'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 18, 2015
Guest: Brian Salvatore, Kate Brown
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. You`re in land mine
territory there, in terms of talking about stuff that upsets people. I
want to see your inbox tonight. Well done, man.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
If you are a U.S. taxpayer, you can add this to the list of things
that you own, that maybe you did not know that you owned. You own the
United States government`s Explosive Destruction System, EDS for short.
The Explosive Destruction System is a chamber with stainless steel walls
that are up to nine inches thick, thought to be totally indestructible,
thought to be totally blast proof. At least the hope is that it is
indestructible and blast proof.
Today, your explosive destruction system destroyed one steel bottle.
And the destruction of that one steel bottle is a landmark moment, it turns
out, in the history of some of the scariest things in the United States of
America, because what was in that one steel bottle destroyed by your
explosive destruction system today was mustard agent.
Mustard agent is a chemical weapon that we made into bombs by the tens
of thousands, by the hundreds of thousands, all the way through World War
II. And these kind of weapons, chemical weapons obviously are illegal. We
promised decades ago we would never use them.
But we did make zillions of them. We have tons and tons and tons of
them laying around, getting old, and starting to leak in some cases. And
there is this question of what to do with these mustard bombs.
Now, what we used to do with them, I think, was the greatest acronym
of all-time. The way we used to get rid of mustard bombs was a program
called Operation C-H-A-S-E. Operation Chase -- Chase standing for "cut
holes and sink `em". Operation cut holes and sink `em, Operation Chase.
That`s what the acronym stood for.
In 1964, the military -- U.S. military would take chemical weapons and
nerve agents and unwanted ammunition and munitions of all kinds, they would
load them into containers, sometimes they would even load them onto a ship
they didn`t want anymore, and they would cut holes and sink `em. They
would just dump this stuff into the sea. Ah, the ocean`s big, it can take
it. They did this for years. They did this like at a dozen sites on both
That is how we handled our problem of all these chemical weapons that
we had laying around, that we had pledged not to use, and that were
illegal. What do you do with them? Dump them in the sea.
In 2004, there was this amazing story out of Bridgeville, Delaware,
where a guy ordered a big delivery of crushed clam shells because he wanted
to make a new driveway on his property in Delaware. And the truck with all
the clam shells came, dumped all the clam shells on his driveway so he
could spread them out. He then noticed something that was sticking out of
the pile, that sort of looked like a rocket sticking out of the pile of
clam shells that he had just had delivered.
The property owner was smart. He did not handle that rocket. He
called local authorities. They ended up calling in the Air Force, which
brought out an EOD team, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, and that EOD
team turned up on site to check out this rocket and to take it away. This
rocket that turned up in this guy`s pile of clam shells.
The Centers for Disease Control ended up writing it as a case study
when those Air Force personnel ended up getting terrible chemical burns and
they needed to be hospitalized because of what had turned up in this guy`s
clam shell delivery.
It was a mustard bomb that had been dumped into the sea years earlier,
because that was for a very long time how we used to get rid of our
That was our national plan for handling this stuff for years. Until
Congress in 1972 passed the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act
that stopped us from throwing our chemical weapons into the sea and hoping
for the best. 1972.
Then, 25 years later, during the Clinton administration, our nation
signed a chemical weapons treaty, a global chemical weapons treaty that
committed us as a country to destroying all of our chemical weapons by the
And we mostly did it. We destroyed chemical weapons in nine states,
as well as on this beleaguered, uninhabited island called Johnston Atoll.
We set off high altitude nuclear explosions at Johnston. We tested Agent
Orange there. We tested biological warfare there, and we destroyed
chemical weapons and nerve agents there.
We made that 2012 deadline, and in all the military facilities in the
United States where we had these chemical weapons laying around, except for
two. There are only two places left in the United States where we didn`t
make the deadline. And we still have chemical weapons that still have to
One of them, which has a comparatively small amount of the stuff, is
in Kentucky at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Kentucky. The other one which
has most of what we got left in terms of this stuff is in Pueblo, Colorado.
And today was day one of the beginning of the end of what we have got left.
Today became day one of the beginning of the end when they destroyed
that one steel bottle in your explosive destruction system that you didn`t
know you own. Explosive destruction system did it today. Mazel tov.
In total, the explosive destruction system at Pueblo will explode and
destroy 12 of these steel bottles. All of which contain some mustard agent
that was drilled out of these mustard bombs and extracted for testing. The
explosive destruction system will also destroy about 1,400 or so mustard
bombs themselves. Ones that are leaking or that have been drilled into or
that are otherwise somehow messed up or compromised. Those will all get
exploded inside this destruction chamber, which with a nine-inch-thick
steel wall, right?
But those 1,400 shells, and those dozen steel bottles, the first of
which they destroyed today, those are only a tiny proportion of what we`ve
got on hand. And what they have to destroy at Pueblo. There are 780,000
mustard bombs at Pueblo, Colorado, that we have got to destroy, 780,000.
And other than those 1,400, all the rest of them are going to be destroyed
by something else that you own as a U.S. taxpayer.
It cost about $5 billion to build it, $5 billion of your dollars. It
is basically a massive automated robotic anti-factory. Some humans will
have to be involved in the operation of this thing. But mostly, it`s going
to be robots in a $5 billion super complicated isolated machine that we
have built to take these 50-year-old chemical experiment, decaying horror
show chemical weapon bombs, take them apart very delicately one by one,
remove the mustard agent, mix it with water, and then feed the diluted
toxic, scarifying mustard agent goo, feed it, literally feed it to the
world`s most terrifying bacteria, which like to eat that stuff, apparently.
And even after they chemically neutralize the mustard agent with the
water and the bacteria that eats it, and all the rest, the end product of
this multibillion dollar robotic anti-factory and all of these hundreds of
thousands of shells, it will still be hazardous waste. But it won`t be
chemical weapons anymore. And they started it today.
By 2019, by four years from now, this stuff, if all goes according to
plan, this stuff is going to be gone, in what will be a multibillion dollar
effort that you have paid for. We talked to somebody at the Pueblo
chemical agent destruction pilot plant today, which you own, and they
explained to us what it is they`re doing with this two-part process.
They`ve got the explosive destruction system for the odds and ends, where
really they have to blow it up. And then, they`ve got this big
multibillion dollar factory thing for all the remaining hundreds of
thousands of shells.
They explained to us that they actually intended to start the process
of destroying these chemical weapons yesterday, but in Pueblo, Colorado,
yesterday, the wind was blowing from an odd direction. And that might have
complicated their planned evacuation route had anything gone wrong on day
one. And so they put off day one, and did not start -- yesterday they
didn`t start until today, because they needed the wind to be blowing a
different direction so they could be absolutely, doubly, triply,
quadruplely sure just in case anything went wrong.
So people in and around Pueblo, Colorado, over the years have been
understandably a little edgy about the fact that they have got America`s
largest stockpile of hundreds of thousands of aging chemical weapons bombs
sitting there, right, getting old, for a long time, as they planned this
destructive process of what to do with them.
But that process is now under way. They do have a very complicated
plan. They are being very careful. It is very expensive for a lot of very
good reasons, and they built a lot of specialized equipment to deal with
it. And it`s a four-year plan, and it took forever, and they pushed the
deadline, but that is Pueblo, Colorado, as of today. It`s happening.
That`s Pueblo, Colorado.
And then there`s basically the opposite of that. Which is a place
called Minden, Louisiana. Camp Minden is a state-owned site in
northwestern Louisiana where for years, contractors have done various kinds
of work for the U.S. military. For years at that site a company called
Explo -- you see where this is going? That`s foreshadowing.
A company called Explo took in huge quantities of M-6 artillery
propellants from the U.S. army. And this company, Explo, they repurposed
that propellant and they resold it mostly to the mining industry, which
obviously has a need for explosives from time to time.
But at some point in the last few years, the inflow and outflow of
this artillery propellant in northwestern Louisiana, the inflow and outflow
got a little out of whack. And for whatever reason, this company Explo
just started accumulating tons and tons and tons and tons of this M-6
propellant at Camp Minden.
And this propellant is not only toxic in its own right, it is
explosive. And the longer it sits around, apparently, particularly if it
is exposed to the elements, the more likely it is to spontaneously combust.
And on October 15th, 2012, some of that stuff combusted in the middle
of the night. There were two huge explosions at Camp Minden in Louisiana.
They were big enough they were felt in Texas. They`re big enough that they
were seen as weather by the National Weather Service satellites overhead at
the time. This is some of that satellite imagery.
Here`s how a local resident described it back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILLY EDWARDS: I saw the sky light up. Just a loud -- there wasn`t
no noise. It just lit up. And it caught my eye. I looked to the west.
And then it -- the light died down. It was like, what was that? He looked
up, it lit up again and then we heard the loud boom. It looked like a
sunset, it was so bright.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Given how big those explosions were in October 2012, it is
amazing nobody was hurt in those explosions. But there was an
investigation of what had blown up, what had gone wrong at Camp Minden.
That investigation turned up something that really nobody could have
imagined there before they saw it. It turns out what this company had
created, in this little corner of northwest Louisiana, what they had done
there was unbeknownst to anybody. They had created the nation`s largest
stockpile out in the open, rotting in a field, the nation`s largest
stockpile of unstable toxic explosive artillery propellant -- 18 million
pounds of it at that site.
And then seven of the employees of the company got indicted, and then
the company went bankrupt. The stuff is still sitting out there in a
field. And nobody knows what to do with it. They started stuffing it in
bunkers. And nobody exactly knows what`s going to be the ultimate
dispensation of this stuff. Look at the site.
And this stuff can`t just be left to rot, because when it rots, it
tends to explode. You can`t just leave this stuff. It has to be
And there`s millions of pounds of it sitting there at this site. And
two years after those giant explosions shook Minden, Louisiana, all the way
to Texas, it let the world know the toxic stuff was there, in a quantity of
millions of pounds -- two years after those explosions, the EPA came in and
announced their plan to safely dispose of all that toxic, explosive
artillery propellant, the biggest pile of it in the country. They
announced what they were going to do with it.
Their safe plan for disposal was that they would set it on fire. They
just burn it. Not going to move it anywhere, not going to build any
special facilities, or explosive destruction systems for Minden.
They`re not going to build some fancy, robotic multibillion dollar
sealed system to turn it all into bacteria food so he can be regular
hazmat. Nope, they`re just going to set it on fire in northwest Louisiana.
Their announced plan as of this past October was, I kid you not, it is
not more complicated than this, they were going to take the stuff outside,
put it in big trays outdoors, and set it on fire. Burn it into the open
air, 80,000 pounds of it a day for -- maybe a few hundred days, 220 days,
maybe more, depending on how it went.
And that was not just like the idea that was floated of one way to do
it. That was what they announced the plan was going to be in October.
Look at the headlines from the "Associated Press" at the time. Plan
reached to clear explosives. And the plan is to burn it in trays.
Even the local officials expressed interest in maybe at least burning
it in an incinerator. No, the plan was just an open fire.
"New York Times" reporter Campbell Robertson has a great piece today
about people who live in the area around Minden, how they felt about this
plan. In January, local folks, experts they consulted with, convinced the
EPA and the Louisiana National Guard to please delay this genius plan to
just set everything on fire.
Just a few days ago, this group of concerned local residents and
experts submitted a draft plan with six other potential ideas for different
ways to handle this stuff, instead of just openly burning it in Minden.
And now tonight, we can report that the EPA has just signed a new
agreement, that instead of just going ahead with their plan to openly burn
all this stuff, they are now officially going to allow the consideration of
alternative technologies for disposing of all of these millions of pounds
of toxic artillery propellant.
When they talk about technology alternatives, to be clear, what
they`re talking about are alternatives to the technology of fire, because
fire had been the original technological solution to this problem. Now,
they`re going to consider at least some other ideas. It doesn`t mean they
won`t end up setting it on fire, but they`re at least they`ll consider some
You know, we used to -- not that long ago -- we used to just dump
chemical weapons into the sea. The original plan for getting rid of all of
our chemical weapons by the treaty deadline was to burn them, just
incinerate them, including in places like Bluegrass in Kentucky, and Pueblo
in Colorado. It was the concerns about the safety of burning that stuff
which forced, yes, a slower process, but one that was more careful and felt
to be more safe for the people who live there alongside the scarier century
of American military experimentation.
Pueblo has got this $5 billion robot plan and this very fancy
explosive destruction system with its nine-inch-thick walls, because in
Pueblo, they yelled loud enough and long enough that their concerns were
taken seriously. So, the stuff didn`t just get burned there.
Minden, Louisiana, is a corner of that state that is rural, not a ton
of people there. It is somewhat poor corner of Louisiana. It is a mostly
African-American part of that state. And problems like this in our country
get solved by equations that include political capital.
And since Camp Minden blew up two and a half years ago, and they
realized what they had on their hands there, there has been a real question
as to whether the local residents in this corner of Louisiana had enough
political capital, that this huge national problem in their backyard would
be handled in a way that would be safe for them. And they still have a
long way to go. And this is not anywhere near over yet. Those millions of
pounds of propellant are still sitting there.
But what they have done already in organizing and yelling and
demanding to be taken seriously has already stopped the open burn plan that
was originally approved in October. And it has forced us as a country,
now, to at least try to think of something better to do here than just
setting everything on fire in an open burn. There`s got to be a better
Joining us now is Brian Salvatore. He`s a professor of chemistry at
Louisiana State University in Shreveport. And he`s a member of the Camp
Minden Dialogue Committee, when has been pushing for more options in terms
of dealing with this stuff at Camp Minden.
Professor Salvatore, thanks very much for being with us.
PROF. BRIAN SALVATORE, OPPOSES PROPOSED CHEMICAL BURN: Thank you,
MADDOW: This is a complicated story, and a dramatic story. I`ve got
to ask you if I clearly stated, at least -- or accurately stated where you
think things stand currently? Is it now the plan they`re not going to go
ahead with the open burn and they`re going to think about other ideas?
SALVATORE: Yes. I think you`ve done an excellent job here of
summarizing this story, and it is a remarkable story, even as I`m listening
to you tonight. I mean, it`s just incredible. You could not dream a
scenario like this.
Fortunately, what could have been a pure nightmare may have at least a
good ending here. And in fact, this group of concerned citizens here in
Northwest Louisiana may actually be able to set some precedent here, so
something like this never happens again.
MADDOW: From your perspective as a chemistry professor, what you know
of this problem, I was struck by the parallel with those mustard shells in
Pueblo, and Bluegrass. But they honestly did not know what the process
would be of safely handling those things, safely disposing of that huge
quantity of stuff. And in part, they had to invent the technology. They
had to invent a process to safely handle all that material and get rid of
it in a way that wouldn`t be harmful to the surrounding community.
Do you feel like in Louisiana, something is going to have to be
invented that we don`t already understand a way that this stuff can be
safely disposed of or handled?
SALVATORE: Well, over the short term, there is not time to invent
anything new. There are safer alternatives. And we definitely are aware
of those, and we tried to bring those to the forefront. And the EPA was
aware of them as well. We`re not really sure why initially they did not
consider all of the safer alternatives. But they certainly are considering
And I think the path forward could actually be safe, and technology is
always going to be able to get better and better. So, over the long term,
it`s my hope that these chemicals do not have to be destroyed, they
actually could be repurposed.
But we have a number of technologies here that we think are going to
be adequate. We hope that one of the safer alternatives is chosen.
MADDOW: Brian Salvatore, professor of chemistry at Louisiana State
University in Shreveport, member of this Camp Minden Dialogue Committee --
I know it`s not done, but already I think it`s struck a remarkable victory
in making us come up with better ideas of dealing with this as a country.
Congratulations, thus far. And please keep us apprised as this moves
SALVATORE: Oh, thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
I will say that that giant pile of artillery propellant sitting there
in Louisiana, that is the biggest stockpile of that stuff that we know of
anywhere in the country. But it`s about one-sixth of what exists totally
in the country in terms of that stuff needing to be disposed of. What they
come up with in Louisiana may ended being a blue print for how it gets
taken care of in smaller amounts everywhere else in the country, at the
local artillery propellant dump near you.
All right. Lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADODW: Turns out the relationship between delicious cinnamon rolls
and Mike Huckabee is way more complicated than you might think.
That story and lots more, still ahead.
MADDOW: In 1996, the legendary senator from the great state of
Kansas, Bob Dole, ran for president. But Dole was the Republican nominee
who challenged President Bill Clinton for the presidency in 1996. Senator
Dole lost that race.
After that race, he became a paid spokesman for Viagra.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB DOLE: Courage, something shared by countless Americans, those who
risk their lives, those who battle serious illness. When I was diagnosed
with prostate cancer, I was primarily concerned with ridding myself of the
cancer. But secondly, I was concerned about possible post-operative side
effects like erectile dysfunction, ED, often called impotence.
You know, it`s a little bit embarrassing to talk about ED, but it`s so
important to millions of men and their partners, that I decided to talk
about it publicly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pfizer hired former presidential contender Bob Dole to be the
face of Viagra. But he did not just do Viagra. He also did Visa. And he
did Dunkin` Donuts, and Pepsi. Once he did Pepsi alone, and once he did
Pepsi with Britney Spears. He had a Bob Dole/Britney Spears thing going
on. He was the face of a lot of things after his presidential run.
Same thing with Senator Fred Thompson from the great state of
Senator Thompson ran for president in 2008. He did unexpectedly
poorly. Lots of people thought that he would win the race overall. But he
didn`t win a single state, and he quit early, and then Senator John McCain
ended up winning the nomination.
But after that, Senator Thompson went on to become the face of reverse
mortgages. Do you own your house, senior citizen? Let me convince you to
un-own it for a cash payout. Call now.
It wasn`t quite as exciting as watching Britney Spears dance around
with Viagra spokesman Bob Dole on a recliner, but, you know, pays the
Having a high political profile is a form of celebrity. And
politicians do sometimes choose to trade on that for money. But when they
do it, we think of them of usually doing it after they hang up their
political boots. It doesn`t usually happen that you become a pitch man for
something, as a means of preparing to run for president. It doesn`t
usually go in that direction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Hello, I`m Mike
Huckabee. Let me tell you that diabetes can be reversed. I should know,
because I did it. And today you can, too.
That`s why I`m strongly suggesting that you look into this product
from Barton Publishing called the diabetes solution kit. And I should
know. It works.
I use the same techniques to lose 110 pounds of fat, get my own blood
sugar under control, and completely reverse my type 2 diabetes.
Your free presentation is coming up right now. See for yourself how
this kit works. And what it can do for you.
I`m Mike Huckabee, and I approve Barton Publishing`s diabetes solution
LON: Hi there. My name is Lon. And these are cinnamon rolls. And
in a few minutes you`ll find out how these tasty pastries contain a real
ingredient that reverses diabetes. Well, here`s the deal. The secret
ingredient in the cinnamon rolls is cinnamon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The first is from Mike Huckabee, and the second is when you
go to the Barton Publishing diabetes solution thing Web site, Barton
presentation goes on to say that they`re not they`re recommending that you
eat cinnamon rolls to reverse your diabetes. Honestly, you could be
forgiven for thinking that`s what they`re telling pitching you.
What they are pitching you is that adding cinnamon to your diet might
cure you of diabetes. It might reverse your diabetes, just like former
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
I`m quite sure, I don`t have to tell you this, but the American
Diabetes Association insists that there is no credible research that says
herbs or spices such as cinnamon can manage or cure your diabetes. Still,
there`s Mike Huckabee, former governor, prospective presidential candidate,
who quit his FOX News hosting gig, so he presumably could run for
president. There he is, right now, showing for Barton Publishing and their
bogus science, telling people, yes, your diabetes can be reversed. I`m
living proof. Sign up for a free offer, plus shipping and handling.
And in the Republican race for the presidency this year, I kid you
not, Mike Huckabee, the cinnamon rolls cures diabetes pitchman, in 2015,
that`s not some previous thing he was doing. That`s what he`s doing this
year. Mike Huckabee is killing it in the presidential polls right now.
In the latest Gallup poll out this week, Mike Huckabee is right up at
the top with Jeb Bush in terms of favorability ratings among Republican
voters. Among people who identify themselves as conservative Republicans,
he is far and away the leader at 54 percent. Marco Rubio is the next
closest to him.
And then there`s the new CNN poll out today which matches Republican
candidates up with Hillary Clinton to see who would do the best in a head-
to-head match-up. The two front-runners in the race right now are Jeb Bush
and Scott Walker, both of whom are obviously and energetically running for
president, even if they aren`t formally declared as candidates yet, they`re
both running hard, raising tons of money, basking in mainstream press
But you know who outperforms both of them in the match up against
Hillary Clinton? Mike Huckabee.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also does well in the CNN poll against
Hillary Clinton. She beats him by less than she beats everybody else.
Rand Paul is now expected to announce his presidential bid very soon on
We also got the exciting announcement today that an eccentric New York
city real estate developer and reality TV star named Donald Trump, he is
pretending harder than usual that he`s going to run for president. He says
he`s forming an exploratory committee. He says he told NBC that he will
not renew his contract for his reality TV show, which is called "The
Celebrity Apprentice", although NBC says they`re still planning on that
show, having a new season this year. So who knows?
But in terms of the latest 2016 news, it can be a little hard to get
your head around. Hillary Clinton is still running alone for the
Democratic nomination for all intents and purposes. On the Republican
side, they`re about to officially get Rand Paul, son of Ron, they might be
-- might be -- might be -- might be about to officially get Donald Trump.
And the guy who`s running at the front of the pack, who the press is
ignoring, is a guy whose official pitch for the job right now is he knows
exactly what kind of pastry can cure your diabetes.
People wonder why I love my job. I have the best job in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: See for yourself how this kit works. And what it can do
for you. I`m Mike Huckabee and I approve Barton Publishing`s diabetes
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As you know, the state capital of Oregon has recently been
under attack by a barred owl, patrolling a local park and attacking joggers
at that park.
Last month, we proposed a scary owl warning sign which the city of
Salem installed in that park to warn people. Hooray! But now, it gets
better. Yesterday we learned a local beer maker has named a beer after the
At vagabond brewing in Salem, Oregon, you can now tip back an attack
owl IPA in celebration of the Salem`s attack owl. It`s apparently a really
good IPA. I would like to try some, thank you very much.
But wait, there`s more. Down the road in Gilgamesh Brewing, also in
Salem, they are also rolling out their own owl beer. We are told that it`s
called hoot attack, with a label that includes the owl warning sign.
Oregon has not one but two new owl beers. I feel a road trip coming on.
But first, we have a story about the truly amazing, first of the
nation news out of Oregon, which is nothing to do with either beer or owls.
And we`ve got on top a visit from the brand-new governor that made this
brand-new thing happen.
And that story and the interview are just ahead.
MADDOW: Oregon, beloved state of Oregon, blessed art thou among
When John Kitzhaber quit as Oregon`s governor a month ago, amid what
are now four simultaneously state and criminal investigations in alleged
corruption in his administration, mostly involving the role of his
girlfriend in that administration, when John Kitzhaber quit last month
right after being sworn in for his fourth term as Oregon governor.
Something sort of remarkable happened in the musical political chairs that
followed him quitting.
Oregon has no lieutenant governor. So, in the event that an Oregon
governor has to leave office, the person who replaces the governor is the
secretary of state. In this case, the secretary of state was Oregon
Democrat Kate Brown, who is now the governor of the state of Oregon.
The state of Oregon then needed a new secretary of state to replace
her. Governor Kate Brown chose this person, Jeanne Atkins, to take her old
job, to take the second highest ranking job in the state. The third
ranking statewide job is the attorney general. This is the attorney
general of the state of Oregon, Ellen Rosenblum.
So, the number one, number two, and number three jobs in Oregon state
government are now all held by women. And as long as we`re counting, so is
the job of the Oregon speaker of the house. So, Oregon, blessed art thou
And yes, the departure of the previous governor was a shocking and
bizarre political trauma in that state. And it has left a trail of
unresolved investigations in its wake. But you know what? There`s new
folks in charge now. He`s gone. And so, apparently there`s no reason not
to get down to business in Oregon.
When she was still secretary of state, before she unexpectedly was
elevated to governor, Kate Brown, this past January, introduced a bill to
the Oregon state legislature, a bill about voting. Secretaries of state
are obviously in charge of running elections at state level. They`re in-
charge of voter registration systems.
And when Kate Brown in January introduced this new bill to profoundly
change the voting system in that state, she did so as secretary of state.
And then, surprise, this week, now as governor, she just got to sign her
own bill into law.
And everything you have heard about voting rights in this country in
the last five years has been terrible for voting rights. But this, what
just happened here in Oregon, is actually great news. Honestly, over the
last five years, there have been 395 new pieces of legislation introduced
in 49 states to make it harder to vote, or to make it harder to register to
vote. Just leading up to the presidential election in 2012, in the two-
year period before the 2012 election, new bills were signed into law in 19
states to make voting harder, 19 new laws to make voting harder, or make
voter registration harder.
Well, Oregon as of this week, is leading the country in the completely
opposite direction. Oregon already votes by mail, and that has helped them
have one of the highest voter participation rates in the country. But
thanks to this new law as of this week, that state is about to start
automatically registering people to vote based on information that they
have on file at the DMV.
At the DMV, they know if you`re a citizen. They know your current
address. They know if you`re legally eligible to vote.
And if you are legally eligible to vote, Oregon has just decided
they`re now just going to register you and mail you a ballot. You don`t
have to ask. They`re just going to do it.
You can opt out. You can choose to not be registered if you don`t
want to be. There`s a 21-day opt-out period if you do not want to be
registered to vote. And, of course, nobody`s going to force you to vote
when election time comes. But the state of Oregon will now become the
first state in the country where it is easier to be registered than not.
It`s an opt-out system, instead of an opt-in, system. As the tide of
voting laws in this country has been rushing the other way, Oregon is first
to push this hard to get more people to vote, not fewer.
Oregon, blessed art thou among women politicians. Blessed art thou
amongst small d democrats everywhere. This is groundbreaking.
Joining us now for the interview is the new governor of the state of
Oregon, Kate Brown.
Governor Brown, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for your time
GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON: Thank you so much. I was delighted to
hear your recap of our new motor voter law.
MADDOW: Did I explain the change in the law correctly? No other
state has done this, and so I`m learning it just from you.
BROWN: That is correct. However, Louisiana is essentially doing the
same thing with their 16 and 17-year-olds. The first state to have it --
happen to all of our potentially registered voters in Oregon. We`re very
excited about the legislation.
MADDOW: So, the way I understand this is going to work, logistically,
is you`ve got about 2.2 million people registered to vote right now in
Oregon. When this law goes into effect, it`s expected to almost instantly
add about 300,000 new voters to the rolls, people who are eligible to be
registered but have so far not chosen to do so, or have not taken the steps
to do so.
How do you think that will change politics in Oregon? That`s a huge
jump in the number of people who will be eligible to vote.
BROWN: Well, what I like about this proposal is that it`s actually
more agnostic than our voter registration drives that are happening
throughout the election cycle. And so, this will more evenly impact the
state. And more importantly, it will enable those folks -- in Oregon, we
have a 21-day cutoff. You have to be registered 21 days prior to the
election. This will enable many more people to have their voices be heard.
We think that`s critical.
MADDOW: When you say more agnostic, you mean when they do voter
registration drives in Oregon now, they tend to be for partisan purposes,
either the parties themselves or groups that have partisan interests. In
this case, nobody knows anything about you when the DMV decides to register
you. It ends up happening by virtue of your existence rather than by the
fact that somebody knew to seek you out.
BROWN: That`s correct. That`s the beauty of the system. The DMV
requires proof of citizenship before issuing driver`s licenses.
We will be sending out notices to the potential voters. As you
mentioned, they have three weeks to opt out if they choose so. If not,
they`ll go ahead and be registered as a registered voter.
The other pieces that we have vote by mail, so they`ll get a ballot in
the mail prior to the election.
MADDOW: With the rest of the country, particularly red states, going
in the opposite direction, again, right before the 2012 election, we saw 19
states move to make voting harder, or voter registration harder. Why do
you think you were able to get this done in Oregon? I know it`s a cause of
yours for a long time, before you became governor.
Why were you guys able to do it?
BROWN: Well, we were very excited about the fact that the legislature
passed the bill. The goal is to put the ballot in the hands of every
eligible Oregonian. And this proposal will make voting more convenient and
more accessible for more Oregonians. We`re really excited about it.
MADDOW: Governor Brown, I have to ask you, because I have you here,
and I say this out of concern, and an increasing -- daily increasing
affection for the state of Oregon. The more I pay attention, the more I
love you guys.
How are you doing in Oregon after this strange thing you have just
gone through with Governor Kitzhaber? Obviously, part of that is you. You
became governor under strange and unexpected circumstances. But it`s got
to have been a real shock to the state.
How do you think the state has been changed by this process?
BROWN: Well, my goal as the new Oregon governor is to make sure that
we provide a level of stability for Oregonians. But also do some
housecleaning. And so, we`ve done both of those.
I have a package of bills to restore -- help Oregonians restore their
faith in the Oregon government, both ethics and public records. And we`re
working hard on key priorities, especially education and the economy.
But Oregon is a very special place to live. And I look forward to
working with Oregonians to keep it that way.
MADDOW: Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, thank you very much for
helping us understand this tonight. And good luck to you in your
unexpected new gig. It`s great to have you here.
BROWN: Rachel? We have a present for you. On your next road trip,
we`d like to present you with a t-shirt.
MADDOW: That is excellent. That is really good. I will come pick it
up in person, I promise.
BROWN: Thank you. We look forward to seeing you.
MADDOW: That`s awesome.
MADDOW: Bye. Thank you. That`s great.
I grew up in northern California. And at times over the history of
northern California, I think there were moments when we wanted to secede
and become part of Oregon. I think part of my soul is doing that already,
becoming very affectionate, whether or not they send me beer.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is matt. Matt is a fairly ordinary guy, who happens to
have just had the world`s most astounding and moving and life affirming
thing happen to him. Matt`s story is one of those stories that asks very
little of you, but sometimes you need to hear things like this on planet
earth and you will. Right at the end of the show tonight, it is the best
new thing in the world, and it is really good, coming up.
MADDOW: This is the Bardo Museum. It is located in the capital city
of Tunisia in northern Africa. The Bardo Museum houses one of the largest
and oldest collections of mosaics anywhere in the world. This is one of
the most important museums in that entire part of the planet.
At around noon local time, as tourists were getting off tour buses to
enter into the Bardo Museum and explore that site, there was an ambush.
Two gunmen wearing military style uniforms and carrying assault weapons
launched an attack on the museum. They appeared to single out the groups
of foreign tourists who were there to see the art.
Witnesses say the attack began with the gunmen getting out of a
vehicle and opening fire on people who were getting off their tour buses
outside the museum. The gunmen then ran into the museum itself. They
initially took hostages inside. That set off about a three-hour standoff
with Tunisian security forces who rushed to around the building.
Ultimately, the security forces entered the museum. They killed both
gunmen during the firefight and they set the hostages free, the ones who
are being held inside. So far, a total of 19 people have been confirmed
dead in the attack, most of them European tourists.
This is the single deadliest attack on civilians in that country in
more than a decade. It is still unclear who is responsible. There`s also
some question tonight about whether the museum was even the primary
intended target. The Bardo Museum is located in a complex of buildings in
Tunis that also includes the Tunisian parliament buildings. Could the
attackers have been intending to attack that much more political targets?
The parliament was put on lockdown today during the siege at the
museum. Take a look at this video. These are lawmakers while in lockdown.
While in there, they break out into the Tunisia national anthem, while
they`re being held in a security situation.
Again, it is unclear if the parliament might have been the intended
target for this attack. Tunisia, of course, was the scene of massive
street protests in 2011. It was the first country in the Arab to overthrow
its dictator. It was the start of the Arab spring.
Late tonight, Tunisia`s newly elected president addressed the whole
country, calling for national unity and an aggressive response to today`s
attack. But again, nobody`s claimed responsibility and the death toll in
Tunisia stands at 19, two nationals, 17 foreign tourists.
We`ll bring you more as it develops. But as you should tell you that
the former U.S. ambassador to Tunisia is going to be a guest on "THE LAST
WORD" in the next hour. So, stay tuned for that.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today spans two hemispheres and
two giant countries. A little over a year ago, senior editor at "BuzzFeed"
named Matt Stopera, left his iPhone at a bar in New York City. He went
back to look for it. Couldn`t find it, it was gone for good.
Which would otherwise be end of that story, right? Guy`s phone goes
missing. Guy gets new phone. Generally, nobody else cares. The end.
But a year after matt lost his phone, he started noticing a bunch of
photos on his new iPhone, pictures he had not taken. Like for example,
this menu and lots of store fronts. And Avril Lavigne. Also, a girl on a
motor scooter who you didn`t know.
And a man standing in front of a kumquat bush. Actually, many, many
pictures of the guy in front of the kumquat bush. It was weird. More
photos were getting added by the day.
So, Matt Stopera wrote a piece about what was happening for "BuzzFeed"
where he works, who is this man and why are his photos showing up on my
iPhone? The folks at the Apple Store told him it was because his old
phone, the one that had been stolen or lost in New York, had somehow ended
up in China. China! And that stolen phone was still connected to his
So, they quickly fixed it. They essentially turned off the stolen
phone in China, except it still wasn`t the end, because that "BuzzFeed"
story that Matt had written became a sensation in China.
Apparently everybody and their brother in China read the story and
went on a hunt for the guy in front of the kumquat bush or the orange tree
as they called it. People all over China decided they wanted to help Matt
Stopera find this guy who had his phone. They thought the story was
romantic somehow or like they were long lost brothers.
Ultimately, to make the long story short, they found the guy in front
of the kumquat bush. First, they figured out the photos were taken in a
province in southeastern China. Then, a kid who lived there recognized the
guy as his uncle. Then, everybody started calling him Uncle Orange,
because of the orange tree.
Then the kid and uncle helped the two get in touch. Although the
orange tree guy was a little nervous at first. He stated his preference to
be called Brother Orange instead of Uncle Orange.
Brother Orange then invited matt to go to China. Said he would cook
him a nice meal if he showed up. And wouldn`t you know it, that`s where
Matt is right now.
Earlier today, this guy Matt was greeted at the airport in China by
Brother Orange, and a bit of a mob scene. Matt has been live-tweeting his
trip to Brother Orange`s village in Guangdong Province. Over the course of
today, they celebrated their new found celebrity by taking a mud bath
together and planting a tree together. All this over an iPhone stolen over
a year ago halfway across the world, bringing people together in the
weirdest, celebrity driven way ever. Still though, best new thing in the
world today, by a mile.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ari Melber filling for
Good evening, Ari.
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