updated 12/27/2013 5:40:57 PM ET 2013-12-27T22:40:57





RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this
very, very important cable news hour.

Mississippi.  Mississippi is not only a great state in its own right. 
Mississippi has also for a generation, no, for a century, no, for the
entire existence of our country, provided a great service to the rest of
this country.

Number one, Mississippi has forever helped American schoolchildren get
over their native fear of spelling long words, because M-I, double S-I,
double S-I, P-P-I is fun to say.

And so, you can spell Mississippi.  If you can spell Mississippi, kid,
you can spell anything.

So, number one, Mississippi helps us spell long words.  Mississippi
also helps us as a nation stay patient when we are counting off seconds in
time.

So, if you`re covering your eyes and counting to 10 while your friends
run away to hide, if you use the word Mississippi while counting, that will
actually afford your friends enough time to hide well, so you will have a
good time seeking them out and the game will not be too easy.

If a trout is nibbling on that worm on the end of your line, you need
to count, one, Mississippi, two, Mississippi, three, Mississippi, before
you give that line a yank if you want any hope of catching that fish, or so
I hear.

But that idea -- that one, Mississippi, two, Mississippi, three,
Mississippi thing -- that idea of using the word Mississippi to help you
count the appropriate length of time it takes to last a second, that is now
the inspiration for this I think rather good ad campaign.

Look.  One Mississippi, your health insurance exchange.  One site fits
all.

See, here`s the logo for it.  It`s the one that`s overlaid with the
map of the state of Mississippi, One Mississippi, the only place you`ll
need to look, your one-stop comparison shop for health insurance.  One site
fits all!

Also, they`ve got one that says, "With one, it`s done, an easy-to-use
online marketplace to one-stop comparison shop."  "Search it, find it, buy
it, your one-stop comparison shop for health insurance you can count on."

Get it?  You can count on it?  One Mississippi?

The idea was to do that ad campaign on buses in Mississippi and on
billboards and on ballpark signage specifically, better way to play the
game, One Mississippi.

All the advertising would be directing you to this good-looking Web
site, One Mississippi.  And all of it, all this stuff that they designed
and tested and developed for the Web and went so far as putting up online
in Mississippi, all of it is fake.

If you go to shop and compare on the One Mississippi Web site -- look
at this, you go to shop and compare.  See the button there?  It turns like
it`s going to work, but you click on it, you click through, and oh, look at
that!  "This web page is not available," sad face.  Page not found.

The great state of Mississippi built this whole campaign, they built
all this stuff, they built this Web site for themselves for the state.  The
state insurance department, they prototyped it, they tested it, put it up
online, they came up with this clever counting thing, One Mississippi.  It
turns out when they put that Web site up, the health exchange, it works, it
works well, even before doing any big advertising campaign, hundreds of
people started signing up for health insurance through this very memorable,
very well done, One Mississippi Web site.

And so, it had to die.  The Republican governor of the state, Phil
Bryant, killed it.  He wrote to the federal government and told the federal
government, in effect, "Please shut down this thing in my state."  He said
he did not want his state to have a Web site where people could get health
insurance.  He said he did not think it was within the authority of the
state Insurance Department to even try to do this Web site thing.  He said
he would tell all other parts of state government to not comply and not
cooperate with this effort from the Insurance Department.

And then he told the federal government that if they did certify this
Web site as Mississippi`s official place where you can get health insurance
under federal regulations, he said that he as the governor of the state
couldn`t promise that at some point he wouldn`t just declare the whole
effort null and void, and they should consider that and close down the Web
site.

Mississippi built it.  It was working, and then they shut it down. 
The Web site is still there now.  You can go to the front page of it still. 
That`s how we got that screen cap today, but it`s just a ghost.  You click
on anything and it`s "page not found."

In the whole Southeastern United States, the only state that did put
up its own state-run Web site for people to buy health insurance was
Kentucky, where the Democratic governor of Kentucky wholeheartedly embraced
the whole idea of Obamacare, right, and who famously, the citizens of
Kentucky have reaped the benefit.

Kentucky now leads the nation in new sign-ups for health insurance,
and that would be huge anywhere.  It is a particularly huge deal for a
state whose population is as unhealthful as Kentucky`s is.  I don`t mean
any offense by it, but Kentucky`s population ranks at the bottom or toward
the bottom of the nation`s health ratings in lots and lots and lots of
different categories, and Kentucky has a lot of uninsured people.

And it`s the exact same deal two states over in Mississippi, but in
these two states, in the same part of the country, with the same health
problems in their populations and a lot of the same challenges, one of
them, Kentucky, is now best in the nation in terms of people getting health
insurance, and one of them, Mississippi, is now worst in the nation, and
not because they wouldn`t know how to fix their problem.  They knew how to
fix their problem, but they stopped fixing it.

Mississippi has enrolled a smaller percentage of its -- excuse me -- a
smaller percentage of its population than any other state in the nation. 
They do not have anymore a state-specific Web site for signing up for
health insurance, even though they built a perfectly good one that was
working fine before they killed it.

So, people who are shopping in Mississippi are having to use the
glitchy federal Web site, which is getting better but has been very
glitchy.  Once they get through the federal Web site process, if they can,
they`re finding that in Mississippi, you`re not getting offered very good
deals, very cheap plans, and that`s because there are not very many
insurance companies competing for people`s business in Mississippi.

And the state Insurance Department says they know why that is.  They
said other insurance did want to offer insurance when they were doing that
cool One Mississippi, state-based exchange that they had set up and that
was working so well.  Other insurance companies were interested in coming
to the state to work through that exchange, but then the governor killed
that exchange, and so, those companies backed out, and so now there`s very
little competition in the state, and so the plans stink, and so,
Mississippi really is not doing very well.

Congratulations, Mississippi.  You`ve got a lot of health problems in
your state and you`ve got a health insurance problem in your state in terms
of a lot of people not having insurance.  You also have the wherewithal and
the skill in your state to fix both of those problems, but when you elected
Phil Bryant to be your governor, he stopped you from fixing those problems.
You could have done it.  You were doing it, and he stopped you.

Mississippi, you could have been Kentucky, but you are staying
Mississippi.

It is now December.  Happy December.  That means the sign-up exchanges
for health insurance have been under way for two months now, two months and
one day.  Month two, turns out went much, much better than month one did,
went like four times better.  That`s the same pattern that we saw in
Massachusetts six years ago when we essentially piloted this same policy
for the nation under Romneycare in Massachusetts.

After a terrible few weeks on the federal Healthcare.gov Web site, the
Obama administration now says the site is working for most people most of
the time, which is what they were hoping for by December 1.  If the health
care Web site is, in fact, working that much more smoothly, that should
smooth the way for more people to get enrolled in health insurance plans
all across the country.

In these first nine weeks, in general, states running their own
exchanges, Kentucky included, they have done better than states that are
not running their own exchanges and letting the federal government do it. 
But as the federal system works these kinks out, the numbers are going to
keep going up.  They`re going to keep going up and up, even in places like
Mississippi, even in places like Mississippi, which has done everything it
can to ruin its own citizens` chances of getting health insurance, even to
the point of unplugging what they had, which was working, which they
designed for themselves.

Even in a state like Mississippi, where the governor has been doing
everything he can in his power to keep Mississippi uninsured, even in
Mississippi, the numbers will rise over time.  The federal Web site does
work.  People are going to get insured.  It is hundreds of thousands of
people already who are newly covered under programs like Medicaid.

It`s more than 100,000 people now getting new private insurance.  And
this is just the start.  It has been a rocky rollout, but it has been a
rollout, and it has, in fact, rolled out.

And you know what they`re not doing in Washington, D.C., anymore? 
They are not repealing Obamacare anymore.  The House of Representatives was
back at work today, which is a notable thing.  It doesn`t happen all that
often.  If you put together all the hours that they are in session this
month.

They woke up today facing six full days of work for the entire month
of December, starting today.  Six days in a month?  Oh, man!

They`re going to be home by December 13th for the year.  And they are
not planning on spending their precious working moments voting to repeal
Obamacare anymore.

Since Republicans took over the House, they have voted to repeal
Obamacare 46 times!  But they have stopped doing that now.  Since the
shutdown, no more repeal Obamacare votes.

Repealing Obamacare now would mean they would be taking insurance from
hundreds of thousands of Americans.  When they come back in January, it
will be hundreds of thousands more Americans who not just don`t have just
the promise of health insurance, but who are actually experiencing health
insurance coverage, many of them for the first time in their lives.  Voting
to repeal Obamacare was an expression of pure ideological exuberance for
the first two or three or four dozen times that they took that vote, but
now that people are getting covered, it`s not that kind of vote anymore,
and so, they`re not taking that vote anymore.

And so, now, what are they going to do with their time?  Six whole
days to fill for the month of December.

There`s an interesting question when they`ve got in a way a small
amount of time left between now and the end of the year, but six days for
them.  What are they going to fill it up with?

I mean, they are on track to be a truly historic Congress this year. 
Numero uno, ichiban, never seen before, one in a million, oh my God, look
at this, they are about to make history.

In 1948, when Harry Truman ran against the go do-nothing Congress,
what he was mocking them for successfully, running against them for, was
their record of the least productive Congress anybody had seen until then. 
And 395 laws passed by the do-nothing Congress.

In modern times, we have sank to a whole new low.  In the Newt
Gingrich era -- remember that midterm election in Bill Clinton`s first
term, the Republican revolution when they took the House for first time in
a generation, all those dozens of seats, that Congress put the Harry Truman
do-nothing Congress to shame.  They only passed 88 laws in 1995.  That is
on record as the least productive Congress in the United States, 1995.

But now, oh, baby, USA!  USA!  New record!  Right now, John Boehner`s
congress, this congress right now has passed fewer than 60 public laws in
the whole year.  Unless some miracle happens in the roughly five minutes
that John Boehner plans to have Congress working between now and the end of
the year, we are about to set a new, all-time record, an all-time American
record, since the history of our country, about to set a new all-time
record for the size of the ratio between what we pay these guys and what
they do.

It`s kind of easy to see what happened.  I mean, if you spend all of
your time and all of your effort saying you`re going to repeal Obamacare,
which is not actually going to happen, then that takes up time in which you
could be actually legislating.  It takes up time where you could actually
be making policy.

And so, we spent all our time fake repealing Obamacare and we don`t
have a National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that`s passed every
year in every Congress for more than 50 years without fail.

We do not have a farm bill.  We do not have a doc fix that they have
to pass basically every year for Medicare.  We do not have a housing bill. 
We do not have a transportation bill.  We do not have a water bill.

We do not have any of the things they pass every year when there are
good Congresses and bad Congresses, gridlock or not.  We didn`t have any of
the normal baseline stuff done.  We don`t have a bill that sets defense
policy.  We don`t have the Bain (ph) Pentagon bill.  We have that every
year, even in really bad years, but we don`t have that this year, because
it was shut down the government year.  It was shut down the government,
repeal Obamacare year.

That`s what we did all year, and now we`re not doing that anymore. 
And now nothing is done.  And time is almost up.

And the question is, will they get it together?  Can they get it
together to do something that isn`t "repeal Obamacare" before the end of
the year?  What they said they wanted to do was immigration reform. 
Remember?  Even Republicans said they wanted to do it.  Democrats are
behaving as if it is about to happen.

This is the president and the first lady on Friday, the day after
Thanksgiving.  Friday afternoon down at a tent on the National Mall where
legendary labor leader Eliseo Medina and mostly other young activists have
been starving themselves in a fast for more than 20 days now to try to move
the House to take up the immigration bill that passed this summer in the
Senate.

Republicans said they wanted to do it in theory, when the Senate
passed the comprehensive bill with 14 Republican senators in support,
Republicans said they wanted to support it in theory.

First, the House came up with the objection that they didn`t want to
do a comprehensive bill like that, they wanted to do it in pieces.  Then
the Democrats, including President Obama, said OK, fine, we`d rather do it
comprehensively, but we`ll do it in pieces if that`s what you need.  Now,
the Republicans are saying, oh, yes, still, in theory, we do like this and
we would go ahead in pieces with it, but even now, while they`re saying
they`d go ahead and they`d go ahead with it in pieces, which the Democrats
agree, the Republicans just refuse to put it on the calendar.

The president and first lady visiting those protesters this Friday
were not the only ones from the administration who have gone down there and
talked to those folks.

Before the president`s visit, the activists were visited by Vice
President Joe Biden.  They were visited by the White House chief of staff,
Denis McDonough.  White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett has been down
there.  The agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, Labor Secretary Thomas
Perez, the chair of the White House Domestic Policy Council, which was
really important job, she was down there.  Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the
daughter of Robert F. Kennedy visited there.

They`ve each been visited by two Republican members of the House, Jeff
Denham and David Valadao, who are two of the Republicans who say they
actually want an immigration vote.  They want John Boehner to put it out
for a vote.  They say they would vote with Democrats to pass it.

Tonight on the House floor, Florida Congressman Joe Garcia recognized
those hunger strikers, five of whom were in the House gallery tonight.  He
called on Republican leaders to allow that Senate immigration bill to come
to a vote.

Barring a Hanukkah miracle, a pre-Kwanzaa miracle?  I don`t know. 
Barring some kind of late-in-the-year miracle, this Congress is going to be
the least productive Congress in the history of the United States of
America.

Republicans have been very, very good at repeatedly fake repealing
Obamacare, almost four dozen times now, but that`s not actually policy. 
And now, that time is over in our politics.  Health reform is done and
they`ve stopped trying to repeal it.  It`s taken root.  It`s not going
anywhere.  You guys need to move on.

Now, the question is whether in these last couple of days, can
Congress redeem themselves by doing at least one useful thing that even
they themselves admit that they would like to do?  What are the odds?

Joining us now is Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for "The
Huffington Post."

Mr. Grim, thanks very much for being with us.  Nice to see you.

RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  Thanks for having me.

MADDOW:  So, it`s almost unfathomable that we might get to the end of
the year without all the baseline level stuff that always passes, the
Pentagon bill, the farm bill, the housing bill, stuff like that.

What do you think it is realistic to expect from this Congress by the
end of the year?

GRIM:  About as much as they`ve done so far, you know, very little.  I
think we`re finally going to get an answer to the question of, you know,
are House Republicans and this Congress itself capable of that
embarrassment?

And you know, a couple weeks ago, we got the answer that just maybe
they are, because coming out of the government shutdown, the House moved to
pass the water bill that you mentioned.  And this is a major water
infrastructure bill that could create jobs and is the kind of thing that
both parties would like to see happen.  You know, it works, does flood
protection, it`s a very noncontroversial kind of thing.

The House actually passed it.  And I think it`s quite possible that
Congress could pass the entire thing next week or the week after.  And it
might just be all of the shame that`s being heaped upon them.  They work in
an institution that 7 percent or 8 percent of the people approve of that`s
kind of driving them toward that.

The only other thing that they could possibly get done is undoing the
sequester, you know.  There`s some irony there.  You know, their only
accomplishment is a thing that they might, be the only thing they can get
done.

MADDOW:  Right, exactly.  They could maybe undo some of the harm they
themselves have caused inadvertently by screwing up.

On the immigration issue, obviously, the pressure on this from
immigration reform advocates is not the sort of thing that gets a lot of
credit in the Beltway, but I think it`s very emotionally compelling stuff
that they`ve been doing, including a lot of personal pressure on leaders
like John Boehner.  And John Boehner says he wants to find way to do
immigration reform.  He had had this demand that it couldn`t be
comprehensive, it had to be piecemeal.  Democrats now agree to that.

Do you have any sense for whether he`s just blowing smoke or whether
he does actually intend for anything to happen?

GRIM:  I think he`d -- I think he`d rather see it happen than not
happen, but I don`t think it`s a huge deal to him.  You can sort of take it
or leave it.

You know, come January, and increasingly in February and March, a lot
of the key filing deadlines for Tea Party challengers to get on the ballot
passed.  So, that means you`re going to have a lot of House Republicans who
up until now have been unwilling to do anything on immigration because they
don`t want to draw a primary challenger, but very soon, it will be
impossible for there to be a primary challenger.  So, that really does
change the political calculation.

And, like you said, you know, they`ve been making awfully persuasive
case.  And the establishment Republican would rather not have to deal with
this issue anymore.  So, they do have that working for them.

MADDOW:  Ryan, do you get the sense of whether -- I guess what the
political heft is to what seems like is going to be a historic
accomplishment of this Congress?  When they go home in December 13th, it
seems like they will be officially, by a long margin, the least productive
Congress ever in American history.  Are they going to try to spin that as
to being a feature and not a bug, as a positive?

GRIM:  It`s interesting.  Certainly, some elements of the Tea Party
will say, yes, you know, that`s what we want there to do, nothing.  You
know, there is this joke among Tea Party bumper stickers that the First
Amendment should have ended with Congress shall make no law.  Done.

But now, we`ve had a chance to test that.  And people despise it.  You
know, people who come out to rallies and, you know, who talk to their
members of Congress, they actually want problems solved.  You know, and so,
while they may have been blaming the actions of Congress for previous
problems, now they`re going to blame the inaction of Congress for their
current problems.

So, in some ways, you know, the Tea Party message is much better in
opposition than it is in actually governing, since they don`t like
governing. 

MADDOW:  Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for "Huffington Post" --
Brian, thanks for being with us.  Nice to see you tonight.

GRIM:  You, too.

MADDOW:  All right.  It looks like Congress will summon the energy to
vote on at least one important issue this week, and they appear determined
to do something sensible.  I know, sounds weird, especially coming from me,
but I might actually have a tiny ray of -- well, it`s not good news --
reason to hope?  Reason not to be too upset?  Anyway, it`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  One of the consequences of Republicans taking over the whole
state government of North Carolina is the state`s new "take your concealed
weapon to the bar with you" law.  Guns and alcohol, what a great couple!

The North Carolina law makes it really, really hard to ban weapons
from pretty much anywhere.  It forces cities and towns across the state to
allow guns in public places, even if locally, the police and the town and
the people who live there do not want that.  When one small-town mayor in
Morrisville, North Carolina, campaigned to protect her ton`s long-standing
policy banning guns in a local park, the National Rifle Association decided
to weigh in in that little town of 20,000 people and try to make an example
out of her.

They poured resources into the mayoral race in that small town to try
to get rid of her.  They called her a member of a radical national gun ban
group.  They poured resources into that race, and when she lost her re-
election bid a few weeks later, the NRA took credit for it.

If your town doesn`t think that guns belong on your playgrounds or in
your parks -- well, if you`re in North Carolina, too bad, you don`t get a
choice in the matter anymore.  And, by the way, the NRA will come after you
if you try to fight it.

On the substance of it, though, let`s say you`re OK with the idea of
guns in playgrounds.  How about guns in bars?  How about that?  I mean, the
idea with guns in bars is that if you`re in a bar with your loaded weapon,
you have to promise not to drink.

How does that work in practice?  Are you breathalyzed if you pick up
your weapon?  Whose job is it in the restaurant to confront the man who is
drinking while carrying a loaded, concealed firearm?  And what`s the
correct approach?

Let`s say you`re OK, though, with guns on the playground.  Let`s say
you`re OK with guns in bars.  Let`s say you`re OK with guns in schools. 
How about guns on airplanes?  Should everybody on a commercial airplane be
allowed to have a loaded gun with them on the plane?  Should we stop law
enforcement from being allowed to detect guns before people can bring them
on to planes?

How about an event with the president of the United States?  Let`s say
you`re going to a town hall meeting where it is you and the president. 
It`s campaign season.  You`re going to be sitting 15 feet away from the
president of the United States at a town hall meeting, should police be
able to check to see if you have a gun with you in the room with the
president at an event like that?  Or no?

A group called Gun Owners of America apparently says no.  They say
guns on a plane.  They say guns in a room with the president.  They say
guns in bars, guns everywhere.

Gun Owners of America sent out an action alert today opposing
something called the Undetectable Firearms Act, which is up for renewal
right now.  It was first signed into law in 1988 by President Reagan.

At the time, there was an increasing popularity of lightweight pistols
like the Austrian manufactured Glock.  There was fear that we were getting
close to all plastic, essentially undetectable guns, which couldn`t be
effectively banned from anywhere in the country because they couldn`t be
detected by metal detectors or by other traditional means that we use to
find weapons.

Those fears were largely theoretical when that plastic gun ban was
passed in 1988.  Those fears were still largely theoretical when the law
was re-authorized in 1998.  Same thing when it was reauthorized again in
2003.

But now, it`s 2013, and the plastic gun ban is up for reauthorization
right now.  And right now, for the first time, plastic guns that can fire
real bullets that can kill you are a reality.

The 3D printed, almost all plastic gun, has been promoted by
attention-seeking libertarian Texans for the past couple of years.  And so,
pretty much everybody has seen the videos of them firing off their 3D
printed Galt master, Ayn Rand gold standard audit the Fed machine, baby.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms eventually tested plastic
gun designs and found when they 3D printed those guns, the result was a
machine that was unstable and dangerous and that couldn`t fire a lot of
rounds before it was likely to blow up, but more often than not, could get
the job done.

Quoting the ATF, their "testing showed the weapon could penetrate
several inches of soft flesh as well as a human skull.  The .38-caliber
bullets fired from the gun penetrate sufficiently to reach vital organs and
perforate the skull."  And it`s plastic.

So, now, after living 25 years with a gun ban that bans any weapon
that won`t show up on an X-ray, a metal detector, or standard imaging
technology, now that those guns that wouldn`t show up on those types of
devices are a reality, the gun lobby, at least a part of the gun lobby, has
decided that the plastic gun ban should expire.  Guns everywhere -- guns on
planes, guns at the park, guns at the White House, guns everywhere!  Good
luck to us all.

When the plastic gun ban was initially passed in 1988, the vote in the
House of Representatives was 413-4.  Tomorrow, the House will vote again on
whether or not they want to reauthorize the plastic gun ban for another 10
years.

This used to not be a hard decision to make.  But this Congress is not
like other Congresses.  Tomorrow, the House will decide whether this
plastic gun ban still is an easy call, even under pressure from parts of
the gun lobby.

Good luck to us all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The train derailment yesterday in New York City, the commuter
train that went off the rails at a place called Spuyten Duyvil, just north
of Manhattan, that crash remains under investigation tonight.  Four people
were killed, more than 60 people were injured when multiple cars of that
train flew off the tracks.  It was a horrific crash which would have been
all the more horrific had the derailed cars slid into the nearby river
which they very nearly did, or if there had been more people on board the
train when it crashed.

Initial reports put the total number of people on board at the time of
the crash at only about 100.  It was a very early-morning train on the
Sunday after Thanksgiving coming into New York City, so it was just not
crowded by luck.  But of those 100 people, again, a majority of the people
on the train suffered at least some kind of injury.  Eleven of the injuries
are considered critical and 4 people have already died.

Investigators have recovered the data recorders from the crashed train
now.  Trains have them the same way that airliners do.  Investigators said
late today that on the sharp curve just outside the Spuyten Duyvil station,
the sharp curve where the derailment happened, the speed limit for trains
there is 30 miles per hour.  The train`s data recorders apparently showed
that in that 30-mile-per-hour zone, the train was going 82 miles per hour
before it crashed.

Nobody knows why the train was going nearly three times the speed
limit before it crashed.  The speed limit on a straightaway north of the
curve doesn`t even have a speed limit that high.

But it now seems clear that excessive speed is likely to be what
caused this terrible, terrible Metro North train crash.  Whether the
excessive speed itself was caused by human error or by equipment failure or
by something wrong with that section of the track, that remains to be seen. 
The investigation continues and we`ll keep you posted as we learn more.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  The town of Fuquay Varina is smacked in the middle of North
Carolina.  It`s about a half hour away from Raleigh.  In the late 1800s, a
farmer from the Fuquay family discovered a mineral spring while plowing the
fields.  Those mineral springs soon became a tourist attraction of sorts,
and the town became a big trading hub.

Fuquay Varina also became home to these discount five-and-dime stores,
which started in the 1930s by James Melvin Pope.  After going to college
and serving in World War II, Mr. Pope`s son took over the shops and
expanded the family chain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  From his father`s five little stores, all located in
eastern North Carolina, John Pope would create a retailing powerhouse of
over 500 discount stores.  His business model was a simple one -- locate
your store in small towns where there was little competition, where folks
could get almost anything they need cheap, without having to drive to the
big cities.

The model worked.  Pope`s discount stores always made a profit, even
during years of recession.  From a 5 and 10-cent store, John W. Pope
learned that nickels and dimes managed with insight and hard work could
grow into millions of dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That business did grow into millions of dollars.  You know,
if Walmart proved anything, it`s that discount and bargain retail is one of
the tried and true roots to gazillions of dollars in this country.  But
Walmart`s not the only success story in that field.  In North Carolina, it
has been the Pope family who has followed that same plan, and it`s been a
very specific business plan for them.

When you look at the site criteria that they list for Pope-owned
discount stores in the South, they say very specifically that they are
looking to put their stores in low-income neighborhoods with a median
household income of $40,000 or less, and they want the area where their
store goes to definitely have a population that is at least 25 percent
African-American.

This has been the Pope family retail strategy for nickel and dime
success.  And today, the original five-and-dime stores started by
grandfather James Melvin Pope, they are part of Variety Wholesalers, which
is a discount store chain with more than 400 and it`s all still in the same
family, now run by James Melvin`s grandson, Art Pope, who has parlayed his
family`s discount stores selling to poor and minority populations fortune
into his own enormous political power in the state of North Carolina.

The Pope family has given so much money to Republican causes in the
state of North Carolina that the party`s state headquarters building is
named for them.

Before 2010, Republicans had not controlled both houses of the North
Carolina state legislature since the 1800s, but then, Art Pope and his
conservative funding network poured about $100,000 per race into 22
different legislative races across the state, and in so doing, they
engineered a Republican takeover of the legislature.  Three-quarters of all
the outside money that flooded into races in that state in 2010, three-
quarters of it came from accounts that were linked to Art Pope.

And of the 22 races that he and his network targeted, they won 18 of
the 22.  That`s an 82 percent win rate.  And North Carolina`s legislature
turned completely red for the first time since Reconstruction.

And that, of course, has brought about not only the voting rights role
back that has made North Carolina nationally famous this year, and the
abortion rights rollback and the short-lived attempt to establish a state
religion in the state.  Remember that one?

It`s also been a wildly aggressive approach to budgeting in the state,
spearheaded by the guy who made it all possible for the Republicans,
spearheaded by Art Pope, who was the architect of the North Carolina
Republican takeover, but who is also the state`s new budget director under
Republican Governor Pat McCrory.  Under Republican control and Art Pope`s
budget stylings, North Carolina has pursued deep, deep, deep cuts in
education and unemployment benefits and health insurance for the poor.

They`ve even gone after free school in the state, all policies that
will pretty directly hit the shoppers at the Pope family stores, right? 
Bargain Town, Bill`s Dollar Store, the Super 10, the Super Dollar, Treasure
Mart, Roses, Maxway, all of the dollar stores that are part of their
empire, all of the discount dollar stores that have made Art Pope and his
family all of their many millions, which they have now spent to go after
the poor in North Carolina in a way that nobody has in more than 100 years.

Today, the state`s NAACP held a news conference outside the state
budget office, outside Art Pope`s office, announcing campaign targeting Mr.
Pope`s discount stores.  They`re calling it a picketing campaign to educate
Dollar Store customers about what they called the extreme and aggressive
policies that they are funding by shopping at stores owned by Mr. Pope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. WILLIAM BARBER, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP PRESIDENT:  We want to put a
stop to the use of wealth to influence policies in a negative way.  That`s
why it`s not a boycott, it`s a picket.

ART POPE:  If I came to the North Carolina justice center, democracy
North Carolina instead of the John Locke Foundation, that would be OK
because I support -- 

BARBER:  It`s whether you give in the influence -- let`s meet --  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The head of the NAACP and Mr. Pope himself facing off today
at the press conference.  Head of the NAACP there calling for a picket
campaign targeting the Pope family`s discount stores.  His name is the
Reverend William Barber, the president of NAACP in North Carolina.  He`s
the man who is instrumental in the Moral Mondays protest in that state and
he`s now leading this multistate protest effort against the most
influential Republican in North Carolina politics.

Joining us now for the interview tonight is the Reverend William
Barber.  He`s North Carolina`s NAACP president.

Reverend Barber, thank you very much for being here.  It`s real nice
to have you here, sir.

BARBER:  Rachel, thank you so much and for all that you do.

MADDOW:  Why are you picketing art pope`s businesses?  What`s the
goal?

BARBER:  Well, what we see with art pope is the most lewd and cynical
and sinister form of wealth and power manipulation.  To put your stores
deliberately and publicly in communities of low wealth and 25 percent
African-American, make your wealth off of people, pay them low wages, and
then, in turn, use that power to push and promote policies that are adverse
to their lives and diametrically opposed to their future is just untenable.

What we have seen with Art Pope, you listed all those numbers -- $50
million over the last decade, $3.5 million since 2010 through 2012,
millions of dollars, either him or his family or groups that he influences
used to promote the most extreme policies.

And, you know, you mentioned about the 2010 takeover, but he actually
was a part of the redistricting plan that led to that takeover which
produced the most race-based redistricting plan we`ve seen since the 19th
century.

Rachel, everywhere we look, whether it`s denying unemployment to
170,000 people or Medicaid expanded to 500,000 people, or rolling back the
earned income tax credit or pushing the voter suppression law that we`re
seeing now that`s the worst in the country in North Carolina, all of that,
you see the money imprint and the handprint imprint and the philosophical
imprint of either Art Pope or groups he has backed in such a wrongful way. 
And that`s why we`re fighting.

MADDOW:  Do you think that people in North Carolina broadly understand
the connection between that agenda that you just described and the network
of discount stores that have made the Pope family so wealthy over all these
years?  Do people already know the connection between those policies -- 

BARBER:  No.

MADDOW:  -- and those stores?  They don`t.

BARBER:  No.  That`s why we`re doing these informational pickets. 
Now, we hope in this season of Christmas and Hanukkah, his own conscience -
- we`ve actually asked to meet with him -- that he would change.  We have
to believe in the possibility of redemption.  We`ve shared with him that
it`s against our greatest moral values, you know, we`ve talked about
Scripture of woe to those who e their wealth and political power to
influence the systems of government in ways adverse to the poor.

But the other goal is to seek to touch the consciousness of the state. 
People don`t know -- and it`s not just about black people, it`s poor
people, white people, Hispanics, anybody who is poor, to think that you go
in and you spend your money in a certain place, and that money that you
helped them make is actually used in ways to undermine your future, your
health, your voting rights, your public education, your rights in the court
system.  It`s just wrong.

And so, what we`re doing is making sure people know.  How they choose
to spend their money after that will be their own determination, like in
civil disobedience, their own free will and accord, but people must know,
this must be exposed.

And people must know particularly, because Art Pope has gone from
being a king-maker, a private person to now a North Carolina employee. 
He`s the budget director, one of the most powerful positions in any state.

And budgets are moral documents.  And what he is promoting is
constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible and economically
insane.  And people need to know how he`s doing it with the money that
comes out of poor communities and minority communities.

MADDOW:  Reverend William Barber, North Carolina NAACP president, the
leader of the Moral Mondays protest, which brought so much national
spotlight to the very dramatic changes that North Carolina`s seen over
these last couple years.  Thank you for your time tonight, sir.  I hope you
stay in touch with us and tell us what happens in the state and whether
your conversation with Mr. Pope continues.

BARBER:  Thank you so much.  God bless.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

The man posed to make big, big changes in post-Soviet politics right
now stands 6`7" with a record of 41 knockouts.  The new angle on political
muscle is coming up.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I am a word based life form.  I`m not a visual learner, but
sometimes, particularly when it comes to international news, there is just
no substitute for a good chart.  Sometimes it`s the only accurate and to
scale visual aid that makes international news make sense.

Looking at this makes it all make sense.  And the story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Take a look at this before and after picture.  This is the
before.  It is a Ukrainian politician named Viktor Yushchenko.  This is
picture of him while he was running for president of Ukraine in the summer
of 2004.

This is what he looked like a few months later.  Oh.  During that
presidential campaign, Viktor, the underdog candidate for president in his
country, was poisoned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  The effects were startling.  The healthy vibrant opposition
candidate for Ukraine`s presidency transformed in a matter of a few weeks
this fall in to a gravely ill man.  His face almost overnight changed in to
a scarred, bloated mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Ultimately, Mr. Yushchenko was found to have ingested toxic
levels of dioxin, possibly fed to him secretly in a bowl of soup.  Viktor
Yushchenko survived the dioxin poisoning but he later lost the election. 
Or at least it seemed like he did before his supporters took to the
streets.  Day after day, they marched on this square saying the election
was rigged.  They waved orange flags and they wore orange scarves and flags
because org was his campaign color.

In the end, they won.  That mass protest movement eventually forced a
new presidential election and when all the votes were counted in that new
election, hey, it turns out the poisoned guy won.  That was known as the
Orange Revolution because of the sea of orange-clad protesters that filled
the streets in Ukraine.  That was 2004.

The guy who was ultimately declared the winner of the election, the
poisoned guy.  He was a pro-Western politician.  He was running against
anti-Western guy, an ally of Vladimir Putin, who was pushing for closer
ties to Russia.

Well, now, nine years later, that other guy, the pro-Putin guy, he has
managed to become president of the Ukraine and now the pendulum is swinging
back rather fast.  This is fascinating.  Last month, the pro-Putin guy, the
president of Ukraine now, decided to reject an agreement that would have
brought his country closer to the European Union.  It would pull the
country away from the grip of Russia and toward the rest of Europe.

His rejection of that agreement, his embrace of Putin instead has led
to what maybe Orange Revolution number two.  Nine years after the first
one, mass protests again in the streets of Ukraine`s capital city and they
are protesting against the same guy they were protesting against last time.

Yesterday afternoon, the crowd was estimated at 1 million people that
marched through the streets of Ukraine`s capital city of Kiev.  The
protesters were marching against the country`s president.  They were
demanding that he`d sign the agreement with the rest of Europe, demanding
that he`d turn his back on Putin and open their country to the West.

Now, just like they did in 2004, the protesters are beginning to
occupy and hold territory in Ukraine`s capital city them spray paint in the
picture says "revolution headquarters."

Quoting "The New York Times", "Protest leaders, sensing that momentum
had turned to their advantage continued to add infrastructure to their
operation, bringing in TV monitors and erecting a small tent city that
included first aid stations and canteens.

This weekend, those protests in Main Square turned violent when police
decided to use force against the protesters.  The clashes between the
police and the protesters, in fact, got so violent that Kiev`s chief of
police submitted his resignation last night.

These protests that are underway in Ukraine are said to be larger than
the protests from the orange revolution nine years ago, which, after all,
were big enough to overthrow the government at that time.  And this time, I
have to tell you, one of the guys who`s now leading the opposition, leading
the protest movement is a guy you may have heard of before, even if you
have heard of nobody else from Ukraine.

This is Vitali Klitschko.  Mr. Klitschko is currently boxing`s WBC
heavyweight champion of the world, pound for pound.  He`s considered one of
the greatest boxers who`s ever lived.

In addition to being the reigning heavyweight champion of the world,
Vitali Klitschko is also a member of the Ukrainian parliament.  And in his
capacity as the most enormous member of the Ukrainian parliament, he`s one
of the opposition leaders who`s been in the streets with the protesters
pushing for his country to shed its ties with Russia and embrace the rest
of the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VITALI KLITSCHKO, BOXING CHAMP:  What happened last night in the main
square in Kiev, it`s not the European country.  It`s not modern country. 
It`s dictator.  And that`s why the people don`t trust any more the
government, don`t trust anymore the president.  We see how many hundreds of
thousands of people to say we don`t believe the government.  We don`t
believe the president.  We want to live in European country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  So what says the heavyweight champion of the world.  If it
ever comes down to it, this is the tail between ginormous Vitali Klitschko,
and enormous in his own mind Vladimir Putin.

It`s unclear what`s going to happen next in the standoff but the
situation is escalating by the day.  The protests continue to grow in size. 
It`s really anybody`s guess as to what is going happen next year.  Vladimir
Putin is trying to create a Eurasian union of former Soviet states to be a
counterweight to the European Union.  His plans are not going well, not in
Ukraine at least.

Watch this space, or at least watch that space.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Thanks for being with us tonight.  Have a good night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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