Guests: Richard Engel, Rebekah Dryden, Jon Erpenbach
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you very much.
We‘ll see you Sunday morning on “Meet the Press.”
MADDOW: Thanks to you.
Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the next hour.
We begin tonight with what was perhaps the most dramatic day yet in what has already been a tense drama filled 11 days in the Midwest, in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin, of course, has been at the center of American politics ever since tens of thousands of that state‘s residents started protesting against their own Republican governor, Scott Walker.
Today, day 11 of what had already been a tense standoff, saw tensions ratchet up even more dramatically. Protesters have spent the last week or so quite literally camping out in the state capitol building, sleeping there. But they awoke today to news and rumors that police were preparing to essentially clear the capitol.
At around 9:00 this morning, “The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” started reporting what they called a pending police crackdown on capitol campouts. Quote, “The police will begin cracking down on protesters today at 4:00 p.m.” “The Journal Sentinel” described a flyer being distributed to state troopers which ordered officers to end the sleep-in that was happening on the second, third, and fourth floors of the state capitol. Police were ordered to end that.
Ordered by whom? Yesterday, the proposition that maybe the capitol should be cleared of protesters was floated by the Republican state Senate leader.
Today, after the “clear the capitol” rumors started spreading, the governor‘s office put out a statement saying the order was not coming from him. The governor‘s office blamed the cops. Quote, “The instructions regarding access to the capitol were made by law enforcement officials to ensure the safety and public health of all individuals.”
Law enforcement officials—law enforcement officials are the ones that want to clear the capitol, he says. Just about three short hours after that statement came out from the governor came this headline: “State capitol will remain open; police group says it stands with protesters.”
By midday today, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association was essentially locking arms with the sleeping bag protesters inside the state capitol. The head of that police union calling on Governor Walker to keep the capitol open and allow the protesters to stay. Adding, quote, “We will be sleeping among them tonight.” The police!
Protesters are being allowed to stay inside the capitol tonight. But starting tomorrow, authorities say sleeping bags will not be allowed inside. The capitol will be completely closed for a short period of time on Sunday for a literal cleaning of the place. What happens after that in terms of protesters being allowed back in?
Today‘s drama about clearing the capitol of protesters followed a chaotic middle of the night vote after midnight on the bill that had the protesters there in the first place—the bill being proposed by Governor Walker and state Republicans to effectively strip union rights in Wisconsin, to bust the public sector unions.
At around 1:00 a.m. this morning—this is incredible—Republicans in the state assembly pulled off a surprise, out-of-nowhere vote on that bill in the assembly chamber. After 61 hours of debate, they unexpectedly, at around 1:00 a.m., opened a vote on the bill, and then closed the voting within seconds.
In the utter confusion that ensued, nearly one-third of the entire body cast no vote on the bill at all, because they had no idea what was going on. But in their middle of the night, seconds long, what just happened, closed down the vote, surprise attack, the bill passed. It passed that one chamber.
Democrats erupted in anger afterwards. Watch this tape that we‘ve got here. This is 1:00 in the morning, after the Republicans pulled this lightning strike seconds long vote. Look at the reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They are saying “Shame, shame, shame.” This is not—this is not day one. This is not the protests breaking out. This is not the confrontation that is starting something.
This is day 11. This is day 11 of these protests that we‘re talking about, the capitol being cleared of protesters, and this middle-of-the-night shock vote. Why did everything hit the fan like this today?
Best guess at this point is desperation. Consider how things had played out this week for Republicans in Wisconsin.
On Wednesday, Republican Governor Scott Walker got prank-called by someone he thought was billionaire oil baron David Koch, all on tape. The governor gave up his strategy. He neglected to mention this fiscal crisis he‘s supposedly so concerned about. He explained what tricks he was going to pull on the Democrats. He admitted to considering seeding troublemakers among the protesters, presumably as agent provocateur, all on tape.
And that happens to make for really good anti-Scott Walker expose type ads, like this one that just started running in the state today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Earlier this week, a blogger prank-called Governor Scott Walker, pretended to be out-of-state oil billionaire David Koch.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: Hi, this is Governor Walker.
“DAVID KOCH”: Scott, David Koch. How are you?
WALKER: Hey, David. I‘m good. And yourself?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Why would Walker spend 20 minutes talking to an oil billionaire? Maybe because David Koch gave tens of thousands of dollars to Walker‘s campaign, and millions more to outside groups that helped fund his election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That radio ad, that‘s a portion of the ad, it goes on from there. It is being run by a liberal group called Citizen Action of Wisconsin. In addition to that, there‘s also been the issue of public opinion turning against Governor Walker.
In addition to the national poll that came out this week showing 61 percent opposition to what he‘s doing, now even a right wing poll done by FOX News correspondent and pollster Dick Morris shows opposition to key parts of Governor Walker‘s plan -- 54 percent of Wisconsin residents say they oppose the governor‘s position on changing collective bargaining rights in the state, and that is the Dick Morris poll.
Also, events of this week appear to be galvanizing, support for unions in the way that unions couldn‘t quite ever pull off before, at least not in recent memory. For example, the faculty at some University of Wisconsin campuses are already unionized, but other campuses are not. The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse had been one of those campuses where faculty was not unionized. The American Federation of Teachers had reportedly been trying for years to convince the La Crosse faculty that they should join the union.
But you know what? Scott Walker sure has a way of convincing people now. The faculty at La Crosse voted on unionizing yesterday. They got 87 percent turnout, and decided that they would unionize by a vote of 249 to 37.
It may have been hard to convince people to join a union before, but Governor Walker has made that decision a whole lot easier now.
The National Republican Party threw its lot in with Scott Walker right from the start. The new Republican Party chairman is the party chair from Wisconsin. His great claim to Republican Party fame had been getting Scott Walker elected. And he essentially got to Washington and immediately threw the full weight of the RNC and the Republican Governors Association and the party writ large behind what Scott Walker was doing, which is neat—
Wisconsin pride and all of that.
But maybe he should have checked with the rest of the national party before he did that, because the rest of the party apparently didn‘t feel like leaping before they looked. As we mentioned earlier this week, the Republican Governors Association launched a shiny new Web site called StandwithScott.com. It is lovely.
But as Politico.com pointed out today, quote, “Just four of the 29 Republican governors in the country wrote blurbs for that Web site.” Four of them—four real life human individual Republican governors. There are 29 of them, and it is four who are willing to put their reputations behind this.
The news is not much better for Governor Walker among national Republicans in his own state.
When asked by the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” whether he supports Mr. Walker‘s plans to curtail collective bargaining, Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said, quote, “I‘m not going to get into that. I‘m not a student of state budgets.”
Fellow Wisconsin Republican Congressman Sean Duffy says he believes Governor Walker is doing what he thinks is right, but on the bargaining issue, quote, “I‘m not going to engage in a state issue.”
Then there‘s Republican Congressman Reid Ribble of Wisconsin who did criticize Democrats for leaving the state, but he said, quote, “I don‘t have any problems with the protests going on.”
These are Wisconsin Republicans. The way you win a political fight, the way you attract people to your cause is by succeeding. People like winners. People tend to join winners.
National Republicans decided that Scott Walker was the guy they wanted to lead this fight. Deciding that was like putting your fighter in his first pro bout against the world championship titleholder. Welcome to the pros. Have you met Manny Pacquiao?
Walker and the Republicans are not punching at some glass-jawed opponent here. They are punching at Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is winning. Republicans made the wrong move as picking this as the first fight in a fight they wanted to go national, which may be now why things now are getting desperate for them.
Joining us now is State Senator Jon Erpenbach. He is one of Wisconsin‘s 14 Democratic state senators who remain outside of the state to deny Senate Republicans a quorum to move forward with this union-stripping bill.
Senator Erpenbach, it is good to see you again. Thank you for your time.
STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: What is the status of this standoff between the Democrats and the governors? Is there any change after the assembly vote late last night?
ERPENBACH: No, and the assembly vote isn‘t surprising. The time they did it isn‘t surprising. I think they were thinking we do it at around 1:00 a.m., not that many will be watching. I think they forgot the fact that there‘s a lot of new technology on the market now where people are watching all the time. And what happened last night was all over the Internet this morning, and obviously all over the news this morning, and it was a very, very ugly thing to see.
What they maybe should have done was maybe just taken a break and stepped back, and say, let‘s come back, you know, at 10:00 in the morning and we‘ll continue the debate. Sixty-hours is a long time. There‘s not doubt about that. But if you take a look at the issue they‘re dealing with, Rachel, it‘s tearing us apart in Wisconsin, as I‘ve told you before.
So, this needs at least 61 hours of debate, plus a break, and then more debate. So, it ended ugly, but that‘s apparently the way they want to do things with the Republicans in the state Senate.
MADDOW: Are you worried about reports of potentially clearing protesters from the capitol? We know that people are staying overnight. We know one police union is pledging to have its members stay with protesters. We‘ve also heard that protesters will not be allowed to have sleeping bags in the state capitol as they have in past days as of tomorrow and that the capitol will be cleared all together for a short time at least on Sunday.
Are you worried about those reports?
ERPENBACH: Yes, I am a little bit, simply because it‘s been very—it‘s been loud at the capitol. There is no doubt about that. But it‘s been peaceful. It‘s been a very, very peaceful demonstration. Hundreds of thousands of people in and out of Madison the past week without any trouble at all.
And what they may be doing is sort of poking around maybe at least based on a conversation obviously we heard with Governor Walker earlier this week that they might be poking around to maybe try and cause some trouble. I certainly hope that‘s not the case. It‘s been peaceful up to this point. People from all over the country and the world are ordering pizzas for these protesters.
So, I would hope that they would just let them be and continue to let their voices be heard at the capitol in Madison.
MADDOW: Do you think that, in this case, this direct action, these large protests are changing the dynamics here for Republicans? Do you think they are causing some Republicans to think twice about this strategy, peeling some of them off, keeping the pressure on?
ERPENBACH: Yes, I think it is, which is part of the reason we tried to step back so the debate could continue, at least give people in Wisconsin a chance to read the bill early on. Obviously, a lot of them have read it. And it‘s not—there‘s all sorts of issues involved in this legislation.
But people have read it. They don‘t like what they see. We see that in public opinion polls. I got to believe the Republican polls are showing them the same thing.
So, yes, people are very, very upset. And more and more people are continuing to show up, again, not just in Madison, Rachel, but all over Wisconsin. And it‘s good to see.
MADDOW: What about the governor‘s threats to layoff literally thousands of state workers if he does not get his way? Are you worried that he will follow through on that threat, or do you think it‘s just words?
ERPENBACH: He doesn‘t need to and he doesn‘t need to send out layoff notices because all the public employees at the local and state level and all of the teachers in Wisconsin have agreed to every financial condition the governor has asked to the penny. So, what he‘s doing with these dedicated public servants, you know, people who plow our streets, our nurses, our teachers, everybody in the state of Wisconsin, he‘s using them like poker chips. To me, that‘s a total lack of compassion.
You know, I‘ve heard 1,500 layoff notices, I‘ve heard 5,000 or 6,000 layoff notices. And he doesn‘t need to do that because they‘ve given him the money he needs in order to balance his budget.
MADDOW: Senator Erpenbach, one last question for you and it is a question I‘ve asked you before, but it‘s still important every day. And that is that we all know that in order for Senate Republicans to get a quorum, in order to pass this union-stripping bill, they only need to peel off one Democrat. If only one of the 14 Democratic state senators goes back to Wisconsin and is returned to the state capitol, they get the quorum and that bill passes.
How is the level of solidarity and unity among you 14? Are you worried they‘ll be able to peel somebody off?
ERPENBACH: No. We‘re really strong. You know, the phone call obviously helped. The governor‘s true intention started to come forward, and that‘s very disconcerting to us.
But there‘s a way we‘ve always done things in Wisconsin. When there‘s agreement between two sides, you sit down and you talk about it. We‘ve never been in a situation in the state of Wisconsin, even under 12 years of Tommy Thompson‘s reign in the state of Wisconsin where it‘s been, OK, we‘re doing it my way and that‘s it, and you have absolutely no input.
Governor Thompson knew enough to sit down with the public employee unions and they worked well together and sit down with Democrats and they‘ve worked well together. Governor Walker hasn‘t learned that lesson yet, and hopefully, he will.
MADDOW: Wisconsin State Senator Jon Erpenbach joining us from outside Wisconsin—thank you for your time, sir. Have a good weekend.
ERPENBACH: All right. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Jon.
Middle East uprisings of 2011 continue to escalate. The man whose spectacular reporting has been crucial to helping us understand these events is NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Richard Engel is live in Libya and he‘s going to be joining us from there in just a moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The secretary of defense, Robert Gates, spoke to cadets at West Point today and for a guy who says a lot of quotable things, he probably just said the single most quotable thing of his entire career.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined, as General MacArthur so delicately put it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Consider the lessons of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to be learned. Have his head examined.
Right now in North Africa, a leader is attacking his own people in a way that the United States and just about every other country in the world want to stop. Nobody is yet suggesting an American land army invasion of Libya, but what options do we have to try to stop this. What options does any country have, what options does the U.N. to try to stop Moammar Gadhafi‘s use of military force against his own unarmed population?
In the last 24 hours, we have gotten an incredible window into how our own government, how U.S. government, makes decisions like this. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Then one of the reasons why I wanted to delay the briefing was to make sure that plane had taken off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Incredible. Over the last few days, you may have heard about hundreds of people who are trying to get out of Libya but being stranded there. They were stranded there on a ferry that couldn‘t leave the country. There are rough waters in the Mediterranean. And so, although the U.S. government had chartered a big boat to carry U.S. citizens out of Libya and to take them safely to Malta, that boat couldn‘t go because the seas were too high. Americans were essentially trapped on that ferry for three days waiting to leave.
The boat was finally able to get out today. Those people on that boat and a chartered American flight that flew to Turkey were able to get Americans out of Libya finally today. And it was not until those Americans were safely out of Libya—it was not until literally minutes after the White House had confirmed that those Americans were safely out of Libya—that the U.S. government dropped the hammer.
The U.S. government announced unilateral sanctions against Libya. There will be an executive order from the president on that tomorrow morning. The White House announced it today, barely an hour after the last American citizens‘ evacuation.
Then within the last hour, the United States announced it is freezing Gadhafi‘s assets, as well as of those—as well of those of three of his sons and one of his daughters. By waiting until Americans were out of harm‘s way before they made those announcements, the U.S. was not only taking care of its citizens, it was strategically boxing Gadhafi in.
As of 1:49 p.m. Eastern, when the plane took off from Tripoli and that boat had safely set sail, Gadhafi no longer had the option of retaliating against America by retaliating against those now evacuated individual American citizens in response to these sanctions announcement. What the U.S. government wants Gadhafi to do is response to that sanctions announcement to stop attacking his own people. They don‘t want to give him the option of just attacking American citizens instead. This is what the U.S. thinks it can do to make it happen.
Also today at the U.N., the Security Council announced that Gadhafi should be referred to the International Criminal Court at The Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity. Libya‘s own delegation to the U.N.—this is an incredibly dramatic scene—Libya‘s own delegation today—look at this—called for a moment of silence to honor the revolution, and then after the moment of silence announced that it was resigning.
In Washington, at the Libyan ambassador‘s residence, the staff lowered the flag of Gadhafi era Libya and replaced it with pre-Gadhafi Libyan flags.
But in Libya, scenes continued to be gory today. There are reports today that forces loyal to Gadhafi fired on unarmed protesters yet again, killing at least two people in the capital city of Tripoli. Gadhafi himself apparently as insane as ever appeared in Tripoli, wearing his crazy revolution hat, imploring the people of Libya to get ready to—as he said it—fight for dignity, to get ready to fight for petroleum.
He also insisted that the people he was addressing dance and sing. He insisted that they dance. Apparently it was no less weird in the original Arabic.
Richard Engel who speaks Arabic and is there will join us live from Libya, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Demonstrators were out in force. Singing and dancing on a tank captured from the army.
(on camera): Thousands of protesters are out to celebrate, but also to taunt Gadhafi. They are saying, “Bring on the planes and mercenaries, we are ready to fight.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Libya‘s second largest city, Benghazi, earlier today.
Richard joins us live from that city tonight.
Richard, it‘s really good to see you. Thank you so much for staying up so late to join us.
ENGEL: Oh, I‘d do it for you, Rachel. You know that. How are you?
MADDOW: I‘m good. Thanks, Richard.
Listen, the Obama administration announced unilateral sanctions against Libya and froze Gadhafi‘s assets. The U.N. wants Gadhafi sent to International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.N. is going to suspend Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Is this the international reaction that these Libyan protesters were hoping for?
ENGEL: It certainly is. They want to see this and more. They think that Gadhafi is now on the ropes. He‘s been internationally humiliated, that there is an international realization that people here have had for a long time, that he is not a sane actor. He is not rational actor. He cannot be trusted.
And this encourages the demonstrators. They—it makes them feel that they are correct in what they are doing, and they are particularly encouraged by all those defections you are talking about, when they see people of authority, people who they respect suddenly turning onto their side. They—it gives them a great moral boost. Great morale boost.
MADDOW: The difficulty of reporting from Libya, from Tripoli, the capital city in particular, we know is a big part of the story. For example, we don‘t really even have any idea how many people have been killed or injured in this fighting.
How important do you think it is politically to have a confirmed death toll? How are people trying to make sure deaths are recorded and that we know that people have died?
ENGEL: It‘s very difficult. Already, the death tolls range from maybe 300 or 400 to 2,000 or 3,000. And that is an enormous discrepancy, as you can imagine. The problem is most of the fighting right now is around Tripoli.
I was at the headquarters here in Benghazi of the rebel movement, and they are very diligently trying to record all of these deaths. They think war crimes and atrocities are being carried out. I spent most of the day looking at videos and photographs of people who have been killed just in Benghazi area, and estimates are about 300 here, most of the fighting on the 18th and 19th of this month.
But a lot of these people look like they were killed at close range. Some appear to have been shot with coup de grace to the head, you could see burn marks where they have been killed. Indications that it was execution style killings and potential atrocities.
But what exactly is happening in downtown Tripoli itself, we are only hearing the witness accounts mostly of people who have now been evacuated out of the country.
MADDOW: Richard, do the protesters, the people we are describing as the opposition here, are they unified throughout the country, or are we talking about different groups acting independently and for their own various reasons?
ENGEL: Because of the lack of communications here, there are still no international phone lines. There‘s no Internet. Even local cell service internally is very, very difficult. It‘s hard for there to be a cohesive movement. They don‘t have walkie-talkies, anything like that.
In Benghazi, an urban center, about population of roughly 1 million, it‘s now a unified movement. You have security forces. You have intellectuals. You have judges, lawyers working together.
But Tripoli is quite far from here, and they are trying to reach out and consolidate their forces with the people in Tripoli, but it has been relatively difficult.
So, in eastern Libya, I think you could say it is consolidated because there‘s freedom of movement physically. You can drive from here to the Egyptian border relatively safely and they have been doing that, a lot of those videos that you‘ve been seeing that have appeared on YouTube are physically driven out of the country. People will put them, like at the headquarters where I was today onto C.D. or onto a little flash drive, and then drive them 10 or 12 hours until you can cross the border into Egypt. It‘s much more difficult to go the other way going west towards Tripoli.
MADDOW: NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel—Richard, I want to thank you. I can‘t tell whether or not I should thank you for staying up late or waking up early, you‘re so far away. I can‘t tell which it is anymore. But I hope you stay safe.
ENGEL: Well, thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. Good night.
If a renegade extremist political faction, declared war on law abiding citizens in any state of the United States of America, you would assume that local authorities and/or that state‘s peace keeping apparatus and/or the federal government would step in to defend those citizens, right? That is exactly what is happening right now in America, except for the part where the citizens get defended. Culture war as plain old war—coming up.
MADDOW: Hey, can you hear me while I‘m talking? Can you—can you make out what I‘m saying over the—yes, this week we did a live show in Lawrence, Kansas, you might have heard or not.
We have done a few live shows lately, often in bars, and they‘re always so much fun. Like Wednesday night in Kansas, the people are so great and the energy of it is so intense. It‘s like you‘re Evel Kneivel jumping over 50 cars at the L.A. Coliseum on his Harley, or you‘re the human canon ball launching into space, the test drive are going for the land speed record. It is the best. The energy is so awesome.
And then I checked the response to the Kansas show this week on the Twitter machine, and I discovered scientific sampling that half the people in American who are watching the show could not hear anything I was saying in Kansas, which was totally our production fault. Our fail.
Also, our sad because there‘s part of a story of Kansas that I think is important for understanding what‘s happening right now in the American culture wars, and I think it‘s underreported.
In the November elections, Republicans won so many seats in Kansas that they got a veto-proof majority in both chambers of state legislature. That said, it is unlikely they will need to overturn any vetoes since they also won the governorship.
This new Republican class in Kansas talks as much as you would expect as anybody this year about jobs and fiscal responsibility, but then look what they‘re doing. They want the state to create covenant marriage to make it harder to get divorce. They want to charge illegal immigrants out of state tuition at public universities, even if the kid has grown up in Kansas. They‘re also working on a bill that would make it harder to register new voters because Kansas has enough of those already—thank you for asking.
But by far, the single biggest culture war issue in Kansas is abortion
access to which is a long-settled constitutional right. And this is where Kansas‘s history of making culture war into real war comes in—a history of John Brown facing down marauding pro-slavery extremists riding over the border from Missouri. Because culture war is a metaphor, culture war is a metaphor, up to the point when it starts to look like a real war, too, when it starts to get fought that way.
A year and a half ago, the culture war in Kansas went from metaphor to reality, went from bullying and harassment to murder, with the assassination of a Wichita abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, in his church. The first doctor to say out loud that she is willing to replace him in Wichita, Dr. Mila means, has already been warned by anti-abortion extremists that her life, too, is in danger. Abortion doctors and patients, too, have been under siege nationwide and especially in Kansas.
People in Wichita trying to hold up under that assault told us over and over again this week, on camera and off camera that they want the federal government to step in. They want the federal government to help assure their safety so the other side can‘t get its way through violence and threats of violence.
Without help from the law, the victims of anti-abortion extremism are really having to fend for themselves. One thing we saw firsthand, and realized for the first time I think in Kansas is that because the tactics of one side in this fight include violence, what the other side is using to survive that, to resist that, are essentially military skills.
I give you one example. When we met Kari Ann Rinker, she‘s the Kansas state coordinator for NOW, she was in her office and she was engaged in one archetypal part of military science, gathering intel on the opposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARI ANN RINKER, NOW: When we talk to people, you know, with the national organizations, that‘s always their focus. OK, if you‘re out there, take pictures of people, you know, who is doing what, you know what I mean?
And when we‘re out there, when we did the first protest, counter-protest for Dr. Means, we had a lot of Dr. Tiller‘s past employees out there with us. They say, oh, I know that guy. Oh—you know, they know them by name, you know? It‘s the same people that have been doing it all these years that are probably in these pictures and pictures I took a month ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They‘re documenting who they‘re up against because they‘re trying to figure out who might be the next one to turn violent against them. In their very real culture war, the pro-choice movement in Wichita looks for territory that it can hold. Like Dr. Tiller‘s old clinic with its heavy gates and big “no trespassing” signs and walls with very, very few windows. Dr. Tiller‘s clinic is still empty today.
Kari Ann Rinker took us to another office in Wichita, one that Dr.
Means ahs thought of trying to lease.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RINKER: I‘ve never worked for a provider, but I‘ve done enough clinic defense that I think this would have some good elements to it, because there‘s a driveway right here that goes right—this would be considered private property. So, you know, these women could be driven in and dropped off and go through a door. That‘s why I think this building would be good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this is territory you could defend?
RINKER: Yes, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On paper in America, doctors have the right to practice, and yes, that includes the right to provide abortions. Patients have the right to see those doctors, to have that procedure, to come and go.
But in Wichita, Kansas, today, in 2011, it‘s just like it was in 2009. Local law enforcement helps as much as local law enforcement can, but the rest is kind of up to you. So, you try to think like an army, to build an army. But what you‘re asking for on the pro-choice side is for people to stand up at great risk for something that is the most private of decisions. You‘re asking people to stand up for that, and face off against extremists, some of whom have shown they are willing to kill for their side of the cause.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that‘s the central issue in Wichita? Do you think people are afraid of abortion?
RINKER: They want it to go away, they want it to go away, not be an issue. They‘re just living their lives and they are tired of it being known here. They‘re tired of this being the battleground for it. They‘re tired of seeing them in the street. They‘re tired of reading about it in the newspaper.
I mean, people, you know, see my name in which I would be quiet, you know what I mean? Even if they agree with me, even if they privately agree, they‘re just tired of it being an issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wichita is a battleground because of the movement that wants to block access to something you‘re supposed to have a right to, and because our government hasn‘t really mustered the will or the consensus to enforce those rights that movement wants to erase.
If you believe in those rights, you can give in and give up, or you can fight. You can do the best you can.
Kari Ann Rinker lives not far from the Lutheran Church where Dr. Tiller was assassinated. She talked to us this week outside that church about what she knew of him before he was killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RINKER: I went to his Christmas party the December before his assassination. I was invited by one of his employees. I got to see him relax with the people that he felt comfortable with. And I think about that, and I think how lucky I was to have seen that and experience that. You know what I mean? Instead of just seeing him on the defense of it.
I had seen him at events. We had a pro-choice play at the Unitarian Church and he came and sit and he was always sitting in the back row, and he would have his vest on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: His vest on—the vest she‘s talking about is a bulletproof vest, meant to save Dr. Tiller‘s life from the violent extremists who wanted him dead and ultimately killed him. But doctors like George Tiller and their patients are also supposed to get protection from their government, from law enforcement, from the state—supposed to.
Earlier this month, there was national uproar over a bill in South Dakota that would call it justifiable homicide to kill someone who‘d try to harm a fetus. A nice dog whistle to the far edge of a movement that already claimed it‘s justifiable to kill a doctor who provides abortions.
The South Dakota bill‘s author said it had nothing to do with abortion, but still, after the national outcry, he pulled it. It was shelved in South Dakota last week.
Now, there is a new one, same deal as South Dakota, now in Nebraska. The chief executive officer of the Omaha, Nebraska Police Department testifying against the Nebraska bill saying the department fears it could be used to insight violence against abortion providers.
In case the extreme anti-abortion movement just wasn‘t doing well enough already, apparently, there‘s a state out there or two that would like to help out.
Joining us to help us with the reporting on this is our producer, Rebekah Dryden.
Rebekah, thanks very much.
How similar is the Nebraska bill to the South Dakota one that got all the national attention?
REBEKAH DRYDEN, TRMS PRODUCER: It‘s really quite similar. This bill would amend Nebraska‘s self defense laws, to say that it‘s justifiable to use force when you are trying to defend an unborn child. And in this case, it defines unborn child as being at any stage of development in utero.
MADDOW: OK. I know you spoke with a sponsor of the Nebraska bill today. What‘s his response to the argument that we heard from the Omaha Police Department—this argument that the bill would encourage violence against abortion providers?
DRYDEN: Well, first and foremost, just like the sponsor of the bill in South Dakota, he denies it was his intent to target abortion doctors or abortion clinics. He says this was only about domestic violence and this is about women. But he does seem to have swayed by some of that testimony. He does say that he‘s offering an amendment to this bill.
Right now, as it‘s written, anyone could be defending this unborn child at any stage of development. Anyone would have the license to use justifiable force. What he says he‘s going to do now is put an amendment in this bill that says only the woman, only the pregnant woman, would be able to use justifiable force in this case. So, it takes out all of the other people.
So, he apparently was—some of that testimony you mentioned affected him.
MADDOW: What do you—what do you think happens next with this bill in Nebraska? What‘s its immediate future in terms of committee status and all those things?
DRYDEN: Well, it‘s still in committee now. And Senator Christensen, the sponsor, is optimistic about its future. He says that he believes that once he offers this amendment, that no one has a reason not to support it. They have similar laws on the books already about vehicular homicide, for instance. He tells me that if you kill in a car wreck both a mother and her unborn child, you can be charged for both of those deaths.
So, he thinks once he adds this amendment, it will have no problem getting out of committee. He expects that to happen either this week or next week.
MADDOW: What about the South Dakota bill? As we‘re looking at this -
I know it was shelved. But do you—I know you‘ve been trying to report on whether there‘s any chance it will get revived?
DRYDEN: I spoke today to the main opponent of that bill. And she said it is possible. What they could do there is bring up an amended version, heavily changed version of that. She says she doesn‘t think that‘s likely this year, simply because of how attention it got. She thinks it‘s dead this year. She thinks it could happen again next year.
MADDOW: Rebekah Dryden, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producer, thank you for coming to work today and letting me drag you on camera again, which I know you hate. It‘s great to have you here.
DRYDEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: If you have been worried that oil industry did not have enough influence in our country, enough sway with politicians, I am here to calm your fears. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: It‘s Friday. “Moment of Geek” alert. Mankind‘s long cherished dream of astronauts visiting another planet has finally come to pass, minus the actually visiting another planet part. A fake space odyssey—ahead.
MADDOW: The most profitable industry on Earth, the most profitable industry the country has ever known, an industry where year after year, quarterly profits—quarterly profits are measured in the billions. That industry gets welfare checks.
The oil and gas industry in this country has the horrible accounting burden of having to not just add up its billions of dollars in profit every year and every quarter. It also has to add on top of those profits, the billions of dollars in subsidies that the U.S. government inexplicably gives them, too.
So much money. It‘s so heavy!
President Obama‘s budget this year proposes cutting those subsidies. Oil and gas companies are slated to get $3.6 billion of your taxpayer dollars next year. President Obama says he would please like to stop that.
But you know when the already very, very, very rich get their welfare threatened, the already very, very rich do exactly what you‘d expect. Check out the headline from “Bloomberg News” this week: “Oil Group Starts Political Giving as Congress Weighs Repeal of Tax Breaks.”
The American Petroleum Institute is an association of oil companies. They already spend millions of dollars on lobbying every year and on paid advertising. But now, the American Petroleum Institute is going to start making direct campaign contributions as well because the nearly $28 million the oil and gas industry donated to candidates in 2010, mostly to Republican candidates, just isn‘t enough. Now, the American Petroleum Institute is going to start spending even more—which of course is good news to anyone out there. Anyone? Who thinks the interests of the oil industry have been neglected in Washington for too long?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): America, a gorgeous chorus of voices joining together in a song called “Democracy.” But when it comes to making our laws, one voice has been missing. Isn‘t it time Washington asked, I wonder what the petroleum industry has to say?
For decades, it watched helplessly from the sidelines while politicians ignored the oil industry and its struggles. The silence was deafening. Would no one speak for big oil?
Now, it‘s even worse. President Obama is trying to end billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for big oil.
We‘ve been bullied long enough. This aggression will not stand.
America, isn‘t it time you heard our side?
The American petroleum industry—we‘re singing out strong and we‘ll never be quiet again.
MADDOW: Let freedom ring!
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: One of my favorite myths ever, better than the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, better than Ron Paul-Michele Bachmann 2012. Better than that the complete fabulation that the New England Patriots staged a stunning fourth quarter rally and won this year‘s Super Bowl which I totally predicted.
Better than all of those is this one—it is the myth that somehow, some way, without a doubt, America‘s space program never really sent people to the moon those six times that they say they did. NASA says they sent people to the moon, but anybody whose tin foil hat is properly tuned can spot that official government history for the hoax that it is, right? Because the foot prints, the phony astronauts phonily left behind while hopping around in a Hollywood studio never fade away.
And because—hey, how is that flag flying in the wind since the moon has no atmosphere and thus no wind to loft old glory?
And also, most importantly, because the Earth is not round like in
this video purportedly shot from space, but instead the world is flat. If
you tried to come back and land a spaceship on the Earth, you would skid
off the edge of the world and wind up on the planet of the apes with
Charlton Heston and a lot of NRA activists whose convention I am totally
going to this year in Pittsburgh even if I said that about Charlton Heston
which I did. That was not a hoax.
I would go ahead and date myself here a little bit and say that this myth, the idea the Apollo lunar missions were faked, all of my life has been sort of a litmus test for sanity. A bright dividing line between seize the world like most of us and does not see the world like most of us. If you are an Apollo doubter, you might spend your whole life looking for clues, looking of crosshairs that appear and disappear on photos, looking for video that goes missing that you‘re suspicious about.
But then, finally today, now, in 2011, the world has made it easy for you, because today in 2011, the world is faking a space mission in plain sight. This is the crew of Mars 500. Six guys total: three Russians, a Frenchman, a Chinese man and an Italian/Colombian guy. They have all been shut up in a windowless maze of bus-sized modules since June—since June, since eight months and 22 days ago to be exact.
They are living the way real astronauts would. They are in isolation. They are eating astronaut food. They are talking to earth only sporadically and with simulated communication delays. They are experiencing everything except weightlessness.
The fake space mission is being conducted by Russian‘s Institute of Biomedical Problems, thus name ever, along with the European Space Agency. The European Space Agency is actually pretty good at making fake space missions look cool, like this one for example where they used Legos to demonstrate a planned visit to a comet. Legos!
In any case, about a week and a half ago, the Mars 500 mission fake landed on fake Mars. Three of the fake astronauts got in a fake lander and fake put it down on the fake planet Mars while the other three stayed above in fake orbit.
Fake Mars is actually another windowless container that they filled up with red sand. Three times over the last week and a half that fake astronauts put on 66 pounds of real gear and they fake explored the fake planet‘s fake surface pretending that they were really on Mars. Today, the fake landing crew was reunited with their brethren in the fake mother ship up in fake orbit.
The next fake step will be that they will fake fly home, which will take another eight real months. And that is the whole point of this incredible exercise. To see if a space journey this long would drive astronauts crazy.
That‘s what they‘re testing. They don‘t want to test for the first time on a real trip to Mars, so it‘s a fake trip to Mars. They made a fake mars and have had these guys pretend to go there in real time even though it‘s not in real space.
So far, the fake astronauts seem pretty happy. They‘ve done things like cut each other‘s hair. They have repurposed exercise equipment to make smoothies. They collect urine samples, as you do. But they will not be back on Earth until November, which is plenty of time for the HAL 9000 to cause trouble.
One tremendous side effect of this fake space trip is that by being out front with the fact that they‘re faking it, the European Space Agency and the Russians have come up with an un-debunkable mission, right? You can‘t debunk this because they‘re not pretending it‘s real—unless maybe this who thing actually is a real trip and the Russians are just pretending it‘s fake so NASA won‘t realize that somebody else is getting to the Mars before we are!
Have a great weekend. Oh, man.
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