'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, November 7th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: November 7, 2015
Guest: Amy Goodman, Mark Alexander, Jack Jacobs, Juan Manuel Benitez,
Nicole Porter, Carl Hart, Mei Fong, Daryl Atkinson
MELISSA HARRIS PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, is it time
to ban the box? Plus, Kentucky looks to make failure out of success. And
how heroin is the new ethanol of primary politics. But first, the problem
with the president`s party is not the president.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And we`re awaiting a news
conference from Egyptian officials in Cairo this morning. They`re expected
to provide an update on the Russian plane crash one week ago in Egypt`s
Sinai Peninsula. All 224 people aboard were killed. More on that as we
have it. But first, politics.
The morning after Tuesday`s elections, the country woke up to see how its
political boundaries had shifted after the results rolled in from the night
before. And for Democrats, what they saw wasn`t pretty. In Kentucky, Tea
Party candidate Matt Bevin won the governor`s seat. In an unexpected
victory that put a Republican in an office that`s been held by Democrats
for most of the last seven decades. Bevin`s victory was part of the sweep
that left Republicans holding all, but two statewide offices in Kentucky.
It`s given Republicans near total dominance over statehouses in the South.
In Virginia, Democrats failed to secure the single seat that would have
helped them regain the state`s senate. A defeat that will make it
significantly harder for Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe to pursue his
policy agenda. Add to those losses the rejection by voters of progressive
ballot proposals in Texas and Ohio. And Tuesday`s election was a rude
awakening that left some Democrats wondering what went wrong.
But Wednesday morning quarterbacking and headlines like these were all too
happy to provide the answer to a different question. Not what was to
blame, but who? Some news outlets turned to a tweet from a Republican
strategist Rory Cooper to sum it all up. Under President Obama, Democrats
have lost 900 plus state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats,
13 Senate seats. That`s some legacy. The party`s losses.
Democrats have certainly taken a shellacking in state and local elections
during the recent history of the Obama era, but let`s look a bit further
back in our political history. You think 35 years ago this week, Ronald
Reagan defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide victory and a GOP
Senate takeover. But the victory lap ended there. Democrats maintained
control of the House. Affirming what political scientist Alan Abramowitz
writes this month for "The American Prospect," was the prevailing pattern.
Between 1952 and 1988, Republican candidates won 7 of 10 presidential
elections. During this era of Republican domination of the presidency,
however, Democrats won a majority of seats in the House in 17 of 18
elections. And the majority of seats in the Senate in 14 of 18 elections.
Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress for 34 of the 40 years from
1954 to 1994.
So, while Republicans tended to dominate the presidency, Democrats have
traditionally held down the House. Fast forward, 1992. Enter a young
charismatic governor from the state of Arkansas who had come seemingly out
of nowhere to become the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Bill
Clinton would go on to win the White House with a strategy that smashed the
Republicans` political base and ended a 12-year hold on the presidency and
the beginning of a new political reality that turned that old narrative
That fact became all too apparent with the Republican revolution of 1994.
That for the first time in 40 years put Republicans in control of both the
Senate and the House. Remember, Newt Gingrich had engineered the GOP
takeover with a strategy that unified all Republican candidates under a
single national platform. Republicans had won by shifting the old adage
that had long been the animating principle of congressional Democrats, all
politics is local.
A weakened Democratic Party found itself having to adjust to a new normal,
local politics had now gone national. OK, fast forward one more time to
2008. Another young charismatic politician who emerges seemingly out of
nowhere to cinch the Democratic nomination for president. Senator Barack
Obama sailed to victory on a message of change in a 50 state strategy that
knit together a diverse coalition of support that transformed the American
political map. And his rising tide helped lift the political ship of his
With Barack Obama`s name at the top of the ticket, Democrats further down
ballot picked up five seats in the Senate and made double digits gains in
the House, but three elections later, partisan power in Washington had
resettled into that pattern established more than two decades before under
President Clinton. A strong Democratic president did not equate to a
strong Democratic Party. President Obama had won a second term in office,
but Republicans had seized control of both the Senate and the House. The
GOP takeover succeeded in part because of the party`s adherence to that
national strategy that encouraged candidates to run against the president`s
record. But Democrats had also pursued a losing strategy based on an
unwillingness to run on President Obama`s record.
In 2014, red state Democrats who had to win if their party was to hold on
to the Senate were explicitly trying to put as much distance as possible
between themselves and the president. As MSNBC reported that year, for red
state Democrats fighting for their political lives this November, the
strategy for lining up powerful endorsements seems to be ABO, anyone but
Obama. The post-midterm map of the Senate elections shows just how well
that worked, because Republican gains in the Senate were concentrated
primarily in the red states.
So this week, after another election has ended with defeated Democrats
asking themselves what happened, it may be worth considering what this
political history offers in the way of an answer. That maybe the problem
with the Democratic Party that loses while its president wins might lie not
with the president, but with the party itself.
Joining me now, Mark Alexander, associate dean for academics and professor
of law at Seton Hall Law School. And a former senior advisor to President
Barack Obama. And Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of
democracynow.org. So nice to have you both here.
AMY GOODMAN, HOST & EXEC. PROD., DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG: It`s great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, Mark, assess for me then what the overall health of the
Democratic Party looks like given these recent losses.
MARK ALEXANDER, ASSOC. DEAN FOR ACADEMICS, SETON HALL LAW SCHOOL: I think
the party is strong.
HARRIS-PERRY: Come on.
ALEXANDER: And I think what you left out, is you left out my state of New
Jersey where in New Jersey the Democrats picked up the largest margin
they`ve had in the assembly in 35 years. So, what I think you see is in
some states like New Jersey, you`ve got moderate Republicans who are saying
that the party is not their same party. And I think you see in places like
Kentucky, you`ve got a Tea Party Republican getting stronger. So, I think
the Republican Party is going much more to the right. I don`t think the
Democratic Party is weak, but I think you`ve seen the Republican Party is
going much more to the right than before.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I hear you - the Jersey had some pickups. And I think
you can look around the map and see - hear that. But I`ve got to say like,
Jersey being a Democratic stronghold hardly suggests to me like a robust
Democratic Party. What gets lost kind of in that Clinton era forward is
the capacity to win in Southern states, in Midwestern states. And I guess
part of what I`m wondering is, if our focus on the presidency, which does
tend to draw our attention, leaves us with a kind of anemic party
GOODMAN: Well, first of all, I think the operative word is 70 percent. 70
percent of the voters of Kentucky did not vote.
GOODMAN: This election was won on 30 percent of the vote. It is hardly a
mandate for the new Republican Tea Party governor. And also, the issue is
health care. It is an absolutely critical issue. The health care co-ops
that are dying all over the country right now that were a part of
Obamacare. You know, the one in Kentucky died in the last weeks of this
campaign. It was the wild card that they could use. And this means,
though, ultimately, you could have half a million people out of health care
in Kentucky, but 70 percent of Kentuckians didn`t vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: But so, when I see that, I see a number like that, I think
we have a tendency in the American political system to say those lazy
individual Democratic voters who didn`t show up. And I think you are
saying that, but I think that tends to .
GOODMAN: I think there`s so many obstacles to voting.
GOODMAN: That should be the focus. And expanding voting rights in this
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. So, both the expansion, but also to me the
mobilization. So, part of that, when I look at Kay Hagan`s loss in North
Carolina and Landrieu`s loss in Louisiana, and Grimes and Nunn in other
Southern states in the last midterm, I see in every case Southern Democrats
who instead of running on the president`s record, who instead of running on
ACA, who instead of running and saying, oh, yes, I`m with that guy who`s
won two national elections were like, please, let me pretend he doesn`t
exist. And then the president gets blamed for these losses.
ALEXANDER: And I think that`s a losing strategy. As you`re saying.
Because the Democratic Party is defined by certain things like the
Affordable Care Act. I think when you look at the next elections, you`ll
see they`re going to be defined by the fact that unemployment has gone down
consistently every year under a Democratic president. There will be a
record of the Democratic Party the Democrats will need to run on. And you
can`t pretend like you`re not quite a Democrat when you have a Republican
who`s going to be every day pushing the Republican platform as they should.
But I think the key is to draw contrasts. Democrats will go this way.
Republicans will go that way. And then I think that`s ultimately the way,
in which you stand true to your party.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although, I want to go back to the point you made before
about the potential mess that is also the Republican Party. They certainly
are in massive control of state legislatures and governor`s mansions. So,
Amy, it also feels to me like part of what we`re seeing at the presidential
level for Republicans is that those state gains are not translating at the
presidential level. Like there are people who will actually hold office
and can`t manage to break about 15 percent in terms of approval at the
GOODMAN: Or expressions of that at the national level are not really
electable. When you look at the main Republican candidates right now who
are surging in the polls, are they going to get a majority of American
voters, is a very important question. I mean, the way these elections run
is you really don`t encourage people to go out. It`s astounding as you
raise the issue of what about mobilization. Do the Democrats really feel
that it`s better not to focus on this election and not to get people out?
If a democracy is going to work, you have to push for the most people
coming out, get all the obstacles out of the way, and then whoever wins
truly is the best man or woman.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is one place where Democrats could still have a
pickup. And that`s in Louisiana where there`s a race for the governor
right now. David Vitter is running against John Edwards. And I just - I
have to play this because it`s just quite an ad. Early voting starts today
in Louisiana. It is going to be a turnout game. I want to play this ad
from that campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The choice for governor couldn`t be more clear. John
Bell Edwards who answered our country`s call and served as a ranger in the
82nd Airborne Division. Or David Vitter who answered a prostitute`s call
minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives
in defense of our freedom. David Vitter choose prostitutes over patriots.
Now, the choice is yours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s happening in Louisiana. And when we come back,
Kentucky may just try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That`s
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re waiting a news conference from Egyptian officials in
Cairo this morning. They`re expected to provide an update on the Russian
plane crash one week ago in Egypt`s Sinai Peninsula.
For Tuesday`s elections, though, come back to the U.S. for a moment,
Kentucky`s outgoing Democratic governor Steve Bashir said this to "The
Washington Post" about his state`s implementation of Obamacare and the
possibility of another Democrat seceded him in office. Quote, "This is a
winner for our people. Because it`s a winner for our people, it`s going to
be a winner politically." Bashir had a lot of reasons to be confident.
After all, his state is one of the great Obamacare success stories. In
2013, Kentucky avoided the glitches that plagued the unveiling of the
federal exchange website with a smooth rollout of its own state-run
exchange known as Connect. OK, I love the Kentucky story. We are,
however, going to pause for a moment. As I told you at the beginning, of
coming back from the break, there is a press conference going on in Cairo
right now, and we are going to pause, go live for an update on that Russian
airliner crash that killed 224 people last week. Officials speaking now in
Cairo. Let`s take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Work of the investigation
committee, within the same work of transparency and our keenness to give
the public opinion locally and globally of every variables in the
investigations. The committee has met and has issued statements. I will
read out to you the statement of the investigation committee with the
participation of its members and representatives of the foreign countries.
But before I start, I want to express my deep condolences to the families
of the victims and to the Russian people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, we as the
investigation team of the accident of Metro Jet flight number KGL 9268
extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims
of the Russian aircraft that crashed in the middle Sinai last Saturday 31st
of October 15. After the accident occurred, the government of Egypt
dispatched emergency personnel and accident investigators to the crash
site. The prime minister visited the crash site in the first few hours
after the accident. The armed forces guarded the site of the wreckage.
The flight recorders, black boxes, were recovered on the same day and the
bodies of the victims were recovered and taken to hospitals in Cairo.
On the same day of the accident, the minister of civil aviation of Egypt
formed an investigation committee in compliance with Egyptian law number 28
and 13 to take the charge of the investigation of the accident. The
government of Egypt extended invitations to representatives from Russia as
state of operator, Ireland as state of registry, France, state of design,
and Germany, state of manufacture. And advisers from engine manufacturers
and from Airbus.
Me, myself, I represent Egypt in leading the technical investigation
committee. Egyptian air force operated five flights to the crash site
carrying various members of the investigation team. Including Egyptian
investigators and other state investigators involvement. The investigators
examined and photographed what was found, including a recording that
coordinates of each major piece. It is planned that the committee will
conduct further visits to the accident site in the incoming days.
The investigation team are composed of 47 investigators as follows. From
Egypt, we have 29. From Russia, 7. From France, 6. From Germany, 2. And
from Ireland, 3. The accident advisers from Airbus attend - one adviser.
This comes to a total of 58 participants in this investigation. To meet
all technical needs and requirements, five subgroups were created as
follows. One, recorders` group. Two, accident site group. Three,
operations, responsible for crew, for air traffic control, for airline
information and metrology. Four, aircraft and systems. Five, medical and
forensic. This is the fifth one. The committee is undertaking its work in
accordance with annex 13 to Chicago convention, which is consistent with
Egyptian law number 28. All groups who are working in parallel are
currently in the information gathering phase. We are still in the
information gathering phase.
Since - visits to the accident site were hampered by bad weather. As soon
as the weather improves, future visits will be arranged. The wreckage will
be recovered to a safe and secure place in Cairo. For further examination,
for each part during which methodology of specialists will be involved.
The committee will recover the aircraft system computers, which have a
special non-volatile memory.
Observations of the committee until today. One. Debris is scattered over
a wide area. More than 13 kilometers in length. Which is consistent with
an inflight break-up. Some parts of the wreckage are missing and it is
hoped to locate them in the incoming days. Two, the initial observation of
the aircraft wreckage does not yet allow for either defining the origin of
the inflight break-up. Three, the flight recorders were recovered on the
first day of the accident and they were successfully downloaded. That
preliminary review of the FDR, flight data recorder, indicates the
following. Takeoff time, UTC time is three hours, 50 minutes and six
seconds. With recording stopped at UTC time four hours, 13 minutes and 20
seconds. So, duration from takeoff to the end of recordings is 23 minutes
and 14 seconds. Last recorded altitudes is 30,000 feet and 888 feet.
While the aircraft is still in climbing mode. Last recorded air speed is
281 knots with autopilots one was engaged until the end of recordings.
Four, the CVR was successfully downloaded. And the first listening was
done. Although the CVR team is still in the phase of writing the
transcript, which we`ll take time to finalize, a noise was heard in the
last second of the CVR recording. A spectral analysis will be carried out
by specialized labs in order to identify the nature of this noise. The
committee noted media reports and analysis. Some of which claim to be
based on official intelligence. Which favors a certain scenario. For the
cause of the accident. The committee was not provided with any information
or evidence in this regard. The committee urged the sources of such
reports to provide it with all information that could help us to undertake
our mission. Six. The committee is considering with a great attention all
possible scenarios for the cause of the accident. And did not reach till
the moment any conclusion in this regard. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, we have time
for very few questions. Because they ..
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My people are waiting. I`m afraid they have a very
limited time. And my people are waiting for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There were five seats now and I
didn`t find except yourself, sir, who is sitting there without the members
of the committee. The question is, I do smell the -- I have the smell of a
conspiracy still as to prove something. Because there is an absence of the
foreign -- other foreign members of the committee who were responsible for
listening to the black box. Why did they not attend this press conference
to which they have been invited? Beyond any doubt, there is no conspiracy
We will distribute a copy in Arabic. I will take your permission in
reading to you in Arabic. I don`t know about any conspiracy. What I know
is that I did invite them officially to take part in attending this
conference and I told them that I was keen that they would attend. So, I
have to respond to any questions, but they preferred to not participate. I
do not know. Maybe they have certain rules by which they cannot attend the
press conference. I do not know, but I would like to clarify to you that,
sir, I would like to inform you that the statement is something that they
know about and they have already taken part in its development. It`s a
statement about the Metro Jet KGL 9268 accident. Ladies and gentlemen, at
the beginning or the outset, the investigation committee in the Metro Jet
KGL 9268 accident would like to extend its condolences to the families and
the friends and the victims of the Russian aircraft that has crashed on
last Saturday, the 31st of October of 2015.
[speaking in foreign language]
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I shall read the statement in
Arabic. Ladies and gentlemen, at the outset, the investigation team of the
accident of Metro Jet KGL 9268 would like to extend its deepest condolences
to the families and friends of the victims of the Russian aircraft that has
crashed last Saturday, the 31st of October of 2015 and the Egyptian
government, after the accident, has dispatched emergency personnel and
investigators to the crash site and the prime minister has conducted a
visit to the crash site in the very first few hours since the crash
occurred. The armed forces has guarded the crash site and the black box
has been recovered on the same day. As well as the victims who have been
transferred to hospitals in Cairo on the same day of the accident.
A decision has been made by the minister of civil aviation of Egyptian
regarding the constitution of the committee to investigate the crash in
accordance with Egyptian law number 28 and the account annex number 13 of
the Chicago Convention in order to investigate the accident. The Egyptian
government on its part has invited the accredited representatives of
states, Russia, the state of operation, Ireland, the state of registry,
France, the state of design, and Germany, the state of manufacture. As
well as advisers from the manufacturing companies of the engine as well as
the airliner. Me, myself, I do represent Egypt in chairing the technical
investigation team. The Egyptian air forces have organized five visits
over separate days over the last week to the crash site. In order to carry
the investigation team, which includes the Egyptian investigators and a
group of investigators from the other relevant states. The investigators
have examined the wreckage and has identified all the various major parts
and it has planned that the committee would conduct more visits to the
crash site over the upcoming days after an improvement in the weather
The committee of investigation is made up of 47 members from - of
investigators who are broken down as follows. From Egypt, 29
investigators. From Russia, seven investigators. From France, six
investigators. From Germany, two investigators. From Ireland, three.
Additionally, there were advisers which were broken down as follows. From
Airbus Company, there were ten advisers. And from Aza (ph), one
representative. So that the total number of investigators is totaling 58.
And so that the committee can assume its responsibilities in an organized
fashion, five groups, working groups, have been established as follows.
The group of the aircraft recorders and specifically the FDR and CJR boxes
as well as the group of the accident site and the operation group which is
responsible for examining the aircraft crew as well as various information
such as meteorological investigation.
Also, the aircraft systems as well as the medical and forensic team.
Additionally, the committee is undertaking its work in accordance with
annex number 13 of the Chicago Convention, which in consistence with the
Egyptian law number 28. All the groups are currently working at the stage
of data collection. In a way that is parallel to the exchange of
information among the groups. The committee confirms that it is still at
the stage of data collection. The wreckage shall also be transferred to a
safe site in Cairo, so as to conduct further examination of every part.
This examination is being conducted by specialists in the various fields,
as well as the computer devices of the aircraft .
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been listening to officials in Cairo with updates on
the latest on last week`s plane crash. What I want to do right now is to
bring in MSNBC military analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs. Colonel, we`ve been
hearing a lot of things obviously this morning. This investigation has
really gone from, last week, what looked like a tragedy, then to a mystery
and now potentially to something that might look more like a crisis. What
did you hear so far that you think is critically important for us to know?
COL. JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it sounds like a lot less
mystery now than there was before. A couple of things come out of it.
First of all that the investigation obviously is at the very, very
beginning. Weather apparently in the area right now is not very good, and
so there`s not a lot of investigating taking place at that site. When it
clears, more investigators will return back to the site. The damaged
aircraft is being transported in bits and pieces to Cairo. That`s a little
surprising because you figure that they would investigate on site
completely. And then they`d bring it all to Cairo. But apparently, some
of it has already moved to Cairo.
The voice recorder and the -- and the data recorders, both were collected
intact and their information downloaded successfully. The voice recorder
information has not yet been -- they haven`t talked about it all, but it`s
interesting about the data recorder, the following comes to light. The
plane was at about 31,000 feet at the time that the transmission stopped.
It was still climbing, and it was going at about very nearly 300 knots. It
was on autopilot as well. That kind of attitude, it was still climbing,
probably going to its cruising altitude. And being on autopilot is not
something new. Most people would be surprised that aircraft now do almost
everything on autopilot, including landing.
So nothing was untoward until such time as the transmissions completely and
totally ceased. And while he didn`t say so exactly, every indication
appears, from what he said, and from what the report has been rendered so
far, that there was a break-up in midair. And actually what happened was
that there was a catastrophe at altitude. You could see that the majority
of the wreckage seems to be in one spot, although part of the wreckage, was
- it was -- has not yet been found. Most of it is in one spot.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, stick with us, colonel, I do want to go now to
Cairo, Egypt where MSNBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin is there. I mean
can you give me a sense of how important, how critical these updates are
that we`ve been hearing this morning?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been some important
information that has been released now as result of this press conference.
And one of the key points that we heard there from that chief investigator,
he gave us the sense of how this investigation has been unfolding. The
fact that there are different subgroups working on different aspects of it.
Perhaps most notable was the fact that he did identify that up until the
minute the plane actually broke up in midair, everything seemed to be
normal. In fact, according to this chief investigator, all of the evidence
so far suggests that this was an inflight break-up. Things were operating
normally. He does say that there was a noise that was heard on the cockpit
voice recorder and that voice now is being sent to a lab for spectral
analysis to try to determine what, if anything, they can learn from that
noise that he described during that flight. But in addition to that, what
we are getting is the first confirmation, if you will, from Egyptian
authorities that this airline broke up in midair. He says that the way the
plane landed, over a large area of territory, suggests that it was an
inflight break-up of the plane. He also described all of the
characteristics that we just heard General Jacobs there, Colonel Jacobs
there, describe for us.
So the most important part was that the flight data recorder as well as the
cockpit voice recorder were recovered early on. There was some speculation
that the cockpit voice recorder was severely damaged but now we`re hearing
that, in fact, it was recoverable, data has been analyzed. They`ve had a
first listening of it. There is a transcription being made of what was
taking place. And not the most important point, which is the moment right
before the plane fell off of the radar or fell off of all their tracking
devices, there was a noise that was heard. He did not speculate. He did
not talk about what kind of noise that was. But it certainly does confirm
a lot of the reporting over the past several days that there was some type
of inflight explosion that caused this plane to go down.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ayman, let me ask you a question about timing here.
Because obviously, the timing of an investigation, to be able to do this
work carefully, to be able to say something definitive is quite different
sometimes than the timing of politics. And so, part of what I`m wondering
is, for Vladimir Putin, for the world, that are looking at, you know, last
week there was kind of a dismissal of any claims that this could possibly
be related to an act of terrorism. That is clearly back on the table now.
And I`m wondering how big the mismatch between sort of how the politics of
this might move versus the actual investigation.
MOHYELDIN: Well, what we now heard officially from this chief
investigators that all scenarios are being considered. And so, when he
says all scenarios are being considered, that in itself already contradicts
some of the earlier comments that came out from Egyptian officials
suggesting that this was definitely not terrorism. So, already we know
that over the course of the week there has been some evolution to this
Now, the senior most Egyptian officials, including the foreign minister and
others, have tried to be a little bit more circumspect in terms of
identifying a cause of the explosion. Today, what we`re hearing is that
all scenarios are on the table. One of the points that we did also hear
from the foreign minister make today at a press conference here in Cairo as
well as now in this briefing by the civil aviation investigation committee,
was that there is some information that has been gathered by Western
countries that is not being shared with Egypt. The foreign minister today
expressed some disappointment with that. Saying that information no matter
what it is, should be shared with Egypt since it is the lead investigator
in this case. But what we also heard now from the chief investigator here
in this committee during this press conference, was that he was calling on
countries if they have any intelligence or information that could lead this
investigation in one way or the other that should be shared with the
The way this information has been trickling out over the course of the past
week or so has certainly evolved. The initial assessment by many here in
Egypt was that this was some kind of mechanical or technical problem that
brought the plane down. But as the cockpit voice recorder, the inflight
data recorder were recovered and examination of the crash site that story
began to evolve. We also heard from Western countries that said there may
have been some intelligence intercepts and some communications intercepts
between various militant groups including ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula and
its leadership abroad that could have suggested some type of terrorist
attack was in the planning stage or was going to be executed. And then
ultimately you had that claim of responsibility by ISIS here in Egypt that
they downed this plane, which in the beginning was somewhat discredited,
but then seemed to gain momentum as Western countries including the United
Kingdom and the U.S. said that there is evidence to suggest it was possibly
a terrorist attack.
The point that we heard from the chief investigator today, and I think one
of the most important points to take out of this, is that all scenarios
remain on the table. He called on Western governments to share information
with them. And more importantly, he identified that all flight operations
seemed to be going fine. Seemed to be normal. There was nothing in the
cockpit voice recorder to suggest any kinds of problems except for that
sudden noise before the inflight break-up and that is now being analyzed
for spectral analysis.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Ayman Mohyeldin in Cairo and to MSNBC military
analyst Colonel Jack Jacobs. We`ll continue monitoring the developments on
the Russian airliner crash.
When we come back, we are going to return to Kentucky and the state`s
progress on health care reform which is now under threat.
HARRIS-PERRY: The state of Kentucky is one of the great Obamacare success
stories. In 2013, Kentucky avoided the glitches that plagued the unveiling
of the federal exchange website with the smooth roll out of its own state
run exchange known as Connect. Governor Steve Bashir bypassed the Kentucky
legislature and used an executive order to implement not only the exchange,
also to expand Medicaid. Making Kentucky the only state in the South to
take advantage of both provisions of the law.
Two years later, the rate of uninsured people in Kentucky declined by more
than 11 percentage points. It was the second biggest decrease any state in
the country. But that policy victory for Kentucky Democrats ended with
their political defeat on Tuesday. Because on Election Day, Kentucky
voters elected a Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin who ran on the pledge to
undo the health care reforms of the last two years. And during the
campaign, Bevin promised to get rid of the state exchange and to turn it
fully over to the federal government and he said that he would implement a
restricted version of the Medicaid expansion that could limit the number of
people covered by forcing them to pay premiums that may be too costly for
many to afford. In his victory speech Tuesday, Bevin had this to say to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT BEVIN: Continue to take the high road. Because this is the
opportunity for Kentucky to be a beacon to the nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, a beacon, sure, because if he makes good on his
campaign promises, Kentucky would be the first state in the country to
reverse Medicaid expansion, meaning Kentucky, once the model of the
successful rollout of health insurance reform, may now become the test case
for what it looks like to roll it back.
Joining me now from Knoxville, Tennessee, is Jason Bailey, the director of
the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. So, talk to me about the economic
consequences potentially of, in fact, restricting the Medicaid expansion.
JASON BAILEY, DIR., KENTUCKY CTR. FOR ECONOMIC POLICY: Well, the biggest
consequence has to do with the health of our state. You know, Kentucky
ranks at the very bottom among states in cancer. We have the most cancer
deaths, the most preventable hospitalizations. We have one of the highest
rates of obesity. The highest rates of cardiovascular disease.
So, our health is a big barrier to our economic growth. Everyone
recognizes that. And that`s why Connect and the Medicaid expansion are
such a huge opportunity for our state. To get healthier, we`ll have more
people able to participate in the workforce and that will make us stronger
overall. So, there`s the health consequences of it that lead to economic
consequences, but there are also just bottom line dollar consequences.
There`s an independent study done about the Connect and the Medical
expansion for Kentucky by an accounting firm. And it estimated that the
net benefit to the state budget over the first seven years was over $800
million. And the reason is that we`ll save money that we now spend on the
uninsured in emergency rooms, on mental health and substance abuse and
other things that we spend state money on. Those people are covered under
Medicaid. And we`ll save those dollars. All the federal money flowing
into the state also creates jobs. And that means tax revenue. Which also
helps Kentucky`s bottom line. So, there are many ways, in which - Go
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me here, because I want to talk more about the
policy. But I do want to come up for just a second to one of my other
guests on the politics. So, Mark, I mean it`s just sort of been a truism
of American politics that once people have a benefit, you can`t take it
back. That like - that just doesn`t work as an Election Day strategy. And
yet, here you have a circumstance where 54 percent of Kentucky voters said
we should maintain the expansion. But then you have the voters actually
turning up for the guy who`s going to restrict it.
ALEXANDER: Yeah, I think the politics are really quite strange here
because, you know, the residents are getting a real benefit. And the
reality is, Jason`s pointing out, the significant health consequences and
the economic consequence. That`s being huge for the residents. They might
lose out on something, which is literally lifesaving.
HARRIS-PERRY: The point about turnout, is that that the folks who voted
are not the same ones who are benefiting?
GOODMAN: Well, I mean for one thing, this was not the majority of
Kentuckians who wanted this to happen. A little interesting factoid, 155
years ago yesterday, a Kentucky native son Abraham Lincoln was elected
president. The percentage of the vote he got in Kentucky, less than one
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, this point that you bring us to Lincoln I think it`s
such an important one. Because the question of Medicaid expansion, Jason,
is ultimately a question that was decided by the Supreme Court around the
issue of the power of states versus the federal government. "The New York
Times" did this kind of amazing set of maps where they look at the number
of uninsured, the percentage of uninsured from 2013 to `15 and you see it
just dropping precipitously. But they also show what would have happened
if the health insurance Medicaid expansion weren`t optional. If it had
been required. The Supreme Court decided that, and what you see is
basically everybody ends up with insurance. So, Jason, what happens if
Kentucky actually starts rolling back? Does that suggest that we`ll see
that map get purple again?
BAILEY: Well, if some of the ideas that have been put out in the campaigns
by the new governor, which involve, you know, restricting access, making it
more expensive, you know, people will - will not be able to afford care.
And they won`t be able to get, you know, the health benefits that come.
You know, we had 90,000 people last year in Kentucky that got cholesterol
screenings for the first time after getting health insurance. We had
80,000 people - visits, 34,000, cervical cancer screenings that came from
people who got insurance under the Medicaid expansion. So, you know, I
think those are huge consequences, and to the point about turnout, I will
say that, that only a small percentage of Kentucky voters decided this last
week. 31 percent turned out. And in the counties that got the most gains
from insurance coverage, the turnout was even lower, about 20 to 25
percent. And I think that people did not understand entirely the
consequences of what was happening. In part because the Democratic
candidate did not run on this issue. He didn`t highlight this issue. He
didn`t have a turnout strategy for the 400,000 people who have gotten
And so, you saw those results at the bottom line. In fact, Governor-elect
Bevin challenged him to a debate about health care in the last couple of
weeks, and he turned it down. You know, so I think there was a lot of
confusion. There was a lot of running against Obamacare. But folks don`t
understand the difference between because they`ve been told different
things about Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, so you ended up - I think this wasn`t .
BAILEY: This wasn`t a referendum - that`s right. This wasn`t a referendum
on connecting the Medicaid expansion. Kentucky overwhelmingly support
You know, this was about a lot of other issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to Jason Bailey in Knoxville,
Tennessee. Here in New York, I want to say thank you to Mark Alexander and
to Amy Goodman who are going to be - excuse me, Amy Goodman will actually
be back later in the program.
But right now, I want to make a shift to the tech industry. This week,
Twitter engineering manager Leslie Miley, the only African-American
engineer in a leadership position at Twitter, announced he and the company
have parted ways. Miley was among the 300-some employees who were laid off
last month, but Miley said he refused Twitter`s severance package for one
very important reason: He wants to talk about the company and specifically
what he says is its diversity problem. In a blog post titled, why
diversity is difficult, he described some of what he saw.
In one instance, he recalls asking the senior vice president of engineering
about diversity. And Miley says the response was, diversity`s important,
but we can`t lower the bar. And Miley described another meeting during
which he was asked to create a tool to analyze the last names of job
candidates, to classify them by their ethnicity. Miley wrote, "I left that
meeting wondering how I could in good conscience, continue to work in an
organization where the senior V.P. of engineering could see himself as a
technological visionary and be so unaware of this blind spot in his
understanding of diversity. Leadership keeps citing the pipeline when the
data do not support it." That senior vice president described in response
in his own blog post, "I realize that we have blind spots, myself included.
One of mine is that I have a tendency to default to engineering-driven
quantitative solutions. The issues Leslie raised require so much more than
that. I`ve learned a lot this week. We as a company are going to address
our own blind spots swiftly. To build the Twitter that will make our
employees and people who use our services proud."
We also reached out to Twitter for a response to Miley`s post and the
company gave us a statement. "We are committed to making substantive
progress in making Twitter more diverse and inclusive. The commitment
includes the expansion of our inclusion and diversity programs, diversity
recruiting, employee development and resource-group led initiatives.
Beyond just disclosing our workforce representation statistics, we also
publicly disclose our representation goals for women and underrepresented
minorities for 2016, making us the largest tech company to put hard numbers
around its diversity commitment."
And it`s important to note these issues are not just about Twitter. Most
of the tech sector is overwhelmingly represented by white men. At Twitter,
black employees comprise only two percent across the board while 59 percent
are white, 29 percent Asian and three percent Latino. At Google, 1.9
percent of employees are black. And 60 percent white. 30 percent Asian
and four percent Latino. And at Facebook, 1.5 percent of employees are
black, 57 percent white, 34 percent Asian and four percent Latino. And the
diversity is further lacking when you examine the leadership ranks.
Joining me now from San Francisco Is Leslie Miley, former engineering
manager at Twitter. So nice to have you, Mr. Miley.
LESLIE MILEY, FORMER TWITTER ENGINEERING MANAGER: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think one of the most interesting parts about your piece
is that you highlight how important Twitter has been in kind of nascent
social and political movements. So, for users, using #Ferguson, #black
lives matter, Twitter is a very diverse space. But then the makers of
Twitter, there`s a kind of disconnect there. Talk to me about that.
MILEY: This is inherent in all of techs, not just Twitter. But, you know,
particularly, it was for me, it was difficult to understand how we could
seriously amplify the voice of Black Lives Matter, amplify voices of
underserved people all over the world, and not reflect that inside the
building. And I think that you look at tech and, you know, what you do is
you get people who come from, you know, very privileged backgrounds and
they`re trying to do the right thing, you know, but it`s the blind spots
that I think Alex wrote really, you know, just took head on. Which is
these are blind spots that they don`t even know they have. And the big
issue about those blind spots is how do you end up the VP of a 2,000, you
know, person organization and have these blind spots. You know, how did
you get to that point without having to address those blind spots? And I
think that is prevalent in tech. It`s prevalent at Facebook. It`s
prevalent at Google. And that`s why you have these numbers. Because
people are never -- are very rarely, you know, challenged to face their
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you reject the idea that this is primarily a pipeline
problem. And instead suggest that this is an actual cultural problem
within tech and within Twitter. Why do you reject the pipeline idea, that
there just aren`t enough engineers of color to be in these spaces?
MILEY: You can look at the data. And the data supports a larger number of
African-Americans and Hispanics in particular coming out of these programs
from the very schools that most of the unicorns or most of the companies
recruit from. You can also look elsewhere in the industry. You can look
at Twilio, you can look at Slack, you can look at Pandora. And you can see
that they`ve done better at diversity as well. So, if they can do that,
you know, how come these larger companies with bigger budgets, with better
names, with better recognition, how come they can`t do it?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, here is my big question: given that Twitter has been so
useful, so valuable to a diverse group of users, why should we care if the
population of people working there is diverse? How would that make it
MILEY: That`s a great question. And Twitter is a perfect example of this.
You know, Twitter`s growth has stalled. Twitter has definitely, you know,
hit a point to where they`re trying to understand the use case of the
people who are really over-indexing on Twitter, particularly African-
Americans, particularly Hispanics, and they are not growing. And they try
to understand why. And I really do think that part of that reason is the
lack of diversity. You have an echo chamber inside of any company. I mean
I`ve worked at Apple, I`ve worked at Google. I understand what the echo
chamber is like. Once you`re inside there, you know, the outside world has
a tendency to kind of fade away. And you`re in a really interesting
bubble. And once that echo chamber just starts going, people are building
the product they want to build. They are not building the product for
their users. And I think if you bring in diversity, that changes. When
you have diversity at the executive level, you build a great product.
Slack which is one of the unicorns now, is a highly sought after place for
people to work, they have a great product. They`re growing really, really
fast. They`re extremely diverse.
And I think you look at, once again, you look at Twitter. And Twitter
having the problem because it is used by people of color in this country,
you know, they are probably not realizing that the ability to grow, because
they don`t have people inside the building who understand the people who
are using the product.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to Leslie Miley in San Francisco.
And I want to go look up unicorns. I think it means something different.
MILEY: All right, I can tell you. So, a unicorn is, you know, companies
that have evaluation of over $1 billion.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, good. Yeah, see, I had no idea. Thank you, Leslie.
Coming up, one of the driving drug love reform to be the hottest things in
the presidential politics. Wonderland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And you may have noticed that several 2016 presidential candidates have
been speaking in a quite moving way about drug abuse and addiction.
There was Chris Christie speaking about the way we treat those who abuse
drugs in a video that has now gone viral with more than 7 million views.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDETE: I`m pro-life. And I
think that if you`re pro-life, that means you got to be pro-life for the
whole life. Not just for the nine months you`re in the womb, all right?
It`s easy -- it`s easy to be pro-life. For the nine months you`re in the
womb, they haven`t done anything to disappoint us yet. All right? They`re
perfect in there.
But when they get out, that`s when it gets tough. The 16-year-old teenage
girl on the floor of the county lockup addicted to heroin, I`m pro-life for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And then there was Jeb Bush this week. Talking about his
daughter`s arrest over prescription drugs and how he relates to others who
have struggled with addiction in their families.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JEB BUSH (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can look at people`s faces
and know whether they have gone through this struggle themselves or with a
loved one. Because it just -- you can just sense the, you know, the life
coming out of their face and just -- I mean, even talking about it now, it
hurts. To have that personal experience, the pain of going through
something that no one wants to go through makes you sensitive to the fact
that that`s the way life works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And Carly Fiorina has spoken about losing her daughter to
Hillary Clinton has released a detailed $10 billion plan to prevent and
fight drug abuse. And Rand Paul has called for treating drug use as a
health problem rather than a criminal one.
And this is coming in the midst of what the CDC says is a sharp increase in
the use of heroin. The number of people currently using heroin went up 30
percent from 2012 to 2014 in 435,000 in 2014. The CDC says many heroin
users are led to the drug after abusing prescription opioid painkillers,
4.3 million people used painkillers in an illicit manner.
More people now die from drug overdoses than from car accidents. And
together, heroin and painkillers account for 56 percent of all overdose
deaths, more than 24,000 deaths in 2013. The number of people dying of a
heroin related overdose has nearly tripled since 2008.
In some states, residents and officials say they`re facing a heroin
epidemic. States like New Hampshire where people now say the number one
problem facing their state is drug abuse, 25 percent say drug abuse is the
biggest problem, more than the economy and jobs. More than education or
health care, or taxes or the state budget, drug abuse.
Also remember, New Hampshire happens to be where the 2016 presidential
candidates are spending a lot of time in the weeks before the first the
state`s first nation -- first in the nation presidential primary. The
Granite Staters are taking their concerns right to the would be
presidential candidates, appearing in their VFW halls in their factories,
in their mayoral offices. And they are demanding that New Hampshire`s drug
problem become part of the national conversation.
Joining me now, Nicole Porter, director of Advocacy for the Sentencing
Project. Juan Manuel Benitez, who is political reporter and host of "Pura
Politica" on New York 1 Noticias. Amy Goodman, host and executive producer
of Democracy Now. And Carl Hart, who served on the National Advisory
Council on Drug Abuse, and is an associate professor of neuroscience and
psychology at Columbia University.
Thanks to all of you for being here.
I want to start, Amy, with a political question. How in the world is it
for GOP candidates, drug abuse talked about in this way has become a top
GOODMAN: You know, it`s so interesting. It also goes to our political
system. You have Iowa, you have New Hampshire. These are two of the
whitest states in the country. It`s so interesting that they are the ones
that so often determine presidential politics.
And when you have an issue that is plaguing all communities for so long the
black community has dealt with this in pain and in silence. It becomes a
major issue. And I think we`re seeing this from Vermont where the governor
a few years ago devoted his entire State of the Union message to the issue
of heroin abuse there, to New Hampshire and Iowa. It is mainstream
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that is fascinating to me that -- I mean, the story that
you tell a little bit there is some miner`s canary story, that are
communities of disprivileged who are experiencing these concerns. And then
it shows up and becomes a political concern.
But when it shows up this time, boy, is the rhetoric different.
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ, NEW YORK 1 NOTICIAS: Yes, but it`s a good thing.
BENITEZ: The only problem here and my fear is they turn this into a false
equation, because it`s a really easy topic like many others to speak about
We create a false equation, and we talk about one side of the equation that
it`s the addiction. And we treat people like victims in this case. And
then we try to solve it. And if there are victims, and there`s a
perpetrator. There`s a culprit.
And now, we try and any attempt of criminal reform, criminal reform, it`s
going to go out of the window because we`re talking only on focusing on the
victim. Or we`re going to try to find the culprit, in the doctors
overprescribing pills, and are now, they are taking away those pills, and
these people are going to heroin. Or we`re going to talk about Mexicans.
We`ve already heard about that, Mexican is bringing drugs to this country.
So many Latinos in this country are really upset and angry that he`s going
to get a platform on "Saturday Night Live" tonight.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that is so interesting to me, because, Nicole, I think
for some folks who are in the midst of this criminal justice reform moment,
they`re looking at this and saying, oh, great, this is the great bipartisan
moment, we`re going to shift to a conversation about drugs as a public
health epidemiology problem instead of a criminalization problem. Maybe
actually it`s still just a way of having one set of victims and another
group that still will get criminalized around it.
What are your thoughts about that?
NICOLE D. PORTER, CTR. OF ADVOCACY, THE SENTENCING PROJECT: I think it`s a
possibility. You have seen state reforms like Amy said. In addition to
Vermont and New Hampshire, states like Kentucky and Oklahoma, expanded
treatment for people with heroin addiction. But in the same --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, but Kentucky is also like you could still feel free to
go to jail.
PORTER: Right. I was going to say in the same year, the same -- part of
the same comprehensive measures where they addressed use of heroin, they
enhance penalties for traffickers and people involved in other parts of the
drug trade, specifically this dichotomy between users and victims or
perpetrators and people who are demonized because they sell drugs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Carl, you`re one of my favorite people to have at the
table in these conversations because you tend to enter in and just flip the
whole script. I know you actually have some reservations about the idea
that this epidemic even exists in that way.
CARL HART, AUTHOR, "HIGH PRICE": I`m one of your favorite people and you
demoted me in the introduction. I`m not an associate professor, I`m a
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes, sir. I did not do that, but I will correct that as
this moment. Yes, sir. You are a professor.
HART: No, but you raise an important point. I mean, actually, everybody
around the table are making really good points. The thing that I`d just
like people to understand is that the vast majority of the people who use
heroin or prescription opioids don`t need treatment. They don`t need jail
So, we`re in this frame of drug abuse. And most of people who use these
drugs don`t need either of these.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got to explain that a little bit of folks, because I
think most folks, they hear you`re using heroin, they think, you should
HART: Yes, they do. I mean, just like when people drive their car too
fast. You should stop that.
But that doesn`t mean you should go to treatment for that. Or have some
sort of law enforcement criminal justice sentence as a result. So, people
do things that they`re not -- that we don`t necessarily approve of. And
using heroin is one.
And they go to work. And they take care of their family. People use
prescription opioids in ways that are different from their prescriber.
Like me, I had, for example, dental pain. I had some opioids left over or
something. I may use them to sleep or something. But that`s abuse.
That`s what people -- but by the same token, I take care of my family, I go
to work. I do all these things. And so, we have to be careful in terms of
how we are framing this whole issue. I mean --
HARRIS-PERRY: So stick with me because I want to think of that, but also a
bunch of other ideas when we come back, because for me, there`s an
existential question about why Americans do -- if there is an increase in
drug use, why do we need to be high, kind of what`s going on, what is our
sadness or distress as a nation that we`re feeling the need to medicate
from? That, and, you know, the political rhetoric when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1989, President George H.W. Bush addressed the nation
from the Oval Office, his first such address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: This is crack cocaine seized a few
days ago by drug enforcement agents in the park just across the street from
the White House. It could easily have been heroin or PCP. It`s as
innocent looking as candy, but it`s turning our cities into battle zones
and it`s murdering our children. Let there be no mistake, this stuff is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, of course, that drug buy in the park near the White
House was staged just for this purpose but that`s neither here nor there.
In this address, President Bush laid out his plan to fight crack, the war
on drugs, and he placed the blame first and foremost on drug users.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Our most serious problem today is cocaine, and in particular crack.
Who`s responsible? Let me tell you straight out -- everyone who uses
drugs, everyone who sells drugs, and everyone who looks the other way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Contrast that message with how today`s presidential
contenders, Republican presidential contenders, describe drug users.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: There but for the grace of God go I. It can happen to anyone.
So we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them. We
need to give them the tools they need to recover, because every life is
precious. Every life is an individual gift from God. And we have to stop
judging and start giving them the tools they need to get better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So what in the world has changed? I mean, that is very
different discourse across that time.
PORTER: Well, I think it`s the story of how people are using heroin today.
You know, there`s general consensus that because users are white the
response is more humane. It follows also the pattern of responding to the
crime problems in the U.S. overall when the users or the people assumed to
be committing the crime are black, or people of color, there`s a tendency
to demonize and dehumanize. When the users or people perpetuating the
crime tend to be white, there`s a tendency to be more curious.
And compare the current response to the crack -- I`m sorry, to the heroin
epidemic, to how we responded to crack in the `80s. You can even go back
further to how marijuana was responded to in the 1930s. The law
enforcement response when it was assumed that marijuana use was in the racy
part of towns as opposed to in the 1960s when there was a more curious
response when white college students were using it in their dorm rooms and
on their college campuses.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, the one part of the curiosity I do want to bring
back. What Carl`s saying about our presumptions, it is necessarily
something one much get treatment for, all these other kinds of things.
But I do feel like we`re not sufficiently curious about why people use -- I
feel like when communities of color, when poor communities have these
problems, we presume we know it`s because they`re poor and they have
desperate circumstances. I would like to know why, you know, often
privileged white Americans are making use of drugs that allow them to kin
What is it we`re escaping from as a country?
HART: Well, I don`t know if people are escaping necessarily. Think about
your own alcohol use. Think about other people`s alcohol. When you go to
these boring-ass receptions that I have to go to often, and people are --
HARRIS-PERRY: It makes it more interesting.
HART: It makes it more interesting and not only that, it makes people more
tolerable in some cases. When we think all these psychoactive drugs,
they`re all interacting with chemicals in the brain in similar ways.
And so, the use of heroin is not so different from the use of alcohol. But
that`s a sociopolitical construction that we have all done. So, when we
think about the sociopolitical construction about drugs, please remember
drug policy is just an extension of all policies in this country.
Drug policy is used in a way to further marginalize groups. That`s how
it`s been used. And it`s not different from other policies. It`s not
But please understand, the body does not see heroin like different from
OxyContin or even different from things like alcohol. That`s us
constructing this. Not the body.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that is incredibly provocative. So, I want to stick on
this, because when we come back, I want to talk a little bit about that
policy framework that you`re talking about, bring both of you guys in on
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton`s new plan to address the issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a new
proposal for criminal justice reform yesterday, addressing in particular
mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes. Now, Clinton didn`t call for
abolishing mandatory minimums entirely, but she did propose cutting such
offenses in half for nonviolent drug offenses and making those cuts
retroactive, as long as a court approves, and she would also make the Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010, which abolished the five-year mandatory minimum for
simple possession of crack apply retroactively for nonviolent offenders.
So, Carl`s put this kind of provocative idea on the table about our
physical responses to any of a set of things from caffeine to wine to
heroin, right? But that what is indisputable is our responses, not our
physiological responses but our political responses are quite different.
And here we have a candidate that says I want to try to roll some of this
BENITEZ: Yes, I don`t think how successful that`s going to be, because if
the political discourse is dominated by the fact that Republican candidates
are talking about people using drugs as victims, then we`re going to try to
criminalize the other side of the equation. So, I don`t think we`re going
to be that successful.
And remember, when we tried to be more lenient with someone, as soon as
they screw up once, then we go back, we roll back everything. And we`ve
seen that recently here in New York City also.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this is not a small point that -- there`s still
relative courage required for an American lawmaker to step out and say
let`s decriminalize, or let`s at least roll it back, especially when you
look at what was the sentencing disparity. It is now down to 18-1 under
President Obama, but 18-1 is still enormous, right, it`s not 100-1, but
it`s still enormous.
If crack sort of picks back up again, you do have that political problem
GOODMAN: I mean, we have to look at the actual factual results of
treatment. I was just moderating a panel where the former mayor of
Vancouver was who also happen to be coroner before he was mayor. He
started to see the number of people who died and he said, we have to do
something about this.
In Vancouver, they have the only legal injection clinic, I think it`s in
North America, where people can shoot up with heroin legally. The police
were at first were again. Now, they`re for it. They`re bringing people
there. You reduce Hep C. You reduce HIV. It`s also true in Frankfurt,
Germany. They`re seeing this in many different places.
We need courageous politicians who are actually looking at who`s affected,
what can help our communities the most, not to mention bringing down crime.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you say crime, I want to pop back for a moment to `86.
But I do want to point out that some of this intervention, this criminal
justice intervention, was actually initially welcomed by communities. This
is an amazing piece of historical footage here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The take back the streets demonstrations in the Bronx parallel
the efforts of many other protest groups that have propped up across the
In Miami, at the request of various church and civic groups, police added
special anti-crack motorcycle patrols.
In Texas, citizens marched for miles for a drug-free Corpus Christi. The
march was aimed at schoolchildren.
In Baltimore, it was a religious vigil. A plea for peace among street
gangs involved in drug related violence.
Many police officials across the country say they`re amazed at the recent
citizen response to the crack epidemic. The public support will back up
their efforts to combat the drug problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In this moment, to say communities say please, police, come
in, is stunning, because, of course, how that turned out is a little
different than what people thought in `86.
PORTER: It`s dismaying to see footage like that. I think what`s important
to remember is that those communities had a false choice of only relying on
law enforcement or only calling in the police. I think if there were more
intentional conversations guided by political elites, guided by other
influencers and communities were offered other choices, expanding early
childhood education, bringing in programs targeted to at-risk youth,
providing therapeutic opportunities for people in need of trauma care.
Then the choices could have been broader than just relying on arrests, just
relying on incarceration and driving the policies that have resulted in
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s also an interesting point, Amy, your point, oh, people
are dying, we must do something about it. When we think about guns and
handguns and particularly the number one way in which people die from
handguns is through suicide and yet we haven`t quite had that same policy
response as a country, oh, we must do something about it.
Thank you to Carl Hart. The rest of my guests are sticking around. I`m
sorry, Professor Carl Hart. The rest of my guests are sticking around.
There`s more to come on this a little bit later on the issue of criminal
justice reform. But right now, President Obama is talking about banning
the box and that is critically important.
Up next, the family planning policy that could change everything for 1
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier today, the presidents of China and Taiwan met in
Singapore, marking the first talk between the neighboring leaders in more
than six decades. But no agreements resulted from the meeting.
But the historic handshake is heralded as a breakthrough, symbolizing
stability and peace after nearly 70 years of estrangement. It was the
first presidential level meeting since the communist victory in the civil
war in 1949, resulting in the nationalists splitting from the mainland and
rebasing in Taiwan. Since then, the status of Taiwan and China`s
relationship has remained a geopolitical tinder box and one of the most
unresolvable fault lines in international politics.
China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province, but 22 foreign
government s recognize Taiwan as an independent country. The U.S. is not
one of them.
The historic presidential summit follows another landmark move by China
last week, the decision to officially end the nation`s one child policy.
And in an effort to boost economic growth and confront an aging population
lacking caretakers, China is now allowing couples to have two children for
the first time in more than three decades.
Since 1980, those who violated China`s birth restrictions faced large fines
and punishment including firing from jobs and expulsion from office.
Though the communist party credits the one child policy with contributing
to its economic boom, it came with an immense human toll. Millions of
births were prevented through measures like forced sterilizations,
infanticide and sex selective abortions to ensure that families had a son.
It is estimated today, there are 33 million more men than women in China.
Joining me now from Philadelphia is Mei Fong, former reporter for "The Wall
Street Journal" and author of "One Child: The Story of China`s Most radical
Nice to have you, Mei. Talk to us for a second --
MEI FONG, AUTHOR, "ONE CHILD": Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
Remind us why the one child policy was in place in the first place. What
was it meant to do?
FONG: Well, in the `70s, China had a big population boom. So, the country
was very anxious to control it and scale it down and also to give the
people economic prosperity. So that was the whole basis for the one child
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we`re going to talk about the kind of personal and
familial cost. But did it accomplish those goals, the goals the party
FONG: Very little actually. You know, we tend to think of the one child
policy as a link to economic prosperity because it happened about the same
time. But really, China`s economic prosperity was to do with more people,
not less. It was to do with all the big labor pool of people born before
the one child policy was conceived.
And the problem going ahead is, China`s facing a big aging population.
Much more shrunken workforce. And so, the one child policy is actually
impeded future economic growth for China.
HARRIS-PERRY: The book is fascinating for a number of reasons. But one is
because you write about how much this one policy structured the life
experiences of an entire nation. Tell us some of them.
FONG: Well, you know, it`s made a nation that`s too old, too few and too
So, I know we tend to think of the one child policy in terms of excesses
like forced abortions, but really, it has a lot to do with how questions
like who do I marry, where do I find an apartment, how do I afford an old
age in China, because now, the population is stretching away.
You have a Canadian sized population of bachelors trying to find brides
that don`t exist, and then you have a whole nation of single children whose
parents are very anxious and very invested in every decision they make.
And then you are also going to have a population where one in every four
people in China will be over the age of 65 very soon.
HARRIS-PERRY: You and I are both the youngest in a family of five. And I
cannot fathom growing up without siblings. It`s structured so much of my
life and of who I am. I`m wondering what it means to have basically two
generations of children growing up without siblings.
FONG: Well, it`s created a family fragility system, right? One kid dies
and suddenly everything is thrown off. Particularly in a Chinese context
where a child still represents a lot of economic security.
Now, there is this name in China called shodo (ph), it means parents whose
only chide has died. A very sad population. But 75,000 of them with
millions joining the ranks yearly. And they have all sorts of problems.
For example, many of them have problems getting admitted to nursing homes
because without children, the nursing homes say, well, we don`t want to
take you. Who`s going to authorize all your treatments?
They can`t even buy burial plots because of the same reasons, who`s going
to pay your burial cost, who`s going to serve as maintenance of your
cemetery down the line. You know, it`s really a thorny problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Mei Fong in Philadelphia. There is so much on
this, I hope you will come back and talk to us even more about this policy.
FONG: I would love to.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what will happen next in China. Thank you.
FONG: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, President Obama is planning to ban the box.
HARRIS-PERRY: Recently, President Obama has made so many announcements
about criminal justice reform efforts that we seem to have a related story
to report every few weeks. Whether his administration is commuting the
sentences of dozens of nonviolent drug offenders or announcing the largest
one-time release of 6,000 federal prisoners or becoming the first sitting
U.S. president to visit a federal prison. President Obama is making
criminal justice reform an integral part of his legacy.
This week, after visiting a halfway house and a drug treatment facility in
Newark, the president took the stage at Rutgers University to announce his
latest executive action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m taking action to ban the
box for --
For the most competitive jobs at federal agencies. The federal government
I believe should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before
we even look at their qualifications. We can`t dismiss people out of hand
simply because of a mistake that they made in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president`s executive action will reduce the number of
barriers formerly convicted individuals face when they are trying to
integrate into society as job holding citizens, namely this barrier: the
check box on a job application form asking about criminal history. Studies
have shown that people who report prior criminal stories on job
applications are 50 percent less likely to be called back or offered a job,
and 60 percent of people who served time cannot find a job their first year
out of prison.
Under President Obama`s action however, those with criminal seeking federal
agency jobs will no longer have to report their felonies on those
applications. Federal employers will still be able to ask about the
criminal histories of qualified applicants who have been sent to hiring
managers, but the removal of the box on the initial application allows
applicants with records to get a foot in the door before stigma blocks the
The executive action will not apply to federal contractors or private
employers, but it`s a step for a national effort to ban the box.
Joining the panel now from Raleigh, North Carolina, is Daryl Atkinson,
senior staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
Nice to see you this morning.
DARYL ATKINSON, SR. STAFF ATTORNEY, SCSJ: Thank you for having me on the
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you talk to me about why banning the box is meaningful,
what difference it makes?
ATKINSON: Sure. The president`s action on Monday really affirms values
that we hold dear in this country. Values like inclusion, in equal
opportunity for all people, because people with records face legal
discrimination in many areas of life. The 65 million Americans, 1 in 3
adult Americans, that have criminal record history, face barriers in
employment, housing, education, even volunteering in their children`s
school. They may not be able to do.
The American Bar Association has cataloged over 44,000 legal barriers that
shut people out of just the basic necessities of life, and because African-
Americans and Latinos are disproportionately represented in the criminal
justice system, it results in the social and economic exclusion similar to
the Jim Crow South.
So, what the president did on Monday, a common sense solution like ban the
box, that was birthed out of the formerly incarcerated community, a group
called All Of Us or None. Some formerly incarcerated people in Oakland,
California, came up with that term. It really opens up opportunity to feel
But I must say, we need this administration and the president to continue
to exert their authority and apply a similar policy to independent
contractors who represent 25 percent of the American workforce so people
with records can continue to have access to opportunity.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, stick with me here. Think this question,
for folks who don`t know about this movement, about the ways in which it
was birthed, may be confused about what banning the box means.
So, I want to come to you for a second, but let`s listen to the president
and point out that banning the box is about that initial state -- sort of
step. It doesn`t mean you can never ask about criminal background.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It is relevant to find out whether somebody has a criminal record.
We`re not suggesting ignore it. But what we are suggesting is when it
comes to the application, give folks a chance to come through the door.
Give them a chance to get in there so they can make their case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So I`m sort of wondering how big of a difference does it
make to get that foot in the door?
PORTER: Well, it makes a huge difference ton getting the foot in the door.
A lot of people self-selected out of even applying for jobs because those
boxes were on the application.
And the box not only extends to employment applications, which is what the
president`s executive order covers, but it also is on housing applications,
rental applications. Not only in public housing but also in private
And the problem of the box is emblematic of a broader issue in terms of the
automatic bans that people with former criminal justice contact experience
in all sorts of civic life, not just in employment, but also in voting,
public benefits and housing and other areas of civic life as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I just cy want to point out the press relief that came
out after the president`s conversation at Rutgers, that they did talk about
some of these things. DOE, Department of Education, is going to give $9
million to communities to support education for re-entry programs. HUD is
going to do some work around assisting housing owners with new guidance on
how to address these records issues.
So, you know, the National Bar Association has agreed to devote pro bono
work to this HUD effort, right? So there does seem to be the sense of the
wrap-around. That said, we had Philip Atiba Goff on the show last week and
he said the most distressing thing, he said, oh, banning the box might
actually create more problems about race because without the box, employers
may just presume that black and brown people have a criminal record.
BENITEZ: And also, not to be too negative about it, because I think it`s a
really great symbolic step. But it`s going to -- it might end up being a
frustration. For a lot of people that so far had to check that box, now
they know they can get to the second or third interview maybe when they
apply for the job.
But then, sooner or later, that question is going to come up. Sooner or
later that employer is going to have to make a decision. And maybe that
decision was already made from the beginning. I`m not going to take
anybody with a criminal record.
So, it`s going to give hope to those who, so far, they have to check the
box and now they`re going to go through the process a little longer. But
at the send end of the day, there are so many jobs out there, so many
employers who are not going to employ someone with a criminal record.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, Daryl, I want to come to you on this, because in
Durham, there`s been a really interesting sort of uptick. Can you talk to
us about it?
ATKINSON: Sure, at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, where I`m
senior attorney, we spearheaded a ban the box campaign in Durham, North
Carolina. What we have witnessed since 2011 is a real uptick in the
percentage of people with records who have been able to get jobs.
So, it`s more than just taking the question of. You have to delay that
question until a critical stage in the employment process.
In Durham, the question is delayed until a conditional offer of employment
is made. Then, the applicant has the opportunity to check the accuracy of
the record, submit evidence of rehabilitation, and the hiring authority has
to establish a direct relationship between the underlying criminal
conviction and the prospective job.
As a result of those procedural protections, the first year that the policy
passed, we saw the percentage of people with records at 2 percent of total
numbers of hires. The next year, it went up to 4.5 percent. The next
year, 9 percent. Last year, 15 percent of total hires by the city of
Durham were people with criminal records.
And you know what, Melissa, the earth didn`t open up and swallow anybody
up. The world kept on spinning as usual. And these folks were able to
contribute to their local economy and none of them have been subsequently
terminated for committing another offense. So, we`re impacting their
HARRIS-PERRY: And, sir, I live in North Carolina and it is not exactly the
most progressive place in the world. And the idea that that exists as a
kind of policy standard is just stunning. Stick with me for a second.
Because, Amy, I want to come to you. The president does seem to be making
this question. Not just banning the box but criminal justice reform
central to not just his agenda but to his legacy. I just want to listen to
him speaking to NBC`s Lester Holt for a moment about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Is this in your mind your defining moment that
would seal the legacy of what we would expect in the first African-American
OBAMA: You know, this is something that`s important to me. You know, one
of the things that I`ve consistently said as president is that I`m the
president of all people. You know, I am very proud that my presidency can
help to galvanize and immobilize America`s issues on behalf of racial
disparity and racial injustice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Amy, it looks like Kentucky`s going to try to take down
ACA. But will there be a new legacy for the president to stand on here?
GOODMAN: Well, I mean, it is very important what`s happening and you see
across the political spectrum and the whole issue of mass incarceration as
well. People saying the fact that the United States has, what, 5 percent
of the population, 25 percent of prisoners are not acceptable, but it has
to be across the board but it show also the power of movements.
You had the largest release, as you pointed out, 6,000 people in three
days. But, you know, if a third of them are being deported. It`s an
astounding story. This goes to immigration. Paul Ryan just said
immigration is not on the table.
A third them, close to 2,000 prisoners, will go right out of the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: This seems so critical to me it even as we`re talking about
decriminalization often around African-Americans, the new very aggressive
criminalization of Latino communities and the ways in which mass
incarceration and mass deportation are connected to each other.
BENITEZ: Yes, because we have to find a culprit in all this. Right now
for the last few months we`ve been talking about immigration. We talk
about these issues in the presidential campaign season in a way that it`s
extremely superficial. We only talk about one specific thing and we don`t
see things in a comprehensive way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Daryl Atkinson in Raleigh, North Carolina -- thank you so
much for your work. Thank you for joining us. We`ll be keeping our eyes
on this work.
Here in New York, thank you to Nicole Porter, to Juan Manuel Benitez and to
Up next, our foot soldiers of the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To systemically be eliminated from pursuing our dreams,
goals and objectives, contributing to the fabric of America, is not only
unfair but it`s wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So we`ve been talking about at the challenges of the
formerly incarcerated face when trying to pursue employment after having
served time. Our foot soldiers this week created Mission: Launch, a
nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that helps former inmates transform
themselves into budding entrepreneurs.
MSNBC chief legal correspondent Ari Melber has that story.
ARI MELBER, CNN CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Teresa Hodge
finished a five-year prison term for a non-violent offense, she returned to
a different world.
TERESA HODGE, MISSION: LAUNCH: All of the social media buzz and crazed
took place while I was incarcerated.
MELBER: Hodge didn`t just get herself up to spend, she teamed up with her
daughter and another woman she met in prison, Bryn Phillips, to start a
program for returning citizens Mission: Launch at on annual digital hack-a-
LAURIN HODGE, CO-FOUNDER, MISSION: LAUNCH: Seventy percent of the people
who go to prison or jail can`t get jobs. So, either you need to look at
entrepreneurship, you need to look at freelance, microenterprise.
MELBER: Hodge`s former inmates have to tackle all kinds of questions when
they get out.
T. HODGE: We are a now or what organization. You have are been to prison
and now what? What are you going to do with your life? How are you going
to be productive and good community member and good parent?
L. HODGE: We are almost ready get to work.
MELBER: The hack-a-ton unites former inmates, lawyers, and technology
experts to create their own solutions for reentry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you have a meeting of the minds per se, there
are so many aspects that the returning citizen may not realize, an attorney
or coder or civil rights activist may bring to the table.
MELBER: One of those ideas, a clean slate app that helps former inmates
get their record expunged. Another guides former inmates to the first 48
hours after released.
BRIANE CORNISH-KNIGHT, RE-ENTRY REBUILDING COALITION: It is a serious,
like distressing time, so people are not getting is services. They`re more
likely to return.
MELBER: While the hack-a-ton helps communities craft their own reforms,
some problems still require change at the policy level.
President Obama and Hillary Clinton are decrying job discrimination against
former inmates, Bill Cobb is living it. He says that he committed a
violent felony over 20 years ago and has never reoffended, but he has been
fired over 10 times for that.
(on camera): Do you think it`s fair that you`re basically being denied
jobs for an offense that happened 22 years ago?
BILLY COBB, FOUNDER, REDEEMED: To systematically be eliminated from
pursuing our dreams and goals and objectives and contributing to the fabric
of America is not only unfair, but it`s wrong.
MELBER (voice-over): That`s an idea drawing increasingly wide support.
The prison reform is ensuring that people return to society and not another
T. HODGE: For me, I feel like nobody is laying on the bunk saying, I can`t
wait to go back to prison.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier this year, Mission: Launch was recognized the White
House during the Obama administration`s inaugural demo day where innovators
from across the country were brought together with a focus on inclusive
Our thanks to MSNBC`s Ari Melber for that report.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, when we`re going
to be doing our first ever show live from Los Angeles. Yes, I`m leaving
right here to get on a plane. We are going to be having three incredible
power players in Hollywood, actor Amandla Stenberg, producer Kenya Barris
and director Ava Duvernay. This will be a Nerdland you do not want to miss
because we`re going back to Cali.
Now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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