Guests: Bill Nye, Chris Hayes, Spencer Ackerman.
HOST: Good evening, Keith. We are very, very excited
to have Bill Nye. I‘ll tell him you said hi.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Please do. Class of ‘77 with Bill Maher, if you can imagine such a thing.
MADDOW: The parties, I can imagine.
OLBERMANN: Don‘t blame Bill Nye for Bill Maher‘s parties, please.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith. Appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us.
We start tonight with this—
MADDOW: A player from Guilford College hitting a three-point buzzer-beating basketball shot from, oh, roughly 90 feet. That was at a game a few years ago.
Also, there‘s this one. This is from a high school game last March.
MADDOW: But that‘s not all. There‘s also this one. Watch this one.
MADDOW: No, no, do it again! One more! Go on.
MADDOW: OK. One more. Go on! One more!
MADDOW: That was so not one more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Two seconds to go. Myers, they‘re going to take a shot.
ANNOUNCER: He makes it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All right. There we go. Although the interstitial random Kent outdoor was almost more perfect. Of those full-court shots, the first one was college, the next four were all high school—high school games. Players making full-court shots—just incredible, right? I have to say, it was very cool to spend my snowy day in my office today, searching YouTube for all of those clips.
But no one would say that seeing those clips, seeing those shots, disproves that trying to make a 90-foot shot in basketball is a hard thing to do, right? I mean, even though there‘s evidence that it can be done, shooting from the backcourt is hard, and coaches, therefore, probably shouldn‘t plan on always making that shot in order to plan to win games.
Everybody understands that, right? It‘s the difference between observing a specific thing and understanding whether or not that specific thing is a fair representation of how things are generally in the world.
It‘s simple, right? It‘s kind of like being an adult. Everybody gets that—apparently, unless you are in politics.
In politics right now, full-court shots aren‘t hard. We know that because we‘ve seen YouTube clips of kids making them. In politics, now, whatever we‘re looking at right this instant disproves everything else we know about the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: I don‘t think it takes a genius to see through the “more snow is proof of global warming” claim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixty-three percent of the country is now covered in snow. And it‘s breaking Al Gore‘s heart, because the snow is also burying his global warming theory.
SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: The global warming hearing that Barbara Boxer was going to have tomorrow has now been canceled because of the blizzard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s almost too easy!
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: It‘s the most severe winter storm in years, which would seem to contradict Al Gore‘s hysterical global warming theories.
Rumor has it that another storm could be headed this way next week!
Global warming, where are you? We want you back.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: See the science at work here? Clearly, the climate can‘t be changing because there‘s a storm this week on the east coast. Sean Hannity has proven that there‘s no such thing as global warming because Sean Hannity feels cold.
We dispatched THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s chief winter weather correspondent, Mr. Kent Jones, to try to confirm Mr. Hannity‘s intrepid reporting—Kent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: It‘s still snowing. It‘s still snowing. A lot of snow. Snow, snow, snow. It‘s still snowing. It‘s not not snowing, it‘s snowing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Deny that. Huh?
Breaking news, we can now confirm, it is cold and it is snowing along the east coast in February.
You know, if one person wins the lottery, that‘s awesome for that person. But it does not disprove the existence of the recession. When it rains in the desert, that does not disprove the existence of the desert. It‘s still a desert, right there, even in the place where it rained.
If you have smoked a cigarette in your life and you are not currently suffering from lung cancer or heart disease, your existence—while healthy and happy—does not disprove the fact that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease.
The evidence we have of flight—birds, bees, airplanes, what-have-you, does not disprove the existence of gravity.
The existence of monkeys does not disprove evolution.
The existence of tadpoles does not disprove the existence of frogs.
Full-court shots are hard. Evolution is real. Gravity is real. The recession, real. Deserts, dry. Smoking, bad. Frogs exist. Also, so do storms.
The fact that it is snowing somewhere, anywhere, at any one time, does not tell you any useful thing about the overall climate. NASA says—you know, those hippies at NASA—NASA says that global average temperatures for the last year were the second hottest year on record, ever. The past decade was the warmest decade in the past 2,000 years.
But it‘s snowing somewhere today, so that must all be meaningless!
If we‘re going to take one fact about the current weather and use it to obfuscate every other observable truth about the climate as a whole, I would like to add one thing to the mix. There‘s no snow in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics. Everybody, panic!
Joining us now is Emmy Award winner and scientist, Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Mr. Nye, thank you very much for coming back on the show. It‘s nice to have you here.
BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: It‘s so good to be here.
MADDOW: Can you explain in layman‘s terms whether a snowstorm disproves global warming?
NYE: Well, first of all, it doesn‘t, no. But we remind you that global warming was the first term for this phenomenon that we now call can climate change. So it‘s very reasonable that a snowstorm in Washington that‘s this severe is a result of climate change.
MADDOW: Is it consistent to have extreme weather conditions, like big storms, or even seasonally appropriate storms, and to have the kind of climate change that‘s been forecast and discussed by most of the reputable scientists in the world?
NYE: I know what you‘re driving at Rachel. Yes. This would be consistent with such a thing—as is no snow near the city of Vancouver, on Mt. Cypress there. As is the big mudslides we had here in southern California the day before yesterday, and a little bit last night.
There‘s more energy in the atmosphere, and this is stirring things
up. If you want to get serious about it, these guys claiming that the snow
in Washington disproves climate change are almost unpatriotic. It‘s really
they‘re denying science.
So, they‘re very happy to have the weather forecast be accurate within a few hours, but they‘re displeased or un-enchanted by predictions of the world getting warmer. It‘s really—it‘s a—it shakes me up.
MADDOW: And you say, using the term “unpatriotic” and saying that it‘s sort of defying science. Do you feel like there is a legitimate—a legitimate beef about the facts here, honestly? Or do you feel like some people just don‘t like what the facts say?
NYE: Well, my thinking is, really, I thought about this a lot as an educator, spent a lot of time with a lot of people. It‘s mostly generational, it seems to be. This is anecdotal for me. Older people just have a much harder time grasping the idea that you have many billions of people on the planet with a very, very thin atmosphere, you‘re able to affect its climate.
It‘s—younger people are able to sort of embrace it, understand the evidence, and move forward. Just as you say, making a full-court, one-armed shot happens now and then. There are snowstorms in Washington, D.C., now and then.
MADDOW: What‘s the difference between weather and climate? I think people—this is the sort of argument about—oh, a snowstorm disproves global warming. The sort of argument people have at the water cooler, on the street, with neighbors. What‘s an easy way to explain the difference there?
NYE: Well, one‘s a small-scale phenomenon, happens day to day. The other‘s a big phenomenon. We all know this. We all feel it in our—in our hearts.
You know that the Mojave Desert is dry. That‘s its climate. It‘s a dry climate. It rains now and then, as you pointed out, but it‘s a dry climate. You know the Amazon Rainforest is a wet climate. Washington, D.C., New York City, these are an in-between climate. So you get in-between weather phenomenon.
MADDOW: What kinds of indicators should we be paying attention to? What aren‘t stupid indicators in order to assess the danger posed by climate change?
NYE: Well, the world—overall, the world‘s getting warmer. If you like—these phenomenon, by the way, this week, are just generally a result of El Nino, where the Pacific Ocean surface gets a little warmer and this affects the weather in North America like crazy. And this is very well-documented, and you can go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web sites and you can look at this data. The sea surface is warmer, putting more energy in the atmosphere, and making things more turbulent.
The main thing is: the intergovernmental panel on climate change got a Nobel Prize. They got a scientific prize for making a discovery. They didn‘t get a minor award. This is a big deal. They discovered climate change through all kinds of evidence, and it‘s something we should all be very, very concerned about.
This thing of denying science—you know, science has done so much to make this country what it is, a technological leader. It‘s improved the quality of life for so many people, here and around the world. To deny what scientists or scientific evidence is showing, is inappropriate. And as I said earlier, to me, when I get wound up, it‘s unpatriotic.
MADDOW: Well, I hear you and I get wound up about the same things and I‘m grateful that you‘re able to come on the show and talk about it. Bill Nye, the Science Guy—thank you so much.
NYE: Thank you.
MADDOW: I really appreciate it.
NYE: Thank you.
MADDOW: OK. Last night on this show, I sort of went off about politicians who railed against the stimulus and voted against it and then took credit for doling out stimulus money in their home states. This afternoon, one of those politicians called to say I got the facts wrong. We‘ll see about that. It was Senator Inhofe.
“The Nation‘s” Chris Hayes joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: It‘s still snowing. It‘s still snowing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Anthem Blue Cross in California is hiking its health insurance rates, 39 percent this year. You‘ve heard this, right? Every Democrat from President Obama all the way down to lowly Bart Stupak is taking swings at that company because of it. It turns out there is a secret back-story on this one that explains why one person in the administration is going after that company have a history of making the executives of that company cry, alone, at night, hoping that no one hears them.
The secret personal drama behind this story—coming up.
MADDOW: Last night on this show, we called out 21 members of Congress for voting against and trashing the stimulus package, but then taking credit for all of the good that the stimulus has done in their states when they‘re back home.
The basic idea was that these guys really aren‘t embarrassed at all about this blatant hypocrisy. In a few cases, they are still unembarrassed that they‘re willing to be photographed handing out big, goofy, fake stimulus checks, even after they voted against the money that those checks represent. Even as they acknowledge to their constituents that the stimulus works and it‘s good policy, they‘ll still denounce it and vote against it because—you know, policy schmolicy, they don‘t really care about policy.
Well, today we heard from one of the Republican politicians that we called out, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. His office was upset with our coverage last night. And I will tell you, we do have a correction to make.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Jim Inhofe of denying global warming fame, he trashed the stimulus, voted no, and then praised its effect in his home state by saying it would help spur additional economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That quote—that quote that I read from Senator Inhofe last night, “help spur additional economic growth,” was, in fact, Senator Inhofe praising, a federal spending project in his state, it was not, however, Mr. Inhofe specifically praising stimulus spending in his state. Senator Inhofe‘s office is right about that specific quote and I am happy to correct the record and I regret the error.
I should also note that I could have just picked a different hypocritical quote from Senator Inhofe to make the same point. So I‘ll just do that now.
In April of last year, the Environmental Protection Agency committed $25 million to a cleanup effort in Oklahoma. As the “Tulsa World” pointed out at the time, quote, “The new money comes from stimulus spending as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” And—wait for it—
Senator Inhofe told the “Tulsa World” that cleanup effort, that partially stimulus funded cleanup effort in his home state, was, quote, “great news,” and that they were, quote, “necessary funds.”
So, there‘s the senator in black and white praising the use of stimulus funds in his own state. Of course, it almost goes without saying that Senator Inhofe has made quite a show of denouncing the stimulus as a complete waste, telling CNSNews.com, quote, “I don‘t think it failed, I know it. There‘s no stimulus in the stimulus bill. It was nothing but social engineering and welfare.”
When asked about the idea of a second stimulus, Senator Inhofe said, quote, “Why put more money into something that doesn‘t work?” That was three months after Mr. Inhofe applauded $25 million of stimulus spending in his—stimulus spending in his state as, quote, “great news.”
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation tells us tonight that the stimulus money that Senator Inhofe says doesn‘t work has, in fact, created more than 21,000 transportation jobs in Mr. Inhofe‘s state. It has pumped $240 million into Oklahoma‘s economy. Maybe Senator Inhofe just hasn‘t heard that. Maybe he‘s not in touch with his own state‘s government that‘s keeping track of this stuff.
Actually, he doesn‘t even have that excuse. In March, Senator Inhofe voted against an omnibus spending bill in the Senate. He put out a press release at the time explaining that his “no” vote on that bill was, in part, due to his great concern that the bill would endanger those precious, valuable, useful stimulus funds for Oklahoma—the ones he talked so much smack about. He said, quote, “If this provision is allowed to stand, it will likely endanger the delivery of the majority of the construction projects funded by the recent stimulus bill.”
Senator Inhofe, you may not want to be on the list of Republicans who were against stimulus funds in Washington, but for them at home. You may not want to be one of those “against it before I was for it” hypocrites. You may not want to be on the list of politicians that care so little about policy and what‘s right for the country that purely for the sake of politics, you will shout down and vote “no” and hurl epithets at something that you know is working. You may not want to be on that list, Senator, but there you are. And thanks for watching the show.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation.”
Chris, thanks very much for joining us. Did you have to ski to the studio?
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: No. I was—I was charioted here and I was gratified to see you play some clips from my pickup basketball game last night. That was very kind of you.
MADDOW: I‘m here to help. Yes. I would—I would draft you in at least the third round.
MADDOW: Chris, even after all of what we just described about Senator Inhofe‘s record, I think that Senator Inhofe is not embarrassed about this. They just don‘t care about being exposed for stuff like this. What do you think?
HAYES: Yes. No, I mean, they don‘t care at all. I mean, the key point is that they don‘t care about policy, and they particularly don‘t care about policy as long as they‘re allowed to free ride. I mean, this is the crucial thing.
What happened is, there‘s this intense contradiction at the core of the Republican Party, which is that they‘re constantly bashing government, and when they run government, government grows. It grew 33 percent in the first term of Bush. It was the largest expansion of government since LBJ. And the way they grow government is really pernicious—a lot of it towards the military, a lot of it to reward their corporate donors.
But when they‘re actually running the machinery of state, they don‘t deliver. Now, when they‘re governing, the hypocrisy is so apparent, no one could ignore it and they got booted out. When they‘re in the minority party, they‘re allowed to try to play it—they‘re able to try to play it both ways, which is to essentially free ride on the votes of the Democrats who passed the stimulus bill, which is absolutely necessary and working, and then criticize it at the same time. It‘s almost kind of a perfect deal, as long as they can try to get away with it.
MADDOW: Well, Talking Points Memo is reporting today that the Democratic Party is going to try to increase the cost of the hypocrisy. They‘re going to try to make Republicans—
MADDOW: -- embarrassed about this. They‘re going to focus on it, up until—from now and up until the anniversary of the stimulus bill next week. What do you make of that, as a strategy, by the Democrats?
HAYES: I think it‘s incredibly smart strategy for two reasons.
One is: you have to highlight this. And you have to make them look like hypocrites. You have to hammer it home to people that they are lying to you. When they tell you, when they come to your district and they rail against the stimulus, they are lying. They know it works.
But the more important point, actually, is that it‘s able—under this political rubric—to smuggle in an incredibly important substantive point, which is that the stimulus is working. It wasn‘t large enough, by any means, and we know that, but there‘s just no way to look at the macroeconomic data and conclude anything other than it has helped. It has lowered the unemployment rate, increased GDP growth.
And by showing that they themselves are doling out the checks, it shows that they tacitly acknowledge that. There‘s absolute consensus about the fact it‘s working. If it weren‘t working, if they didn‘t think that money was going to work, then why would they be giving out? So, I think it‘s actually really important from the standpoint of defending this crucial policy.
MADDOW: It seems like—to me—that there are really three tests for whether or not a political offense strategy is a good one. One is: whether or not you nail your opponent for something that they really have done.
MADDOW: You‘re being truthful and honest and authentic about the facts of it.
Two is that it splits them from their base.
MADDOW: In this case, it absolutely does that, the way they‘ve demonized the Democrats, that sort of spending. But, also, that it gets across a core message about—
MADDOW: -- what‘s the difference between the parties and what you stand for while you‘re still hitting that guy.
MADDOW: And that‘s a perfect storm political strategy to me. And I feel like it hits all three.
HAYES: Yes. And the thing—I mean, the example of Inhofe is perfect, right? This is the kind of thing we want government doing. And I don‘t just mean we, liberals or we, and the people on the left. I mean, cleaning up superfund sites, which are massively polluted areas, right, and subsidizing people being able to move out of those areas is the kind of thing we want government to do.
And so, one of the contradictions you always see is that, sure, people will go along if you call them up in a poll and you bash government and they don‘t like the spending, they don‘t like the deficits, but in their lives, operationally, they do like it.
And it‘s really important for Democrats not to forget that. Sometimes they do—which is that if you deliver the goods, if you use the government to make people‘s lives better, if you move them out of huge, polluted areas, they will reward you.
MADDOW: And you should, therefore, take credit for it.
HAYES: Exactly. And you should defend the policy and not be scared.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”—thank you very much for your time tonight, Chris. I really appreciate it.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I should also note that Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill sent a letter to state legislators in Missouri today on this very subject, saying, “Listen, you guys are using stimulus funds in Missouri while trashing the stimulus funds at the same time.” Senator McCaskill‘s letter essentially told the state legislators to send the money back if they hate it so much and then tell her how they‘re going to balance their budget. Wow!
OK. So, it turns out it will take more than facts to stop Newt Gingrich from attacking President Obama on terrorism. We will peruse Mr. Gingrich‘s contract with bullpuckey. Next.
MADDOW: When it comes to fighting about terrorism, it‘s one thing to fight and debate about what should be done, how about how things should be handled. What‘s happening now, though, on terrorism is more surreal than that. What‘s happening now is that the argument is not just about what‘s right or wrong, the argument now is about what‘s true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: The American public doesn‘t understand reading Miranda rights to terrorists in Detroit when it‘s fairly obvious they‘re terrorists.
JON STEWART, TV HOST: The only thing I would say to that is: didn‘t they do the same with Richard Reid, who was the shoe bomber?
GINGRICH: Richard Reid was an American citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, sadly, no, he wasn‘t. He wasn‘t. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was a British citizen. He was a foreigner.
Mr. Gingrich corrected himself today on Twitter after not only his host, Jon Stewart, but the whole reality-based community, called him out on that. And you know, it‘s one thing from one guy to make a mistake on an issue like this.
But the reason I highlight this is because there has been a widespread outbreak of factual face planting by people trying to make politics out of this specific incident, the Christmas Day attempted bombing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE: Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist “lawyered up” and stopped talking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sadly, no, also wrong.
In America, the way the system works is you get a lawyer by virtue of being accused of a serious crime in America, even if you‘re a foreigner. That is not a right reserved to American citizens.
But it‘s not just Newt Gingrich and Susan Collins. I mean, take, also, Republican Senator Jon Kyl, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino—they all have adamantly rejected the Obama administration‘s claim that the Justice Department has successfully prosecuted more than 300 people on terrorism charges within the criminal justice system.
Senator Kyl, for example, said, quote, “There haven‘t been 300 high-profile dangerous terrorism cases in the United States. If there were, we would have heard about them.
Senator Sessions called the 300 number “unsubstantiated.”
Dana Perino said it was quote, “as false as false gets.”
Again, sadly, no, it was the Bush Justice Department that made the claim about terrorism convictions in the U.S. courts. They made that claim frequently and enthusiastically; they even did it in presidential speeches as early as 2003. They—I actually think we‘ve got that speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than 260 suspected terrorists have been charged in the United States courts. More than 140 have already been convicted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President Bush bragging about charging and convicting terrorists in U.S. courts back in 2003. At that point, he was bragging on 140 convictions, seven years ago. Why would it be inconceivable that the number had hit 300 by now?
In President Bush‘s last budget request, when Dana Perino was still Press Secretary, the Justice Department then bragged about having convicted 319 people on terrorism charges. Dana Perino, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, no one complained about that statistic when the Bush administration used it. But now that the Obama administration is citing the exact same statistic, they think it must be false.
Again, I hate to keep saying this, but, there is a word for this sort of thing. It starts with hip and ends with -ocracy.
Joining us now is Spencer Ackerman, national security correspondent for the “Washington Independent”. Spencer, thanks very much for your time tonight, nice to see you.
SPENCER ACKERMAN, WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT: Nice to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: It is one thing to disagree about what to do about terrorism and counter-terrorism. But what do you make of people really blowing the basic facts here?
ACKERMAN: I think any moment now we‘re going to be told that we have to invade Yemen to get rid of its stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. I mean, we‘ve—this has gotten to such a ridiculous and hysterical point, precisely for the reason that these basic premises that Republicans have told us for years about how to protect America are being disproven by the fact that a Mirandized Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is giving—by all accounts of the intelligence community—very valuable information, by being treated in the criminal justice system.
He‘s not being tortured. No one‘s taking him to a black site. He‘s being given the protections that the criminal justice system is typically afforded. And this is just blowing people‘s minds. It doesn‘t compute in the conservative calculus.
MADDOW: Well, we‘ve got, I mean, the Shoe Bomber comparison has been made, it‘s been commonly made. But we‘re left sort of with this very—this inexplicable problem, right? We‘ve got a guy in the same month of the year, using the same types of explosives, trying to do the exact same thing, being arrested in roughly the same way, being Mirandized in the same way, being given a lawyer in the same way, being treated by the criminal justice system in the same way being interrogated as far as we can tell roughly in the same way.
Not in ways that people have at least tried to politicized in that regard. We‘ve got these two cases that were handled, essentially identically. But Republicans want the one that was handled by the Republican president to be ok and the one handled by the Democratic president to be not ok. And so they‘re trying to find facts that would create a relevant distinction between them and there just isn‘t one.
ACKERMAN: It‘s lying. I mean, let‘s just get rid of all pretense here. They are simply lying because they‘ve got nothing left to make a case on. Right now what you‘re seeing is this moment of truth where all these foundational premises of a lot of what these sort of permanent terror hysteria of the last seven years that‘s been ginned up, supposedly the political gains of the Republican Party at stake, is just falling apart.
And so now we‘re left with, you know, people like Mitch McConnell who‘s never been, even seeking a national security profile and making these kinds of fact averse claims. And Newt Gingrich saying that he meant to actually be talking about Jose Padilla, as if that‘s somehow exculpatory. Padilla who, you know, being thrown into the military system didn‘t give us any intelligence, you know.
I don‘t know what they‘ve got left, but we‘ll probably see it over the next couple of days.
MADDOW: Spencer, as—in your capacity as a national security reporter and I know from reading your stuff that you have pretty good sources on both sides of the aisle, who are the Republicans volunteering as their national security heavy hitters, as their real heavyweights on this issue now?
ACKERMAN: I mean, I‘m waiting to see who is the next, you know, players are, who‘s coming off the bench, you know. Who‘s hitting the backcourt, you know, buzzer shots, like Chris Hayes does all the time in his pickup basketball games. Because right now we‘re seeing the scrubs, we‘re seeing Kyl and Sessions and Bond. I‘m surprised to see Susan Collins, who‘s normally very sensible and reality-based to come out here.
But aside from that, people like Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich wearing his throwback jersey, is somehow on the court. I‘m just surprised by all this. You know, normally, it‘s kind of, you know, left to John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman to make this case. And they‘ve been doing it too, but we‘re not really seeing, you know, too many new faces, too many people untainted by the Bush administration.
You know, when the Cheneys or the Kagans (ph) have more children—
ACKERMAN: -- I suppose you know, those guys are going to be the ones to come out next, but we‘re not seeing that next. So like Mitch McConnell he is the new face of security policy for the Republican Party.
MADDOW: McChrystal (ph) family, also, we‘re all hoping.
Spencer Ackerman, national security correspondent for the “Washington Independent”, thanks very much for joining us, Spencer. I appreciate it.
So the Obama administration is now in the case of at least one company taking on big health insurance. There is a classic case study of how to win that type of fight and the star of that case study works in the Obama administration now—a little drama behind this one.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So the woman who ski jumped further than the men ski jumped will not get to ski jump in the Olympics. That sentence is both true and very fun to say; ski jump, ski jump, ski jump. My friend and sports-obsessed executive producer Bill Wolf will join us in a moment to try to explain that.
But first, with your holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. First, two developments on the long road towards the end of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”: Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has a new proposal for ending the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy. At a human rights campaign dinner this past weekend, the senator announced that she would propose a budget amendment to de-fund the enforcement of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
According to Democratic Congressmen, Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, himself a veteran, taxpayers have already spent $1.3 billion with a “b”, dollars enforcing the policy, investigating people‘s sexual orientation and kicking them out of the military that they were otherwise doing fine in.
Also, you‘ll recall that Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Army National Guardsmen who is an Iraq war veteran, a West Point grad and was fluent in Arabic, Dan Choi came out on this show last March. Following that disclosure, a National Guard Board recommended that Lieutenant Choi be discharged under the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.
The communications director for Knights Out, a group of openly gay West Point grads, now tells us that after Lieutenant Choi was recommended for discharge, his commanding officer told Choi that he should stop participating in regular drills with his unit.
That changed last week. His commanding officer contacted him again and asked him to rejoin his unit for drills. Lieutenant Choi canceled a planned speech at the conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and reported, instead, to drill in Pennsylvania. He sent on these pictures from his training assignment and told our producers, quote, “A lot of people in my unit wrote letters for my trial, so it was nice to be able to thank them for the support statements. I slept in the bunk, World War II era bunks with 80 people in it, no privacy, no one quit, no one protested and it was good training. It was motivating for the troops to see me back. It was like a homecoming.”
Lieutenant Choi‘s legal status has not changed. His discharge is still pending, it was never finalized. He could still be kicked out of the Army at any time.
Next up, a few weeks ago we reported on the big debate in Nigeria about whether or not their president was dead. It‘s a very awkward subject, but an important one, for obvious reasons. It turns out the Nigerian president wasn‘t dead. He was missing, though, because he was sick with heart and kidney problems. He‘d gone for Saudi Arabia for treatment.
Well, now after months of political uncertainty, the government of Africa‘s most populous country has decided that the vice president should take over. So Nigeria now has a new acting president. His name is Goodluck Jonathan; first name Goodluck, second name, Jonathan. So altogether now, with feeling, “Good luck, President Goodluck Jonathan.”
And finally, Senator Richard Shelby has now released most of the holds he placed last week on every single presidential nomination before the senate. He‘s now down from more than 70 nominations he was blocking to three. The three are all related to federal spending that he wants for his home state.
Senator Shelby‘s office says he was trying to get attention for projects that are, quote, “critical to our national security”. One of them is a $45 million FBI lab slated for Huntsville, Alabama. The other is a $35 billion contract to build Air Force refueling tankers in Mobile. Despite the shameless spending snorkeling going on here, Senator Shelby has pretended to be an outspoken opponent of federal spending.
Here, for example, here he was in February of last year, talking about President Obama‘s proposed economic stimulus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY ®, ALABAMA: We‘re going down a road where it‘s uncharted. We‘re going down a road to disaster. We‘ve never seen this kind of spending ever and there‘s a lot more to come. There‘s got to be some other way better than what we‘re doing. Not the socialist way, but to try to get our free markets working again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Shelby wants to make it clear that it‘s socialist when the government spends money for jobs somewhere else. But it‘s a matter of “critical concern worthy of stopping the government in its tracks” when it‘s government spending for jobs in his own state. There is a name for people who do things like that.
Again, it starts with “h” three syllables, rhymes with bipocrit (ph).
MADDOW: The Iraqi government today told more than 200 former and current contractors from the firm Blackwater to get out of the country within a week. The order comes just weeks after an American court dropped charges against five former Blackwater guards in a 2007 shoot-out in Baghdad, in which 17 Iraqi civilians died.
A Blackwater spokesman tells NBC News now that the company has not got any active employees working in Iraq now, though some may have stuck around as freelance workers after the company left. Instead, Blackwater apparently has shifted its focus to Afghanistan, where it‘s vying for a contract worth $1 billion.
Also, Blackwater would like us to call them XE or She or something instead of Blackwater. I‘m just going to keep calling them Blackwater. I resist the re-branding.
MADDOW: Memo to giant health insurance companies. The middle of an acrimonious months-long political fight over reforming your industry is probably not the best time to try to sneak in a massive rate hike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the major insurers in California just announced that in the individual market, they‘re increasing their premiums by 39 percent. That‘s a portrait of the future if we don‘t do something now.
Anthem Blue Cross, which is the largest insurer in the largest state, California, is planning on raising premiums for many individual policyholders by as much as 39 percent. If we don‘t act, this is just a preview of coming attractions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: America, meet Anthem Blue Cross of California, the latest real-life talking point for health reform proponents, including, of course, President Obama, who has specifically targeted the company twice so far this week.
But being the real-life example of why we need health reform isn‘t a new experience for Anthem‘s parent company, WellPoint. An un-ambitious Google news search for WellPoint headlines just from the past year or so turns up stuff like this.
Last January, WellPoint was banned from adding people to Medicare rolls after it was found to have denied prescription drugs to elderly patients, endangering their lives in the process. In April, WellPoint‘s anti-health reform corporate strategy was written up. They spent 3 million Robo calls out to round up opposition to health reform.
In September, the group Consumer Watchdog alleged that the company was pressuring its own employees to write and call members of Congress to oppose reform. In October, an internal WellPoint memo announcing cuts to its own employees‘ health benefits made its way to Bloomberg News. That same month, one of WellPoint‘s Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield subsidiaries decided to sue the State of Maine for the right to raise premiums by more than 18 percent. The 10.9 percent increase approved already by Maine‘s insurance superintendent apparently wasn‘t enough for WellPoint‘s bottom line.
But this week‘s controversy, the rate hikes in California, might amount to more than a bad news cycle for WellPoint. Since the president started calling out the company, the public‘s scrutiny of WellPoint has increased exponentially. Congressman Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak have launched an investigation into Anthem‘s California rate hike. They have cordially invited the WellPoint CEO to testify at a hearing on February 24th.
The California state legislature is also investigating. Their hearing is set for the day before, the 23rd. The California insurance commissioner is also looking into the company. He wants them to postpone the rate hike while an independent actuary reviews it.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California has asked California‘s attorney general to investigate as well as to see if the rate hike breaks state law.
California‘s other senator conservative Democrat Dianne Feinstein called the rate hike unconscionable. She asked state lawmakers to give the insurance commissioner of the state the power to regulate rates.
And then there‘s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who wrote a letter to Anthem this week demanding a detailed justification for the hike. She also blogged about it on the White House blog, using WellPoint and Anthem as an example of, quote, “how too many Americans are at the whim of private, for profit insurance companies who are raking in billions in profits each year while policyholders struggle to make ends meet in this tough economy”.
Just for good measure, the secretary then went on TV, to give the insurance giant another gut punch yesterday with our friend Ed Schultz here on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: You have 800,000 folks in California who are in the individual market trying to buy insurance on their own. And they‘ve just gotten the notification from this giant company, a company by the way whose parent declared record profits last quarter of $2.7 billion. So they‘re making a little money along the way.
Their rates are going to go up 39 percent on average which will price a whole lot of people out of the market. They basically have been dumped out of the insurance market by an insurance company and I want to know why.
I want to know what their loss ratio is, how much of that money they‘re spending on paying medical claims and how much they‘re planning on paying the two top CEO‘s at WellPoint who both make just under $10 million a piece. How much of this goes to advertising and promotion and CEO salary, and how much is going for health claims and why in the world are we pricing these people out of the market?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those are what the kids call fighting words. And if that doesn‘t make WellPoint and Anthem worried about their rate hike stunt in California, Secretary Sebelius‘s record on this issue should.
There‘s sort of an incredible back story here. Eight years ago this month, now Secretary Sebelius was Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sebelius and she was in the process of blocking what seemed at the time like an inevitable takeover of the state‘s largest insurer, which operated as a nonprofit by a giant for profit company. She wanted to block it because she found evidence that the merger would have meant higher insurance premiums for the residents of Kansas.
Her decision to block the merger was a huge political shock. It was appealed and ultimately upheld by the Kansas Supreme Court. She was lauded by newspapers across the state as courageous, she was then elected governor of Kansas after campaigning as a candidate who had the guts to stand up to the big insurance industry and tell them no.
We have no way of knowing if with this rate hike, WellPoint is feeling scared of Secretary Sebelius. Of course, we‘re all hoping that they still should be.
This is Lindsey Van, one of the best female ski jumpers in the world. Look at her go. This is her at the world‘s first ever women‘s ski jumping championship last year soaring 97.5 meters and—look at that, look at that—making a perfect telemark (ph) landing, a gold medal performance. One may call that worthy of the Olympics.
But Lindsey Van will not be competing in the Olympics this year because she‘s a she. Men have been ski jumping in the Olympics since the first winter games in 1924. Women have been trying to get into the games for ski jumping for years and the best women in the sport say they‘re only being excluded from Olympic competition because of bias. That case being helped along by guys like this guy, the president of the International Ski Federation heard here speaking in 2005. Check this out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GIAN FRANCO KASPER, INTERNATIONAL SKI FEDERATION: Don‘t forget, it‘s like jumping down from, let‘s say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Because you know, lady parts can‘t handle the jumping the way that man parts can. A group of world class female ski jumpers last year tried to force their way in the 2010 Olympics, via the Canadian court system. They brought a gender discrimination case against the Vancouver organizing committee. Even thought British Columbia Supreme Court agreed that the women were victims of discrimination, the court said it did not have jurisdiction to tell Olympic organizers what to do.
And to add insult to injury, last year Lindsey Van set the all time distance record for a ski jump on the exact hill that the men will be competing on this weekend in the Olympics. She started from a slightly higher point of the slope than the men do but ultimately she flew further than any man ever has. And she still doesn‘t get to compete.
Joining us now is former ESPN producer, the executive producer of this show, Bill Wolff. Hi Bill.
BILL WOLFF, MSNBC EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Just adjusting my man parts.
MADDOW: You can‘t handle the jumping, I understand.
WOLFF: I don‘t like to fall from that many meters.
MADDOW: Should we get you a shorter chair, would that be better?
WOLFF: I appreciate that.
MADDOW: All right. First of all clearing it up, Lindsay Van is not Lindsey Vonn?
WOLFF: No, a few nights ago we had Gene Robinson in the A block and Jean Robinson in the C blocks totally different people, same sort of situation. .
MADDOW: Good, so downhill skier versus ski jumper.
Let me put you in the uncomfortable position of being a sort of sports and sexism guy. Do you understand the position here?
WOLFF: Yes, it is that in 2006 when they‘re deciding which events may get let into the Olympics, there were seven sports eligible, women‘s ski jumping was one of them. They examined all seven and they determined only one, which is called ski cross, which four skiers go downhill at the same time and elbow each other and things like that.
MADDOW: Ski derby.
WOLFF: That was the only sport that qualified. Their main beef with women‘s ski jumping is that there hasn‘t been enough international competition. The world championship that you referred in the write-through were the first ever world championships. So essentially they‘re saying it‘s not established enough a sport. That‘s the position.
MADDOW: Why don‘t they just make it gender free? Why don‘t they just let the women compete alongside the men?
WOLFF: Well, they could, although as you noted when Lindsay Van made her record jump she started at a higher point on the hill because presumably she has less mass and force equals mass on acceleration so when they leave the hill, to become equal to men, given her mass, she needs an advantage in how far she runs it down the hill. I mean they could conceivably do what you‘re suggesting, make a unisex competition, but they would have to make arrangements to make it fair ultimately.
MADDOW: I predict they will be in by the next Olympics.
WOLFF: I predict that as well.
MADDOW: Excellent. I love it when people agree with me.
WOLFF: I always agree—if you accuse me of getting anything wrong, I don‘t want an on air correction.
MADDOW: Thank you. Bill Wolff is a former producer at ESPN and executive producer of this show and an all around good guy.
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