'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, August 5th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
August 5, 2013
Guests: Dan Rather, John Shiffman, Lori Edwards
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
I want to say thanks actually to Ezra but also to Melissa Harris-Perry
for filling in while I was on vacation last week. They both did a great
job. I`m very happy to be back.
This is a giant multimillion dollar clock that is being built in the
hills of west Texas. It`s about 2,000 feet elevation, not sure exactly
where in west Texas it is, but it`s out about 2,000 feet. It`s supposed to
stand 200 feet tall when it`s done. This clock is supposed to keep time
for 10,000 years.
Apparently, the plan is that every year for the next 10,000 years,
this clock keeping time will go off like a coo-coo clock and play a
distinct sound, a fresh new sound new for that year every year for 10,000
It is being built. It was dreamed up by some big thinkers. There are
famous big thinkers that are on the board of this project, like Esther
Dyson, the great Brian Eno. They`ve been working on this thing in some
capacity since 1996 in west Texas. It`s so far has cost tens of millions
The man who has put up at least $40 million of the money spent so far
on this clock is the man whose signature you`ll find here at the bottom of
www.10000yearclock.net. If you can`t read that, it is Jeff Bezos, the
founder of Amazon.com. He`s the deep pockets behind this 10,000-year 200-
foot tall in a west Texas mountain project.
I learned this in a profile of Jeff Bezos in the "Wall Street Journal"
-- a newspaper that scared everyone in 2007 when it got itself sold to
Rupert Murdoch. I mean, it was one thing to have a kind of eccentric super
right wing Australian billionaire own something like you see here, FOX News
Channel. It`s one thing to have an Australian billionaire on the FOX News
Channel or the frequently insane "New York Post" tabloid, right?
OK. But the "Wall Street Journal"? A real newspaper?
Yes, Rupert Murdoch got "The Wall Street Journal" -- a real newspaper
and a real newspaper like "The Boston Globe" found itself sold again. "The
Globe" had been sold 20 years ago for $1.1 billion, billion with a "B," but
this weekend when the globe got sold to the owner of the Boston Red Sox, it
went for $70 million, which is less than 7 percent of its price in 1993.
It used to be that the newspapers were the big solid businesses that
would buy up comparably wobbly baseball teams. "The Chicago Tribune"
newspaper bought the Chicago Cubs in 1981 for a sum, but now, it`s the
baseball teams that buy the wobbly major daily newspapers.
If you put the worth of the Red Sox up against the price paid for "The
Boston Globe", it`s not just that the team owner for the Red Sox could buy
"The Boston Globe", it`s that he could easily buy it five times over, ten
times over, 15 times over. Or if it was a news magazine you were after,
even you could buy an almost infinite number of major news magazines since
you`re getting pretty close to dividing by zero when you`re talking about
major news magazines.
"Newsweek" was sold for one blessed dollar in they year 2010 to a man
who promptly died in 2011. When news broke this weekend that it had been
sold again, the terms of the sale were not disclosed.
But do they really need to be? Do you think it was more than a dollar
this time or less than a dollar maybe?
There have been rumblings for a few months that the Koch brothers will
buy something called The Tribune Group, which includes "The Chicago
Tribune", as well as "The L.A. Times," "The Baltimore Sun," "The Orlando
Sentinel", "The Sun Sentinel" in South Florida, "The Hartford Courant".
Also, maybe deal might include the second largest Spanish language daily in
Now, how you feel about the prospect of the Koch brothers owning all
of those newspapers probably depends in large part on how you feel about
the Koch brothers, how you feel about these aggressively political activist
billionaire brothers and their fairly radical right wing politics.
I mean, even people who don`t like their politics and that activism
probably don`t mind it in the same way when they used their money to build
theaters in the Koch name at Lincoln Center or whatever, which they do.
But owning those newspapers, owning "The L.A. Times," owning "The Chicago
Tribune," owning two of the largest newspapers in the important swing
states in the country in Florida? The Koch brothers?
When news broke today that the libertarian-ish maybe billionaire
founder of Amazon.com had added a little something called "The Washington
Post" to his portfolio of investments, alongside the 10,000-year clock in
that mountain in west Texas and also a company that makes little tiny
mobile air bags that are supposed to deploy when they sense that you might
be dropping your cell phone, and also pets.com and cosmo.com both of which
went out of business when he invested in them.
When news broke today that the venerable "Washington Post" was being
bought by Jeff Bezos for $250 million cash, which is less than 1 percent of
what he is worth, does what that means and what you think about that depend
more on what you think about "The Washington Post" as an institution or
what you think of Jeff Bezos as a guy? How much does ownership of news
outlets make a difference in the worth of what those news outlets produce?
That is becoming a less and less abstract question all the time in our
country now. Because as the news business becomes totally fiscally
devalued, frankly, random people can buy even its most esteemed and
important pillars for the change rolling around in the bottom of their golf
bag. What does that mean for our national civic foundational need for
journalism? For reporters to find out what is going on in our country and
our world and our government and to tell us the truth about it in a way we
can understand? We really need that.
A lot of the greatest stuff in American journalism is on sale at fire
sale prices. How important is it who is buying?
Joining us now on this show, which is aired by MSNBC, which is part of
NBC Universal, which is owned by a company called Comcast, joining us now
is Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports,"
which is on AXS TV. And last I checked AXS TV was owned by, I think, the
sports mogul Mark Cuban and the TV guy Ryan Seacrest and a live events
company called AEG and the talent agency CAA, and I think in minority
interest is owned by CBS -- a little company for which Dan Rather used to
host "The CBS Evening News".
Dan, it`s great to have you here tonight.
DAN RATHER, AXS TV: Great to be here.
MADDOW: Should we be like NASCAR drivers or British soccer teams
where we have to wear the corporate ownership for the companies that we
RATHER: Let`s hope it doesn`t come to that.
MADDOW: Is it important who owns the major institutions of American
journalism as to whether or not the journalism --
RATHER: I think the answer is yes. Make no mistake, when I heard
this news this afternoon, my reaction was holy online news Batman. Bezos
is buying "The Washington Post."
But after I caught my breath a little, I did come down to it makes a
difference of who buys the newspaper. And this will -- whether it turns
out to be something good for "The Washington Post" good for quality
journalism of integrity, good for the country or just good for Bezos,
depends on his attitude as the owner of the newspaper.
Great journalism begins with owners and publishers who have guts, who
don`t back up, don`t back down when the pressure`s on, don`t succumb to
what I previously call the corporatization and politicalization and
trivialization of the news.
Now, if Bezos brings to "The Washington Post", his entrepreneurial
tech mogul know-how about the importance of building and sustaining brands
in the mega bucks it takes to do that, and if he brings to it the kind of
patience he`s had with his other businesses and the concentrating on
customers and the innovation. He made with "The Washington Post" lay out
something that will save print journalism as we know it. That`s a lot to
lay on him.
But I come back to it depends on his approach. If he tries to bend
the paper to his political whims, if he tries to change the core values of
the paper, then it`ll be a minus.
But my bet`s the other way. I think this will turn out to be a great
day for journalism with Bezos buying "The Washington Post."
MADDOW: I was looking back at the Rupert Murdoch story to see if it
was -- fact-checking myself to see if it was fair to say that it scared the
bejesus out of everybody. And I think that is the technical term for how
people thought about that purchase.
But looking back at that, I mean, with "The Washington Post", it`s the
Graham family that sold it. With "The Wall Street Journal," similar
situation with the family that owned the Dow Jones Corporation since 1902.
We have this history of Chicago, it`s similar. "The L.A. Times," it`s
similar. This history of sort of patrician families making a lot of money
in the newspaper business and holding on to these companies, the
Sulzbergers at "The New York Times," holding on to these companies
generationally, and us trusting them to be good stewards of those important
As newspapers become really cheap, is there reason to just think
there`s going to be more turnover and nobody invested in the long run in
their family name and their family sort of honor being associated --
RATHER: Well, I certainly think you`ll have more sales of newspapers
because in "The Washington Post", I think their revenues were down 45
percent over the last six years.
The answer to the first, more sales? Yes.
Answer to the second, is it going to be just to put forward their own
political beliefs as the Murdoch empire has frequently done with his
newspapers? Or is it going to be the kind of ownership the Sulzbergers
with "The New York Times" and the Grahams with "The Washington Post", the
Chandlers previously with "The Los Angeles Times".
Taking the view, these people took the view a public journal is a
public trust. And we want to meet -- we`re going to be emotionally
involved in the responsibilities of that trust. Bill Paley at CBS for a
long time, what they do is build a fire wall between their own political
interests and the interest of their corporate being and the paper.
If that`s the approach, then it`s very good who buys the paper. But
if it`s someone who is interested in just turning ha profit or is
interested in their own using it as a political propaganda sheet, then it`s
But I want to be optimistic about this -- I think there`s reason to be
optimistic about this. "The Washington Post" needs an infusion of money to
rebuild its brand, to rebuild itself as a newspaper that matters, not only
in the United States but also in a worldwide basis. And my money would be
that Bezos will lead it to that high ground.
MADDOW: James Fallows writing today at "The Atlantic", had a similar
take on this, essentially saying, you know what, we live in an era of
extreme inequality, and if one of the consequences of this new gilded age
is newspapers are seen as charity for civic-minded zillionaires, maybe
that`s the way that newspapers survive.
RATHER: You know, I work for one. Mark Cuban you mentioned before,
and he`s been tremendous to work for because he`s invested in our news
product but I never hear from him except when we`re under attack and he
comes to our defense.
MADDOW: Wow, strange times. It`s hard to trust in a system like this
but it has never been more clear that this is the system we are in.
Dan Rather, the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on
the aforementioned AXS TV -- Dan, thank you so much.
RATHER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Lots ahead night, including where this happened, and how
the American city that this happened to one year ago today is fighting back
against the company that did it to them. It is a gripping fight and that`s
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Interesting new information tonight about why the U.S.
government has shut down 19 embassies across Africa and the Middle East and
extended those closings of those embassies all the way through this week.
They`re saying those 19 embassies will not be open until the weekend at the
"The New York Times" says tonight that the reason all the embassies
got shut down was the intercept of a direct communication of some kind
between this guy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, and this guy,
who`s the head of al Qaeda in Yemen. That, of course, is the most active
and most people think the most dangerous chapter of al Qaeda now.
The U.S. government intercepted communication, apparently, about some
attack or attacks that were apparently timed to right now by intercepting a
communication between these two men.
It`s interesting, though. On Friday night, "The New York Times"
posted an article saying there had been an intercept of something related
to al Qaeda that caused the embassy closings but they were not specific
about the fact that it was the top guy, the one household name al Qaeda
terrorist left in the world, right? "The Times" did not say on Friday that
it was Zawahiri, the top guy, who was one of the people in the conversation
that was intercepted.
"The Times" apparently knew that on Friday night when they posted
their story but did not include that detail in the story. Quote, "In an
article posted on the web on Friday and published on Saturday, the
identities of the al Qaeda leaders whose conversations were intercepted
were withheld by "The New York Times" at the request of senior American
intelligence officials. So, "The Times" reporters knew but didn`t say in
the article because the government asked them not to say.
Then, on Sunday, reporters from "McClatchy" wrote about the same
intercept and the same threat, and they went ahead and printed the guys`
names. Quote, "After the government became aware of this article, the
`McClatchy` article, the government dropped its objections to `The Times`
publishing the same information."
It is kind of ridiculous that everything we know about national
security we know because of leaks. That is the way our government
communicates with us about counterterrorism and national security issues
broadly, even just law enforcement to a certain extent. It`s anonymous
sources tight trading information carefully to reporters in a way that is
half managed and half chaos, and nothing is ever official.
And you can see the way they`re sort of trying to balance their
strategy here. The embassies are all being closed for a long time, now
being close for a long time, that`s a big deal. You want people to know
that this big deal thing you have done is justified.
So it`s helpful to be able to say something other than oh vaguely we
have national security concerns so we`re shutting down the embassies.
We`re worried about some threat we`re not going to talk about. That`s
still the official line, right?
It is helpful to be able to say that actually what this is an
intercept of al Qaeda`s top leadership talking to each other directly about
an imminent attack at a specific time.
That said, you do not necessarily want the newspapers to print that
the exact intercept you got was between guy named "A" and guy named "B"
because then you are telling those specific guys in the pages of "The Miami
Herald" or the pages of "The New York Times" that whatever means they were
using to communicate with each other, that they felt was safe enough to use
to have that conversation is not actually safe enough. They should not use
that communication anymore because the U.S. government can listen into
that. They might have thought it was safe, but it`s not.
So for U.S. intelligence purposes, whatever means they used to
communicate -- those two al Qaeda guys -- that may have been a very
valuable source of information for the United States. Valuable enough to
have produced this threat warning and shut down all these embassies. But
now, that source of information has been disclosed to the people who were
And so as an information source, intelligence source because of this
leak, it is gone. And, of course, the other side of this is that it`s all
political. What we`re talking about are the surveillance powers of the
United States government, and right now, there are heightened domestic
political considerations around those issues. More than there used to be
thanks to Edward Snowden.
And if you think about it, if you want people and politicians to feel
better about the immense surveillance power of the United States
government, then say what it`s for. It`s helpful to show whenever you can
what we`re using this power for is stopping specific plots by al Qaeda guys
that you can name.
All right? When you`re talking about the abstract about the power of
the government to spy, that power is less appealing in the abstract than
when you think about the government deploying such a power against bad
guys. It sounds great if it`s for catching terrorists.
That change in feeling about the government`s power depending on what
the government is using that power for, that change in our feeling about
these government powers is a quantifiably observable thing.
Look at this -- this is just from a couple of weeks ago. Pew Research
Center surveyed Americans and asked them this question. Do you favor the
government collecting metadata from all communications in the United
States? And the answer pretty much is, no. Americans are not into that.
Only 21 percent of people favor that idea.
But then if you ask the same people, the exact same question again, do
you favor the government collecting metadata from all the communications in
the U.S. and then you add this, as part of antiterrorism efforts? Oh,
well, when you put it that way, yes. Yes, that doesn`t sound like such a
Support for the exact same activity by the U.S. government jumps by 17
points, when you ask the exact same question about the exact same behavior
by the exact same government, but you just mention terrorism in the same
sentence -- you get a 17-point jump in support. That was true when they
asked about metadata. It was also true when they asked about the
government actually listening in to your phone calls and reading your e-
This was the question -- look, do you favor the government taking not
just the metadata but the actual recordings, the actual text of almost all
communications in the United States? You ask Americans that and they said,
no, we do not like the idea of the government doing that. Only 16 percent
of Americans say I think that`s a good idea.
But if you ask exactly the same question, exactly the same, phrased
exactly the same way but at the end mention, as part of anti-terrorism
efforts. Just mentioning terrorism, that makes the support jump eight
points. We may not like what our government is doing but if the government
says what it`s doing relates to fighting terrorism, then what the
government`s doing seems more appealing.
So, if the government`s feeling heat for its massive secret
surveillance power that we only find out through leaks and whistleblowers,
politically, it can help to link the exercise of that government power.
That raw capacity to this fight we want the government to win against
George W. Bush encapsulated this perfectly when the first wiretapping
was reported by "The New York Times` in 2005 when he basically said, you
know what, if you`re not al Qaeda, you`ve got nothing to worry about.
This sort of thing cuts the other direction too, though. What if the
American people haven`t much cared about or maybe have even approved of
something the government was doing because we thought it was for fighting
terrorism but instead it`s not. Something that everybody -- maybe a little
squeamish about but basically OK with because it`s supposedly only for use
against bad guys in foreign countries. Guys like this, right?
It turns out instead, it`s being used by local American cops for
regular old crime for stuff done by Americans that has nothing to do with
wacky religious ideology or anything else. What if immense surveillance
powers of the U.S. government that had some agent somewhere listening into
this conversation with the threats to the U.S. embassies, what if that same
power has the same agents also listening in on your phone calls. Finding
out that maybe you`re selling pot or something?
Because it turns out they are. They are using the same stuff that
they are using to track terrorists to also work on domestic crime?
There`s been a flurry of recent reporting, "The San Francisco
Chronicle", "The New York Times", and most intriguingly today in "Reuters"
about the fact that tips derived from NSA mass surveillance are being
handed over to domestic American law enforcement through agencies like the
DEA, for things like regular old non-terrorist American crimes committed by
According to "Reuters", a secret DEA unit is funneling information
from intelligence intercepts to authorities across the nation to help them
launch criminal investigations of Americans.
"Reuters" also reporting that law enforcement officials are getting
trained that once they get these tips from NSA surveillance and other
places, they should cover up that the information they got came from any of
those surveillance programs. They should, instead, pretend they got the
information through traditional legal law enforcement means. They should
launder the source of the information.
These guys did not get the information through traditional law
enforcement means they got it from the thing we`ve all been thinking
they`re only using against terrorists except they`re supposed to be
pretending otherwise. Eek.
Joining us now is John Shiffman. He`s correspondent with "Reuters"
news service. It is his reporting that brought this program to light.
Mr. Shiffman, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
JOHN SHIFFMAN, REUTERS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, how does the DEA, a domestic law enforcement agency in
this operating this context have access to this information that is only
supposed to be about foreigners? How does this work?
SHIFFMAN: Well, there are four ways that the special operations
division, which is a unit of DEA, gets this information. The first way
they get it is through passed along NSA intercepts. The second way they
get it is from regular informants. The third way they get it is from a
large database of telephone and Internet data collected inside the United
States. And the fourth way is through wiretaps from one investigation and
applying it to the next investigation.
And what they do is pass these tips along to agents in the field.
When the agents are released to make arrests, say, a traffic stop, they`ll
pull somebody over for speeding or for a taillight that`s out on a pretext.
And then after the person is arrested, they won`t tell them the true reason
why they were pulled over, what the original source of the investigation
MADDOW: If that is -- I recognize that`s not unique to this special
operations division of the DEA as you documented on your reporting, that
law enforcement sometimes does this to essentially launder the original
source of what leads to a prosecution. But in that case, how can a person
fully defend themselves if they`re not able to follow the accusation
against them to their source?
SHIFFMAN: Well, law enforcement has a term for this. They call it,
quote, "parallel construction." And what it -- and it is designed to hide
And the problem it`s not so much the probable cause and why someone
might have been pulled over. The problem occurs if the case goes to trial
and the defendant has a right to see that evidence in pretrial discovery
that`s against them, any evidence against them at trial. And they may not
know about it the potential evidence, exculpatory evidence that might show
innocence, that might show excuse, that might show entrapment, might show
any number of reasons why they ought to be able to put up a decent defense.
MADDOW: Is it clear to you in your reporting on this that when this
information is coming to the DEA from NSA intercepts, that these NSA
intercepts are things that only incidentally captured Americans` behavior
and American conversations? Is it clear that this has to be stuff that was
targeting foreign communications and people in other countries in the first
place? And the NSA stumbled upon it by accident.
SHIFFMAN: Well; from the people that we`ve spoken, that appears to be
the case. You can never tell, agents tell us there`s no way you can ever
truly know if you`re listening to an intercept or an e-mail whether the
person is an American citizen. I mean, sometimes, there isn`t time. There
isn`t enough information to know.
So there`s really necessarily no way to know. They`ve been doing this
since the mid-90s, the late `90s. They`ve been collecting this information
and using them in a lot of different cases.
MADDOW: At one point in your report, you say that the special
operations division at the DEA is still very highly classified part of that
agency, its precise location not being revealed, its budget being secret.
How did you arrive at this estimate that this division has $125
million budget if that number is not public? That seems intriguing that
you figured it out.
SHIFFMAN: Well, it`s interesting, because usually when one of the
most basic things besides spelling somebody`s name correctly if you`re
reporter, to ask how many employees do you have and what is your budget?
And when they went out to visit, you know, they declined to say.
And I just did a Google search of special operations DEA, which -- by
the way, is very well known for the work in all sorts of international drug
cases and coordinating other cases. It isn`t a secret but this work that
we wrote about certainly is.
So I did a Google search and someone who was a senior person in SOD
had it posted on their LinkedIn site, in their LinkedIn posting.
MADDOW: I work at an agency that has $125 million budget?
SHIFFMAN: Yes. And 300 employees.
MADDOW: Wow, smooth move.
John Shiffman, correspondent with "Reuters" -- thank you for your
reporting. Thanks for explaining it to us tonight. I appreciate your
SHIFFMAN: Thanks a lot.
All right. There has been another hiccup in today`s news for the most
profitable business in the history of the universe.
Stay tuned for that.
MADDOW: Take a few days off and what happens? Well, this news backs
up at the junction at the "Debunktion Junction".
Is the bell working?
Is the buzzer working?
MADDOW: "Debunktion Junction" straight ahead with a special focus
tonight on politicians doing math live on TV. Get the buzzer ready.
Stay with me.
MADDOW: For three weeks now, an uninvited group of people has camped
out day and night at the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee. This camp
out as protest started a few days after George Zimmerman was found not
guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of Florida teenager Trayvon
A few days after that verdict was announced, the protesters, the Dream
Defenders basically took up residence at the capitol building. They`re
demanding a meeting with the Republican governor of Florida Rick Scott.
They want the legislature they said to review the stand your ground law in
Florida. They want that law repealed.
The first, the Dream Defenders didn`t get much national attention, but
people around the country started to notice that they were showing no signs
of leaving. Jesse Jackson visited the Dream Defenders. A few days later,
a Democratic state representative dropped by. And then, Talib Kweli, the
rapper, tweeted he`d be visiting the Dream Defenders this upcoming
And part of what made this ongoing story at the Florida State Capitol
so interesting is that the protesters are starting to achieve some
measurable things. Governor Rick Scott says he supports the Florida stand
your ground law, he, though, agreed to meet with the protesters and then
actually did meet with the protesters who were camping out at his office.
The protesters were happier to get that meeting than not, but they
were not satisfied, putting out this statement, quote, "The governor
finally met with us but provided no real leadership. Rather than calling
for a special session of the state legislature, he`s calling for a day of
prayer to end racial profiling. Faith without works is not justice."
And so they stayed for weeks, until now, there has been a
breakthrough. The Republican speaker of the House in Florida has announced
that when the legislature is back in session, there will be a hearing to
review the state`s stand your ground law. Quote, "I have asked the chair
of our criminal justice subcommittee to hold a hearing this fall on stand
He went on, "Does the law keep the innocent safer? Is it being
applied fairly? Are there ways we can make this law clearer and more
understandable? These are appropriate questions that should be asked and
OK, then, no special session which is what the protesters were
demanding, but the legislature is going to review the law with the public
hearing on it. And that never would`ve happened but for the Dream
Defenders refusing to budge until this issue was taken up in a serious
manner by their state government.
One of the ways we know was because the person who is going to chair
that hearing because he heads up that committee has already said he does
not want to change, quote, "one damn comma of the stand your ground law."
So, it`s not like he would`ve called this hearing of his own volition
to review this law. But the "not one damn comma" guy is going to have to
held this hearing because his boss told him that the political pressure was
too great not to.
The dream defenders had an effect. And that is what it looks like
when the activists and the electorate push back effectively against
politicians. And this is what it looks like when the same politicians want
to make the electorate a less effective source of political pressure.
Last year, Governor Rick Scott, backed by Republicans in the Senate
voted to clean up the voter rolls. Remember this? The Republicans in
Florida just want to tidy up the list of people on the state`s list of
voters. That effort, their purge of the voter rolls in Florida did not go
very well for Governor Scott. In fact, it was a ranked humiliation.
Here are the numbers -- the initial list was 182,000. That`s how many
people the governor and his team put on their list as Florida voters
suspected of being noncitizens. They wanted to throw these 182,000 people
off the voter rolls in time for the November election.
After a serious critical look at the list, you know to know what that
number got whittled down to? It went from 182,000 to, oh, 2,600. Then, it
was pared to 198, which I`m not sure is quite to scale because I`m not sure
we can show that small of a number compared to that larger number with any
accuracy on your TV unless your TV is giant.
Once it got down to 198 from a number roughly 100 times that size, the
local election officials in Florida concluded and I am paraphrasing, this
is ridiculous. This is made up, we are not doing this. And Governor Rick
Scott`s efforts to purge the voter rolls in Florida was suspended.
That was last year right before the presidential election. Rather
than learn a lesson from that teachable moment of failure, Governor Rick
Scott emboldened, they`re going for it again. They`re trying to do the
same thing. The governor`s top election officials now creating a new list
of suspected noncitizens among Florida voters using a database maintained
by the federal government and cross checking it with a database maintained
by the state which Florida lawmakers have not been allowed to see.
Secret data, what could possibly go wrong? It all went so well
before. One Republican state senator says he expects the purge to begin in
the next two months. Oh, and did mention that Rick Scott is up for
reelection next year?
Joining us now Lori Edwards, Polk County supervisor of elections.
She`s also a former Democratic House member in Florida.
Ms. Edwards, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I
LORI EDWARDS, POLK CO., FL SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS: My pleasure,
MADDOW: So, we covered from afar that effort at a voter purge last
year in Florida. How did those numbers get whittled down from 180,000 to
less than 200 before the whole idea was abandoned?
EDWARDS: It was simple, they were challenged. They were looked at.
We put a little sunlight on the governor`s numbers and they magically
MADDOW: In terms of the way the sunlight works, was that essentially
election officials such as yourself following up to see if, in fact, they
deserve to be on the list?
EDWARDS: Exactly, Rachel. Each of us did our own research and looked
individually to each and every one of those voters. We found a large
majority of them, the identity didn`t match. Many, many more had been
removed, some of them ten or seven years before.
Some of them had moved to other areas. And then many of them, we
could see the original image when they registered to vote. They were born
in New York. They were in Florida. And many, unfortunately, were born in
Puerto Rico. That was a very concerning point.
MADDOW: A number of large number of people a disproportionate number
of people born in Puerto Rico were selected as suspected noncitizens by the
MADDOW: Wow. Why did the state government believe that their data
was a stronger indication of the citizenship of voters than what was
maintained at the county level by election officials like yourself?
EDWARDS: I can`t even begin to answer that one. I just can`t even
imagine what they were thinking. We gave them warning ahead of time.
The local election officials said if you`re going to do this, we want
good, accurate data. I want documentation. And you know what we got for
documentation, an Excel spreadsheet from the Department of State.
Over a year before the next election, statewide election in Florida, I
assume that any effort to purge the voter rolls is better done this far
advance of an election rather than as close as the last effort. But do you
expect this one will turn out differently?
EDWARDS: I do believe it. I think that there were some election
officials last time that trusted Tallahassee. I don`t think you`ll find
one of them in Florida this year that`s going to trust them.
MADDOW: The argument about voter integrity has been fought over
nationally with some aggression over the last couple of years and with a
lot of, I think, disingenuous argument about the frequency of voter fraud,
whether or not the voting rolls actually do have integrity or whether
there`s a real problem with elections being stolen.
What do you feel about the overall integrity of that argument and how
we are arguing about this as a country?
EDWARDS: I think that -- you may have noticed that argument went away
after the presidential election, but, boy, you couldn`t fling a cat without
hitting it before the presidential election. I think it was just a
smokescreen. It was a partisan smokescreen.
MADDOW: Lori Edwards, the supervisor of elections in Polk County,
Florida, who has a hard job and who does it with good humor -- thank you
very much for your time tonight, ma`am. It`s nice to have you here.
EDWARDS: Good to be here.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. A wealth of so-called facts will be duly debunked on
`Debunktion Junction". I can`t wait. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: "Debunktion Junction", what`s my function?
OK, true or false, according to the number two Republican in the
House, our national deficit is out of control. It is growing. Here`s how
Congressman Eric Cantor put it on the FOX network`s Sunday show this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: What we`re trying to do is
fund the government and to make sure also that we take away the kinds of
things that are standing in the way of a growing economy, of better health
care, and all the while keeping our eye focused on trying to deal with the
ultimate problem which is this growing deficit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Our ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.
The deficit is growing. Do we have a growing deficit? Is that true
Republicans love the idea that our Democratic president is so spend
happy that he`s driving up our nation`s budget deficit, that a difference
between what our government takes in and what it spends is getting worse,
the deficit is getting bigger -- that is not at all true!
Look, the first bar here is 2009, that`s President Obama`s first year
in office. That`s what he had on his hands when he came into office, what
he got handed by the outgoing Republican administration, then the next
three bars are 2010, 2011, 2012 and the final bar, the teeny tiny one,
little shorty there, you might miss it on the right, that`s the projected
deficit for the end of this year.
Notice that the bars are getting shorter? Which means the deficit is
getting smaller. You see when things were once long become less long, they
are not growing. It`s amazing, right?
Eric Cantor, you are incorrect.
Next up, true or false, the city of Detroit is holding an important
election tomorrow for the top leadership of that great American city. Is
that true or is that false?
That is false.
The city of Detroit is holding an election tomorrow but it is
pointless because there is no democracy in Detroit anymore. The guy on the
left of your screen here is Dave Bing who is the mayor of Detroit, elected
by the people in 2009. He`s not running again for the position and I think
I know why. The guy on the right is Kevyn Orr. He`s Detroit`s emergency
manager, he was never elected to his position. He was put in place by
Michigan`s governor. He makes 75 percent more than the governor makes.
But Kevyn Orr is the only one has any power. Whatever Kevyn Orr
wants, Detroit does because he is the emergency manager not the elected
leader and emergency managers get to run that city now, not the people who
So, tomorrow, we`ll go through the motions, more than a than a dozen
candidates will be running in a primary to become Detroit`s next powerless
figurehead mayor who can`t do anything. The top two finishers regardless
of party will move on to the general election in November and that will
give the people of Detroit another chance to take part in a pointless
exercise in fake democracy that ought to be called a pageant and not an
And although maybe it`s not a bad idea to keep the voting machines
running in case they`re need again someday, they`re not really needed right
now. And -- thank you.
Finally, speaking of mayoral elections, is it true or false that a
town in Minnesota has just re-elected for a second mayoral term a 4-year-
old boy? Is that true or is that false?
The place is Dorset, Minnesota, population 28 on a good day. Assuming
nobody`s on vacation or on a business trip.
But one day a year, thousands of people come to town to sample
Dorset`s restaurants and to vote for the town`s mayor. It costs a dollar
to cast a vote. You can vote as often as you want to pay a dollar. But in
the end, the winner is chosen by lottery. So you get your name in the hat
by paying a dollar, right? But eventually somebody just picks a name out
of the hat.
I mean, the way to increase your chances is to get your name on as
many votes as possible, right? It`s kind of like "The Hunger Games", only
you want your name picked in the reaping. Last year, it was a 3-year-old
boy who got his name picked out of a hat. Bobb Tufts won the mayoralty of
He apparently liked it, and so this year, he campaigned hard to keep
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The charm of a 4-year-old who loves fishing goes a long
Even for a candidate who`s easily distracted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come back.
REPORTERR: Still, voter after voter scribbled the tough name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His stands on ice cream and things like that are
hard to beat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re rooting for you, Robert.
REPORTER: The winner is picked by chance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mayor of Dorset is picked out of a hat.
REPORTER: Not even in kindergarten --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Robert Tufts!
REPORTER: And already a two-term mayor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He was re-elected, by chance.
As in Detroit, the position does appear to be largely ceremonial in
nature. But in the case of Dorset, Minnesota, everybody seems to be happy
Congratulations, Mr. Mayor.
MADDOW: In the law, there exists a sort of obscure legal concept that
applies to specific actions or activities that aren`t just dangerous to the
person who is engaged in that activity. But that`s dangerous to everybody
else who`s even in the vicinity of that activity. Such behavior in legal
terms is known as ultra hazardous activity.
Quote, "An ultra hazardous activity is defined as any act that is so
inherently dangerous that the person performing it can be held liable for
injuries to other persons, even if they took every reasonable step to
prevent the injury. Ultra hazardous activities are also known as
abnormally dangerous activities. Abnormally dangerous.
Would it be abnormally dangerous to put something like this here?
This is the Chevron oil refinery in the city of Richmond, California,
just outside of San Francisco. Chevron built this refinery in 1902. And
they have been operating right there ever since.
They have been operating right next to the beating heart o this not
inconsiderably sized American city. And it has not exactly been a happy
marriage between the refinery and the city that snugs up to it. The city
says that in the last two-plus decades alone, that refinery`s had 14
separate incidents where it`s released toxic chemicals into the air.
And because of where it is, it means those toxic chemicals are not
going into surrounding unpopulated areas. They`re going right into the
center of a city that`s located in one of the most densely populated parts
of the country. Given that safety record, given the age of that refinery,
given the refinery`s immediate proximity to tens of thousands of people who
don`t have a super easy way out if things go wrong, you would think that
Chevron would be super duper careful about how that particular refinery
The evidence suggests that you would be wrong. This pipe, this
corroded steel pipe, was operating in the part of the refinery that deals
with crude oil. The pipe had been recommended for replacement numerous
times over the years, but Chevron never bothered.
At 3:48 p.m. last August 6th, the worker at that Chevron plant noticed
that the pipe was leaking. Even though they knew something was wrong,
Chevron officials decided to keep the whole refinery running, to keep even
that specific part of the refinery running anyway despite the leak. They
kept it running for 2 1/2 more hours.
That pipe eventually started leaking a hydrocarbon vapor into the air,
which formed this lovely toxic cloud over the city of Richmond. And then a
few minutes after that vapor cloud formed, boom.
That Chevron plant in Richmond, California, erupted into flames. The
fire spread all sorts of toxic chemicals all across the city. It took
firefighters more than 4 1/2 hours to fully contain the situation. It
turned the city of Richmond, California into something that more closely
resembled a war zone.
When all was said and done, 15,000 Richmond-area residents were forced
to seek medical treatment at local hospitals for stuff like breathing
problems and chest pain and shortness of breath, 15,000 people. That
accident was one year ago tomorrow. And now, a year after that accident,
the city of Richmond has decided to sue Chevron for what they are calling
chevron`s ultra hazardous activity.
Richmond decided to sue after talks collapsed over Chevron paying back
the city for what it did. Chevron, in fact, really kind of seems to hate
the city. They said -- they responded to the lawsuit by saying it`s a
waste of the city`s resources designed to divert attention from a
dysfunctional city council. Whoa, who are you calling dysfunctional?
That comment came on Friday after the city of Richmond sued Chevron.
Then, on Saturday, more than 2,000 people marched on that refinery in
protest of what Chevron did there a year ago. Police say it was largely a
peaceful and organized protest, but more than 200 people were ultimately
arrested on trespassing charges. They had planned to be arrested, and they
Today, Chevron settled the criminal charges that were related to that
refinery explosion. They agreed to pay roughly $2 million in fines and
restitution. It should be noted that represents a little more than 3
percent of daily profit for the Chevron Corporation.
But because the city of Richmond is taking action on its own behalf,
that may not be the end of it. That 3 percent of one day`s profit may not
be the bottom line for Chevron. The mayor of Richmond was one of the
protesters at the refinery this weekend.
Let me explain why Chevron has been busy insulting and deriding the
city that has this refinery of its in public. Who knows how this is going
to turn out? Both sides seem to be fully digging in at this point and
pledging to fight it to the end.
But in the meantime the city of Richmond proceeds about its daily
business in the shadow of that more than 100-year-old refinery that has
caused them so much trouble and heartache over the years and over this past
year specifically. This is a very unhappy marriage. We shall see how it
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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