Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Monday, March 14th
Read the transcript from the Monday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Lester Holt, Anne Thompson, Stephanie Cooke, Paul Gunter, Robert Reich, Curt Welling, Robert Borosage, Eric Brinkmann
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
Three days after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, the devastated country continued to reel today. Police officials estimate more than 10,000 people were killed when one village was washed away from the tsunami-ravaged northern coast. The death toll is certain to rise.
As day breaks in Japan, it‘s a race against time to find survivors.
Officials say some 350,000 people are homeless and staying in shelters.
As you can see the pictures there, it is absolutely devastation. You can see why there are so many people homeless. Their homes are gone.
Emergency workers are frantically trying to cool down the reactors at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, located about 60 miles south of the earthquake‘s epicenter. There have already been two explosions at this power plant generating from reactors one and three, first on Saturday and then a second one today.
Today‘s blast injured 11 people, and government authorities told people within 12 miles to stay indoors. If I was them, I would not stay indoors, I would run for the hills.
I‘m sorry, but this is incredibly dangerous, and I don‘t think staying indoors is going to do it. There is a time to panic, and I think this is one of them. I would drive away if you‘re in that area.
All right. Now, look, don‘t listen to me. I‘m not the authorities in Japan, but this stuff is incredibly serious, as you can see from the footage of the explosions there. And these are nuclear power plants.
But it‘s actually reactor number two that has authorities in a “full-scale panic,” and that‘s a quote, “full-scale panic,” according to one senior nuclear industry expert. Efforts to cool down reactor number two have failed, making it the most damaged of the three reactors and potentially most catastrophic.
The scope of the devastation is so massive, it‘s hard to know how to start picking up the pieces. Entire cities have been flattened by the tsunami. Ground zero of this disaster is the Miyagi prefecture, home to about 2.3 million people.
The prefecture is roughly the size of Houston. Miyagi‘s capital, Sendai, is about four hours north of Tokyo. It‘ home to about one million people. Now, that‘s roughly the size of Detroit.
Like cities in America, Sendai is sounded by suburbs and towns and ports, places that, before Friday, for full of thousands of people. Now you see what they look like in those pictures and in those videos. It is amazing.
Now, some of those towns like Minami Sanriku have literally been wiped out. More than half of the town‘s 17,000 people are unaccounted for. Unaccounted for! That is amazing.
Kesennuma is a city of 70,000 people. That‘s only a little smaller than Boulder, Colorado. It suffered some of the worst earthquake damage, and it took less than seven minutes for a 33-foot tsunami wave to destroy it. Witnesses say it was “a hellish site.”
Natori is a city of 72,000 people. NBC News reporter Ian Williams blogged that it was “a complete wasteland.” The tsunami pretty much razed the entire area. And, of course, you can see that in the video and the pictures.
But think about this. You know, as you look at those and you see these entire towns wiped out, can you imagine if the entire city of Boulder, Colorado, had been wiped off the map like these towns had been? And that‘s just one town. How many towns did we just list for you?
So you can begin to see the scope of the damage here. But I‘m not sure we have a full sense of economic damage, human damage.
I mean, that one town has half of the 17,000 people unaccounted for. So the death toll of around 10,000, for now, is likely to be incredibly low. It‘s scary to think about.
And then on top of that, you have the possibility of nuclear meltdowns. This is as bad as it gets.
Imagine being in the middle of that tsunami. What are you going to do if you‘re near there? It is one of the most frightening things you‘ll ever see.
And we‘re in the middle of the ocean. How are they going to find those people?
You‘ve probably seen the reports by now. A thousand people washed up in one town, 1,000 people washed up in another town. It is incredibly scary to look at.
Now, joining me from Sendai, the center of the disaster, is NBC‘s Lester Holt. He‘s the anchor of “Weekend Today” and “Weekend Nightly News.”
Lester, told me about—I think you drove over from Tokyo to Sendai.
Tell me about the damage that you‘ve seen so far.
LESTER HOLT, HOST, “WEEKEND TODAY,” “WEEKEND NIGHTLY NEWS”: Yes, we came up—it would be Monday evening our time, got in here, which is now Tuesday morning.
We were able to get on the road rather easily, leaving Tokyo at rush hour. And we all looked at each other, a major city, one of the most congested cities on the planet, and there was not much of a rush hour. Then we realized all the gas stations are closed.
There‘s a huge economic story here. But on the scale of things, that‘s not what people are talking about.
We did see some damage on the road as we got closer to this region, where they had already begun to fill in the cracks, big eruptions and fissures in the roads that they‘ve been patching over. Lots of convoys coming up this way.
But I‘ve got to tell you, Cenk, when you see for yourself the devastation of this tsunami, when you see fields strewn with houses and cars and huge pieces of timber, it takes your breath away to think that water could be that powerful. And then you heard the stories of the hundreds—thousands being washed up on the beaches as this tsunami and the sea‘s essentially giving up the dead now and washing them back ashore. And we‘re now getting the full dimension of the human impact.
But keep in mind, this is a three-phased disaster. You‘ve got the earthquake, the damage like this. You‘ve got the tsunami. And then, of course, as you were talking about, you‘ve got this who nuclear emergency—
UYGUR: So let‘s talk about that for a second, because, I mean, “full-scale panic” was a quote from one of the experts. That‘s a pretty heavy quote.
How scared are they about a nuclear meltdown? What are the authorities in Japan saying now?
HOLT: You know, the problem is the authorities in Japan are saying a lot, and sometimes it doesn‘t match up. We can tell you the Japanese prime minister today announced there‘s going to be a joint response headquarters with the operators of the this plant. You may wonder why that hadn‘t happened from the get-go, but I think they‘re clearly trying to get on the same page and try to figure out what they‘re facing, what the consequences are if they don‘t get things under control.
The problem right now, they‘ve got these three plants, and they can‘t manage to get them cooled down the way they need to. I don‘t know nuclear physics, but I know the basics, that one plant today, the rods were exposed. The system that was trying to inject cold seawater failed.
So those rods were exposed. If they start melting together, then there‘s the risk of more radiation being released into the atmosphere.
And we keep hearing these levels are low. By all accounts, they are, and they compare them to what you might get in a month or a day, but it‘s more than any of us want. And no one‘s quite sure what happens if all these fail-safes, all these things they‘re doing to try to cool this down, fail.
UYGUR: All right. Lester, we‘re going to get back to that later in the program. We‘ve got a couple of nuclear experts who are going to help us figure out the scope of the possible damage here.
But you mentioned being exposed. I know some of our troops were exposed to radiation on the USS Reagan. Tell us about that.
HOLT: Well, there was some radioactive release. And, of course, the prevailing winds kind of push it out to sea.
Well, it just turns out that eight U.S. warships that were part of the relief operation were in that path. Some of the choppers have been flying through, and apparently were exposed to some radioactivity.
We‘re told 17 sailors, I believe, flight crew members, were exposed. They were simply washed down, which is actually one of the things you do when you‘ve been exposed to radioactive, is they wash down. And again, the commander of the ship says that it was a very low level, and they‘re not particularly concerned, but they have moved those eight vessels to an area that‘s not—no longer downwind of any radioactive plume.
UYGUR: Lester, let me ask you a question. I don‘t know if you know this, having gotten there, but where are the people? Like, the people that escaped from the tsunami, didn‘t get washed out, but don‘t have homes anymore?
I know it‘s cold out there, I know they haven‘t had food and water for a long time. Where‘s the government putting them?
HOLT: They‘re being put in shelters and schools in some cases. We noted when we were driving in here this morning—we looked around and said, “Where are the tents?” I‘ve covered other disasters where people are in tents or in campers, but they have actually put together a pretty effective system of shelters in public buildings here.
We also saw one area there were a lot of cars parked and we were walking along. This is late at night, and we realized, there are people sleeping in those cars. And whether they have homes and are afraid to be in them, it wasn‘t clear, but a lot of people are simply sleeping in their cars because of fears of the aftershocks, and they do come with a fair amount of regularly. And folks know that there‘s always a risk that one of those aftershocks could be nearly as strong as the initial earthquake here, and they‘re afraid.
UYGUR: All right. Lester, thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
HOLT: You bet.
UYGUR: All right. Now to the race against time to prevent a meltdown of Japan‘s nuclear emergency, as you‘re seeing today.
Two of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have exploded. The second explosion happened just today. But the reactor that has everyone on nerve right now is the number two reactor.
Efforts to cool down the number two reactor with seawater have apparently failed. There are now fears that the core is melting down.
Also today, the radioactivity was detected on 17 U.S. military personnel, as we were just telling you. The crew members had been in helicopters, helping with search and rescue, and they were about 60 miles off shore when apparently they were exposed to radiation. The choppers flew back to the USS Reagan aircraft carrier, where the service members were sprayed down, as Lester Holt just explained.
The commanding officer of the Reagan just released a statement saying, “The levels that were detected were very low levels and not of significant concern.” Well, we hope that‘s right, and that‘s good news.
Now, residents within a 12-mile radius have been forced to evacuate. But there is more concern today about the radiation exposure to plant workers who have been in those plants that are experiencing all those problems.
Joining me now from London is Anne Thompson. She‘s NBC‘s chief environmental correspondent.
Anne, what is the top nuclear concern tonight? If it‘s the meltdown, what exactly does it mean if we have a meltdown?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if we have a meltdown, Cenk, what it means is that the fuel rods which are in the core, they begin to melt. And literally, as it says. And the real fear, if you have a complete meltdown, is that those fuel pellets inside that fuel rod go down, and then they start to melt, and they form like a—it‘s been described to me like molten lava.
And then they go down to the bottom of the reactor, and then they have a nuclear reaction. And then all this radioactivity goes out into the environment. That is the worst-case scenario.
And they have struggled all day long with trying to cool off unit two. They have been trying to put seawater in there. They‘ve had some success and they‘ve had some failure.
And I think it‘s really almost ironic that they‘re having—the biggest problem is the unit that hasn‘t exploded. The two units, unit one and unit three, they were what they believe hydrogen-based explosions that blew away the containment buildings. But they say that the reactor which is encased in steel and concrete, is actually OK.
And so to they are less worried about those—unit one and unit three tonight, because they‘ve actually been able to get seawater in there to cool them down. So the focus is all on the reactor that hasn‘t had to withstand an explosion. And that is unit two.
UYGUR: Right. And I want the audience to understand, just because they exploded, doesn‘t mean that we had a meltdown.
UYGUR: As Anne explained, the meltdown is more of a concern in the one that has not exploded yet.
So, now, Anne, are these the problems of nuclear plants that have design flaws, or is it just they got hit with a perfect storm here and got devastated? And what precipitated the actual problems we‘re dealing with right now?
THOMPSON: From what we know now—and, you know, it is still very early in this—is that the problem here is a power failure rather than a design flaw, at least from what people understand at this point.
What happened was, when the earthquake struck, they got knocked off the—they got knocked off the grid. The reactors shut down, as they‘re supposed to. That‘s the good news.
The problem is, is that the cooling system didn‘t have any power to keep putting water on to the core. So what‘s supposed to happen is you go to a diesel generator.
Those kicked in, but what happened an hour after the earthquake struck is the tsunami came in, knocked out the diesel generators. After the diesel generators, you go to some very big batteries.
Well, the batteries lasted, but not nearly long enough. Not long enough for them to be able to get the diesel generators working again or to get connected to the grid. And that‘s what has created this problem.
It is basically a power failure that‘s happened here. And when you don‘t have power, you can‘t pump water on to the reactor core and keep those fuel rods cool.
UYGUR: All right. Anne Thompson, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
All right. Now, we‘re going to talk about how this affects us as well.
Did you know that there are 104 nuclear power plants currently operating in the United States? More than anywhere else in the world. So the big question is, could it happen here? How big is the threat?
My next guest says it‘s very real, especially given where those plants are in the United States.
UYGUR: The powerful images of nuclear reactors exploding in Japan has people in their states wondering, can it happen to us? It‘s got me wondering it, too.
One of my next guests says nearly 25 percent of the nuclear reactors in this country are just like the ones in Japan, the ones that are now on the verge of a meltdown. How many of them are on earthquake-prone fault lines here in the U.S.? That‘s next.
UYGUR: One big question as Japan scrambles to prevent an earthquake-triggered nuclear meltdown is, could it happen here? Japan is the third largest nuclear energy producer.
Guess who‘s number one? Yes, that would be us.
Now, countries around the world are asking whether they should question their own nuclear programs, and then taking action. Germany is delaying plans to extend the life of its nuclear power plants. Switzerland has suspended plants to replace five old plants.
So American lawmakers are calling for a similar moratorium right here in the U.S. Here are the facts.
There are currently 104 nuclear power reactors in 31 states across the U.S., and operators are currently seeking permission to build even more. Of the 104, 23 are using the same exact model of reactor as the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant right now in Japan.
Now, eight more are using similar reactors. They were all designed by General Electric, and, of course, in full disclosure, they are also part owner of MSNBC.
Now, guess what? Some experts say some of those in the Midwest could be vulnerable to an earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone.
There‘s also concern on the West Coast, where there are two nuclear facilities, both on the coastline along the San Andreas Fault. And everybody knows how dangerous that is.
At the White House today, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission tried to calm the fears.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY JACZKO, U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION: The bottom line right now, we believe that the plants in this country continue to be designed to a very high standard for seismic-and-tsunami-type events. We will look at whatever information we can gain from this event and see if there are changes we need to make to our system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, at the same time, there are new questions about exactly how the government would handle a nuclear disaster if such a tragedy were to occur here.
In a letter to President Obama, Congressman Ed Markey writes, “I am concerned that it appears that no agency sees itself as clearly in command of an emergency response in a nuclear disaster. In stark contrast to the scenarios contemplated for oil spills and hurricanes, there is no specificity for emergency coordination and command in place for a response to a nuclear disaster.”
So we have some of the same plants as Japan, some of them are on major earthquake fault lines, and we‘re not quite sure who‘s in charge if a disaster hits. That doesn‘t sound that good.
Let‘s find out more, though.
With me now is Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear; and Stephanie Cooke, the editor of “Nuclear Intelligence Weekly” newsletter.
Stephanie, I want to start with you in Japan. What is the difference between a hydrogen explosion and a nuclear explosion? And which one are we dealing with here in the plants in Japan?
STEPHANIE COOKE, EDITOR, “NUCLEAR INTELLIGENCE WEEKLY”: Well, we‘re dealing with—the difference between a hydrogen explosion and a nuclear explosion is that a nuclear explosion would be from runaway fission, much like what happens when a nuclear reactor—a nuclear bomb goes off. The hydrogen explosion was from the buildup of excess hydrogen for reasons which we‘re not entirely clear about.
UYGUR: So we‘re dealing with a hydrogen explosion here, not a nuclear one. A nuclear one would clearly be worse.
UYGUR: OK. All right. I just wanted to make sure everybody understood that.
Now, how far—to stay on this topic for a second, how far do you think that the radiation could spread if we had a full meltdown in that number two reactor?
COOKE: Well, there‘s multiple things to consider here. One of them is the risk that if there is a meltdown, they‘d have to evacuate the entire site. And that would put all the sort of jerry-rigged cooling operations that are going on there right now at risk of not being able to take place at all, which would then put—I mean, I don‘t like to be a scare-mongerer, but it basically means that the rest of the site is at risk, if that happens.
But even if it doesn‘t happen, there‘s the ongoing risk of the releases that are going on right now through the venting process. The meltdown risk is another risk, because it goes more into the ground, but the ongoing risk right now is just the venting that‘s going on.
It is really scary if they have to—if this unit two goes into full meltdown and the levels become so high that they have to evacuate the site, basically abandoning it. Then we‘re really, really in trouble. I mean, it‘s just orders of magnitude worse.
UYGUR: Right. I want to come back to that in a second, but I want to turn to Paul here in terms of how this affects us here in the United States.
Paul, my understanding is that the nuclear power plants in California are built to withstand basically a 7.0 on the Richter scale. This was an 8.9. If we can withstand a 7.0, what happens if we get an 8 or a 9?
PAUL GUNTER, BEYOND NUCLEAR: Well, Cenk, the problem is, is that this is paperwork that makes those kind of calculations. And, in fact, the big concern is if we do have the big one along the San Andreas, it‘s going to break pipes, it‘s going to crack concrete, it‘s—you know, there are going to be land shifts. The cliffs at Diablo Canyon could fall into Diablo Cove.
These are—these kind of events that we‘re seeing now play out in Japan are clear demonstrations that in natural disaster, nuclear power becomes a liability and not an asset. The efforts not only are diverted away from relief efforts for the natural disaster—or it could be a national crisis, like war—but then all those efforts then have to be focused on the inherent radiation hazard in these nuclear power facilities.
And, you know, the grid goes down, they shut down. Then, you know, they become—you know, you have to siphon off electricity to bring in—you know, to basically keep these things from melting down. That‘s what‘s playing out right now.
UYGUR: Right. But let me ask you one other thing, Paul, though. Is there any chance—are any of these close enough to the coast that they could be affected not just by an earthquake, by a tsunami? Is that possible?
GUNTER: Yes, certainly. The San Onofre units are a big concern for a tsunami. You know, that‘s surf city down there in San Clemente. And if you have a big seismic event or, you know—we don‘t like to think about these things, but, you know, we‘ve got a number of reactors along the coast.
You know, up in New England, for example, you‘ve got the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant and the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station that would be directly affected if there were a big earthquake off the coast of Labrador, which would create a huge tsunami. And you basically have the same scenarios get set up where the grid goes down, the power—emergency backup power gets washed out or damaged or flooded.
And then here in the United States, we should—you know, we‘re going to bring this up with Commissioner Jaczko at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but it‘s our understanding that emergency backup power now for all U.S. reactors is about four hours. So, clearly, we‘re vulnerable.
UYGUR: No question, as you see that map and you see all those nuclear power plants along the coast. You know, some are of course further away from the coast, some are closer. You begin to see the scope of the problem.
Unfortunately, guys, we‘ve got to go here. I could talk to both of you all day, because this is incredibly fascinating.
But Paul Gunter and Stephanie Cooke, thank you for joining us for now.
GUNTER: Thank you.
COOKE: You‘re welcome.
UYGUR: Appreciate it, guys.
Now, up next, the global economic impact of Japan and what it means for us. If Japan‘s economy collapses, what effects will that have for us? We‘ll talk about that when we return.
UYGUR: We‘re only beginning to come to grips with the staggering amount of destruction the earthquake and tsunami are causing in Japan. That includes the sheer economic toll, along with the horrible human toll. And the economic toll could actually spread beyond Japan and affect the whole global economy. Japan is the third largest economy in the world, and it‘s already lumbering under a huge debt burden. The International Monetary Fund estimate at its debt to GDP ratio is a stunning 228 percent. That‘s more than triple that of the United States. Now, if Japan‘s economy collapses under the weight of this historic disaster, what could that mean for the rest of the world and for us?
To help me talk about that is former Clinton Labor Secretary, Robert Reich. He joins me now. He‘s now also a professor at UC Berkeley and the author of “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America‘s Future.” Secretary Reich, thank you for joining us. I wanted to start with this debt to GDP ratio, because it‘s such a stunning number. It seems that anything could almost tip that over the balance, over the scales, and a disaster of these proportions, could it mean that they just simply cannot pay back their debt?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON SECRETARY: Well, Cenk, first of all, this is a human tragedy of enormous proportion, talking about the economic consequences should not distract our attention from really those human beings who are at the core of this tragedy. But, yes, you are right. There is also a severe and substantial economic risk here. Japan has had a hard time coming out of the recession. In fact, for the last 15 years, its economy has been very fragile. And if it turns out that this tragedy undermines the Japanese economy, or at least forces Japanese consumers and also Japanese companies to hold back from the market somewhat, and I think that‘s likely, they could find themselves in another deflationary spiral. And that has consequences for the global economy.
UYGUR: So, let‘s talk about those. What would happen if we had a deflationary cycle in Japan, and then I want to get back to the idea of them not being able to pay their debt?
REICH: Well, they will pay their debt, ultimately. The question really boils down to the total indebtedness of the globe. Right now we have a global debt crisis. Europe has a debt crisis. We have Middle Eastern oil prices in some of there. Japan, China is actually worried about growing too fast. China is pulling in the ropes and raising interest rates in China. So, there‘s a lot of stuff going on around the globe, in light of the—and we still are in the gravitational pull of the great recession. What‘s likely to happen first of all, and it‘s an irony, is that a lot of global money will come to the United States. The United States is a safe harbor.
It‘s very stable. We know and global investors know that they can trust—what happens in the United States, trust their money in the United States. And so, treasury bills, the cost of borrowing for the United States from the rest of the world is likely to be even lower. Again, turmoils in the Middle East, uncertainty about where Europe is going and this terrible tragedy in Japan, all are likely to conspire to make it, again, ironically, it‘s not good news, necessarily for us, and I don‘t want to create any impression that I‘m trying to create good news out of this, but the economic facts are that the borrowing costs of the United States are likely to be lower.
UYGUR: Real quick, Secretary Reich. What‘s the possible downside?
If it turns out supply chains are affected, et cetera, how could that help
how could that hurt our economy here in the U.S.?
REICH: Well, Cenk, the portion of Japan directly hit is not a major industrial area, but their infrastructure is certainly hurt. Their roads, highways, their major railways, their infrastructure of their electricity grid, all that is likely to affect supply chains, that American companies are dependent on.
REICH: For example, flash memories that go into iPhones and iPads, we might see some major slowdowns on the delivery of those supplies.
UYGUR: All right. We‘ll track that and see how it goes. Robert Reich, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
REICH: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: And we‘ll be right back.
REICH: Amidst the devastation in Japan, we‘re also seeing an outpouring of humanitarian aid. Sixty-nine nations have offered assistance. Non-governmental organizations and faith-based relief groups are pitching in. Along with government organizations like USAID. Even sports teams are helping out. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres plant to collect donations for the Japanese relief effort. And the American military is doing their part in a big way as well. U.S. troops already stationed in Japan are gearing up for search and rescue missions.
In addition, the military‘s already sent more than 100 aircraft to help with the rescue effort, with more on the way. The marines dispatched humanitarian assistance teams immediately after the disaster, an effort that the Japanese are calling operation friendship.
Joining me now is the president and CEO of AmeriCares Curt Welling. AmeriCares is one of these organizations with the disaster response team on the ground in Japan. Curt, I want to get a sense of the scope of this. You know, you guys have been involved in helping through a lot of these natural disasters. Haiti, et cetera. How big is this compared to the others?
CURT WELLING, CEO, AMERICARES: Well, the problem here is the magnitude of the destruction. It‘s spread over a very large area, and what that does to access. And then, obviously, as you‘ve been discussing throughout the day, it‘s dramatically compounded by concern about radiation and the possibility of a nuclear accident. So, each of these emergencies has its own rhythm and personality based on the nature of the event and the nature of the affected area, while they follow a somewhat predictable pattern in terms of search and rescue, protection of a fragile population, and then stabilizing and providing for the fragile population. This one is certainly, in terms of intensity and scale, certainly equal to the magnitude of destruction we saw in the Asian tsunami a little more than five years ago.
UYGUR: Right. And so tell me about how Japan reacts to this as opposed to a Haiti. Now, obviously, Haiti is a much poorer country, but at the same time, obviously, Japan needs a tremendous amount of help right now. So what‘s the difference between those two different kinds of economies?
WELLING: Well, the first thing, obviously, is that Japan is the third largest economy in the world and Haiti was the poorest country in the western hemisphere. So Haiti was an economically distressed country for years before this catastrophic earthquake. The magnitude of some of these comparisons are obvious, but the magnitude of the loss of life and the displacement in Haiti was obviously much greater than what we‘ve experienced in Japan. And the Japanese‘s government and the Japanese people have a very high level of preparedness for disasters informed in part by their experience with the Kobe earthquake in 1995.
So, I expect that this relief effort will be much better and more easily organized. Having said that, all of these situation situations are chaotic, and the pictures that you‘ve seen and some of the interviews that you‘ve conducted over the course of the day highlight the fact that when something of this magnitude, which is almost indescribable takes place, even the best-laid plans become difficult to implement. And we‘re certainly seeing that in Japan.
UYGUR: Curt, you hit on something important, though. You know, they have very strict building codes in Japan because of previous experience, and that has helped to keep some of the buildings up. I mean, you see a lot of devastation, no question, but it actually could have been worse if they didn‘t have those strict codes. But, you know, to the nuclear issue that you were discussing before, does that give you pause when you‘re thinking about sending aid workers in the area? What if there‘s a nuclear meltdown and how could that affect your aid workers? Are you guys considering that?
WELLING: Yes, there are two ways in which that touches us. Obviously, the first concern we have is for the safety and security of our people, as do all humanitarian aid organizations. But the second thing is, our primary area of work is in the field of medicine, medical supplies, medical care, and medical equipment. So we are now preparing and talking with our donors about the possibility of making supplies available of the sort that would be required if you had a large-scale radiation sickness outbreak as a result of a nuclear accident. And that‘s something which in our lifetime is unprecedented. Chernobyl was largely contained and hidden from world view by the former Soviet Union. There hasn‘t been anything that has been both this visible and of this potential scope in recent years.
UYGUR: Well, I‘m glad at least you guys were there and ready to help as always. Curt Welling, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
WELLING: Thank you, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. Now, if you want to donate to the relief effort, you can go to AmeriCares.org and hear also some other ways that you can help. Check that out and we will be right back.
UYGUR: The big story here at home is, of course, the massive rally in Wisconsin, and what it teaches us about how to fight back against the power establishment. That‘s an amazing story and details of that are coming right up.
UYGUR: P.J. Crowley, the state department‘s top spokesman, resigned yesterday, three days after criticizing the Pentagon for its treatment of private first class Bradley Manning. Manning is being held in jail for allegedly leaking U.S. government documents to Wikileaks. Some of the top human rights groups in the world have been criticizing his treatment as psychological torture. And I‘ve been saying all along that something needs to be done about it. The man was not even charged for most of that time. He‘s finally been charged now, but is not being convicted of anything, and is largely being kept in solitary confinement.
Now, according to the “L.A. Times,” P.J. Crowley agrees. He reportedly told a group at MIT last Thursday that the Pentagon‘s treatment of Manning was, quote, “ridiculous and stupid and counterproductive.” His comments were made public by a blogger and now of course, the punishment for ever speaking the truth in Washington is you‘re immediately removed from Washington. No, no, no, no, don‘t ever say what‘s obvious and patently true. You‘ll be removed from office and you‘ll be walked out of town. So obviously, Crowley, for saying things that are right, has lost his job. It‘s not the way it‘s supposed to work, but I appreciate his courage in making those statements. When we come back, huge rally in Wisconsin and what does it mean.
UYGUR: The 14 Wisconsin democratic state senators may have lost the battle to block Governor Walker‘s union-busting bill. But overall, we might have begun to win the war. I‘ll tell you how. First, the state senators were welcomed home in style at the biggest rally since the state‘s budget showdown began more than three weeks ago. Madison police estimate as many as 100,000 people turned out at the statehouse on Saturday. That is a giant crowd. The rally was organized by a variety of unions, including the AFL-CIO and the Wisconsin farmers‘ union, which helped bring dozens of tractors from around the state to participate in the rally. Including manure spreaders donning pictures of Governor Walker, which is fun for everybody.
Now, according to the Associated Press, the unions asked the White House early on to send Vice President Biden to the rallies in Wisconsin. Now, that was many weeks ago. The White House reaction was, ha-ha-ha-ha, get out of here! Get, get! Of course that didn‘t happen. Then, many weeks later, as things are really heating up, they ask for the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis. Now, that makes sense, right? And of course, the White House wouldn‘t send her either. They said she‘s looking into the situation. The situation‘s over and she‘s still looking! But then something else happened that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The people in Wisconsin took matters into their own hands and stopped waiting for the national democratic cavalry that never, ever arrives. And you know what, they‘re still fighting. Even after the governor‘s questionable move to pass the bill.
Now, they‘re targeting Scott Walker‘s corporate backers. That‘s smart. Notably, M&I Bank. The bank‘s executives poured more than $46,000 into Governor Walker‘s campaign last year. Now, that‘s more than they gave all over 2010 candidates combined. So now unions have started a “Move Your Money” campaign, urging teachers, cops, and firefighters to close their accounts at M&I. On Friday, Wisconsin firefighters picketed the bank, as you can see. And they withdrew $192,000, which then made them shut down the bank. OK, OK, mercy! Please stop withdrawing it. And you know what, it can get a lot worse for the bank.
One report estimates that unions have over $1 billion in pension funds invested at M&I Bank. You know what that means? That means, uh-oh, spaghettios, you could be in a lot of trouble. Now, people have figured out that you can hit the powerful where it counts, in their pocketbooks. The same thing happened in Egypt where Mubarak only stepped down after the labor strikes began. And then there‘s the national and international movement against the power establishment. The group anonymous recently released this video, warning the global banking systems.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: We are a decentralized, nonviolent, resistance movement which seeks to restore the rule of law and fight back against the organized criminal class. We are not affiliated with either wing of the two-party oligarchy. We seek an end to the corrupted two-party system by ending the campaign finance and lobbying racket.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Now, that‘s a little spooky, but I like it. And apparently, they came armed with documents which I‘m going to tell you about in a second. But look, what I like is peaceful resistance, OK? And the anonymous Web site, it turns out, released a series of e-mails today from a former Bank of America employee accusing the company of fraud in handling his mortgage files. The e-mail alleges Bank of America hid foreclosure information from federal auditors who are investigating reports that Bank of America was foreclosing homes without proper documentation. Now, look, our own Justice Department doesn‘t take any action against these guys. It‘s been three years since the debacle in Wall Street that caused our economic collapse, and where‘s Washington? Where‘s Washington?
They haven‘t done a damn thing. But look! What you‘re looking at here, in combination of all these things, is a new model on how to fight back. You have to take action into your hands, direct, peaceful resistance. Look, in my opinion, there is a war on the middle class going on and it‘s not just me. Warren Buffett agrees. We‘ve told you over and over, he says there‘s a war going on and my class is winning! But it looks like now with Wisconsin and all those other things, the battle has actually been joined, which is fantastic. Now, let me show you how this has worked so far. We have things like Wikileaks. Now, what they do is they break the news providing direct information to people. Now, that helped in Egypt and in Tunisia, where they already knew their leaders were corrupt, but they got direct information about exactly how corrupt they were and how they did their corruption.
It also exposed our government‘s lies in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now operation leaks run by anonymous is also exposing Bank of America and Wikileaks is planning to do more of that as well. Then, the web provides direct organizing online. You saw that in a big way in Egypt. You also saw that a little bit in Wisconsin. Facebook, Google and YouTube, all of these, and twitter allow you to organize and get people together in the streets. And then, finally, what we saw here in the United States with Wisconsin has showed direct protests by the people, are much more powerful than petitioning the national Democrats for help. You see that? We showed you over there, www, kind of like World Wide Web, very cute.
But look, in reality and what‘s actually important is this is the new model of fighting back against the establishment and against corporate power. Don‘t wait for your knight in shining armor to show up from D.C. The bad news is he isn‘t coming. The good news is, it turns out that you‘re the knight in shining armor. Get organized, get in the streets, get in the bank lobbies, get in their business and fight back. That‘s my take, that‘s my opinion and I think we‘re just getting started.
Joining me now is Robert Borosage, he‘s president for Campaign for America‘s Future, his group is helping to organize defend a dream rallies across the country on Tuesday. All right, Robert, first of all, are you with me that if we keep waiting for the national Democrats to come, that cavalry ain‘t never going to arrive?
ROBERT BOROSAGE, PRESIDENT, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA‘S FUTURE: No, absolutely. You know, politicians never lead a parade or start a parade. They just rush to get in front of it after it‘s started and people start the parade. And this parade was started in Wisconsin and it‘s going to sweep across the country.
UYGUR: Now, Robert, why do you think things have taken off now? I know you guys at Campaign for America‘s Future, and many other progressive groups have been trying to organize for so long. Why now?
BOROSAGE: Well, I think Wisconsin caught people‘s attention. You know, when the Democrats left the state and workers rallied and then other workers came to their aid, people started to see that what was at stake, which was exactly what you said, that there was a war on the middle class. And the question was really, you know, who‘s going to pay to clean up the mess that was caused by Wall Street‘s excess. If you can send that ticket to nurses and to cops and to teachers, then the middle class is going to continue to decline. And that suddenly became clear in Wisconsin. And it‘s now starting to sweep the country.
UYGUR: What‘s next, Robert? Where do you take this next?
BOROSAGE: Well, I think there‘s two things that have to be done. One is people have to tell the story and make sure that everyone knows what‘s at stake. And that‘s the social media you talked about, that‘s rallies across the country. Tomorrow, there‘ll be rallies in places across America. On April 4th, on the anniversary of King‘s assassination, who was killed in Memphis when he was standing with workers trying to organize a sanitation workers‘ union, people are going to be asked to go out of their workplaces and organize their own demonstrations in front of their workplaces to express solidarity, not simply with the workers in Wisconsin, but with middle class people who are under assault across this country.
UYGUR: All right. Now, let me bring in Eric Brinkmann. He‘s actually a firefighter from Madison, Wisconsin. He voted for Governor Scott Walker, but is now having second thoughts. Eric, why did you vote for Walker in the first place?
ERIC BRINKMANN, MADISON, WISCONSIN FIREFIGHTER: I felt he was the better of two evils between Barrett and Walker. I wasn‘t really impressed with either one.
UYGUR: Right. And what‘s happened since then that made you change your mind?
BRINKMANN: Well, I don‘t think he‘s been open and honest about what -
not that any politician is, really. But I don‘t think he was honest and forthcoming with the information, that he obviously had a plan and it was to go after the unions and I just don‘t agree with how he went about doing what he‘s doing. Everybody knows we‘ve got a budget problem and that we need to fix it because you can‘t keep deficit spending, but attacking and going after the bargaining rights just isn‘t right.
UYGUR: Eric, did you get a sense that he misled you? That during the elections, he didn‘t tell you he was going to bust the unions, and then he told you other things to get your vote, and all of a sudden he comes into office and does the one thing you didn‘t expect?
BRINKMANN: I was totally caught off guard by—he said he wanted to have a balanced budget and I‘m all for that, but I was not expecting him to come after the unions like he did. And yes, I was caught off guard. Yes. I feel duped.
UYGUR: You feel—all right, I hear you. Now, he left the cops and the firefighters out of the bill, though. But yet you‘re still angry about it, why?
BRINKMANN: Well, in a manner of speaking, we‘re being left out, but we‘re all standing together, because we‘re all part, you know, with the city workers get the streets department, when it comes to bargaining, we‘re going to get the same thing. So, yes, he cut us out, but we‘re really not cut out. And, you know, together we‘re standing and we stand together because one falls, we all fall.
UYGUR: All right. That‘s the right attitude, if you ask me. Eric Brinkmann and Robert Borosage, I want to thank both of you tonight for your time. We really appreciate it.
And listen, it‘s a dramatic day, no question about it. Stay tuned right here at MSNBC for more coverage of Japan as well. We want to thank you for watching tonight and “HARDBALL” starts right now.
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