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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Ezra Klein, Deborah Blum

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks very much.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

For a hot second earlier this year, Michele Bachmann, the
congresswoman from Minnesota, was a front-runner in the race for the
Republican nomination for president. Michele Bachmann, you may recall, she
stormed into Iowa. She won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll, and she looked like
a force to be reckoned with in Republican presidential politics.

Then people started Googling Michele Bachmann, which did not bode well
for her presidential chances. Her husband, Marcus Bachmann, for example,
turns out to run a counseling clinic in Minnesota, that among its other
services, has offered in the past to cure people of the gay.

Mr. Bachmann also on record reportedly talking about gay people by
saying, quote, "Barbarians need to be educated." That comment led to one
of the more amazing protest scenes we`ve seen in the entire 2012
presidential election season.


MADDOW: A group of protesters dressed as barbarians conducting a
flash mob coordinated dance routine to Lady Gaga outside of Michele
Bachmann`s husband`s ex-gay counseling clinic in Minnesota.

Now, while striking as a protest technique, the barbarian flash mob
does not really have wide applicability to other politicians. We`ve not
seen other coordinated dance routines, gay, barbarian or otherwise used
against the other candidates this year, although a girl can dream. We`ve
had a flurry of glitterings this year.

If you`re a candidate who`s being glittered or being in the case of --
oh, yes -- in the case of Tim Pawlenty, a candidate who was being
confettied, how do you -- oh, how do you handle that as a candidate? I
mean, really, there`s not much for the candidate to do in this
circumstance, right? There`s no real way to come out of that looking

I think essentially, you should wait until it`s over is probably the
best advice for how to deal with that. More recently, we have seen another
new protest tactic gain some traction across the country. And that is the
human mic.

The human mic is an Occupy Wall Street innovation. In the absence of
a microphone, it`s the means of communicating to a large group of people.



CROWD: Mic check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We amplify each other`s voices -

CROWD: We amplify each other`s voices. We amplify each other`s

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what`s said --

CROWD: No matter what`s said. No matter what`s said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we can hear one another --

CROWD: So we can hear one another.


MADDOW: It all starts with somebody yelling, mic check. Then the
crowd repeats that. And then the message gets delivered by human

The human mic and the mic check phenomenon turns out can also be used
to interrupt other people`s events. And that is something that political
figures this year have to be prepared for. We have seen a wide range of
responses to the mic check being used as a political interruption. Some of
these responses are effective, some not so much.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ll take one more question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it looks like time`s running out.



CROWD: Mic check. Mic check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the 99 percent.

CROWD: We are the 99 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will be heard.

CROWD: We will be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are criminals on Wall Street.

CROWD: There are criminals on Wall Street.


CROWD: Who walk free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are protesters in jail.

CROWD: There are protesters in jail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s something wrong.

CROWD: There`s something wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this system.

CROWD: With this system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the 99 percent.

CROWD: We are the 99 percent.



MADDOW: Do you feel better?

Last week, George W. Bush`s former senior adviser, now FOX News
personality, Karl Rove, came face to face, himself, with the human mic.
Here`s how Karl Rove responded.


KARL ROVE: Today, it`s equal to 70 percent of GDP.


CROWD: Mic check! Mic check!


CROWD: Karl Rove!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the architect --

CROWD: Is the architect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the architect of occupy Iraq.

CROWD: The architect of occupy Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The architect of occupy Afghanistan.

CROWD: The architect of occupy Afghanistan.

ROVE: Here`s the deal. If you believe in free speech, then you have
a chance to show it. If you believe in the right of the First Amendment,
free speech, then you demonstrate it by shutting up and waiting until the
Q&A session --


MADDOW: Karl Rove engaging the crowd in verbal combat there. If you
believe in free speech, then you ought to shut up!

Michele Bachmann recently encountered the human mic during a foreign
policy speech in South Carolina.


consumers --


CROWD: Mic check.


CROWD: Mic check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will only take a minute.

CROWD: This will only take a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a message for Ms. Bachmann.

CROWD: We have a message for Ms. Bachmann.



MADDOW: So there`s a spectrum of ways to respond to the human mic
interruption as a protest tactic. For Ron Paul, it was waiting until the
end and being a little condescending. Feel better?

For Karl Rove, anger.

For Michele Bachmann, freezing with your eyes wide open and then
running away.

None of those options I think it`s fair to say went all that great for
the politico at the center of those human mic interruption protests.

Today in New Hampshire, the president of the United States was mic
checked. When President Obama chose to handle it rather differently than
how the Republicans have been dealing with it.


today, I --


OBAMA: I had coffee.

CROWD: Mic check!


CROWD: Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over 4,000 peaceful protesters --

CROWD: Over 4,000 peaceful protesters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have been arrested.

CROWD: Have been arrested.


OBAMA: Oh, that`s OK. That`s OK. OK. It`s OK. That`s all right.

The -- I`m going to be talking about a whole range of things tonight,
and I appreciate you guys making your point. Let me go ahead and make
mine, all right? And I`ll listen to you, you listen to me. All right?

Young people like the ones here today, including the ones who were
just chanting at me, you`re the reason I ran for office in the first place
because --


OBAMA: -- it`s folks like you who why I spend so much time up here in
the dead of winter four years ago. There`s a profound sense of frustration
about the fact that the essence of the American Dream, which is if you work
hard, if you stick to it, that you can make it feels like that`s slipping
away. And that`s not the way things are supposed to be. Not here. Not in


MADDOW: After the president finished speaking today including a by-
name reference to the Occupy movement from the president, an "A.P."
photographer named Charles Darapac (ph) captured this moment, a young man
in the crowd handing President Obama note. A close-up shot of that note
shows it`s the script that the human mic interruption protesters were
trying to use when they interrupted the president`s speech in New Hampshire

You have this guy essentially delivering a confrontational message to
the president of the United States, but look at this, this is an amazing
photo. Look at the look on the kid`s face and look at the looks on the
faces of the people around him up that close with the president. It`s kind
of an amazing campaign shot from that "A.P." photographer, Charles Darapac.
This is one of those ones that probably goes into the awards short lists.

The reason President Obama was in New Hampshire today was to talk
about a payroll tax cut that he signed into law at the end of last year.
Payroll tax cut giving the average American family about $1,500 extra they
otherwise would not have. But that cut in your payroll taxes expires at
the end of next month. The president today was arguing it should be

Now, this is something that already exists. This is not a new idea.
It is not a very controversial idea.

On the one side of this argument, you have President Obama pushing for
this thing today in New Hampshire, on the other side, you had all of the
conservative groups, including the Koch brothers` American for Prosperity,
today coming out in Washington and saying, yes, please, we agree with
president, please extend the payroll tax cut.

So, the Democratic president is for it and the conservative groups on
the right are for it. Where are the Republicans on it? Do the Republican
presidential nominees support this idea? Hold on.

In order to answer that, you -- what month is it? The likely
Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has sort of symbolized the
Republican field by being all over the map on this payroll tax cut thing.
First he was for it, then against it then back to being for it. Mitt
Romney has made a hash of this issue.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: What he`s advocating, at least for now, an
extension of the payroll tax cut?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m all in favor of keeping
taxes down and keeping burdens down in American businesses and employers.
I want employers and entrepreneurs to have every incentive to open
businesses and start creating jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the payroll tax cut is not extended, that
would mean a tax increase for all Americans. What would be the
consequences of that?

ROMNEY: No one likes to see tax increases. But, look, the stimulus
bills the president comes out with that are supposedly going to create
jobs, we`ve now seen this played in the theater several times. And what
we`re seeing hasn`t worked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you would be okay with seeing the payroll
tax cut --

ROMNEY: Look, I don`t like temporary little Band-Aids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you also support, when it comes down to it,
an extension of the payroll tax cut?

ROMNEY: I don`t want to raise taxes on people in the middle of a

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But to clarify, you agree with President Obama the
payroll tax cut should be extended?

ROMNEY: I want to keep our taxes down. I don`t want to raise any
taxes anywhere.


MADDOW: Mitt Romney was for the payroll tax cut in august. Mitt
Romney was against it as a temporary little Band-Aid in October, and then
in November, so far, at least, in November, he has been for it.

The biggest news in D.C. politics right now is that the big
congressional supercommittee has failed. One of the things people hoped
was going to be worked out in the negotiations was this issue of the
payroll tax cut. Also, the extension of unemployment benefits. According
to the Congressional Budget Office, if those two things don`t get extended,
it will have a huge negative impact on the economy.

Since the supercommittee failed to act on those two things, there will
now be the usual level of political fighting about those things with the
added spark that the combatants in the fights are going to be people
running for president. Here`s the thing, though.

The election is a really long way away. The election is a year away.
And we all have to live in this country no matter what happens in this

These fights are not just for show. They`re not just about political
posturing. It`s about whether the economy gets better or gets worse. Or
if it gets worse.

Forget the election. Today, we learned the U.S. economy grew at a
slower rate in the third quarter of this year than we originally thought.
Instead of growing at 2.5 percent rate, we actually only grew at a 2
percent rate. At the same time, the national unemployment rate has
remained stuck at around 9 percent.

It`s not all bad news, though. The economy is actually awesome right
now for one specific sector of the country. Today, it was reported that
U.S. bank earnings are at their highest level in more than four years.

So, at least there`s that.

The Occupy movement has got the country talking about the interests of
the banks not always being the same thing as the interest of the country.
And the Occupy Wall Street has got the country talking about the fact that
the 1 percent, the very richest, them doing well doesn`t necessarily
trickle down to benefit anybody else.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has changed the conversation. And it
behooved politicians of all stripes, left, right and center to be able to
speak to those issues and sometimes to those individual human activists
when they interrupt your speech.

But putting your money where your mouth is means coming up with now
economic policies that really do help the 99 percent. That don`t just
empathize, that really do help.

Joining us now is "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC policy
analyst, Ezra Klein.

Ezra, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.


MADDOW: When Mitt Romney was against extending the payroll tax cut
thing, he derided it as a little Band-Aid. Is it a little Band-Aid? Would
it have a notable effect?

KLEIN: It is littler than it could be. It`s funny, because Mitt
Romney`s argument makes you think he`d like a much larger stimulus, right?
The payroll tax cut, about $120 billion a year. Not nothing, economic
forecasters think that would be enough for 1 percent to 2 percent in growth
next year but not a ton either.

It would be great to have more, to have infrastructure investment, to
have an extension of unemployment insurance. If you think it`s too little
of a Band-Aid, the idea is to make it bigger. Obviously, that has not been
the tact Mitt Romney has taken with it.

MADDOW: In terms of what happened this week in Washington, Ezra -- I
mean, obviously people are headlining the fact this was supposed to be a
deficit reduction supercommittee and didn`t come up with deficit reduction
plans and so now some automatic deficit reduction plans, some automatic big
cuts are due to go into effect. That`s the headline here.

But is it possible, did you expect, did other people in Washington
expect that this super committee thing would have been able to come up with
some ways to help the economy, not just to cut the deficit but actually
help the way things are now?

KLEIN: Absolutely. Almost every deal seriously considered in the
supercommittee included U.I. and the payroll cut, unemployment insurance
and the payroll cut. And that was a big deal. Though the supercommittee
fell apart, the Republicans much more so than Mitt Romney did, begun
saying, well, we`re not so sure about the payroll cut or not so sure about
U.I. anymore.

This was a really big deal, the super committee. You were going to
get $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction one way or another, the trigger or
the super committee. But you`re not going to payroll cut and U.I. one way
or another. And you were saying at the beginning of the segment here that
there are policies here that help the 1 percent and policies here that help
the 99 percent.

And what`s funny, this is one that helps both. The banks do not
recover. Finance does not recover. Corporations cannot recover. Not in
the long run, unless the rest of the country recovers, too.

And so, the market died yesterday. If you read the financial press,
if you read "Bloomberg News," if you read JPMorgan, what they sent out,
everybody said it was for the same reason. Not because they were worried
about the deficit. That wasn`t going to change from what they thought it
would be. Because they were now worried we`d go into fiscal contraction
next year and the economy would be worse and if the 99 percent aren`t
buying things, it`s hard for the 1 percent to make money.

MADDOW: Ezra, we saw in the news today banks are having their biggest
quarter in four years. I mean, feel like this is obvious now. We`ve had
record corporate earnings, we`ve had Wall Street broadly speaking doing
great. Now, we`ve got direct evidence that banks as well as other big
companies are doing great.

How is it that these guys are having such a great year? They`re
having such a great time of it and it doesn`t ever translate to everybody
else doing better?

KLEIN: There`s a lot of why they`re not spending the money. We`ll
take the corporate and bank profits just that they`re sitting on for a
moment. Is that they don`t see a reason to spend it, they don`t see a way
to spend it profitably. A corporation would hire more people, would build
another factory if it had customers to sell the goods to and customers who
go and need a new store clerk.

Similarly, the banks would give out more loans, hand out more
investments if they thought they were going to make them back profitably.
Similarly, if they weren`t worried the economy is going to crack over
Europe next year, I`m sure that they weren`t worried about having a big
cushion. But they were worried about that, so they do.

So, there are essentially two big impediments for them to get the
money into the economy and helping the economy recover more aggressively
than they have been. One is demand, which will be helped by things like
the payroll tax cut, helped by things like infrastructure investment, and
the other is uncertainty about whether or not we`re going to have a major
recession due to something like Europe.

That`s helped by things like infrastructure investment, the payroll
tax cuts, because at least if Europe goes badly, if we`re doing the right
things here, if we`re doing some fiscal stimulus, if we have economic
supports, if Congress and the Federal Reserve are committed to standing
behind the economy, then at least, you know, it`s not going to get al that
bad. At least you know our political system will respond in a way that
will try to mitigate the damage.

MADDOW: "Washington Post" columnist, MSNBC policy analyst, Ezra Klein
-- Ezra, thank you, my friend. It`s nice to see you.

KLEIN: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. A big unexpected and principled political move
out of the Pacific Northwest tonight. A governor has had a crisis of
conscience and made a surprise move tonight that really nobody saw coming.
That`s just ahead.


MADDOW: One suggestion for winning in Iowa and New Hampshire this
year, do not campaign there. Do not kiss babies. Keep a low profile. noting this week the candidates at the top of the polls
in the Republican primaries are the ones who spent the least amount of time
meeting with voters in the early states.

Look at who`s ahead. It`s Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain in the early
states, both of whom as noted by Politico, quote, "ride high in early state
polls, having also spent time promoting their own interests and book
projects than on the trial in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Rick Santorum, meanwhile, has been camping out in Iowa making a point
of visiting every single one of that state`s 99 counties. And, yet, Mr.
Santorum still polling at roughly 4 percent there. Also, Jon Huntsman
focusing his entire campaign on New Hampshire, only polling at 9 percent
there and can`t get a bounce to save his life.

And don`t forget poor Tim Pawlenty who sunk everything into Iowa, who
ran really, really hard in Iowa and dropped out after the Ames straw poll.

This year, for whatever reason, early state campaigning does not
translate into doing well. It doesn`t seem to be cutting it for Republican
candidates. What does seem to be having an impact for the candidates in
the polls is the debates. Tons of people watching the debates and there
have been a ton of debates. The Republican candidates have completed 10 of
them. Along with two forums and one sort of fakey super friendly two-
person non-debate between Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain for which the
tickets were really expensive.

There`s apparently going to be three more debates between now and
Christmas. These things have been the greatest show on earth. I mean, at
the very first debate, we were reminded why it was so great Ron Paul is
always around at these things.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Senator, are you suggesting that heroin and
prostitution are an exercise of liberty?

PAUL: Up until this past century, you know, for over 100 years they
were legal. What you`re referring is, you know what, if we legalize heroin
tomorrow, everybody`s going to use heroin.

How many people here would use heroin if it was legal? I bet nobody
would put the -- oh, yes, I need the government to take care of me. I
don`t want to use heroin so I need these laws.

WALLACE: I never thought heroin would get applause here in South


MADDOW: That was the first Republican debate back in May when Ron
Paul says, essentially, we should legalize heroin and the audience goes
nuts. Then at the first debate in Iowa in August, Rick Santorum, the man
who famously compared being gay to doing something that he described as man
on dog, he made what appeared to be what sounded like a bit of unsolicited
pro-gay rights testimony.


Iranian people being free for a long time. And now, they`re under a
mullocracy that tramples the rights of women, tramples the rights of gays,
tramples the rights of people all throughout their society.


MADDOW: Rick Santorum stands up for the rights of gay people in Iran.
He doesn`t appear to change his opposition to gay rights in this country.
But thanks to the Republican debate show, weird stuff happens. Rick
Santorum speaking up for gay Iranians is now a thing that exists in the
world. I love this show.

Then at the next debate in September, we learned another new thing
about Republican debate audiences. Nobody expected legalizing heroin to be
an applause line in the first place. At the NBC debate at the Reagan
library, presiding over a record number of executions became an applause


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Your state has executed 234 death row
inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you. --


WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any
one of those might have been innocent?

Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you
kill a police officer, you`re involved with another crime and you kill one
of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas,
and that is, you will be executed.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of --


WILLIAMS: What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here,
the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?

PERRY: I think Americans understand justice.


MADDOW: Then at the next debate just a couple of days later, the
Republican debate audience made itself famous again.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Let me ask you this hypothetical question. A
healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but
decides, you know what? I`m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for
health insurance because I`m healthy, I don`t need it. But something
terrible happens, all of a sudden, he needs it.

PAUL: My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be
forced --

BLITZER: But he doesn`t have that. He doesn`t have it, and he needs
intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That`s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This
whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody --


BLITZER: But, Congressman, are you saying that society should just
let him die?





MADDOW: Yes! The debate crowd, yes! Saying if somebody doesn`t have
insurance gets sick, yes, let them die!

Then the next debate is when it became clear why it is Rick Perry is
the last kid on the bench when it comes to choosing up sides in debate


PERRY: I think Americans just don`t know sometimes which Mitt Romney
they`re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of --
against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was
it before he was before the social programs from the standpoint of he was
for standing up for Roe v. Wade, before he was against Roe v. Wade.

Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been
involved with, and that`s the terrorist group directly associated with the
Pakistani country. And that`s exactly what I`m going to bring to
Washington when I go there in November, or excuse me, in January of 2013.


MADDOW: That`s what they call foreshadowing. At the next debate,
we`re now into October, we really started to see that the Rick Perry/Mitt
Romney bickering we`ve all come to know and love about the Republican
debate show, that that was not only going to be exciting, it was going to
be funny.


ROMNEY: I`ll tell you this, though. We have the lowest number of
kids, as a percentage, uninsured of any state in America. You have the

I`m still speaking. I`m still speaking. I`m still speaking.

We have less than 1 percent of our kids that are uninsured. You have
a million kids uninsured in Texas. A million kids. Under President Bush
the percentage of uninsured went down. Under your leadership, it`s gone


MADDOW: I`m still speaking. That was just the - I`m still -- I`m
still -- you can do this even fighting with yourself. Anyway.

That was just the warm-up for the following debate a week later where
the Romney/Perry story line peaked. The October 18th episode of the
Republican debate show is the one where Mitt Romney laid hands on Rick


PERRY: And, Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective,
because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year.
And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you`re
strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: Rick, I don`t think I`ve ever hired an illegal in my life.
And so I`m afraid -- I`m looking forward to finding your facts on that,
because that just doesn`t --

PERRY: Well, I`ll tell you what the facts are.

ROMNEY: Rick, again -- Rick, I`m speaking.

PERRY: You had the -- your newspaper -- the newspaper --

ROMNEY: I`m speaking. I`m speaking. I`m speaking.


ROMNEY: Are you just going to keep talking?

PERRY: Yes, sir.

ROMNEY: Would you let me finish with what I have to say?


ROMNEY: Look, Rick --

COOPER: I thought Republicans follow the rules.

ROMNEY: This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick, and I
understand that. And so you`re going to get testy.


ROMNEY: We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal
immigrants that were working there. And when that was pointed out to us,
we let them go. And we went to them and said --

PERRY: A year later?

ROMNEY: You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking.
And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States,
you have got to let both people speak. So first, let me speak.


ROMNEY: So we went to the company and we said, look, you can`t have
any illegals working on our property. I`m running for office, for Pete`s
sake, I can`t have illegals.


MADDOW: I`m running for office, for Pete`s sake, I`m speaking, I`m
speaking. That performance -- speaking -- followed a few weeks later by
the "oops" debate.


PERRY: And I will tell you, it`s three agencies of government, when I
get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the -- what`s the third
one there -- let`s see.


PAUL: You need five.

PERRY: Oh, five. OK.

PAUL: Make it five.

PERRY: OK. So Commerce, Education and -- the --


PERRY: EPA. There you go.




JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Seriously? Is EPA the one you were talking

PERRY: No, sir. No, sir. We were talking about the agencies of
government -- EPA needs to be rebuilt. There`s no doubt about that.

HARWOOD: But you can`t -- but you can`t name the third one?

PERRY: The third agency of government.


PERRY: I would do away with the Education, the Commerce and -- let`s
see -- I can`t. The third one, I can`t. Sorry. Oops.


MADDOW: What did he have written down that he was looking at that
didn`t help?

Anyway, just a few days later, we got a clarifying moment -- I`m
speaking -- about Republican debate audiences.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cain, you`re familiar with the long running
debate whether waterboarding constitutes torture or is an enhanced
interrogation technique. In the last campaign, Republican nominee John
McCain and Barack Obama agreed that it was torture and should not be
allowed legally and that the Army field manual should be the methodology
used to interrogate enemy combatants.

Do you agree or disagree, sir?

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I agree it was an enhanced
interrogation technique.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you would support it as president? You
would return to that policy?

CAIN: I would return to that policy. I don`t see it as torture. I
see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman Bachmann, your opinion on this
question that our e-mailer asked?

president, I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very
effective. It gained information for our country.


MADDOW: Woo! I love the hooter. It`s the clapping then the hoot.
Woo! Applauding torture. Just to be clear that that`s what they`re doing,
they applaud it twice. Woo! Waterboarding.

Over this past weekend, there was another one of the forums, this most
notable for the fact that three of the six candidates in attendance cried
during the event. But perhaps maybe a tribute to House Speaker John
Boehner who cries a lot, who cried last week? I always find it charming?

In any case, the Republican debate show is not stopping any time soon.
Ten debates, one forum, and one-two person debate, each thing, already in
the can. There are set to be 13 more -- 13 more through mid-March. And
that`s even before we get to the real presidential debates during the
general election.

I know it is inevitable, but I`m going to be so sad when this show
gets canceled.


MADDOW: On Friday on this show, the "Best New Thing in the World"
made me fall apart on camera.


MADDOW: And my cousin athletes foot. Yes, a man named Mr. Butt
having to enforce Pakistan`s new censorship of that word, I can`t even make
it -- "Best New Thing in the World" today. Good-bye. Prison, go. I`m


MADDOW: I`m very sorry I was not able to hold it together. However,
there is an important update to the story which constitutes the "Best New
Thing in the World" today. I have an agreement with my inner 12-year-old
that I will deliver this new news like a grown-up.

I do not trust my inner 12-year-old, but that deal is in place.
That`s coming up.


MADDOW: About 100 years ago a man named Wilbur Scoville worked for a
Detroit pharmaceutical company. And at work, he needed to come up with a
standard method for rating the spiciness of things. He thought he could do
that by measuring how those spicy things reacted with chemicals in a lab
setting but that proof to be rather unpredictable and rather imprecise.

More predictable and more precise turns out was this -- Mr. Scoville
found out the human tongue was sensitive enough to detect the substance
that gives us spiciness at concentrations way below any test you could cook
up in a lab. The thing that gives us the spicy sensation is called
capsaicin and dissolved in alcohol. So, Wilbur Scoville soaked spicy
things in alcohol overnight to draw the capsaicin out of them so the
spiciness would be in the alcohol solution, right?

To that, he would add some sweetened water. The amount of water it
took the capsaicin undetectable to the human tongue, the amount by which
you have to dilute it in order to make it not spicy at all, that gave you
away the measure how much spiciness you had, how much capsaicin was in
thing you`re measuring.

Excuse me. This is not a gag about spiciness. It`s just me cat
coughing on live TV. Excuse me.

The measure of spiciness because of this method that Scoville came up
for measuring it became forever known as the Scoville unit. It`s named for
Wilbur Scoville. A century later, we do have more precise ways to measure
spiciness now, but essentially when people talk about heat and the human
pain caused by spiciness, we still think in terms of Scoville units.

This is the Scoville scale, down there at zero Scoville heat units is
the sweet bell pepper. You can eat those puppies like apples. You might
find it disgusting. I personally hate bell peppers. But it`s not a spicy

If you`ve ever had a chili, that pablano pepper that`s stuffed with
cheese and then deep fried. It`s delicious. Pablano peppers about a
quarter way up the Scoville scale.

A Jalapeno pepper, that tends to be the go-to reference for spiciness
in most American pop culture. Imagine biting ride into a raw jalapeno
pepper. The Jalapeno registers about 3,000 to 8,000 Scoville units.

Cayenne pepper, we mostly use that in powdered form. It`s so spicy
you really want to go to use an entire peppers worth of it. The Cayenne is
about 10 times as spicy as the jalapeno.

Moving on up to the "I`m going to need a fire extinguisher" territory
is the habanero pepper. You know, the Tobasco company and its famous hot
sauce. The Tobasco Company rates its different sauces.

For comparison sake, just in their sauce version of it, Tabasco says
their own very hot original Tobasco sauce is here on the scale right there.
Their habanero sauce is the one above it in terms of its heat.

So, original tobasco sauce is two habanero Tobasco sauces as tea light
to tiki torch. It`s very hot. And yet, the habanero which dwarfs Tobasco
sauce and the jalapeno and the pablano and everything else, the habanaro
chili is really child`s play when it`s compared to the Bhut Jolokia. It`s
also more commonly known as the ghost pepper.

The ghost pepper is many times spicier than the habaneros -- certified
as the hottest pepper in the world by the Guinness Book of World records.
There`s a world of amateur video out there of people showing themselves,
taping themselves eating a ghost pepper and then, forgive the word, but
barfing or getting visibly and horribly sick for a very long time.

On the Scoville scale, the highest pepper rating there is before pure
unadulterated undiluted capsaicin, the higher pepper that`s rated is the
ghost pepper. And that`s it, that is the spiciest pepper, spiciest thing
on the spicy pain inducing scale before you get to raw capsaicin at 15,000
Scoville units.

There`s actually one more thing hotter than the ghost pepper. And
that`s pepper spray. The kind sold and used legally in the United States.
On the Scoville scale, the U.S. grade pepper spray is rated two to five
times more intensely hot and therefore painful for humans than the ghost
pepper is.

That`s pepper spray.

For the occupy Wall Street movement, seeing the police use
disproportionate force on nonviolent protesters has been a galvanizing
thing and to a great extent it has not been the generic use of force that
we have seen by police that`s caused observers to have a visceral reaction.
To a great extent. It has been the specific use of this particular
chemical weapon.

Joining us now is Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer
and author of "The Poisoner`s Handbook." Deborah Blum is guest blogger for
"Scientific American," where she`s been writing about pepper spray.

Ms. Blum, thanks very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have
you here.

be here.

MADDOW: Is the Scoville scale a useful and accurate way to understand
what pepper spray is like as a weapon? I mean, it is on the scale with
food. Is that misleading in any way?

BLUM: It is in that, you know, people say pepper and they think, oh,
something from the kitchen, something kind of domestic, but it`s a really
useful scale in that it gives us a point of reference we all know.
Everyone has occasionally made salsa or chopped up a pepper and gotten it
in their eyes and felt that burn and knows how much it hurts.

So, what the Scoville scale tells us is that pepper spray, commercial
grade pepper spray, is off the charts from that experience. A habanero is
about 350,000 on the Scoville. Police grade pepper spray is about 5.3
million. And that gives you a point of reference against your everyday

So, in terms of just saying, whoa, that`s way beyond what I realize,
the Scoville scale is incredibly useful, I think.

MADDOW: In terms of trying to understand the effect of pepper tray on
human beings, nationwide, we`ve all seen pepper spray shot into protesters`
faces over the last few weeks at Occupy Wall Street events around the
country. How much of a difference does it make in terms of the human
experience? How it is actually applied, the quantity, the distance from
which it`s shot at you. It affects the overall dosage.

BLUM: That`s a great question. You know, there`s a saying in
toxicology that the dose makes the poison. So, one of the things the
Scoville scale tells us is this is a very high dose. We know capcaisins do
two things. They bond to our nervous system and trigger the pain response
and they`re a little corrosive. They cause a chemical burn.

So when you`re talking about the kind of levels that you`re talking
about with commercial grade pepper spray or people call it O.C. spray,
you`re talking about a very intense dose. And that`s why you actually see
these incredible responses.

You can see it on video. People fall over. People are screaming.
People are rolling on the ground. That`s another way of measuring how high
this dose is. And the higher the dose, the more poisonous the effect.

MADDOW: What are the potential long-term effects or even medium term
health effects of being exposed to this in the kind of quantities that
we`ve seen these protesters exposed to?

BLUM: You know, that`s a really good question, because most of our
experience is the short-term blast in the face effect. But studies that
have been done looking at people who work with peppers or animal studies
say this, they say that you can have sort of long-term effects on

People -- it`s an inflammatory effect, right? It affects your nervous
system and causes it to kind of blow up in some interesting ways. So it
can make your allergic system worse. It makes asthma worse.

It has long term sort of burn effects in the respiratory system. I
mean, a really good example of it is actually we know that one blast in the
face damages your eyes in a temporary sense. It disrupts the cells in the
outer layer of the cornea.

There`s lots of studies that show that if this happens multiple times,
you get permanent effects in the cornea, you get a long-term permanent
blurring of vision and that tells us in particular that if you`re sprayed
multiple times, you could be looking at some fairly serious long-term

MADDOW: Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer,
author of "The Poisoner`s Handbook." a guest writer for "Scientific
American" -- thanks for helping us understand this. I`ve found your
writing on this to be helpful for understanding it myself. Thank you.

BLUM: Thank you. Thank you for having me on.

MADDOW: All right. We recently reported a new list of words that
Pakistan`s government is not going to let its citizens send by text message
anymore. Words like monkey crotch and headlights. I was a little bit out
of control when we reported this on Friday night.

But now, the story has moved in the direction that made me lay down on
the floor and cover my face when I heard about it today. There`s a hint in
that last sentence. "Best New Thing in the World" is coming up.


MADDOW: In the last 49 years, in Oregon, the state of Oregon has
executed two of its prisoners. Both of those executions were when John
Kitzhaber was governor in the 1990s. Governor Kitzhaber was personally
opposed to the death penalty but he says he let those executions be carried
out under his watch.

John Kitzhaber is now the governor of Oregon again. And today, faced
with the prospect of overseeing the killing of another Oregon prisoner,
this time the governor said no. He wouldn`t do it.

In a statement tonight, the governor said, "The death penalty as
practiced in O is neither fair nor just and it is not swift or certain. It
is not applied equally to all." He described the last two executions he
presided over in the 1990, as, quote, "The most agonizing and difficult
decisions I made as governor. I do not believe the executions made us
safer or nobler as a society."

"Fourteen years ago," he says, "I struggled with the decision to allow
an execution to proceed. Over the years I thought if faced with the same
set of circumstances, I would make a different decision. That time has

The one Oregon prisoner scheduled to be killed in two weeks` time has
been given a reprieve from execution for the duration of Governor
Kitzhaber`s term. This wasn`t a commutation of the sentence. It`s just a
temporary retrieve so the prisoner could still be executed under another

But Governor Kitzhaber noted today he could have commuted all the
citizens of all the prisoners on death row. He could have converted them
to life sentences instead, but he didn`t. Saying, quote, "The policy of
this state on capital punishment is not mine alone to decide. It`s a
matter for all Oregonians to decide. And it`s my hope, indeed, my
intention that my action today will bring about a long overdue reevaluation
of our current policy."

In other words, the governor wants the state to consider changing its
policies about killing prisoners, but unless and until the state does
change the policy, Governor John Kitzhaber will refuse to see anymore
prisoners killed on his watch -- a dramatic and unexpected statement of
principle from Oregon`s governor tonight.

We posted his whole statement which is intense and, I got to say,
worth reading at our blog today at

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: OK. "Best New Thing in the World".

We reported on this show on Friday night that the government of
Pakistan was about to ban certain words from text messages. Starting this
week, starting yesterday, in fact, the plan was to block any text message
in Pakistan that contained one of roughly 1,000 English words or phrases,
or about 600 words in Urdu.

Now, among the words Pakistan planned to block you from texting in the
country were the words flatulence, tongue, fairy, gonorrehea, if you
spelled it this one incorrect way, also headlights, fingerfood, love
pistol, deposit, and what the English-speaking press, me included, reported
as monkey crotch. Pakistanis tell us today it is actually crotch monkey,
not monkey crotch and I believe them.

Also on the banned text message word list as you`d probably expect,
dozens of phrases that include the "F" word, including "F" word phrases I
have never heard of. And I consider myself to be a bit of a scholar on
these things.

Also, 22 phrases that use the word butt. They are on the banned word
list even though butt is also the last name of a telecom executive in
Pakistan who`s being asked by the government to implement the new
censorship policy. Mr. Butt being told to enforce making his own name
illegal to text.

I spent the entire weekend trying to live down my inability to deliver
this news on Friday night with a straight face. I live in a small town.
There`s not much else to talk about. I couldn`t get away from people
making fun of me about that.

But, now, the day Pakistan was supposed to block out the crotch monkey
and turn off the athletes foot and the tongue and the headlights and the
fairy, now we get news the government of Pakistan is maybe backing off.
"Voice of America" reporting since someone leaked the list of banned words
and phrases, quote, "social media services like Twitter exploded with
ridicule from Pakistanis."

"Voice of America" saying the frequently ridiculed example is the one
about the monkey. Can`t imagine why.

The Pakistani government said they were doing actually was a little
test run to see if they could block words in texts if they wanted to. They
say now they will release a final, much shorter list of banned words.
They`re going to do that later after they consult with the phone companies
again -- phone companies whose executives include one Mr. Butt which is not
that uncommon a name in Pakistan. One hopes that Mr. Butt will get the one
word cleared on the final shorter banned text message list of words, if
ever there is a new list.

In any case, for now, for now, I`m happy to say that you can still
text butt and athlete`s foot and a million "F" words in Pakistan. For now,
you still can. It`s a small reprieve for foul mouthed liberty and the
"Best New Thing in the World" today.

That does it for us tonight. It`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with
Lawrence O`Donnell" recapping tonight`s Republican candidates foreign
policy debate. Have a great night.


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