Guest: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ezra Klein, Chris Hayes; Lucy Jones.
HOST: Good evening from New York.
So many of you have been so kind as to ask about the health of my
father that I thought I‘d provide a brief update before we start tonight‘s
edition of COUNTDOWN. In a word, it‘s improved. Not terrific but much
better than we thought when last we spoke on Wednesday night. I‘ll be
providing a postscript to last week‘s “Special Comment” on the subject of
my father and health care and the end-of-life discussion—the life panel,
along with some of the responses to some of the responses a little bit
later on in the show.
For now, let me turn it over to Lawrence O‘Donnell with my request
to you that you listen attentively to his edition of this show.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories
will you be talking about tomorrow?
The health care map: In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she‘s
got the votes. In the Senate, the total in favor of the public option by
reconciliation now stands at 30.
With a tough primary battle ahead for Democrat Blanche Lincoln, will
the senator from Arkansas be next to sign on?
Meanwhile, the “party of no” continues to live up to its name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE: It would really be the end of
the United States Senate as the protector of minority rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: If reconciliation is really the end of the Senate, how
come Senator Lamar Alexander has voted for it four times?
More GOP obstructionism, this time courtesy of Senator Jim Bunning -
the gentleman from Kentucky‘s legislative roadblock is worse than we
thought. Hundreds of thousands of Americans lose their unemployment and
health benefits. Thousands of federal workers are left without pay. But
Mr. Bunning isn‘t taking any questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM BUNNING ®, KENTUCKY: Excuse me! This is a senator-only
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Devastation in Chile. The death toll from Saturday‘s
quake passes 700. Looters take to the streets as aid slowly trickles in.
The race to find survivors continues.
All of the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from Los Angeles.
COBRA, the health insurance benefits that Americans are allowed to
keep even after they have lost a job passed by budget reconciliation. The
program got its strange name, in fact, from the first letters of the title
of the bill it was contained in, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act of 1986.
The children‘s health insurance program known as SCHIP, without
which more than 7 million children would not be covered, passed in a budget
reconciliation bill. Cancer screenings, hospice benefits, protections for
patients in nursing homes all paid for by Medicare, all passed by budget
An NPR analysis has concluded that over the past three decades,
almost every major health financing measure achieved by Congress was passed
by budget reconciliation.
Democrats have all but concluded that the GOP has left them no
choice but to use reconciliation to achieve final passage of the health
care reform bill modeled on the ideas President Obama presented at last
week‘s summit at Blair House. Over the weekend, Speaker Pelosi said that
she and her colleagues have an obligation to pass final health care reform
legislation, an obligation greater than their own desire to be re-elected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It took courage to pass
Social Security. I took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same
forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.
But the American people need it.
Why are we here? We‘re not here just to self-perpetuate our service
perpetuate our service in Congress. We‘re here to do the job for the
American people, to get them results that gives them not only health
security but economic security, because the health issue is an economic
issue for America‘s families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: In the Senate, Democrat Kent Conrad complained in an
interview this afternoon that his comment over the weekend that
reconciliation cannot be used to pass comprehensive health care reform was
widely misinterpreted by those who took it to mean that reconciliation is a
nonstarter. Senator Conrad today explained that he was merely saying that
reconciliation could only be used to pass some parts of the legislation,
which is exactly the approach House and Senate leadership is now
At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would not comment
directly on the possibility of using reconciliation to finish health care
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes
that an up or down vote is necessary. I think the Republicans could decide
not to filibuster and that would be one way.
First of all, the bill that passed—the basic health care bill has
passed the Senate. It passed with 60 votes. So, it didn‘t—that
legislation passed the Senate with a supermajority, not just with a
majority of votes. Again, we‘ll have time to discuss this later in the
week when the president makes an announcement on moving forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: And then there are the Republicans now trying to claim
that reconciliation would be the end of democracy as we know it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: It‘s for the purpose of taxing and spending and reducing
deficits. But the difference here is that there‘s never been anything of
this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way.
There are a lot of technical problems with it, which we could discuss. It
would turn the Senate—it would really be the end of the United States
Senate as a protector of minority rights, as a place where you have to get
consensus instead of just a partisan majority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Meanwhile, more than half of the Democrats in the Senate
now back the effort to include the public option in a reconciliation bill.
Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the latest to go on record, along with Senators
Patty Murray and Jeff Bingaman. They bring the total number of Democrats
or independents who have signed the letter to Majority Leader Reid or who
support the idea in principle to 30.
Lots to talk about tonight with Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann
Schultz, Democrat of Florida.
Congresswoman, Minority Leader Boehner‘s office has put out a
statement tonight in which he calls reconciliation, quote, “a procedural
trick” that Democrats are trying to jam through the Congress. But we have
yet to hear directly from the president on reconciliation.
What are you hoping to hear from the president on Wednesday on the
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, it‘s interesting
that Leader Boehner would say that. That must make him a magician, because
he was fully immersed and involved in all of the reconciliation efforts of
the Republican leadership over the last number of years, including the Bush
tax cuts, which are, you know, even larger than—in terms of costs—
than this health care reform proposal.
You know, the bottom line here is that we just need to pass health
care reform with a simple majority up or down vote. As you said, Lawrence,
the Senate has already passed a health care reform bill, comprehensive
health care reform, with 60 votes, a supermajority. Reconciliation, which
is—you know, Washington speak for simple majority—would just clear up
the differences between the House and Senate bills and make sure that we
can send this bill to the president‘s desk and not allow the Republicans to
continue to be obstructionist, which is what they‘re interested the most in
O‘DONNELL: Do you think that wavering Democrats in the House need
to hear the word “reconciliation” from the president? Do they need
specific leadership from the president validating going forward in a
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think the president needs to remain fully
immersed in this. I think he needs to continue to quarterback the—
bringing the ball, you know, across the goal line here, so to speak.
That‘s going to be a critical component to making sure that we can get this
O‘DONNELL: What is happening in the House as you watch the public
option gain favor in the Senate as part of a possible reconciliation bill?
Is that giving more possible momentum for the House to insist on a public
option being in the bill?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, of course, we passed a health care reform
bill out of the House with the public option in it. The majority of our
caucus continues to support that. But I think, very likely, we will pass
health care reform without a—we are more likely to pass health care
reform without a public option, because we‘ve got the Senate bill as the
template and the reconciliation provisions need to be directly related to
So, I‘m not sure that we can do a public option under the simple
majority rules of reconciliation.
O‘DONNELL: Now, the leadership has been pretty frank. In fact,
they‘ve been more open about this than I‘ve ever seen them—admitting
that they don‘t feel they have the votes as of now in the House.
What do they need to get those votes? Do they need time? Are there
persuasive devices that they have yet to use that they can use?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think once we start counting, we will
reach the—now 216 votes that we need to send this bill to the president.
With the resignation of Congressman Nathan Deal, the Republican from
Georgia today, we now have—we need a majority which includes 216 of the
members of the body currently.
So, I think we‘re going to be working hard to figure out what
members‘ concerns—remaining concerns are. We also, as the speaker has
stressed, need to put together the final legislative package and shop that
to members, make sure they understand what‘s in it, find out what their
concerns are, and as we whip—begin to whip this legislation, I‘m
confident, as the speaker is, that we‘ll get there.
O‘DONNELL: One thing House members have trouble being confident
about is what the Senate is going to do. What do you need to see from the
Senate before the House can act?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, we do need to make sure that they are
going to pass the—they‘re going to give us a simple majority vote on the
remaining measures that we need to work out on the differences between the
House bill and the Senate bill—because, obviously, it‘s very important.
We have put our votes up on the board for health care reform. We have
consistently been there and underscored the needs to make sure that we can
bring costs down for the American people, provide some security and
stability to those who have health insurance. And with the $100 billion
deficit and the reduction—deficit reduction measure in this bill, we‘re
going to be able to get there.
O‘DONNELL: Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz of Florida—
thanks for your time tonight.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: For more on what happens—thank you—more on what
happens next, let‘s turn to Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and
Ezra, today on your blog you were advocating the use of the term
“micro-reconciliation.” We‘re getting down to the fine points here. What
does micro-reconciliation mean?
EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the term was suggested by
the blogger Nicholas Beaudrot, so credit where it is due.
And the idea is to distinguish between two types of things you do
with reconciliation. One is to pass an entire bill. Reconciliation is a
limited process, limited to directly budget-related things. It‘s a very
tough thing to pass a big, multipart bill through reconciliation.
What we‘re doing here, though, isn‘t passing the whole bill through
reconciliation. It is taking two bills, the House and Senate bills, and
creating or passing it by 11 pages, right now anyway, of changes that would
bring them into alignment, literally reconciling the two bills together.
And so, Nick suggested it be termed micro-reconciliation to
distinguish it from passing the entire legislative effort of
reconciliation, which has been confusing a lot of people out there as you
O‘DONNELL: Senator Conrad went into some detail yesterday about
reconciliation on television and it caused quite a stir. I got a call at,
what was it, at 1:00 in the morning Washington time from a senator who
wanted to know what Conrad said and was it true about reconciliation not
being useable for health care.
I think he clarified it. It was very clear to me what he meant,
which is what you‘re talking about here, which is he didn‘t believe you
could do the giant bill, what‘s already passed the Senate, for example, in
reconciliation. But you can modify it in small ways, which is all they‘d
have to do in a reconciliation bill following it—what they‘re now
calling the reconciliation side car.
O‘DONNELL: But it really did create quite a stir in Washington
today, what did Conrad mean. And this is what is getting more focus on it,
what I think is this smart term now, micro-reconciliation, isn‘t it?
KLEIN: I think that‘s right. And, you know, one thing we saw with
Conrad‘s comments, you knew what it meant. I knew what it meant. But it
confused a lot of folks in the press. One thing that was important about
the 11-page document Barack Obama released of his changes was it left out a
lot of things that wouldn‘t fit in reconciliation. So, what Conrad is
worried about if you did the whole bill through it is what‘s called the
Byrd Rule. And the Byrd Rule says you can only do things that are directly
related to the budget.
So, insurance regulations are private regulations, and they do
affect the budget in the spending changes. But it isn‘t directly about the
budget, so they go out. What you don‘t see in the president‘s bill is
anything like that. There‘s no abortion regulations. I don‘t think
national exchanges—national exchanges aren‘t in there. Excuse me.
There aren‘t things in there that even though they might be good
policies or politically necessary would not survive reconciliation. What
we have here is a very limited reconciliation side car that has very little
to do with the whole bill, but just brings it to—into alignment in the
ways reconciliation is built to best accommodate. Again, hence, micro
reconciliation. We‘re using the process for its original purpose of
reconciling two different bills, rather than the broader purpose it has
come to end as you begun doing—tax cuts through it and welfare reform
and everything else under the sun.
O‘DONNELL: And so, everything that‘s left in the bill—or that‘s
left out of the reconciliation bill will actually be, in terms of law, it
will be what‘s in the Senate bill if all of this passes—the notion is
the House will pass the Senate bill as written first and that will become
the law of the land and then the reconciliation package will amend that
slightly in different ways. So that means, for example, that the Senate
language on abortion is what will be in law.
Can the House live with that and can they possibly round up enough
votes given that they‘re going to have to live with the Senate language on
KLEIN: Well, that‘s what Nancy Pelosi is trying to figure out right
now. My sense is—from talking to people, is that you‘re seeing a lot
more optimism recently. And one thing Pelosi is not known for is losing
votes. My understanding is she actually hasn‘t even done it yet.
But you‘re right. You have the big problem here is the Stupak 14.
They came on for this very restrictive abortion language that got added in
at the last minute in the House bill. Nelson lost a vote when he tried to
add it into the Senate bill. So the language in the Senate bill is quite
restrictive. It isn‘t as restrictive, so you may have lost the Stupak 14,
and the question is: how do you get these folks back?
Now, the Senate bill is somewhat more fiscally conservative than the
House bill, so maybe you get a couple like that and others are going to
need sort of very individual methods of persuasion. But it is a lift in
part because—again, reconciliation you can do some things and not
others, and that does upset some of the delicate compromises we saw in the
earlier bills. But that was always going to be how it was. Bringing these
bills together was always going to be a tough project.
O‘DONNELL: Ezra, I think you‘ll be continuing your tutorial here on
COUNTDOWN. The national tutorial on reconciliation has about another month
to go in it I think.
Ezra, thank you very much for joining us tonight—Ezra Klein of
“The Washington Post” and “Newsweek” magazine.
KLEIN: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Jim—coming up: Jim Bunning‘s wild pitch.
The Republican senator‘s roadblock of unemployment benefits is having much
wider ripple effects. And today, he responds with the senatorial
equivalent of “get off my lawn.”
And in Chile, the desperate search for survivors in the rubble of
Saturday‘s earthquake. We‘ll get the very latest from the devastated
O‘DONNELL: So, Senator Bunning didn‘t want to extend unemployment
benefits. Did he realize his actions would also furlough thousands of
workers and trigger cuts in Medicare? The ramifications for the “party of
And later, Keith returns with an update on his father and reaction
to his “Special Comment” last week.
O‘DONNELL: A senator‘s bizarre behavior takes a cruel turn. Since
Senator Jim Bunning blocked a short-term funding bill, the passage of which
was inevitable, unemployment benefits for 400,000 Americans have now
officially expired, and 2,000 people are now out of work.
Today, 2,000 federal transportation workers were furloughed without
pay, work was scheduled to stop at multiple construction sites around the
nation, several transportation safety programs were also halted, including
drunk driving programs—all thanks to Senator Bunning, sticking his thumb
in the works, an act that can be effective for only a few days.
Unemployment benefits for 400,000 people affected, also a 21 percent cut in
Medicare fees paid to doctors has been triggered and though eventual
passage of a bill will correct these lapses, it will not be without
additional, unnecessary cost to the federal government.
But Bunning‘s behavior has surprised no one in the Senate. When
running for re-election six years ago, Bunning said that his Democratic
opponent looked like one of Saddam Hussein‘s sons. Bunning‘s behavior was
so strange during the campaign that Republicans begged him not to run again
In 2006, “TIME” magazine called him one of America‘s five worst
senators. Last year, Bunning predicted that Supreme Court Justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg would be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.
In the Senate, Bunning is regarded as a very, very strange man with
a nasty temper. Earlier today, when Jonathan Karl of ABC News tried to get
an explanation of Bunning‘s most recent act of weirdness, he got this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Sir, we just wanted to ask
BUNNING: Excuse me! This is a senator-only elevator.
KARL: Can I step on the elevator?
BUNNING: No, you may not.
KARL: Can you tell us why you‘re blocking this vote?
BUNNING: I already did explain it.
KARL: Well, what is the issue? Are you concerned about these—
BUNNING: Excuse me.
KARL: -- people who are unemployed?
BUNNING: I‘ve got to go to the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, can you just explain to us why you‘re
holding this up? I‘m sure you have an explanation.
BUNNING: Excuse me.
KARL: Are you concerned about those that are going to lose their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: And Karl says that before the cameras were rolling,
Bunning shot him the middle-finger.
Later on the Senate floor today, Bunning defiantly repeated his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUNNING: Anybody, 100 of us, can object to anything that is brought
to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Whether it‘d be a nominee, whether it‘d
be a judge, whether it‘d be somebody that is pointed to the treasury—
anybody can object.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Let‘s bring in the Washington editor of “The Nation,”
Chris, Senator Bunning is one of the stranger men in the body.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: He sure is.
O‘DONNELL: To call him a contrarian would be the kindest thing you
could call him. But is this a new high or a new low for him, I guess,
depending how you look at it?
HAYES: Well, I think it is a new low. I mean, there are real,
genuine human consequences to what he‘s done. I mean, a lot of it is
contingent on whether everybody can get together and pass something in the
next two days that‘s retroactively operable, which means COBRA won‘t lapse
for people and they‘ll get unemployment checks. But there‘s hundreds of
thousands of people there and a projected 1.2 million people not getting
unemployment if they don‘t get this done by the end of the week.
And, you know, Bunning is complaining that he had to miss a
basketball game. It just—it has this sort of like, you know, “Rome
right at the fall” kind of feel to it that he‘s fiddling while people in
the country are suffering from tremendous misery.
O‘DONNELL: And just in case Republicans thought this was going to
be perceived as one weird guy on the floor, it is having some serious
spillover effects to other Republicans. For example, the “Huffington Post”
is right now reporting that Senator John Kyl of Arizona today—
O‘DONNELL: -- out n the floor while discussing this situation,
because it involves unemployment benefits. Out on the floor, he said that
some people are enjoying in effect—
O‘DONNELL: -- their unemployment because people are being paid even
though they‘re not working. Those are Kyl‘s words. Kyl said that
unemployment insurance doesn‘t create new jobs. In fact, if anything,
continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for
O‘DONNELL: -- to seek new work.
Chris, this is amazing stuff coming as we‘re facing the worst
unemployment rates we‘ve seen since the depression. For the Republicans to
be pumping this out is very harmful to them as a group, isn‘t it?
HAYES: Yes. I mean, I really hope—I really hope that America
gets the message here. Bunning may be a bizarre character. But he‘s doing
nothing less than channeling the modus operandi of the Senate Republican
caucus, which is to obstruct, which is to deny every—you know, the
American people the most basic kind of services they expect from their
And the message from John Kyl who isn‘t this sort of bizarre
contrarian figure is to Americans that are unemployed. Everyone should
understand this, the 10 million people out there, if you‘re unemployed, get
off your fat ass and find a job. That‘s what Jim—that‘s what the
Republican caucus‘ message is. And they don‘t care whether you applied a
million times, if you‘ve been unemployed for nine months, if you tried
everything you done to get a job. That is what Jon Kyl thinks about the
people who are unemployed and Americans should really understand who‘s in
their corner in this sort of thing.
O‘DONNELL: Before we leave the Senate today, Chris, I just want to
talk about Democrats and primary challenges. We have Arkansas Democratic
incumbent getting a primary challenge, and in New York a new Democratic
incumbent, Kirsten Gillibrand, scaring off yet another primary challenge.
Harold Ford at this hour has announced that he will not challenge the
Democrat in New York.
What is this—what are the politics of the way those two incumbent
senators have played this situation tell incumbent Democrats about how to
handle challenges in primaries?
HAYES: Well, I think the primary challenge in Arkansas, which has -
which has been the result of a lot of very excellent grassroots
organizing, Accountability Now, Move On is doing fundraising, a lot of the
net roots is really smart.
I mean, the fact of the matter is Blanche Lincoln is essentially a
dead woman walking this point. Her re-elect numbers look terrible. Her
approval ratings are very low. And I think, at this point, removing her
from the ticket probably is a net benefit to Democrats there. And she‘s
also just not represented the will of the people of Arkansas on things like
the public option.
In the case of Harold Ford, it was one of the most laughably inept
candidate rollouts in recent memory, and I think, finally, at some point,
he got the message this was not going anywhere.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Chris Hayes of “The Nation.”
Coming up: The devastation in Chile. Ann Curry travels to ground
zero to the massive earthquake and shows us the devastation from the
tsunami along the coast.
And later, Keith will return for reaction to his “Special Comment”
last week about health care reform. He‘ll also have an update on his dad‘s
O‘DONNELL: First Haiti, now Chile. Another major earthquake
strikes another nation, and the death toll this time has risen to more than
700 people. Some coastal towns in Chile have been nearly obliterated, and
the extent of the destruction is becoming more painfully evident with each
passing day. For the latest on emergency relief efforts in Chile, our
correspondent tonight is NBC News‘ Ann Curry.
ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flying into the
destruction zone for the first time today, evidence of the power of one of
the strongest earthquakes ever recorded.
(on camera): From the air, you can begin to see the extent of the
destruction. Over hundreds of miles, town after town flattened by mother
(voice-over): Five hundred thousand homes damaged or destroyed.
Major bridges down. Some coastal towns, hit with both the quake and
tsunamis, washed away. Two million people affected. Rescuers are
struggling against exhaustion to find people buried alive, especially here
in hard-hit Concepcion, Chile‘s second largest city.
Even closer to the epicenter, today chaos.
More than two days after the quake, fires are still burning in
Concepcion. This building burning out of control. Police and the military
out in force making numerous arrests, trying to contain a rising fury,
especially from mothers upset about food rationing, saying their children
aren‘t getting enough.
To survive, some people admit to taking supplies. This man is
saying “I need food. This is what is going to help me. Each person thinks
what they think, and we do what we have to do.”
Add to that the trauma. These young girls weep, not knowing if
their father is alive.
One saying, “please, come get me. We‘re OK. Come get us, daddy.”
Rosa Sanchez Buchamente (ph) tells us her granddaughter, Claudia, is
missing. “She‘s 12 years old,” Rosa says. “We don‘t know anything. We
don‘t know if she is alive or dead.” She can‘t contain a grief that
mirrors a nation‘s.
(on camera): There have been 128 after shocks of magnitude five or
greater since the earthquake, 14 of them just today. It is probably
important to note that the president of Chile has said in accepting
international aid that field hospitals and rescue workers are especially
welcome. I‘m Ann Curry reporting from Santiago, Chile. Now back to you,
O‘DONNELL: Ann Curry in Santiago, thank you. The quake was so
powerful, it actually moved the Earth off its axis by three inches.
Coming up, we‘ll talk to a seismologist about whether even bigger
earthquakes are coming.
And later, Keith will return with a postscript to his last Special
Comment, and important information on what he learned about his own life
panel discussions about his father.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, with Democrats vowing
to get health care reform passed, the opponents of reform are coming out of
the woodwork again. Rachel will examine who‘s behind the efforts to kill
it all this time around.
O‘DONNELL: We‘re back now to talk about the 8.8 earthquake in Chile
this past weekend, and what appears to be a recent flare-up in seismic
activity elsewhere around the globe. To help us non-scientists process
what‘s going on here, let‘s bring in Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the
United States Geological Survey. Right now, we‘re looking at a USGS time
lapse animation, plotting earthquakes around the globe.
Now, there certainly seems to be a spike in seismic activity in the
last week. Seven weeks ago, Haiti was hit hard. Lucy, is there a pattern
here or is this purely random activity?
LUCY JONES, UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: The only pattern that
you‘re seeing is that each earthquake tends to trigger aftershocks. So
there‘s going to be a lot of earthquakes right now as aftershocks to the
Chilean earthquake. But, over all, we aren‘t seeing a significant
clustering of earthquakes. It‘s always random and that‘s what we‘re
O‘DONNELL: And so always random means you guys aren‘t getting any
closer to forecasting these things?
JONES: Unfortunately, no. And a fundamental issue is that, as far
as we can tell, little earthquakes and big earthquakes start in the same
way. So if you want to have something happen before the earthquake that
you can see, it‘s unfortunately happening before all the earthquakes, and
we record several magnitude fives every day somewhere in the world.
O‘DONNELL: Now, the death toll in Chile is about 733, still
counting. It is significantly lower, obviously, than the 200,000 plus in
Haiti. What is the difference here in the way these things hit? Is it
population density? Is it building codes? Was Chile somehow more
prepared? And the 8.8 in Chile was higher than what hit Haiti, wasn‘t it?
JONES: Oh, the Chilean earthquake was much, much larger than the
Haitian earthquake. It released about 500 times more energy. But the most
important difference is that Chile was better prepared with better building
codes. Earthquakes don‘t kill people, buildings do. so there was much
more shaking, much more vibration through Chile, but their buildings were
better able to withstand it.
O‘DONNELL: And the tsunami that was caused by this earthquake, it
did cause pretty severe damage in some locations, but it wasn‘t anything
like the tsunami that we saw in Indonesia in 2004. What determines the
energy of that tsunami?
JONES: Well, even though 8.8 seems huge, it‘s definitely smaller
than the 9.2 that created the Sumatra tsunami. And the tsunamis are
directly created by the change in the shape of the sea floor during the
earthquake, as a fault moves upward and displaces that water. The fault
that moved in this Chilean earthquake is about 300 miles long; whereas the
one in the Sumatran earthquake was about a thousand miles long. So much
more water was displaced in Sumatra and therefore went out.
We also seem to have been lucky, to some extent. You can see that
as it travels out across the ocean, you get sort of little, you know,
focusing areas that are stronger than some others. And none of those seem
to have really come in at the more distant sites. But, of course, nobody
in Chile would consider themselves lucky. It was a very damaging tsunami
O‘DONNELL: Watching that wave move across that screen, I now
finally understand why I was required to have tsunami insurance on my house
in Santa Monica right here in Los Angeles County, even though it‘s back
from the beach, I don‘t know, about a quarter of a mile or so, and up a
hill a little bit. When I start to see that wave move across the screen,
there‘s much more reality to the possibilities of what we could get. We
already know about our earthquake possibilities here in California, but the
tsunami possibility looks real, too, doesn‘t it?
JONES: It is. And there‘s been a lot of damage over the years in
California from tsunamis, especially in our ports. The ports of Los
Angeles and Long Beach suffered significant damage in both 1960 and 1964.
So it‘s a real risk. It‘s not as common as our earthquakes, but it‘s big.
O‘DONNELL: And what we think of as our big earthquakes, 1989 here
up in northern California, San Francisco, 1994 was it—yeah, the
Northridge earthquake in the Los Angeles area, they both had about 60
fatalities. Is our ability to handle earthquakes here in California based
on our building codes and the way our population is more spread out and not
JONES: Well, we do have good building codes, and they make a lot of
difference. But when we get to our really largest earthquakes, we‘re going
to be seeing a lot of the same things that are going on in Chile right now.
When you have such a big event, you stress your whole system. And they‘re
going to be dealing with loss of utilities and long-term economic impacts.
And we‘ll face the same thing when it‘s time for us to have our big
O‘DONNELL: Thanks for joining us, Lucy Jones of the US Geological
Coming up, Keith will join us with not only an update on his dad,
but how the update includes a very important consideration when having end
of life discussions with your doctors and family.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Finally, as promised, back here in
New York and a kind of postscript to last week‘s Special Comment about the
health of my father, and the discussion of end of life care, what we deemed
here the life panels, and also some of the reactions to that.
First of all, to update you on my father‘s health. Last Thursday at
noon, in the hospital not far from here, my sister and my nephew and myself
gathered with my father‘s surgeon nurse to discuss a timetable of sorts, to
discuss when to, in effect, start changing his care from restorative to
What we laid out is a little bit too personal for me to go into in
depth, but I will tell you this much: we left ourselves an out. His white
blood cell count, which is, if you‘re at all familiar with medicine, was at
a horrifically high level of 54,000, needed to drop and drop quickly, or
there would be little hope. And so, having followed his instructions,
including those instructions about when to apply my best judgment instead
of his own, and with him still largely unawake, if not exactly unconscious,
we laid out this rather grim bit of business.
We didn‘t like it, but we knew we were working from his
instructions. Our little life panel, along with the consultation of
doctors and this doctor‘s nurse, was invaluable to us. And so we laid out
all of the plans with that one caveat, if, say, each time there was a new
white blood cell count reading it was 10,000 less, we‘d revisit and revisit
in a hurry.
By 6:00 that night, it was 10,000 less. My father has not regained
wakefulness, but he is more responsive now, and here these many days later,
in fact, his white blood cell count is about two-thirds less than what it
And so this brings the issue of flexibility to your end of life
discussions, which, again, I urge you, immediately, tonight if you can, no
matter which part of the equation you are in, or if there is no equation
yet, to have these conversations with your loved ones now, because you will
know what they want, and at least you will know you‘ve had the
conversation, and whatever you are guesstimating from, you‘ve already
talked to them about the essence of it.
And so we continue to help him try to regain his health. If he does
not succeed in doing that, we can again turn to palliative care later on.
But clearly, that flexibility to be able to say, no, it‘s nearing the end -
wait a minute, maybe it‘s not nearing the end—is the essence of what
is permissible and what is to be encouraged in our society, to have that
conversation in advance and act accordingly.
And in the health care reforms that have been proposed, the only
difference in this process would be that the doctor who helps you with
these conversations can bill the insurance company for them. So you‘re not
guessing on your own. You‘re guessing as much as he is and with him
present. That is the entirety of what has been fabricated into, by
unbelievably incompetent and unknowing people on the far right, into the
quote/unquote death panel. There is no death panel.
And this brings me to some of the reactions from the right to this
topic, death panel versus life panel. We start with Rush Limbaugh. Mr.
Limbaugh went on the air and said, “trust me. There is a death panel.”
That‘s all he said. He offered no proof. He offered no evidence.
He didn‘t even quote anybody. I don‘t know about you, but if Rush Limbaugh
asks me to trust him, immediately check to see if my wallet is still in my
back pocket. There is no death panel.
This brings me to the reaction of Glenn Beck. Mr. Beck, while
saying what I believed were sincere good wishes to both me and my father,
then immediately turned around and said, I didn‘t understand about the
death panels, that what Sarah Palin was talking about was not these end of
life discussions, not what we have called life panels, but, in fact,
He is, of course, entirely wrong. He has no earthly clue what he‘s
talking about. He presented no evidence. The only evidence he has ever
presented as to the supposed existence of these so-called death panels is
to quote Sarah Palin. And Sarah Palin‘s spokesman admitted that what she
was talking about was a proposal made by Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon
to establish the right for you to get the insurance company involved in
paying for the physician who helps you with your life panel discussion.
If there was any doubt about this, I turn to a letter I received
after the comment was raised last Wednesday from Congressman Blumenauer,
who said he only wished he had the presence of mind to call them life
panels. We can call them life panels now.
The discussion about end of life care is all that there is in health
care reform, the right for you to bill a doctor to help you through this
most trying and necessary and salvation-like time. The thing that will
guide you through a situation if you are in that, that I am in, and my
family is in with my father right now, you get to get it reimbursed from
the insurance company.
That‘s it. There is no death panel. I wish there was no Glenn Beck
to make up stories about death panels. We‘re going to have to live with
But it does raise the question of why Mr. Beck‘s efforts are being
supported by an honorable organization called the Special Operations
Warrior Foundation, which has somehow gotten mixed up with these events he
has planned for next August in Washington. Mr. Beck is making it up,
pulling it out of some orifice or another, for whatever purpose we do not
know. And yet this fine and honorable organization is somehow associated
with him, and perhaps they should reconsider that.
Lastly, in terms of reaction to last week‘s special comment and the
concept of the life panel, I am indebted to the Tea Party of Dallas, Texas,
which as you may know invited me to attend its gathering on Saturday to
prove that it was not an all white, nor nearly all white organization.
When I explained I was not traveling to attend to my father in his time of
need, they said nothing about that. On Saturday, when they got up and made
their little speeches and invoked my name and my non-presence there, they
mentioned only that I was not there and did not give a reason for my
I am indebted to them because they have proved my point about the
nature of this organization. I don‘t know to what degree racism really
applies to the whole Tea Party movement, nor the Dallas one in particular.
But it is clear to me that people who would leave out that vital bit of
information about why I would not attend and mock me for not attending are
not really people anymore, are they?
Lastly, I mentioned last week, and I‘m going to mention it again,
that in the last few weeks, even though my father has not been fully
conscious, I have been reading to him and talking to him. Several dear
friends of mine who have had similar experiences of unconsciousness, if not
coma, have said that they could remember clearly hearing things said to
them while they could not communicate in return.
And so that‘s another little piece of advice. I‘ve been reading him
mostly James Thurber short stories. And, in fact, I came across one that
seems relevant to our political time.
If you‘ll permit me to close with it and permit me to remove my
glasses in order to do so. It is from his “Fables for Modern Times,” and
this one is called “The Peaceable Mongoose.” Forgive me for doing it this
way, but there is no better way.
“The Peaceable Mongoose” by James Thurber.
“In Cobra Country, a mongoose was born one day who didn‘t want to
fight cobras or anything else. The word spread from mongoose to mongoose
that there was a mongoose who didn‘t want to fight cobras. If he didn‘t
want to fight anything else, it was his own business, but it was the duty
of every mongoose to kill cobras or be killed by cobras.
“Why, asked the peace-like mongoose, and the word went around that
the strange new mongoose was not only pro-cobra and anti-mongoose, but
intellectually curious and against the ideals and traditions of mongoosism.
‘He is crazy,‘ cried the young mongoose‘s father. ‘He is sick,‘ said his
mother. ‘He is a coward,‘ shouted his brothers. ‘He is a mongoose-
sexual,‘ whispered his sisters.
“Strangers who had never laid eyes on the peace-like mongoose
remembered that they had seen him crawling on his stomach or trying on
cobra hoods or plotting the violent overthrow of Mongoosia.
‘I‘m trying to use reason and intelligence,‘ said the strange new
mongoose. ‘Reason is six-sevenths of treason,‘ said one of his neighbors.
‘Intelligence is what the enemy uses,‘ said another.
“Finally, the rumor spread that the mongoose had venom in his sting,
just like a cobra, and he was tried, convicted by a show of paws, and
condemned to banishment.
“Moral? Ashes to ashes and clay to clay; if the enemy doesn‘t get
you, your own folks may.”
That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1st of March. Rachel Maddow and “THE
RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” are next. Thank you for your time tonight. Good night
and good luck.
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