'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, November 4, 2011
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Guest: Daniel Handler
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That`s going to be spectacular. We`ve got a
bunch of news on Issue 2 and SB-5 coming up this hour, too, Ed. We`re also
happy you`re going to be there. It`s great.
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Thanks, Rachel.
SCHULTZ: Have a great weekend.
MADDOW: You, too.
Thanks to you at home for staying with us this next hour as well.
You know what? I had an a-ha moment about 2012 politics. And it is
one for which I`m scolding myself I have to tell you. The reason I`m
scolding myself is because I should have known at Pokemon.
I feel like an idiot about this. We noted it when the Pokemon thing
happened and it seemed like an aberration from normal news and politics and
a one-off weird thing. Looking back now, now that it is so obvious and
finally donned on me, I should have known at Pokemon. We all should have
known at Pokemon.
It was the first presidential debate in Iowa back in August, right
before the Ames, Iowa, straw poll. They have their debate. At the end of
the debate, the candidates give their closing statements.
They know from the format they`re going to have a chance to give a
closing statement. This is one of the things you can prepare for. You
write your closing statement ahead of time.
Well, Herman Cain`s closing statement that night read in part, quote,
"A poet once said --" I could read the rest of it. You`re not going to
believe me if I just quote it, so let`s just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A poet once said, life can
be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it`s never easy when there`s
so much on the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The poet in question here is Pokemon. That is a verse from
the theme song from the Pokemon movie, quoted by Herman Cain in a
presidential debate as inspirational poetry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It`s never
easy when so much is on the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We should have known at Pokemon. We should have known.
I believe that the artist formally known as Herman Cain was trying to
end the whole thing right there. I think he was begging to be exposed
right there. But nobody got it -- I among them.
Sure, we thought it was a little wacky to put it on the show, but we
weren`t willing to see the whole thing at that point. We weren`t willing
to believe this was really happening.
Then Herman Cain unveiled his 9-9-9 plan, right? Where did he come up
with his 9-9 plan?
The first official story from the campaign was it was a secret. Mr.
Cain refusing to repeal his advisers. The second answer was the 9-9-9 plan
came from a guy who works at a local Wells Fargo on Chagrin Boulevard, in a
place called Pepper Pike, Ohio, which may indeed be where the 9-9-9
campaign came from -- Chagrin Boulevard.
But the other place in the world where a 9-9-9 already existed is in
Sim City, in the video game. 9-9 is the operating tax structure in Sim
City which is a fake place. It`s -- Herman Cain angrily denied this. He
said it was a lie that Sim City was where he got his 9-9-9 plan from.
But come on, it`s almost like he`s begging us to get in on the joke.
Then, after that, Herman Cain publishes a book. The title of his
book, "This is Herman Cain!" The exclamation point is part of the title.
One full chapter of the book is about the good fortune bestowed on
Herman Cain by the number 45. That`s the title of the chapter, "Forty-five
-- A Special Number." Naturally, it`s chapter nine. What`s 4 plus 5?
Nine -- 9-9-9. Yes, you are getting the point here.
I think we are all supposed to be getting the point by this time.
We`re not. Around the time the book comes out, Herman Cain rockets to the
top of the polls, polling in first place for the first time both in key
early states, as well as nationwide polls.
How does Herman Cain respond to his surge to front-runner status in
the polls? He decides he`s going to go on a month-long book tour. He also
never actually bothers to set up full campaign staffs in states like New
Hampshire or South Carolina or Iowa. Even now, weeks into being one of the
front-runners in the polls, still no real staff to speak of.
Asked to respond to the idea he is just the Republican flavor of the
month, Herman Cain does not deny that he is the flavor of the month.
Instead, he picks what flavor he is.
According to Herman Cain, he`s black walnut and not just any black
walnut. He`s Haagen-Dazs blog walnut which does not exist anymore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: If you`re Haagen-Dazs black walnut, you don`t go away. All
right? Some of these other flavors of the month have no substance, you
know? Black walnut has staying power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Staying power. It doesn`t exist anymore.
It is one thing to be a gaffe-prone inexperienced candidate, but the
gaffes are too perfect. Black walnut, noted for its staying power, it
doesn`t exist anymore. The book chapter on the magic number, the 9-9-9
thing from the video game. The great poet, Pokemon -- Pokemon? Really, a
Pokemon movie, really?
A string of supposed gaffes like that is not found in nature. But at
that point in the campaign, nobody`s yet figuring out this is not politics.
This is art.
Nobody can quite believe that this is politics, either, but he has now
been at the top of the polls long enough despite knowing in your gut that
there`s something wrong here, the Beltway media feels compelled to start
asking him policy questions. I mean, hey, he`s the front-runner, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Where do you stand the right of return?
CAIN: The right of return? The right of return?
WALLACE: The Palestinian right of return.
CAIN: That`s something that should be negotiated. That`s something
that should be negotiated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Herman Cain admitted the next day that even as he came up
with an answer for it, he didn`t actually have any idea what Chris Wallace
was talking about with that whole right of return thing.
But still, that didn`t earn much more than a shrug from most political
observers. And so, Herman Cain trying to let us all in on the joke doubled
down. You know, you almost see him thinking now, come on, how can I make
this more obvious?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAIN: When they ask me who`s the president of Ubecky, ubecky, becky
stan, stan, I`m going to say, I don`t know, do you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At this point the question America is confronted with, is
this guy pulling our leg? Here`s the answer. Yes, this guy is pulling our
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN STOSSEL: I`m confused on what your position is.
CAIN: My position is I`m pro-life, period.
STOSSEL: If a woman is raped, she should not be allowed to end the
CAIN: That`s her choice. That is not government`s choice. I support
life from conception.
STOSSEL: So abortion should be legal?
CAIN: N, abortion should not be legal. I believe in the sanctity of
STOSSEL: I`m not getting -- I`m not understanding.
CAIN: I believe --
STOSSEL: If it`s her choice, that means it`s legal.
CAIN: No. I believe -- I don`t believe a woman should have an
abortion. Does that help to clear it up?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That should have cleared it up. That should have cleared it
up. It should have cleared up the fact that we are being punked.
Ellis Henican at that moment on FOX News knew America was being
punked. Look at the look on his face. He`s like, ah, I finally figured it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Do you describe yourself as a
CAIN: I`m not sure what you mean by neoconservative. I am a
GREGORY: You`re familiar with the neoconservative movement?
CAIN: I`m not familiar with the neoconservative movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After that one, people still not getting it. Neo, what, huh?
So, the Cain campaign decided to put a big freaking neon arrow on
themselves. They had an foreign adviser to the artist formerly known as
Herman Cain do an interview explaining Cain is boning up on foreign policy.
If you`ve been worried about his answers, don`t worry anymore.
Here`s the interview. Quote, "Almost every day, Herman Cain is handed
a one-page briefing from his chief foreign policy adviser on news from
around the world." Just making sure we get the math right, one page,
almost every day.
This was Pokemon all over again. Pokemon, black walnut, Ubecky,
becky, becky, stan, stan, one page almost every day, the magic number 45,
the Sim City tax plan -- this is about politics but this is not politics.
This is art about politics. This is an art project. This is a
And like this show, me, doing a story from ChristWire as if it were
true that one time, or FOX News soberly reporting on the latest headline
from "The Onion," up until today we`ve been falling for it. And treating
it like a real campaign.
And Republicans have been treating this like a real campaign, at least
by measured by all the money they have been giving him. There`s nothing
Herman Cain can do. There`s nothing this art project can do now to get
Herman Cain out of the top on the polls at this point.
But they are trying. Look at the money they`ve taken in thus far.
This was the first big ad. The Cain train music video showing Mr. Cain
moving away from the camera, also showing the Herman Cain logo shakily
super-imposed -- shaky -- on railroad cars.
And there`s this part where they turn Herman Cain into the train.
Watch this. Train. Cain. Train. Cain. Oh, God, he`s the train, oh.
That was the first video.
Then Herman Cain rockets further up the polls and they release this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK BLOCK, CAIN CAMPAIGN: America has never seen a candidate like
Herman Cain. We need you to get involved, because together we can do this.
We can take this country back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Trying to tell us something with the smile.
There was also this sort of cryptic video from the Cain campaign -- a
long ornate plot involving a Western. There`s some spitting, there`s a
thing about a bird. There`s fake fighting they reveal as fake fighting.
It ends with a smile that I used to see as creepy, but now I see as a
And then from the smile, it rolls right into the end of the video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice chicken, honey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nice chicken, honey. That video, that supposed campaign
video, is called "He carried yellow flowers." Although there`s no
explanation of the flowers, there are lots of odd references to chickens.
Yes. This is supposedly a presidential campaign. Still, no matter
what they do, America is by in large not getting the joke. Still treating
this like this is politics and not art about politics.
But I think this week it is now falling apart. After America spent a
week riveted to a spectacle of a fake campaign, dealing with a real
political scandal in the form of Cain`s previous sexual harassment charges,
today, it seems to have busted wide open.
I mean, here was the Politico.com headline on the sexual harassment
case today. :Herman Cain sexual abuse settlement dated 09/09/09." Need a
After breaking into song, after being questioned about the sexual
harassment allegations at the National Press Club this week, today at the
speech at the Koch brothers even, Herman Cain just decided to give up the
ghost, declaring himself as a performance arts project. Herman Cain just,
just did it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CAIN: I`m proud to know the Koch brothers. I`m very proud to know
the Koch brothers.
Just so I can clarify this for the media, this may be a breaking news
announcement for the media: I am the Koch brothers` brother from another
CAIN: Yes. I`m their brother from another mother -- and proud of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have nothing, just like me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t say nothing. He has me -- his brother
from another mother.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: We`re still waiting for the wig thing to happen. But other
than that, we`re pretty much done.
I blame myself. When he quoted the Pokemon movie song, as something a
great poet once said during a presidential debate, that I think was a
challenge to people who have jobs like mine to recognize this has been an
arts project, this has been satire.
I mean, in my defense, these things can go on for a long time before
people figure them out. In the case of Carl Paladino, ultimately in the
end, by the time he lost the New York governor`s race by 30 points to
Andrew Cuomo, everybody sort of knew Carl Paladino was an art project. He
made his campaign slogan the same thing as the Bob Dob art slogan from the
`90s. I`m mad as hell, too, Carl, Bob, whatever.
By the time people were voting on Carl Paladino in 2010, people have
figured out I think that Carl Paladino was satire. That he was performance
But nobody figured that out during the Republican primary in New York
state. Rick Lazio who Carl Paladino was running against on the Republican
side, Rick Lazio is a totally respectable candidate. Rick Lazio was the
Mitt Romney of the Republican governors race primary in 2010.
He`d run for Senate against Hillary Clinton. Like Mitt Romney, he was
sort of a perennial candidate who had been running forever -- very well
known to voters, very mainstream though he was a little squishy, sort of
slightly uncomfortable, off putting guy.
But Carl Paladino who was an art project about how nuts you could be
while still running for office, Carl Paladino, the bestiality e-mails guy,
the guy who sent out a political mailer spiked with a trash smell, Carl
Paladino beat Rick Lazio in the Republican primary by 24 points.
New York state did not figure out that Carl Paladino was an art
project until they already had him as the Republican nominee for governor.
And so, now, we have Herman Cain. Polls indicate right now that nothing
that Herman Cain is doing is hurting his poll numbers among Republicans at
The cumulative effect of all of this stuff I think means we are now
going to collectively sort of turn the telescope the other way around and
recognize what this has all been about.
I mean, honestly, many liberals are praying Republicans don`t turn the
telescope around. That Republicans do not figure out this joke, that this
art project goes all the way.
Whether or not that`s possible, we leave to the tender ministrations
of my friend Eugene Robinson.
Joining us now is Gene, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst.
Gene, am I throwing a hot potato into your lap here?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Rach, you figured it out.
You figured it out.
MADDOW: I feel like I did.
ROBINSON: For your whole improv, I`ve been slapping my forehead. Of
course we should have known at Pokemon.
Now, here`s my question. First, if we get a McArthur grant, do you
think he`d go away? I mean, because that`s -- literally he deserves one.
I mean, it is a brilliant piece of performance art, not just any old piece
of performance art.
The one thing I think you might have a little wrong is Paladino, I
think that was a genuine long running emotional crisis, OK? But I think we
kind of witnessed a breakdown over a period of some months.
But for Cain, you`re absolutely right. This is some sort of joke that
is ultimately on us as his numbers continue to be, you know, have him in
MADDOW: The reason that I think that this -- the reason I started
feeling differently today than I did about previous gaffes was that I just
started connecting -- I started making a list of what the gaffes have been.
The notable gaffes have been and realizing they`re all, "A," really funny
really, they take a lot of creative energy to come up with.
They`re not standard gaffes at all. And they`re all sort of
comedically perfect, like 9-9-9 being from the Sims, the Pokemon movie,
being the great poet. I mean, Ubecky, ubecky, ubecky, stan, stan.
Stan, stan, saying that twice. That`s not a joke. That`s not a
mistake. That`s a form of genius.
ROBINSON: That is perfect. And to some extent, he`s got to be making
this up as he goes along, right? Some of these answers seem
extemporaneous. Yet, they are perfectly formed as performance art.
As politics, they are not -- they are utter complete nonsense. This
is the weirdest, and I`ll put it in quotes, air quotes, campaign I think
we`ve ever seen and certainly the weirdest to get this far.
Yet, what`s going to happen. I mean, what lies ahead? It`s clear a
whole lot of Republicans don`t like Mitt Romney. A whole lot of
Republicans do like the sort of middle finger aspect of the Herman Cain
campaign. That it is making fun of the traditional ways of doing politics
and policy and making sense.
So, is that dynamic going to continue or are they going to come to
their senses at some point?
MADDOW: I will say the extent to which political work is entertaining
people, he is entertaining people, and I mean, look, I went back and looked
at the Rick Lazio/Carl Paladino stuff again today and was shocked to
remember, though I reported it at the time that Rick Lazio lost by 24
MADDOW: Rick Lazio did not commit a major gaffe during the campaign.
It was all that people were amazed by Paladino. And I just wonder, when we
see Cain`s numbers not going down after the week of sexual harassment
allegations, if it`s possible that we can actually see this translating.
If this -- can we see this not ending?
ROBINSON: You know, I just don`t -- it`s hard to imagine, but it
hasn`t ended. And I think there`s always going to be a not Mitt Romney in
the race who`s up there with Mitt Romney kind of vying for the lead. So
we`ve gotten rid of Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry has
the money. He`s a logical person to rise as Cain falls. That`s what
logically should happen.
But, you know, Perry has this problem on immigration that a whole lot
of the Tea Party types just will not abide. They will never forgive him
And Herman Cain, you know, is so the anti-Romney that I think they`re
going to keep telling pollsters that they like the guy.
Now, when it comes time to vote, are they going to vote for him? I
don`t know. But I think he could be up there high in the polls until we
actually start having caucuses and primaries and then we`re just going to
have to see what happens.
MADDOW: Oh my God. I`m having so much more fun than I ever thought I
would be at this time of year.
ROBINSON: Me, too, me, too. I mean, what`s he going to do next?
What is -- brother from another mother?
MADDOW: Where do you go from there? I know.
ROBINSON: Someone was trying to figure out the female equivalent and
came up with sister from another mister.
MADDOW: I was going to say, that`s sister from another mister. Let
me hook you up, Gene.
Right. Gene Robinson, MSNBC political analyst, Pulitzer Prize winning
columnist for the "Washington Post." Gene, it is great to see you. Thank
you, my friend.
ROBINSON: Great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Gene`s latest column, about how Mitt Romney`s campaign is not
inevitable but rather evitable. Genius.
The interview tonight is Daniel Handler better known as Lemony Snicket
still coming. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: With just four days to go until election day, the great state
of Ohio is for the moment a perfect microcosm of conservative politics in
2011. Hey, future alien overlords, if you want a snap shot case study to
teach your alien children about what happened to Republican politics in the
Obama era, here is your case study.
Ohio repealed a chunk of union rights in their state, voting yes on
the Issue 2 referendum on Tuesday means you`re with the Republicans on
stripping rights. Voting no on the Issue 2 referendum in Ohio next week
means you want what the Republicans did to be repealed.
Now, around this Issue 2 referendum on Tuesday, you`ve got it all.
You`ve got truck loads of money, spending of murky origins, big name donors
and Governor John Kasich, a millionaire governor who before he was governor
was both a vice president at Lehman Brothers before it went belly-up in the
great financial implosion in 2008, and a decade long FOX News personality.
Once elected Ohio governor, Mr. Kasich made it his priority to go
after union rights and the people of Ohio broadly speaking did not like
that at all. The state hated that idea, in fact, again.
See, the last time Ohio voted on union rights was in 1958.
Republicans back then wanted to outlaw union shops. They proposed a
constitutional amendment which they put before the state`s voters. Ohio
voters rejected the Republicans` big union-busting idea back then hugely
and in the process they replaced the Republican governor with a Democratic
governor. They gave Democrats both houses of the state legislature and
gave Democrats every statewide office other than the secretary of state.
Now, we`re looking at a degree of disapproval like that again just 33
percent of Ohioans say they are with Kasich and the Republicans on
stripping union rights.
But this is 2011 and not 1958. And we are in the post-Citizens United
world, where a vulnerable, unpopular Republican governor with a vulnerable,
unpopular agenda doesn`t resign himself to defeat, try to contain his loss,
try to work with the other side. He just calls in a little help from his
friends out of state, in rides the cavalry.
I`ve been waiting all year to use that. Who is this Republican
cavalry now rushing in to Ohio to save the governor/FOX News
celebrity/Lehman Brothers union-busting guy?
Pause here and think about this for a second. Close your eyes -- no,
don`t close your eyes, squint. Who do you see riding in to save the day,
save the union-busting bill in Ohio in this post-Citizens United world? Oh
my goodness. It`s Citizens United!
Yes. As of yesterday, Citizens United, the group for whom the Supreme
Court case is named will, quote, "begin blasting six figures worth of
advertisements throughout Ohio." The president of Citizens United said
running this anti-union rights ad would cost them at least $100,000, at
least -- which puts the total amount of money Citizens United is spending
in Ohio somewhere between 100 grand and infinity.
Beyond the actual group, citizens united, when you think after shady
third party out of state groups driving dump trucks of money into an
ideologically charged issue, what do you think of? Which individuals come
to mind? Perhaps the Koch brothers? Yes, that`s right. The Koch brothers
are not just Herman Cain`s brothers from another mother or sisters from
another mister, they are also the money behind Americans for Prosperity.
And the Ohio state chapter of Americans for Prosperity has hosted 13
town halls in the last 2 1/2 months to convince people to not repeal
Kasich`s union-stripping bill. The Koch brothers and privately held
company are the number one donor to the Republican Governors Association
for this election cycle, over $1 million donated so far.
In Ohio, the governors association is putting the Koch brothers` money
to work funding more anti-union rights TV ads, almost half million dollars
of TV time in Ohio`s five largest markets.
So Citizens United, check. Koch brothers, check. Koch brothers
again, check, check.
Who`s missing? When you think about the ragged edge of politics in
the 2000s, what`s the first far right Republican name that pops to mind,
what`s the first name that pops into your head? Cheney. No, not that
Cheney. And, no, not that Cheney either.
This time it`s Mary Cheney, interestingly, and her group, Alliance for
America`s Future which is based in Cleveland. I`m sorry, based in
Columbus. I`m sorry, actually based in Virginia. Not Ohio. Based in
Virginia and they don`t reveal any of their funders.
But they do reveal their spending, sort of. They promised to spend
over seven figures trying to get Ohioans to vote yes on Issue 2, to vote
yes on Kasich`s union-stripping thing.
Over the next few days, Citizens United, and Americans for Prosperity
and Make Ohio Great, which is so new apparently it doesn`t have a logo.
That`s the Republican Governors Association group, and Alliance for
America`s Future, and the Mary Cheney thing and other conservative groups,
like Dick Armey FreedomWorks group, all of those groups will be spending
millions and millions of dollars in the next four days in Ohio to try to
flip these numbers.
Whether or not anonymous money, anonymous out of state money can do
that, can actually change Ohioans` minds about whether or not they want to
preserve union rights in that state, we`ll have that answer shortly. We`ll
have that answer on Tuesday night.
MADDOW: Right now, this apparently is happening all across the
country. The first ever RACHEL MADDOW SHOW fan appreciation night. We
sent packages of RACHEL MADDOW SHOW branded stuff, cocktail shakers and
highlighters and stuff, to lots of people across the country who signed up
online and they are hosting watch parties for the show right now, watching
Hi, you guys. Hello!
There are 600 of these parties happening tonight all across the
country. From all of us here, I have to say, we hope you`re having a great
time -- adults, kids, hedgehogs. Hi, Wiki (ph).
If this works out, we`re going to do more of these things. And if it
means that more of you send us pictures of your pet hedgehogs, we are
definitely going to do more of these things.
Thank you, guys, so much for doing this. It`s so cool.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Happy Friday. This time last week, we are heading into what
we knew was going to be a big, early, super cold winter storm on the East
Coast which New York City celebrated by confiscating the generators from
the "Occupy Wall Street" site downtown, the generators that protesters were
using to power things like heaters.
So, on the weekend of the big storm, New York dispatched firefighters
to take the generators away so there would be no further source of heat.
"Occupy Wall Street" not only stuck it out through the storm but fixed
the no generator problem in rather spectacular fashion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a stationary bike with a large flat wheel
which spins a motor. That motor goes to a one-way dial which goes to a
deep cycle marine battery. I`m powering a battery right now then I can
take that battery and I can plug it in for kitchen, or comfort and power
the things we used to power with gas0powered generators and the general
assembly at "Occupy Wall Street" gave us the money to build enough of these
bikes to power enough batteries to power these at "Occupy Wall Street."
We`ll have ten of these set up and be powering the whole park with battery.
You have to work at it, but that`s a pro being here at "Occupy Wall
Street." We`re living on one square block and we need some exercise.
People need to run off steam. We have a lot of volunteers.
We should be able to power these. So the labor, if you will, is not
an issue. We did an energy survey to find out how much energy we were
using and how much bikes it would take to power it all time and actually 10
will give us twice as much power as we`ve been using. We`re preparing for
having heaters for winter.
I`m burning up, staying warm just doing this. Don`t need heaters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was video shot by "New York Daily News." at our blog, we
have links, the group that built the awesome DIY bike generator things.
The group is called Times Up.
That project is kind of great, right? I mean, it`s a great solution
to that problem. It`s also very earnest. I mean that in a good way. Even
if you`re not down with the whole "Occupy Wall Street" thing, you kind of
have to admit this is adorable.
Ten bikes for twice the power now that they don`t have the generators.
Come on. Plus, it keeps them fit and less crabby.
Joining us for the interview tonight will be someone who`s a bit of a
cultural hero of mine. His new work to support the "Occupy Wall Street"
protests is something that I am sure I`m not allowed to call adorable and
like all of his work, it is somehow at the same time sort of
heartbreakingly earnest and the somehow the opposite of earnest.
Writing as Lemony Snicket, he has made a set of 13 observations made
by Lemony Snicket while watching "Occupy Wall Street" from a discreet full
distance. We`ll post a link to the full list to our Web site.
Among the highlights, number one, quote, if you work hard and become
successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you
worked hard. Just as you are tall with long hair, it doesn`t mean you
would be a midget if you were bald.
So, see, they`re both neat but not necessarily related.
Number four, people who say money doesn`t matter are like people who
say cake doesn`t matter. It`s probably because they`ve had a few slices.
Number nine, people gathering in the streets feeling wrong tend to be
loud as it is difficult to make one self heard on the other side of an
Number ten, quote, it is not always the job of people shouting outside
impressive buildings to solve problems, it`s often the job of the people
inside who have paper, pens, desks and an impressive view.
Number 11 -- this is the most widely quoted one this week -- quote,
historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or
even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a
story with an unhappy ending.
Number 13, 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance,
easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their head, food on their
tables and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely, an
arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.
Joining us tonight for the interview is Daniel Handler, otherwise
known to his readers as Lemony Snicket. He is the author of the best-
selling collection of children`s books, "A Series of Unfortunate Events"
and a member of Occupy Writers.
Mr. Handler, thank you to be here.
DANIEL HANDLER, "LEMONY SNICKET": Ms. Maddow, it`s a pleasure.
MADDOW: It`s embarrassing for me to read my work in front of you. I
should have handed it over to you.
HANDLER: I felt kind of blushy.
MADDOW: I hope I didn`t screw it up.
HANDLER: No, you did wonderfully. You should. Do you have a career
MADDOW: Yes, ahead of me in some future life.
Why did you decide to do the Occupy Writers thing?
HANDLER: They asked me to and I said no because I`m, though I support
"Occupy Wall Street," wasn`t down there and I just felt like I didn`t -- I
couldn`t imagine the story I could tell. I was actually swimming laps
because, you know, you don`t get a body like mine without working out
And I was to share a lap with a guy and he didn`t want to share a lap.
He said that`s because he was a major donor to the building where we were
both swimming laps. It suddenly hit me he was the 1 percent and he hadn`t
thought of anything but his own entitlements, and I sat at a bus stop on
the way home and wrote some 13 observations.
MADDOW: He was a donor and therefore thought he did not have to share
a lane and should not have to.
HANDLER: Yes. Well, he didn`t make a convincing case. But he said
to me, "I`m a major donor, so I don`t think I have to share a lap."
HANDLER: And I thought, what?
MADDOW: Yes. See, that makes you all --
HANDLER: We`re all swimming together, sir. We`re all trying to
MADDOW: You`re in my water, buckco.
HANDLER: It`s everybody`s water. There`s enough water for everyone
to splash around in.
MADDOW: See, the difference between you and I, among others, is that
that makes you go write this brilliant thing, getting quoted all over the
country. That would make me want to, like, pinch him.
HANDLER: I didn`t say I didn`t want to pinch him. I did not.
HANDLER: I try not to pinch men in the pool. It creates the wrong
MADDOW: I`m with you.
HANDLER: That`s something we have in common.
MADDOW: Yes. No. It`s been a long time, although I`m thinking about
HANDLER: Everyone experiments when they`re young.
MADDOW: Or they`re 38.
Writing is not always an explanatory thing. It`s not always
expository. But I felt like your writing about "Occupy Wall Street"
actually had a very cleansing expository effect. You actually explained
sort of what it`s about in some ways.
Do you feel like the movement needs explaining or do you feel like
it`s doing all of its own expressing well --
HANDLER: Well, I wouldn`t presume to explain for other people who are
doing things like powering their own electricity through bicycles, but I
was puzzled by the reaction to "Occupy Wall Street." I was puzzled by
people`s puzzlement over it, because it seemed pretty simple to me that
they were talking about a bunch of basic social contracts that have soured
and have gone wrong and about an income inequality issue that kind of
everybody knows that nobody talks about.
And so I didn`t seek to explain people who weren`t doing a good job of
it, but it just seemed to me like maybe if I said it in the form of many
examples using cake, then maybe some people would get more relaxed about
MADDOW: It made me realize that there is a -- that it is one thing to
explain what it is that you want and it is another thing to explain why
MADDOW: They`re not the same thing.
HANDLER: Not at all. And it just seemed to me, maybe this is because
of my sociology professor, Rob Rosenthal, the general reason of people
shouting outside buildings is because their message is not being talked
about anywhere else. That makes you take to the streets.
HANDLER: I`m grateful for people who have taken the streets over this
because it`s important and needs to be articulated.
"The Wall Street Journal" wrote about you having done this as your
effort to explain "Occupy Wall Street" to young readers. I don`t know if
that was your intention.
HANDLER: Well, "The Wall Street Journal" didn`t check with me or
anything, but I have an 8-year-old son and he was actually -- he saw some
pictures, he was curious why people were camping in the city. And I tried
to explain it the best I can. I had a very clumsy explanation of why
people were upset with various financial institutions that might make sense
to an 8-year-old. What he said to me was, that makes me so mad, I want to
break a window.
HANDLER: And it was useful to say, well let me show you a picture of
something that`s happening in Rome. Here are some people so mad that they
want to break a window.
It just occurred to me that it seems like a universal feeling in that
there are a lot of families I guess that are successful that maybe talk
about it`s because they work really hard and they work harder than other
people and may deserve it.
In my household, when we talk about our situation, we use the word
luck a lot. We`re extremely lucky, lucky to live in a big house, we`re
lucky that I had a family that helped me study, that let me become a
writer, and it was luck. It was luck. It was luck.
And when I see a lot of right wing reaction to "Occupy Wall Street,"
they seem to think it`s more like skill. And that frustrates me.
MADDOW: We are also -- we`re also seeing specific parts of the right
trying to make occupy Wall Street very scary, trying to define it as a
HANDLER: Yes. I mean, I grew up in San Francisco and I attended a
snooty little arts college, so I`m not afraid of petulant people holding
signs at all. That`s just been part of my whole life.
But I guess other people are scared of it.
MADDOW: My favorite is the direct mailers when Nancy Pelosi became
House speaker talking about San Francisco values.
HANDLER: Yes. Terrible.
MADDOW: Tolerate those people.
HANDLER: Well, what I like, I just saw an article about San Francisco
that referred to us as latte drinking. I wanted to say, oh, honey, the
lattes are everywhere now. With us, it`s the filtered coffee. It will
come to you soon. It hasn`t hit everywhere yet.
MADDOW: It takes forever.
HANDLER: We`re so coffee snobby. We`re way past snobby.
MADDOW: Daniel Handler, otherwise known as Lemony Snicket, I have to
tell you, I`m dorking out that you`re here. Thank you so much.
HANDLER: Well, thank you very much. You`re a credit to your
MADDOW: Oh, thank you. That`s very nice. OK, I have to go now.
No, I have more news. We some honestly truly good news ahead on this
show. It`s not partisan good news where somebody is up, somebody`s down,
it`s not sports good news or anything like that. It`s true, true good news
from Louisiana -- good news I never thought I would be able to report.
And that is coming up.
MADDOW: Hey, good news. Honestly, some good news I never expected to
Its about Caddo Parish, the corner of northwest Louisiana where
Shreveport is. Shreveport was the last Confederate capital of Louisiana.
And the Caddo Parish was the last place in America to lower the Confederate
flag over land when the South lost the Civil War in 1865.
Less than 40 years after the South surrendered, in 1902, Caddo Parish
gave land to the daughters of the confederacy to erect this monument. The
guys on the corner are Confederate general. On top, there is an anonymous
Confederate soldier holding a rifle. It`s also got the mousse of history
and the words lest we forget on the monument.
In 1951, to make it clear if it wasn`t already, Caddo added a big
Confederate flag. The flag was not part of the original monument at the
turn of the century. They added it 50 years later.
That monument is at the foot of the Caddo Parish courthouse. So, when
prosecutors, witnesses, potential jurors enter the courthouse they have to
walk by the Confederate generals and Confederate soldier with his gun and
they have to walk under that Confederate flag.
Two and a half years ago, a Shreveport resident named Carl Staples was
called jury duty at the courthouse but he told the clerk he did not feel he
could carry out his civic responsibility to do jury duty because he did not
want to serve under a Confederate flag to do so. The parish clerk told Mr.
Staples he had to do jury duty. He was put in a jury pool to hear the case
of an African-American man accused of killing a white man.
At the jury selection, Mr. Staples again objected to the Confederate
flag out in front of the court house, calling it a, quote, "symbol of one
of the most heinous crimes ever committed to another member of the human
race." He told the court, quote, "You are here for justice and you
overlook this injustice by continuing to fly this flag."
The prosecutor asked to Carl Staples from the jury because of his
objection to the Confederate flag, arguing that he couldn`t be impartial in
The judge agreed and let him be struck. And Mr. Staples did not
participate in the justice system on that day. The prosecution struck five
more African-American jurors that day and the jury chosen for the case for
that case, 11 white people and one African-American person found the
defendant guilty. He was sentenced to die.
We reported on this back in May when the ACLU raised the issue of the
flag in an appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Louisiana had the
highest race of incarceration in the United States and they are
particularly adept at locking up African-Americans in particular.
Louisiana has a population that is 32 percent black, but Louisiana has
a prison population that is 70 percent black.
And at least in Caddo Parish, it is apparently a prerequisite on
serving on a jury there that you do not object serving on the jury under a
I said there is good news here, unexpected good news. Yesterday, the
Caddo Parish commission like the county commission but it`s Louisiana, so
it`s a parish instead of a county, the Caddo Parish commission held a
hearing on that Confederate flag flying in front of the courthouse. The
vast majority of the local residents who showed up to speak on the issue
said they had come to say they wanted the flag taken down.
One of the people who turned out to speak was Carl Staples. He made a
brief statement without ever identifying himself as the man who got kicked
off the jury for objecting to the flag. One local pastor also spoke
arguing that the building was not just any old place in town.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our courthouse is especially speak the ideals of
justice and they should be, they must be surrounded with symbols that speak
of justice and freedom for all people. If we can decide today to remove
the Confederate flag from the grounds of our courthouse, it will be a step
in the direction of living in further to those, further in to those ideals
of freedom and justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After hearing from concerned citizens, the Caddo commission
voted to remove the Confederate flag from in front of the Caddo courthouse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH EPPERSON, SR.: I see no further request for discussion. At
this time, we will vote on the motion. That motion passes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The commission split down the middle, six Democrats and six
Republicans. But the vote was not even close. Eleven commissioners voted
to remove it, only one voted against. By order of the commission, the
Confederate flag was due to be taken down by 4:00 p.m. today, but the local
newspaper and TV stations report that the Confederate was gone very shortly
after the vote, replaced with an American flag.
So, now, when you enter the Caddo courthouse, the parish`s most
visible symbol of justice and equality under the law, you have to still
walk by the Confederate monument with the generals and the soldier with the
rifle, and the lest we forget sign but the only flags you walk under are
the Louisiana state flag and this one.
MADDOW: All right. "Best New Thing in the World Today" is also our
best new fake thing in the world with. Seriously it is really fake. It`s
the fake end of a totally long, totally fake space odyssey involving six
fake astronauts who are also real men locked in the maze of windowless
containers in Russia for 520 days, pretending to be in a rocket ship fake
flying to Mars and back.
We first reported on this ethic fake odyssey about eight months ago.
We caught with the fake astronauts just as they fake reached their fake
goal. They put on real space suits and then fake walked around on the fake
surface of fake Mars, collecting fake mineral samples. They trumped around
a sandbox in the dark pretending they were on Mars. True story.
That was eight months ago that they were on fake Mars but today in
Russia, the six fake Marsnauts fake landed back here on earth, real earth,
and they released from their fake spaceship to briefly enjoy some human
contact with someone other than themselves before being hustled away again
for three more days of quarantine.
The Mars 500 experiment is a joint project between the European Space
Agency and the best named institution in Russia, the Russian Institute for
Biomedical Problems. Yes.
The point of this awesomely named institution is to find out what
happens when you shut up six people together for a long period of time with
no possibility of escape, which is what you have to do for the seriously
long journey if you were going to Mars. They couldn`t fake their way out
of gravity, though, so the fake astronauts did not experience
weightlessness but the isolation, the communication delays, the bad food,
the cramped quarters, that was all real -- real fakery.
So, eight months in the container to pretend to fly to Mars, then put
on the space suits and pretend to walk fake Mars and back in the container
to pretend to fly back. Now, they are allowed to acknowledge they are on
earth, which is, of course, where they have been all along but in a weird
way. They are alive. The men are very, very pale and they achieved a real
triumph in fake space travel -- which is so weird it can`t be real but it
So, that`s "The Best New Thing in the World Today." Welcome home
fellow earthlings who have been here all along. Welcome home.
Thanks to everyone who went to a Maddow house party tonight. Let us
know at "Maddow Blog" how it all went.
Haven`t you had such a good time in your Maddow house party that you`d
like to stay around for another hour and watch some prison? Come on.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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