s painfully centrist on-the-record record?
Is it because her confirmation is a shoo-in and they have decided to save their rage for something else down the road? No one knows. But a few undeterred diehards aren‘t letting everybody else‘s awkward silence scare them off.
A few diehards are going after Elena Kagan with everything they‘ve got. Kent Jones actually figured out everything they have apparently got against Elena Kagan, and he‘s here now with this report. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. Now, apparently, it‘s not enough to just smear a justice nominee with the word “liberal” anymore.
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
JONES: So now, the opposition has gotten really creative this time. Take a look.
(voice-over): Elena Kagan may seem harmless enough. But don‘t kid yourself. This mild-mannered Jew from Manhattan‘s upper west side wants to put America under strict Islamic law.
Her mission to strip America of her freedom began when she was dean of Harvard Law School, when Harvard accepted $20 million from a member of the Saudi royal family to establish a Center of Islamic Studies.
Alabama‘s Republican Senator Jeff Sessions sees through Kagan‘s veil of lies.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Around the same time, that Dame Kagan was campaigning to exclude military recruiters, citing what she saw as the evils of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” Harvard University accepted $20 million from a member of the Saudi royal family to establish a Center for Islamic Studies.
JONES: Obviously, anyone employed by an institution that accepts such a gift automatically means she endorses everything about Saudi Arabia and Sharia Law, especially if you are a Jew from the upper west side.
Columnist Frank Gaffney of “The Washington Times” joined the fight, saying, quote, “Hat us off to Sen. Jeff Sessions. The top Republican on the Senate‘s Judiciary Committee has opened up an important new front in the debate over Solicitor General Elena Kagan‘s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. Her attitude towards the repressive legal code authoritative Islam called Sharia and her enabling of efforts to insinuate it into this country.”
And if that didn‘t get the point across, “The Washington Times” included this helpful illustration. Yes, that‘s Elena Kagan. Yes, they put her in a turban. The Family Research Council also sounded the alarm, quote, “The next Supreme Court justice has nothing but affection for radical Muslims in the Middle East.”
And if that didn‘t get the point across, the FRC included this helpful illustration, “Siding with the Enemy.” Who is that scary man inset in the word “enemy.” Could it be Kagan‘s best friend, Osama Bin Laden? And, and Elena Kagan is a Mets fan. The strikes against her just keep piling up.
MADDOW: You have to Photoshop the Turban on.
MADDOW: “The Washington Times” did. That‘s ready to go on any news photo.
It‘s like a template. It‘s a macro in their Photoshop software.
JONES: Yes. Quick, put a turban on it.
MADDOW: Exactly. I hate it - turban. Beautiful. Thank you very much, Kent.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up next, beasts who predict the future, some better than others. And the TV hosts who think that think beasts who predict the future are really neat, including me. Please stick around.
MADDOW: America‘s best and best known animal that predicts stuff is, of course, Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who predicts the length of the remaining winter every February. Mr. Phil is a national treasure and all of that.
But according to “Storm Facts Almanac,” he has only been right 39 percent of the time out of his 114 predictions. A coin flip, in other words, is 11 percent more accurate than Punxsutawney Phil.
Now, the new leaders in beasts who predict world circumstances are not us. It‘s not the United States. It‘s Germany, of course. Their predictive fauna is named Paul. Paul is a two-year-old octopus who lives at the Oberhausen Sea Life Aquarium.
So far, Paul the Octopus is three for three in predicting the outcomes of Germany‘s games at the World Cup. Paul the Octopus successfully predicted a German win against Australia. Paul the Octopus successfully predicted a German loss against Serbia. Paul the Octopus successfully predicted a German win against Ghana.
How exactly does Paul the Octopus do his soccer predicting? Well, his prognoctopus(ph) handlers put a delicious tasty mussel in each of two boxes. The boxes are labeled to represent each country in the forthcoming game.
Whichever box Paul the Octopus chooses to eat from first represents the winning team. For Sunday‘s do-or-die German grudge match against England, Paul the Nostroctopus(ph) has picked Germany.
Also, we here at The RACHEL MADDOW SHOW spent the whole day in the office coming up with “nostrodoctopus”(ph) and “prognostopus”(ph) - the whole day. USA. USA. USA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Charles Yi(ph) of the Senate Banking Committee staff, former tank commander in Bosnia, by the way. He‘s going to explain it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m not Lazarus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let Sen. Corker hold the mike for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Forgive yourself if you don‘t get the joke there. I don‘t get it, either. That‘s because that‘s the kind of joke that you find laugh-out-loud hilarious only if you were still awake and at work at 5:29 in the morning.
Check out the time stamp on that. The senator - look up in the upper right-hand corner - 5:29 a.m. Eastern Time. These senators and members of Congress were working on financial reform at 5:29 a.m., not because they got an early start to the day, but because that‘s how late they had stayed up.
Their session started yesterday at 10:00 a.m. It went past dawn this morning. But it worked, kind of. After those all-day, all-night negotiations, the conference committee, the committee designed to hammer out a deal to bridge the bridge the difference between the House and Senate on Wall Street reform did hammer something out, and it passed.
It passed with zero Republican votes, naturally. The measure still needs final passage, of course, before it gets to the president. But the president, today, made clear that he knows it‘s on its way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We are poised to pass the toughest financial reform since the ones we created in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Earlier this morning, the House and Senate reached an agreement on a set of Wall Street reforms that represents 90 percent of what I proposed when I took up this fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The House is expected to vote on the Wall Street reform package on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to vote later next week. And President Obama is expected to sign it into law before the Fourth of July.
Joining us now on remarkably little sleep is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, thank you for joining us and congratulations.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE:
Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate it. You know, it‘s obviously not anything we wanted. It is considerably more than I was hoping for. And I think it‘s going to be a very useful package.
MADDOW: The president said today that he got 90 percent of what he wanted out of this legislation. You said you got more than you expected to get. Are there regrets that you still have outstanding about things that you still think really need to be done that didn‘t make it into the legislation?
FRANK: Well, in fairness to Sen. Chris Dodd who‘s been really unfairly criticized, he‘s got to get 60 votes in the Senate. It‘s a harder job for him. I need the majority who correctly noted that this could be partisan on the part of the Republicans who incredibly are maintaining that we don‘t need financial reform, that things should be left as they are.
He‘s got to get three or four Republicans. And he‘s had to compromise some. There‘s an amendment that I did not like to the consumer bureau. We are setting an independent consumer bureau, and that‘s a great tribute to the work of Elizabeth I and others.
But there was a procedural set of vote blocks we‘re going to have to go through. I wish we didn‘t have that, but we do.
Working with Maxine Waters and a lot of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, we were trying to get $2 billion to help people who are now - $3 billion for people who are now unemployed and can‘t pay their mortgage, not because they made poor judgments, but because they happen to be in a time of high unemployment.
We got cut back to $1 billion. I‘m going to try to get another billion of that. On the other hand, we did get an independent consumer bureau. We got the vocal rule, which, months ago, people felt we wouldn‘t get.
We got it with some slight changes. Blanche Lincoln‘s position on derivatives and banks won, which it should have. I had a question about some other parts of that, and that was the result.
On the very important point, we have laws in there now that will make it simply illegal to give poor people the kind of loans that is led them into financial ruin and ruined neighborhoods.
And finally, I will just mention this. You will no longer be able to do what we call 100 percent securitization. If you lend money to other people, you‘re not going to be able to sell the whole loan. You going to be required keep enough of that yourself so that you can have interest in repayment.
MADDOW: On that issue of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, as you mentioned, we have one. And it‘s fairly independent and that‘s an achievement. It understands that it will be within the fed even while it is still mostly independent. Do you expect to see somebody like Elizabeth Warren heading up that agency? Do you expect it to be a high-profile agency?
FRANK: I hope it will be. Let me be clear. I gave in on the fed only once it became clear that, frankly, it helps us, because instead of already getting an appropriation for it, we can take the money that the Federal Reserve now raises from its own financial activities and uses to not do anything for consumers, but, theoretically, has the consumer agency.
I‘m going to shift that money over to the consumer agency, so that‘s a good argument for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the fed. But I want to make it very clear. The consumer agency will receive its mail at the Federal Reserve, but no one in the Federal Reserve System will be able to open it. It will be an independent agency.
And so I look forward to that. Yes, I hope it will be Elizabeth Warren. We run into this problem with this crazy confirmation process in the Senate. But I would very much like Elizabeth Warren to be - she‘s been the founder of this idea. She‘s been a great ally. She‘s a woman of great passion and great practicality.
And I‘d say one of my proudest moments in American Congress was the day that the committee chair passed the bill to set up an independent consumer agency after we had been told that it could never happen. And she said on that day, “You know, they told me not even to try because the banks always win.” But they didn‘t win today.
MADDOW: On the issue of who is covered by that agency, some of the things that have received attention are car dealers. Car dealers ended up getting exempt from oversight by that agency. Payday lenders, however, one of the most, in my view, egregious abusers of people with few options in the financial system, will be included in oversight of that agency.
FRANK: Yes. That‘s true.
MADDOW: You felt like there were trade offs there?
FRANK: Well, that was one of my major victories in the conference, which is to cover payday lender check issues. And by the way, I argued to the small banks. You know, the small banks have not generally been the abusers here.
And I said, you know, more of the problems come outside of the banks. More of the problems come from the unregulated payday lenders and check cashers. And finally, we were able to win that.
On the auto dealers, I just plain lost. I voted to include them, and I‘ll tell you what the problem was, Rachel. People - first of all, the people - that culture is to be outgoing and friendly. They‘re nice people and most of them do nice things.
That doesn‘t mean, by the way, that you don‘t regulate people. We regulate to deal with the abusers, even though they‘re a minority in almost every area. But the added thing that got the auto dealers their exemption is that last year, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were treating auto dealers very unfairly.
They were terminating dealerships arbitrarily. People who had put money in a dealership suddenly found themselves with no cars to sell. That generated so much sympathy for the auto dealers that that got them over the top over my objection.
MADDOW: Chairman Barney Frank, Democratic Congressman of Massachusetts, thank you for being here. I hope you get some rest. And I hope you have some appreciation of your colleagues electing to name this bill after you - the Dodd-Frank Act it will be when it‘s signed - and that you can recognize the historic nature here even though you‘re tired. Thanks, sir.
FRANK: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Coming up next, we‘ll have some reflections on the fact that this is a rather historic achievement by this administration. This administration has been in office for half a term.
And yet, when you stack up what they‘ve done against what other administrations have done in the post-war era, you actually end up with a very surprising result. That‘s next.
MADDOW: He signed a bill that gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants. He grew the size of the federal government and the budget, added a whole new cabinet level agency and added tens of thousands of government workers to the federal payroll.
He tripled the deficit. He bailed out and expanded social security with a big fat tax increase. He raised corporate taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars. He raised taxes on gasoline.
He, in fact, signed into law the largest tax increase in history. He supported federal handgun controls. He called for a world without nuclear weapons. He was Ronald Reagan.
As a conservative saint, as the right-wing rock star, as king of the Republican prom in perpetuity, as a transformative figure for people who call themselves conservative, the facts of Ronald Reagan‘s legislative record are awkward.
Ronald Reagan‘s record has in it a lot of things that would get him kicked out of today‘s Republican Party, which is not to say that President Reagan was a secret liberal. He was not. What he was, was complex, but accomplished in his own way.
With the passage of financial regulation in Washington today, President Obama took to the very un-momentous setting of “Twitters,” as he called it yesterday, to say this, quote, “Last night‘s House Senate agreement on Wall Street reform represents the toughest financial reform since the Great Depression.”
It turns out that a lot of things that have happened in the less than two years of this administration are the biggest or first or most important in generations. On the occasion of the Wall Street reform announcement today, Taegan Goddard at “CQ Politics” wrote, “Not since FDR has a president done so much to transform this country.”
Even before today‘s historic Wall Street reform agreement, President Obama, of course, did what politicians have been trying to do for more than 60 years. He passed health reform, which, for the first time, establishes government responsibility for the health care of American citizens.
Consider also the stimulus bill. It didn‘t just throw a lasso around our entire economy and yank and yank it back from the brink. It also pumped about $100 billion into the crumbling embarrassment of our national infrastructure and transportation system.
It was the largest investment in infrastructure since Ike. For solving our country‘s energy problems, something Obama has compared to man walking on the moon, it contained about $60 billion in spending and tax incentives for renewable and clean energy, also a historic investment.
It also included an unheralded but giant investment in science and tech, amping up the budgets at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and an experimental energy research agency that was created under President George W. Bush, but never funded until now.
President Obama also expanded state kids‘ health insurance to cover another four million kids. He signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act amending the 1964 civil rights act for equal pay for equal work.
He signed a nuclear arms deal with Russia that would reduce both countries‘ arsenals by a third. He created a new global nonproliferation initiative to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists.
He set forth an international way forward on that radical left-wing proposition of Ronald Reagan, a world without nuclear weapons. Then there are the legislative and policy achievements that don‘t just build on previously-set precedents, but set new ones.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. It had languished in Congress for years. The Food and Drug Administration permitted for the first time to regulate tobacco.
Better late than never, he dismantled the scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service, broke it into three parts so that the folks who collect money from oil leases aren‘t the same ones regulating the industry. And now, it will actually investigate the industry that it was busy schtupping and doing drugs with during the last administration.
Obama fired two wartime commanding generals in little over a year. He overhauled the astonishing stupidity of the student loan system in which banks were being subsidized to give loans that were guaranteed by the government anyway, a license to print money.
That was ended in the savings put toward actual aid to students. He canceled a weapons program that was bloated, unnecessary and totally irrelevant to either of our current wars, the F-22. Why even mention the cancellation of a single weapons system? Because that never happens. Weapons systems never get canceled. The F-22 did, which is itself a miracle.
In each of these achievements and in the list of things he has yet to do - “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” closing Guantanamo - in each of these things, there is room for liberal disappointment. I sing a bittersweet lullaby to the lost public option when I go to sleep at night.
But presidential legacies are complex. Not even the Reagan administration‘s legacy is pure as the conservative-driven snow. But Taegan Goddard at “CQ Politics” was right today about nothing this big happening since FDR.
The list of legislative accomplishments of this president in half a term even before energy reform which he‘s probably going to get to is, to quote the vice president, “a big freaking deal.” Love this administration or hate it, this president is getting a lot done.
The last time any president did this much in office, booze was illegal. If you believe in policy, if you believe in government that addresses problems, cheers to that. Good night.
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