'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, March 21st, 2014
Read the transcript to the Friday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
March 21, 2014
Guests: Geoffrey Thomas, Anthony Roman, Adrian Karatnycky, John Schindler,
ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Paul Ryan takes it to the streets and gets fact
checked, while Putin has a new gambit in Ukraine, and it`s now morning in
Australia, and at this hour, the planes are back over the water for day 15
of this search.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Malaysia Airlines says it has lost contact with a
plane bound for Beijing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feared to be down. Contact was lost a few hours ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "All right, good night," the last words from the
cockpit to air traffic controllers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been three days now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now four days in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five days after the plane disappeared.
MADDOW: What looked like a really big breakthrough.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The release of three grainy satellite photos from
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They sent their own forces to that area and found
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now 12 days in, 13 days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New and credible information has come to light.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two pieces of debris that may be from the missing
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The southwest corner of Australia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made no sightings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This could be a very time consuming, lengthy process.
MELBER: Flight 3770 has now been missing for 14 days.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time is running out to find the black boxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a total crew numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two hundred thirty-nine souls on board.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a mother, I want closure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of questions this morning, not a lot of answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The who, what, where, how.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there a catastrophic breakup in flight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was at the controls?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did somebody hijack that plane?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any hope this plane landed somewhere?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could a plane disappear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is really a race against time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know. One way or the other, I want to
MELBER: Good evening to you. I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
And for the first time tonight, we`re learning about the conversation
between the cockpit crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and air traffic
A transcript of the last 54 minutes of communication with the jetliner was
released by the "British Telegraph" newspaper. That is the conversation
that ultimately ended with a line from the co-pilot that has come to be
viewed quite ominously, quote, "all right, good night."
It doesn`t look like the transcript is shedding much light on the mystery,
however. Aviation experts tell MSNBC it looks quite routine. And while
it`s Friday night here in New York and the eastern hemisphere, it`s now
morning on what is the 15th day of the search for Flight 370.
And the best leads are being pursued in that search off of Australia`s
southwestern coast. That search, however, is not at full capacity right
now. That`s because one of the best pieces of machinery in this effort, an
American P8 Poseidon plane is currently grounded for its routine
That`s the plane, of course, that you may have heard about it. It`s got to
kind of technology that allows for a simultaneous search both under water
and on the ocean surface.
In all, there are six planes in the air for Saturday`s mission. Most of
them Australian. Three Chinese planes are set to join the search today.
And two more from Japan will arrive by Sunday local time, also coming from
Chinese officials are sending four ships to help, but those are also a few
days away. The Royal Australian Navy joins the search on the water with a
ship that is called the HMS Success, which is what many are hoping it will
be able to achieve somehow. And the Britain`s Royal Navy is also sending a
vessel know as the HMS Echo.
The target area is the same today: a patch of ocean about 1,500 miles off
Perth. The focus, that could be pieces of the plane that were initially
spotted via satellite. And it`s a challenge for investigators who are
relying more now on trained human spotters on the naked eye after early
radar sweeps of the area found nothing.
Australia`s prime minister is also promising the search will continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: It`s about the most inaccessible
spot that you could imagine on the face of the Earth. But if there is
anything down there, we will find it. We owe it to the families of those
people to do no less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: For more, we have Geoffrey Thomas on the line from Perth right
now. He`s the editor in chief of airlineratings.com, an aviation editor
for the west Australian newspaper.
And give us your take first on that signoff line from the cockpit, "all
right, good night", which is getting attention now in the context of the
GEOFFREY THOMAS, AIRLINERATINGS.COM (via telephone): Yes, look, good
evening. Look, the sign off is actually technically incorrect. The
International Civil Aviation Organization is quite specific about the
protocols of discussions with air traffic control.
And the pilots, whoever is manning the radio, in this case the co-pilot,
the co-pilot should have signed off MH370 contact Ho Chi Minh Center on 120
decimal 9 good night. He`s supposed to acknowledge his flight number,
you`re supposed to acknowledge the instruction, whether it`s to contact a
new contract control sender, where is to climb, where is to send, and then
any niceties you like, like good night or good day.
That`s not what happened. They just said, "All right, good night." One
wonders, one speculates, maybe "all right" didn`t mean all right. Maybe
it`s a cryptic message that things weren`t all right. He was under duress.
But it`s certainly not international protocol air traffic control pilot
MELBER: Yes, Geoffrey, we`re going to dive into that further with some of
the experts I have on set.
The other thing I want to ask you since you`re there in the region is what
else can you tell us here at the beginning of day 15? What is the update
on the ground and in the air, so to speak?
THOMAS: Sure. The weather is considerably better in the search area. And
six aircraft, as you mentioned, are being launched. More assets are on the
And I know the prime minister of Australia, Mr. Tony Abbott has sort of
hosed down or softened slightly the expectation of finding something.
They`re very wary of the trauma that the relatives and the loved ones are
going through, the passengers and crew onboard.
But at the same time, while he may have softened the comment a little bit
about what we might find, the opposite is the case as far as the assets are
concerned. A lot more aircraft are coming. And on the ground, folks at
the air base are confident they`re going to find something. But it may be
days, it may be even weeks before they actually track down the debris if
that, indeed, is what that satellite has found.
MELBER: All right. Geoffrey Thomas, a busy time for you and everyone out
there. Thanks for spending time with us in Perth, appreciate it.
And as I mentioned here, for more analysis, back with us tonight, we have
Robert Hager, retired NBC News aviation correspondent, and returning is
also Anthony Roman, a former corporate pilot and president of Roman and
Let me go right to you Robert on the transcript. You know a lot about
this. Give us the context.
ROBERT HAGER, RETIRED NBC NEWS AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I thought it might
be important to understand, first of all, this came from the newspaper and
we`re taking their word for it. They believe it`s an accurate transcript,
but NBC doesn`t know for sure.
MELBER: Right, not independently confirmed other than the British
HAGER: Exactly. But what it -- it`s a transcript of the conversation that
the pilots have with the air traffic controllers. So, the recording is
made back at air traffic control. It`s just what was said over the
So it`s not to be confused with a cockpit voice recorder which would give
you the ambient sound, tell you what the pilot and co-pilot are saying to
each other. This is only what they`re reporting back.
So, we`re just getting the formal stuff. It is quite spare and appears for
from my mind very normal.
HAGER: It doesn`t tell you, in other words, if it was the cockpit voice
recorder tell you if there was some scuffle in the cockpit. You wouldn`t
hear it on this.
MELBER: We don`t have that as people think more of surveillance
information which would be incredibly interesting.
But let me ask you specifically, though, on Geoffrey`s sort of argument
here, is that somehow suspicious? But we`ve been told in other contexts
that there are many other official ways that you could have put out a
distress signal if that was the desire of the pilots.
HAGER: Yes. That`s absolutely true. So, yes, you`re right.
ANTHONY ROMAN, FORMER CORPORATE PILOT: Well, you know, this is actually a
reporting or it should be a recording, because in the tower, all the
transmissions are recorded and kept for a specific period of time. So, I
suspect that this is an accurate transcript.
Now, from a pilot`s perspective, and from a detective`s perspective, I`m
looking at this transcript and I`m watching meticulous aircraft crew
procedure from the very beginning. They`re repeating the orders from ATC.
They`re repeating it in the same exact language, what runway to take. What
altitude to go to, what frequency to report to.
And then suddenly, that changes at the end. Suddenly, it goes from strict
protocol to an informality that`s incongruent with the rest of the
MELBER: So, I don`t want to go too far down the rabbit hole, but under
that theory, and in these kinds of investigations, you have a theory of the
case. You have more than one.
But under that theory, it would seem to me that if you thought the pilots
were in on something, they wouldn`t go casual. They would be as strict as
possible because they would be in control if the theory of the case is that
then they wanted to do something nefarious.
However, in this particular case, I don`t think it was the pilots. There
is nothing yet that has come out during the course of the investigation so
suggest that the pilots had any affiliation with radical groups, criminal
group, et cetera.
ROMAN: Any suggestion by the Malaysian government that it could be the
pilot has to be viewed with some suspicion. Since the captain of that
aircraft was a member and staunch supporter of the opposing party, which
was a democratic party. The existing Malaysian government has been in
place for 37 years.
MELBER: In the entire modern era. And, look, for people -- from the U.S.
context, it would be like saying someone is in the Democratic or Republican
Party. That association is not that significant.
I do want to get to something here on the U.S. side. This is from Rear
Admiral John Kirby, who is Chuck Hagel`s chief spokesman. Take a listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The defense minister of
Malaysia, who is also the acting transport minister asked Secretary Hagel
to consider providing undersea surveillance equipment to help them locate
the black box and/or the whatever wreckage might be under water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, this goes to what a lot of people are thinking as everyone
focuses on this over the long term, which is how much money and how many
resources does everyone put in here? And the significance of that is Kirby
is basically saying the Obama administration and Secretary Hagel stand
ready to help however asked.
But how long in your experience will that go on? Is this because of the
import and the international interest, is there an endless supply of
resources, at least from the rich countries?
HAGER: I think on a humanitarian basis and more on the help of assisting
the industry to find out what happened, that the U.S. is probably willing
to make a pretty good investment in supplying these unmanned subs and
things like that. And the commercial industry has been good, too, about
renting them out for these sorts of searches.
But the whole thing is significant. I mean, it shows you what a long and
laborious task it`s going to be to try to search the underwater areas with
this kind of expensive equipment, unless we find the boxes before the
pingers give out.
MELBER: Right. If they gave out, Anthony, I mean, that`s the point. This
is a big haystack, an expensive one.
ROMAN: It`s an expensive one, but the families need to know, the aviation
community has to know and the public demands to know. What we have here is
unprecedented in aviation history.
With regard to the black boxes, it was two years before the black boxes
were found in the Air France case. So, those black boxes can still be
located after the 30 days. It`s not as easy, but it can happen.
All right. And that`s one of the clues we have our eyes on.
Robert Hager and Anthony Roman, thank you both. Appreciate it.
Coming up, Russian President Vladimir Putin has got a new move in Ukraine
and it`s an important one.
And later, how the NRA is actually interfering with President Obama`s
agenda in America.
MELBER: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he`s going to appeal
a federal judge`s ruling today that declared Michigan`s ban on same sex
marriage is unconstitutional. Attorney General Schuette writes, "Michigan
voters enshrined that decision in our state constitution and their will
should stand and be respected."
In the decision, Judge Bernard Friedman that by defending the ban as the
will of the people, the state, quote, "lost sight of this case is truly
about, people." And that the decision, quote, "affirms the enduring
principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most
recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail."
The judge didn`t put a hold on his ruling either. What that means is the
clerks in Michigan can start issuing marriage licenses Monday, unless the
higher court would intervene later.
Up next, Vladimir Putin is sending intelligence agents into Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Is the Ukraine crisis prompting a fundamental reassessment of
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was national security adviser Susan Rice just today stating
the obvious that yes, the Ukraine crisis is prompting a reassessment of the
Tonight, there were actual fireworks that lit up the skies in Crimea and
Moscow. That is in what they`re calling a celebration of Russian President
Vladimir Putin signing into law that bill annexing Crimea officially into
But celebrations or not, the U.S. and West continue to reject this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: The rest of the world says they reject and will never accept the
annexation of Crimea, that this is an act in blatant violation of
international laws and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of
Ukraine. And it will have consequences and it already has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Including on those consequences is the set of new sanctions
President Obama announced yesterday. This afternoon, Putin spokesman said
of the sanctions, quote, "We will react every time and we react based on
mutuality. They will not go unnoticed."
But there was actually another sign of a thaw today and this is interesting
-- Russia finally joined the 56 other countries in the organization for
security and cooperation in Europe in an agreement to send international
monitors to Ukraine. A new report in "The Daily Beast" suggests that
Russia`s annexation of Crimea may just be the beginning, however, and that
Russia may be using spies to infiltrate eastern and southern Ukraine.
In the article, "The Daily Beast" writes, "The intelligence report from
February assets that Russian provocateurs would look to instigate low level
street brawls or, quote, "skirmishes" in Eastern and southern Ukraine. The
report predicted Russian shadow warriors would seek to pay off Ukrainians
to attend pro-Russian rallies and in general fan the flames of separatism.
Since then, eyewitnesses say that`s exactly what`s happened.
Joining me now, Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
And John Schindler, former intelligence analyst and counter-intelligence
officer with the National Security Agency.
Welcome to you both.
John, let me start out with you. Picking up on "The Daily Beast` piece
where you`re quoted saying Russia used this kind of operation to invade
Georgia, there`s a precedent here. Speak to that, which we would call bad
news. And also put it in the context, if you will, of the international
monitors, which some are calling a piece of good news.
JOHN SCHINDLER, FORMER NSA ANALYST: Yes. Well, first of all, it is a
piece of good news. I don`t know how much. I think Moscow will thwart the
OSCE monitors to the extent they can get away with it. But it is good
The bad news is that Moscow is consisting with a playbook they`ve really
refined very well in Georgia, in Chechnya and elsewhere, using intelligence
operatives to create trouble, to foment provocations, far beyond just
collecting intelligence, and creating a situation which is very unstable,
as they did in Crimea before the overt moves of Russian military in.
We have to expect this in the east and south of Ukraine, too, and that`s
what`s going on right now. The Russians are very, very adept at this.
This is almost a core competency for the Russian intelligence services. We
have to expect that.
MELBER: Yes. What you`re talking about is choreography.
And, Adrian, I want you to speak to this. You know some of the balance
here in you know, "The Laws of Power", which is a famous book by Robert
Green, that`s sort of like an "Art of War" style book, one of the classic
laws throughout the era is the idea that you should win always through
actions and never through words.
And there`s an element of that here obviously in the Putin strategy,
because the word sometimes are wasting people`s time or they`re offering
some sort of cold comfort, or in the case of international monitors,
critics would argue, that he`s just saying he`ll allow them, if there are
spies and others on the ground, that`s what you should look to.
Is that part of the choreography and the dance here of Putin or are you
ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Well, look, it`s very clear that
there are GRU, Russian military operatives and Russian foreign operatives
in large numbers operating throughout Ukraine.
They`re in the high numbers coordinating these rather small but sometimes
very violent demonstrations of 3,000 to 5,000 people in the eastern
The big issue is that most of the public is not joining. This is not
something -- I think Putin expected a much more vigorous response. They
got a somewhat better response in Crimea. I thought -- I believe he
thought this was a dress rehearsal not for what they would do in --
MELBER: You`re saying not welcoming it in mainland Ukraine.
KARATNYCKY: Right. They`re nervous about the introduction of Russian
troops. They`ve seen this stuff. You know, people just want to move
And if you look at the polling data in eastern Ukraine and in western
Ukraine, it`s between 9 percent and southern Ukraine, 9 percent and 13
percent who want to separate and join Russia. So there isn`t a huge base.
Yes, they could foment some attacks. And here the coming of the delegation
is extremely important, because 56 countries sending monitor, evaluating
whether there are far right group the working, whether there`s
intimidation. I think that`s the same thing.
I think he may be taking a break and looking to make some small
concessions. But I think he`s really doing is opening the door for clarity
about what`s really going on. And I think in that sense it might isolate
the capacity of these intelligence operatives to work.
MELBER: Right. And we should be clear. Sometimes the idea of monitors
are harshly criticized in the right wing part of American foreign policy
discourse, and yet we know that international monitors can have a huge role
as either a pretext for invasions and we saw that in Iraq and other places
or as an off-ramp. I mean, this is a potentially significant thing.
I want to also read to you and get your response to brand new statements
coming out from Russian`s ambassador to the U.N. He spoke tonight, this
evening to Charlie Rose. It actually hasn`t aired yet, but because of the
newsworthiness, we have an early excerpt. Let me read it to you.
He says all the regions in Ukraine including eastern and southeastern
regions, which are very restive because of what they see in Kiev, they
should discuss a new constitution, maybe federalized Ukraine. Why can`t it
be a federation where people would be sure of their rights, sure they can
use the Russian language, they can be sure they`ll elect their own
This is our view, the Russian ambassador says. This is our proposal to
Ukrainians and our Western colleagues, the way to stabilize the political
situation in Ukraine.
John, your thoughts?
SCHINDLER: Yes, I think that it`s a potential Kremlin off ramp here. The
federalization of Ukraine is not the first time they brought this out as a
possible idea, but it is perhaps a more minimalist rather than maximum
approach to all of this.
I agree with Adrian very much that the GRU, as the Russians call it,
they`re Russian military intelligence games in eastern and southern Ukraine
are not necessarily working the way the Russians thought they would the way
they did quite easily in Crimea. At that point, Vladimir Putin, and he is
the decider here, if I may quote W, he is the decider here.
MELBER: Anytime you want to quote W here, you go ahead.
SCHINDLER: I`m on the right network, got it.
Putin is going to make a very difficult decision at that point. Is it an
off-ramp towards federalization, a Finlandization of Ukraine, if you will,
from Russia`s security viewpoint or does he want to double down?
Obviously, in the interest of world peace, we all want him to back off a
The intelligence game is not going quite the way he hoped, but we`re also
very early in this fight yet. I think there`s a long game going on here.
And we`re going to see how that works out and we don`t know yet.
MELBER: Right. And you can`t -- I mean, this one of the situations where
you can`t even square all of the statements coming out of the Kremlin.
They don`t all match. So you have to figure out over the long run over
SCHINDLER: And that`s intentionally so. Please keep that in mind.
SCHINDLER: Signaling with multiple messages.
MELBER: We are out of time for messages in this segment, but I want to
thank John Schindler and Adrian Karatnycky for your time tonight.
SCHINDLER: Thank you. It`s great to be here.
MELBER: Absolutely. Now, when the Senate finally reformed the filibuster,
President Obama`s nominees were supposed to start sailing through. So, why
did two progressive Obama picks just hit a roadblock? That`s an important
debate and it`s coming up.
Also, Paul Ryan, you may have heard about this one -- he made some waves
with his announcement that the inner city doesn`t work because men there
don`t want to work. That`s his claim. I actually worked up a fact-check
for the Republican budget guru. That`s tonight.
MELBER: In "The Spotlight" tonight, the president`s agenda. After record
levels of obstruction in President Obama`s first term, it was a big break
through when the senate changed its rules to stop GOP filibusters of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Breaking news from the U.S. Senate where NBC News
has learned that Democrats are poised to deploy the controversial nuclear
option to change the rules of the Senate and clear the way for several of
President Obama`s judicial nominees that are currently being blocked by
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those are the permanent rules now. Obama`s nominees can pass with
51 votes and Republicans can`t filibuster. But this month, two of the
president`s key picks still hit a roadblock. In early March, you may
remember this, the Senate voted down Obama`s selection to run the civil
rights division at the DOJ, Debo Adegbile. And this week, the Senate
basically put Obama`s surgeon-general nominee on ice.
Both nominees hit turbulence because of the right wing`s new strategy.
Instead of rely on a united GOP obstruction, the effort now focuses on
issues that might just peel away a few Democrats. For Adegbile, there was
a smear campaign about his legal work for a convicted murderer. And I
should mention that`s the kind of legal work that chief justice John
Roberts and countless lawyers in both parties have done.
And for the surgeon general nominee, Vivek Murthy, there was a feverish NRA
campaign to link and define his health advocacy to the issue of gun rights.
Seven Democratic senators ultimately came out against the Adegbile. While
there are estimates 10 Democrats would bail on Murthy if that vote were
held anytime soon. So far these Democrats are fearing basically a much
larger cost in voting for these presidential picks than whatever they feel
in a backlash in progressives for giving in Republican tactics. But that
may be changing.
Joining us now is Dr. James Peterson, director of African Studies and
associate professor of English in Lehigh University and Mark Follman,
senior editor of "Mother Jones" magazine.
Welcome gentlemen. And doctor Peterson, let me start with you. You know
these issues, you know what`s happened here. And much of our audience and
people who care about these issues understand the kind of smear tactics
that are going on. Why do you think this has worked so well against a few
democratic senators and is it changeable?
JAMES PETERSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think first, the strategies are the
same, right? But as you pointed out, Ari, the tactics are little bit
different now with the filibuster not in the arsenal anymore? And so, for
the first nominee we`re talking about who defended Mumia Abu-Jamal, that
was an important wedge issue from the right to use against people who need
the law enforcement support. You know, law enforcement are going to not
come out in favor of any candidates who support that because of the
complexities around that particular issue. What we`re seeing with the NRA
and with Dr. Murthy is really unfortunate as well You have a really
Really the policy issues are confused here, right? I mean the surgeon
general is not going to write policy about gun control. He or she may have
the capacity to raise important public health issues around it. And so,
the NRA is trying to do and end around and sort of curtail any possibility
of having discussions about gun violence, suicide, et cetera with respect
to a public health conversation. So, they are playing along term political
game. They`re doing it very, very successfully.
I don`t know if these kinds of tactics can work when we`re not in the run-
up to a midterm election and where there are not democrat vulnerable in
states like Louisiana and Arkansas. And so, I`m not sure if the timing is
right for this right now. That may not happen in an off election moment.
MELBER: You know, that`s an excellent point because I spoke to some Senate
staff on background. They don`t want to put their name on this point. But
they said look, after November Adegbile might get through. It is
Democratic votes that he needed. And it is somewhat in areas that were
tough. Having said that, he also lost the vote of senators who are up in
cycle. As we know, two-thirds of senators are in cycle, right, and even
some of those senators from service states still didn`t wasn`t to take the
vote for them. It is not midterm. That is, of course, the weird part
about the senate election calendar.
Mark, let me read to you, though, directly here on the guns issue and read
to you what Rand Paul said about this which is hard to make sense. Mark?
MARK FOLLMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, MOTHER JONES: Yes.
MELBER: Let me read to you what Rand Paul said. Quote "in his efforts to
curtail second amendment rights, Dr. Murthy has continually referred to
guns as a public health issue on par with heart disease and thus diminishes
the role of mental health in gun violence."
Number one, aren`t guns dangerous from a public health perspective? And
number two, doesn`t talking about them as a dangerous weapon, can`t that
co-exist with also talking about mental health?
FOLLMAN: Well, sure. I think it can. And I think that`s why the NRA has
a particular dog in this fight with the surgeon general nomination. You
know, it fits with the broader strategy of obstruction and, you know,
opposing the Obama White House.
But I think it`s also important to recognize a surgeon general who is
willing to raise gun violence as a public health issue, I think the NRA
understands that that is a serious threat to their agenda. I think, you
know, after Newtown, the public aware of gun violence as public health
issue has grown. And it is the overwhelming consensus of the American
I mean, I`ve talked to many doctors in the course of my reporting on gun
violence, pediatrician, emergency room doctors, medical researchers, they
all agree that gun violence is a significant public health issue and should
be viewed through that lens. And, you know, I think if the surgeon general
was going to lead the charge with that, there would be a real threat.
MELBER: I mean, yes. Let me jump in on that point, Mark, because it`s
funny. In looking at this, I saw this much more as pure politics. And
then looking for something to do to gin up their base and mess with the
president, which we know they like to do. But you`re coming at a different
policy point here. You`re arguing that they`re actually threatened by the
legitimacy of this post. I mean, this post doesn`t write law as Dr.
Peterson say. But the idea that from a medical legitimacy standpoint, this
is a threat to the way they want this issue understood?
FOLLMAN: That`s right, Ari. I think it`s both in this case. I mean,
think about what C. Everett Coop did in the 1980s with big tobacco. You
know, if you have a local surgeon general leading on a public health issue,
it has serious influence and public awareness and moral authority.
And you know, the NRA is very savvy politically. So, I think they`re
exploiting an election year. You know, they`ll do anything to aid their
allies in Congress and that`s part of what`s going on here. But it is also
I think that they see the surgeon general as a potentially very serious
MELBER: And Dr. Peterson, just briefly, your thought on that?
PETERSON: Yes. This is not a discussion they want to have in the public
right now. Remember, Dr. Murthy is seeing this from his own hands on
experience in emergency rooms, from his understanding of how mental health
issues play into this, for his understanding in how domestic violence and
suicide. These are public health issues. The NRA is not prepared to have
this kind of dispersive battle in a moment where public opinion is already
MELBER: Yes. You know, that`s well put. And you guys taught me something
tonight, so appreciate it.
Dr. James Peterson and Mark Follman, Thank you both.
FOLLMAN: Thanks, Ari.
PETERSON: Thanks, Ari.
Now, coming up, we have a fact check on Paul Ryan and his views of what`s
wrong with the inner city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So much of my paycheck ends up going to gas. We
haven`t even talk about me heating bill at home. So when it comes to
energy policy for this country, I`m for everything solar, wind, shale gas,
oil, whatever. I`m a Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Shale gas. I`m a Republican. Republicans love Shale gas. Do you
remember that guy? We covered him on the "Last Word." His name is Scott
Greenberg and he is explaining there, why he`s a hipster Republican or
something. He`s part of the GOP`s latest outreach attempt at young people.
Comedian John Oliver hasn`t even launched his new show yet. He`s "the
Daily Show" guy. He`s got a new thing coming up on HBO called "Last Week
Tonight." But he`s already released a satirical interpretation of that RNC
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t like it when people tell me what to do. Like
you should buy health care or don`t carry a concealed weapon into that park
or hey, that leather jacket is too small for you. I can make my own
decision. Do I think we should streamline the income tax by establishing
just three brackets? Standard deductions are boom shakalaka.
When it comes to energy policy for this country, I`m for everything, solar,
wind, shale gas, oil, panda blood, the elderly, bones of first generation
immigrants run together. What else? I`m a Republican because I`m under
the impression that lower cost for energy companies will result in savings
being passed on to the consumers, which is cray-cray.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You can get the votes if you use the slang. That`s all
Republicans need to do.
Up next, we have the mayor of Paterson, New Jersey, a message to him Paul
Ryan -- try visiting a real inner city. That`s next.
MELBER: Tonight, a special fact check for the Republican`s leader on
budget and economic issues, Paul Ryan. Last week, Ryan did a radio
interview with Bill Bennett. He was President Reagan`s education
secretary. And Ryan casually shared a remarkable belief about how
unemployment works. He said that if you go to America`s inner cities,
there are generations of men who don`t work because they don`t want to work
or even think about work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We have got this tail
spin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working and
generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value
and the culture of work. And so there`s a real culture problem here that
has to be dealt with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No. That is factually incorrect. Before we get to the fact check
though let`s go to Wisconsin where this Wednesday, some of Ryan`s
constituents aren`t having it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next day you said that statement was inarticulate.
Well, I don`t believe that. You said what you meant. Fine. The bottom
line is this, this statement is not true. I`m going to point out to you
why it`s not true. As a cold war for black, but there are people in the
inner city who are white, Hispanic, who are Armenians, Danish, all types.
PAUL: That`s exactly right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And everybody worked. You got here in a car or a truck
or something. Somebody from the inner city helped make that.
PAUL: That`s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Their conversation continued for about seven minutes. And while
Ryan tried to be respectful throughout, he didn`t retract his basic
argument. And his argument is false in three key ways.
First, Ryan`s asserting that inner city men don`t even try to work. And
that makes this an epidemic. So let`s look at employment in our cities.
The labor department counts 49 urban areas of over a million people. Half
of those cities have unemployment below the national average of 6.5 percent
this year. Another 14 are within one point of national average. In fact,
only six of those cities are over two points higher, Riverside, Providence,
Las Vegas, Cleveland and Chicago. In other words, most of our cities have
unemployment at or near the national average. You might want to know that
before building an argument around the idea that an entire geographic
population has given up on work.
Second, Ryan repeats a smear against the poor and underemployed that`s so
common on the right he may not even realize that he was doing it at the
time. He said they don`t want to work. They don`t even think about it.
This is the idea that your attitude determines whether you`re employed.
There`s a certain independent spirit to that argument. It characterizes
the Ayn Rand fiction that Paul Ryan writes into so many of his proposal.
But it`s economically false.
The main driver of employment is the national economy and business cycle.
And that`s true whether you live in the inner city or a suburb or an exurb
or a farm or a houseboat.
Take a look at this, for example. You can see from this chart from the
state government Web site although there are obvious differences between
the unemployment rate and a handful of states that have different make ups
and between the national unemployment rate, they all dropped and they all
rose around the same time. When the recession hit unemployment rose in all
of these places. And when the economy improved, they all improved.
A local federal reserve bank recently made the same point in a report
noting that the recession has sharply eliminated jobs and people are
working less in places where more jobs were lost. Meaning, the general
trend of the recession is the driver of labor participation not, you know,
whether people are thinking about work.
And then there is Ryan`s third and final error. When he got around to
offering a solution in that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: If you`re driving from a suburb, you know, to the sports arena
downtown by these blighted neighborhoods, you can`t just say I`m paying my
taxes, government is going to fix that. You need to get involved yourself,
whether through a good mentor program or some religious charity, whatever
it is to make a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Yes, when you drive to the sports arena, don`t forget to stop the
car and mentor people. It is a perfectly fine volunteering activity, of
course. Everyone from JFK to President Obama has heralded all kinds of
volunteering as a small and option part of public service. But it`s not a
national policy. No one who`s serious about education policy thinks these
challenges in our country are going to be addressed on an option part-time
basis. And again, for our fact check, the numbers bear that out, as the
mentor national partnership found among at-risk youth, 37 percent say they
never had an adult mentor of any kind while they were growing up. Of any
kind, let alone a consistent trained mentor that could provide guidance
through the years.
Those are millions of young people now who are going through life without a
mentor and without the benefits of having one when they were younger. So
if the police on conservative top radio and these kinds of appeals aren`t
fixing the problem, then we have to decide what else we want to do about it
as a community, as a government. So that`s what Paul Ryan got wrong.
Now still, I do think this could lead to more people getting it right.
Ryan`s blas‚ (ph) stigma criticism of the inner city was embarrassing. It
offended his constituents back home and many black leaders have spoken out,
criticizing its sweeping assumptions and correlations with, of course,
stereotypes long used against black Americans.
And it had so many factual errors, like the overestimating urban
unemployment, conflating individual choices with the national recession,
and misunderstanding the scale of how mentorship actually works, then I
think Mr. Ryan`s policy analysis may have wound up sounding like the very
trait he wanted to criticize -- his analysis sounded lazy.
But criticism of bad ideas is healthy and shaming someone for shameful
ideas is necessary. Mr. Ryan is to his partial credit now hearing some
critics out at home and he has agreed to meet with his colleagues in the
congressional black caucus about this whole debate.
And for a little more research on the inner city, the mayor of Patterson,
New Jersey just invited Paul Ryan to town. Quote, "come to Patterson,
Congressman Ryan, he wrote in a letter, and I`ll take you around the
streets of one of the poorest streets in New Jersey and you can meet the
families of people who work two and sometimes three jobs to put food on the
table and clothes on their children. Since you seem not to understand
causes of inner city poverty, they will be happy to explain to you the
forces which have caused our urban cores to spiral downward to the point of
Now, we at "the Lost Word" reached out to Ryan`s office today and they said
the Congressman quote, "appreciates the invitation." That`s good. And I
think we would all appreciate it if he would do a little more work before
the next time he accuses people of slacking off.
That`s the end of our "fact check." Now, coming up, a sneak preview of
this weekend`s Special Report on the mystery of the flight 370. Straight
MELBER: Up next, some of the more plausible theories about flight 370.
MELBER: It`s now 15 days and flight 3707 is, of course, still missing.
Without any wreckage, there are only theories. But in an MSNBC special
premiering in Sunday, "The mystery of flight 370," aviation experts
discussed the validity and likeliness of so many of these theories. Here`s
a first look at the mystery of flight 370 posted by our own MSNBC`s Chris
CHRIS JANSEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mystery as deep as the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see everything and nothing. There`s no sign of
JANSEN: How could an airliner with 239 people aboard just vanish?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Planes don`t disappear. This is not a science fiction
movie where all of a sudden it`s there and it`s gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have never seen anything like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is unprecedented.
JANSEN: It`s the longest a commercial plane has been missing in the
history of aviation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where the pilots been incapacitated? Were they dead?
Did somebody hijacked the plane? We don`t know.
JANSEN: So many theories, so few answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence right now leads us to believe it`s an
intentional act. The question is by who.
JANSEN: Could satellite images provide key clues?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It must be stressed that these sightings, while
credible are still to be confirmed.
JANSEN: As the families of passengers endure overwhelming anguish and
They cling to hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know. One way or the other, I want to
JANSEN: But will we ever know what happened that night in the skies
between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could be talking about this forever. This person,
whoever took command of the airplane just flew off into aviation history.
JANSEN: In the absence of wreckage, the number of theories explodes.
Could the plane have been hijacked and flown somehow undetected to an
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One theory is the way this plane was able to go
undetected, it flew in the shadow of another plane and so on the radar it
was picked up as a moving object.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A pilot could pull up in the shadow of another plane
and it would disguise the blip. That you would only see the information
from the first plane and you wouldn`t see the blip from the second plane.
My opinion is that that couldn`t really had happen. The first plane being
shadowed would see the other plane pulling up or they would pull them up --
there`s cockpit equipment that shows you if another plane is in your
JANSEN: If not in the air, could something or someone have interfered with
the plane from the ground?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it possible that the plane could have somehow been
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question about being hacked has come up in the
recent past because this is a digital airplane. But the FAA requires
manufacturers of all the radio equipment and the aircraft to have proper
shielding and interference type precautions in place. You can`t have
somebody hack into a system and errantly change a heading on a navigation
system, work it into the electric system and start shutting down systems.
JANSEN: Another theory pursued by investigators, structural or mechanical
failure caused by a fire or other cataclysmic event requiring a swift
response from the cockpit. Perhaps even causing the pilot to make that
left turn to head toward the nearest runway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The initial ideas that a catastrophic event had
occurred in flight and resulted in disabling the crew or some other
catastrophic event did not prove to be as viable because the airplane
deviated so far from the flight plan track.
JANSEN: After satellite imagery show what some think is debris from flight
370, search teams begin to focus on an area almost 1,500 miles off the
coast of Australia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The possible finding of this debris really would
confirm some scenarios and it would discard other scenarios.
It looks like this plane flew until its fuel was exhausted. And it flew,
it looks like on auto pilot. Was that because the pilots were
incapacitated? Were they dead? Did somebody hijack the plane? Did hijack
the plane, did some in the cockpit have a psychotic episode and something
happened? We don`t know, but when a plane flies for seven to eight hours
on autopilot, you have to believe something happened on that plane.
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