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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, May 28th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Anne Thompson, Baba Brinkman

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening.


It is the last night of “Geek Week” here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, and we have saved the best for last.  Infrastructure!  You want mass transit, a humongous underground drill and bedrock frozen by brine?  Of course you do.  We have that all coming up.

But first, this is a walrus.  Come on, you guys.  Come on, we talked about this.  That‘s not a walrus.  That‘s Wilford Brimley, of course.  I‘m sorry about that.  Ha-ha.

All right, this is a walrus.  Come on, you guys!  I know it‘s Friday, I know “Geek Week” has been a long week.  John Bolton is not technically a walrus.

All right.  Here we go.  We can do this.  Come on.

This.  That—there we go.  This is a walrus.

All right.  This is a walrus.  You see their big tusks, right?  Their awesome mustache-like whiskers.

Walruses are sort of awesome creatures.  Here‘s something I learned on Wikipedia today about things walruses can do.  According to Wikipedia, this is a picture of a walrus at a breathing hole in the ice.  As you can see, it‘s using its giant tusks to hold its giant walrus nose afloat so it can breathe more comfortably.  Walruses are awesome.

You know what walruses aren‘t?  Walruses aren‘t hot.  Walruses aren‘t even warm.  They live in very, very cold bodies of water, places like the Arctic Ocean, the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, really, really cold sub Arctic areas.

B.P.‘s disaster response plan for the Gulf of Mexico which they

submitted to the federal government last year advises that any response

teams responding to an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should watch out for

walruses.  B.P. lists walruses among the marine life that could be affected

by a potential oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


Unless B.P. has discovered a miraculous Caribbean walrus that nobody else knows anything about, what in the Wilford Brimley are they talking about?

Again, this thing where they‘re warning about walruses, this is the regional oil spill response plan for the Gulf of Mexico—which probably means they just cut and pasted that response plan from some other regional oil spill response plan that they did for somewhere cold and they just hoped that no one would notice.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility pointed the walrus thing out today to “Reuters.”  “Reuters” then ran a story on it under the headline, “Walruses in Louisiana?”

This is how diligent we have forced the oil industry to be when it comes to protecting these incredibly fragile places in which we allow them to drill for oil from which they make more money than God.  That‘s how diligent we have forced them to be.  Look out for walruses in the Gulf of Mexico.

Based on that brilliant plan, B.P.‘s disaster response for the Gulf of Mexico continues at this hour.  We are now in day three of their latest effort to plug that leaking well, the top kill.  In terms of whether or not the top kill is working, we honestly don‘t know much more tonight than we knew last night.  B.P. officials are reporting that the top kill continues to go according to plan, but they won‘t really know for another couple of days.

In addition to the top kill, we can also report tonight that B.P. has attempted the junk shot, essentially hurling heavy materials like shredded rubber golf—shredded rubber and golf balls at a very high rate of speed into a series of valves in an effort to plug the leaking well.

In both of these cases, the junk shot and the top kill, B.P. says it will be another 24 to 48 hours before they know if it has worked—before we know if the oil has stopped flowing.  And in the event that the junk shot and top kill don‘t work, it‘s sort of back to square one.  B.P. will attempt to place a small containment dome over the gushing pipe—what people have been calling the top hat, the thing that 30 years ago when they tried it, they called it the “sombrero.”

Even if any of these things work to finally stop the leak, the disaster that‘s been left in its wake will long outlive the leak itself.  A point made by the president today on his trip to the region.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Even if the leak was stopped today, it wouldn‘t change the fact that these waters still contain oil from what is now the largest spill in American history.  And more of it will come ashore.


MADDOW:  Adding to the urgency of that statement is a new discovery in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico today.  You might recall last night we described the latest underwater plume of oil that had been discovered.  What you‘re looking at on the left is the plume that was discovered last week.  The one in the middle is this one—is the one we learned about yesterday.

Today, there are reports of yet another—I see how that one just goes off the screen there.  That‘s because we don‘t even know how big it is.  The scientists who discovered it couldn‘t find the edges of it.  One of those scientists said today, quote, “We really never found either end of it.”

Also, the one in the middle which is discovered yesterday was described by scientists as being clear, now a clear plume of oil, it‘s still oil, it‘s not good.  But the giant plume that scientists found today, the one they couldn‘t find the ends of—that one they described as dark.  The submarine sent on to water to find it returned to the surface entirely black.

That oil is just sitting in the Gulf of Mexico right now.  And every day that the leak continues, more of these plumes, presumably are forming.  Everybody will breathe a big sigh of relief once the well is finally capped.  But what then?

Joining us now is NBC News chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne Thompson.  She joins us again from Venice, Louisiana.

Anne, thank you again for joining us.  Appreciate it.


Sure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I know that you were able to travel out to Redfish Bay today. 

What‘s happening on the coast that you could see today?

THOMPSON:  Rachel, I had been out in Redfish Bay a week ago, and we went out today and the difference in a week was just—it would make your stomach turn.  There‘s no other way to describe it.  We were out there today, and everywhere around the bay, you just saw this black band of oil, and on the bottom of the Roseau cane where it meets the water.

And then you saw the boom.  There was plenty of boom out there, mainly absorbent boom, the white stuff.  But it‘s no match for the oil.

The oil is not just at the edge of the marsh, it‘s deep into the marsh.  And you can see the Roseau cane—it‘s just bending, because the oil is choking it.

And it was very, very disturbing, because this is what Louisiana is going to be dealing with, not just this month or next month, but for months to come, because of this oil spill.  Even if top kill works and they cap the well, that doesn‘t end the environmental disaster.  This is going to go on for a very long time here.

MADDOW:  And, Anne, what happens to marshes that are saturated with oil like that?  Presumably, the vegetation that you‘re seeing that‘s being suffocated, presumably that dies.  If that‘s holding the soil there, when that vegetation dies, do those marshlands just erode and disappear?

THOMPSON:  They disappear.  I was talking to one environmentalist who described the oil when it gets into the marshlands.  It acts like a lawnmower and just cuts it off.  Cuts off the marsh, cuts the Roseau cane.

And then compounding the problem—first of all, it takes away the habitat of 400 species of fish and birds who live along the coast here.  And then on top of it, when the Roseau cane goes through its natural cycle and it grows and then dies, when it decomposes in the water, it becomes one of the first links in the food chain for all that wildlife down here.  Now, that goes missing, and that upsets the food chain, which means that these, you know, birds and the fish are not going to have a place to live, and they‘re not going to have food to eat.

MADDOW:  When we‘re talking to right now, Anne, we‘ve been showing some of the absorbent boom that you described, and it‘s clear just from these images that it is no match for the amount of oil that they‘ve got there.  When the president today talked about tripling the manpower in places where oil has already come ashore or is within 24 hours of coming ashore—what help is manpower?  What can humans do to mitigate this once it‘s—once it‘s doing what you‘re describing?

THOMPSON:  Well, interesting today, Rachel, that the Coast Guard took the media on a tour in a bayou about 105 miles west of here to show what they were doing.  And you could see the difference manpower can make.

For example, in the marshes, they were using absorbent pads and using them by hand and putting them on the edge of the marsh and then using them to soak up the oil.  That‘s one way.  You need somebody out there checking these—the boom, especially the absorbent boom, far more frequently than is being done now, and it needs to be changed, because at some point, it stops working, clearly.

Manpower can make a difference, if for no other reason than to help identify where the oil is coming ashore.  And as soon as it‘s identified, get people out there to try to mitigate it before it gets back into the marshes.  Because once it gets into those marshes, I don‘t know how you get it out.  And that‘s—nobody knows how you get it out.

Some people have talked about burning the marshes, some people talk about flooding the marshes.  We saw these little mini-tanks going out today from here in Venice called marsh trackers.  I‘m not quite sure what good they would do, but this is—and I cannot tell you how important these marshes are to Louisiana.  I mean, it truly—they truly are the lifeblood of this part of the country.

MADDOW:  Anne, in terms of the prospect of more people being deployed down there to do the kind of work that you were just describing, I was also struck today when the president said that there‘s—that the administration is stationing doctors and scientists across five Gulf States, he said, to look after people‘s health and monitor ill effects felt by cleanup workers and local residents.

Can you talk all about the health concerns posed by this oil, how worried people are about that, what evidence we‘ve seen?

THOMPSON:  Well, I think—what happened this week is that seven fishermen who were working in Breton Sound were hospitalized for nausea and related symptoms.  The fishermen told the hospital that they thought that they had come in contact with the dispersant and that‘s what made them sick.  Now, there‘s no confirmation of that, other than they did get sick.  Five of them were treated and released, two of them remain hospitalized.

And it is—it is a big problem.  I mean, there are respiratory problems to worry about.  Those are the first and foremost problems.  I can tell you the stench is absolutely vile.

And then, what are the long-term impacts of breathing this, of touching the oil, of touching the dispersant?  These are all questions that nobody really knows the answer to.  And so, we need scientific data.  We need doctors down here to help people when they do come in contact with this.

MADDOW:  One last question for you, Anne, about the efforts—ongoing efforts to stop the well from leaking.  I understand B.P. was using two rigs to drill the relief well.  But now one of those rigs has been temporarily stopped.

Do we know anything about why they‘ve done that?

THOMPSON:  Right.  They‘ve got these two—when you drill a relief well, I mean, what you‘re doing is hoping that you go in and you‘re essentially trying to kill the well that‘s the problem at the bottom.  They call it a bottom kill versus the top kill that they‘re doing now.  And they do it from a couple of different points because it usually takes a couple of tries to hit the well.

What they have done with this—they have suspended one of the drilling efforts because they are using that rig as essentially spare parts in case the top kill doesn‘t work.  Every rig that drills a well has a blowout preventer.  The one that exploded did, too, but we all know that blowout preventer didn‘t work.

If top kill doesn‘t work, one of the ideas is to put a new blowout preventer on top of the old blowout preventer and to see if they can—if the new blowout preventer can kill the well.  So, that‘s the thought.

And what they‘re going to do is take the blowout preventer at—that exists at the bottom of the sea floor with that second rig, and it‘s sort of sitting there now as spare parts in case top kill doesn‘t work.

And hopefully, we‘ll know by Sunday if top kill works or not, although I will caution you that B.P. keeps moving the finish line as far as top kill goes, in part because it‘s taking much longer and it‘s a much slower process than anybody anticipated, Rachel.  They pump mud into the well, they stop, they take pressure readings.  And then, for example, they did a couple of junk shot attempts.

And now, tonight, they hope to resume pumping mud into the well, then take more pressure readings—all to make sure that they don‘t make the situation worse than it is already is.

MADDOW:  NBC News chief environment affairs correspondent, Anne Thompson, in Venice, Louisiana, tonight.  Anne, as always, thank you so much.  You‘re really helping us understand this.

THOMPSON:  Take care, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

So, today the Obama administration told Transocean to drop its effort to have its legal liability for the B.P. oil disaster capped at a measly $27 million.

Now, that‘s Transocean.  B.P. itself is trying to deal with its legal liability for the disaster, in part by hand-picking the judge they want to hear the claims against them.  Must be nice.  That‘s coming up.

Plus, big time infrastructure geeking.

Stick with us.


MADDOW:  So the people who dig New York City‘s subway tunnels for a living, they call themselves “sand hogs.”  Here‘s something I never would have expected to come across in the sand hog work environment.


MADDOW:  One of the things you don‘t expect when you come down seven stories underground is the lighting, really.  I‘m not that familiar with being on construction sites, certainly not underground construction sites.  There‘s a lot of emergency lighting, there‘s a lot of construction lighting, a lot of that very bright on-the-spot lighting.

But I started to realize as I was down here for a second, there‘s some natural light, too.  And that‘s because of the mother of all skylights.  That‘s right up on to Second Avenue.  They did actually have to leave open this big portion up to the street.  That‘s how they got this huge equipment down here.

When you‘ve got giant cranes, not to mention your giant 22-foot diameter drill, you‘ve got to get it down here some way.  It doesn‘t come down the stairs.  It comes down through that big hole in the sky.


MADDOW:  Large scale infrastructure geeking is coming up on “Geek Week.”


MADDOW:  We‘ve had a lot of response to the NBC News archival footage that we played this week, showing just how much hasn‘t changed in the past 30 years of oil drilling disasters.  You may recall that we played news coverage this week of the 1979 Ixtoc oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

And that footage made clear that from failed blowout preventers, to junk shots, to top kills, to booms, to dispersants, to undersea plumes of oil, oil disasters and oil disaster response looks the same now as it did 30 years ago.  The only real technological progress the oil industry has made in the past 30 years is figuring out how to drill in ever-deeper water.  It was unsafe in 200 feet of water 30 years ago.  Now, the progress is that, today, it‘s unsafe in 5,000 feet of water.

The delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands is Congress is Donna Christensen.  And Donna Christensen used our reporting yesterday to confront the head of the American Petroleum Institute at a congressional hearing on the B.P. oil disaster.  She got a remarkable response.  Check this out.


DEL. DONNA CHRISTENSEN (D), US. VIRGIN ISLANDS:  I happened to be watching Rachel Maddow last night and she was flashing back over 20 years to another oil spill and the response and there didn‘t seem—now, I‘m sure that this was edited for effect, but there didn‘t seem to be much difference in the response now to the response 20 or more years ago.

So, could you give us a sense—I mean, the technology of the drilling, the depth of the drilling, all of that has really changed dramatically over that time.  Could you give us a sense of what National Ocean Industries Association and API have been doing in that period of time to improve the response and the cleanup, and the safety?

JACK GERARD, API PRESIDENT & CEO:  Absolutely.  Thank you for the question.

Secretary Salazar said something yesterday that wasn‘t expanded on but I think it goes to this point, Congresswoman.  It‘s a very important one.  He commented without the preparations or things the industry‘s been doing over the past 20 years, we wouldn‘t have the unprecedented response that we have today.

When the Oil Pollution Act was passed in the early 1990s, it established recovery organizations.  And today, there are around the country over 140 oil spill recovery organizations.  These are funded by the private sector.  And they have developed equipment, they have a response capability.  They train with the Coast Guard.

When you put it all together, the industry has spent in the last 14, 15 years, just through this process, about $1.6 billion to be prepared for oil spill incidents like this, and that doesn‘t count the individual companies and their research and development, there are other vestments to be ready to go.


MADDOW:  Do you believe that?

Confronted with evidence that what they were throwing at undersea oil rig blowouts 30 years ago is the exact same ineffective technology they‘re throwing at undersea blowouts today, the American Petroleum Institute assures Congress that what “We‘re doing in the Gulf is an unprecedented response”—except for it being press dented.  And they say they‘ve spent decades and a ton of money upgrading their 30-year-old safety technology so that now it‘s exactly the same ineffective, wing and a prayer, nonsense as it was 30 years ago.  Incredible.

If we hadn‘t spent so much, Congresswoman, we wouldn‘t be having this amazing response that we‘re having now in the Gulf.

Wow.  No one wants to say it.  And no one in America wants to believe that it is true, and I include myself in this.

But honestly, we have no idea how to drill safely offshore.  We know how to drill offshore, but we do not know how to drill safely offshore—because the oil companies have never been made to care too much about that before.  If this disaster is handled correctly, you will know that, because the oil companies will finally have been forced to care about something they‘ve never been forced to care about before.

I would understand it if you‘re not holding your breath.



MADDOW:  So I‘ve gone in search of a moment of geek to satisfy my inner infrastructure geek and it‘s brought me here to the east side of Manhattan.  Generations of infrastructure geeks have had their dreams die right here.

The subway is essentially how most Manhattan residents and New Yorkers get around.  Everybody‘s got a metro card.  Everybody uses the subway.  Maybe not like Donald Trump, but pretty much everybody else uses the subway.

And on the east side, everything is confined to one subway line.  There‘s only one subway line in the whole east side of Manhattan.  It‘s so crowded that that one east side subway line, they say every day carries more riders than the subways of Chicago, Boston and D.C. combined.  They have needed another subway line on the east side here of Manhattan for a really long time—and I mean a really long time.

Check out this “New York Times” headline: “Mayor Again Urges a Second Avenue Subway.”  The headline is from December 30th, 1948.  And yes, that is the mayor again, urging his Second Avenue subway, because even by 1948, people have been trying to get a subway built here on the east side for decades.

Plans for a Second Avenue subway line were first announced a month before the stock market crash of 1929.  The stock market crash delayed the project because suddenly it was—you know, the Great Depression and there was no money left to build a new subway line or anything else.

The project picked up again in 1949.  They even got 10 brand new subway cars delivered for it.  They tried to go forward again in 1951.  By 1952, it was all off again.  It turns out New York City was massively in debt.


REPORTER:  When this and the rest of the construction is completed, New York City will have 23 new subway stations, 15 of them on Second Avenue in Manhattan.


MADDOW:  In 1970, there were three separate Second Avenue subway groundbreakings.  They kept doing the groundbreakings over and over again for different parts of this brand-new, long-awaited subway line that was definitely, totally going to be built this time for real.

And it‘s actually in 1972 the city did actually start construction.  They managed to make one underground tunnel from 99th Street to 105th Street.  Then the money ran out and the tunnels got sealed off and the project was stopped long, long, long before it was finished.

So, now the Second Avenue subway tunnel project is supposedly going to happen.  But I mean, it‘s imminent.  Right underneath where I am standing right now, drilling is due to start next week.

So, here we are, about seven stories underneath Second Avenue.  We are quite a ways down.  And this is going to be ultimately the 96th Street-Second Avenue subway station.  But right now, it‘s called the “launch box.”  This is the place from which the tunnel bore machine, the giant drill that‘s drilling the subway tunnels is starting.

We‘re joined now by Michael Horodniceanu, who is the president of Capital Construction for the MTA.

Michael, thanks very much for helping us understand what‘s going on here.  Appreciate your time.

So, in terms of where we are now right now, how long did it take to build this giant underground cavern that‘s going to be the station?

MICHAEL HORODNICEANU, PRESIDENT, CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION:  This was probably built two and a half years to complete the thing before we can actually start digging the tunnel.  And the part that was the most complex here was relocating all the utilities above.

MADDOW:  So unlike the tunnel which is going horizontally through the rock—


MADDOW:  -- you came straight down from street level here all the way down into the rock.  You have just moved all of the utilities out of the way and then re-hang them essentially under the street.

HORODNICEANU:  That‘s correct.  We are now—these are—this is a temporary deck that we have to support.  And everything hangs from that.

MADDOW:  Let goes down and see the tunnel-boring machine.


MADDOW:  So this is the front of the drill.  This is the mole.  This is the tunnel-boring machine; its 22 feet in diameter.  The world‘s biggest drill bit.  Maybe not the worlds biggest but a pretty darn big drill bit;

22 feet in diameter which coincidentally means you‘ve got a 22-foot in diameter subway tunnel.  And this is really—this is really the front.  This is the cutting edge, right?

HORODNICEANU:  That‘s correct.

MADDOW:  What are we looking at here—


MADDOW:  -- in terms of this big stuff?

HORODNICEANU:  In order for this to be able to penetrate rock that is rather hard—


HORODNICEANU:  -- we have to put a lot of thrust on that.  These are called the grippers.  You see the cylinders actually under pressure hold this in place.


HORODNICEANU:  And that allows the front gear to move forward and this

stays in place.  That moves forward about six feet.  And every six feet of

of—rock drilling, then the whole back of the machine follows.

MADDOW:  Like an—like an inchworm.

HORODNICEANU:  Like an inchworm.  We are lifting this up, we are removing—we are freeing the grips and then we are moving forward and putting the grips again.

MADDOW:  So six—it goes six feet—


MADDOW:  And then everything scooches (ph) forward -- 


MADDOWN:  -- which takes forever and then you set back down and then another six feet—


MADDOW:  -- and then scooches down and then—

HORODNICEANU:  That‘s correct.  Before you start drilling, you‘re now going to go and shoot also vertical—horizontal probes into the rock in order to further determine what you are looking at.  And when we started probing, we discovered that actually the quality of the rock is not that good, and as such we needed to freeze the ground.

MADDOW:  Freeze it?

HORODNICEANU:  Freeze the ground.  What we‘re going to do is we‘re going to have giant refrigeration machines above.  We‘re going to drill down probes that will be seven feet in center.


HORODNICEANU:  We‘re going to fill them up with a brine, and then—and then we‘re going to drop the temperature until the ground around them is frozen.

MADDOW:  Forgive a simple occasion (ph) if the earth is too soft that you‘re drilling through, it‘s less ideal drilling conditions, freezing the ground make it‘s harder and then you can go drill.

HORODNICEANU:  You can‘t—you cannot drill literally in soft ground with high water table, ok, you cannot drill with this type of machine.

MADDOW:  I see.

HORODNICEANU:  Because you‘re going to have water coming in.  And once you have water coming in, you may have a terrible collapse of foundation because we have tall buildings so that prevents that.  So what we‘re doing is you‘re taking the risk out of the—of the type of work we‘re doing.

MADDOW:  Do you hear that, do you hear that New Yorkers?  They are not only drilling underneath Second Avenue, they‘re freezing underneath Second Avenue so they can drill underneath Second Avenue.  Your tax dollars at work—very, very hard at work.

HORODNICEANU:  Now, interestingly enough, when we freeze the ground, the machines work seven days a week and—and three shifts.  Why?  Because you do not want the machine to freeze, truly.

MADDOW:  So you have to keep moving.

HORODNICEANU:  So you keep moving until you‘re out of it.

MADDOW:  Amazing.  Amazing.

HORODNICEANU:  This is the—the equivalent of the pilot‘s cabin for the tunneling boring machine.  In fact, if you want to look at that, it‘s almost the Jules Verne story as to how you drive a machine under earth.  It‘s GPS-driven.  And the—all the tunnel, the direction, the slope, it‘s all controlled from here.

And—and in addition to that, the amount of torque or force being used to actually grip and then push forward is also controlled from this—from this cockpit.  So whoever sits here is the person that controls via screen GPS, and there‘s a number of cameras looking in various directions that tells the operator as to exactly what‘s happening outside.

Without this, this is the brain of the machine.  This is what makes it move forward, and—and this is where the direction and the accuracy of the tunneling boring machine is being regulated from.

MADDOW:  So obviously a subway cannot be a one-lane street.  You‘ve got to have two different directions, which means you‘ve got to have two different tunnels.  In this case, that means that we‘ve got an east bore tunnel and a west bore tunnel.  You can see the two tunnels side by side right here.

Now, in terms of the disruption to the neighborhood, you‘re trying to do this under living, breathing New York.  Obviously this launch box that we‘re in, which is going to be the 96th Street station, is a huge cavern.  It goes all the way up to street level here.  Just above our heads through the ceiling here is street level.

And this is a huge underground room.  This has to have been very—


MADDOW:  Painful for the neighborhood.

HORODNICEANU:  That‘s correct and as we move forward and this is one reason why in dense urban areas, why they use tunnel boring machines.  Because once you start the—the boring process you are not going to disrupt the people above.  In fact, once you are down here at 70, 80, 90 feet below, the people above will not know that we are here.

So that will releases the pressures of doing what we used to do in the past that primarily cut and cover.  But remember, when we used to do cut and cover, New York was not what it used to be.

MADDOW:  And cut and cover means you cut everything open—

HORODNICEANU:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  -- do what you need to do and then, cover it back up and let New York come back to life.


MADDOW:  Not anymore, though with these.  People who live underneath these tunnels, as the tunnel boring machine is going 60 feet a day on a good day, they won‘t know what‘s happening beneath them.

HORODNICEANU:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  If everything goes right.

HORODNICEANU:  If you would see pictures that I have in my office of Broadway north of Columbus Circle when the subway was built, you will see two huge trenches on either side of the Broadway middle mall just open.

MADDOW:  Oh yes.

HORODNICEANU:  Imagine people living like this for many years.  That‘s how it happened.


HORODNICEANU:  New York cannot exist without its subways.  In fact, no metropolis can exist without subways.  So that‘s going to be actually—that‘s the future.  And our forefathers saw that.

MADDOW:  That‘s right.

HORODNICEANU:  They actually figured it out long ago that that was the future and they built all these wonderful systems that we now are trying to improve.

MADDOW:  We‘ve been enjoying their work for generations—

HORODNICEANU:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  -- it‘s now our turn to pay it forward to the next.

HORODNICEANU:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  Michael is Capital Construction president at the MTA.  This has been fascinating, and we please apologize to all the sand hogs down here for our disruption of their work.  But it‘s been great.  Thanks for your time.

HORODNICEANU:  Well, we are safe.  That‘s what‘s important.  We didn‘t create any problems.

MADDOW:  Yes, thank you very much.

HORODNICEANU:  You‘re welcome.


MADDOW:  There is still more Geek Week geekory (ph) to come.

But first one more thing, about the giant tunnel boring machine that‘s going to be drilling the tunnels for the new Second Avenue subway in Manhattan.  Check this out.


MADDOW:  We‘re in where the pilot sits who pilots the tunnel boring machine, pilot CBM (ph) a really, really tight spot.  Everything filled with gauges and screens and valves and impressive stuff.  And just enough room for his copy of “Siberian Odyssey, a Voyage into the Russian Soul.”  We‘re going to try not to read too much into this.



MADDOW:  Last night, in the closing minutes of our show, the House of Representatives voted to allow the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy to be repealed.  Congressman Patrick Murphy had said repeatedly that he had the votes.  Turns out he did in fact have them.  He had 17 more votes for repeal than he needed.

Now, what passed the House was an amendment to a Pentagon Funding Bill.  Despite much crowing from House Republicans that they would vote down funding for the Pentagon rather than allow the Funding Bill to also repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”, the overall Funding Bill also passed the House today.

So here‘s what happens next.  The senate also needs to pass its Defense Authorization Bill with the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal amendment.  That vote should happen sometime in the next couple of weeks.  If that passes, too, then what happens, at least for a while, is nothing.

The Pentagon review of how to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is due December 1st.  Then the president and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs all have to certify that repealing the policy won‘t hurt the military. And then 60 days after that, then “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” would be repealed.

“The New York Times” headline on this today got the subtleties of this right.  Their headline was, “House Votes to Allow ‘Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell‘ Repeal.”  To allow, being key there; they didn‘t actually repeal it yet.  This just means the military can repeal it.

And it‘s not a done deal.  Defense Secretary Bob Gates made that clear today in a video message to troops about it.


ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  As you may know, earlier this week Congress began legislative action to change the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy regarding homosexuality in the Armed Forces.

Given the complicated political debate surrounding this issue, I thought it important for you to hear from me what this means for you, the men and women wearing our nation‘s uniform.

The legislation involved is a deferred repeal.  In other words, it would repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”, but only after, I repeat, after, the ongoing Department of Defense high level review is completed and only after the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and I all can certify that we are ready to make this change without hurting unit cohesion, military readiness, military effectiveness and recruiting and retention.

While this process plays out over time, nothing will change in terms of our current policies and practices.  Current law, policies and regulations remain in place and we are obligated to abide by them as before.


MADDOW:  So in other words, with that last part, don‘t come out, at least not yet.  That advice echoed today by the service members legal defense network which advocates for a repeal of the policy.  They are telling gay people who are currently serving in the military, do not come out.  “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” remains the law until this process is complete.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual service members are still being discharged under “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and they will continue to be discharged until this process is complete.  The moral arc of the universe may bend toward justice, in other words.  But it is a long, long arc.  The wait is nowhere near over.


MADDOW:  So it‘s about to be a big holiday weekend and maybe you‘re thinking of doing some shopping.  So is BP, except BP is not shopping for barbecue supplies; BP is shopping for a judge.  More on that in a moment.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  BP is the responsible party for this disaster.

As far as I‘m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States.

Ultimately, it is our folks down there who are responsible.  If they‘re not satisfied with something that‘s happening, then they need to let us know, and we will immediately question BP.

BP, under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is considered the responsible party.  What we need is actions that make sure that BP is being held accountable.


MADDOW:  The President this week threading the political needle between looking responsible as the President for dealing with the BP oil disaster and making clear that it‘s the BP oil disaster.  For its part, BP is well along in its effort to get out ahead of the company‘s legal liability.

At a Congressional hearing this week, the company said it already paid out $37 million in damages claims; including many claims from shrimpers and fishermen.  But those are claims that haven‘t even made it to court.  BP is facing nearly 100 lawsuits already in at least seven different courts in five different states.

But here is the really interesting part.  The company is asking the courts to put all of the pretrial issues from all of those hundred different lawsuits in all of those different states, put it all in the hands of one judge.

They have picked their favorite judge and requested him by name.  He is Judge Lynn Hughes; Judge Hughes, seen here in a conference program for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.  “The Miami Herald” reports that at least 13 times in the past couple of years, Judge Hughes has been sent for free to the Petroleum Geologists events all over the world to give lectures.

The organization does not pay the judge to give the lectures, doesn‘t pay him for those—for those themselves, they just cover his travel to places like Cape Town, South Africa and New Orleans where the judge addressed a luncheon the week before the explosion at the Deep Water Horizon Rig.

This judge has also personally invested in the oil and gas industry, leasing mineral rights on 11 different parcels to a number of different oil and gas exploration firms.  To be fair, in past cases Judge Hughes has ruled both for and against the oil industry.

We contacted him today for a comment.  He was very nice but he declined comment citing court rules.  So you‘ve got BP which really, really, really, pretty please, please, please, really wants the lawsuits against them to all be heard by this one judge in Houston where BP and Halliburton have major offices and where most everyone at TransOcean works even their headquartered technically in Switzerland to avoid taxes.

On the other side are the plaintiffs, the people who are suing BP and a number of them want the cases not to be heard in Houston but to be heard in New Orleans where there may not be a lots of oil company headquarters but the effects of the oil disaster sure seem a lot more pressing.

A decision on whether or not BP gets its chosen association of petroleum geologists linked oil and gas exploration investor judge is not due until July.  At which point the mess in the Gulf should really stink.


MADDOW:  So we have found an exclamation point to put on the end of this first-ever “Geek Week” here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW  it‘s Friday night and in Friday night sort of way we have decided to explore the sliver of overlap in the Venn diagram between geek and hip-hop.

Here street life involves a street on which there is a science lab.  Here performers are likely to know that beat, beat, b-e-a-t is a homophone of beet, b-e-e-t which is an excellent source of natural sugars.

Here NWA stands for Nerds with Aptitude.  Baba Brinkman was making a pretty good name for himself in the world as the guy who had the rap version of the Canterbury Tales.  An evolutionary biologist named Mark Pallen at the University of Birmingham in Britain has a real interest in popularizing scientific concepts.

He found out about Baba and the Canterbury Tales and asked him if he might turn his rapping about Chaucer skills into rapping about Darwin.  And thus was born the world‘s first peer-reviewed rap, “The Rap Guide to Evolution”.  It even has additional suggested reading material available on Baba‘s Web site.

And so to finish our week in geek, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW presents Baba Brinkman to perform a portion his song, “Natural Selection”.


BABA BRINKMAN, RAPPER:  Whoever is led to believe that species are mutable will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction.  For only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed, be removed.

So what do you know about natural selection?  Go ahead and ask a question and see where the answer gets you.  Try being passive, aggressive or try smashing heads, see which tack brings your plan to fruition.  And if you have an explanation in mind then you‘re wasting your time because the watch maker‘s blind.  It takes a certain base kind of imitation mind to explain away nature with intelligent design.  But the truth shall set you free from those superstitious beliefs of literal Adam and Eve and that genic mix because their family tree is showing some genetic drift.

Take it from this bald-headed, non-celibate monk with the lyrical equivalent of an elephant‘s trunk.  It‘s time to elevate your mind state and celebrate your kinship with the primate.  The weak and the strong, we got it going on.  We lived in the dark for so long.  The weak and strong, Darwin got it going on.   Creationism is dead wrong.

The view which most naturalists entertain, namely that each species has been independently created is erroneous.

Ok.  It‘s time to reveal my identity.  I‘m the manifestation of tens of millions of centuries of sexual selection.  But I believe I‘m the best of the best of the best of best.  The generations of competitive pressure genetically.

But don‘t get upset because we have the same pedigree.  You and I will find a common ancestor eventually if we rewind geological time regressive.  I can say the same for this hibiscus tree, and this lizard and this flea and this sesame seed.  And if you still believe in what your senses perceive, I can even use my rhymes as a remedy because there‘s so much variation in the styles in this industry and differential survival when the people listening decide what they are into and what really is interesting.

You can thrive like Timberlake on a Timberland beat or go extinct like Vanilla Ice and Instinct.  Survival of the fittest but fitness is a tricky thing.  It changes from place to place from winter to spring.  But the real question in this socio-scientific simile is heredity, whether we inherit our techniques from our predecessors or invent them into (INAUDIBLE).

But then we‘re talking means and that‘s a different thing.  Richard (INAUDIBLE), can I get a proper definition please.

The weak and the strong we got it going on.  We lived in the dark for so long.  The weak and the strong Darwin got it going on.  Creationism is dead wrong.  The weak and the strong we got it going on—whoever leaves the most spawn.  The weak and the strong, Darwin got it going on.  Creationism is erroneous.


MADDOW:  Dead wrong.  Dead wrong.  I know how it goes. 

BRINKMAN:  When I say creationism is, you say “dead wrong”. 

MADDOW:  Dead wrong.  Baba Brinkman, thank you for doing this.  Thank you so much. 

BRINKMAN:  Well, thank you for having me on the show.

MADDOW:  I have to ask you first what came first, science or rap?

BRINKMAN:  Rap came first for me.  I had an interest in evolution but no technical expertise.  When I was asked to do this evolution show, I had to do my homework. 

MADDOW:  Did you just like sink yourself into the molecular genetics of it?  And just—I mean you like rap about mitochondria in the show and everything.  I mean it‘s pretty detailed. 

BRINKMAN:  I tried to read as broad a base I could but macro-evolution was what I was the most interested in.  How do you get from a microbe to a full fledged organism such as yourself?

MADDOW:  Well, I‘ve never thought of myself as full fledged.  Thank you very much.

BRINKMAN:  Well, I‘ve never thought of myself as a punctuation mark.

MADDOW:  That‘s very good.  I mean obviously, this is a form of teaching as well as entertainment.  Have you ever encountered a hostile audience when you do this?

BRINKMAN:  I‘ve never encountered a hostile audience to the whole show.  But I open the show with that when I say creationism you say dead wrong intro and in Britain they lap it up.  And it‘s “dead wrong” everyone gets right into it.

I did a show in Texas a few months ago and I had a crowd of college students who were not too enthusiastic about that.  Picture me being like “When I say creationism is, you say dead wrong—creationism is—“ ok.

MADDOW:  We‘ll move on. 

BRINKMAN:  They liked the show in general but they thought that that was the wrong note to start on.  And I did it at another college in the south in Missouri and they said, “Why don‘t you pick a different thing to say you‘re dead wrong.”

MADDOW:  yes.

BRINKMAN:  You know it‘s phenotypic plasticity.  The show must change to adapt to the environment.

MADDOW:  Baba Brinkman.  Thanks you, it‘s great to meet you.

BRINKMAN:  Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW:  This has been a really fun “Geek Week”.  You can learn more at; it‘s his Web site.  Thank you so much for joining us.



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