'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, January 3rd, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 3, 2014
Guests: Ryan Grim, Raha Wala
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying
with us for the next hour.
Hey, car companies make pianos. Does everyone know this and I`m
the last one to figure it out?
I have just started to realize that Yamaha that makes Yamaha pianos
is the same Yamaha that makes Yamaha motorcycles. I never knew -- I
feel like everybody else knew this. I never knew this.
And it would be one thing if it was just about that one motorcycle
and piano company, but it`s not. A whole bunch of companies have these
kind of combined product lines.
Behold, for example, the Hyundai piano. Hyundai makes this very
sleek piano that you see right here. It is the same company that also
makes Hyundai cars. Pianos and cars, same company.
Also, Daewoo, you know, the Daewoo Car Company that has its roots
in South Korea, Daewoo cars may or may not be your style, but Daewoo
pianos, hey, everybody could admit how nice those look.
And it is not just an Asian car company thing either. This for
example is the very high style piano that is now made by the car company
Now, I cannot say whether or not that sounds better than non-car
company related pianos. Looks very nice. I love the, kind of looks
like it`s got a clam foot, like the foot that comes out of the clam
shell. I kind of like that.
Anyway, this apparently is the thing. This product design
combination thing has been a thing with Asian car companies for a long
time. They`ve been now bee joined by the French car company Peugeot.
Peugeot for the record also makes really nice salt and pepper grinders,
I have one of the salt ones.
Wikipedia says that Peugeot also used to make crinoline dresses.
And the car company Peugeot also makes pianos, and the car company
Peugeot has also just made history in the island nation of Cuba,
because this is the communist government owned Peugeot dealership that
has just opened up in Havana, Cuba. And what is important is that this
is a dealership in Havana, that is not selling salt grinders or pepper
grinders, or crinoline dresses, or pianos. No, this is selling cards
and that`s weird because it`s Cuba, right?
Today, for the first time since 1959, Cubans are allowed to
purchase new cars. The reason the footage from Cuba has romantic appeal
to people who like old cars no matter what else is going on in the
footage is because before now, practically every car on every road in
Cuba aside from some Russian ones, reflected the state policy that only
automobiles that were in Cuba before the revolution could be bought and
sold among citizens.
Given the revolution happened in 1959, that meant that 1959 has
been the end of the line in terms of Cuban automobile availability,
until now. Now, starting today, under these very, very slowly loosening
restrictions on Cuban life under the Castro brothers` dictatorship, as
of today, Cuban citizens can now by new automobiles, new vehicles on the
At least theoretically they can do that, because the average Cuban
wage is only around $20 per month and at the state-run Peugeot
dealership, you will find this representative car costing $262,000.
What? Yes. That`s the mark up. People make 20 bucks a month, but the
cars cost a quarter million dollars.
That price of the new Peugeot is roughly seven times the price, you
would pay for the exact same vehicle if you bought it in this country.
But in Cuba, where the people are least able to afford a vehicle like
this, they`ve still got to pay a 400 percent mark up or 700 percent mark
up on Peugeot cars, thanks to the government owned dealership.
That`s the beauty of the communist economy, right? Real communism,
right, in this country, any economic policy advanced by any Democratic
president is routinely denounced as a form of communism, but Cuba is the
When President Obama made the decision to bail out the U.S. auto
industry in the middle of the financial crisis in 2009, his critics said
it foretold not only communism, but the death of the American auto
industry because of it. It would never work. Once G.M. became
government motors, the American automobile industry was deader than it
would have ever been if we just let nature take its course, like Mitt
Romney said we should.
But the bailout did happen, even as it was being denounced as
communism. The bailout did happen. Now, the bailout is over. And the
American auto industry is not only not dead, but look at these end-of-
the-year numbers. Volume of U.S. auto sales best since 2007 quote,
Chrysler finished 2013 with a 9 percent sales increase, posting its best
annual numbers in six years, as the auto industry`s hit full stride.
Those really positive end of the year numbers for the American
automobile industry were sort of a crowning glory for what started off
as a very bad few years and ended great for the industry. But end of
the year numbers being a real shiny spot for the automobile industry
turned out not to have been something for the automobile industry. They
were end of the year numbers that were really good throughout the
On Tuesday this week, on New Year`s Eve, the U.S. markets finished
off what was a record breaking year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
finished the year up 26 percent for the year. 2013 was the best year
for the Dow since 1995.
The S&P 500 posted its biggest yearly percentage gain in 16 years.
The NASDAQ, which has lots of tech stocks, NASDAQ posted its seventh
biggest annual gain ever in the history of NASDAQ. Best year since
The U.S. economy itself finished off with a bang, too. The economy
grew by 4.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013. That beat
expectations by a lot and it marked the fastest growth rate of growth
for the U.S. economy in two years. That growth of the U.S. economy was
due in large part to increased consumer spending, which was higher than
the experts expected. Also, a huge increase in business investment,
which also beat out expectations.
There`s a lot of really good numbers for 2013. As we head into the
New Year, there`s all these economic indicators that frankly look pretty
good. The U.S. economy, which has slowly been trying to dig itself out
of the ditch it fell into during the financial crisis does appear to be
gaining some momentum.
Last month, U.S. factory activity hit a two and a half year high.
In November, construction spending in the U.S. hit its highest level in
nearly five years thanks to what looks like the recovery of the housing
markets. That same month in November, the U.S. economy added the total
of 203,000 new jobs, which is the number that again beat out
The U.S. economy, for all of the troubles we are still having is
finally starting to come along and to build on this success, Congress
has just come up with a plan to see those 203,000 jobs we just added to
the economy in November, to see those 203,000 jobs and to take away
Two hundred and forty thousand jobs lost. That`s the Labor
Department`s estimate of how many jobs are going to be lost because of
what Congress just did. Because of the decision by Republicans in
Congress to end unemployment benefits for people who have been out of
work for longer than six months.
Right after Christmas, just days before the New Year, congressional
Republicans decided to cut off employment benefits for the long term
unemployed, for people who have been hurt the most by the economic
downturn and who have the fewest options.
Because those unemployment those checks tend to be injected back
into the economy, it`s not like people are sucking them away in their
savings, that one decision, that policy decision, is threatening to take
what was the economy that was starting to come along. It`s threatening
to take that and to throw it right back into reverse.
In addition to the 240,000 jobs that are now projected to be lost
if this isn`t fixed, economists are now predicting that the decision to
kill those benefits will cut U.S. economic growth by 0.4 percentage
points in the first quarter of the year. Nearly a half a point on
annual economic growth will be cut in the first quarter. And to a
certain extent, the damage has already been done. According to a new
report out by House Democrats, in the one week since those unemployment
benefits have lapsed, a total of $400 million is already been taken out
of the U.S. economy, in one week alone.
Congressional Democrats right now, by putting out data like that,
they are essentially trying to build as much pressure as possible to get
Republicans to change their mind on this issue, to get Republicans to
come back to Congress and agree to extend those unemployment benefits
and stop kicking the economy in the teeth.
House Democrats today produced this interactive map where you can
see how killing those benefits is killing the local economy where you
live. The data that the Democrats put out, it`s zip code by zip code.
So, you can go to their Web site, you click on your state, you scroll
through to find your zip code where you live, and by doing so, you will
find out how many people who live exactly where you live are about to be
cut or have just been cut off entirely because of this decision.
I did this today for all of the places that I have lived in the
last few years that I could remember the zip code for and it`s not --
it`s sad. It`s heartrending.
Putting out that sort of information, putting it out in that way
where you can make it really local in terms of understanding the impact,
that is designed to put pressure on individual members of Congress
because you can see how their districts, how their hometowns are
affected. It`s supposed to get some individual Republicans, maybe least
one individual Republican or two or three or four to come along.
And so far, at least one Republican has shown an interest in trying
to fix this problem. It`s Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada.
Right now, he`s the lone Republican cosponsor of legislation that the
Senate is going to vote on on Monday to try to fix this problem for at
least another three months, to put off this self-imposed economic face
punch for another three months, to extend those benefits.
If just a handful of Republicans joined with Dean Heller in the
Senate, then the unemployment extension would likely pass in the Senate.
That would have to go to the House.
And today, the number two House Republican, Eric Cantor, he put out
the house Republican agenda for the next month, the list of this things
he says might come to the House floor or might come to the House floor,
and extending unemployment benefits is not even on the "might" list.
Democrats, though, do not appear to be ready to give up. President
Obama plans to hold an event in the East Room of the White House on
Tuesday, with people who have lost their unemployment benefits and if
the Senate vote to extend fails on Monday, Harry Reid and Senate
Democrats seem to be prepared to make Republicans vote against those
benefits over and over and over again, taking votes on this subject and
again and again, all of this designed to pressure Republicans into
changing their mind.
What are the odds of that happening?
Joining us now is Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of "The
Mr. Grim, thanks very much for being here.
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What is your latest prognosis on the odds? Do you think
there is any hope of an extension of unemployment insurance benefits
GRIM: Well, in the Senate, I think there is some hope. What I`m
hearing is that if Democrats will allow amendments, that you`ll get
enough Republicans who will at least allow a debate to happen. Now,
they might try to tackle all sorts of weird amendments and then vote
against it on -- when it goes to final passage and stuff because like
you said, you know, you might get Susan Collins. You have Dean Heller,
but that only gives you 57 and gets you short of 60.
But maybe the political pressure will be so intense on them that
you find a couple more moderates, Mark Kirk, a few others, and you get
it through. That puts more pressure on House Republicans.
But they don`t feel a ton of pressure on this like Democrats kind
of expected they might when they punted on this back in December.
MADDOW: You know, when the Labor Department came out with the
estimate that this policy decision was going to cost the economy 240,000
jobs and then the economists at JPMorgan came out with their assessment
that this would retard economic growth of the entire country by almost
half a percentage point for the first quarter, I thought those were kind
of slam dunk political bombshells, really, I mean, to mix bad metaphors.
But once you`re talking about jobs in those numbers, when you`re
talking about retarding economic growth at that level, that it ends up
being the sort of thing that does pressure Republicans. Is there
anything that explains why economic factors like that wouldn`t be
effective right now?
GRIM: Yes. Republicans are pushing back with a different type of
analysis. What they`re saying is that giving unemployment benefits to
people discourages them from taking jobs. So, therefore, you`re
actually hurting them. They`re being compassionate by pulling this
And in a sense, there`s some truth to that. But the political
question is you know, what is the value of someone`s basic dignity? You
know, sure. If your unemployment benefits run out, then you`re more
likely to take an $8 an hour or $9 an hour job, because you have to keep
your electricity on, you have to keep food on the table.
If you`re getting that tiny unemployment check, $200, $300 a week,
then you can try to hold out and try to get a job that was a little bit
closer to what you were making before you got let go.
Now, and this is the dynamic that has created the inequality that
we`re talking about here. This is what drives wages down because job
seekers then have less power when they`re negotiating their work. But
Republicans are very public that they`re saying you know, people will
stop, will take jobs if you take these unemployment benefits away from
MADDOW: Some of the polls that has been done on the subject is
obviously being designed to put maximum pressure on Republicans, Public
Policy Polling did some polling recently on the subject where are they
looked specifically at Republican districts, including in John Boehner`s
districts, show that voters in those districts by large majorities
support extending these unemployment benefits.
Do you expect to see more tactics like that, targeted polling
tactics to this event at the White House, that Democrats putting out
this very localized bits of data, do you expect the Democrats to keep
pushing in those directions on this?
GRIM: Absolutely. But that`s basically all they have left. They
had their opportunity in December. You know, they had Republicans over
the barrel. They were not going to shut down the government over
Democrats reasoned well, we`ll get more sequester relief if we
don`t go for unemployment now and we can come back and get unemployment
in January. So, they kind of gambled with these people`s unemployment
The problem here is we don`t really have a national political
system. Yes, nationally, this is very popular stuff and even locally,
it`s popular, but people are not going to vote out their individual
Republican members of Congress over this particular issue and a lot of
people know that.
Now, there are some moderates who might face the heat and that`s
your best chance of getting this through. But broadly, it`s got to be
tough to move it at this point.
MADDOW: Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of "The Huffington
Post" -- Ryan, thanks very much for being with us tonight. Appreciate
GRIM: Thank you.
All right. If you see, read or hear that conservatives have toned
it way down with regard to the culture war these past few years, please
observe our next segment, which will be filled with some very persuasive
dots to exactly the contrary.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 1990, a total of four abortion restrictions were
enacted and it pretty much went along at that pace for much of the rest
of the decades in the 1990s. There are few spikes here and there in the
late `90s. But in total in that decade in the 1990s, about 130
restrictions on abortion rights were passed into law in various states.
These are new figures from the Guttmacher Institute.
In the following decade, in the 2000s, the number of new state
restrictions on abortion rights got bigger and it was sort of a more
volatile process. In total, there were about 189 anti-abortion measures
put into place versus 130 the decade before.
But then after 2010, the deluge. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 and the
years after Republicans took control of lots of state governments across
the country, after then, after the 2010 elections, more than 200
measures passed into law in various states -- more than 200 in just
three years. Seventy restrictions enacted last year alone. They did
more to roll back abortion rights in the past three years than they did
in either of the past two decades. A dozen states now have 20-week
abortion bans. Half of all states have barred abortion coverage and
And according to a recent "Huffington Post" survey, over 50 clinics
nationwide have been shutdown or have been forced to stop performing
services since 2010.
And now, the question is whether the pendulum might be able to
start swinging in the other direction. Take Virginia under Republican
Governor Bob McDonnell, the legislature passed into law this medically
unnecessary forced ultrasound exam, right, along with the Trap law which
closed down clinic after clinic in the commonwealth, under the direction
of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
But then, Ken Cuccinelli ran for governor on the straight
antiabortion, male Republican ticket. And he in that whole ticket lost
in the November elections. And women`s issues like reproductive health
rights were front and center in the Cuccinelli versus McAuliffe
Now, in the wake of the Democratic sweep in the Virginia elections
in November, abortion rights advocates in Virginia say they hope to roll
back the restrictions that were enacted by the previous administration,
telling reporters yesterday they`re readying a repeal of the forced
ultrasound law and they`re readying an expansion of reproductive
services in the commonwealth. So, that`s Virginia with its shiny new
Democratically held executive branch.
In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker and Republican-
controlled state legislature there cut off funding to Planned
Parenthood. They shut down a lot of clinics in the state. They passed
the Trap law, ready to shut down more.
The state legislature in Wisconsin was all set to pass another
round of restrictions on abortion and specifically on contraception,
including the "ask your boss" law if you could have your health
insurance cover your birth control pills. But that that sparked one
state senator, Jon Erpenbach, to declare that he would bring all out
hell to the Wisconsin state senate if Republicans tried to push those
Against that backdrop of promised all out hell, it now appears that
Republicans in Wisconsin are going to stand down on these new
restrictions that they have been considering. A Wisconsin state leader
says they will not take up those after all, pushback either worked or at
least did not hurt Wisconsin.
And while 2013 saw a ton of legislative wins for antiabortion
advocates in Republican-controlled state governments, when the issue
went to a vote by the general public in the great city of Albuquerque,
New Mexico, that super-divisive citywide all out antiabortion referendum
in Albuquerque lost and lost badly, and that electoral loss for
antiabortion advocates came on the heels in the county, expanding
In California, where abortion procedures can now be performed by
more health professionals, not fewer.
It is 2014. There are gubernatorial elections on the horizon this
year. Yippee. Several visible pro-choice candidates are running
against staunchly anti-abortion Republicans, from Wendy Davis in Texas,
to Mary Burke who`s challenging Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
Will 2014 be the year to roll back the abortion rights rollback of
the past several years? Does this mean things are moving back in the
other direction? Will there be a significant pushback against the huge
anti-abortion advances we have seen in the states in the past three
Watch this space.
MADDOW: So this happened last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida --
thank you for being here tonight. Congratulations on this ruling.
HOWARD SIMON, ACLU OF FLORIDA: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: I should tell you that we received a response from a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, there is an error, hello?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There is a, what?
Male voice you heard at the end there is actually a new high-tech
feature on this show. It turns out that voice rings out on this show
unexpectedly whenever the Koch brothers` lawyer sends us a letter.
Actually, the there was an error guy was a totally unrelated thing, but
we have stirred up some Koch brothers lawyerly anger apparently, which
is fascinating. Ands that rather dramatic story is coming up and you
are not going to want to miss it.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: America must be a model citizen.
If we want others to look to as a model, how we behave at home affects
how we are perceived abroad. We must fight the terrorists and at the
same time, defend the rights that are the foundation of our society, we
can`t torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured.
I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies. And
work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the
disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In 2008, the Republican nominee for president ran for
president by saying that we should close Guantanamo and getting applause
when he said it. By the time John McCain was running for president, by
the time he was even running for the nomination for president, the
sitting Republican president, the guy who opened Guantanamo, was also
saying he wanted to close.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: And obviously, they brought up
the concern about Guantanamo. And I understand their concerns, but let
me explain my position. First, I`d like to end Guantanamo. I`d like it
to be over with. One of the things we will do is send people back to
their home countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, his
belief that we should close Guantanamo was just about the least
controversial position that he had taken as a candidate. That position
was not only shared by him and the previous president he was succeeding,
it was a belief shared by him and by the guy who he ran against.
But alas, Guantanamo, still open and part of the reason why is
this. Behold, Uighurville, this is technically camp iguana, but
apparently, it`s known as Uighurville because it`s part of the prison
set aside by a group of Uighurs, a group of Chinese Muslim men for the
time that they were still being held at the prison at Guantanamo, even
though the United States government admitted that they should not be in
prison at all.
After the Bush administration decided to stop even trying to
contend that these Chinese guys should be seen as enemy combatants.
Back in 2013, a federal judge said, well, then listen, if they`re not
enemy combatants, if you have no charges against them, no contention
against them, then it is unlawful to keep them at Guantanamo any longer.
They must be freed.
The 17 Chinese prisoners at Guantanamo were essentially guys who
were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the U.S. invaded
Afghanistan and when there were $5,000 bounties to be paid for handing
over suspicious-seeming foreigners to U.S. forces. But when the Bush
administration gave up trying to make the case that these guys were
dangerous, when that judge recorded them released, it was a long way
into them having spent years at Guantanamo and when the judge said they
were going to be released, it seemed like this long, strange odyssey of
Chinese guys at this prison, with nobody being able to explain why they
were there, finally seemed like that was going to come to an end.
But then Congress freaked out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: Madam Speaker, it is my
understanding that President Obama`s decision regarding the release into
the U.S. the number of Uighur detainees held at Guantanamo Bay since
2002 could be imminent. Let me be clear, these terrorists would not be
held in prisons, but they would be released in your neighborhoods. They
should not be released into the United States. When members realize who
these people are --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They`re random Chinese guys who are at Guantanamo by
Frank Wolf, Republican member of Congress from Virginia, decided
that the Uighurs was the hill he was going to die on. That was the
cause he was going to absolutely lie down in front of the machinery and
stop the world on. No one was going to let these guys be released. Who
cared that even the Bush administration said these guys aren`t
terrorists and they aren`t dangerous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF: You know, Holder and this administration is, they were so
wrong. They were actually going to bring Uighurs, people who were
picked up in Tora Bora, who came maybe to learn how to kill the Chinese,
but were going to kill Americans, they were going to release them on
Route 7 across in that mosque in Falls Church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In Falls Church.
That year, Congressman Wolf would let up and Congressman Wolf got
his way. The plan to relocate the Uighurs in the United States was
scrapped and it was hard to find them anywhere else to go and so, they
continued to languish in camp iguana, in Uighurville, as China spent its
time pressuring countries all around the world not to take them in.
In 2009, four of them finally were sent to Bermuda. Six of them
were sent to the island nation of Palau. The following year, two of
them went to Switzerland. Last year, two of them went to El Salvador.
That left three Uighurs still at Guantanamo Bay with no charges against
them, no contention that they`re enemy combatant, no contention that
Earlier this week, the final three were finally freed after 12
years of imprisonment, they were sent to the nation of Slovakia.
At the beginning of the year in 2013, there were 166 prisoners at
Guantanamo Bay. Over the course of the year, 11 of them were released.
Nine in the last month alone. That means we`re down to 155 prisoners at
Over half of the remaining prisoners have been cleared for release,
and now, the last of the Uighurs, the weirdest group of prisoners at
Guantanamo, chronologically speaking, the last of the Uighurs are
finally now gone.
Should we see that as a sign that more people will soon be able to
go? That the burst of activity we saw with releasing people from
Guantanamo and finding them places to go around the world will continue?
Is progress now afoot?
Joining us now is Raha Wala. He`s senior counsel for the law and
security program of Human Rights First.
Mr. Wala, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
RAHA WALA, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you think that the release of these three Chinese men,
the last three Uighurs, says anything about the rest of the people who
were still being held at Guantanamo, are they really a singular case?
WALA: You know, Rachel, I think it does say something about
primarily, the main obstacle to closing Guantanamo in the first place,
which has been political intransigence.
And what the administration has done now with the president giving
a speech in May of this year at the National Defense University is
reiterate its commitment to follow through and close Guantanamo, with
the increase phase of transfers out of Guantanamo that you noted in your
So, I think this is just kind of the icing on the cake at the end
of the year here of, you know, moving forward to actually transfer
detainees and hopefully close Guantanamo as soon as possible.
MADDOW: Do you think that the solution or the closest that this
president will get to closing Guantanamo is going to be piecemeal, man
by man, prisoner by prisoner, country by country, individual
arrangements like this, or is there something that could happen over the
course of the next year or two where a large number of prisoners could
be freed at once?
WALA: You know, I think it`s a little bit of both. One of the big
problems is that the majority of detainees, especially the cleared
detainees, are Yemenis, and there be some opportunity to have a solution
where many of those detainees will be transferred and blocked. But for
the most part, these negotiations with countries, including third
countries beyond the home countries of the detainees, will have to
proceed on a case by case basis, taking into account diplomatic, legal
consequences and national security consequences.
So, it`s going to be an arduous process, but with the right amount
of political commitment and right high level engagement from the
president, I believe it can be done.
MADDOW: In terms of that political commitment and political
engagement, obviously, your senior council at Human Rights First and
you`re approaching these rights as advocate and attorney here. But when
you look at the political climate, it`s always seemed strange to me that
there was this surface level agreement that Guantanamo should be closed,
there was a super level agreement that that was inevitable and then as
soon as steps started to be taken towards that, there was this really
Republican, but really bipartisan freak out about it.
Do you think that we are passed that?
As more progress is made in 2014 and more people are sent away from
that prison, do you think that we`re past the point where we could have
another congressional freak out like we saw from Frank Wolf?
WALA: Well, you know, there`s also a chance someone will try to
play politics with an important issue of national security and American
values. But I do think we`re getting to the point, where most people
most informed individuals in Congress and beyond see the closure of
Guantanamo as inevitable. It`s not a matter of if. It`s a matter of
when and how.
And so, even seeing Senator John McCain, who was in your
introduction, reiterate his commitment to work with the administration
that closed Guantanamo. He played an important role on the Senate floor
with the defense bill, which actually relaxed transfer restrictions to
allow the president more latitude to transfer detainees that was being
So, you know, I think we`re making progress here. What happens in
2014 remains to be seen, but I`m hopeful.
MADDOW: Raha Wala, senior counsel for the law and security program
at Human Rights First, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s
nice to have you here.
WALA: Thanks for having me.
All right. Still to come. Debunktion Junction, our latest
encounter with the Koch brothers and a completely legitimate news reason
to show and revel in this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Hoot, hoot! Debunktion Junction, what`s my function?
All right. True or false -- that Russian ship that was stuck in
the ice in Antarctica, along with all of its passengers, good news,
they`ve been freed and all passengers have been rescued. Is that true
or is that false?
False. So, technically, the 52 passengers stranded were rescued as
we reported here last night and everybody else reported everywhere else,
too. A helicopter based on a Chinese icebreaker picked them up and flew
them to a third ship, to an Australian icebreaker and that Australian
icebreaker set sail for Tasmania, starting voyagers, finally,
thankfully, mercifully, on their journey home.
The problem is, the problem is that Chinese ship, the one that sent
the helicopter to rescue everybody, the Chinese ship might now be stuck
in the ice as well. So, the rescued passengers are technically rescued,
but the ship they`re on is not moving either. They`re in a holding
pattern waiting to see if the Chinese ship which was sent in to save the
Russian ship also needs to be saved. At which point, they will be
called up to be the savers and not the savees. There you have it.
Also, true or false -- there is a newborn island off the coast of
Japan shaped like Snoopy. Yes. That`s Snoopy. Is that true or is that
false? Please, please, please let it be true.
True. I did not believe it when I first heard it, but it`s true.
Back in November, a volcanic eruption was spotted about 600 miles south
of Tokyo, along the volcano-rich Ring of Fire out in the middle of the
As you can see, the erupting volcano created a new island. And as
time went by, which you can watch happening, if you pay attention to it,
on the top left of your screen here, the new island started creeping
closer and closer and closer and closer to its nearby land mass, until
it finally connected to an already existing island. And you know,
normally, just another uninhabitable island in the middle of the ocean.
Interesting, maybe, but wait a minute. Take a look at this island.
Does it remind you of anybody, like maybe somebody from your childhood
or your favorite Christmas movie about a sad little tree? Like maybe
his best friend should be a bald headed kid in a yellow and black zigzag
tee and a bird named Woodstock?
Look, there he is -- Snoopy, with a collar and everything. A
Snoopy-shaped island right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I
thought it was a hoax on Twitter, but it is true and that is almost as
awesome as getting a personal letter from the Koch brothers. Not quite
as awesome, but close and that story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did I get anything wrong there? Did I get anything wrong?
Did I fairly summarize what`s in that package? Did I get anything wrong
there? Did I get anything wrong there or did I confuse any of the
details? Did I get anything wrong there?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The reason I ask that question of guests on this show
sometimes is because inevitably when you are spending $6,000 words a
night explaining the news, inevitably some of your word will be wrong.
So, like last night, there was this amazing moment at the end of our
lead story where I say good night to our guest. He says good night. I
think it`s over.
Then he says, really loud, and obviously not to me, he says, "There
is an error." This is a very strange moment. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congratulations on this ruling. Thank you.
SIMON: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: I should tell you we received a response.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, there is an error, hello?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hello? I couldn`t see him. I didn`t know what was going
-- he was right. There was an error.
That was a really strange way for me to find out about it, but it`s
true. The story we are doing is about a federal court order against
Florida`s drug test the poor law, and I had characterized it as an
action by a federal appeals court, it was an action by a federal
So, really, there was an error. He was right. I`m very sorry
there was an error.
I mean, you never like to get stuff wrong, but it does happen from
time to time. And when we get stuff wrong on this show, I try to make
sure that we correct it. I don`t mind making corrections.
That said, don`t push it. We cover a lot of right-wing politics on
this show. I mean, nothing against Democrats, nothing against liberals.
But the selection of stories that we cover on the show, reflects my
belief as the host, that the most interesting story in American politics
this decade is the effort by the Republican Party to remake itself in
the wake of the disastrous Bush/Cheney era, and the divide within the
party and the divides particularly within the party itself, and
conservative movement that thinks that controls the party. I think
those are the most interesting and consequential fights in American
And I think that the resolution of those fights, who`s going to
win/who`s going to lose, is truly an open question and fascinating
important one for who we are as a country.
So, we cover the conservative movement a lot on this show. And in
so doing, we occasionally find people who have been mentioned in our
coverage who are absolutely outraged that they have been mentioned in
our coverage -- people who are not used to being talked about by some
one who does not take their instructions.
And so, what happens is, they tend to try to instruct me, as to how
I ought to talk about them.
And the conservative political figures who you can most count on to
threaten to sue you and call your boss and scream about their
victimization as loud as they can whenever they get mentioned by name in
a way they do not control, are, of course, the Koch brothers, Charles
and David Koch, who inherited a privately held oil and chemical company
from their dad and thereby became almost unimaginably wealthy.
If Charles and David Koch were one Koch brother instead of two, if
they were one guy, they would be the second richest guy on earth. And
they have been political figures as long as they have been richer than
When David Koch ran for vice president on the libertarian party
line in 1980, he minted gold dimes with his own head on them as a
campaign trinket. The Koch brothers have so much money, one of the Koch
brothers made his own money with his own head on it as a means of trying
to persuade you to vote him into the White House. Wow. That`s the
level of money and the level of politics at which these guys have always
And when you operate at that level, I think maybe you are not used
to ever hearing things that you do not want to hear -- particularly
things about yourself. And so, very frequently when weep cover the Koch
brothers we then hear from the Koch brothers` lawyer.
Our lead story last night was about that Florida drug test the poor
law, which was smacked down by a federal judge on New Year`s Eve. The
law blocked by the courts twice now. It was hugely expensive when it
was in effect. And it turned out when it was in effect, it turned up
levels by the drug use by the poor in Florida that were roughly 1/4 the
level of drug use in the population at large.
So, the Florida drug test the poor law has been an expensive and
embarrassing failure from the very beginning, and has failed as a fiscal
policy. It has failed as a bolster for the stereotypes on which it was
Nevertheless, the political right has successfully marketed the
failed Florida policy to lots of other states. We highlighted local
reporting last night from states like Missouri, and Kansas, and
Minnesota who have all adopted versions of the failed Florida law, and
are all now either reaping the negative consequences of their laws, or
are worried that they`re about to.
It`s an interesting political question, right, about how obviously
failed policies, nevertheless, get picked up and moved into different
states even as they fail everywhere they are tried. And, therefore, an
interesting political question, as to who does that? Who tells states
they ought to do what Florida did with the policy like this?
Well, in the case of this Florida law that we looked up last night,
it`s the group called the Florida Foundation for Government
Accountability. They went to public hearings in Georgia to share the
good news about Florida`s terrible policy and why Georgia should adopt
it. They went to a national meeting of the group ALEC in Arizona, to
market Florida`s terrible policy to state legislators from all over the
Quote, "ALEC members should look to Florida for free market
Medicaid and welfare reforms. Who is this group telling state
legislators from all over the country that they ought to adopt Florida`s
It turns out they`re part of a huge network of state-based
conservative think-tanks that is frankly kind of designed to not look
like a network. They all look vaguely indigenous. They all have what
look to be locally specific names.
But their funding if you follow it comes in part from a central
source of big money corporate donors. Including groups affiliated with
the Koch brothers.
Now, we are not the first news outlet to report on the Koch
brothers funding distribution networks and groups small and large all
over the country who have received funding through mechanisms that the
Koch brothers have set up to support conservative candidates and
conservative activism and conservative research and conservative
And the Koch brothers lawyers are not denying that they fund these
networks or that the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability is
one of the groups that has been funded through these networks. But they
really do not want anyone reporting any connection between what those
groups do and who gives them the money that they do it with.
The Koch brother letter, includes a script they want me to read to
you on the air denouncing my own reporting on the Florida drug test the
poor story and telling you that they are not involved in promoting any
I am not going to read their script. I`m not going to renounce my
own reporting on the story, because the reporting on the story stands.
It is true.
And, now we also know that the Koch brother do`s not wish to be
associated with the work and causes they have funded through their
multimillion dollar, multiyear massive funding of networks of
You not wanting to be known for something that you have done is not
the same thing as you not having done it.
The Koch brothers do also say that when we contacted them for
comment on our story, it was too late in date for them, we should have
given them more time to respond. You know what, that is a fair point.
We will endeavor to contact them earlier in the day. And I`m sorry that
our call came late.
But we will not stop reporting on political actions and the
consequences of the political actions of rich, powerful men even if they
send angry letters every time we do it. I will not read scripts
provided to me by anyone else. I do not play requests.
I will happily make corrections when I do get things wrong. We do
it on the show all the time. But I will not renounce or retract
reporting that is true. Even if the subjects of that reporting don`t
Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny.
If you don`t want to be known for it, don`t do it. Don`t just complain
when people accurately describe your actions. Your actions are what we
are reporting on, we will do that on our own terms as a free press.
If you want to control the words that are used when your actions
are discussed then speak for yourself.
I will renew my invitation now. Mr. Koch, or the other Mr. Koch,
you are welcome on the show anytime. I would love to discuss these
matters with you, right here, in person, live and without interruption,
And it would be easy to set up. You apparently already have my
That does it for us tonight. We appreciate you being with us.
Happy New Year. We`ll see you again Monday.
I do have to tell you, that before you can go to your weekend, you
do have to spend some very important, quality, quiet time -- in prison.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND
MAY BE UPDATED.
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