Guests: Bob Cavnar, Chris Hayes, Daniel Okrent, Kent Jones
KEITH OLBERMANN, "COUNTDOWN" HOST: And now to discuss Mississippi
Governor Haley Barbour's push to continue in the Gulf, still baby, still-ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us on this busy, busy news day.
We begin tonight with an announcement from the president of the United States. Not this one. I mean the last one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: For years, my administration has been calling on Congress to expand domestic oil production. Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal. One of the most important steps we can take to expand American oil production is to increase access to offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf or what's called the OCS. Today, I issued a memorandum to lift the executive prohibition on oil exploration on the OCS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President George W. Bush in July 2008 lifting the presidential ban on offshore oil drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf. It was a presidential ban that had been first put in place by President Bush's dad in 1990 after the big Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.
Here is why Bush II said he was lifting the drilling ban of Bush I.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Many advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, the technology is so safe now there's no need to worry about oil spills anymore.
Now, as I mentioned President George W. Bush here was rescinding the presidential drilling ban that his father put in place after the Exxon Valdez disaster. He was sort of trying to box Congress into repealing the Congress' drilling ban as well. Congress' ban was even older than the presidential ban. Congress' ban had been put in place starting in the early 1980s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: With this action, the executive branch's restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away. This means the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress. Congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But why had Congress done that? Why had Congress restricted offshore drilling since the early 1980s?
Ah, because of this-the Ixtoc oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. It blew up in 1979. They did not cap it until well into 1980. It released an estimated 140 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
And trying to figure out what to do about that, Congress decided to put a moratorium on drilling in hundreds of thousands of acres of federal waters. Sorry, no more drilling. Did you see what just happened, people?
After a huge spill like that, you can see how politicians at the time maybe might want to stop and reassess things for a while. After the big Ixtoc disaster, that's what Congress did. After the big Exxon Valdez disaster, that's what the first President Bush did. And after the most recent BP oil disaster in the Gulf, that's what President Obama has done-implementing a six-month moratorium on deep-water oil drilling.
Moratoriums on drilling are what we have done in the past to respond to big oil disaster. The idea, presumably, is that we're going to make drilling safer before we allow it to expand again. And even though President Bush touted that supposed improved safety back in 2008 when he was lifting the presidential moratorium, we know longer have to take anyone sober assurances about things like that. That issue has now been factually, conclusively settled.
The oil industry in 2010 is proving, conclusively, day after every single freaking day that what they do is really not safe. That they are routinely drilling at depths where they have no idea how to respond if anything goes wrong. They admitted now in word and in deed every single day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REPORTER: Tomorrow, BP plans to send down the containment dome to cover one of the two remaining leaks. But this has never been tried before at 5,000 feet under the sea.
REPORTER: Rice University Professor Satish Nagarajaiah says this has never been tried in water so deep.
JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I hope it works.
It has not been used at that depth before.
REPORTER: These vessels started the long-awaited top kill procedure this afternoon, a maneuver never tried before a mile beneath the sea.
MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS: They never attempted to put cement down at
DUNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something never done at that depth before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the junk shot method and we've also got another method to pull a valve on top of the existing system or a new blow-out preventer.
VIEIRA: You've never attempted any of these at this depth?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, Meredith. That's right.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That's right. All-all of the techniques, the ones that sound good, the one that sounds dumb, the one that sounds made-up, all of them-all of them that have been tried so far to stop the BP oil disaster, all of them have never been tried before at this depth.
Doesn't that make you wonder how many other American wells are out there right now where if something went wrong they couldn't fix it? Doesn't it kind of seem like a wake-up call that the safety technology has to get way better before it can ever again be considered safe to drill that deep?
Not if you're an oil company. Here's Shell Oil in a posting on their Web site more than a month after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, celebrating the world's deepest offshore oil platform located 200 miles off the Texas coast. Whoo-hoo, top that!
The oil industry has already proven it doesn't know how to deal with a spill at 5,000 feet, but here is Shell Oil bragging about their new well which is moored in 8,000 feet of water.
Hey, Ayn Rand fans, hey, libertarians, if you were counting on the industry to police itself in the wake of the BP disaster? This is what that looks like.
This BP oil disaster may have spooked all of us watching it at home, but it clearly has not spooked the industry. And it apparently has not spooked politicians who love the industry, either.
Republican Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi who met with President Obama as he toured the Gulf today pledged to deliver the message that Gulf Coast citizens want more deep-water drilling. There's no reason for it to stop, he says. There's no reason for this totally unnecessary moratorium.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: We need to get to the bottom of it and find out what happened, make sure it doesn't happen again. But I think it is very reasonable to continue to drill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Don't you love this "We need to get to the bottom of this" thing? We need to find out what happened.
Here's a hint, Governor: the well blew out 5,000 feet below sea level so they can't fix it. Oil companies don't know how to fix it when something goes wrong in really deep water it turns out, which is my maybe - - why they should have to figure that stuff out before they keep drilling in really deep water. Really need a study for this? This idea is really that mystifying to you?
Joining us now is Bob Cavnar. He is a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry. He most recently headed up Milagro Exploration, a privately held firm with operations along the Gulf Coast.
Mr. Cavnar, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
BOB CAVNAR, OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY EXPERT: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know you started in the oil and gas industry in the mid-'70s. Can you tell us what substantial advancements have been made in cleanup and oil spill response technology since then, if there have been any?
CAVNAR: You know, Rachel, the amazing thing is, in the last 30-plus years that I've been in this business, we've had huge leaps in technology in terms of being able to drill deeper and farther and in deeper water. But there's been almost no growth or no money spent in safety systems and recovery from large oil spills. We're basically doing the same thing we were doing 30 years ago.
MADDOW: Is there concern within the industry about that, or is this just raw incentives that the incentives aren't there in terms of regulatory structure and legal liability to push the industry in that direction?
CAVNAR: You know, the problem with the oil and gas industry is, it often gets on the wrong side of a lot of really important issues. And regulation oversight and cleanup of large spills like this don't really make the top 10. And that's a lot of the problem we have in this industry where we don't focus on those issues that affect everyone besides just the industry.
MADDOW: One of the things that we've learned about over the past couple of months, as we've all learned to read these permit applications and these filings with the government, is that the oil industry predicted that the chances of a blowout like what happened at the Deepwater Horizon, they predicted that the chances of a blowout there were essentially zero.
One of the main reasons I wanted to talk to you tonight is I wanted to ask you if, just from your insight from inside the industry, did they actually believe that a chance of a blowout is zero? Or are they conscious that that's just what they have to say in order to get a permit?
CAVNAR: This is part of the complacent see that I've talked over the last couple months or so that the industry has experienced. The industry actually has thought that a chance of a blowout like this was zero or close to zero, or that they had the technology to stop it if it did happen.
The problem with drilling in deep water like this, it's sort of like driving a car from the back seat. You can reach the steering wheel, but you're not good at getting it to go to where you want it to go. And that's a lot of the problem in the deep water.
MADDOW: Do you think, just from your professional experience, that there is a way to safely drill in deep water? One of the things that us people, us laymen, us people who don't know the industry all that well, have been thinking about is the idea of this relief well. If that's really the only sure way to shut down an out-of-control well, should there be a relief well drilled with every production well, for example?
CAVNAR: Right. You know, we were talking-I've been talking a lot about the relief well with other people to the concept of drilling two wells at the same time. The problem there is that you have just as many safety issues with the relief well as you do with the primary well. The real issue here is making sure that the well is controlled at the seafloor with the blowout preventer, and I've got to tell you, right now, I have no confidence that what we have now is sufficient to continue drilling.
I support this moratorium. In fact, I'm not sure it's long enough to really do the redesign that needs to happen.
MADDOW: Over the course of the moratorium, which, again, you say you support, is there any way to make the industry innovate I guess, to make the industry concentrate on the safety field and develop in that regard, or should we expect them just wait out the moratorium and expect political pressure from governors, like Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal, to end the moratorium and put them back where they started, without having to spend any money on safety?
CAVNAR: Of course. I would call for the industry to step up and take those steps without government intervention. But I just don't think that's going to happen. I think it's going to require a fairly strict regulatory regime to get the industry to redesign seafloor control before we go back to drilling in the deep water.
MADDOW: Bob Cavnar, a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry-thank you very much for helping us to understand this tonight. Sir, I really appreciate.
CAVNAR: Happy to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you know how I've been ranting and raving for the last couple of weeks about what I just talked to Mr. Cavnar about, about how the oil industry didn't bother developing any technology to deal with oil spills, they put all their R&D into drilling deeper and none into how to clean up when drilling goes wrong? Well, get this-NBC's Tom Costello asked BP a direct question about that. And their answer? Duh.
First of all, they admitted-they admit they haven't done anything on safety, but their explanation for why they haven't done anything on safety will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. And if you do not have hair on the back of your neck, it will make you grow some like Wolverine. That's next.
MADDOW: Tom Costello from NBC News got a one-on-one interview with Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer of BP, on board a BP helicopter. And Tom asked a bunch of what I have been dying to ask BP.
Among his great pointy questions was one about the mythical Caribbean walrus and its role in BP's oil spill response plan. To refresh your memory, the regional oil response plan filed by BP, the one specific to the Gulf of Mexico, listed walruses, that only live in very, very cold water, they listed walruses among the species of wildlife you'd have on worry about in the event of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And that gave away the fact that the company had obviously not even bothered to make a Gulf of Mexico-specific spill response plan. They just cut and pasted whatever they done from some place cold, some place with walruses, and then called it the Gulf of Mexico oil response plan.
My new hero, Tom Costello, asked Doug Suttles from BP about the walruses in the company's Gulf of Mexico oil spill response plan, and here is the incredible response that he got:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The spill plan that BP had that
has been reported widely, was talking about protecting walruses and sea otters and a main point of contact is somebody who had died five years before the plan was ever created. Did BP really take this seriously?
DOUG SUTTLES, BP COO: Well, I think you have to go in and look at that plan in detail. The document that refers to things like walruses and seals actually refers to species that can be heavily impacted by a spill and all species, not ones unique to the Gulf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Really? That's funny because, again, I can't really stress this enough, but the plan in which walruses appear on a list of possibly affected species is called the BP Regional Oil Spill Response Plan for the Gulf of Mexico. So, oh, we meant to do that. We were talking about all species everywhere, plus unicorns.
That's not really an answer. At least it's not even a remotely believable answer. But that's not the worst or most embarrassing answer that Doug Suttles gave on that helicopter ride with Tom Costello. Tom Costello also asked Mr. Suttles from BP about the oil industry truth with which I have become obsessed since this disaster started you might have noticed. Tom Costello asked why the drilling technology has come so far so fast while the cleanup after a spill technology is the same as it was, say, 30 or 40 years ago.
And while I'm not exactly sure what I expected BP to say when somebody finally asked them this question, I definitely did not expect the answer you're about to hear from Doug Suttles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: You know, I think a lot of Americans are surprised that here we are dealing with the biggest oil disaster in U.S. history, and yet we're relying on technology to clean it up that is 30, 40, 50 years old. Has the technology to clean up a spill just simply not advanced? And if not, why not?
SUTTLES: Well, Tom, I'm not the best expert on the technology. But I think events like this typically advance the technology by leaps and bounds.
COSTELLO: We're still relying on booms, still relying on skippers, still relying on shovels 40 years after the Ixtoc spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Why don't you have giant vacuums sucking tubes? Why don't you the most high-tech 21st century response to this?
SUTTLES: Tom, I think that probably part of the reason is, is there'd been so few big spills. The events haven't driven the technology change that's out there. I think this event properly will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hold on a second. The cleanup technology hasn't been developed because there haven't been enough oil spills. If only there had been some oil spilled somewhere in the last 40, 50 years, the oil industry would have been forced to come up with a better way to clean it up. And the way they cleaned up, say, Santa Barbara in 1969, which is the same way we're trying to deal with this one 41 years later. If only-if only there had been some oil spills, that would have fixed this problem.
Mr. Suttles, can we talk? I know-I know this is going to be uncomfortable, so I will make you a deal. I'm not even going to talk about Ixtoc, even though Ixtoc was a huge environmental disaster on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, eerily similar to the current disaster except that happened more than 30 years ago in less than 200 feet of water, no reason that offshore oil disaster should be forced-it should have forced the industry to come up with better cleanup technology. We will just set Ixtoc aside. We won't talk about any spills from, say, the 1980s or 1990s.
Let's just talk about oil spills from the last decade in one country on earth. Let's just pick the United States. For example, in 2003 a large barge hit some rocks near Westport, Massachusetts. Massachusetts-let's see, ahem, dumped almost 100,000 gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay. Several oil spills in Louisiana during Hurricane Ivan in the year 2004. It's going to get crowded down there in Louisiana, I'll warn you.
Also in 2004, the Athos I tanker dumped more than 200,000 gallons of oil into the Delaware River in New Jersey. That same year, the ship wreck -- remember the ship wreck turned oil spill off the coast of Alaska island, which, of course, because it's called on Alaska, it's here in Alaska.
In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, there were oil spills all over the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, in Venice, in West Potash, in Naim (ph), in Chalmette, in Port Fourchon, in Point a la Hache, in Pilottown. According to Coast Guard estimates, it's more than 7 million gallons of oil from a variety sources that were spilled during Hurricane Katrina.
There was the devastating Prudhoe Bay oil spill in Alaska in 2006. The amazing thing about that one is that it wasn't even discovered until five days after the spill started up there. That didn't go well.
Oil spill at the Citgo refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that same year. They blamed heavy rain-heavy rain was found to have caused the 3 million gallon oil spill down there.
In 2007, a cargo ship hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and dumped oil into the bay. Remember that one? Oh, yes. We're not leaving you out, west coast.
Then there was another oil spill in Louisiana in 2008, when a tanker ran into a barge that messed up a John McCain photo-op, a "drill, baby, drill" photo-op. That was really awkward.
This year in January, there was a collision at that caused a spill in Port Arthur, Texas. That spill, of course, was followed by the explosion and the ensuing disaster in the Gulf.
Oh, and since then-oh, there's more. Just this weekend crude oil pipeline burst in Salt Lake City.
So, again, though, it's only because there haven't been any spills that the oil industry hasn't bothered to come up with new cleanup technology. If only there had been some spills, say, in the last 40 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUTTLES: I think that probably part of the reason is, there have been so few big spills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, now, though, they're paying attention to this spill. This time, it's going to be different. This spill will surely be enough to get the oil industry to update their clean up technology for the first time since the 1960s. It's only because they didn't notice those spills.
This time-this time, it will be different. I'm sure they'll steep up right up and take care of it. I'm sure they will.
MADDOW: When John McCain and Sarah Palin lost to Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the last election, thus began the greatest show on Earth. You thought the election was interesting, that was nothing. What has been the most unpredictable and most fascinating thing in U.S. politics is watching the Republican Party reinvent itself after that loss. The always interesting dynamic between the Republican Party and the conservative movement has morphed this year to include the tea party protests in the street, some of which are populists and some of which were sort of standard Republican, pro-corporate organizing fees.
The party's vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, quit politics and became a full-time political celebrity without portfolio.
The usually frosty relationship between establishment Republicans and the libertarian-ish Republicans got sort of forcibly warmed up when Ron Paul's presidential campaign honestly and earnestly energized huge numbers of young conservatives. That movement did not just flash in the pan but Dr. Paul's son become a Senate front-runner in the home state of the Republican majority leader. Republicans were forced to get over their disdain and embarrassment with the Ron Paul folks and try to embrace them.
The militia movement and the John Birch Society and the conspiracy theory folks like, for example, the birthers, came roaring back not only into the conservative movement, but back into Republican politics, and refused to stay on the margins of those politics. It has been fascinating, and it's not over yet.
And the fact that Sharron Angle won the Republican nomination to run against Harry Reid for Senate in Nevada gives us a whole new case study to watch these amazing dynamics play out. Sharron Angle is on and of the far-right conspiratorial fringe of Republican politics, but she won the Republican Senate primary. And the most interesting thing about her since the election has been watching the Republican establishment try to warm up to her and try to make her over into a more mainstreamy seeming candidate.
First, they signed up her Web site to make it look less "beware of black helicoptersy." But then there's the problem of her views. Those are proving harder to shine.
Back in April, Sharron Angle told "Talking Points Memo" that she was a member of the Oath Keepers, a sort of militia-like organization that says law enforcement officers should refrain from orders to lock Americans into concentration camps, and turn American cities into huge prisons, because, you know, that's coming. She also announced her Oath Keepers membership at a candidate's forum in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: I call myself an oath
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But now - now that Sharron Engel has won the Republican Senate primary, she's issued a clarification.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANGLE: I'm not a member of Oath Keepers. However, I do keep my oath of office to protect, defend and support the Constitution.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, she's a keeper of oaths, not a capital O, Capital K Oath Keeper. Totally different. Word order matters - keeper of oaths, oath keeper. As do capital letters - she's totally lowercase, though. Then there's Sharron Angle on social security.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANGLE: We need to phase Medicare and social security out.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Privatizing social security is so unpopular that you couldn't sell it to the public if you called the "Basket of Puppies and Sky Full of Rainbows" bill. But Sharron will not give up. She will not back down.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANGLE: The idea of privatizing and giving out of Medicare and social security is not up for grabs.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not up for grabs until it becomes clear that the issue is so nuclear that even a very, very friendly Fox News morning show could not avoid it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps it's a misinformation or mischaracterization. But some have said you are out to get rid of social security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That's not true, right? Please tell us that's not true. There's no way you can run for office like the Senate. You want to be a senator and be against one of the most successful social safety nets the world has ever known. Please tell us what we want to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGLE: What we need to do is personalize social security and Medicare so the government can no longer raid it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, personalize social security. Things that are personal can be considered quite private, so that whole personalized versus privatized misunderstanding makes total sense.
She is a keeper of oaths and not an oath keeper now. And when she said privatize social security before, she definitely meant personalize it, not privatize it, which is what she said.
Having Sharron Angle run against Harry Reid is fascinating enough. But having the National Republican Party trying to pretend like it's not really that Sharron Angle who's running against Harry Reid is turning out to be a political science work of art.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine. Chris, very nice to have you on the program, my friend. Nice to see you.
CHRIS HAYES, WASHINGTON EDITOR, "THE NATION": Good to see you, too,
Rachel. I was - I got some, horrible, dystopic vision of the future of weather broadcasting when you're in front of that map, that all they're going to do is be showing where oil spills are instead of the weather.
MADDOW: It was a little "Mad Max-y," I have to admit. The real problem was when I left all the little latex oil blobs that we had cut out at like a craft class today in the office, and I left them up over the big picture of Sharron Angle by accident, and it was very - that was very, very disconcerting.
Anyway, so how do you make being against fluoride and the Oath Keepers thing and getting rid of social security - how do you make that all go away when it's all on the record?
HAYES: Well, you don't make it go away. So the way - there's two strategies, I think that they tend to use here. One is - and this is the real big lesson from Rand Paul - don't ever set foot anywhere near anyone but the most sympathetic conservative press.
So I think that that clearly is going to be the strategy going forward. And one of the things is that the conservative media machine is so massive. It's almost possible to run a whole campaign in which you more or less just operate in that bubble and relegate the rest of the press to sort of second order reporting of the things you said.
So there's no follow-up questions, anything like that. But the other thing is just not to change the views, not to actually repudiate anything, just kind of sort of hedge on the language, and that's what you just pointed out.
You're right. Personalization versus privatization. "I'm going to keep my oath" as opposed to being an Oath Keeper. But there are not going to be any repudiation. I think that's really important to know. They're not going to run away from the actual core, wacky, crazy views like fluoride is an international communist conspiracy, et cetera.
MADDOW: Well, how do you figure out where to draw the line, though, between what seems too kooky and must be scrubbed and what just makes you a bona fide 2010 conservative Republican? What do you decide not to repudiate? Do we know where that line is?
HAYES: No. I mean, that line, I think, has been obliterated. I mean, I think that's the key lesson here of her being the nominee. I mean, that line has been totally obliterated.
Ben Smith on "Politico" is reporting that the earlier reviews at her meeting today in New York with big sort of conservative fundraisers was that she totally wowed them. She killed, you know.
So I think this is where, like - I think there's this weird kind of moving together of the sort of barons of the party in the establishment with the grassroots. They're both jumping off this crazy right-wing cliff together.
I don't think there's any distinguishing anymore. I'm not even sure how much it's faking on the part of the establishment. I mean, I think that there's this kind of, like, echo effect that's taking over where everybody is kind of gyrating to the right together.
MADDOW: But there's - I mean, I sort of feel like the - I mean, it's not the center, so I shouldn't say the center cannot hold. But I just feel like - I feel like things do fall apart in political coalitions like this.
HAYES: Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: So I feel like I'm expecting some dissent from mainstream Republican Party figures even as the Mitch McConnells of the world rally around her.
HAYES: You know, I am not expecting that dissent. The dissent is going to have to come from the voters frankly. It's going to have to come from a critical press that subjects reviews to the proper amount of scrutiny. I mean, she should be asked in debates to explain why she thinks fluoride is an international conspiracy.
She should be - explain her views on the U.S. withdrawing from the U.N. She should be able to - she should have to defend all sorts of these black helicopter views in front of the populace and chew skeptical reporters.
And the dissent is ultimately going to be coming from repudiation from the voters, by you know, the Reid campaign and the press subjecting those reviews to property scrutiny. I don't see the Republican establishment barely repudiating anything. They don't repudiate anything anymore.
I mean, they really don't. It's this just kind of this - if you project confidence, the wackiest thing that comes out of people's mouths is totally normal if we say it's normal.
MADDOW: Among the people who have been able to interview Sharron Angle since the election, "Fox and Friends'" Laura Ingraham, Heidi Harris, Lars Larson, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh. I have not yet found the skeptical, hard-hitting reporter.
HAYES: Oh, I'm sure you'll have her on the program any day now.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. Chris Hayes, Washington editor of "The Nation." Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Chris.
HAYES: Thank you, too, Rachel.
MADDOW: So did you hear the story today about the giant brand-new discovery of zillions of dollars worth of minerals in Afghanistan and how that's going to change everything?
If that's how you heard that story, you probably want to stick around to hear the context which will probably change how you pass that story on if you choose to do so.
Plus, banning booze. How hard that was to do and how dumb that was to do, coming up.
MADDOW: There was a page A-1, above-the-fold headline in the "New York Times" this morning, "U.S. Identifies Mineral Riches in Afghanistan." According to the "Times," there's nearly $1 trillion dollars worth of mineral wealth in Afghanistan, and that is, quote, "enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself."
The "Times" reporting that Afghanistan is full of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and enough lithium for Afghanistan to become the Saudi Arabia of lithium. Who knew we even needed such a thing?
It's a big deal story, right? Holy cow. Just when you thought the war was going badly, a counterinsurgency strategy to hang all our hoops on Hamid Karzai is maybe not working, a new reason with this, right, to hang in there. And look at all the potentially politically-stabilizing and people-enriching wealth that is in Afghanistan. We cannot abandon Afghanistan now.
The thing is, this is not new. As lots of other journalists have noted today, the "Times" describes how maps of Afghanistan mineral deposits had been around since the 1970s. Geologists had done a new study of them about three years ago.
But Pentagon sources told the "New York Times" that no one had connected the dots between the minerals and what it might mean for Afghanistan's economy until recently, until last year. That's what Pentagon sources told the "Times."
But that does not appear to be true either. According to this U.S. geological survey press release from 2007, Afghanistan's mineral resources were a subject of the third annual U.S.-Afghan business matchmaking conference in Washington, D.C. in 2007.
So this isn't new, and this is not even one of those things where people hadn't connected the dots before. This is not to deny the potential for all those minerals to make a big difference to Afghanistan. It's just that it's no secret that Afghanistan has major mineral wealth. Nobody has figured out how to mine and monetize almost any of it, but folks have known it's there for a very long time.
And anyone looking for a good-news-let's-stay-in-Afghanistan story is going to have to work harder than this.
MADDOW: If you feel passionately about an issue and you want to change politics, change the country to reflect your way of thinking, how do you do it? Do you try to you're your issue to others, try to find other people who are trying to change the country and issues and make common cause with them?
That's the approach of, for example, the Family Research Council.
Sure, they want America to be a really miserable place to be a gay person.
Sure, that's even one of their priorities.
But it's not their only cause. They're trying to link that cause to other causes to making abortion illegal, to banning sex ed. They want Christian prayer in public schools. So a good work that Family Research Council pursues them all together.
Another approach is to go it alone, to stay ruthlessly focused on your one cause, to make alliances of convenience for your cause no matter what other politics that entails, to just be single-minded.
An example of that would be the NRA. Sure, people who belong to the NRA have all sorts of other politics. But the NRA is focused like a laser-guided scope on gun rights. They want people on the terrorist watch list to have un-impinged gun rights.
They want felons to have gun rights. They want crazy people to have gun rights. If you want an assault rifle with a magazine that holds enough ammo to take out a whole American school yard or a 50-caliber gun that shoots a bullet as big as a carrot and can take down a pretty good-sized aircraft, if you want the right to carry weapons like that and you don't want a background check and you want to wear those weapons to your neighborhood bar, the NRA has got your cold, dead back. They are with you.
Yes, that approach sounds crazy if you're trying to build a broad-based political alliance or run for office or something. But if you're the NRA, you're not trying to do that. You're a single issue. You are nothing but gun rights.
So if you want to change the country, you can try to build and be part of a big movement. Or you can be relentless and focus on your single issue. Which approach works better in America?
In the sort of insane fight for prohibition in this country, the fight to ban booze more than a century ago, it wasn't the revolutionary do-everything-one-big-movement folks who pushed prohibition across the finish line. It was the Anti-Saloon League - relentless, single issue, sort of like the NRA.
Quote, "As practiced by the Anti-Saloon League, democracy was a form of coercion he. The league's founder was direct about this. The Anti-Saloon League," he said, "is formed for the purpose of administering political retribution."
"The anti-saloon league did not seek to win majorities; it played on the margins, aware that if it could control, say, one-tenth of the voters in any close race, it could determine the outcome."
"They had no problem supporting a Republican today and a Democrat tomorrow, so long as the candidates were faithful on the only issue the league cared about."
And with that approach, the Anti-Saloon League won something so giant and unlikely and massively consequential and stupid that we have ever since set about pretending we never did it.
They got the Constitution of the United States changed so that for 13 big dumb, dugly(ph) years, it was illegal to bay or sell a drink in this country. And they did by convincing everyone with any interest for any reason in banning booze to pull together with them for prohibition. Single-minded focus.
We are less able than we used to be to be able to forget this incredible and incredibly dumb, long chapter in our nation's history because of book from which I pulled that quote about the Anti-Saloon League.
Daniel Okrent, the award-winning historian, has just written what is probably the definitive history of prohibition. It's called "Last Call:
The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" and I believe it is the bee's knees. Mr.
DANIEL OKRENT, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR, "LAST CALL: THE RISE AND FALL OF
PROHIBITION: I drink a bit.
MADDOW: Exactly. Nice to meet you. Congratulations on the book.
OKRENT: It's my pleasure. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: I know that relative political strategies and strengths of
the various anti-drinking groups is not the main focus of the book. But
I'm sort of obsessed with this as a feat of political organizing, what it
took to get the country to do something this big in this -
OKRENT: It's extraordinary. There were only ever - there were only two things in the Constitution that limits the rights of individuals. Constitution limits the powers of government.
OKRENT: Couldn't own slaves and you couldn't get a drink. I mean, the fact that these two things were equal in the Constitution is really quite extraordinary.
MADDOW: You think about what it took to get the worst of those.
OKRENT: They were - like I said in this book, they only cared about one thing. But they would take advantage of anybody else that they could. So for instance, they took advantage of the women's suffrage movement.
The suffragettes supported prohibition in exchange for the prohibition's supporting suffrage because they knew that women, who were victims of the bad drinking in the 19th century, were more likely to support them secondarily.
The tax movement - this is a real shocker to me. Until 1910, 40 percent of federal revenue came from the excise tax on liquor and beer.
Well, you couldn't have -
MADDOW: Forty percent?
OKRENT: Yes. Because there was no income tax then. So you couldn't have prohibition unless you came up with another tax. The prohibition said yes, we're with you. The income tax people.
And they did this. They picked groups off and put together a coalition that stretched from the Ku Klux Klan to the Industrial Workers of the World. It was really pretty damn extraordinary.
MADDOW: And I feel like the connection because so many of the symbols that have survived prohibition are female. I feel like one of the things - if we think about prohibition at all, we do associate it with suffrage. Carry Nation's sort of noble quotes about women and the vote. What was the connection to women and banning booze?
OKRENT: Well, women in the 19th century had no legal rights. They had no property rights and the man would go off to the saloon and he would come back drunk. And he would come back having spent the mortgage money and then he would come back bringing back something called "syphilis of the innocent," which he would pick up in the bar and give it to the wife.
And the expression of getting - the idea of getting rights for women was very much tied into being able to stop that and develop some rights for them and their relationships with their husband. Susan B. Anthony began as a temperance worker. And when she was not allowed to speak at a temperance convention, she decided, "I'd better get us the vote."
MADDOW: Well, you think, though, about the prohibition era which I think we have romanticized a lot. And you have - you do have a lot of the romance in the book, but also a lot dispelling the romance, talking about how awful it is.
OKRENT: I hope so. Yes.
MADDOW: I think you're precise and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with that just right. But pre-prohibition drinking, as you said, public drinking, was men only, legal, but men only. During prohibition, it was illegal to drink but it was no longer just men.
OKRENT: See, this is one of the things we should be grateful for, for prohibition, because suddenly, the saloon, which is a male-only place became a speakeasy and it was against the rules so we'll break down some social rules as well.
Women come into your bar. If you had women in a bar, well, you might have dancing. So music, nightclubs wouldn't have happened without prohibition.
MADDOW: That's amazing. But women also important, not only in banning booze, important in the social transformation represented by prohibition-era speakeasies. Women also important in un-banning booze, in repealing prohibition.
OKRENT: Yes. The key figure in bringing about repeal of prohibition was a woman named Pauline Morton-Sabin. She was an heiress to the Morton salt fortune, very wealthy New York socialite. And when she came out in 1929 against prohibition, it became acceptable for women to take that position.
She went on the road to Atlanta and Charleston. She would speak to the junior leaguers. They would say, "Well, if Ms. Sabin is for it, I can be for it, too. It made a huge difference.
MADDOW: The story of prohibition is also a great story of the Great Depression and Depression-era economics.
MADDOW: Give me some sense of the size of the black market that prohibition created. I mean, the government - everybody is totally broke. How much was Al Capone's organization making?
OKRENT: Well, I don't know about Capone specifically but the total is $3.6 billion, the best estimate of how much was going into the illegal black market of booze at any time during the 1920s which was slightly more than the entire federal budget at the time.
And it was all untaxed. It was a wonderful business to be in, if you were Capone, if your were Sam Bachman(ph). Look, he probably was just a kid. He was 25 years old when he took over Chicago. He was gone by the time he was 30 but did damn well while he was there.
MADDOW: And just to reiterate, the black market, the dollar value of the black market in booze dwarfed the budget of the federal government?
OKRENT: It was larger then. Didn't dwarf it. They were kind of close.
MADDOW: Daniel Okrent, author of "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition." I've got to tell you, I'm super into this topic anyway. But having this, it really is for me at least the definitive reference at this point for the era. And it's so well written. Thank you for coming in and letting me meet you, too.
OKRENT: Thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it. Thanks.
OKRENT: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up on "COUNTDOWN," Keith talks with Vic Rawl. Now, he's the South Carolina Democrat whom Alvin Greene beat to win the Democratic nomination for Senate in South Carolina to get the chance to run against Jim DeMint.
Next on this show, my friend, Kent Jones, found himself in a bar full of Englishmen on a Saturday afternoon for the big USA-England World Cup match. Kent survived, sort of. Videotaped evidence coming up.
MADDOW: So traditionally, America is less-psyched than the rest of the planet about the World Cup. Low-scoring games, no hands, referees in shorts. You can go ahead and ignore this year's World Cup action if you like, but you've got to know if you are ignoring it, you are missing out.
You are missing Paraguay - Paraguay, actually tying the mighty Italian squad 1-1. They tied Italy. Italy won the World Cup four years ago. Paraguay ties them. You're missing Denmark scoring a goal against themselves. And the Danish guy who did it looking remarkably happy.
You're missing the loudest plastic trumpets in the world. At times, 100,000. We're only four days into it. The big match over the weekend was the U.S. versus England, as if relations between us and the folks who put the "B" in BP weren't tense enough already. We sent Kent Jones to McGee's pub here in New York to catch way too much of the action.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The United States and
England have long enjoyed a special relationship, until today, when all of that goes in the dumper.
Do you know how many times the U.S. has won the World Cup?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you telling this?
JONES: America doesn't really belong on the pitch with England, do they?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never should be anywhere close to a football.
It's handball for you guys and that's it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The one position I think you're better than us is Tim Howard. He's far, far, far better than Rob Green.
JONES: And LeBron James - he's like great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and say it.
JONES: Soccer players, they're great-looking guys, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm waiting for Argentina and Italy,
actually, so -
JONES: It's all about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Well, from what I've seen, I think the
U.S. is a lot better-looking team. So -
JONES: The U.S. has the better-looking team so they will win even if they don't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to go back to the year called 1776, when we took England once and we're going to take them again.
JONES: Yes, England - what's up with that, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't drink tea here.
JONES: So that happened really quickly. Really quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goal! Oy, oy, oy, oy!
JONES: One-one, I believe. How's it going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want the ground to swallow me up right now.
We're playing against a bunch of part-timers (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
JONES: Bunch of part-timers. Thanks for the patronizing. I think it's one-one.
CROWD: USA! USA! USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. will be happy with a tie. Only in the
JONES: Well, that sounded a little bit like sour grapes.
CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA!
MADDOW: I love the guy who says, "I want the ground to swallow me up." Yes, you do. That does it for us tonight. Well, see you again tomorrow night. "COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN" starts now.
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