February 22, 2014
Guests: Mark Quarterman, Ian Bremmer, Adrian Karatnycky, Marc Morial, Ari
Berman, Myrna Perez, Jamelle Bouie, Alicia Reece, Amy Julia Harris
JOY REID, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. When we say civil
rights movement today, what do we mean? Plus the Arkansas official who is
using ignorance as a political weapon. And the housing project no one
should have to call home.
But first, with revolution in the streets, another diplomatic challenge for
Good morning, I am Joy Reid, in for Melissa Harris-Perry. We have breaking
news this morning that`s still developing. Right now it is news coming
from Ukraine, and we`re going to bring you the latest developments. But
also, I want to be sure to put this story into a broader context. So,
we`re going to begin with the week that was for Russian President Vladimir
Putin. The focus was supposed to be on the Sochi Olympics, as Mr. Putin
had high hopes for the winter games, including the Russian men`s hockey
team. Representing the country`s national sport and a jewel in Russia`s
sports crown. However, they lost three to one against Finland on
Wednesday. In spite of that loss, it was Putin`s hope that the world`s
focus will remain on the notion that Russia was back in resurgent. Making
the most of its turn in the international spotlight. But that hope would
not be realized. Because while Putin was dealing with the Olympics in his
front yard, in his backyard, he was facing revolution in the streets.
It all began back in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
abandoned a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer economic
ties with Russia. In fact, it was Russia that threatened trade sanctions
against Ukraine if that country accepted the E.U. deal. Russia then froze
aid to Ukraine, while pushing leaders there to pass anti-protest laws.
Putin may have thought that a strong-arm approach would work to repress
Ukrainians, but they would prove him wrong. Ukrainians continue to take to
the streets and they succeeded in having the anti-protest laws repealed,
and causing the prime minister and his cabinet to resign. After months of
protests and sporadic violence, matters escalated on Tuesday between
protesters and police, and at least 25 people were killed and more than 200
To Putin`s chagrin, the images captivating the world didn`t come out of
Sochi, they came out of Ukraine. Violence erupted again on Thursday
between anti-government protesters and security forces in Kiev, just hours
after truce was declared. By Friday morning, the Ukrainian health ministry
raised the official death toll for this week to at least 77 along with 577
injured. The Russia is knee deep in the history that led to the violence
in Ukraine, the impact reaches far beyond Russia, right into the office of
President Obama as the leader of the world sole super power. On Tuesday,
Vice President Joe Biden called on Ukrainian President Yanukovych to
express his grave concern over the protest and urged him to pull back
government forces and exercise maximum restraint. That wasn`t enough for
some critics of the administration, including Florida Republican Senator
Marco Rubio who wanted to see specific action from the president himself.
Rubio released a statement on Wednesday that said "I urge the Obama
administration to use every diplomatic means at its disposal, including
sanctions, to bring accountability to those involved in acts of violence
throughout Ukraine. Ukraine`s future lies in Europe, not in Vladimir
Putin`s Russia." On Wednesday during his trip to Mexico, President Obama
made it very clear who he held responsible for what was going on inside the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We hold the
Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is
dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way. That the Ukrainian
people are able to assemble, and speak freely about their interests without
fear of repression. We will be monitoring very carefully this situation,
recognizing that along with our European partners and the international
community there will be consequences if people step over the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Once again, President Obama is facing a revolution that the U.S. has
a vested interest in. To understand what`s going on, we have to go back
for a minute to the Orange Revolution, and this man, Viktor Yushchenko. He
is the pro-Western politician who survived a poisoning attempt in 2004 and
led pro-democracy crowds and mass demonstrations that resulted in reversing
an election result and forced out Viktor Yanukovych. A move many saw as
the break from Moscow`s manipulation. Putin at the time accused the U.S.
and Europe of interfering in Ukraine`s domestic politics. That helps
explain some of the debate over the current crisis in Ukraine. Yesterday
an agreement was finally reached to end the deadly clashes. Ukrainian
president Yanukovych agreed to early elections and return to the country`s
2004 constitution. He also seated some of his own power. For the time
being, it appeared that all out civil war had been avoided. But just this
morning, a new twist. A defiant president Yanukovych spoke out on
television to denounce what he is calling a coup d`‚tat and insisted that
he will sign nothing with the opposition who he is calling gangsters who
are, quote, "terrorizing the country." I want to bring in NBC News chief
foreign correspondent Richard Engel who is joining me now by phone from
Kiev, Ukraine. So, Richard, what`s the scene on the ground there now?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I am just off of the main square and
this entire area in central Kiev is taken - has been taken over by
demonstrators. They are now in control of large parts, if not all, of the
Ukrainian capital. They are running parliament, they have taken control of
the presidential offices. The President Yanukovych who gave that televised
speech is no longer here, he is on the run, and it`s unclear how much
authority he still has in this country. Parliament has been passing law
after law and normally these laws will have to be approved by Yanukovych.
Yanukovych says he will not approve these laws, but parliament is going
ahead, acting on its own authority, and it seems that we are witnessing
something of a coup by the legislative branch taking control of this
country on the side of the demonstrators, and pushing aside the executive
branch, which President Yanukovych still claims to control, although he
doesn`t have a great deal of authority any more here in the capital. If he
arrived here, I have almost no doubt that he would be grabbed and arrested
by demonstrators. There are no government security forces in evidence.
Protesters are wandering around freely across the city, and in many cases
the government forces that were here are not cooperating with them.
REID: So, given the fact that you`re saying that Yanukovych is
essentially, as you said, "on the run" and it`s not clear how much
authority he has, who is actually in control of the country right now?
ENGEL: The parliament is merging as the de facto leadership right here,
and parliament has been meeting all day, passing law after law to release
some political prisoners, to pass sanctions in favor of the -- or pass laws
in favor of the demonstrators. It seems that they are running things
politically. On the ground, it is the demonstrators themselves who have
been at this movement for the last three months and therefore organized
themselves into different committees. There are defense committees, there
are supply committees, and those committees are the ones that are
organizing traffic, setting up check points, and it has been very peaceful
and organized, I must say, there has not been violence on the street, nor
have we seen any looting.
REID: OK, so, Richard, we`ve also heard conflicting reports this morning
about Ukraine`s former prime minister and whether or not she has actually
been released from prison. So, tell us the significance of her role there
and what her status is, as you know it?
ENGEL: The former prime minister that was one of the things that the
parliament was voting on today was to secure her release. She is expected
in this area at any moment really. There have been conflicting reports as
to whether she has been actually released from jail or is on her way or is
about to be released from prison. But she`s expected to be released or has
already been released and is expected by the protesters to come and greet
them here and everyone who I have spoken to thinks that when she arrives,
there will be an enormous celebration as yet another symbol that the
Ukrainian revolution if you ask people here has already won and just needs
to finalize its control of the country by removing Yanukovych. That`s the
way it seems here. So far, the armed forces in Ukraine have not
intervened. In fact, the army has said that it will not react violently
and put itself in the middle of this crisis.
REID: All right. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel,
thank you, live in Kiev. We appreciate it. The situation in Ukraine still
leaves much for world leaders to sort through. And Friday afternoon,
President Obama got on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin and
spoke with him for about an hour regarding the peace deal. And for more on
that and the role the U.S. and its allies will play in the still unfolding
situation, I am joined by Mark Quarterman, the research director at the
Enough project, which works to end genocide and crimes against humanity.
Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, which is a leading global risk
research and consulting firm. Michael Singh, the managing director of the
Washington Institute and former senior director from Middle East Affairs at
the National Security Council and also Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow
at the Atlantic Council`s program on Transatlantic Relations. So, thanks
to you all. So, let`s unpack - I mean these developments really are
happening literally minute by minute. Can you unpack for us sort of the
who wins, who loses thing? Right, you`ve got Vladimir Putin`s man,
essentially, in Ukraine, whereabouts unknown, status unknown. What does
that mean for Russia and for Ukraine?
ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Let me pull it back to make one
clarification. The parliament is acting within the context of the
constitution. The parliament is acting with veto proof constitutional
majorities. There have been 380 deputies that approved the reworking of
the constitution, it`s more than three-quarters of the parliament, and they
are voting by two-thirds plus one. That means that Mr. Yanukovych`s base
has defected in the parliament and they represent the vast economic
interests in the country. They represent people who have served in the
security structures. They have elected a new minister of the interior, he
has taken over. And there`s now a command structure being formed. The
leaders of the security service in Kiev and the militia who a few days ago
were killing the demonstrators have pledged loyalty to this chain of
command and to work with the civic defense units.
So, taken together, the important thing is that there`s some constitutional
coherence. Mr. Yanukovych now, even though he still has the title of
president and from the legal and formal point of view until impeachment
proceedings and until he would be removed or resign voluntarily, he has
some claim to authority, has no command and control over vast resources of
the military, of the security. But he still has a residual base of
support. And he has some - he could use regional military units in the
east to fight back and to create mayhem. And Russia potentially could
respond. And that is another danger that diplomacy has to avert to the
call of a president to come to his defense, which would mean de facto an
invasion. Because the president has lost legitimacy, he has lost support
and he is on the verge of being not just impeached, but removed from
REID: OK, I am going to get you more about this language of whether the
coup language that is being used is accurate. But I`m going to work
everyone in after the break. We have a lot more to get into on this. And
when we come back, I want to hear more from the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And we are not ruling out
sanctions to hold those responsible for the violence accountable.
Especially should there be further violence or violation of the agreement.
Right now, we`re focused on the implementation of the agreement. We
consider this a positive development, mindful of the fact that the
agreement is one thing, implementation is another. And we`re going to be
closely monitoring that with our European friends. As well as working with
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was White House Press Secretary Jay Carney yesterday giving a
cautious assessment of the deal that had been reached in Ukraine, or
reminding everyone that the U.S. and its allies would continue to monitor
the situation. And now more breaking news this morning, according to
Reuters, the Ukrainian parliament has voted to dismiss the country`s
president and to set elections for May 25TH. Ian, I want to go to you
first for the significance of that. I mean the language of coup has been
thrown around, not least of which by now president whose status is unknown.
IAN BREMMER, EURASIA GROUP: Yeah, well, as we were just saying, you know,
in the interim there, the votes happened, it is a sufficient majority, but
it is not the procedural, it`s not a legal vote from that perspective.
REID: So, is this properly described as a coup attempted in your mind?
BREMMER: Yes, sure, that step is properly described as a coup. But it
doesn`t mean that it`s not a coup that the U.S. is going to support, right?
The Americans and Europeans will be perfectly happy about the outcome.
Here is the problem. The Americans and Europeans don`t care as much about
Ukraine as one country. Which is Russia. And we haven`t talked about
Russia yet. The fact is that the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov, who is
by far the most capable foreign minister dealing with this issue, has come
out publicly and said that the opposition is led by extremists and that
this is illegitimate and it has undermined the sovereignty, the national
sovereignty of Ukraine. In other words, Russia is not accepting any of
this outcome. They have by far more economic, political and security
influence over what`s happening in Ukraine than any other country. If it
weren`t for the Russians, we would actually have a transition of power and
we wouldn`t have to worry about massive instability in this country.
That`s not the case here. And a sixth of Ukraine is ethnic Russian, and
they live primarily in Crimea, in southeast Ukraine, they`re not going to
just sit and tolerate that. That`s the reason why President Yanukovych,
status unknown, but location very much known .
BREMMER: Is sitting in Kharkiv right now making these pronouncements with
the Putin senior adviser sitting right next to him.
BREMMER: That should concern us. It is not over. This is not over.
REID: And indeed, also using the language of Nazism, accusing, I want to
read a quick quote of something that Yanukovych said during his address
today. And he said "we`re seeing a repeat of Nazis, when in the 1930s in
Germany and Austria the Nazis were coming to power. This is a repeat.
Parties were being banned, the same is happening now, they`re banning the
Communist Party, the Party of Regions, they are putting labels,
persecuting, beating up people, torching houses, offices. More than 200
offices of the Party of Regions have been burnt in the Ukraine." I mean
that kind of extreme language, because at this point, this is not being
accepted by the Russians or by their man in Ukraine.
MICHAEL SINGH, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: That`s right. You know,
obviously that kind of language is common from dictators, you know, we see
the same thing from President Assad in Syria, for example, same thing from
the Russians when it comes to Syria. But look. You know, let`s not forget
that this all sort of dates back to November and the rejection of the E.U.
Association Agreement as a result in part of Russian coercion against
Ukraine, the threats of economic sanctions as you said earlier, Joy. And
then at that time the U.S. and the E.U. really had no response to that
Russian bullying. And we can`t allow that to happen again. You know, this
time we have to have a coherent sort of coordinated response to what is
certainly going to be as Ian said, more Russian threats, you know, more
Russian attempts to sort of keep Ukraine in its orbit. Because I agree for
President Putin, this is an extremely important issue. And I think this is
- he sees this in a very different way than we do. He sees this as a zero
sum issue, where a victory for the West, a victory for Western - pro-
Western forces in Ukraine is a loss for Russia and a loss for him,
REID: And Mark, do you want to get in?
MARK QUARTERMAN, ENOUGH PROJECT: Yeah, I wanted to make two points. One,
while I don`t give a lot of credence or - which of too much that comes out
of Yanukovych, the statement about fascist, Nazis, et cetera just
highlights the strange bad fellows aspect of a lot of the uprisings that
we`re going to be talking about. There are far right elements in the
opposition. There are far left elements in the opposition. That doesn`t
mean that they`re not struggling against the autocratic government that has
taken more and more powers and has abused human rights, but it does say
that we can`t just see this as good guys, bad guys, democrats in the street
fighting against an autocratic regime.
QUARTERMAN: We saw that in Egypt where we lionized the opposition, and
when the Muslim Brotherhood took over, it began its own autocratic process.
REID: So, I mean I think the basic question here - I do want to ask you
this. Who is the opposition, and how do we localize who it is that the
government of Ukraine is fighting?
KARATNYCKY: There are right wing groups, but polling data since the
violence and then the period where things got really rough showed that the
rise of moderate politicians as the favorites in the presidential race.
These groups will be in the parliament, they`re - you know, they believe in
sort of ethnic nationalism, they`re hostile to minorities, there`s an even
a far right group which is actually not hostile to minorities, but is just
very, very, you know, ultra conservative. They don`t like the E.U., but
they will probably not represent more than eight to ten percent of the mix.
That`s an important component, that`s something that`s quite worrying. But
they gave their lives in this struggle. These guys who are -- have views
that I clearly do not share and disapprove of -- they put their bodies out
there to protect the peaceful demonstrators. Because the protest was two
levels, there were the hard line guys who were fighting with shields and
staying in the perimeters and the people inside who were, you know, more
civil and using nonviolent means. When the government started beating them
and killing them, these people took the bullets, and I think, you know,
they -- you`re right, there are a lot of terrible things in there, but they
gave their lives for this revolution and they actually made it happen.
Without them, I think the square would have been dispersed, the crowds
would have gone, and revolution, Mr. Yanukovych would still be in power.
So, it is a paradox. But the point is, I don`t think they`re aiming and
they are close.
And the last thing I would say is these groups were created both by Russian
intelligence and by Yanukovych and his party who subsidized these groups
because they played a cultural politics game in Ukraine. You see, there
are these ultra-right wing people from central and Western Ukraine? We,
Russian speakers are under attack. And that`s how they mobilize their
electorate while they plundered the country. Mr. Yanukovych took $12
billion in three years for his personal needs.
REID: OK. And I know everybody wants to get in. And when we come back,
we`re going to let everybody get in. Because you know what it sounds a lot
like, I think, to a lot of people who are watching, who are in the U.S.,
who watched the whole Arab Spring thing happen, it sounds a lot like what
happened in Egypt. And as Mark pointed out before, that didn`t necessarily
work out the way we planned. So we`ll come back, we`re going to let
everybody get in more when we come back.
REID: Welcome back. OK, so the difficulty in revolutions is that it is
hard sometimes to sort out the good guys from the bad guys or even what
good guys and bad guys mean. So, Mark, you made an analogy between what`s
happening in Ukraine and the Arab Spring. And the sort of - we went in
thinking the protesters are clearly the good guys, and then afterwards
that`s not so clear. Can you just amplify that point just a little bit
when it comes to Ukraine?
MARK QUARTERMAN, RESEARCH DIR., ENOUGH PROJECT: Absolutely. And I want to
say from the start, that Ukraine is not Egypt, I mean they`re not exactly
the same. But the leap to saying the good guys, our folks against the
autocrats, especially if autocrats are supported by the Russians is just
too easy. The guy standing next to John McCain when he was speaking to the
crowd is a neo-fascist, and McCain was talking about how we need to support
democrats here. I am not sure that man would necessarily be supportive of
that. It was pointed out that Ukraine has organized political parties that
Egypt didn`t. Really, Egypt only had one organized political party, the
Muslim Brotherhood that could take over. So, the outcomes could be
different. But I just wanted to cast some doubt on this black, white, good
guys, bad guys` paradigm we have.
There`s one other point I wanted to make, too, about Russia, and the
statement that the U.S. has got to find ways to counter - U.S. and the E.U.
have got to find ways to counter Russia. As Ian pointed out, Russia cares
so much more about this than anybody else does, and that automatically puts
other powers at a disadvantage.
REID: Absolutely. And Michael, I want to ask you. So, from the point of
view of an American that`s watching this thing, what is the best interest
of the U.S. in this situation? What should Americans be looking for in the
best case scenario for the American politics around the world?
SINGH: And Joy, it is very hard for the United States to exercise any
influence when the action is in the streets. And so, I think what the U.S.
really wants to see here is they want to see the action now return to the
politicians, they want to see the street protesters now sort of yield to
the opposition politicians because Ukraine has tremendous challenges. We
were talking the break about the economic challenges that Ukraine faces,
especially if Russia now backs off and withdraws the aid that it offered to
Ukraine in November. They need to have some sort of technocratic
government in place, which can avert default. But ultimately, I think what
the United States and the E.U. want to see is they want to see Ukraine sort
of turning more toward the West, turning towards Europe, they want to see
Ukraine finally sort of emerge from the sort of post-Soviet sort of
stagnation that they have been experiencing for so long, but at the same
time they don`t want to make this again a zero sum game against Putin, they
absolutely don`t want to sort of stick a finger in Russia`s eye. They want
to - they want to sort of engineer a solution, which works for Ukraine
while still preserving their relations with Putin. On all of those
different issues that we have to work with them on.
REID: Right. Or to legitimize this as the means of changing governments,
right? Because this has already been a problem - the instability
(INAUDIBLE) saying, we will immediately recognize whatever the outcome of
this, whatever government comes out of it, doesn`t that in a sense
legitimize this means of changing one`s government?
BREMMER: But I mean no matter what government we end up with in Ukraine,
they cannot change the geography, I mean they`re not like Egypt, I have not
seen pyramids in Ukraine. The fact is that Russia is going to continue to
have the overwhelming political security and economic interest. And the
question that we should be asking no on Russia, which is, I think, the most
important question here, is are they going to play hardball in the short
game or are they going to play hardball in the medium game. In the short
game, means they`re going to use the ethnic Russians, they`ll give them
passports, they`ll work to support independence there, maybe for small
parts of southeast Ukraine, they`ll their economic leverage, they`ll
maximize it to cut off trade with - and energy and all the rest for those
folks that are sitting in the parliament now and saying we`re thumbing our
nose at the Russians or will the Russians wait, bide their time,
effectively give up Yanukovych, and then as we move towards elections, they
find a nice guy, probably a guy from southeast Ukraine, they throw lots of
money at that person and they ensure that the next president is someone
they like. But if we get a zero - if you get a zero sum outcome where the
Russians feel like they lose, the ultimate losers will be the Ukrainians.
So, you have to create a deal that the Russians can deal with. And right
now we`re an environment where it looks like the Ukrainian people are
winning, but the Russians feel like they`re losing. That`s not good for
REID: That`s .
KARATNYCKY: Well, the last - the thing I would say is that the parliament
includes a lot of businessmen who are - and politicians from the east who
are currently voting with the opposition. They will be shaping the next
constitution and the rules of the game, and believe me, right now they`re
voting, because they know that Yanukovych is a problem, and they might move
as far away from him because of the violence as possible. But they will -
after there`s a little bit of stability, as the jockeying comes for the
real constitution, they will be maneuvering to make sure that there isn`t a
lurch in one direction or another. They have too many interests. They
have been - that`s why they`re in politics. That`s why they are in the
parliament to defend those interests and many of them have interests in
Russia, and many of them have ethnic, you know, Russian speaking and
Russian leaning constituents. So, I believe that because you need this 300
vote, you need a national consensus. And people have to understand that
the entire country has to be brought together. And that will mean that
Russia will be given play. And some of these far right groups that are
extremely anti-Russian, they stand in the way of that.
REID: Al right. Fascinating stuff. Very important for geopolitics.
But up next, the revolution in our own backyard, why scores of students are
putting their lives on the line.
REID: While much of the media focus has been on the unrest in Ukraine and
Syria, here in our hemisphere, in South America, Venezuela is erupting.
Demonstrators, mostly students, have been protesting at the government of
President Nicolas Maduro for three weeks. In a nutshell, the protesters
want Maduro to resign. At issue, the shortage of basic goods, violent
crime, high inflation, and what protesters see as mounting repression
against anyone who dares to speak out. On February 12th, the protests
turned deadly. Three people were killed and 66 injured. And since then,
the situation has only gotten worse. On Monday, President Maduro`s
government demanded three American diplomats get out of the country,
accusing them of recruiting students to protest. The U.S. denies the
allegations. On Tuesday, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was arrested on
charges that he led protesters to initiate the violence on February 12TH.
And on Thursday, the government sent military units to the southwestern
region of the country, causing unrest to bubble over again as security
forces and demonstrators clashed. The death toll is now at six. Five of
those who are dead are students. And on Friday, Venezuelan President
Maduro called for talks with President Obama.
If the world wasn`t watching Venezuela before today, they certainly should
be now. So, let`s talk about, Mark, this regional conflict. Because we
are focusing a lot on what`s going on in Ukraine, but the Venezuela
situation is similar in some ways and much closer to home for the U.S.
QUARTERMAN: Yeah, and, you know, and there are some interesting factors
here. And once again, another strange bad fellows aspect to it. The
regime in Venezuela, however we might think about them, has a strong base
of popularity. But the unrest really took off when food prices hit an 18
year high. They didn`t do so under the previous president in part because
of national supermarkets that kept prices low. It is not entirely clear to
me that there would have been this sort of uprising just over concerns for
democracy, concerns about repression. And the strange bad fellows aspect
of it is, poor people were in the streets, poor people tend to support the
regime, but look, when prices hit an all-time high, they`re going to go out
in the streets, and then the opposition which in Venezuela also has a
serious right wing component to it, very right wing component to it, is
working with them. At one point when Maduro tried to impose price controls
and it worked for a brief period, his popularity shot up.
QUARTERMAN: So, we need to look at these factors leading -- that can lead
to uprisings of this sort, which we`re also seeing in places like South
Sudan, Syria, et cetera. Syria also rising food prices, rising living
prices. It helped to get people out into the streets.
REID: Right. And to your point, I mean I think you make an excellent
point. Because also I think what`s at play here is the fragility or the
brittleness of each of this regime`s relative to one another, because, you
know, I am not sure anyone predicted that the government of Ukraine would
be in this much jeopardy this quickly, protests. The ones in Venezuela
have been going on for weeks. So, talk about the brittleness and
fragility, relative to one another. Because to Mark`s point, these are
erupting around the world, these protests.
KARATNYCKY: I think, you know, Ukraine is brittle because of corruption,
massive corruption. And I think Venezuela is brittle because of an
ideology that doesn`t really make a lot of economic sense. And so, it`s
created - both countries have suffered from economic stagnation, from
economic decline. So I think you`re absolutely right, that is one of the
driving factors. But I think that the other difference is that you have,
you know, the death of President Chavez. And I would say yes, there is a
lot of support for the regime, but it`s substantially less. Maduro just
eked out a victory and I think a lot of people thought that there may have
been a little bit of, you know, fixing of the numbers. So, there`s a sort
of also question of legitimacy. The opposition really opposed Chavez, but
they couldn`t challenge him on the legitimacy. So, I think all those
things are coming into play.
SINGH: And I think that in both situations, Ukraine and Venezuela, you
have economic models that are in serious disrepair, you have a serious need
for structural reform and you have serious political obstacles to achieving
it. And what you`ve seen is that the authorities have responded with
repression, which - fan the flames of more violence and has sort of
contributed to this confluence of factors, which Mark pointed out to
increase the protests rather than address them. And I think in Venezuela,
what you`re seeing is, this test of can Chavezma, this sort of odd, really
bizarre system of politics and economics that Hugo Chavez pioneered survive
without Chavez. And I think the answer increasingly looks like no.
Because Maduro simply doesn`t have the charisma or the savvy that Chavez
REID: I think you make a good point, because that sort of cult of
personality aspect of the Chavez kind of regime, you now have a symbol in
the opposition, in this young student named Genesis Carmona who died at
sort of a rallying point in Venezuela for people to rally behind. Is the
Maduro regime, I guess, we`ll call it, in as much jeopardy right now as the
regime in Ukraine?
BREMMER: No, no, clearly, Maduro is still there. But - and the fact is,
they have an oil state. They have fundamentally undermined, they haven`t
invested in that sector, they are not producing the way they used to, oil
prices, the (INAUDIBLE) on the upside, they are on the down side going
forward. They`re getting squeezed. No one wants to invest in this country
anymore, because of nationalizations and no abrogation of contracts, and
all of the rest. So, this is a country that`s going to do poorly
economically. Look, for the last years, we have been mostly concerned
about the economic crises in the developed world: the Eurozone, the U.S.
double dip. You know, sort of - even the concerns of a China hard landing,
another very large and relatively stable economy. This year it is all
about lack of political leadership, mismanagement of economies in the
emerging markets, and it`s not just about Venezuela and Ukraine, it is
about Turkey, it`s about Brazil, it`s about Thailand. Those are the places
that are driving these questions, this instability and the reason they`re
driving it is because the governments have fundamentally mismanaged their
economies for a very long time. If there`s anything that brings Venezuela
and Ukraine together, that`s what it is. And that`s not just Mr.
Yanukovych, that`s been every government they`ve had since they .
REID: Right. And let`s not forget the Central African Republic and a lot
of countries on the continent, where you have a lot of the same factors
happening and a lot of the same tensions and unrest, doesn`t get the same
attention, which is a whole other pane and conversation, which we can have.
So, thank you to Mark Quarterman, Ian Bremmer, Michael Singh and Adrian
Karatnycky. And up next, the politician who wants to keep the public from
learning about their rights and admits it. You know, he`s getting a
REID: Arkansas has the distinction of being the first state to take
federal funding for the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act
and use it to purchase private health plans for the state`s poorest adults.
So far, 96,950 people have signed up, but every one of them could lose that
health coverage in July, unless the state legislature renews this private
option. The Arkansas state senate agreed to renew it this week, the house
is working on it. They held four votes this week. Coming close to
passage, but didn`t quite make it. The Republican speaker says he`ll hold
votes every day until it passes, with the next attempt on Tuesday.
However, if the bill passes, it will still have a major handicap. State
agencies will be forbidden from spending any money, most of it federal
money, to advertise or promote the private option to the people who need
it. The idea, to keep people from enrolling. And that`s why my letter
this week is to the sponsor of that particular amendment, Arkansas state
rep Nate Bell.
Dear Representative Bell, it is me, Joy. First of all, I want to thank you
for being upfront about why you want to eliminate advertising for the
private option in Arkansas. You said, quote, "Without active marketing,
you probably get declining enrollment. We`re trying to create a barrier to
enrollment." So, I see what you did there, representative. You said you
want a barrier to enrollment and you`ll probably succeed since it was state
advertising in the form of a direct mail campaign that was largely
responsible for the private options` enrollment success so far. Last
September, the State Department of Human Services sent out letters to
132,000 households that get food stamps, letting them know that they
qualify for expanded Medicaid. Within a month, more than 55,000 people
responded, saying they wanted to sign up. That is an enormous response
rate, in direct mail terms, it`s practically revolutionary. Those people
now make up more than half of those enrolled in the Medicaid private
option. But should we ask why you want to handicap enrollment so much?
You say it`s because you`re a conservative and want to limit government
spending any way you can. Sure. Except your state estimates it will save
$89 million by expanding Medicaid just in the first year. It will save
more than $600 million from now through 2021. So there must be another
reason. And thanks again for saying it yourself. Quote, "I didn`t vote
for this program originally, I don`t like it. I want it to go away. I
would love to see the program fail. I do want a controlled failure."
I want to talk for a second about the people who would be impacted by your
controlled failure. There were more than 500,000 people in your state
without health insurance in 2012. 260,000 of them were adults with income
less than 138 percent of the poverty line, making them eligible for the
Medicaid expansion. Most weren`t eligible for Medicaid before the
expansion, because in Arkansas the only way for an adult to get Medicaid
benefits was to make 16 percent of the poverty line or less, which last
year was $3768 a year, for a family of four. If you made any more than
that, you were not eligible for Medicaid. And that`s only for parents of
dependent children. Childless adults were not eligible for Medicaid
benefits at all. Look, Representative Bell, this isn`t just an ideological
debate we`re having in the abstract. People die without health insurance.
Let me be more precise. In 2010, an estimated 394 people in Arkansas died
because they didn`t have health insurance. I`ll say it again, 394 people
in your state died in one year just because they didn`t have health
insurance. And you not only want to create a barrier to enrollment, so no
additional people get health care from the private option, you want to
sabotage the entire program. So those 97,000 people already getting health
care won`t get it any more.
And Representative Bell, you`re doing it by refusing to spend federal
money, money that costs your state government nothing. But came in part
from your own taxpayers. Your own people. Who are more likely to die
without the health insurance that you want to deny them. Can you just
think about that for a minute, please? Sincerely, Joy.
REID: Updates. Updates. Updates. You want them, we got them. If you`d
ever watched the segment here on MHP and thought yourself, hey, I wonder
whatever happened - ended up happening to that person, well, this is for
you. Like the scandal plaguing the NFL`s Miami Dolphins stemming from
allegations that the offensive lineman number 68 Richie Incognito bullied
number 71 Jonathan Martin, causing Martin to leave the team in the middle
of last season. Last week we discussed the 144 page NFL report that
detailed the horrific harassment and Dave Zirin, sports editor of "The
Nation" called for heads to roll.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE NATION": And shame on the Miami Dolphins
for not firing their coach, Joe Philbin and their offensive line coach who
was still employed by the team. That team needs to clean house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Well, Dave, so far it is one of the two. Wednesday, the Dolphins
fired that offensive line coach, Jim Turner, who according to their report
didn`t rein in his guys, plus longtime athletics trainer Kevin O`Neill.
The report says O`Neill allegedly laughed at racial insults directed at his
Japanese assistant. But according to an article in the (INAUDIBLE) O`Neill
denied the allegations. Next, we go from Florida to West Virginia,
particularly the water problems we`ve covered here on MHP. West Virginia`s
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is still seeking answers about the Freedom
Industries chemical spill. Tomblin sent a letter to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday asking for further study
immediately on the possible health effects caused by the spill. Now,
remember, this story stems from the 10,000 gallons of the chemical MCHM
that contaminated the Elk River back on January Ninth and a subsequent coal
slurry spill. And now this. On Wednesday, the state`s department of
environmental protection reported yet another spill, this time of polluted
water, black water from a coal slurry, impoundment, into a creek in
Now, you may remember the cash crop segment we did on MHP, when the sale of
recreational marijuana began in Colorado. Well, it would appear that ever
since the state`s first recreational marijuana stores opened on New Year`s
Day, the cannabis is booming, so much so that the Colorado Governor John
Hickenlooper`s budget proposal released this week indicated that the state
stands to make some serious cash off the hash, totaling how much? How
about more than $100 million a year, far more than previous estimates. And
then last week we brought you breaking Nerdland baby news with the report
that Melissa Harris-Perry and her husband James welcomed into the world
baby girl Perry on Valentine`s Day.
And joining me for the update on that story via Skype is my friend, Melissa
Harris-Perry. Hey, mom, and Parker, her daughter. Hey, Melissa! OK, so
give us the latest update on the baby.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Well, I don`t know how long we will
get out of her. She is not too happy about live TV .
HARRIS-PERRY: But she has been a joy. And we have been having a great
REID: Well, let me ask Parker. Parker, how do you feel about being a big
PARKER: I really love being a big sister because she is so cute and I get
to help out a lot, and although (INAUDIBLE), which is great. So.
REID: And you`ll be able to wake out - work out some of your anti-baby
crying techniques. It`s going to be great. It`s going to be great.
HARRIS-PERRY: Baby girl is going to daddy. All right.
REID: Exactly. And that`s the best technique of them all.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
REID: So Melissa, the baby girl Perry, of course, is even - that she`s
even in the world is really kind of a miracle, and you shared a beautiful,
really moving column this week on mhpshow.com about surrogacy. And so, I
want to read a little excerpt from it. You wrote this, "My pregnancy with
my first daughter was blessedly uneventful. This one, whoever, was indeed
an event. It took two families, three states, four doctors and five
attorneys to get this little girl here. And while our gestational carrier
has no genetic touch for our little girl, she is now our family. She gave
our daughter love, safety and nourishment for nine months. On Valentine`s
Day she gave her life and placed her in our arms. So, aside from
correcting reports that said you actually had adopted, why did you decide
to share this story with the world?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, more than anything, so adoption is a wonderful and
loving choice so many families have made it, but it was important to us
that we honored the role of our gestational carrier, that she had done, she
and her family, her large extended family and her friends had supported and
done so much to bring our daughter into the world, we wanted to tell the
story in part to say that it took these loving choices of so many people to
make it possible.
REID: Absolutely. Well, Melissa, even though you`re on leave from the
show for just a little bit longer, explain to the audience how you`re going
to be staying engaged with the MHP Nerdland family through the Nerdland
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. So, the Nerdland Scholar challenge will start
on March 17th, and it will go for four weeks. We will have readings and
discussions. Basically, I am going to be running an online class from here
at home. But I`ve got to spend time with my daughter, and, you know,
getting our family bonded together. But we -- I did want to stay involved,
in part because as you well know, there are women in politics who act as
women, whether they`re parents or not. But we also know that motherhood
and parenting often impact the way that women do politics. And so, we`re
interested in diving deep and understanding both the history and the
contemporary moments. I cannot say how much in the days that I have held
my own daughter close to me that I`ve been thinking about Lucia McBath, the
mother of Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin`s mother, Sybrina Fulton, the
mothers impacted by violence at Newtown. And so, there are many ways, in
which as we enter the political world we do so as moms. And so, the
Nerdland challenge is going to deal with that over the course of four
REID: Amen. Well, thank you so much and much love to you, Melissa Harris-
Perry and, of course, Parker and baby girl Perry, too.
REID: Bye. OK, talk to you, guys, soon. And we want to encourage
everyone to sign up for the Nerdland scholar challenge. Just go to the
website mhpshow.com where you`ll find a link to sign up.
And coming up next, as Melissa and her father like to say, the struggle
continues. A look at the civil rights agenda, then and now, and a
shocking, shocking report on public housing and conditions that no one
should have to live in. More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
REID: Welcome back. I am Joy Reid, in for Melissa Harris-Perry.
Yesterday, national fraternity -- the national fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon
is suspending its chapter in Mississippi after three of its members were
found responsible for vandalizing a symbol of our civil rights history on
A statue of James Meredith, first black student to enroll at Ole Miss was
found in early hours with a noose around its neck. The statue was also
covered with former version of the Confederate -- of the Georgia state
flag, featuring the stars and bars emblem of the old Confederacy. A
witness to the incident reported hearing racial slurs shouted by two men
during the incident.
The statue was dedicated eight years ago in remembrance of the autumn of
1962, when it took a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the intervention of a U.S.
president, and squad of marshals, national guardsmen and U.S. Army soldiers
to get Meredith admitted and enrolled as a student at University of
A three day long clash against an armed mob of citizens rioting in
opposition to integration at Ole Miss ended with more than 300 arrests.
More than 200 injuries, and two civilian deaths. The swift response from
the university and federal law enforcement to an act of desecration against
the statue of James Meredith is indicative of progress on racial justice in
the years since the violent opposition to James Meredith, the man. It`s
progress that was cemented by landmark legislation that passed just a year
after Meredith graduated from University of Mississippi, and whose 50th
anniversary is coming up in July, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed that bill into law, followed up a
year later with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he put the full power of the
federal government behind enforcement of fundamental civil rights. The
passage of these laws marked a victory for civil rights activists in the
South who after years of hard fought battles and unrelenting resistance,
won their fight for an end to discrimination in housing, employment,
education, and voting.
Yet, nearly 50 years later when leaders of the modern day movement for
civil rights find themselves pressing for action from a U.S. president, it
is often to call for justice on many of the same issues. This week,
leaders of major civil rights and legal organizations met with President
Obama at the White House and items on the agenda included most notably
voting rights, economic inequality, education, and states` rights. It
sounds like a page of the old civil rights history.
The discussion turned to progressive initiatives recently enacted or
proposed by the Obama administration around the issues of sentencing
reform, the minimum wage and felony disenfranchisement.
Wade Henderson, friend of Nerdland and president and CEO of the Leadership
Conference on Civil and Human Rights, spoke about that conversation with
the president during a press conference after the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WADE HENDERSON, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS: The
president focused on issues that are uppermost in the minds of the American
people. We talked about questions of economic inequality and he focused
like a laser on those things like extending unemployment insurance, raising
minimum wage, which he has done in part by way of executive order, but at
the same time urging Congress both Democrats and Republicans to step up to
a shared responsibility to address those issues that are of real concern to
the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: But the meetings agenda also highlighted the fact that many of the
most pressing issues of civil rights injustice from a bygone era are still
very much present today.
And joining me today is Myrna Perez, deputy director for democracy program
at the Brennan Center, and Jamelle Bouie, staff writer for "The Daily
Beast." Also here is Ari Berman, contributing writer for "The Nation"
magazine and author of "Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the
Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics." And one person who was
actually at the table with President Obama, Marc Morial, president and CEO
of the National Urban League.
So, Marc, I want to start with you because you were actually at that
meeting. Give us what the substance was that came out of that discussion.
MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: The substance was about the economy
and jobs and unemployment and underemployment, and the income divide and
economic divide, the substance was about criminal justice reform and a
number of things, the attorney general with strong support from the
president has undertaken in his second term. And thirdly, it was about the
Affordable Care Act.
And a bit of a status update on education and enrollment and exhortation to
help the administration to ensure that it succeeds. It was a substantive
conversation. It was a powerful conversation, and I think it`s a
reflection that the agenda of the civil rights leadership in this nation is
indeed the agenda of the nation today.
REID: Well, let me ask you this, because I think what a lot of people will
say is the president had the civil rights leaders up to the White House and
they have that discussion, that`s lovely, but was this more about the White
House touting things it has done, that it wants civil rights leaders to go
back to the community and say listen, they have really done it, or was it
actual concrete things that the White House either will do or will help
organizations like yours to do.
MORIAL: So, it is a give and take. I`ve never been in with any president
that doesn`t try to educate you on all of the work that he`s doing to
advance the nation and, of course, your community. But we also presented
to the president this document which is a comprehensive written 21st
century agenda for jobs and freedom.
And we also put together a side by side comparison of this agenda and many
things that the president has undertaken, including important understanding
to a great extent, if you take unemployment, minimum wage, the American
Jobs Act, many things we pressed and pushed hard for are being thwarted by
an abstinent Congress. So, there`s also that backdrop in the meeting, that
it takes two to tango, and President Obama`s exhortations and energy behind
his agenda can only go so far if there`s an abstinent Congress.
And, Jamelle, there`s been a -- you know, you have written about it, a lot
written about President Obama reframing in the second term, to really get
closer to the civil rights, or at least more vocal on issues of race, on
issues like incarceration. And so, this is sort of part of that narrative,
Is this something that will be well received by critics, really in the
African-American community who`ve actually been kind of critical on that
JAMELLE BOUIE, STAFF WRITER, THE DAILY BEAST: I think it will be in the
African-American community, in part because it is also a shift away from
what he has done in his first term and in his earlier political career,
which is sort of a respectability politics approach to the issues, saying,
yes, we have these problems, but young people stop playing X -- I think the
exact phrase is stop watching TV and playing Xbox, and start like reading
REID: He`s not walking away from that. I mean, the White House is not
walking away at all from that message.
BOUIE: He is not walking away from that, but actually having things that
may dress real problems instead of what I think are imaginary problems
about behavior makes that stuff more palatable to critics. Critics are
still going to be critical, but I think they`re also willing to say the new
initiative is dealing with young men of color and cities. That`s actually
something concrete that can help.
I mean, the other issue, Myrna, that`s come up now and that the White House
is really pushing hard on, the Attorney General Holder as well, are issues
of disenfranchisement based on felonies, which directly impacts voting
rights in states like Florida where you lose your voting rights as a result
of having felony conviction.
MYRNA PEREZ, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Right. It is important to
remember that the attorney general, who is the chief law enforcement
officer for the country, came out saying states need to revisit their laws.
I think many people would be surprised to hear that there are about 4.4
million Americans who are living and working in our communities who cannot
vote because of a criminal conviction in their past.
And this kind of high level attention to the issue and recognition that
these kinds of laws do not make our communities safer, they do not make our
democracy more participatory, instead they perpetuate a legacy of the Jim
Crow era, and keep people from successfully reintegrating in the community.
REID: And voting. I mean, one of the key issues is access to the ballot.
There are a lot of initiatives -- the White House talks about, that civil
rights community talks about that come down to access to the ballot.
ARI BERMAN, THEN NATION MAGAZINE: Absolutely. There`s been unbelievable
restrictions on right to vote since the Obama presidency. For example,
since 2010 election, talking 180 voting restrictions in 41 states being
introduced, data coming from Myrna`s organization, the Brennan Center for
And so, I think the real issue in terms of civil rights is getting people
to see the struggle then and the struggle now are linked, because a lot of
people want to celebrate this 50th anniversary, 50th anniversary of Civil
Rights Act and 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act but they don`t
want to engage with the struggles that are actually going right now.
And so, the key is to link what`s happened in the 1960s to 20th century
attacks on things like voting rights. This is still happening today in
different forms but it`s still going on.
MORIAL: That`s why we have to have more than commemoration, we have to
have continuation. And what we`re doing I think as a nation in 19 -- in 50
years, after `63 and `64, has to be a reaffirmation, a recommitment, a
recognition that the challenges of 1964 and `65 remain with us, legacy
remains with us, we have to work hard.
I am deeply concerned about the assault of voting, because it`s so anti-
Democratic. You look at Ukraine. You look at other nation, where
democracy is at some point -- at sometimes under attack. In this nation,
we`ve got to stand on principle, and we should do anything to restrict the
ballot, by using false arguments about nonexistent fraud.
REID: Right. I mean, one of the -- go ahead.
BOUIE: This gets to and it`s interesting that you brought up people want
to commemorate 50 years ago, which is that international memory, event 50
years ago, everyone was obviously for civil rights. But no, there`s
opposition, strong opposition. And what I think the unwillingness to
engage with today`s civil rights issues shows is that the same opposition
These are contentious issues that people I think are on the wrong side of.
REID: Yes. And I think everybody wants to get in. So, we have a lot more
aspect to talk about. Somebody, hold your fire until after the break.
We`ll come back with more of this discussion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
REID: Sitting at the left hand of President Obama at his White House
meeting with civil rights leaders was the man who`s been at the forefront
advocating for reform of some of the pressing issues for the modern day
civil rights movement.
Attorney General Eric Holder, on questions ranging from voter suppression,
to felony disenfranchisement, to drug sentencing disparities, the attorney
general has been the most vocal member of the Obama administration.
Just two weeks ago, during a speech in Sweden, Holder had this to say about
a cause he believes should be a civil rights priority.
Just as our forebears came together to overcome tremendous adversity and to
forge the more just, more equal societies in which we now live, so too must
the current generation rise to the causes that have become the struggles of
our day, defining civil rights challenges of our time. And I believe one
of these struggles is the fight for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender, LBGT citizens. That struggle between progress and resistance
to LBGT equality was on display this week.
On Thursday, the Oregon attorney general joined a group of A.G.s in at
least six states that refuse to defend constitutionality of the same-sex
marriage bans. But the same week, Arizona became the first state whose
legislature passed a bill that would give business owners the right to use
religious beliefs to discriminate without legal repercussions.
The bill now goes to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who hasn`t decided if she
will sign it into law.
So, I want to talk to the panel about that sort of convergence and I`ll
start with you, Jamelle, because there is sometimes discomfort within the
African-American, the traditional civil rights community where it was
based, and this notion of saying that gay rights are the same brand of
civil rights struggle, but those struggles are the same.
BOUIE: Right. You know, there are people in my life who are uncomfortable
with conflating the two. You know, my general response to it is that, no,
they`re not the same, but to borrow from Dr. King, injustice anywhere is a
threat to justice everywhere. And the same -- in my view, the same forces
that oppose equality and equal rights for LBGT Americans are often those
who are supporting things like restriction of voting rights, or the same
people that are supporting things like restrictions on reproductive rights.
So, even if they`re not the same struggle, they`re connected struggles.
And for that reason, there needs to be combined front to advocate.
REID: Just to talk about the symmetry with the public accommodations of
fight from 50 years ago, I want to take a listen to Arizona State
Representative Damien Clinco, and he was Arizona`s only gay lawmaker. And
he talked about the scope of the bill that`s being proposed in Arizona.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. DAMIEN CLINCO (D), ARIZONA: I believe I am the only openly gay
member of this House of Representatives and so it is pretty appalling to
hear a dialogue that talks about using religion to discriminate against
both myself and my community. I mean, if I -- if this bill passes in my
hometown of Tucson, I could walk out of my home, and call taxi cab and they
could refuse me service. I could have a medical incident and somebody
comes to my home to provide services and I could be refused. And that`s
not the Arizona that I want to live in. That`s not the Arizona that the
LBGT community wants to live in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And, Marc, is that the symmetry that gets people sort of on the same
MORIAL: Let`s call this law what it is. It`s bad, it`s awful, it`s
reprehensible, and patently unconstitutional.
People used religion to justify slavery. People used discrimination to
justify segregation. It was part and parcel of the state and the community
that I grew up in.
So, the principle is that there is no system that is more reprehensible
than slavery. However, these issues are human rights issues. They`re
contemporary issues of nondiscrimination, of equality, of fairness, and
really what this nation should be about in the 21st century.
So, this is an awful thing that is happening in Arizona. I hope the
governor demonstrates some courage and vetoes it. Otherwise, it`s going to
be a black mark on the state of Arizona, and I think it will be swiftly
declared unconstitutional by the courts.
PEREZ: I was going to say there`s also a historical symmetry. I mean, we
all can remember that after we had the reconstruction amendments in which
the federal government was taking steps to enfranchise former slaves, there
was swift response from the states to cut back on those rights, and that`s
where we saw poll taxes, that`s where we saw felony disenfranchisement
laws, that`s where we saw literacy taxes.
Now, you have the federal government through the Supreme Court taking steps
to make sure that LBGT citizens are able to participate more fully and then
you have states responding, trying to cut back those rights. So, I think
if we are going to truly understand what`s happening in Arizona and what
attempted to be happening in Kansas, we need to remember our own country`s
history about what happens when rights get expanded by the federal
REID: I mean, part of, you have written a lot and paid attention to the
Moral Monday, sort of coalition politics and sort of reviving of that old
civil rights formula of having action in the legislature but also action in
the streets, but that takes coalitions, right? I want to read something,
interesting piece Jonathan Capehart wrote this about the difficulties of
building the black, gay coalition, and trial in the shooting of Jordan
Davis really kind of raised some questions.
And he said a lot of black folks chafe at the comparison of the two
communities shared struggled for civil rights. Never mind that what links
the two struggles is the quest for equality, dignity and equal protection
of the law. Gay rights are civil rights. It`s that simple.
But on issues of importance to the African-American community, voting
rights, criminal justice, and basic dignity, the gays generally speaking
have been largely silent. And I think that is the question people have.
For instance, the Moral Mondays protest, is there a large input from LBGT
community? Is there a reverse weighing in, in terms of making this a
BERMAN: Yes. And I have an article in "The Nation" about the next phase
of the Moral Monday movement. And what`s so striking is that there was a
rally in Raleigh two weeks ago, 80,000 people turned out. It was really
the kickoff for the Moral Monday movement in 2014 after all of the
demonstrations in 2013.
And the reason the rally was so big is because so many different causes
were represented. Immigrants rights, LGBT groups, workers rights,
traditional civil rights activists -- I mean, all across the board and
they`re all fighting in a shared struggle. They all believe that the
direction that the Republicans are taking in the state of North Carolina is
really a threat to fundamental human rights and fundamental civil rights,
as broadly defined as possible. And a real seminal moment in the history
of progressive politics in North Carolina was in 2012 when Republicans
proposed this gay marriage ban.
And what they thought they were going to do, thought they were going to
split gays and blacks and they expected the state NAACP, for example, to
come out for the gay marriage ban. And Reverend William Barber, the head
of North Carolina NAACP said, no, no, no, we`re going to fight this, just
like we`re fighting for civil rights, we believe fighting for gay rights is
part of a broader civil rights coalition.
So, that really in a way, that fight against gay marriage, they lost in
North Carolina, that led to seeds of the Moral Monday coalition, because
everyone felt welcome in the coalition. I think to be successful in the
21st century, you have to have as broad a coalition as possible to get
people to care. That`s why Moral Monday had such impact, because every
week in the legislature, no matter what the issue, they`re out in force
because they have that coalition.
REID: And, Marc, will we see that brought to bear in Arizona?
MORIAL: I think you will and I think it would be broad. If you remember
Arizona also passed repugnant anti-immigration laws. Those repugnant anti-
immigration laws yielded a boycott against Arizona. We were one
organization that we were looking at Arizona because of the law, we decided
to delay consideration of Arizona.
So, what the reaction will be from the nation to repugnant laws remains to
be seen. That`s why I hope the governor has the courage to veto the law,
put it to an end before its head rears much higher.
BERMAN: I can say really quickly, there`s a big moral march in Arizona
like the one in Raleigh on March 29th for equality.
REID: All right. Thank you very much. And thank you to Marc Morial who
is leaving us because he`s got stuff he`s going to do.
All right. Up next, this week in voter suppression, all eyes are on Ohio
again. We`ll tell you about the latest law signed just last night.
REID: We`re just days from the first week in March, which means we`ve also
almost reached the official start of election year 2014. In fact, voting
already started on Tuesday in Texas, where voters began casting early
ballots in advance of the state`s first in the nation primary on March 4th.
But unfortunately, it also means we had to dust off the tried and true
graphic that regular viewers of remember from the last election cycle in
That`s right. This week in voter suppression!
And this week in voter suppression, the state of Ohio is back at it again.
On Friday, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law two bills that could
create barriers to the ballot box in this key swing state. One law will
shorten early voting by six days, and prevent Ohioans from registering to
vote and casting an absentee ballot on the same day.
A second bill will, in effect, end a previously effective program of
mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters. Meanwhile, African-
American lawmakers in the state faced a setback in their efforts to put a
voter`s bill of rights on the Ohio ballot this fall. The proposal which
would make voting a fundamental right in Ohio`s constitution was blocked by
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who cited what he called
misrepresentations in the text of the proposed amendment.
Joining me now from Cincinnati is one of the people with the organization
that`s still fighting for that measure, Ohio State Representative Alicia
Reece, who`s president of Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.
Thank you so much for being with us, Representative. I want to start by --
STATE REP. ALICIA REECE (D), OHIO: Thank you for having me.
REID: No problem.
I want to start by asking you about the second of the restrictive laws,
which is the one that would prevent people from being mailed an absentee
ballot, because the key to that is that African-American voters vote less
by absentee ballot. This is sort of provide an opportunity to try to
increase that percentage?
REECE: Well, we have a problem with all of these bills that have been
coming forward in Ohio in short fashion. We have a new voter suppression
bill coming each month, and what they`re trying to do is cut off the number
of folks who have participated in that process. African-Americans,
minorities, students who came out in record numbers, low income families
that came out of record numbers and voted for President Obama.
So, each week we have a different bill, whether it`s, you know, stopping
them mailing out absentee ballots which allow for more people to
participate, whether it`s not allowing them to pay for postage, so that
every citizen that you know, posted to it and be a barrier for you to vote,
or whether it`s cutting down early voting days.
You`ve said it best -- earlier, you know, we are a battleground state and
we are ground zero in this war against voting rights.
REID: And just to give you a graphic, there`s a "Washington Post" article
that talks about voting in Cuyahoga County, which is a county with a large
African-American cohort, a very critical county in 2008, and it said that
limits on early voting are likely to have discriminatory effect on African
Americans in metropolitan Cleveland, which is in Cuyahoga County, and
analysis of 2008 returns in Cuyahoga County by lawyers on civil rights
found that African Americans used early in person voting at approximately
26 times the rate of white voters. Whites on the other hand tend to favor
voting by mail as form of early balloting.
And the study which was written before the appeals court, announced a
ruling said that based on the racial disparity observed in early voting
behavior, new rules are likely to have discriminatory effect in Ohio`s
So, the early voting piece is obviously key because early voting is the
primary way particularly that churches get people out to the polls. How
devastating would it be to cut those six days off of early voting?
REECE: It will be devastating. It will disenfranchise, and suppress
hundreds of thousands of folks within the state of Ohio, in my city,
Cincinnati. We had black men marching, we had folks in wheelchairs
marching, we had generations with grandmother, with granddaughter, with
daughter, standing in line to vote.
So, it would be devastating. We know that the target is minorities and
African-Americans and students and low income families. We know that there
is a movement to cut off the voices of the everyday folks to have an
opportunity to vote.
And that`s why Ohio legislative black caucus has called for a voter bill of
rights to be put in the constitution. No more begging the governor to do
the right thing. No more allowing general assemblies to use partisan
politics to determine who gets to vote, try to determine what the outcome
of elections are.
So we are back on the streets. You mentioned we had a setback by a
Republican attorney general, we know it is not going to be easy, wasn`t
easy for Dr. King and his movement, as re Reverend Otis Moss, Jr., who is
co-chair of our coalition, has said.
So, we are right back in the barber shops, beauty shops, will be in the
churches on Sunday, we will resubmit our petitions to put a voter bill of
rights on the ballot and we won`t stop. They are relentless in cutting and
stopping us from voting and putting all of the voter suppression bills out
We must, too, be relentless, say we won`t stop until we don`t have another
breath in our body to make sure every citizen in Ohio and in this country
has the right to vote. We believe we can set the tone for the country.
REID: I want to come back to the panel. The governor of Ohio defended
this saying his spokesman saying Ohio has more early voting than 40 other
states after we sign these bills. Is that true and is that a defense for
these actions in that state?
PEREZ: Certain states vary in terms of how much early voting they provide.
But the way that needs to be evaluated is how people have come to use it.
Like in our country, we have plenty of people not participating and when
you have people that you`re getting to the polls and you have systems of
engagement such that churches and community groups are able to get people
there, you know, manipulating rules of the game such that some can
participate and some can`t is really something that is very, very hard to
overcome, especially when it seems so clear that there`s a continuing
effort on the part of the partisan folks in Ohio to keep trying to restrict
voting rights and take different steps.
One of the things I find so frustrating about Ohio is it is so out of step
with what we see happening in some other states. Right now, we see a
greater interest in bipartisanship to try and pass bills that make it more
accessible people to vote.
REID: Except in Florida, North Carolina --
BERMAN: With Ohio, it is like ground hog day with voting rights. Every
time you wake up, they`re restricting voting rights. This dates back to
2004, where there were incredibly long lines, seven hour lines in places
like Cleveland. As response, a bipartisan coalition expanded early voting.
Well, what happened? There was record turnout for Barack Obama in 2008 and
there was a record turnout in 2012, even though they tried to cut early
voting in 2012, there was still a record turnout. Now, they`re back
cutting it again.
Regardless of the arguments here, it is just a very disturbing trend that
every time people vote, they try to make it more difficult to vote.
BOUIE: One of the things worth pointing out is a couple months ago, came
out showing definitively that you see early voting restriction or new
voting restrictions in states that are both competitive in national
elections and have large minority populations, and if you look across the
country, that`s where they are.
REID: I have to show you the map. Thank you, Representative.
Look at this map. This is Cuyahoga County, which is beside Hamilton
County, the other key county in elections. The gray you see there is where
African Americans are concentrated. The red is where African-American
early voters are concentrated. It is clear these restriction will
immediately hit the African-American community.
We are out of time. Want to thank Representative Alicia Reese of Ohio,
thank you for being here.
REECE: Thank you, and we will fight back. Otherwise, they`ll push us
REID: All right. Well said. When we come back, pictures of people`s
homes and you have to see these to believe them.
REID: This is a photo taken by Lacey Atkins of "The San Francisco
Chronicle". It is part of an explosive report by the Center for
Investigative Reporting. What you`re looking at is bait, mouse bait to be
specific. Mouse bait in air vents of an apartment building, an apartment
ceiling. These are just two of the people, Rhonda and Everett, that live
in the housing project that according to the reporter on the story
residents call bed bug city.
Officially, the building called Hacienda, but according to the report, the
other nickname residents give to this Richmond, California apartment
complex is Hacy hell hole.
The CIR reports that this image is all too common in Hacienda, that nearly
one fifth of the apartments are infested with bed bugs. More than 80
complaints have been filed in the last year over issues like cockroaches
Residents put out glue traps daily to catch the mice, sometimes finding a
dozen in only a few hours. Residents say maintenance is slow to respond to
calls, and when they do, all they talk about is having no heat in the
winter and sewage leaking through their ceiling. Residents report that
elevators frequently stop working, sometimes trapping residents who use
wheelchairs in their apartments.
This picture is an image of the ceiling of the sixth floor. It shows
chemical adhesive and paint drip, the result of a roof leaking for years.
This is a place where people live. It`s managed by Richmond Housing
Authority, which operates four other apartment complexes in the city.
Hacienda is one of the worst buildings in a complex managed by an agency
with one of the lowest rankings in the country.
We called Richmond Housing Authority seeking a comment about the
investigative report. We e-mailed as well. We didn`t hear back. So, we
called again. Still, no answer.
Reports show that the RHA is running a deficit of nearly $7 million. But
according to the Center For Investigative Reporting, that presented
prevented the agency director from receiving substantial raises over the
past three years, and charging expensive meals in New York and Washington
How is any of this happening? The reporter that broke the story tells us
REID: There are more than 4,000 public housing agencies in the United
States tasked with providing decent, and safe rental housing for low income
families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Last year, 45 of
those agencies were found to have problems so severe, they were on the
brink of being shut down.
Richmond Housing Agency has been on that list since 2008. And now, a new
investigative report published this week exposed poor conditions facing
residents and mismanagement that has allowed problems to continue.
Residents living in housing, residents there are living in housing managed
by the agency, and told reporters they want to leave but have nowhere else
Joining me now is Amy Julia Harris, a housing development reporter at the
Center for Investigative Reporting that broke this story.
So, Amy, I want to start with the fact we tried to reach out to Richmond
Housing Agency for a comment, we weren`t able to get a response. Have you
gotten any response from them that gives us anything new they may have had
to say about the story?
AMY JULIA HARRIS, CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING; Yes, but we found
out after the story came out there was a big city council meeting and for
the first time, the Housing Authority responded to our investigation, and
they said that this was definitely a problem that they need to fix all of
these squalid conditions that people were living in and they took issue
with just one point of the reporting, they said that some of the salary
increases, we reported that the executive director salary had increased 30
percent at a time when Housing Authority couldn`t make payroll.
He said it was 18 percent, there was a problem with the payroll records and
he repaid some of the money. So, this is the only development we have
gotten so far.
REID: Well, the other development is that the day after you published this
story, Richmond City Council added an emergency item to their agenda, and
they discussed the issue for three hours. Is any action coming from that?
HARRIS: Yes, actually the city manager just a few days ago announced that
the Housing Authority was going to inspect every one of the 715 units of
public housing in Richmond, hire private inspectors to go in and ask
residents what are your maintenance complaints, have you complained in the
past, and what can we do to help you.
And I talked to residents and they said this is a long time coming because
they`ve been complaining about these issues for years.
REID: And talk about those issues a little more specifically. We`re
showing it again, we showed the rat traps, trying to catch mice, the roach
and rodents. What are some other issues residents complained about in this
HARRIS: Yes, one thing that came out of the city council meeting, we heard
a lot, residents were often afraid to complain about their complaints
because the Housing Authority staff was often very rude to them and cursed
them out. At a public meeting, the executive director admitted some of his
top officials were blatantly rude to staff and sent out a memo saying,
look, you need to be courteous to the people that we`re paid to serve.
So, some of the things we heard from residents was that they were kind of
cowed by some of the Housing Authority staff from reporting things like
sewage leaks, maintenance problems, broken heaters. We talked to one
disabled veteran who said that his heater hasn`t worked for more than a
year. So, he used his open stove for heat.
So, these were the sort of issues that languished on the maintenance
records for months.
REID: And tell us more about the residents. Are we talking about a lot of
seniors, families with children? Just sort of give us a bit of a
demographic sketch of the people living in this project.
HARRIS: Yes, the majority of people who live in Richmond Public Housing
are elderly and disabled. So, in the two complexes that we focused
reporting on, it is predominantly seniors and disabled people, who pay
actually about $200 to $500 a month in rent.
So, these people are not getting their apartments for free, and what
they`re getting, what we heard time and time again, is they`re getting
cockroach and mice infestations and leaking pipes that are taking forever
to get fixed.
REID: I know that I looked at the story, the thing I was thinking, isn`t
there someone in charge, they have been on the list of being one of the
worst public housing agencies since 2008. There`s a federal authority
here, money to run this agency comes from the federal government and from
Why do you suppose no action has been taken before, and is this also a
problem of federal oversight?
HARRIS: Yes. So, they`ve actually been on the federal troubled list since
2009. And that was just for not turning in their audits on time and for
racking up this debt that`s now $7 million. I know in the past, talking to
HUD officials they said they could layout improvement plans and say look,
you need to improve your management situation and your financial situation,
but there were no teeth to those improvement directives.
And recently, HUD changed it and had these binding improvement plans that
say, you know, there are going to be real consequences if you don`t
improve, we`re going to shut you down, might bring in a private management
company if you can`t get your act together.
So, Richmond is currently under this binding improvement plan that this
time, HUD and the agency think are going to make sure that these problems
REID: I do want to ask one question out to the panel. There`s a sense
that people that live in public housing are kind of a forgotten population,
they don`t have a lobby -- not even not really, they just don`t -- this is
a group of people spurned as having caused their own misery by not being go
getters, not making enough money, so it is their fault and so who cares.
Is that, Jamelle, in your mind, why these things go on for this many years
without really anything coming of it and any public outrage?
BOUIE: I mean, that was my immediate thought watching the reporting. It`s
almost seems like the people responsible for running the buildings and
oversight of them have internalized the idea that these are barely people,
why bother helping them? Why else would you curse out seniors and veterans
that just want you to fix their apartments? Like there`s no other reason
to do that you see them as basically sub human.
So, I don`t know what you do to fix that. It is almost a sort of thing
that happens when you have sort of two -- people have oversight over
communities that are disadvantaged in some way, right? Like there`s no
direct interaction between the two groups of people, what can easily happen
is sort of a condescending view of them.
REID: Yes. I think that what`s sort of depressing is that almost 50 years
ago, you have Dr. King moving to Chicago to move into decrepit public
housing, the exact same thing. So long later that we`re still fighting
I want to really thank you, Amy Julia Harris in San Francisco, California.
Thank you so much. This is an important I think piece of reporting and
terrific piece of reporting on your part. So, thank you so much for being
HARRIS: Thanks for having me.
REID: I also want to thank my guests in the studio, Myrna Perez, Jamelle
Bouie, Ari Berman -- thank you all for being at the table as well.
And up next, our foot soldier of the week, an Olympic hero bringing home
much more than a medal.
REID: The Sochi 2013 Winter Olympics come to a close tomorrow morning.
After marching for the final time in the parade of athletes, many of our
U.S. Olympians will return to the States, lugging heavy gold, silver or
bronze medals with them.
But slopestyle skier Gus Kenworthy will return home with a little something
more than his silver medal. Actually, make that a lot of a little
somethings. He spoke with NBC`s Natalie Morales for the "today" show about
some new furry friends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUS KENWORTHY, OLYMPIAN: I tried to take them and bring them into the
athlete village with me, but you`re not allowed to do that. So they have
had to stay here. But I`ve come and seen them every day and am feeding
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: After bonding with some of the stray dogs living under a security
tent at the Gorki media center, Kenworthy delayed his trip home so that he
could complete the necessary paperwork to be able to bring his four-legged
friends back to the States with him. And he`s already planning on what
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIE MORALES, NBC NEWS: Have you thought about names?
KENWORTHY: I mean, I definitely thought -- I think Sochi is a really cute
MORALES: Oh, I love that.
KENWORTHY: And Rosa or Khotar (ph) are really cute, something like that.
I might have to leave them, but they`ll be on the way for sure.
MORALES: Pretty hard.
KENWORTHY: I know.
MORALES: You fell in love here in Russia.
KENWORTHY: I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Kenworthy`s decision comes amid reports that hundreds of Sochi stray
dogs have been killed by a local pest control company hired by the Russian
government in an effort to clear the Olympic streets of stray animals.
And the fever to save the Sochi strays by giving them homes has spread
across the Olympic Village. After Kenworthy posted pictures of his soon-
to-be adopted pups on Twitter this week, other American Olympians also felt
the puppy love. Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis adopted a Sochi dog this
week. And members of the U.S. hockey team plan to do the same, proving
that as our Olympians go for the gold, their hearts are made of the same
In fact, the U.S. hockey team`s center, David Backes who founded the
charity U.S. athletes for animals with his wife Kelly is using his
organization to help find homes for many of the stray pups.
Much like the games, this effort to save the Sochi puppies has united
people across nations. Russian billionaire Oleg Depiraska -- I think I
pronounced that wrong -- Deripaska is opening shelters in a town near Sochi
to help save several of the strays. Deripaska has also teamed up with
Kenworthy to work on getting the skier and his puppies back to the U.S.
U.S. Olympian like Gus Kenworthy and David Backes are our foot soldiers of
the week, for inspiring the international puppy rescue mission and
reminding us here in Nerdland that the snuggle continues.
And that`s it for our show today. Thank you at home for watching. I`ll
see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern and we will get in on a
renewed debate over the president`s proposed minimum wage increase and I`ll
be joined by Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, for the discussion
about his life, the loss of her son, as well as the controversial stand
your ground law.
And I also want to take a moment to let everybody know that my show "THE
REID REPORT" launches right here on MSNBC in just two days, Monday at 2:00
p.m. And I hope you`ll join me.
And now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT", and today
with the great T.J. Holmes. T.J., what`s coming up?
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW' SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT 10:00 A.M. ET ON MSNBC.