The Ed Show for Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
Guest Host: Michael Eric Dyson
Guests: Mark Mallory, Karen Bass, Michelle Alexander, Melissa Harris-Perry,
Dr. James Peterson, Dr. Paul Ceruzzi
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Americans. Welcome to
the Michael Eric Dyson show. It`s THE ED SHOW actually, but I`m standing
in for him tonight.
Breaking news, the federal government is a step closer to shutting
down. "Politico" is reporting that Republicans are going to try and ram
their continuing resolution bill through the House. Democrats in the
Senate are saying the bill is dead on arrival. A vote is expected tonight.
We`re all over it.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati today, the president was picking a fight with
the other big red machine. And his speech had more hits than Pete Rose.
All I can say is, finally!
This is THE ED SHOW. And as Ed would say, let`s get to work.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no reason the
stand in the way of more jobs. Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild
this bridge! Help us rebuild America.
DYSON (voice-over): The president is turning up the heat on
Republicans and they can`t stand it. Tonight, Karen Bass of the
Congressional Black Caucus, and we`re going to Cincinnati to talk to Mayor
The right wing is flipping over the Obama family`s jewels. Tonight,
Melissa Harris-Perry and James Peterson on the latest version of Obama
Troy Davis has been executed. But questions over the death penalty
remain. Legal scholar Michelle Alexander will show us the way forward.
And tomorrow, the sky is literally following. A big old satellite is
headed for earth. We`ll give you the forecast from space so you don`t get
DYSON: The latest attempt by Republicans to portray President Obama`s
jobs plan in a negative light may be a bridge too far. The president took
his message to Cincinnati, Ohio, today in the shadow of a crumbling bridge
that connects the home states of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate
Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Behind us stands the Brent Spence Bridge. It`s located on one
of the busiest tracking routes in North America. It sees about 150,000
vehicles every single day. And it is in such poor condition, that it`s
been labeled functionally obsolete.
Think about that. Functionally obsolete. That doesn`t sound good,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: More than 26 percent of the nation`s bridges are classified as
either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. Part of the
president`s American jobs act would fund construction projects to fortify
bridges across the country. But that didn`t stop Republicans from calling
the president`s trip a campaign publicity stunt.
A memo from the Republican National Committee said, quote, "Obama`s
stimulus rhetoric fail to span the gap to realityville."
Speaker Boehner dismissed the president`s appearance in his own state
saying, "Now is not the time for the president to go into campaign mode."
And Senator McConnell went to the Senate floor to criticize the
president`s job plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: President Obama may
think the best way to distract people from the challenges we face is to
stand near a bridge in a swing state and pit one group of Americans against
another. And hope his critics look bad if they don`t go along with him.
But I don`t think he is fooling anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: Is it me or do they listen? President Obama made it
abundantly clear today, bridges like this are not distractions from the
challenges we face. They are the challenges we face. You can either
remain part of the problem or become part of the solution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr.
McConnell, those are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They
can either kill this jobs bill or they can help pass this jobs bill.
And I know these men care about their states. They care about
businesses. They care about workers here. I can`t imagine that the
speaker wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges are
classified as substandard -- one in four.
I know that when Senator McConnell visited the closed bridge in
Kentucky, that he said roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.
I know that Paul Ryan, the Republican in charge of the budget process,
recently said you can`t deny that infrastructure does create jobs. That`s
what he said.
Well, if that`s the case, there`s no reason for Republicans in
Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There is no
reason the stand in the way of more jobs. Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help
us rebuild this bridge! Help us rebuild America! Help us put construction
workers back to work! Pass this bill!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: Joining me tonight is the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, Mark
Mr. Mayor, good evening.
MAYOR MARK MALLORY (D), CINCINNATI, OHIO: Hi, how are you doing?
DYSON: Doing fine, sir. Thanks for joining us.
DYSON: You know, we heard the Republicans suggest that Mr. Obama was
playing politics, that the president is coming down to their terrain to
show them up and it is bad form. Do you think Cincinnati would benefit
from the American Jobs Act in this President Obama on to something here?
MALLORY: Well, we obviously would benefit in a number of ways. You
know, the president came to Cincinnati to highlight the fact that his jobs
bill has money in it for critical infrastructure improvements. The Brent
Spence Bridge is a perfect example. This is a bridge that was built in
1963. It was designed to accommodate 80,000 cars a day.
Right now, the bridge is accommodating about 170,000 cars a day. It
was originally a three-lane bridge. It`s now a four-lane bridge. It`s
beyond its capacity.
And it`s going to take $2.4 billion to replace. That`s money than the
Cincinnati certainly doesn`t have. The city of Kentucky, the state of
Kentucky doesn`t have.
So, we`re going to need federal assistance in order to get this
project done. And the president`s jobs bill provides money for this kind
DYSON: Well, do you think the president was, quote, "playing
politics"? I mean, some of his allies said, finally, he steps up to the
plate. He really knocks it out of the park and he tells these guys, the
Republicans, look, you`ve been doing some horrible things here and I`m not
going to take it anymore. I`m going to stand up.
It`s unavoidably a big symbol that he goes to the state where the
place where the bridge joins Boehner, if you will, with his Republican
comrade there. Do you think it was playing too much to symbolic politics
or do you think it really got home to the American people?
MALLORY: Well, I think the point that the person is trying to make,
he needs Congress to act. The American people need Congress to act.
And if they want to call the effort to put Americans back to work and
to improve critical infrastructure, to keep police officers and
firefighters and teacher on the job, if they want to call that politics, I
guess they should.
This is a political process. And everybody needs to be clear. We
have president who has acted, who has put out a well-designed plan that
will get America back to work and we have a Congress that wants to play
politics themselves and not act upon the president`s plan.
Listen, the evidence is clear. People need to go back to work. The
numbers are terrible.
The president recognizes that. He is not sitting around waiting for
an election in order to put forth a plan. He`s done that. The Republicans
need to respond now. And the American people are waiting to see what
DYSON: Well, Mr. Mayor, Cincinnati has faced the possibility of
laying off firefighters and police officers for the past three years. How
have you avoided those layoffs? What have you done in Cincinnati that
could be a model for the rest of the nation?
MALLORY: Well, we were lucky enough that we had some cash reserves
and some one-time money that we were able to use to avoid laying off police
officers and firefighters. We haven`t had any major cutbacks in service.
We also have not had any tax increases. So, we`ve been lucky in that
Now, I think we`re out of tricks. I don`t think we have that
opportunity to do that one more time in this budget process. And that`s
why the president`s American Jobs Act is so important because could it get
us through this last hurdle that we need to get through before the economy
in Cincinnati turns around.
We are seeing signs of light at the end of the tunnel. But we need
that one additional opportunity to not lay off police officers and
firefighters in order to really get through this process.
DYSON: And, look, like any mayor of any teeming city, you`re out
there on the pavement, what are you hearing from the people in Cincinnati
about the jobs act? How are they responding to it?
MALLORY: You know, people are actually excited. They`re saying that,
finally, there is something that, one, they can understand. I mean, the
jobs act is very clear. The buckets of money that the president has laid
out resonate with people in the community. They are hurting. They know
people who are out of work or they`re out of work themselves. And,
obviously, the president is calling on Congress, just as I am -- calling on
Congress to take action.
I mean, the president has laid out a plan that has money in it to
upgrade schools. Has money in to extend unemployment benefits, has a huge
amount of infrastructure improvement money. That of course puts people to
work right away. So, there are a lot of elements to this that people
understand. They know it will work.
And again, people are scratching their heads as to why Congress hasn`t
acted so far.
DYSON: Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, thank you so much for your
time, my friend.
MALLORY: Thank you.
DYSON: We`re joined now by Congresswoman Karen Bass of California.
She`s a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a Democrat on the
House Budget Committee.
Good evening, Congresswoman.
REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening. It`s good to be with
you this evening.
DYSON: Thank you so much for coming on.
Have you noticed any positive movement on the jobs bill in the House?
BASS: Well, I have to tell you, I haven`t. You know, that`s why I
believe that everybody needs to begin to put pressure on Congress.
It`s not about the president putting pressure. It`s not about members
of Congress from the Democratic side, frankly. We all need to get involved
and pressure Speaker Boehner to put the bills through committee and to put
them up for a vote.
DYSON: Well, you know, Congresswoman, one of the big beefs of the
president`s allies has been, well, he`s not out there ahead of the
narrative, trying to determine how the story is told. Do you think the
president can avoid having the narrative of the jobs bill taken away and
manipulated as it happened during the health care debate?
BASS: Well, absolutely I think he can, because what he has put before
Congress is an absolute package that has had a history of bipartisan
support if you look at the different sections. And I think the mayor of
Cincinnati did a great job in describing them.
And so, we need to get busy and we need to say, put the bill up for a
vote in its entirety. Don`t pick and choose. I think the president, going
to Republican districts like he did today, having the speech before the
bridge, is critical. He is out there on the front and I think there`s work
that all of us can do to participate in this process.
DYSON: Well, you know, a lot of folks jumped the president`s bone by
saying, look, when you control the House and the Senate, you can get stuff
passed. But what they didn`t remember, they were blue dog Democrats and
other conservative Democrats.
What do you say about Democrats in Congress who aren`t supporting the
BASS: Well, first of all, it hasn`t come before Congress yet. But
let me talk about the last Congress and you know that I wasn`t there, Dr.
Dyson. But we really need to remember the history, because a heck of a lot
was done in the 111th Congress.
And so, you want to talk about jobs. The stimulus package was
absolutely jobs. At the time I was serving as speaker in California, and
if it wasn`t for the money from the stimulus, we would have had even deeper
cuts in education. We would have had to lay off more firefighters.
And then talk about the Affordable Care Act. You know, jobs in the
health care industry, it`s one of the fastest growing industries, how are
we going to provide medical service for 30 million people if it`s not jobs.
So, I think we really need to remember what was done in the 111th Congress.
And I think a great deal got passed when Democrats were in control of both
DYSON: Well, your California colleague, Maxine Waters, you know, did
some tough talking to the administration, saying, look, we have to focus on
African-American communicate, 16.7 percent unemployment is unacceptable.
You hosted a panel yesterday about African-Americans in the labor movement.
How would that jobs act change the lives of middle class workers?
BASS: Well, you know, one of the things we were talking about in the
panel today is that when you attack the public sector, when you attack
public employees, where do you think African-Americans work? I mean, it
took civil rights movement to open up the public sector to African-American
workers. And we`re there. And so, when you`re talking about laying off
teachers, laying off firefighters, when you`re talking about, you know,
reducing postal service and eliminating Saturday service, you are talking
about laying off African-Americans.
And so, if you look at the American Jobs Act, there are specific
provisions in that jobs act that will absolutely impact employment in
African-American communities. And so, the job training, the summer jobs,
the construction jobs -- now, once the job bill is passed and signed by the
president, I`m going to be optimistic about that because I know we`re all
going to make it happen. Then, it`s on us in our communities to demand
that those jobs come to our neighborhoods.
DYSON: Sure. A bit of breaking news, of course. You`re expected to
vote again on the Boehner bill to fund the government. What changed in
that bill and do you expect to it pass?
BASS: Well, you know what? That`s a really good question because the
only way it`s going to pass is if the Republicans vote. So, if Boehner
gets his caucus together, which didn`t happen yesterday, then maybe it will
So, what I understand is different and we`re on call right now waiting
to go back for a vote, what I understand is different is they want an
additional $100 million in cuts.
And this is historic. There is no precedent for it. We`re talking
about disaster funding for the hurricane, for the earthquake -- a lot of
the damage was actually done in Republican districts. And they don`t want
the funding to take place unless there are offset cuts. And that`s never
We`ve always had the values in our country that if there was an
emergency, if there was a disaster, we took care of that. We didn`t run
around and look and say, what can we cut before we restore communities?
DYSON: Yes. Well, we`ll see if Boehner can herd those cats together
of his Republican field and see if they can get anything passed.
BASS: Well, that`s going to be the determining factor because I don`t
think there will be many Democratic votes.
DYSON: OK, Congresswoman: Congresswoman Karen Bass of California,
thanks so much for your time tonight.
Unless John Boehner and Eric Cantor can convince enough Republicans to
vote for another spending bill, the federal government will shut down.
Another vote is expected tonight, but as you heard from Representative
Bass, Democrats are holding firm. MSNBC`s Jonathan Alter is next with the
And Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia last month. But
did he commit the crime he was convicted of? Why a rush to judgment may
have led to a rush to execution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he should release the tax returns?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, if he`s going to be the gold
standard, so to speak, in terms of what our tax policy should be, yes,
let`s look at them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: That was Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas talking about
billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
Cornyn is part of a growing chorus of Buffett birthers, demanding to
see Buffett`s tax returns.
Buffett has been calling for a tax hike on the mega wealthy because --
well, they can afford it. The so-called Buffett Rule has been a focal
point of President Obama`s new plan to increase revenues by taxing the
super rich. That doesn`t sit too well with the ultra right wing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would love to see Buffett`s
tax returns so we can see what he`s really doing, because he`s kind of
operating in the dark here, making some claims.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think he`s going to release them?
CORNYN: I don`t think so.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
DYSON: Come on, guys. Warren Buffett`s actual tax return is
irrelevant to the central point that many wealthy individuals pay a lower
overall percentage in taxes than some middle class wage earners. Whether
he publicly releases them or not, Buffett`s claim has been fact-checked as
Coming up, is a government shutdown near? It`s yet another sign of
John Boehner`s failed leadership.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I`m not going to balance
the budget on backs of people that have already been hit by a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have drawn a line in the sand
on Eric Cantor`s heartless demand to only fund disaster relief if it
includes massive cuts to other programs.
John Boehner failed yet another test of leadership yesterday when 48
Republicans joined with the Democrats in voting down a spending bill to
keep the federal government running through mid-November. The bill must be
voted on by September 30th or the federal government will shut down.
Another major obstacle: Congress is scheduled to go on vacation until
October after the close of business tomorrow.
Boehner is hopping mad at the Republican defections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, you know, they
can vote no. What they`re in essence doing is they`re voting to spend more
money, because that`s exactly what will happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: Tick tock. That`s the clock ticking for the speaker.
If there`s a government shutdown, his party will get blame. Tonight,
"Politico" reports that Republicans will not yield to the Democrats`
demands, and they will try to ram the same bill down through the House`s
But Senate Democrats are holding the line. They say unless the House
bill is changed, it is dead on arrival in the Senate and it appears
tonight, Boehner is not changing the bill very much at all.
Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst and "Bloomberg View"
columnist, Jonathan Alter.
Jonathan, welcome to the show.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Michael.
DYSON: Look, is this Yogi Berra? Is this deja vu all over again? I
mean, we look like we`re getting into some dangerous territory of repeating
what we just saw.
ALTER: Well, it`s not quite the same as the debt limit where the
consequences were really severe, you know, a possible default in the United
ALTER: This is more like the shenanigans we had early in the year.
And then, you remember in the 1990s, they had this business. The American
public has no tolerance for it.
The problem that Boehner has is he now has to govern. So, right now,
as we speak, they`re in the rules committee. They`re in the emergency
meetings within the Republican Caucus to try to get their act together,
which so far they haven`t done.
And if they don`t, even though now they`re trying to blame this on
some kind of Obama scandal by pulling in money from the failed solar energy
company Solyndra. That`s their latest gambit tonight, is to save $100
million on that to try distract everybody`s attention to a so-called Obama
scandal. I don`t think that`s going to work.
And at the end of the day, or tomorrow, they will be responsible.
They have control of the House of Representatives. They couldn`t get their
act together yesterday. They are now facing unified opposition from
Democrats. And Boehner is going to have to figure out how to make this
work or their already low poll ratings are going to go even lower.
DYSON: Well, there are people who said, look, the Democrats haven`t
had a spine so they look like they`re finding a spine. The president is,
you know, dealing with a serious drum beat here of holding them
Is that going to make a difference in terms of how the American people
perceive who is responsible here?
ALTER: You know, I think the American people`s reactions, a pox on
both their houses. They are not paying attention to the super inside
baseball, what`s going on on Capitol Hill. It is hard to see how Obama
gets much political advantage out of this. But he is also not going to get
blamed much as this goes on. It will be seen as kind of business --
dysfunctional business as usual on Capitol Hill.
But they got important things they need to do between now and the end
of the year. You know, this supercommittee -- that`s serious business that
was set up. If they don`t make deep cuts, real savings, then the triggers
go up, which are seriously super deep cuts in both defense and Medicare
that would happen down the road.
So, they`ve got that ticking clock is a lot more significant long term
than this short-term government shutdown possibility.
DYSON: Right. Well, Nancy Pelosi laid out the groundwork for a
compromise. Let`s take a listen.
PELOSI: It would be my hope that they would split the difference.
The Republicans would come out and say we`re not going to go as high as you
wanted in your motion on the floor to the Senate level, but we`ll go to the
$3.5 trillion, $3.6 trillion, excuse me, billion, and we will have no
offset. That I think would be a reasonable place to be.
I think it is a waste of your time and my time to speculate on the
horrors that they could come up with, because we know they are endless and
we could be here a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: Jonathan, look, the president has been beat up on for
compromising too much. Are the Republicans even capable of compromise?
ALTER: Yes. They obviously came to some kind of a deal to avoid
default. They`ll come to some kind of a deal on this.
What fascinated me about that sound bite that we just saw, Nancy
Pelosi, the Democratic leader, former speaker, even she is confusing
billions and trillions at this point. So, she`s talking about -- the
reason she said $3.6 trillion is that that is about the size of the money
that the president just said he wants to save and cut, the combination of
tax increases and budget cuts over 10 years. That`s the main show --
ALTER: -- is when we`re using a "T" for trillion.
ALTER: We`re talking about a mere $3.6 billion which is what`s going
to on this week. It`s kind of chicken feed.
DYSON: Yes. Well, look, billions and trillions. The government
shuts down, what`s going to happen?
ALTER: Well, what happens first, is, you know, people can`t go to the
Washington Monument, and then the Social Security checks start not coming
and then everybody starts complaining about vital government services. One
of the things that does happen is that people begin to realize all this
hate government stuff is really not very relevant to their lives because
they depend on government.
And in that sense, it`s not going to create a lot of new faith in
government because all the institutions are, you know, discredited. But it
does remind people that the government does do important thing for you
DYSON: Well, look on. This issue in particular, it seems Obama has
to be a bit Teflon-ish, if you will. Won`t the Republicans be blamed for
ALTER: I think they probably will be just because if you look at what
happened over the summer, there`s a sense that it was terrible for Obama.
What got a lot less press is that the Republicans went down into single
digits. They were as unpopular on Capitol Hill as ever.
And so, this probably will get blamed on them mostly.
DYSON: All right. MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter -- thanks
for joining us tonight.
Bill O`Reilly and Sean Hannity are crying poverty again. The
millionaires on FOX News can`t stop whining about returning to the tax
rates of the Clinton years.
And the right wing Obama derangement syndrome continues over a couple
of diamond bracelets.
Stay with us.
DYSON: Where`s my handkerchief? I`m so sorry. There`s more whining
from the millionaire right wingers about having to share the sacrifices
being made by the middle class. Sean Hannity is now portraying himself as
just one of the little guys on the front lines of a phony class war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Now with the next election around the
cornering, it looks like the anointed one will stake his entire reelection
bid on that theme. He`s taken the story of rich versus poor, pitting his
billionaire friends like Warren Buffetts against the rest of us. And he`s
taken it all across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: My goodness. It`s the Obama and the billionaires versus Sean
Hannity and the rest of us. Have you got that? And Bill O`Reilly is back
to his strategy of denial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: There are about 315 million
Americans, and just 230,000 homes bringing in more than a million bucks a
year. So it a ruse, a class warfare illusion. Taxing the rich is not
going to make much of a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: Come on, Bill. You`ve got the only ruse. Nice try. If the
Bush tax cuts for the rich are allowed to expire, the revenue would cut the
deficit nearly in half within ten years. I would say that makes a bit of a
difference. But O`Reilly still says he is unfairly burdened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`REILLY: I`m not buying pay my fair share. I paid my fair share for
35 years, Mr. President. And you and other politicians have squandered my
labor, squandered it. So until the feds and the states demand efficiency,
and cut the crap, I will oppose targeted tax increases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: I`m a man. I`ll admit it. Maybe I`m wrong, but I`ve got a
hard time believing the American people will abandon their overwhelming
support for higher taxes on the wealthy because Bill O`Reilly says he`s
taxed too much.
Coming up, this six-ton satellite is coming home sometime tomorrow
afternoon. And a piece of it has a chance of hitting someone on Earth.
But next, did the state of Georgia put an innocent man to death? And
did the case of Troy Davis change Americans` opinion on the death penalty?
I`ll talk with Michelle Alexander. Stay tuned.
DYSON: Did an innocent man die for a crime he didn`t commit? Last
night, I`m sure all of you were watching the coverage here on MSNBC and
were horrified by the spectacle of what we saw. Troy Anthony Davis was
executed by the state of Georgia. He was pronounced dead at the 11:08 p.m.
Davis was convicted in the 1989 murder of an off duty police officer
named Mark MacPhail. For two decades, Davis sat on death row, despite
questions surrounding his guilt. Davis maintained his innocence until
literally his last breath.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON LEWIS, MEDIA WITNESS TO EXECUTION: Davis said, I want to talk to
the MacPhail family. He said despite the situation you`re in, I did not
take your son, father, brother. I want you to dig deeper into this case so
you will really see what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DYSON: My heart goes out to the MacPhail family. But we have got to
ask the question, was justice done here? Seven out of the nine witnesses
recanted testimony against him. And there was never any physical evidence
proving that Davis pulled the trigger resulting in a man`s death.
Nevertheless, a rush to judgment led to a rush to execution.
Meanwhile, just hours before Davis` execution, another man was put to death
in Texas. Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist, was convicted in the 1998
dragging death of a black man, James Byrd, Jr.
It was one of the most infamous and heinous hate crimes of our time,
resulting in tougher state and federal legislation. There were no last-
minute appeals to spare Mr. Brewer`s life, but one powerful principled
objection. It came from James Byrd, Jr.`s own son.
Ross Byrd sought the kind of mercy his father never got. Quote, "you
can`t fight murder with murder."
Joining me now is Michelle Alexander, associate professor of law at
Ohio State University and author of "The New Jim Crow." Professor
Alexander, welcome to the show.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: Thank you for having me.
DYSON: You`ve got to ask, how many more deaths have got to occur
before we fix a system or abandon it all together? Black people are 10
percent of the population and yet 50 percent of the death row population.
ALEXANDER: Yes, that`s right. Studies have shown that those who live
and those who die, when it come to the death penalty, has more to do with
the race of the victim than just about anything else. Those who kill white
people are far more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill
black people, a strong statement about the value that`s placed on people`s
lives, according to race in the United States.
But what I think is most important today is that we pay honor and
tribute, not only to Troy`s family, but to the countless people who raise
their voices in protest, who organized and marched. More than a million
people wrote letters, signed petitions, held rallies. And while the major
civil rights organizations like the NAACP and Amnesty International and the
ACLU played an important role, what I found most inspiring were the small,
spontaneous grassroots efforts that emerged on street corners, inside
prisons, churches and faith communities, among student groups, students
Against Mass Incarceration at Howard University.
There was just an unbelievable show of unity at this tragic moment.
And what I hope is that the passion and the energy and momentum that was
generated to save Troy`s life and build a movement to end the death penalty
and challenge this system of mass incarceration won`t just fade away. It
won`t be one of these episodic spurts that we`ve seen in the past, but will
actually signal a new phase in the movement to end the death penalty, and
that will be able to look back and see Troy`s death as the day when the
movement end the death penalty, and the movement to end mass incarceration
gained new steam.
DYSON: But, you know, Michelle, of course we don`t have enough time
tonight. We only have about a minute left. But give me a sense here of
the relationship between what we just witness asked what you talk about as
the new Jim Crow, the over incarceration of African-American and Latino
people in our prisons. There has to be a relationship between the tough on
crime stance and the relentless and heartless assault upon vulnerable
people of color.
ALEXANDER: That`s absolutely right. The utter indifference that the
U.S. Supreme Court showed to the likely innocence of Troy Davis wasn`t some
kind of aberration, but rather a reflection of the fact that our criminal
justice system today has shockingly little to do with actual justices, and
has far more to do with being a machine that is destroying the lives of
people and communities, particularly poor communities of color.
Today, it is legal for the police to stop and search, frisk just about
anyone, anywhere, without a shred of evidence of any criminal activity, as
long as they get, quote/unquote, consent. Prosecutors are authorized to
try to bully people into plea bargains, convicting themselves through
confessions, even when they may be innocent, by threatening them with
mandatory minimum sentences.
And the Supreme Court has made it virtually impossible to challenge
racial bias at any stage of the criminal justice process, from stops and
searches to plea bargaining and sentencing without actual evidence of
conscious intentional bias, tantamount to an admission.
So nothing short of a major social movement is going to end the death
penalty in this discriminatory system of criminal injustice. Let`s hope
that the fight to save Troy Davis` life was just the beginning.
DYSON: Let`s hope so indeed. Very compelling. Michelle Alexander,
thank you so much for joining us tonight.
Next, the deranged right wing media freaks out about Michelle Obama`s
DYSON: Yep, there`s a new melody out here, the Michelle Obama
Derangement Syndrome is growing strong in the right wing media. The latest
manufactured offense centered around the First Lady`s decision to support
an up and coming American jewelry designer -- what`s wrong with that -- by
wearing a few of her bracelets to a fund-raiser this week?
The diamond bracelets aren`t cheap. All together, they were valued at
around 42,000 dollars. But the First Lady didn`t buy them. They were
loaned to her for the evening, a detail the Fox News website conveniently
left out of its article, which was posted under the headline, get this,
"First Lady Rocks 40K in Diamonds on Her Wrist."
The Drudge Report screamed "East Wing Bling, Michelle O`s 42,000
Dollar Diamond Cuffs." And here`s the right wing Gateway Pundit Blog.
"Everyone must sacrifice. Michelle Obama wears 42,000 dollars in bling to
This is nothing new with the right wing media. They don`t have a
problem with Newt Gingrich`s half million-dollar line of credit at
Tiffany`s. Mitt Romney can quadruple the square footage of his
multimillion-dollar beach house. No problem.
But if Michelle Obama borrows some jewelry, the knives come out. For
more, let me bring in MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Perry. She`s a
professor of political science at Tulane University and a columnist with
"The Nation" magazine. And also with us tonight is James Peterson, the
director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University.
I hope you guys are not wearing too much jewelry here tonight. Let me
start with you, James Peterson. Why the vicious double standard in the
treatment of Michelle Obama and the rest of us, it seems?
DR. JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: It seems to me that these
bloggers are kind of grasping at straws here. We should bear in mind that
they`ve had a sort of have very angry approach to Michelle Obama for a very
long time. You might remember "The New Yorker" time cover was sort of a
manifestation of that.
But the bottom line here is she borrowed the jewelry. And is this
something that we really should be talking about right now? I would love
to see this kind of attention paid to the good works that Michelle Obama
does, including her efforts to sort of create and cultivate gardens in
inner cities and even right in the White House, her efforts to enhance our
approach to nutrition and feeding our children in public schools.
She`s done so many good works that don`t get this kind of attention.
I wish that we could, just once in the political sphere, focus on the
positive over the negative.
DYSON: Along that lines, Melissa, let`s look at a catalogue of some
of these unjust assaults. The First Lady was -- after the 9/11 ceremony,
there was lip reading conspiracy there. The "Washington Times" and right
wing blogger claimed she sarcastically mouthed something like, "all this
for a damn flag to the president." Turned out to be wrong.
Limbaugh, O`Reilly, Hannity were all over Michelle Obama for her trip
to Spain, their continued attacks over her anti-obesity campaign. What in
the world do Republicans get out of vilifying her so viciously and so
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, TULANE UNIVERSITY: First, a deep breath. One
of the things that I want us to remember is that what`s going on in the
right wing blogosphere, even in this moment on Fox News, is not reflected
in public opinion of and about the First Lady. In fact, one of the most
stunning aspects of the First Lady`s position, I think, has been the
absolute capacity that she has had to win over really a large segment of
the American population.
She`s had consistently higher approval ratings than the president for
much of the presidency, which given the history of American race and
sexism, and given the realities of very negative stereotypes that continue
to exist around black women, the very fact that so many Americans are able
to see through these kinds of negative portrayals, and in fact, appreciate
and like the First Lady I think is actually an indication of her sort of
qualities that seem to shine through all of this very old-fashioned
DYSON: Yeah. Republicans, in light of what Melissa just said, that
she has been able to really transcend this kind of negative assault. The
irony, of course, James, is that Republicans militantly defend rich people
against Obama`s supposed class warfare. Shouldn`t they love the First Lady
dripping in diamonds and becoming a potential subject for the luxury rap of
DYSON: The Republicans are sort of folding in on themselves.
Remember, the sort of -- the bling illusion here is another one of these
sort of dog whistle racial comments. But Melissa is right. Her numbers
are solid gold. Her approval ratings have been consistent throughout.
The thing that`s really, really important to note here is why. It`s
because she is compassionate. She`s authentic. And she`s genuinely
concerned about the benefits of the American people. That shows through in
everything that she does.
And this silly story about her borrowing some bracelets to help
actually small business -- they talk about wanting to help small
businesses, this new designer, because of the attention we`re giving it --
this designer will now be able to sell plenty of jewelry and probably will
have to have hire a couple jewelry makers. So she`s actually helping small
HARRIS-PERRY: And I was going to say, I think James` point about her
being solid gold is really important here. Remember that the Republican
strategy at this point is to take away all of the things that President
Obama will need in his reelection campaign. So the attack on unions is
about making sure that there will be no one to drive Democratic voters to
So they recognize that, in fact, the First Lady is an asset to the re-
election campaign. So part of what`s going on here is an attempt to
tarnish what is clearly going to be an asset for the Obama campaign. And
that -- I think Mr. Peterson -- Professor Peterson is exactly right there,
that when the language of bling is used, it`s -- this is meant to indicate
a kind of racial consumption and this idea that she is somehow part of a
hip hop culture, that we should all be nervous about.
But Michelle is so much bigger than that.
DYSON: No doubt about it. And tarnished her reputation, no, even the
diamond she was wearing. God bless her. Melissa Harris-Perry and Dr.
James Peterson, Professor Perry, thank you so much for joining us on the
This video shows the initial reentry of a six-ton satellite falling
back to Earth. We`ll tell you if you need to duck, next.
DYSON: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. Don`t worry, the sky isn`t
falling. Just a chunk of it is. A 6.5 ton satellite will be falling back
to Earth sometime tomorrow afternoon. So get ready.
NASA`s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite was sent up in 1991 to
collect measurements of the ozone and other chemicals. Now it will be
coming home. It will break up as it reenters Earth`s atmosphere. And NASA
says 26 pieces will survive reentry.
NASA also estimates there is a one in 3,200 chance a piece of it will
hit a person somewhere on Earth, but only a one in 22 trillion chance it
will hit you.
This is actual video shot by a astronomers of the satellite`s initial
reentry. So heads up. Here it comes.
Joining me now, the chair of the Space History Division of the
National Air and Space Museum, Dr. Paul Ceruzzi. Thank you for joining me
DR. PAUL CERUZZI, NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM: It`s my pleasure to
DYSON: Thank you. Professor -- Dr. Ceruzzi, does NASA have any idea
where this thing is going to hit?
CERUZZI: Well, as the time gets closer, they get a better prediction.
Now they`re saying it is not going to hit North America, but they`re not
absolutely sure. So as tomorrow gets closer and closer, they`re going to
be able to get a little bit more precise about that.
DYSON: I`m not a mathematician or an astronomer, but why are the
possibilities of the impact so broad? It`s a big continuum there.
CERUZZI: Well, because the spacecraft is this irregularly shaped
thing. People talk about it like a school bus. It is probably tumbling.
And it is not coming in smooth or straight. It is hitting the atmosphere
at odd angles.
Maybe nobody is really able to calculate that kind of atmospheric drag
that it is experiencing.
DYSON: Well, look, help us understand this: NASA estimated the odds
of some person getting hit and the odds of one particular person getting
hit, you know, were significantly different. Can you put that into
perspective for us?
CERUZZI: Well, I guess the best comparison is playing the lottery.
You look in the newspaper and somebody wins the lottery. But you don`t win
the lottery. I don`t win the lottery. But somebody wins.
I guess that`s -- it may hit somebody. But it`s not going to hit you
and it`s not going to hit me.
DYSON: This ain`t a Lotto anybody wants to win for sure. Tell us,
has falling space junk ever injured a human being before?
CERUZZI: No, it hasn`t. I think there is one case where it did land
on --something landed on someone, did not cause any injuries. So it has
really never happened in the history of the space program.
DYSON: Very briefly. This satellite is over six tons. How does that
rate compared to other space junk?
CERUZZI: It`s pretty big. It`s not as big as -- the biggest thing
that ever came back was Sky Lab, uncontrolled. That was a big space
station in 1979. that landed harmlessly over most of the Indian Ocean and
Australia. But this is pretty big. It is about as big as anything in
recent years that has come back like this.
DYSON: Well, is there enough space junk in orbit to create a problem
when we finally get around to private orbital spacecraft?
CERUZZI: Yes, there is. In fact, I`m not worried about this
particular thing hitting anybody. But I am worried about the pollution of
the travel lanes in space, because there`s a lot of debris up there
uncontrolled. It is very dangerous if you hit it. And it is making whole
sections of space unusable. I think we need to do something about that
DYSON: All right. Dr. Paul Ceruzzi, thanks so much for your time
CERUZZI: You`re very welcome.
DYSON: That`s THE ED SHOW. I`m Michael Eric Dyson, in for Ed
Schultz. Catch my radio show, "The Michael Eric Dyson Show," streaming on
DysonShow.org. "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell starts right now.
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